EDWISE 

EDITOR AND EDUCATION CONSULTANT

What is not communal?

Here I help define the communal with what are not features of a communal arrangement. A communal arrangement would be one where there is a large degree of equality among the participants, even children, elders and persons with disabilities. It would be democratic. No one person would have reigning authority. That means collective decision making, which entails group discussion.


Taking those points into consideration, a polygamous enclave would not be communal. Neither would a private school, where there would be authoritative oversight, central decision-making and planning and subordination of students. Neither would a typical religious center, as it would typically centralized authority, planning and decision-making.


However, it is possible for a religious center to be organized communally, if the congregation had the power and discussed and decided everything together. I don't know of any such religious commune. Some spiritual associations and retreats have had the appearance of being communal, but there always seems to be a central power of some sort, often (notoriously) a charismatic personality with a silken tongue who is usually a man. There may be sharing of labour and turns at speaking or leading activities, but there is usually a committee or single person behind the scenes pulling strings and staging it all, unfortunately.


Geography is not a determinant, as rural locality, agrarian or otherwise, does not a commune make.



Hostel Culture

In 1892, a holidaying society in Slovenia planned trips for youths setting up a system of hosts making spare rooms available. Hosteling began in Germany in 1909 when a school teacher was planning a trip for his students. After making use of his school to shelter the youth, that man, Schirrmann, opened the first hostel building in Altena in 1912 and founded the first Hosteling Association in 1919. The International Youth Hostel Federation, with members in many European countries, was established in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1932.


Both those years, 1919 and 1932, would have featured conditions that triggered the desire to create hostels. Many Europeans, especially young men, would have been displaced and impoverished by the end of World War One in 1918. Similarly, the conditions of the Great Depression would have resulted in mass migration as people were displaced by loss of jobs and businesses and searching for new ways and places to eke out a living. 


Conditions of great strife also bring about motivation for people in need to share resources. Hosteling is based on cooperation and sharing space and daily supplies to economise and address shortages of products. No doubt a particular culture arose because the same people were using hostels regularly and the hostels became became known as safe, clean and affordable places to stay. The inevitable socializing would lead to friendships and connect people wishing to travel or take on projects together.


Hosteling grew and became popular by the 1960s, once air travel became more common and the burgeoning middle class of the industrialized countries were raising young persons critical of their own societies, keen on exploring others with the time and means to do so. I guess the communal principles of hostel life expanded and took root at this time.


I recently had to travel to a Canadian city on a low budget, so I booked a bed in a hostel room. Because I have been writing about communalism, I took greater notice of the hostel environment this time. 


Hostels are fully blossomed communal sites. Users share sleeping quarters, bathrooms, kitchens, libraries, work spaces and games rooms entailing a high degree of cooperation. The specific rules are spelled out, though frequent users understand the norms and know what to expect. They know they must be tidy and clean up their tables and dishes. They need to return books and utilize minimal storage space. It's always been a nice experience for me. Everyone is courteous and considerate. They behave responsibly and peacefully. At the same time, users chat with each other and often exchange tips with or offer aid to one another about visiting the locale or traveling, and such. Exchanges of material things such as books and maps and even hats or umbrellas or shirts occur. Hostels usually offer some activities, such as guided tours, games, occasional communal meals, movie nights and the like.


These days all sorts of people check into hostels, young or old, students or professionals, workers or business people. Most want to keep travel expenses low, while some just prefer hostel life to hotel rooms because they love the communalism they find there.

The Cooperative Way

The cooperative movement encourages and assists the formation of worker co-ops. Advocates and their organizations lobby for legislation to require companies to first offer their employees to buy their firms before they invite other interests to do it. Such legislation exists in some states such as the UK and some within the United States of America. Some employers prefer to do this, for they respect their workers and their work and do not want to cause them harm. They may believe that their businesses would be in better hands were the employees to take them over rather than strangers and people who are not so familiar with them. 


Where there are allowances for workers to take over the ownership of enterprises, rules and a lending system are in place. The government provides low interest loans and a framework and training for workers' collectives to be able to run companies themselves. In some cases, workers can make arrangements and find funds on their own. There are organizations within the cooperative movement who can educate and facilitate such takeovers.


The cooperative movement does not challenge or object to trade unions; there need not be a conflict. Some unions support workers' co-ops, for they see them as allies and the co-ops, if unions are friendly, see the unions as allies. Collective agreements can offer ideas for the terms of a cooperative arrangement that guarantees and protects the workers rights and safe and reasonable working conditions. However, a worker-owned business would not need a union. Worker's unions are established as a defense against exploitation by owners as all owners of private enterprises profit from the labour of their workers and they do so by keeping wages down and trimming overhead costs by withholding resources and measures that would make workplaces safer, healthier and more comfortable. Private owners certainly do not want to give over the decision-making to workers--no way! They have management to impose restrictions such as time limits and methods. Workers are always pushing back to improve their earnings and conditions.


A cooperative is far more democratic. Workers within it, whether it is a fast food enterprise or a factory, meet and have an equal say in how the work is done. This arrangement is far different from the typical employment where the owner and his representatives command the workers, dictating everything they do at work, from when and how long to use the toilets and take meals to procedures and reporting. Contemporary workplaces may adopt a friendlier management style that shows signs of more respect and appears to consult employees, but you know that the employees' say doesn't count for much; it is still dangerous for them to say anything as their words can be used against them in the end. While there can be all sorts of personalities and ideas present in a cooperative workplace, the relationship of the employees to it and their work is fundamentally different. People simply cannot be abused much since their is no owner exploiting them and everyone who works there has an equal status. True, there can be variations in salary levels considering varying education or training and experience levels, and a bonus system can be implemented as an incentive or reward. 


The cooperative workplace has potential to develop a communal environment wherein workers get to know each other, socialize and assist each other with the problems and demands of life even outside work. In fact, there is a societal vision and philosophy around the worker-owned-and-run cooperative enterprise. It is a vision of a cooperative and caring society with a profound democracy. It is a new kind of communism, a society empowering the people at the base without a government functioning as a centralized decision-making order overseeing and commanding the society. Government has a role in providing services and resources and setting regulations and laws. However, it is one with proper representation of the people, not business owners that dominate and drive and bribe the government to do their bidding to make life richer and more comfortable for them alone. No, it would be a government with proportional representation, perhaps with regional and national election candidates coming from councils filled with nominated and elected workers from the cooperatives and other mass organizations.


There is also a vision of new kind of international relations based on cooperation and aimed at avoiding and settling conflicts through negotiations that would not allow war to break out. the United Nations Organizations would have to be rebuilt and refitted to serve these aims.


An model of a cooperative world has been drawn up by the "All things Cooperative" division of "Democracy @ Work". Here is a link to a video about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-T0XOA5hI0





Life Without Community

Without the communal experiences that common people set up for themselves, life is harder and colder. Without the social and recreational organizations, ceremonial practices, neighbourhoods in action, nonprofit organizations and various associations in which relationships  and support networks, what is there? 


Workers do not have control over their workplaces, so communal experiences cannot be counted on there. Except for recognitions of birthdays, the Christmas party and occasional lunches together, if the they are lucky, employees must perform prescribed tasks on a given schedule and be subject to monitoring. Atmospheres and management styles can vary, but generally employees grab what chance they can to enjoy the coworker relationships but beat it home, happier to escape the confines of oversight and regime in an enterprise directed by others who reap the most rewards. 


School does not always provide relief, either. Private schools are generally business or religious settings run according to a corporate model with its quantifiable assessments and goals. In many countries, public school is an institution regulated and prescribed by government, and are often large. From upper elementary ("middle school" to some) through secondary school, the ambiance cools down and the focus on scores is sobering. After years of neoliberal austerity measures, too, there is nothing much in the budget to provide extra-curricular and cultural experiences. Even if there are student clubs and a student council, the object is career driven, with the ambitious eager to scratch notches on their resumes. Teachers and concerned observers complain how schools, reformed and relaxed somewhat in the 60s, have become like factories. 


At least any school is a place where friendships are made. The local elementary school might be the only locus of communal activity. The degree of communalism depends on the location of the schools. Some school boards that ascribe to a more humanist approach, especially as concerns the youngest of the student populations. Parents are involved. There could be exchanges and special days. Teachers can assess a student's wellbeing, family life and outlook and try to intervene with one sort of support or another. Volunteers from the community could be in the classrooms and hallways. Also, the school can be used for community meetings such as political campaigning and election polling. There may be continuing education classes run in the evenings and on weekends. 


Without much else in the way of community networks and activities, children and parents rely a lot on the school for social nourishment and growth. this could be why it is reported that many youngsters and teens suffered a lot during COVID lockdowns. Most people were cut off from communal experiences and community life. If both parents were absent from the home to earn their livelihoods or very preoccupied earning money from the home, even family life was inadequate. Families with more resources, of course, could manage better. It was the poorest who suffered most.


Without other communal offerings, people hang around shopping malls and parks. They may get to know others who work at or otherwise frequent those places. They may make and meet friends there. However, there is not much in the way program and structure. It's every person for her/himself. 


People who either start associations and get something going or pay membership dues and join some existing thing are much better off. Their lives are richer and more fulfilling. They should support people's associations and organize them to build society in a positive way.

Recreational Clubs

Recreational clubs are communal to one degree or another. I belong to several, as I like casual sports for fitness, culture, interest and social activity. They are all communal in that they are groups that share space to do things together using common resources. 

     For example, my ukulele club meets in a regular club house and plays together following a leading musician. We participants donate a few bucks at each session to support this leader. Members get to the session on his/her own means. We drink and chat together as well. There are no other meetings of this group other than practice/ play times. 

     My hiking club is another example of a common group experience. It is a couple of degrees more communal than the uke club. We have to register, pay a nominal membership fee each year and follow designated hike leaders who plan each hike. There is a publicly accessible website that bears a calendar, information on each scheduled hike,  and reports on past hikes. Our annual fees pay for it and liability insurance, nothing else. There is a car pooling system for transportation to each location of hikes; passengers pay a set amount to the driver to cover fuel each time they are driven to a hike. The trip leader ensures that there are a few photos taken of the location and participants of each hike, which will be posted along with that leader's brief report on the hike. While hiking, we get to know one another. We bring our own lunches, though. There is only one social event each year: the annual barbecue at a favorite lakeside place. Someone lends a barbecue or two and everyone who goes is supposed to bring a little food to share. However, the picnickers bring their own items to barbecue. There is minimal cost to participants and no cost to the club for this event. The province regulates and oversees all organized sports in the province, so this club must follow the provincial regulations and the insurer's stipulations. The city carries information on the club and provides a few gifts to distribute to club members on the day of the annual social.

     The most communal of all the recreational and cultural clubs I belong to is the lawn bowling club. This is a traditional English sport that traditionally serves older people. A whole community thus revolves around the local lawn bowling club. Although the provincial government sets the standards, the city provides a subsidy and the property including the equipment shed and clubhouse. Therefore, city staff clean the washrooms inside the clubhouse and manage the flower beds inside compound regularly. However, members do everything else themselves; it is a member-run organization, with members paying an annual fee to cover insurance, maintenance, outdoor equipment and kitchen and game room supplies. Besides the annual membership fee, we each pay a couple of dollars each time we play a game so that we provide additional funds for snacks, the maintenance of the green and seasonal prizes. Members can drop in any time to present themselves for games on bowling game nights three times a week and one bowling morning session once a week. There are competitions against nearby clubs at least twice a bowling season. The club also runs a croquet evening. There is always social time after games, which volunteers from among the membership organize to set up tables, prepare and serve food and clean up. Volunteers take care of grounds and run the games. In fact, this club is a full-fledged nonprofit society with an executive body. There is one official coach to train members and apply the rules. We follow international rules and techniques established ages ago in England. Though the club keeps some spare equipment, members have to acquire their bowling kits each containing four uniquely marked bowls and paraphernalia. 

      As such a developed tradition, community lawn bowling clubs provide vital opportunities for socializing. Seniors benefit tremendously and enjoy it for the outdoor setting, the company, the mild activity and thrill of the game. Older people can play this despite some physical restrictions and weaknesses as they age. People join as of their late 40s; they typically are people who enjoy sports but who have had some kind of long term injury or ailment, or are just looking for another way to relax outdoors on spare evenings. Many are longtime members who play until they are no longer able at a very advanced age. In fact, club archives with photos are kept and memorial plaques for the most active members are displayed.

      The social schedule of the season offers a lot, from the monthly barbecues to the holiday bowling lunches and the season opening and closing banquets. Participants bring their own lunches to the holiday games and salads and such to share at barbecues, when individuals bring their own items to cook on the grill. The opening and closing events are ticketed meals, but surplus club wealth is used to provide gifts beyond the raffles tickets that are offered at each banquet. 

     The bowling season is only three-and-a-half months long, but the club remains open all year round. There is one card, one darts and one carpet bowling session each week so that members can stay active and engaged with this community. Surplus funds from the summer season provide small snacks. People can buy beverages at each season; a volunteer keeps it stocked up.

    The games organizers keep stats of everyone's performance in all the clubs games, from bowling to darts, so that the persons with the highest scores and most wins can be identified and rewarded a little monetarily from time to time. 

    You can see that the lawn bowling is a full communal experience. It grows a community who do many activities, physical and social, together regularly in a communal space. Lasting friendships form. The membership develops to a more intimate level than other types of recreational clubs. Things are planned to be fair and inclusive.


Humans Helping Humans

I am reflecting on the memorial banquet I just attended. Friends, family and extended family came to share memories and catch up. Now I'm thinking how much such an event is a communal experience. First I consider who and what makes up a family. Then I consider how people rally around someone in need.

In the case of this gathering, close friends and extended family were quite a mix and acquainted in a variety of interesting ways. Of course, there was immediate biological relatives and relatives by marriage. In addition, there were several cases of close friends and family established by volunteer child raising. Here is an example. One man had been in a relationship with a drug addict who continued to help to raise her child well after breaking up with the girlfriend. That child is now a young man who attended the honouring of his quasi-uncle with his wife. Another man brought his biological daughter and grandchildren, as well as a teen-age adopted daughter whom he and his late wife met as foster parents when she was an infant; they looked after that girl for a few years and opted to adopt her after the natural mother, another drug addicted, passed away.             There was a young child at the dinner; she was there under the informal guardianship of her mother's friends, the mother being absent and unable to take care of her. These are all examples of stretching the perimeters of family to

take care of people where there is no obligation by birth or law; people help because they care.

     After the meal and the planned proceedings, informal chat gave rise to a few exchanges about different types of services and individual preferences. One issue is notification of the passing. One person may have a larger or different sort of network than another. How and who to notify? What is the responsibility? I got to thinking that various people well acquainted with the deceased through work or other organized activities and by proximity. If any of them learn of the passing, chances are that someone among them will respond on their own initiative and hold some sort of event to acknowledge it. Take community and leftist social and grassroots political activists, for example. It is normal for fellow activists, perhaps organization leaders or volunteers, to arrange something apart from what the immediate family or close friends do; the activity could be a letter to the family, a public message, a small gathering or a larger service. Work or recreational/ social club mates might react similarly.

     Then I got to thinking that there are a lot of situations of people helping people. Disasters are obvious examples. People will open their doors, provide food and supplies, donate money, etc. On the other hand, there is a lot of talk about how the population will respond to severe economic conditions as stagflation strangles economic life and a deep recession unfolds in the USA and Canada. I hear many expressions of fear. The gun promoters and survivalist convey great fear about their neighbours who they surmise will run rampage thieving and killing to stay alive ,so stocking up on guns, ammo and necessities and preparing to defend themselves or perish is recommended. I, though, believe in human kindness and concern. I think that many able people will organize to take care of each other and try to repair the crisis.

     Think about it. Who runs shelters, kitchens, mobile street services, and outreach and counseling? Who sets up charities and nonprofit or self-help organizations? Average people step forward to work hard finding resources, making public appeals, researching and sharing information, obtaining qualifications, getting funds, and so forth, and they are often volunteers.

COMMUNAL LIVING


Sorry for the lengthy absence. I do not like this blog format and input process, for one thing. For another, I did not have another theme except peace; I cover peace at my Just Peace Committee page on Facebook and my justpeace.blog (Wordpress) as well as in an internal newsletter for the International League of Peoples Struggles (peoplesstruggles.org), which is the Commission 4 publication called "Peace 4 the People". I also write statements for ILPS Commission 4 and Just Peace Committee, internationally and locally, respectively.

     In my activism for peace, we confront imperialism (domination, exploitation and plunder to make astronomical wealth for the few) that is the main source of various forms of violence and oppression. The long term goal is to build an alternative to monopoly capitalist imperialism, which concerned people involved generally call socialism. There are different types of socialism which are mainly state control of land and production and state laws and programs to provide social benefits and protection to the masses. Communist parties have been able to rule and institute vast state socialism through revolution and through electoral campaigns and reforms. We can think of Cuba and Venezuela as examples of one and the other. From the 1930s through the 1970s, US and Europe-based capitalism made compromises to socialize some industry, provide social programs, build infrastructure for working people, and so on. Capitalism's weaknesses, though, could not be avoided: wars, periodic slowdowns, debt and currency crises. The neoliberal approach of the 1980s to 2020 ruined that project by dismantling it and privatizing and deregulating everything. Politically aware intellectuals and working folk are talking about socialism again and decrying "the imperialist system" and all its violence and ills.

     Therefore, I have been thinking about socialism. Capitalism is not working out; it is in total crisis, at least US-based monopoly capitalism is. The crisis is economic (stagflation, approaching recession, debt), social (rising suicide, alienation, displacement, bigotry, disruptive and dysfunctional family life), education (rising illiteracy, lack of supports), health (insufficient public care for all, rising mortality and morbidity, mental health and opioids), unemployment or underemployment, housing (quality and affordability with rising homelessness). I don't have to tell you.

     If more people continue to get politically active and join protests, they can only be effective when they join forces, share info and materials and ideas, collaborate and make demands for change together. All the movements have to come together as one to confront imperialism. It has to have a grassroots, worker and poor people base.

     What alternative and how can we get there? Through collective action and discussion, forms of organization come into being: cooperative enterprises, committees, shelters and workspaces, bartering and sharing arrangements, social and recreational clubs, nonprofit enterprises and charities, popular non-corporate media, art projects, education and skills training programs, worker-owned factories and so on. Oh, you have heard of at least some of these? Yes! They already exist. You probably realise that they are each a product of local struggle. You probably know that they could not be accomplished by a single person, but rather had to be by a collective. When victorious, such endeavours result in people/ worker/ community-run, autonomous collectives that serve the people somehow. The struggle may have required and won state funding and legislation, so that many such collectives are state supported. It is this collective, popular action and organization that interests me, for I see it as the foundation for a whole new society that cares about and operates for and by the people. I envision a governance of representatives from among the communities and collectives that does not own and control projects and enterprises and programs but is designed to facilitate and support them.

     The socialism built in the Soviet Union and elsewhere has largely been systems of state ownership, control and direction of production and community life. I am not knocking what has been achieved. Clearly, the people fought and worked hard for it and benefited from it for a few decades. It is the top-heavy, top-down system that is vulnerable to corruption. Economic critics of capitalism have also reviewed former socialist states and come to accept that, to date, they adopted a capitalist production and distribution model, though wealth and production was not in private hands. State-owned enterprises used the monetary, price and wage system and accumulated wealth, which was to be redistributed into investments in infrastructure, homes, services, culture, and factories aimed at continuous expansion. In other words, they borrowed the capitalist model and changed some of the language. True, there were local committees and trade union and party locals from among whom representatives to the massive regional and state assemblies were regularly and properly elected. However, democracy was at risk and the state vulnerable to corruption as long as the economy and management were centralized. Too much power in too few hands.

     Today, new models of socialism are being discussed. Many prize communal life and governance. I want to think about this approach.

The next steps will be to look at examples of communal life around me. You probably have not held communism high, but that ideal is alive and well around the world as people continue to form and run various types of collectives. You likely belong to one or support one. I will discuss how much each case is "communal".

Communal living is my new thread to be discussed in the next few weeks, if not months. Stay tuned.

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ceasefire

Posted on March 31, 2020 at 8:24 PM Comments comments (97)
STATEMENT OF ILPS COMMISSION 4 ON THE QUESTION OF CEASING HOSTILITIES DURING THE PANDEMIC
PEACE WITH SOCIAL JUSTICE! END IMPERIALIST OCCUPATION AND AGGRESSION!
SUPPORT THE JUST STRUGGLES OF THE PEOPLES FOR SOCIAL AND NATIONAL LIBERATION!
 
Commission 4 of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS), an anti-imperialist alliance of organizations engaged in mass struggles, is concerned with wars of aggression and counter-revolution and nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.
 
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, called for a global ceasefire in a statement issued on March 23, 2020. (https://www.un.org/press/en/2020/sgsm20018.doc.htm) He wrote, “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.  It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
 
We agree with the spirit of this call. However, we wish to defend and protect the peoples currently in struggle for their survival, basic rights, basic services including health care, lands and sovereignty. They fight in self-defence against deprivation and hostile governments. Ultimately, we aspire to realize demilitarization and a halt to aggression and occupation, state terror and human rights violations. With this objective in mind, we cannot advise the peoples, armed or not, to give up their life and death struggles.
 
We act according to the principles of just peace, that is peace through negotiations for a resolution to the issues that cause peoples’ revolutions and resistance. Only if and when social justice—land, political and social reforms—are seriously addressed and settled should the people cease their struggles.
 
Consider the views of V. I. Lenin, as interpreted and explained by S. Gnosh in 1960: “https://www.marxists.org/archive/shibdas-ghosh/1959/07/x01.htm, undated) “It would be possible to effectively preserve lasting peace if the significance of the principal characteristic features of the present-day changed international situation is properly understood and the task of conducting peace movement is grounded solidly in intensifying the national liberation movements in colonies and semi-colonies and the struggles for socialism in capitalist countries.”
 
Therefore, we issue the following set of calls. We make these recommendations in the light of the global pandemic and the sound emergency measures to (1) minimize travel and (2) adjust state priorities to address health, food and housing first, ahead of non-productive sectors such as the military. It is an opportune moment to act in the interest of the welfare of all the peoples of the world.
 
Ø  cancel NATO missions, close NATO bases and send all NATO troops home
Ø  send all foreign troops to their home countries, including US troops
Ø  cancel all military exercises
Ø  end all general economic sanctions
Ø  free all political prisoners
Ø  cancel all arms trade and call for arms and military contract related production to be converted to the production of human necessities related to health care, food and housing
Ø  initiate a UN campaign to get states to reduce military spending and reprioritize their state responsibilities according to the UN Declaration on Human Rights, that on Indigenous peoples’ rights, and all universal standards set by the UN and other credible international bodies concerned with the rights and welfare of all

Ø  restrain states with penalties for continuing occupations, aggressions, economic sanctions and interference including regime change and elections rigging

War Measures

Posted on March 22, 2020 at 1:26 PM Comments comments (26)
NO WAR MEASURES ACT! Media in Canada seems to be pushing for it, but think about what it means. Army in the streets, police making random checks, raiding homes. Stop congratulating China, which can be blamed for allowing conditions where the virus thrived in the first place. Second, the official word of China cannot be trusted; it is notorious for misrepresenting the truth. It is evident China authorities suppressed doctors' warnings of the new virus in the beginning, punishing them for saying anything about it. Finally, let's look at China's enforcement: random body temperature checks done and anyone just with a high temperature hauled away by the police. (They can be many explanations for a fever.) Police welding doors to residences shut. People with other serious medical conditions not able to exit homes.

financial exposure

Posted on March 21, 2020 at 6:44 PM Comments comments (14)
DON'T LET ANYONE SAY THAT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC IS THE CAUSE OF ECONOMIC CRISIS! The global economy has been in perpetual crisis and headed for a total failure by the fall of 2019.

Signs of collapse at end of 2019
-A string of mass layoffs and bankruptcies occurred in the corporate world as of October 2019.
-Most people do not have sufficient savings for an emergency situation or a short period without income; they are living paycheque to paycheque. That is why many people do not have means to pay rent etc. after just two weeks of unemployment/ lack of business revenue.
-Consumer debt, many national debts and national state liabilities were already at an all-time high, most notably in the US and Western Europe societies. Too heavy a reliance on financial sector, especially with respect to borrowing/ lending.
-Middle class' debt was exploding, with many of them losing homes in Germany, US, Australia and elsewhere.
-inflation, especially in housing market, which has been out of control
-More displaced and homeless people, with movements to survive by nomadic lifestyle, tiny houses, 
-Airlines have been having a hard time of it, regardless of pandemic conditions.
-Banks have been on the brink of failing in US and Europe and 4 major banks in China fell. Millions are not making payments on mortgages and other loans.
-Extremely uneven development with misaligned priorities, giving petroleum, weapons, luxury items, leisure IT priority over food, health and housing.

This situation of the pandemic exposes the weaknesses of the economy and social structure. Ironically, steps being taken to cope with the pandemic show how easy it is to mobilize socially, financially and industrially for the social good; for example, aerospace companies, which mostly serve military and commercial needs, are starting to make health and nutrition products. Same for automobile manufacturers. 

We also see how many who have been relying a lot on restaurants could be cooking at home. This change requires reconfiguration of the food supply and servicing.

Another favourable outcome is that it is easy to have many people work from home, which cuts down on traffic, fossil fuel usage and air pollution. Have you noticed how much lower gasoline prices are at the pumps?--for example, I saw one service station offering self-served gasoline at the pumps for $1.06, the lowest price I have seen in decades.

crisis

Posted on March 18, 2020 at 10:32 PM Comments comments (21)
Went to food stores today for the first time in a week. Amazed to find shelves in a major supermarket EMPTY. Absence of most bread, pasta, fresh meat and poultry, sandwich meat and sausages, frozen food, tinned food and crackers. Wow!

Is it because of hoarding? I am thinking that may not be altogether correct. I would call it "stocking up" in the main. Another factor is all the people now staying in and eating at home who weren't doing so before.  How to account for all the people who normally frequent restaurants throughout the week who, upon receiving urgent calls to stay home from authorities, have taken to preparing meals at home? That would mean a lot more shoppers and a lot fewer restaurant-goers.

Regardless, I found smaller markets well stocked. Naturally, they are enjoying more customers at the moment. 

If there is a shortage, you would think it would be a blessing for overweight people, but it could be they are still indulging in bad habits.

Of course, there is concern for people with less means and support in these trying times. Some social organizations are calling for community and state action to make sure isolated people and homeless people have their necessities.  I was reading a message by a council of trade unions demanding measures to protect poor and working people, such as delaying mortgage payments, financial relief for those forced to stay home from work, and so on. I think they have already influenced the decision-makers, judging by the announcements made by administrations at all levels today: 4 banks are allowing for postponement of mortgage payments, tax authorities and allowing for delayed payments, courts are preventing evictions and firings in situations related to COVID-19, social services granting special benefits, etc.

What can we do at home, if not working to make a living? -blogging! and other writing. How about poems, short stories? Exercise indoors or perhaps outdoors. I for one, felt motivated to hike up the local mountain one day and go for a bike ride another. Was refreshing, despite the seasonal hayfever. Then there is reading. I have books here I have not finished. There are also plenty of internet sources.

You can also communicate with friends and family. Just had a phone call. That is another nice thing about this situation. Whereas people don't normally just call and chat, some are passing the tine at home by calling family and friends.


COVOD coping

Posted on March 16, 2020 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (21)
I'm pretty healthy these days. You?

Allergic responses to air quality are slight; as this March here is unseasonably cold, I am fighting off chills.

I generally take measures to ward off the flu during fall/winter and April flu seasons, measures such as limiting the touching of surfaces especially my face, carrying hand gels and wearing gloves when in transit. Same now, though I am staying home more.

I am staying away from the gym, preferring to do some exercises at home. I am limiting my time on public transit and avoiding gatherings.

Authorities are today announcing shutdowns of services, from airports to libraries, and discouraging attendance at large gatherings (50 or more) as well as use of restaurants. It is spring break today, and we await announcements about status of schools following the spring break.

Fortunately, as a private tutor, I can still get work online. Thank goodness for the internet, telephone systems and cable TV!

on economic sanctions

Posted on March 4, 2020 at 11:01 PM Comments comments (6)
END GENERAL ECONOMIC SANCTIONS NOW!
Statement for Global Days against Sanctions that Harm the People

Some solidarity and social justice organizations called for a global weekend of actions from March 13 to 15. The Venezuela Peace and Solidarity Committee of Vancouver (VPSC) joins in the actions against the blanket sanctions imposed by US imperialism and its allies that mostly aim to weaken states and movements of the people that stand up to imperialist interference, plunder and exploitation. Far from securing peace, human rights and economic development, they cause shortages of daily necessities and hardship to the working people. Also, they often rob a targeted state such as Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua and Venezuela of huge state revenues from international activities that could be employed to serve their people more.

Sanctions are causing suffering to Iranian, Venezuelan, North Korean, Nicaraguan, Cuban and other peoples. Today economic sanctions are a standardized form of economic warfare implemented by US imperialism against targeted states that stand in the way its exploitation and profits. They are part of its arsenal and are aggressive. Such sanctions are carried out despite widespread condemnation, as in the case of Cuba, for UN votes on the Cuban blockade have shown a vast majority of UN member states wish an end to the blockade. General economic sanctions punish entire populations. US sanctions on Venezuela and Nicaragua are illegal. Economic sanctions against North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran are cutting off basic supplies, blocking local commerce and trade and depriving the people, which has resulted in a lowered standard and held back development.

Although some political sanctions properly decided by international bodies and appropriately implemented might justifiably curb truly repressive regimes and reduce oppression, general economic sanctions destroy societies, intended to force them into submission by foreign powers.

When are sanctions justifiable? Take Israel, for example. It is a highly militarized state illegally occupying and colonizing Palestine. It inflicts terror and horror against civilian Palestine on a regular basis with the blessings of the US and its allies including Canada, France and Britain. However, Israel clearly commits crimes against humanity on a massive scale, with impunity. 
Concerned and justice-minded people around the world, however, participate in boycotts and divestment in solidarity with the Palestinian people. This campaign targets major corporations that sell arms and supplies to the Israeli war machine. Part of this campaign is the arms embargo, which advocates a stop to sales of arms and military contracts to Israel. It has had some success. Such is a worthwhile kind of sanction. The UN could do more; it could suspend membership. Other states could maintain diplomatic distance.

There are situations crying out for action against viciously repressive regimes, such as the Duterte regime of the Philippines that has continued an all-out war on the people. It regularly unleashes terror on communities who are struggling to survive acute poverty and defending the right to life and livelihood with peace and social justice. In the pretext of fighting communism, the state national police and armed forces, with the aid of the US, carry out extrajudicial killings of civilian community leaders, labour organizers, protesters, human rights defenders and journalists. Crimes against humanity are the norm in the Philippines. Still, countries including Canada carry on business as usual, awarding aid and trading with the corrupt and bloody-minded bureaucratic-capitalist and land-owning elite. Other states could stop such business dealings and refuse to sell arms. The US could pull its troops out of the region and stop training and supplying the regime. Such would be sanctions that would help the people of the Philippines. Also, other states could cooperate by maintaining diplomatic distance, in such a way as not to harm migrant Filipino workers. Again, here is a context in which a UN measure to suspend membership would be just. It is also a context in which support for the peace talks and the peoples’ demands for land, social and political reforms should be strongly insisted.

In Venezuela, food and household supplies are plentiful in the upscale urban districts. Perhaps to take advantage of the effects of the blockade and the expectation of shortages, prices have been jacked up astronomically. Medium and small-sized businesses have not been able to access some materials for production and sale, owing to high pricing or unavailability. There may be some withholding and hoarding of goods. In poorer areas, restaurants and shops have little to offer customers. Some Venezuelans have chosen to leave the country. Regional tourism is at a standstill. Fortunately, the pro-people government, with the assistance of benefactors and genuine humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross, has a food program to deliver rations to those in real need. As well, it is assisting communities to spearhead local, micro-farming initiatives to create self-sustaining food sources. There are strategies of sharing and self-reliance in the communes. Where necessary, charities and churches dispense hot meals to school children and families. They solicit funds from foreigners so that they can pay for food and distribute it. It is amazing that the Bolivarian government under Chavez and subsequently by Maduro has been able to proceed with providing free transportation, education and healthcare as well as constructing houses under these conditions. It has worked hard to build understanding and make special deals with friendly states, so as to restore some trade. It could do so much more for the people if the billions of dollars of funds held abroad were released, and if billions of dollars in revenues from trade were flowing normally.

The VPSC demands an end to the illegal and cruel economic measures against the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan people imposed by the US aided by its friends such as Canada. Unfreeze the Venezuela state funds withheld abroad and return them to the government of Venezuela. End the blockades against Cuba and North Korea. End the general economic sanctions against Iran. Diplomatic and select trade sanctions against real oppressors who violate the rights of the people and pose real threats. Take a stand against imperialist aggression and domination in all its forms, military or economic or otherwise. Opt for negotiations as much as possible; no military invasions or coups. Canada, stop meddling!

Bolivia solidarity

Posted on February 22, 2020 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (32)
Solidarity for the people of Bolivia!

At the international, anti-imperialist conference held in Caracas on Jan. 24, Pres. Maduro announced a call for a global day of solidarity with the Bolivian people, citing February 25.

The Venezuela Peace and Solidarity Committee of Vancouver joins in expressing strong solidarity with the people of Bolivia. We deplore the recent coup that destroyed the advancement of Bolivian people's quality of life, independence and rights. We support the people's movement, especially that of the indigenous people, lead by the champion of workers', farmers' and indigenous peoples' rights, the unjustly ousted President Evo Morales. Desiring a return to the exploitation and plunder of Bolivian resources and people, US imperialism and its friends in the military and elite of Bolivia schemed against the people and their leader, Evo Morales. At the last national elections, they propagated rumours of election fraud in the countryside and spread doubt about the election results which showed Morales and his party as the victors. Their claims being hollow, it took the mobilization of reactionary and Right wing forces within the military to force President Morales out of the country and seize the rule from the people for the benefit of the upper classes and imperialism. We denounce this coup. We support efforts to counter this coup, bring the truth to light and restore the Bolivian people's independent democracy with Evo Morales back in the seat of state power.

Furthermore, we condemn the renegade group of right-wing states known as the Lima Group. We deplore their austerity measures, repression and terror against their peoples and selfish rule for personal profit. We especially denounce the Canadian state's role in facilitating counter-revolutionary strategy and supporting anti-people governments and policies throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Trudeau and company should stop assisting the Lima Group and refrain from meddling in and misrepresenting the facts about those regions.

nuclear power

Posted on February 6, 2020 at 9:41 PM Comments comments (7)
NUCLEAR POWER in the USA
 -a child of the US imperialist military-industrial complex; profits and service to corporations and the military come before people


Nuclear reactors are dangerous, however used, because of their potential for colossal explosions. For this reason, both nuclear weaponry and nuclear energy have been sharply criticized from the very beginning of the development of this technology. Objections to science being subordinated to both military and commercial interests abound. Nevertheless, nuclear armed weapons and nuclear power stations have proliferated.
 
Never mind trying to restrain the nuclear power industry, both weapons development and energy supply, there is even staunch resistance to safety regulations and disaster management. Why? First, nuclear technology is a huge and very lucrative industry. Profitable businesses maximize productivity by cutting corners on labour and tools. Second, the ruling powers desire nuclear weaponry as a form of defense of their power and status.
 
Much of contemporary technology was created in military laboratories before being commercialized, from computerization and communications, to chemical toxins and nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion was experimented with during World War 2 when the US air force caused hundreds of thousands of immediate and delayed human deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. German scientists at the behest of their Nazi masters may have started the development of nuclear weapons; this is the official reason why the US created the Atomic Commission and began the Manhattan Project under the supervision of physicist Dr. Oppenheimer and US Army Colonel Leslie R. Groves to achieve nuclear fusion and nuclear arms.
 
It is ironic that nuclear power was seen as a clean energy source as the environmental movement grew from the 1960s on. This became a key selling point. Plans to build nuclear power stations all over the US and in other countries were soon under way. There are currently 60 nuclear power stations with 98 nuclear reactors in 30 states in the USA. Has everything gone smoothly, without incident? Far from it, as everyone knows.
 
There have been three major nuclear power station accidents in the world. The first was the Three Mile Island station catastrophe in Pennsylvania. It happened in 1979 because of a failed water pump, which prevented cooling while causing so much hydraulic pressure that a pressure release valve malfunctioned as well. Reactor number two melted down and a radiation leak occurred. There were no directly resulting deaths or injuries.
 
The second nuclear power station disaster was Chernobyl in the Ukraine, USSR, in 1986 when explosions occurred due to a deliberate shutdown safety and emergency mechanisms for the purpose of safety improvement, ironically. There were 42 immediate and delayed deaths and thousands of people were forced to evacuate
 
The latest tragedy was the worst ever. About 100,000 people around the Fukushima Daiichi power station were forced to flee after an earthquake was followed by a devastating tsunami which flooded three reactors, causing a failure in their cores resulting in hydrogen explosions, and damaged a fourth in 2011. The surrounding waters and air were contaminated. By 2012, it was estimated that 573 people died in 13 municipalities.
 
Former Chairperson of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Gregory B. Jaczko, was one of the nuclear physicists who arrived on the Fukushima scene to assess the accident. In his 2019 book, Confessions of Rogue Nuclear Regulator, he explains the both the recalcitrance and hubris of nuclear power engineers who, prior to the Fukushima disaster, has believed that neither flooding nor hydrogen explosions in the cores were possible.
 
The occurrence of smaller accidents in the US had been compelling him to seek changes. For example, he tried to stop the use of parts made with Alloy 600, which had been identified as substandard since the 1980s. The leak at the David-Besse station was caused by inferior parts whose alloys could not withstand the chemical processes inside reactors, namely exposure to boric acid. Jacko’s three-year experience in the NRC taught him about the internal and external resistance to technical safety improvements and regulation. He made several efforts to enhance safety controls but was blocked and even punished and belittled for trying.  In sum, the NRC functions more to protect the industry, he states, than to ensure public safety.
 
Many citizens’ organizations have been advocating for restraint, technical safeguards and better emergency measures to address the possibility of nuclear accidents, organizations in the USA and around the globe. One concerned citizen in New Hampshire learned that regional evacuation plans would not protect persons with mobility problems. Moreover, local police officers confided that emergency personnel were not properly equipped to carry out existing emergency evacuations (Stephen Comley, Sr., unpublished manuscript entitled No Evacuation Possible). While butting heads with the state authorities and mainstream media to sound the alarm about the evacuation issues, he consulted engineers at a local nuclear power plant. That is when he learned of the continued use of counterfeit and substandard parts in the plant. Use of these faulty parts was widespread in nuclear plants around the country. Comley therefore created a non-profit, whistleblower protection organization, from which he gathered and spread information, much to the deep consternation and ire of the industry and its defenders among the political elite. For over 30 years, he has been ignored, ridiculed, persecuted and defamed for his honest and conscientious concern. He has suffered family conflict, social isolation, health setbacks for his trouble.
 
 
 After leaving the whistleblower organization in he hands of someone else, Stephen Comley, Sr., was dismayed when the new leader of this group failed to make any statement with respect to the Fukushima accident. It was his feelings for the victims of that accident that Comley joined the ILPS Peace Tour to Japan in 2014. He joined activists of the Asia Wide Campaign against US Domination and Aggression and others at the commemorative street action at Hiroshima memorial park and followed them to the ceremony at Nagasaki. It was then that he came to see the connection between the US military and the US nuclear power industry, he told us. Since then, he has also learned the value of grassroots organizing and found more allies among progressive groups and the alternative media.

paranormal

Posted on January 22, 2020 at 6:28 PM Comments comments (6)
I'm a bit of an empath, an intuitive with sensitivity. In fact, my Meyers-Brigges personality test result is consistently INSJ )intuitive, introvert, sensitive, judgmental). Other readings are consistent.

I knew this before I got all those evaluations because I have seen and heard things that cannot be explained and that would be categorized as paranormal. Things like apparitions, lights, shadows, mists, bangs, sighs, objects moving on their own, dreams... They happen on and off, and in waves when I start thinking about them. I believe I have guides, though I have not identified them/ I have had some mental communication in that I have been able to ask a question silently and get a clear response soon after. The response can manifest as a physical sign. Like, when I wondered what the cold from a spirit passing through someone feels like, I soon experience a freezing cold sensation come from within my core. When I asked whether my great-great aunt, whose picture I have kept on display, might be one of those spirits hanging around me, I soon saw a likeness of her face and hair hovering above me.

I have learned to be able to close myself off from such activity. I chose not to pursue training in communicating with spirits or interpreting phenomena. I still have the sensitivity, though. If I ask whether spirits are around me, activity occurs that confirms it. When I have a specific question, I get a specific answer. For example, I received an answer after I asked who the elderly person  who had occupied my apartment some years before me was, upon noting signs of there having been an elder present here such as the steel rail mounted on the wall of the shower stall. A sharply clear image of her smiling into my eyes came to me one morning while I was emerging from sleep.

I admit I get into watching films about paranormal experiences and people who use their sensitivity skills. I like to find out what other people experience and how they interpret what they call paranormal activity or interaction with spirits.I am raising this topic because I've been binging on such films lately: TV shows and documentaries uploaded to Youtube. There's one show on the HIFI channel right now: Celebrity Ghost Stories. 

Celebrity Ghost Stories, Haunted Hospitals and the one about children learning to deal with their sensitivities are pretty good. They seem authentic, as they involve people telling others their experiences and responses. Viewers get an idea of the types of experiences happen and how normal the experiences actually are in the sense that many people have them. I don't like the paranormal investigation shows so much because they seem less authentic and beneficial. Those shows typically use a lot of weird music and sound effects over the images. Also, it is usual for the investigators to talk too much and get really excited while the editing cuts back and forth, there and there quickly. The viewer can thus not well detect what the investigators say they are detecting. The presentation is made for maximum sensational effect from nothing much. What bugs me most is that the investigators usually do not have much talent at sensing or interpreting paranormal signs. Although they frequently bring a sensitive such as a medium or clairvoyant with them, nothing is attempted to resolve the situation of an uneasy spirit. They mostly observe "residual" signs of past events, which is to say the powerful memories of a location. Rather, they just intrude and disturb. Even  the TV show called The Dead Files in which a clairvoyant (not a medium) explores a location with reported trouble, is kind of lame, although a professional crime investigator tries to find background on the location and the people who have been there to see if what the clairvoyant senses has a basis in reality. She seems to specialize in detecting negative energies. Not a medium, she may detect restless spirits being "stuck" between life and death or refusing to cross over, but she has no skill to facilitate their crossing. She recommends religious people perform ceremonies or other rituals being done to cleanse houses, which is to remove spirits from a location. She often recommends that people move away from the location! \

The paranormal detective shows are better because mediums try to find clues to serious crimes and they sometimes help cases. 

The paranormal show I like the best is The Rescue Mediums. A pair of mediums are called into a troubled location. Being mediums, their goal is to encounter then communicate with spirits in a location that need intervention to facilitate their crossing over after death into the spirit world. These women are immensely talented. The investigation is more credible. They give premonitions far away from and long before arriving at the sites of investigations, which are compared with their tour of the location later and also compared with researched historical background. It is interesting to find out who the spirits probably are. It is heart-warning to see bothered residents  and troubled spirits find relief. Occasionally, the rescue mediums collect evidence that may be used to resolve a murder or disappearance.


Emergency Preparedness

Posted on January 15, 2020 at 1:29 PM Comments comments (7)
I have been aware that it is advisable to be prepared for disaster or loss of home, but I have not done much preparation other than having some extra preserved food (for about 3 days) and candles with a lighter on hand. Everyone should be better prepared.

I feel I have been lucky so far. I live in an earthquake zone where we get trmors all the time and are awaiting the big one. Weather has been getting more extreme as I have aged into the senior category. Power outages more likely, we have been without hydroelectric power for a few hours at a time twice in the past two years. I have narrowly escaped two house fires with abode and body intact in the past three years. (I only had a house insurance policy for one of those years.)  There are a lot of good reasons to be prepared for calamity Consequently, I have finally been planning for an emergency.

Here is the Red Cross list of things to put aside in case of emergency.

Vitals:
  • Water*
  • Food (non-perishable) and manual can opener if this includes cans*
  • Special needs such as medications, baby needs, extra glasses, etc. 
  • Important family documents (i.e. copies of birth and marriage certificates,passports, licenses, wills, land deeds and insurance)*
  • A copy of your emergency plan
  • Crank or battery-operated flashlight, with extra batteries*
  • Battery-operated or crank radio
  • Extra keys, for your house and car*
  • First aid kit*
  • Extra cash 
  • Personal hygiene items*
  • Pet food and pet medication N/A
  • Cell phone with extra charger or battery pack

Others:
  • Change of clothing and footwear for each person
  • Plastic sheeting*
  • Scissors and a pocket knife*
  • Whistle
  • Hand sanitizer*
  • Pet food and pet medication N/A
  • Garbage bags and twist ties
  • Toilet paper*
  • Multi-tool or basic tools (i.e. hammer, wrench, screwdriver etc.)*
  • Duct tape
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each member of your house hold*
  • Toys, games, books, deck of cards

*What I have so far prepared.

I hadn't thought of some of the items on the RC list. Duct tape, scissors and bags good and easy to get. I could put aside a few Synthroid pills, as I must take one each day. Yeah, book and other pastime activities would be desirable if hanging around for days. I thought about packaging some underwear and socks, but a full change would be good. I should look into getting a phone charger. Cash--yeah; I usually only have $20 to $40 around, but maybe I should put aside more. I guess I could buy a whistle. First, I'll see if the first aid kit I ordered contains one.

Beyond what Red Cross recommends, I have a lighter and lighter fuel. I also plan to have electrolyte solution and mineral tablets with vitamins. (Good for a scenario of dehydration or a period of starvation.) I have a tarp and rope for shelter. 

What food? One problem is expiration of preserved food. I guess I would take note of expiration dates and give expiring food away, then replace it. I am thinking of jerky, protein/ power bars, dried fruit, canned beans, crackers, peanut butter, tins of liquid meal replacement...

Where to keep it all? I think it should be easily reachable in my living quarters. Hard to get to it if locked in storage room. It should be packed up in portable waterproof boxes or bags. Of course, there may be no chance of reaching for all this stuff, and carrying it all out at the moment disaster strikes. At least I can be assured that I'd be ready in case of a lengthy loss of utilities or physical incapacity. I'd also be equipped to help others in need.





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