EDWISE 

EDITOR AND EDUCATION CONSULTANT

Opposition to Kaliwa, Kanan & Laiban Dams

Today March 14 is the international day of action for rivers and against large dams. Today also marks the first week since the "Bloody Sunday" operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in CALABARZON region. Among the nine (9) individuals that were killed in the simultaneous operation are Randy Dela Cruz and Puroy Dela Cruz who are Dumagat indigenous people (IP).

     Their communities are affected by the construction of large dams in Rizal and Quezon provinces - the Kaliwa, Laiban and Kanan dams.

Puroy and Randy are also members of Dumagat Sierra Madre opposed to the ongoing Kaliwa Low Dam project which the government is implementing despite the absence of free prior informed consent (FPIC) and other requirements by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Prior to the Bloody Sunday massacre, the Dumagat communities are constantly subjected to threat, intimidation, and red-tagging due to their unwavering commitment to defend their ancestral land against large dams.

     Currently, fear and terror are haunting the communities of Dumagat in Rizal as their communities have been heavily militarized since the incident. Families and supporters of the murdered IPs are struggling to raise resources to finance the funeral needs.

     We, the Network Opposed to Kaliwa, Kanan, Laiban Dams (NOtoKKLD) appeals for continued calls for Justice for Puroy Dela Cruz and Randy Dela Cruz and for the other activists, development workers, environmental & human rights defenders that have died in the hands of AFP and PNP. An impartial, thorough, and speedy investigation should be carried to determine irregularities and prosecute authorities that have abused their power.

Financial support for this campaign is also welcome, you may use the following accounts BPI: Charmane Jay Maranan (0919233249), GCASH: PAMELLA HORNILLA (09163258140), PAYPAL: CASEYANNECRUZ

Justice for the Victims of Agent Orange

Veterans for Peace (VFP) e-news, March 23, 2021:

"Sixty years ago, the United States used approximately 19 million gallons of 15 different herbicides, including 13 million gallons of Agent Orange, over southern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Between 2.1 and 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed during the spraying and many more continue to be exposed through the environment. Agent Orange exposure continues to negatively affect the lives of men and women in Vietnam and in the United States."


VFP hosted a webinar on the lingering aftermath of the despicable use of agent orange by the US military since the 19602. In this powerful panel, Hoan Thi Tran and Heather Bowser talked about their personal stories as disabled children of parents who were exposed to the toxic compound agent orange. A defoliant deliberately mixed strong enough to kill people, the US said it used agent orange to clear jungles where it suspected Vietcong forces were hiding. The US Army Chemical Corps and the Flying Crews were charged with the task. It was poured over people, too. US personnel ordered to spray it in many areas succumbed to illness as did Vietnamese people. Not only did they suffer from cancers and other diseases such as Parkinson’s, their children and grandchildren suffered deformities and illnesses, too. Jonathan Moore discussed the U.S. legal cases around Agent Orange, and Tricia Euvard cited the current lawsuit in France. Susan Schnall laid out the broad health effects of Agent Orange, and Paul Cox briefly described and weighed the legislation on Agent Orange that U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee would soon introduce. This webinar also occurred in conjunction with the recent release of the powerful new film “The People Vs. Agent Orange.”


In 1960, the United Nations passed a resolution to create a treaty against chemical weapons because of discoveries of damage related to their toxins to all people, animals and plants. The use of agent orange was a violation of this treaty and international law, and as such, a war crime.


The struggle to get justice for this monolithic crime continues. Tracking the history, we can see how costly the use of agent orange has been in terms of life and dollars. The US Agent Orange Act of 2005 assigned some compensation totaling $75 billion to US military veterans. Though the US government cannot be sued, there have been lawsuits against chemical companies. Many litigation cases by US veterans and non-resident aliens have been dismissed. The US military and government claim the effects of agent orange were unexpected “collateral damage” rather than intentional harm. However, it has been shown that the level of dioxin in the mixture sold to the US military was designed to cause death.


The effects of agent orange are still being studied and learned. For instance, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s, bladder cancer and other illnesses have been known as consequences of exposure, though not officially recognized until 2021.


Veterans and their allies persist in educating the public about the true crimes of US wars. VFP reported on one historic action in its e-news release of April 6, 2021.

"Many veterans came home from Vietnam with a mission: to tell the truth about the wartime atrocities being committed and demand an immediate end to the killing. In April 1971, a group of more than 1,000 veterans launched the Dewey Canyon III operation, a ‘limited incursion into the land of Congress.’ April 23 marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most influential anti-war actions of the era."


VFP and the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs hosted an online forum about this operation and the lessons it offers on April 23. 

Unsolved Missing Persons

I have been learning a lot about unsolved missing persons in the US, Australia and Canada in the past three weeks. My main source has been the CanAm Missing Project and the video series tagged "Missing 411" of the said project, which is run by policing expert, researcher and author David Paulides and his team. (Beware impostor videos.) See the website called canammissing.com and the CanAm Missing Project channel on Youtube. David Paulides has composed a series of books covering different regions and victim profiles as well as two feature-length documentary films. Over 1200 of these cases have been uncovered so far and the books and movies highlight many of them.


The cases that this Project examines are unexplained mysteries. Criminal causes have been excluded. Urban cases are not considered; the project looks into rural cases, many in national parks and national forests but sometimes near a village or even on the fringes of a metropolitan area. These people have simply disappeared, often without a trace. It has always happened to individuals walking alone. They can be any age, but the missing includes alpha males and females with high levels of education, such as physicists and physicians, who are usually experienced in the outdoors, well equipped and very fit. Some are seasoned hunters or active/ former military or paramilitary personnel. No case has turned up in which the victim was carrying a transponder (aka personal locator beacon) and a firearm. There are no witnesses to the disappearances; people in pairs or groups do not go missing in this way. (There is one exception, a father-daughter pair.) Most of these missing persons are of European descent, though some European visitors and local people of other ethnic origins have disappeared. (There could be a simple cultural explanation for this, in this blog writer's view. Who most likely hunts or hikes through back country?) The youngest case is age 20 months and the oldest in the mid-80s. Some of the victims have physical disabilities. Some are poorly equipped. They do not disappear directly from shelters or cars; rather, they are always on foot outdoors and usually on known trails and roads. 


Sometimes human remains are found, the bodies having been displaced from the last site seen or point of departure from companions several days, weeks, months or years after the location of discovery had been thoroughly searched by expert rescuers and searchers numerous times. There are some survivors who are found either sleeping or unconscious, especially children, but who have no memory of the lapsed time and cannot explain what happened. (The CanAm Project does not discuss alien abductions accounts, though does refer to the research into alien abduction witnesses.) Discovered living or expired, the victims are often found in or beside bodies of water or at a much higher elevation away from the known or supposed route. Their shoes have always been removed, yet their feet are clean and show no significant injuries. Bodies are usually dry and clean without signs of assault. All or much of their clothing has been removed. Of the evidence, if any, that shows up sooner or later, it is the shoes, flung here and there or set neatly in the open; other articles of clothing may turn up in strange locations, which never show any indication of animal predation--no blood, hair, lacerations and such. Autopsies have detected high levels of GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) in the bloodstream of a few of the deceased. HOW?! Most autopsy reports cannot conclude a cause of death. If a cause is cited, it may be challenged as implausible.


Another noteworthy aspect: these type of missing persons cases have been carefully mapped out. Mapping has revealed clusters of missing cases spanning over a century. There are large and small clusters in most states of the US and in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario in Canada. Sheesh, there is a cluster pegged in a mountain area I can see from my home in the Greater Vancouver area in BC!--Seymour Mountain. A little farther away is another, Eagle Mountain Park! These are popular recreational areas in provincial parks. There are no clusters in the central North American continent where large bodies of water are few and mountains absent. There are clusters in the Blue Mountains and the outskirts of Melbourne, in the states of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia. Indigenous people ("Amerindians" in the US) have been interviewed; they recount ancient lore and contemporary stories of strange disappearances and sightings among them. There are some places they do not roam. Also, sites of the missing frequently have local names with the word "Devil" in them! How and why such names?!


State park and forests authorities likely reluctant to divulge data and opinions on the matter, the Paulides team has tracked down search and rescue, police and news documents, and interviewed 100s of associates of victims or survivors themselves. More information comes to David Paulides directly from his readers and viewers who have even more stories to share, even stories about similar situations in other countries. He believes that the parks officials are withholding information, particularly lists of the missing within park boundaries. Officials such as those at Yosemite National Park, the place with the largest cluster of missing people!, deny having any knowledge of missing people and defy the law in refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests. There are indications that somebody knows something, as FBI agents have been seen at search sites for no apparent reason. 


Indeed, the whole business is shrouded with mystery and intriguing yet frightening implications. In fact, many witnesses and observers in the cluster areas have strange tales to tell: flashes and great orbs of bright lights, bone chilling howls and chatter in the darkness, bigfoot sightings, shadows, UFOs, inexplicable parting grasses and branches, the sense of being watched and odd sounds such as flute music, voices out of nowhere, the thunder of stampeding horses or cattle and loud snaps and bangs. 


David Paulides does not publicly offer any explanation. He likes to provide facts, relay what people have to say from experience and what experts say based on scientifically informed consideration. However, he does conclude that there is an obvious pattern. Therefore, everyone should be aware of the danger.


David Paulides does not recommend everyone stay home. He himself is a self-professed avid hiker and camper. He never tells anyone not to enter state parks and forests. Rather, he provides some safety tips for those desiring to continue to enjoy the outdoors away from urban life. #1 is never go alone! Don't allow yourself or any companion to be alone even for an instant! #2 is carry proper equipment, even if you plan a short day-hike: a locator beacon, a phone/ GPS gadget, a paper map, a loud whistle, a compass, first aid supplies, extra food and clothing, a waterproof lightweight blanket, a garbage bag for rain and so on, and plenty of water. (Drinking from local water sources except true springs can make you terribly ill!) He strongly recommends that those licensed to carry them and trained to use them take their weapon and extra rounds. For one thing, firearm is a loud noisemaker. However, Everything can fit into a lightweight, waterproof backpack with hip straps. Of course, there are jackets and vests with large pockets. Finally, dress for the weather and wear comfortable, protective footwear. Once you have gathered together this stuff, you will feel more secure about any eventuality and be most able to protect yourself. 


In my view, it is worth the trouble. I have been a local hiker, myself, and know that it is easy to get lost, get tired, hungry and dehydrated, or have an injury. Moreover, the weather can change suddenly and dramatically, especially in mountainous and coastal areas. I would add that hiking/ climbing and camping in the wilderness is no time to use substances including alcohol, although I know many (yahoos and city dudes) out there like to imbibe. It will just add to your risks and trouble.


Personally, I am of an age now when I avoid regular high-impact activities as my knees are already showing signs of wear. That's why I only do short hikes in urban/ urban edges settings. I do those alone as the areas are very safe and many people are around. I have belonged to hiking groups and have many wonderful memories and stories from those times. Yes, I have trekked serious mountain trails alone, but only twice. The power of the natural forces around me become too real and intimidating to venture further. I know my lack of training. I have started out on a solo trek in the coastal and Cascades Mountains (the latter a danger area, according to Paulides!) for up to an hour, never able to relax, the whole time feeling that something bad could happen. Heck, I passed over fresh bear tracks, stood on a precipice overlooking a valley with serious mountains and threatening dark clouds in the distance. I sensed all the unknowns and the millions of years of evolution which have unleashed power I cannot comprehend to either push up or tear down tall peaks, create valleys and deep lakes, etc. I must respect it all. I for one do recommend that most people stay close to home, leave the wildlife and wilderness unharmed and be with what you are raised and able to be with.


Community Celebrations

Various community and grassroots organizations have been featuring celebrations online. I have watched a few unusual but very endearing ones over the past few months. Some of them were put together by my friends and associates.


Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a play on the Lunar New Year greeting in Hong Kong Cantonese, Gung Hay Fat Choy, this annual events combines a Robbie Burns Dinner with Canadian Scottish and Chinese heritage. Robbie Burns, a romantic Scottish nationalist and poet, was born close to the time of Lunar New Year. This event promotes the truth of history and multiculturalism.  There are bag pipe players, poets, singers and speakers.https://www.facebook.com/WORDvancouver/videos/483912249435238


Cuba Solidarity Festival - Cuban cultural authorities and musicians planned an online concert to give thanks to North American Cuba solidarity activists. This concert boasts some expert jazz performers in Cuba, the US and Canada. There are a few words of solidarity, but most of this video is fantastic music.  For Cuba! For Solidarity! International Concert Against the U.S. Blockade on Cuba!

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1017433785335802


I am a member of a politically relevant and active choir based in my area. The Solidarity Notes Choir reached its 20th year of learning and singing songs for social justice and peace last year. For this occasion, we made a video to show its history and role. We are now rebuilding and rejuvenating this choir to ensure its future. Check it out! https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#trash/FMfcgxwLscxRBtflJKJxNdRxdCFBDnNz?projector=1 


Finally, here is a concert recorded at a Vancouver cafe in 2017. It features my chum's group, the South Vancouver Big Band. Very professional.

https://www.facebook.com/southvanbigband/videos/616173629357459 





New Things

We here value the big and the little, for the little may be bigger than you think. As I consider how I am doing so far this year, I therefore reflect on all new experiences and all events in my life and what I have been witnessing adjacent to my life.


Verging on feeling gloomy again and noticing my body get a little stiffer in recent weeks, I found a new exercise routine. It is a 10-minute series of 9 movements which can be expanded over a longer period. I found this set on a Youtube channel of two aging physiotherapists who provide tips to the 50+ age group. The exercises are geared for people at any fitness level and many can even be done while sitting. I am in pretty good shape for my age, having always been physically active in one way or another, so I expand on the harder elements such as the squats, push-ups and arm pulls. I like having a short yet expandable series as I find some routines get monotonous. With some brief movements that can be done any time of the day without necessarily changing clothes or showering, I am more apt to performing them most days. Of course, I get outside to roam around, often incorporating errands into the promenades, as an alternative. This winter in my region has been exceptionally rainy and dark, though, so I needed to get in motion with indoor activities. (I don't usually go for a few weeks without some pointed exercise because I start feeling too uncomfortable to tolerate the inactivity.)


I resumed library use last week. I "checked out" an e-book and downloaded it from my local library for the first time ever. I also went online to put one of its books on hold. Just picked it up this morning, which was the first time I had entered a library in close to a year!


I have been sampling e-books using my mobile device while in transit. Travel and long waits are the occasions when I am most likely to read. I had not been reading on the bus as I ride the buses so little these days.


I came across some great advice while sampling a motivational book. It is written from a "positive thinking" perspective. "Sometimes you Win, Sometimes you Learn" by John C. Maxwell is available from the Google Playbook Store for $3. Maxwell's main message is to expect more losses than wins and use losses as opportunities to learn and grow. Not an uncommon viewpoint, but he has his own way of arguing and interesting types of examples. What I wish to underscore here is his roadmap for learning. He writes a whole chapter on each place in the map.  As an educator, I see it as a philosophy for learning in an context. I quote his map here.

             Humility: the Spirit of Learning

             Reality: the Foundation of Learning

             Responsibility: the First Step of Learning

             Improvement: the Focus of Learning

             Hope: the Motivation of Learning

             Teachability: the Pathway of Learning

             Adversity: the Catalyst for Learning

             Problems: Opportunities for Learning

             Bad Experience: the Perspective for Learning

             Change: the Price of Learning

             Maturity: the Value of Learning

Pretty good. I'll let you stew on it. I have already devoted months of this blog on positive thinking as applied to aging and addressing problems; in fact, that was the premise for this blog back in the winter of 2013/14, as many of you readers know.


My skills at writing and using technologies for communication have thrived since I started this blog. I've been using iPads for teaching, for instance. I am getting better at using Vistaprint's new platform and blog entering procedures. Again, I regret the long delay in catching on and keeping up the blogging.


Speaking of teaching, I have been teaching beginner French totally online for the first time. What else is new with me? Hmm. I boiled and ate purple potatoes for the first time yesterday. Taste is similar to that of Russets. 


Speaking of food, I have been trying new seed mixes for the wild birds on my block who feed at my porch. I now have two hanging, cylindric seed feeders along with two hanging suet "cages." Lots of little birdies including some new visitors have been gobbling up my offerings. The type of bird feed in my area is limited and costly, though, so I have been experimenting with stuff off the supermarket shelves and making my own recipes. The corn meal base mixture passed. Today I provided a formula of uncooked human cereal and rice combined with chopped peanuts and sunflowers. So far, so good. It is a job keeping the greedy and messy starlings away to prevent them from spilling a lot of it and eating too much too fast.


The resident flocks of brown and black chickadees and the juncos are regulars from dawn to dusk. The local towhees, flickers, nuthatches and Eastern (Lincoln?) sparrows appear every day, too. The newest species visiting my porch are a few pairs of house finches, up to 20 siskins and a couple of delightful kinglets. 


I have come to know the species well enough to feel confident about identifying and tracking them during the formal annual bird counts. I participated in the Cornell (ornithology) Lab's annual North America, February count for the first time ever. It was a great experience! It happened to snow the weekend of the count, but I enjoyed trekking around, binoculars and notebook in had, regardless. I took a little time out on three days: first, I just observed the activity at my balcony, before walking neighbourhood streets the next day and winding up on a walk through residential areas to a small shopping plaza. A couple of extraordinary things occurred during those times. Making my return to my place near the end of my first outdoors count, the area robins returned! I found most resting together in a couple trees while a few ventured into gardens to forage through the snow. I counted about 40 robins. Another fantastic sight was the sudden arrival of around 60 Herring Gulls to the shopping centre. They were following a woman through the parking lot. I had never seen such a situation before. However, I noticed many gulls circling over the park next to the shopping centre as I passed by in a bus this morning; on my return trip an hour later, I spotted that woman taking things out of her bags and cart to feed to the gulls, all of whom were rather patiently standing around her for their bites of the goodies. My role in this national count was uplifting. I think I'll do it again. There is another national count in May.


We are two months into 2021 already. The spring equinox will soon pass us by. Better not to be impatient for the spring and the sun, but to relish time every day.


pushing democracy

I've been watching an online forum put on by some British revolutionaries. After showing a documentary on the Cuba medical system's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum participants have been discussing the implications for the British medical system's response to the pandemic. One key conclusion that arose from this discussion is the accusation of "social murder." The speaker who raised this concept quoted a recently published article in the British Journal of Medicine that quotes Frederick Engels (Karl Marx's close associate in building revolutionary theory and action programming). It was Engel's who first used the term "social murder", which he generally intended to mean the deliberate neglect of sectors of the population to the point where thousands of people die because of lack of intervention where and when there could have been state intervention. The speaker underlined the state's preference in choosing "the economy" over people, which of course means, in the type of economy Europe had in his day and still has now, choosing to keep profits for a privileged minority rolling in rather than rolling out medical and social assistance to the general population. The speaker referring to this term "social murder" rightly called attention to the BJM article as "very remarkable." He described the article as a scathing criticism of the NHS of the UK's lack of action to protect the whole population from COVID-19. It means scientists and physicians believe that the state and corporations are directly responsible for genocide. WOW! I think the authors, editors and the publishers of the article, and the readers that support it, are correct. Many of the forum participants engaging in the post-video viewing discussion pointed to factual circumstances that provide evidence to support the cries of "social murder." They spoke to the government's limp response at the onset of the pandemic in the UK when PM Johnson and company basically told the populace to wash their hands and be careful, but that life would be business as usual (expression deliberate by this blog's author). They also highlighted the lack of planned pandemic management and the failure to have a response ready to begin with. The underscored the extreme reluctance to close down any businesses. They spoked to the lack of quarantine support, testing and PPE distribution. In short, authorities allowed the pandemic to flourish to the point where today over 100,000 people are expiring every day, and where an extensive lockdown has been imposed as a last minute thought. They talked about overcrowded housing where the poorest live, the lack of financial support for the folks who need it the most and the absence of planning to keep children connected and involved in the classroom with special measures and in reduced classroom sizes. The forum participants revealed how many among the Brits are fuming and devastated by the existing predicament, how teachers, social workers, factory workers and others are anguished and furious. This is a condition in which, as one of the speakers suggested, where conspiracy theories and reactionary thinking can thrive, adding another dimension of danger to the mix. The situation is paralleled in the US, Canada, many European and Latin American countries, sadly. The only way forward is for people to act to take care of their communities at the grassroots level. Waiting for the government to rescue everyone never resolves things. People must push democracy from the ground up. Legal and parliamentary measures must be attempted, of course, but the most powerful and therefore important response must come directly from the majority of the working people and oppressed themselves. Discussions, exchanges of info and ideas, support group formation, political mobilization and coordination, street protests, alternative peoples' media and such must get into action. This is how basic change can and will transpire. It is how it did in Cuba, for example.

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roots of oppression

Posted on June 4, 2020 at 9:33 PM Comments comments (18)
Don't wanna hear one more talk show host confess what they're just learning now about oppression against people of colour. They can be heard telling "us" (?ASSUMPTIONS!) that we have to pay more attention and be more sensitive. Making pledges to (finally) use "their platforms" (very rich and privileged) to listen to black and brown people and help making change happen. Really? They didn't know about the difficulties facing working people of colour and migrant workers before? Just had dinner and hope I can keep it down. 

Understanding racism in North America and Europe takes adopting a historical perspective to understand European colonialism. especially the master of racist doctrine, bureaucratic rule, force against "the other" and forced assimilation, British colonialism. Leaders must acknowledge this history if they are to make changes. Some have begun to here in Canada and a few other locations, such as New Zealand, but it is not enough.

I also object to racialized intepretations of events and behavior, from any angle. Racism is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it is a tool of the oppressor to keep people divided and diverted. Relations are so extensively racialized in some loci such as the USA that it is hard to propose non-race explanations. Whatever one's colour, racism is often an excuse or a cited cause for things not working out. People generally have learned it from a variety of sources. It is deeply ingrained in the consciousness. On the other hand, not recognizing the history and not seeing that age-old oppression bearing down on certain sectors because of their place of origin, language, colour and class position is damaging. Race is not real but racialization is. Racist policy and discourse are real. Socially, race is relevant even though genetically it is not. The power relations, the history of one sector beating down others so as to raise themselves up, is true. It does not just happen in the West. Forms of chauvinism, whether religion or nation-based, is a reality of any imperial system, whether monarchical or corporate, colonial or neo-colonial. 

Racism should not and cannot be addressed as a separate problem from the problem of imperialism and oppression against gender and class. There are elements actually complicit in the oppression who may have a black or brown identity but are very happy to have achieved, by hook or by crook, high status and privilege. They want to talk about their oppression as people of colour or a family history originating in Africa. Feminism poses the same problem. True, violence and discrimination cut across class and unity among the sufferers can be achieved to make certain points. All the same, a social analysis that does not see class and admit to empire will fail. 

Why hasn't more legislation to reduce police brutality against people of colour and alleviate the oppression of the most oppressed in the rich countries been realized despite the decades of abuse? If it is a systemic problem, then it cannot be solved by tweaking the law. If it is a systemic problem then it is about democracy, attaining state power and taking the reins of power to reconfigure society and its teachings.

Why to the racial tensions linger, despite all the talk, changes in law, rise of role models, sharing of knowledge...? The answer is the same in the case of women and the poor: there is a lack of (1) political knowledge and orientation and (2) organization. The people need political education informed by experience on the ground, grass roots organization and mobilization in appropriate actions designed for the time and place and means. 

We all need fundamental change to resolve many problems, racism being one, and others being exploitation of working people, inequality and poverty, plunder of indigenous lands, war and destruction of culture and heritage, etc. Systemic change takes political awareness and organization by the people for a new way.

Sacrifice

Posted on June 1, 2020 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (3)
Empires are always calling upon the people to make sacrifices of themselves for the empire. The demand is framed as a duty. It appeals to the altruistic tendencies of people and good people find themselves complying out of concern and to feel good.

I question the ideal of sacrifice of both old empires and new. An underlying assumption of it is that many people are dispensable, which is itself grounded in the premise of inequality. From this perspective, inequality is a necessity and even natural. In this world view, there is a desrving elite who merit privilege and subservience from the rest of the population. I say nuts to the whole vision!

Sacrifice is a key word in Armistice Day ceremonies, dubbed Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth, the network of former and lasting colonies conquered and run by the British Empire into the 20th century and longer. We are to remember and honour the sacrifice of soldiers and other military personnel who have done their duty for the state and a "way of life." Coloured in comforting hues of "democracy" and "freedom", "way of life" is the norms and rules of empire. They express shallow gratitude for sacrifices of the past and call for further sacrifices. 

Today empires are private holdings that seek exponential growth of wealth for a smaller and smaller strata that claim the right and ownership of the most enjoyment, materials, status and respect. They enslave others in one way or another: force, debt, starvation, threats, deals and favours, They protect themselves with armies, massive weaponry, technology, spin doctors, lies, murder and intimidation. Their systems are suffocating and confining webs that hold back social progress by greed and bullying and snuff out joy with pain. 

Austerity measures that cut and deny health, education and social welfare services are deemed economic necessities. The people must sacrifice their bodies, families, rights and pleasures for their economy, which they describe as the greater good. It is as if there is only one kind of economy, the kind wherein they rule and oppress others to maintain their rule. However, the labour, production, land, culture and reproduction of all is the whole economy; it is not just some dominating corporations that suck up investments from smaller contributors and state treasuries while workers and nature are plundered and exploited. There are other models, ones in which production is planned according to priorities of life, and surplus is distributed equitably, according to need and merit. 

The management of the coronavirus pandemic is done with the same approach. The people are to accept that health care systems are inadequate, that there is no disaster planning and under-stocked supplies and under-paid and insufficient staff to meet all the peoples' needs. Right away, authorities laid the bulk of responsibility on the people, demanding that we either lock ourselves down or face grave illness and death for the good of this society. It has been described as a moral imperative. Of course, without adequate health care materials and services, the safest thing has been to stay home. Those working in the designated essential services have been described as heroes because they are willing to sacrifice themselves. Is so much sacrifice necessary? No. Countries with well developed public services and emergency management plans have demonstrated that risk of infection and incidence of death as a result of this virus could be low everywhere, were such services and plans available everywhere. 


state of the world

Posted on May 27, 2020 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (3)
OPPOSE THE US IMPERIALIST STRATEGY OF REGIME CHANGE! 
 ORGANIZE TO STOP US IMPERIALISM AND BUILD A BETTER WORLD!

The global scenario: acute crisis and inter-imper contradictions. The COVID-19 pandemic has conflagrated it ILPS studies of state responses to the pandemic conffirm the disasters wrought by neo-liberal austerity and privatization policies which have crippled health care systems and put workers in even greater peril around the world.  The military-industrial complex, the engine of monopoly capitalism, including big pharma, seek to exploit the crisis, destroy progress and steal more resources from state, natural environment and labour to keep profits flowing. They demand that the workers sacrifice themselves for the well-being of a few, to give up their livelihoods or risk direct contamination on the job in conditions which have been underpaid and unsafe all along. As usual, the most oppressed, poor and vulnerable populations are suffering the most.  

Meanwhile, tensions among the imperialist states run high and the US keeps punishing states that do not comply with the US imperialist model and policies by maintaining cruel sanctions, depriving whole populations of medicine and food. Neither has the US and its allies relented its militarization, threats and active military engagements from Syria to Venezuela. It continues to support the most reactionary regimes such as those of the Philippines, Israel and India in order to attain their narrow and anti-social goals.  

The situation is driving working people to organize community systems to cope while they raise more questions, voice objections and act politically. The ILPS has called for a week of anti-imperialist activities as one step in uniting and building the anti-imperailst movement for a better way. This follows the development of its international and chapter-wide education programs to discuss and enhance understanding of the crisis informed by Leninist analysis and organization principles in this year of Lenin’s 150th birthday.

Commission 4 operates on the principle of just peace, which is peace with guarantees of social, economic and political justice. The peoples resist imperialism and reactionary, oppressive regimes, rightfully refusing to give up until their demands for land, political and social reforms are properly addressed. In fact, we urge that the people step up their education, organization and mobilization to stop imperialism and win just peace according to local conditions and in whatever ways are currently at their disposal. 

Though its own society is crumbling, its people rising in anger and its global influence waning, the US is still the biggest military force charged with defending the monopoly capitalist system. It is the center of the world arms trade. It has a nuclear warhead stockpile of over 6,000 and has produced some 70,000  since 1945. Its rivals, Russia and China, have likewise kept and produced thousands. The US has at least 700 military bases around the world and sharing or visiting agreements in more locations. It has proxies and satellites such as Australia, Canada, Turkey and Colombia provide resources and act on its behalf. With a 2020 military budget of some $800 million, robbing its people of guaranteed public services and decent living conditions, it demands other states give up funds and other resources and put their own people in harm’s way to supply its war machinery, for which inhumane domestic austerity programs have been intensified. 

The context of all-sided crisis of the global system and the major imperialist powers has inspired the US to adopt a  multi-faceted, aggressive strategy, often dubbed “hybrid war, ”often cloaking these destructive practices in terms such as 'counterinsurgency' or 'overseas contingencies operations.' That is the fierce and relentless repertoire of tactics including WMD, bio-weapons, xenophobia, economic coercive measures, cultural assault, media and psy-war, cyber warfare,  espionage, deals with crooks and murderers, and political interference and manipulation.  Politically, the US and company are leaning further to the Right, away from bourgeois democracy, social development, law and science.  In desperation, they are collaborating with reactionary, fascist and terrorist elements while they try to bend the law and the truth.

LATIN AMERICA

In a recent webinar hosted by activists in the US, Carlos V. Ron Martinez, Vice-Chancellor of Venezuelan Foreign Affairs for North America, spoke about “why the US is obsessed with Venezuela.” He explained the two main reasons for the US’ desire for regime change in Bolivarian Venezuela: the nationalization of its oil industry and its independent foreign relations with states such as China, Russia and Cuba. Bolivarian policies rub against the geopolitical norms and policies that the US imperialists and its allies prefer. [Notes from a webinar entitled “An Inside View of Venezuelan Resistance to US Imperialism and How to Build International Solidarity” recorded on April 23, 2020 and uploaded to the Facebook page “Stop the Machine! Create a New World!”] 

The Bolivarian government uses the oil industry as the “motor of its economy” to help the people.  The late President Hugo Chavez revived OPEC discussions independently and began reversing  privatization  by renationalizing its oil industry in 2001. He renegotiated the terms of contracts with big private players such as EXXON in 2007. When world oil prices were dipping in 2013, President Nicolas Maduro reopened OPEC discussions. That is when US President Obama started imposing coercive economic measures against Bolivarian Venezuela by Executive Order. These sanctions have since intensified. Today some $5 billion are frozen in various banks out of allegations of corruption and $30 billions of revenues have been lost from the Venezuela state corporation’s sister company in the US, Citco, which the US overtook. Thus, the capacity of the renewed state to provide and build services for the people has been drastically reduced. The people cannot acquire daily necessities because of the sanctions. It makes coping with COVID-19 especially hard. [ibid.] 

Vice-Chancellor Martinez describes this “bizarre context” wherein the US is employing a “maximum pressure strategy” to force the Bolivarian government to change. It has tried to take advantage of the switch in government and COVID-19. It is backing the most reactionary elements lead by Juan Guaidó  who block discussions with all the opposition parties in the Venezuelan national assembly, while the US is threatening military intervention unless President Maduro accept its “transition plan” to have Maduro step down and a coalition government chosen by the US take over. It has even proposed this plan to  the UN . It also continues its provocations, such as the outrageous, baseless indictment against the Maduro government for supposedly trafficking narcotics. “This [strategy] is basically overthrowing a government,” says Martinez. The US will not rule out a full scale, all-out military intervention. He describes “the biggest military mobilization in 30 years” going on in the waters surrounding Venezuela, in addition to land border incursions by mercenaries. This scenario of “hybrid war” poses a “very dangerous situation” for the peoples in Venezuela and the whole region. His government is calling for the US to step aside and allow parliamentary discussions to proceed in order to smooth out internal conflict. [ibid.]



WEST ASIA

West Asia (aka Middle East) is rife with conflict because of the long and brutal history of British colonialism, which the US inherited. The US and its partners in crimes against humanity including local reactionary leaders want to ensure that (1) transnational corporations have access to the oil and other industries, and (2) national independence and social liberation are thwarted. They are hostile to nationalized industry and social reforms, not just socialism. The Turkish state enjoys the support of its NATO allies in its barbaric campaigns to subdue labour and crush Kurdish self-determination movements in Turkey and Syria. Iraq remains in turmoil with Islamic state and NATO forces actively present trying to frustrate Iraqi independence. The US is constantly challenging Iran for its independent policies. The US, Canada and European states support Saudia Arabia’s attacks on Yemen, which is destroying Yemeni society and causing famine. (Canada has made deals to supply the Saudi military.) Since at least 2011, the US supported by its allies and mercenaries, and Islamic state terrorists have been assaulting Syria. Today part of Syria is occupied by Turkey and Israel. Millions of displaced Syrians have fled and are languishing in refugee camps with little protection from COVID.

Despite the US’ hypocritic claims about democracy, human rights and international law, US imperialism and reaction oppose Syria’s struggle for sovereignty and independence. Speaking in a webinar hosted by Sanctions Kill on May 9, 2020, the Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, explained that the “punitive and unlawful,” “unilateral, coercive measures” (i.e. sanctions) impede the Syrian government’s functions to support the health care sectors and finance responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Never endorsed by the UN Security Council, the illegal sanctions have been blocking bank transfers and freezing Syria funds abroad. Price inflation has resulted. Trade and humanitarian assistance is greatly restricted, except that the US has allowed aid to reach terrorist factions in the west and north. Also, the EU refused entry to a Syrian aircraft sent to retrieve Syrians in Europe on May 9. Ambassador Ja’afari sums up the multi-pronged strategy of US-led imperialism as being “health terrorism,” “financial terrorism,” “education terrorism,” and “media terrorism” in addition to military action. [Click on the Facebook or Youtube video link on https://sanctionskill.org/resources-2/]

“All Arab lands are under some form of colonialism today,” said Palestinian activist and writer Khaled Barakat during a webinar broadcast on May 16. The webinar was hoted by ILPS member Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network [https://www.facebook.com/SamidounPrisonerSolidarity/].   After invading and destroying Iraq society, the US wants Iraq, an intersection of various nations and conflicts, to also serve as a second control in the region. Barakat elaborated that Israel, far from having evolved as a nation-state historically, was manufactured by British colonialsm and maintained by US neo-colonialism (aka present-day imperialism) expressly to serve capitalism and Western imperialism.  It is a settler colonizer. US-led imperialism supplies Israel with the arms and technology for it to be the strongest power in the region capable of protecting capitalism and maintaining reactionary rule, said Barakat. “Israel is a deathtrap,” asserted Barakat, one that desires to perpetuate conflict. Israeli reactionary and US imperialist discourse fog up the reality that Israel occupied Palestine. Religion is not the source of the conflict, as three religions have always existed in the Palestinian population. The Israel state always gets in the way of dialogue and cooperation in the region. Peoples’ self-determination movements, such as those in Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia, have really just begun recently, claimed Barakat, with the only measure of success so far being Tunisia. 

The region is a pivotal arena of international struggle.  It is important to work together to build the anti-imperialist struggle and aim to build socialist societies that do not oppress the peoples. This way, anti-imperialists can push national liberation movements, at their own pace and according to each set of circumstances, unite with sectoral struggles, and march forward towards freedom and peaceful co-existence with social justice. 


SOUTH ASIA

On August 5, 2019, India clearly unmasked its imperialist face to the world. The Modi government in India revoked Article 370 of its constitution that had allowed the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOK) a certain amount of autonomy: their own constitution, a separate flag and freedom to make laws. From that day onwards, the IOK has been under siege of the Indian military. More than 700,000 Indian troops have been deployed to the region, with the people of IOK facing a fresh onslaught of brutal killings, harassment, and persecution. The region has been completely cut off from all types of communication including mobile, and internet services. 
Kashmiri activists believe that the fascist Indian government is now following Israeli Zionist strategies to subjugate Kashmiri freedom fighters, which is well proven by statements by Indian officials. A Muslim majority area, the IOK faces fresh waves of killings with the ultimate goal of bringing in Hindu Indian settlers to change the demography as is happening in Occupied Palestine. There have been blatant statements about purchasing land in Kashmir and diverting foreign investments to the region. As part of the multi-polar world where imperialist powers are vying to annex and occupy territories, the fresh onslaught on IOK is part of the open race for control of raw materials, labor and markets. Rich in its natural bounty, the Kashmir is a key target for many reasons including its geo-political positioning.
There is little doubt that India is simultaneously flexing its muscles towards China, which also claims territorial rights to parts of IOK. This is also part retaliation to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement between China and Pakistan, the starting point of the corridor being Gilgit, and is considered by India to be part of the disputed territory of Azad Jammu and Kashmir that is supposed to be under Pakistani control. 
India’s imperialist policies in IOK cannot be viewed solely on their own merit and need to be understood in the light of the current strong ‘bonding’ between fascist regimes of United States of America and India. Trump’s trip to India was an open acknowledgment of their combined political and economic ambitions in the Asia region, referred to as the Asian Century, which is where the future growth lies. No doubt, it’s the US hegemonic agenda and military power which India is counting upon for its aggressive posture in South Asia. 
The struggle between capitalist and people movements not only in Kashmir but across South Asia is rising where the various states, through nation-state lenses, are trying to divide the people’s movements and nullify their aspirations of national liberation. The test of time is not to fall sway to the slogans created by fascist regimes that foster religious and national divides, but to come together on the basis of collective peoples’ solidarity demanding social justice and long-lasting peace. This is no doubt only possible by engaging in resistance against monopoly capital.

CALLS TO ACTION

The imperialist system is the root of most of the major problems facing the people. It is imperative that the people rise together against it with a vision to constructing a new way, according to the people’s will and present regional conditions.

Organize, unite and mobilize to stop imperialism!               Deactivate all WMD!  Oppose the arms trade!
End all general economic coercive measures!                                End the occupations now!
Down with fascism and militarization!                                            Just peace!              

work at home

Posted on May 17, 2020 at 6:03 PM Comments comments (10)
I have been thinking about the perspective of working at home and spending more time at home. For some three centuries, Westerners have gotten used to working mostly outside the home. The distinction between private and public has widened, as a consequence. Even farming has been industrialized and monopolized, so that farm work is often outside of one's home and for someone else. Work has been for somebody else or at least for a business rather than a central activity of the home from an employee or business person's perspective.

This transformation has coincided with the devolution of communities. Aware of the loss of benefits associated with community, some citizens have been making efforts to restore communities or build new ones. This helps local economies, culture, relations and health. 

Of course, the home has remained central for the caregivers, the spouses or hired personnel making the home life and nurturing children, disabled and elders. The roles of caregivers has thus been perceived as in the background of mainstream life and not central to the economy. This, too, has required some reality checking and consciousness-raising.

It is interesting to observe how people recently persuaded or forced to stay at home have received and interpreted the change. Largely, it seems to be have been difficult for many, so difficult their health is in jeopardy. It is a psychologically frustrating and confounding adjustment. Identities have been based so much on the idea of an employee or business person living mostly externally to their home life that people are uncomfortable. 

In tandem with the external work life has been the notion of "going out," socializing and seeking entertainment outside the home. This is hard for the petit-bourgeois and bourgeois mindset who have been used to real or imagined petit-bourgeois or bourgeois budgets. (Actually, acting out the delusion had weighed down many such folks down with huge debt loads before the pandemic.) Either because venues are boarded up or incomes inadequate, this aspect of the lifestyle, with exercise at fitness centers and seminars at institutions and performances at auditoriums, is missed by many of those socio-economic strata. Their identity is apparently bound to such activities. 

For myself, a semi-introverted personality with a set of circumstances causing me lots of time at home while studying, working part-time or being unemployed, remaining at home for much of the time is normal. I have not had much of a budget or desire to do the big shows or fancy programs regularly. Except for all the meetings on the internet by use of the computer, this situation has not been so tough or alienating. 

I wonder how many people feel that way. It seems some may have come to prefer work at home: it must be a financial relief as long as income generating work can be done at home, since the commute adds costs and time. 

13 things to stay positive

Posted on May 12, 2020 at 2:33 PM Comments comments (0)
Good tips for staying positive and on course in life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SzvtJMrXx0

9:252020-04-06 · 13 THINGS MENTALLY STRONG PEOPLE DON'T DO by Amy Morin 

mercenaries

Posted on May 6, 2020 at 4:07 PM Comments comments (2)
Statement of the VenezuelaPeaceandSolidarityCommittee of Vancouver


DEFEND VENEZUELA AGAINST MERCENARIES ATTACKS!

The Venezuela Peace and Solidarity Committee of Vancouver (VPSC) steadfastly defends the Venezuelan Bolivarian government's swift action to put down a contingent of armed mercenaries on May 3. It has the right to defend its borders and territories, and act against attacks on its people and space. 

The foreign affairs ministry of Venezuela reports: "In the early hours of May 3, 2020, the Venezuelan Armed Force and the National Bolivarian Police repelled the incursion of a group of armed mercenaries into the coastal state of La Guaira. The mercenaries travelled from Colombia in speedboats and were planning, together with local accomplices, to initiate terrorist operations aimed at government institutions and state officials, according to testimony given by those captured." It states that eight of the mercenaries were killed and two captured in a battle. Venezuelan forces remain on high alert.

The Foreign Affairs desk further reports that the renegade retired Venezuelan, General Cliver Alcalá, is probably connected to this mercenary action as its intelligence has been learning that Alcala has been commanding the training of mercenary groups for months with the explicit aim to launch terrorist attacks including assassination attempts inside Venezuela. He is tied to Juan Guaido's and Leopoldo Lopez' coup attempt on April 30, 2019 and other conspiracies.

It is well known and accepted that the US government supports Guaido and other reactionaries and encourages destabilization efforts and coups. Colombia is a NATO ally. A repressive regime that is often responsible for extrajudicial killings of civilians, Colombia is viciously intent upon snuffing out labour organizing while it engages in war with guerrilla revolutionaries within its borders. It also plays a role as a platform for US militarization and interference in the region, in it shared interest in destroying socialist formations and advances in Latin America. 

VPSC thoroughly denounces US interference and demands it demilitarize and leave the region. VPSC also condemns the cruel regime of Colombia for its murders of labour and other peoples' organizers, its complicity in narcotics production and trafficking and mobilization of paramilitary and military forces against its own people while it blatantly supports transnational corporations that rob the resources. It is suspected that drug money is funding mercenary operations and coup attempts against Venezuela.

VPSC supports the Bolivarian movement and the social advances that help and protect the majority of the people in Venezuela. We join in calling for an end to the unlawful and devastating economic measures that are blocking trade and freezing Venezuela state assets. These measures cause suffering and death to Venezuelans and are especially despicable in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Long live the Bolivarian movement for social progress and human rights for Venezuelans! Down with US imperialism! US troops, go home! Down with the repressive and reactionary regime of Colombia!

Wild Animal Markets

Posted on April 22, 2020 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (55)
Given that the source of the COVID-19 pandemic could well be live animal markets in China, especially those selling wild animals, I have been playing a small part in discouraging wild animal markets.

There are many good reasons to close them down. First of all, numerous zoonotic diseases can easily sprout from them. In conditions of such markets are on the whole deplorable, with multiple, acutely stressed animals stacked into small cages without proper cleaning, that probability is heightened. Just do a simple "Google" to check and see images of these horrid sights yourself. 

Another thing is there typical location in the center of crowded cities where foot traffic is heavy, and passersby may frequently touch the animals and the cages, accelerating the passage of viruses from animals to humans. The vendor on duty may be holding a creature to lure customers.

In addition, the wild animals languishing in these terrible markets have probably been poached and imported clandestinely. The collectors and shippers are no doubt criminals robbing innocent creatures, even endangered ones, from prohibited areas. They steal from nature carelessly and treat the terrified beings roughly, packing them into vehicles, containers and ships or rail cars to haul them long distances. They thus enter foreign countries illegally and, of course, without proper shots and quarantine. Anything could happen in this scenario. It is to invite catastrophe as much as it is inhumane.

Finally, it is about time that human societies change their relationships with nature, both plants and animals. We need to treat them better, in an informed and kind way. People need to to conserve nature and protect life and biodiversity.

For all the above reasons, I have been commenting here and there on this topic, mostly on social media and in private conversations, to advocate against the poaching, trafficking and trading of wild animals. I have also made a Facebook page, after being shocked that no-one had done it before. 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/502759593748663/ 

I am also concerned for livestock on display in traditional street markets. The conditions and treatment of fowl, swine, etc. at these types of places need to be vastly improved in many of them. There should be more space, hygiene, care, respect and sense. They are also sources of viruses transferred from critters to people. 

US Foreign Policy

Posted on April 16, 2020 at 10:53 PM Comments comments (14)
THE MONROE DOCTRINE REMAINS A THREAT TO THE WORLD
-still the basis for US foreign policy regarding Europe and the Americas

Established by the US Congress over 196 years ago, the Montroe Doctrine still justifies the US' self-assigned right to dominate the Americas. It was mainly implemented to threaten European states with war should any of them attempt anew to expand their power over the Americas. However, it has great implications for all peoples of the Americas, mainly that the US assumed it ought to dominate and run the Americas.

The ambitions of the ruling elites in the US intensified throughout the 19th century into the 20th. They were keen on expanding and in direct competition with Western European powers to do so. Wrote M. Waxman about the MD in 2018, "This was drawing a red line—with an implicit war threat—even though the United States at the time lacked the military power to back it up. The United States was counting on Britain, which too wanted to keep continental European powers out of Latin America, to also intervene if necessary."(1)
Although the John Kerry, Secretary of State for the Obama administration, declared it defunct in 2013, President Trump has restored the Montroe Doctrine (MD) as a guide to ruling the Americas today. Max Friedman of American University (2017) wrote that Trump was especially keen on implementing it to keep China and the Russian Federation at bay. He is also interested on intervening in the Americas as deemed required.

While the US maintained a stance of isolationism with regards to Europe, it left a long legacy of interventionism in South and Central America and the Caribbean region. Explains Friedman, "Even in the 'isolationist' period in the early 20th century, the United States was vigorously engaged in military intervention and outright occupation of several countries in Latin America. The Marines were in Nicaragua (1912-33), Haiti (1915-34), and the Dominican Republic (1916-24)." (2)

Reuters recently reported on Trump's intention to enforce the MD (March 2, 2020). " 'Here in the Western Hemisphere we are committed to maintaining our independence from the intrusion of expansionist foreign powers,' Trump stated at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2018. 'It has been the formal policy of our country, since President James Monroe, that we reject interference by foreign nations in this hemisphere and in our own affairs,' he added cynically." (3) This statement reflects the high tensions between Europe and the US. It also implies its aggressive attitude toward all the Americas.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is busy making deals with right-wing and corporate factions in Latin America and the Caribbean in order to clear a path for US-based corporations and monopoly capitalism in general by weeding out communist and socialist-leaning elements there. It has repeatedly attempted to stage coups in Nicaragua and Venezuela. It was successful in accomplishing a military coup despite the results of democratic elections against Evo Morales in Bolivia. It has operated to help orchestrate putting the Right in power in Brazil and Ecuador, while it supports right-wing terrorist governments of Colombia, El Salvador and Honduras. Canada, the junior imperialist and lackey of the US, has functioned to manage the rogue group of right-wing state leaders known as the Lima Group, because the US and its pals cannot get its way with the legitimate Organization of the American States. 

However, the peoples of the Americas including the people in the US are organizing and demanding just peace. They are resisting war and the right-wing wave, despite some setbacks. In fact, several anti-imperialist and human rights conferences have been taking place. Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela offer just peace, model leadership and hope. 

(1)https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2017/0205/Is-Trump-resurrecting-the-Monroe-Doctrine 
(2)https://www.lawfareblog.com/anniversary-monroe-doctrine
(3)Reprinted in the March 2020 Newsletter of the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association ("From Monroe to Trump" page 7.

(Draft article prepared for the next ILPS Commission 4 Newsletter)

Turnover

Posted on April 6, 2020 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (27)
"World Turned Upside-Down" is a modern adaptation of the 17th century protest song about the Diggers' movement for land rights. The lyrics convey the assumption that a society in which the deprived majority must provide service to the privileged majority is an upside-down world much in need of righting. 

It seems that the pandemic is shaking up the global system and turning things over. Suddenly, human needs have been made a priority and non-productive and destructive activities assigned lower priority.

The pandemic has made the lack of support for health care, food distribution, housing and income assistance obvious. The situation has abruptly forced a shift in social structures and state mandates. Suddenly, many activities have been made to stop to give these causes priority. The least productive economic activities are on pause, such as "cultural industries" from luxury travel and professional sports, to pop music, from beauty care and movie-making to fashion. Industries related to war have had to slow down, including aerospace development by corporations such as Boeing and Bombardier.

The present context is resulting in reduced air pollution as use of fossil fuel-powered vehicles has dropped to a minimum. Motor vehicle manufacturing and petroleum production, both big problems, have been undermined. While the price of gas at the pump has plummeted, to favour the average consumer, car manufacturing plants are starting to switch to the production of more useful items, such as medical gear. 

Another affect of this crisis is the recognition of the service provided by workers in certain sectors that have suffered the lowest respect until now: janitors and housekeepers, food distributors and packers, cooks and grocery store clerks, and drivers, for example. Of course, the important roles of emergency service and health care providers has been amplified. 

Social responsibility to the collective rather than individual right and privilege is taking a front seat nowadays. In this context, governments are actually working hard to govern and take care of everyone. Media has an enhanced role to supply information, rather than "conversational journalism" which has more systematically manufactured speculation and carried propaganda.

Long-time issues are glaring, such as the need to provide more support to the workers and poor in times of emergency or calamity, the need for people to consume more wisely and efficiently without depending so much on debt, building health preparedness.

Some already lucrative industries are benefiting and growing in this situation: industries such as communications technologies, medical supplies and pharmaceutical products, financing, internet shopping and food delivery industries. However, the ethos of having compassion and helping others is stronger, which they have to express. Some services and products are being volunteered and provided without charge because of this atmosphere. 

If the people remain vigilant and engaged with what is happening, raising and discussing questions, and keep intervening in state affairs and media broadcasts, they will have a chance to keep some of the positive developments from this global mobilization to address the pandemic.

Bright side

Posted on April 5, 2020 at 6:39 PM Comments comments (14)
I've stayed home almost all the time for a month. I began getting dreary last month, especially because of persistent dark, cold, rainy weather, the kind of which we say most days from October to February. However, I have not been bored, really. 

I have been tutoring a variety of students online, which takes a lot of messaging and prep for each session. Some of my groups have been communicating a lot; we had several meetings over the past two weeks, resulting in the need for more messaging and writing of documents. I've also been taking more phone calls than usual.

Both my mobile phone and laptop showing their age lately, I knew I had to shake it to replace them before they stopped operating altogether. It turned out smoothly. I found a refurbished computer online and it was delivered by post soon after. Today I bought a phone and it is functioning well after a quick switch of SIM cards and a few steps for set-up. I feel accomplished at the success of these purchases and reboots, especially since I have never bought a gadget without getting tech service at the place of purchase. System changes and start-ups seem to be simplified nowadays.

On Thursday, I handled three hours total of teaching and phone calls with an employer, then prepared for and opened up an online meeting. We talked for 90 minutes. 

The weekend is no different in terms of time and energy spent at chores, communications and maintenance. It was necessary to send out some documents I had initiated, discussed and written a few days prior. Although a morning tutoring session was canceled, I had one to give in the early afternoon. Everything seemed to happen at once, during that 1.5-hour tutorial. The computer arrived. I received work-related text messages and phone calls. A parent arrived with a pay-cheque. After the tutorial, I went to deposit the cheque and run a couple of other errands. Queues stretched for about a half a block outside the food stores and bank. People appeared frightened and tense. Medical clinic staff refused my offer of precious N95 masks, which I had been keeping for emergencies at home.

Wanting to hear the latest about the COVID-19 pandemic, I tune into the state briefings and media questioning each morning. However, all the repetitive information and questions, plus all the speculation and alarm, make me feel stressed. I have been turning off these broadcasts earlier and earlier after no further new information is announced.  I can only take so much.

I resigned myself to another food run on Saturday, but vowed to  hike to the supermarket  during "seniors time" early in the day, when there is no line-up and plenty of stock can be found on the shelves. Mission accomplished there, I returned home to push through a load of laundry. Then it was time to turn on the new computer and, fingers crossed, activate it and the servers and other apps I most frequently use. It took nearly three hours, but went remarkably smoothly. I am using the new laptop at this moment; it is faster and more convenient than my older one, and it does not over heat like the older one.

Finally I got a chance to relax yesterday afternoon. Avoiding the news programs, I sought documentaries on Youtube. Subsequently, as dinner was heating up, I searched for CBC films. CBC has opened up its "Gem" online streaming channel for use free of charge. I found a gem of a flick, indeed: "The Red Violin", a joint project of Montreal and European film makers with Canadian stars Colm Feore and Sandra Oh among many others, as well as Samuel L. Jackson in a surprising role, and multilingual European actors of whom I have know nothing before. I recommend this movie. It follows the path of a violin from the circumstances of its creation in the 17th century to its purchase at a monastery for musical orphan boys, from its theft by Romas to its transfer to a famous and eccentric soloist in the 18th century, and from the soloist's butler transport to China where he sold it and a wealth family adopted it, through the Mao revolution and, finally, included in a recovery of old, European instruments in China and transported to an auction house in Montreal. The intriguing diversion was most welcome. I felt quite relaxed after viewing it.

I chose today, Sunday, to go for a lengthier bike ride. The weather turned fair and the rich boughs of cherry blossoms beckoned. I set out after breakfast. That's when I collected the N95 masks from a cupboard and slipped them into a backpack to give to a local nursing home. I also planned to shop for a new phone, without intending to make a purchase on this day. The intensive care nursing home and hospice lie on the other side of a school and park, an easy distance from my place. I rang the bell at the door and held out the bag with the box of masks using long tongs. The person who opened the door was very glad to get them. 

At the big box "drug" store, I locked up my bike to a fence, wrapped my face in a silk scarf, and joined the queue inside the mall. I quickly spotted the Britta tap filter cartridges and picked up a couple of food items, then made my way to the electronics department. Gazing around at the fare on display, I did not think I would buy anything today. Despite my reticence at making an immediate purchase, the sight of a friendly service rep eased my trepidation enough to permit me to inquire about the phones on hand. The helpful staff assured me that switching phones would be relatively easy, without necessitating a trip to the phone network service provider; all I'd have to do was put my old SIM card into the new gadget. While I talked to the engaging fellow, a younger staff member dug around and came up with a lowish-priced model of a reliable make. I bought it.

It took under an hour to glance at the manual, plug in the new device, and install the old SIM card. (Gosh! I almost pried open the wrong slot. I started to excavate the on switch but stopped in the nick of time when I realized it was not a card port!) I have made one call and received one call; it is working fine.

The next task was getting back to this blog. I have been receiving many requests to keep writing. Thanks for all your positive comments and encouragement.

When I opened up this blog page, I had envisioned sharing some insights about the significance of this health crisis but got into an account of my last few days in "isolation." I will follow that with some observations and reflections of the crisis next time.

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Thinking and Doing It Positively

Household Treasures

11 January 2021

I heard an interviewee speaking over the radio talk about cherishing items in the home. It is one way to explore and enjoy surroundings without traveling, he said​I'll try it.


A lot of objects on display in my apartment are artifacts from my travels, ironically. They refresh my most poignant memories of precious and mind-opening explorations.


Sitting atop the filing cabinet next to my desk are to souvenirs from South Korea, where I worked and resided for 10 years. After such a lengthy stay, I have loads of memories prompted by numerous artifacts of my experiences in that country. These two are among the best reflections of cultural and historical particularities of South Korea. They are a framed photo of a hero central to the labour and national democratic struggles and an ornament from folk culture in the countryside of the southern part of South Korea.


Jun Tae-Il was a courageous student activist leading actions against the last dictatorship in his country. He represents the heart of the movement and the victory for democracy. He became a martyr when the police fatally shot him while he was demonstrating in the street in Seoul, the capitol. The ornament is an ceramic fertility fetish, an image of a penis from one of several such parks in the southern region where I used to live. This part of the country remained tribal longer than other parts, so folk traditions such as shamanism and superstitions have endured. Fertility monuments were erected (pun intended), of course, bring about more healthy children. The foreigner exploring such parks giggle at the sights. 


Next to the filing cabinet is a bookshelf. One of the most noticeable objects near the top of this piece of furniture is a tacky, plastic, white alarm clock. It is significant because I bought it to ensure I woke up on time on my last morning living in South Korea. I had an early flight. As a small travel alarm clock had recently failed, and I was not sure my phone alarm would wake me fully, I picked up a cheap clock at a local general store. I don't use it as its ticking is noisy, but I have not thought to give it away. It remains perched on the shelf, deprived of a battery, as a reminder of my departure from the ex-pat life and return to Canada. 


I also have items saved from two trips to Cuba, one in 2003 and one in 2019. Both trips were organized political events. The first took me there with a political choral group to meet Cuban choirs, learn some of their songs, perform with Cubans, attend the May 1st rally, meet labour associations and tour the island for two weeks. I am looking at a typical replication of a sketch of Che Gevarra which one can find easily in street markets. Our choir, supportive of the Cuban revolution, valued the Cuban revolutionary democracy, social arrangements and political principals which that image, the most famous in all the world, represents to millions of people. It inspires and gives hope. I remember strolling through the streets, visiting markets and restaurants, chatting with locals and attending all the meetings on our hectic schedule. I have other little treasures such as a ceramic, hand painted ashtray, photos of our Cuban comrades, and an African-Cuban, wooden statuette.


Above my desk hang a pair of water colour paintings in wood frames. They portray sites in southern Manitoba in the general area where my grandparents met, married and bore my mother. They feature two views of the banks of the Red River, a river highly important to Canadian history. There were battles against invading Americans launched there and a key struggle of the Métis nation. The city of Winnipeg lies nearby, which used to be the industrial hub of Canada until the Panama Canal opened up and undermined the Canadian railway system. I have only passed through Winnipeg by car. This area is not one I remember, for I have never visited it. 


On the floor near my desk lies a wicker hamper. I have mixed feelings about it, but it has been very useful, so I have kept it. You see, it belonged to my father's second wife. My father remarried this odd, older person rather quickly after my mother passed, which denied her children necessary time to adjust. I carried resentment about her, but chose to avoid them rather than say anything or show my negative feelings. As I said, it is a practical item for it holds linens and Christmas stuff and allows aeration through the woven stems.


I originally bought the filing cabinet to organize research, not academic information but information found in the course of activism and stabs at political journalism. It therefore stores records of several international and regional conferences. Though I purge it once in awhile, there are still clippings, leaflets and pamphlets. They cover issues such as Canadian mining firms abroad, human rights cases, privacy rights, student concerns and transportation. I have been replacing old articles and folders with my own writing pieces. Among them are also old, self-published newsletters addressing local and international issues, some of my published articles and unpublished poems. 




Conversational News

10 January 2021

It is so good to be able to express myself and have contact with readers through this blog again. The loss of the access to my blog along with other aspects of confinement and restrictions really affected me. There were added unsettling restrictions due to circumstances, even including access to my games when Adobe Flash Player was removed. I was feeling the mounting stress of rising COVID cases and the awareness of the damages inflicted by this disease as well as the damage inflicted by states that remain focused on helping profitable enterprises more than addressing the disease and health care and financial interventions fully and equitably. Most such as Canada are handing the responsibility of pandemic management to individuals. Very unjust!


I had been handling the conditions of the pandemic fairly well, but emotions were catching up to me in December as I personally began to feel tired and stressed. I started to feel irritable and alarmed. I looked forward to two weekends at home over Christmas and New Years, but the employer wanted me to work on the Saturdays. Saturday being the heaviest work day for me with five hours straight teaching and two hours travel, I had been wanting relief to get a chance to rest and calm down. I ended up taking the Saturday following NY Day off, which certainly helped. I am much better now.


I did not carry through with my usual practice of personal assessment and planning in December as is my habit. I was too agitated. I did not want to reflect on this past year, actually. Not then.


Anyway, there is not any change in my goals. I generally carried through with financial, livelihood, social, family, health and growth goals. However, the social and family goals were frustrated by Covid-19 rules. However, there are elder relatives with multiple health problems whose mental health was being upset by the situation, so I have been visiting with them in cafes and such. They are better now. I have also been aiding an elderly neighbour whose health, already in decline this year, was getting worse partially because of Covid-related restraints. (Her degrading sight and hearing, as well as shaking and loss of balance, caused her to stop driving permanently, and skeletal issues caused her to stop regular exercise. She is worried she will be forced to consider entering a facility while many care homes are in crisis!) My exercise regime was also compromised. The local fitness center remains open but I perceive it as risky, so I do not go there. Aside from some hiking and walking to accomplish transit and errands, I haven't been exercising much until recently. Now I do some yoga, lunging, stretching and weighted arm raises sometimes. I am prevented this week because of an inflammation (hemorrhoid caused by lengthy sitting!).


 One big factor affecting stress and anxiety levels is news reportage. State and private corporate news services, like most enterprises today, try to streamline by relying more on tech and web browsing to find news topics. There are fewer reporters and there is less extended, investigative reporting. For the past decade at least, such services have resorted to "conversational journalism." It is an adjustment to distrust of news and official authorities during a trend of democratization, I feel. However, it tends to keep popularity and viewer or reader stats in mind. Topics can be sensationalized by rehashing events and speculation. Commentators are brought in to discuss as are senior reporters, but the discussion is not very productive in that it does not lead to increased knowledge. Rather, it keeps generating more questions. Conversations often entertain unanswerable questions, particularly because there can be no resolution. They just push the topic and stimulate possible answers to stir up controversy and alarm in order to improve ratings. Pertinent information might be omitted if it actually answers a question. Once audiences abandon a thread, they turn to some other topic and start over. It is really unconscionable because of the innuendo, speculation, rumour, omission, lack of investigation, assumptions and biases.


The COVID coverage is a clear case in point. Partial information is supplied, such as a medical official's announcement that is partly based in some truth. The announcement is questioned. Opponents are recruited to present the false arguments. Sideline topics are raised to create more friction. Proper sources are ignored. Questions are recycled and spin round and round with no conclusion. The affect is understandable: alarm, anxiety, fear, stress, accusations, complaints, etc.


I follow a couple of doctors who produce daily videos to update viewers on scientific developments and explore reasoning behind government and medical decisions regarding the pandemic. I rely on Dr. John Campble and Doctor Moran. Find them on Youtube. Campbell is the most digestable, for he uses plain English, which Moran is more technical. The latter seems to be addressing people in the medical field. By following Campbell, in particular, I can see the gaps in the regional and national news reporting. I can see that they are lagging behind the news by ignoring or failing to search for reliable information.

We're Back

07 January 2021

Apologies to my followers and viewers. You have been very supportive and encouraging for many years. I might have disappointed some of you who were looking for new entries from me. 


Let me explain. VISTAPRINT changed its platform last year. When they did that, the method for making blog entries changed. I had no information from them about what to do. It simply appeared that I know longer had any blogging service. 


However, I just spoke to a VISTAPRINT rep who guided me. I can now write blog entries, as you can see.


It was a strange year all the way around. Things seemed kind of more chaotic than usual. I felt agitated and stressed last month for no definite reason. I had trouble sleeping. I felt exhausted.


My general astrology reading asserted that the pulling away of Jupiter, one of my planets and a very powerful one, from Saturn would make Sagitarians feel exhausted by the end of December. Despite the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, it does indeed feel like I worked and accomplished a lot (activism, teaching, writing). Things are supposed to get easier for us Sagges. 


There was added stress because of the effects of the pandemic. Not only that but worse, state aggression seemed to increased around the world, causing civilian mass responses. Though I had handled it pretty well until the end of 2020, I guess it finally got to me and I started soaking up some of the stress and anxiety emitting from my region and beyond.


2021 is starting out a bit weird, too. Just look at yesterday's events. U.S. Whitehouse invasion. Solar flare sending rays that caused several storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. More lockdowns. 


I wish all my readers well. I will resume entering focused pieces when I have more time. Please stick with me. Thank you for your comments to date.


Ed Wise

TEST

15 January 2020

THIS IS A TEST OF THE NEW PLATFORM FORMAT AND BLOG ENTRY SYSTEM.