All is quiet on New Year's Day.
A world in white gets underway.
I want to be with you, be with you night and day.
Nothing changes on New Year's Day.
On New Year's Day.
I... will be with you again.
I... will be with you again.
Under a blood-red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspaper says, says
Say it's true, it's true...
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one.
I... I will begin again
I... I will begin again.
Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.
Oh, maybe the time is right.
Oh, maybe tonight.
I will be with you again.
I will be with you again.
And so we are told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
On New Year's Day
On New Year's Day
On New Year's Day
U2, "New Years Day," from War, released 1983
Saturday, December 31, 2005
All is quiet on New Year's Day.
Posted by Stephen K at 9:49 PM
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The revelation that Bush secretly authorized wiretaps on certain people is yet another indication of the creation of a police state. Spying on peace groups, restricting access to government information, willingness to torture -- all these signs there should be setting off alarm bells. This is an administration, cabal with an agenda, and they will do whatever it takes, including lying through their teeth, to see their agenda through. This cabal running Washington is one of the most critical threats of our time. Throughout history there have been people or governments who will be remembered as the most dangerous men/women of their time -- Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler and the Nazis to name a few examples. The Bush cabal, actually led by Dick Cheney, fall into that category. It is esseential that the benevolent mask be removed from this horrendous monster so that the American people can see them for what they are.
Posted by Stephen K at 8:13 PM
Saturday, December 17, 2005
I saw Syriana tonight. It was an excellent movie, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a movie that would challenge them intellectually and make them think. It is a comlicated movie in terms of plot. There are a number of spearate yet interwoven storylines, so pay attention.
I do think it is an important movie in that it challenges current reality in a number of respects: our dependence on oil, the oil industry's vested interest in violence and unrest, the lengths that industrialists or fundamentalists on either side would go to, including assasinations and bombings, to furhter there own interest, are all highlighted during the course of this film.
Watch it with someone you love. Or someone you want to kill. I have no idea what that means.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:45 PM
Friday, December 16, 2005
Klein's main point in the column I linked to in the repvious post is that the US commission of torure is not a new phenomenon by any means. It has a history, the best example of which is the School of the America's, in which trainees were taught "coercive interrogation techniques" Thus, the claim of shock by many at revelations of torture by the current US government, and shouts of "never again" are problematic in that they deny this history. Nevertheless,
Despite all the talk of outsourced torture, the Bush administration’s real innovation has been its insourcing, with prisoners now being abused by U.S. citizens in U.S.–run prisons and transported to third-party countries in U.S. planes. It is this departure from clandestine etiquette that has so much of the military and intelligence community up in arms: Bush has robbed everyone of plausible deniability.
For those nervously wondering if it is time to start using alarmist words like totalitarianism, this shift is of huge significance. When torture is covertly practised but officially and legally repudiated, there is still the hope that if atrocities are exposed, justice could prevail. When torture is pseudo-legal and when those responsible merely deny that it is torture, what dies is what political philosopher Hannah Arendt called “the juridical person in man”; soon enough, victims no longer bother to search for justice, so sure are they of the futility (and danger) of that quest. This impunity is a mass version of what happens inside the torture chamber, when prisoners are told they can scream all they want because no one can hear them and no one is going to save them.
Gulp. That's makes my blood run cold.
The terrible irony of the anti-historicism of the current torture debate is that in the name of eradicating future abuses, past crimes are being erased from the record. Since the U.S. has never had truth commissions, the memory of its complicity in faraway crimes has always been fragile. Now these memories are fading even further, and the disappeared are being disappeared all over again.
This casual amnesia does a disservice not only to the victims but also to the cause of trying to remove torture from the U.S. policy arsenal once and for all. Already there are signs that the administration will deal with the current uproar by returning to the Cold War model of plausible deniability. The McCain amendment protects every “individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government”; it says nothing about torture training or buying information from the exploding industry of for-profit interrogators.
Posted by Stephen K at 9:45 PM
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
I found out about this while watching the CBc National tonight, even though it happened a vew days ago. Turns out that American conservatives view Stephen Haper as the great hope with respect to the prospect of "steering Canada in a more conservative direction."
This commentary from a contributor to the Washington Times from the Cato Institute is a great example of this:
Why does President Bush hope Christmas comes a little late this year? Because on Jan. 23, Canada may elect the most pro-American leader in the Western world. Free-market economist Stephen Harper, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, is pro-free trade, pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto, and socially conservative. Move over Tony Blair: If elected, Mr. Harper will quickly become Mr. Bush's new best friend.
Warnings abound about the continued presence of progressive politics if the Liberals win. Heaven forbid:
If Martin's Liberal Party is re-elected for the fourth consecutive time, Canadian taxpayers will continue footing the bill for an expensive welfare state epitomized by its archaic government-run health-care system. Social policy experimentation on issues such as drugs and homosexual rights will continue in an incremental but decidedly progressive direction.
To be fair, Stephen Harper has attempted to distance himself from American conservatives by writing a retort to the Washington Times
Posted by Stephen K at 10:53 PM
Thursday, December 08, 2005
As I listen to Happy XMas (War is Over) right now on the John Lennon Collection, I recall. I must have been almost 13 years old when I heard that John lennon has been murdered. Did it impact me? I don't remember where I was. My political views had not developed by this age. I did know, however, that John was my favourite Beatle.
Since then, especially in my adult years when my progressive views have solidified, I have taken him on as somewhat of a hero. He was a mortal human being with imperfections, but it was he stood for. He stood for love and peace, two ideas which were bouncing around in my head like ping pong balls.
This is for John, and may his (our) dream come true:
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
And for the coming holiday season:
So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over over
If you want it
War is over
Posted by Stephen K at 6:54 PM
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Please go to this website and sign the petition there pleaing for the release of the CPT hostages in Iraq. Here is how it reads:
An Urgent Appeal: Please Release Our Friends in Iraq
Four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams were taken this past Saturday, November 26, in Baghdad, Iraq. They are not spies, nor do they work in the service of any government. They are people who have dedicated their lives to fighting against war and have clearly and publicly opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They are people of faith, but they are not missionaries. They have deep respect for the Islamic faith and for the right of Iraqis to self-determination.
C.P.T. first came to Iraq in October 2002 to oppose the US invasion, and it has remained in the country throughout the occupation in solidarity with the Iraqi people. The group has been invaluable in alerting the world to many of the horrors facing Iraqis detained in US-run prisons and detention centers. C.P.T. was among the first to document the torture occurring at the Abu Ghraib prison, long before the story broke in the mainstream press. Its members have spent countless hours interviewing Iraqis about abuse and torture suffered at the hands of US forces and have disseminated this information internationally.
Each of the four C.P.T. members being held in Iraq has dedicated his life to resisting the darkness and misery of war and occupation. Convinced that it is not enough to oppose the war from the safety of their homes, they made the difficult decision to go to Iraq, knowing that the climate of mistrust created by foreign occupation meant that they could be mistaken for spies or missionaries. They went there with a simple purpose: to bear witness to injustice and to embody a different kind of relationship between cultures and faiths. Members of C.P.T. willingly undertook the risks of living among Iraqis, in a common neighborhood outside of the infamous Green Zone. They sought no protection from weapons or armed guards, trusting in, and benefiting from, the goodwill of the Iraqi people. Acts of kindness and hospitality from Iraqis were innumerable and ensured the C.P.T. members’ safety and wellbeing. We believe that spirit will prevail in the current situation.
We appeal to those holding these activists to release them unharmed so that they may continue their vital work as witnesses and peacemakers.
# Arundhati Roy, author, The God of Small Things
# Tariq Ali, author, Bush in Babylon
# Denis Halliday, former U.N. Assistant Secretary General and Head of the U.N. Humanitarian Program in Iraq (1997-1998)
# Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan
# Noam Chomsky, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
# Haifa Zangana, Iraqi novelist
# Kamil Mahdi, Iraqi economist and anti-occupation activist. Lecturer, University of Exeter
# Mahmood Mamdani, "Herbert Lehman Professor of Government," Columbia University
# Rashid Khalidi, "Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies," Middle East Institute, Columbia University
# Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, killed by Israeli military
# Hasan Abu Nimah, Permanent Representative of Jordan at the United Nations (1995-2000)
# Ralph Nader, former independent presidential candidate
# James Abourezk, former US Senator
# Howard Zinn, historian
# Naseer Aruri, Professor (Emeritus) University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
# Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence/Nobel Peace Prize Nominee
# Naomi Klein, author/journalist
# Michael Ratner, President, Center for Constitutional Rights
# Rev. Daniel Berrigan, poet
# Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist
# Mazin Qumsiyeh, author, Sharing the Land Of Canaan, board member US Campaign to End the Occupation
# Milan Rai, author, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq
# Sam Husseini, writer
# Dahr Jamail, independent journalist
# Ali Abunimah & Nigel Parry, Co-founders, Electronic Iraq
# Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator, United for Peace and Justice
# Eve Ensler, author
# Jennifer Harbury, Director, Stop Torture Permanently Campaign
# Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Detroit
# Anthony Arnove, author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal
# Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange
# G. Simon Harak, SJ, War Resisters League
# David Hartsough, Co-Founder and Capacity Building Director of Nonviolent Peaceforce and Executive Director of Peaceworkers. Nonviolent Peace Force
# Blase Bonpane, Office of the Americas
# Carol Bragg, Coordinator, Rhode Island Peace Mission
# Rev. Richard Deats, former Executive Secretary and Fellowship Editor, Fellowship of Reconciliation
# Omar Diop, Président de la Coalition Sénégalaise des Défenseurs des Droits humains
# Jim Forest, Secretary, The Orthodox Peace Fellowship
# Thomas C. Cornell, The Catholic Worker
# David Grant, Nonviolent Peaceforce
# Ted Lewis, Global Exchange
# Charles Jenks, Chair of Advisory Board, Traprock Peace Center
# Jeff Leys, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
# Andréa Schmidt, independent journalist
# Michael Albert, ZNet
# Richard McDowell, Senior Fellow for Iraq Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation
# Dave McReynolds, former Chair, War Resisters International
# Peter Lems, Program Associate for Iraq, American Friends Service Committee
# Kevin Zeese, Director, Democracy Rising
# Sunny Miller, Director, Traprock Peace Center
# Dave Robinson, Director, Pax Christi USA
# Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, National Coordinator, Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq
# David Swanson, Co-Founder, After Downing Street, Board Member Progressive Democrats of America, Washington Director Democrats.com
# Mary Trotochaud, Senior Fellow for Iraq Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation
# Michael Birmingham, activist
# Barbara Wien, Co-Director, Peace Brigades International/USA
# Bishop Gabino Zavala, President, Pax Christi USA
Posted by Stephen K at 7:47 PM
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Today is world AIDS day. This cruel virus has been ravaging people and communities for about 25 years now. In spite of medial advancements, the onset of AZT, coctails, and so forth, the ravaging continues. Unfortunately, there is still much work to do, in terms of material and emotional support for those aflicted in their families. The vast majority of current AIDS deaths take place in continental Africa, where a lack of education and support resources, with which the West could help greatly. Every day in Africa, 6000 Africans, 1300 of them children, die of AIDS.
On this day, I would ask people to think about those who have passed from AIDS, and to find out more about the disease and related social issues. There are numerous organizations which attempt to address the AIDS pandemic, including the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Debt AIDS Trade Africa, and UNAIDS.
Addendum: Here is a statement give by Stephen Lewis on World AIDS Day.
Posted by Stephen K at 6:19 PM
Monday, November 28, 2005
Four hostages, including two Canadians have been taken hostage in Iraq. The Canadian government is apparently seeking the release of the hostages, though their identity has not been released. They are members of the Christian Peacemakers Team.
It's one thing to kidnap those who profit from the misery of the people of Iraq, or those who have pointed guns at Iraqi civilians. I condemn those kidnappings as well as the actions that precipitated them. But to kidnap people of peace, people who are committed to nonviolence, people who seek alternatives to war, people probably all of whom opposed the war and occupation of Iraq in the first place, is disgusting, and I hope the kidnappers see the error of their ways and let these innocent people go.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:50 PM
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
I'd like to give a plug for Gwynne Dyer. He is a long time political columnist. He's not a lefty by nature I believe, but his knowledge and pursuit of truth has led him to write many columns in recent years which have been critical of the Bush Administration. In fact, his columns are only available in the US, as they have been banned by Canwest.
In any event, he has a new book out, With Every Mistake, which is a collection of his columns in recent years. I haven't read the book yet, though I flipped through it in a bookstore. I would recommend at least checking him out.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:34 PM
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Fallujah, Fallujah. I want to address this. As you may have heard, as this is news which is a few days old, it seems that a chemical which burns skin to the bone, white phosphorous, may have been used by the US military in it's assault on Fallujah a year ago. Here is a lovely description of the process:
White phosphorus is fat-soluble and burns spontaneously on contact with the air. According to globalsecurity.org: "The burns usually are multiple, deep, and variable in size. The solid in the eye produces severe injury. The particles continue to burn unless deprived of atmospheric oxygen... If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus, it could burn right down to the bone." As it oxidises, it produces smoke composed of phosphorus pentoxide. According to the standard US industrial safety sheet, the smoke "releases heat on contact with moisture and will burn mucous surfaces... Contact... can cause severe eye burns and permanent damage."
As the debate around Fallujahs raged, a report in which soldiers bragged about using the brutal unearthly lethal chemical as a weapon was unearthed.
Atrocities had already been revealed though without much attention, prior to the revelations about the white phosphorous. These pictures, which I found through Iraq Dsipatches, I must warn, are very graphic and very disturbing.
The atrocities commited in Fallujah by the US military, if nothing else, must serve to mobilize the anti-war movement. Now, efforts to bring the US military and government officials responsible for war crimes in Fallujah should only intensify.
Posted by Stephen K at 9:03 PM
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
The Liberal Party of Canada has no principles. They are about opportunism, pure and simple. Months ago, the made deals with the NDP for budget that were actually quite progressive in many respects. Fast forward many months later, and we see the opposition parties conspiring to topple the Liberals and force an election. There are good reasons for this, including the fact that the Liberals and the NDP failed to arrive at an agreement. In that respect, it will be interesting to see what happens.
What we are seeing now, however, is a mini-budget including proposals in which taxes, including corporate taxes, would be cut. Cutting corporate taxes, while we have people living on the street. While Paul Martin refuses to live up to the Millenium Development Goals. While millions of children continue to live in poverty. While the cost of post-secondary education is prohibitive to many.
Is it better to have a Conservative government with principles, or a Liberal government without principles. I don't know. Nevertheless, I think we can rest assured that, whatever the result of the next election, we will end up with another minority government with the NDP holding the balance of power.
If the late philosopher-king and prime minister Pierre Trudeau is looking on from the great beyond, what must he be thinking has come of the party he led into greatness for so many years.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:45 PM
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Time now for another fun fact about me/ I like to write. The conveying of ideas. Or the telling of stories. I like to move me. My desire to write has largely been in the closet except for those I meet in the blogosphere. I have decided to try my hand a reading poetry at an open mic this week. I have a friend in Victoria who writes poetry, and reads at an open mic there. She's recently published, in fact. I write poetry once in a while, whenever I feel compelled to do so. It's a craft I would like to take more seriously, but I keep procrastinating. Well, no more. This is it. I mean it. OK. Here we go. Are we having fun yet?
Posted by Stephen K at 12:29 PM
Friday, November 11, 2005
Today is Remembrance Day in Canada, the day that we remember the fallen solider who "gave their lives for our freedom." To me, it's insane that we need such a day in the first place, except as a reminder of the horrors of war so that it never happens again. Unfortunately, it inevitably does. Nevertheless, that is the lense through which I prefer to view this day.
Rememberance Day, as it is viewed by most, serves to glorify war. "Yes, they died, but it was a noble cause. They died so we could be free." There's no reference to the horror of war. There's no reference to the reality that the death was probably an extremely painful one. And, there's no discussion of the fact that because of these deaths, many children were raised without a father.
I'll bet the warmongers love Remembrance Day, or Memorial Day in the US. I'm talking about Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, whomever. In my opinion, The thriving of the military industrial complex in part arises from the narrative of the glorious war. I refuse to give them any quarter.
So sure, let's remember those who died. But let it remind us that war is not glorious, but in fact horrible, and pray/meditate/whatever that it never happens again.
Also check out this excellent post on Rememberance Day.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:54 AM
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Matthew Good is a rare breed among musicians.
He has achieved some degree of commercial success. It's not something that's important to him, but nevertheless his musical output over the past ten years has resulted in a modest degree of success.
Yet I think, despite his success, he has largely managed to maintain his artistic integrity. He is honest. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He cares about people who are not as fortunate as we are, and detests social injustice. In that respect, I think he's a lot like Bruce Springsteen or has been throughout his musical career, or early Bob Dylan. He's not afraid to make important social and political statements in his music, and that is extremely rare among mainstream musicians.
He has a very important and special gift to share with the world, and that is the gift of a recording artist who can make beautful music, and tie into it an honest reflection of the times and the world that we are living in.
I am very much looking forward to what he will do next artistically. It seems he might do a solo acoustic tour. He is great in that setup, and will sell out all shows if that happens. Whatever he does next, I hope he will always remain true to his gift.
Posted by Stephen K at 9:07 PM
Saturday, November 05, 2005
I went to see Matt Good at the Commodore Ballroom last night. Before that there was a Blogger/Buzznet meet up at the Granville Room. I'm not normally one to drop names, and I don't do so to flatter myself, but noteables from the blogworld were there, including Tony Pierce, who hosted it, Chad Ciavarro, and Ben Allbright.
I don't have a digital camera, and the camera I do have doesn't work, so I took no pictures. I'm also too lazy to learn how to use Hello or Buzznet. However, if you're wondering what I look like, you can find out here.
Yes, that's Jen Good to my left. It is hard to have a sense of someone, unless you have some interaction with them. It was good to actually meet her, and find out that she is in fact a very sweet person. Some people might think she is vain, but I think she is in fact very thoughtful.
In any event, here are pictures that Tony took of his trip to Vancouver, including last nights concert.
This was my first time seeing Matt in concert, and he and his band were great. He puts his all into his performance, energetically speaking. It looks like he is really enjoying himself as he sings and plays his heart out.
I thought it was great that he played "Blue Skies Over Bad Lands" even though it wasn't a single, as it is one of my favourite songs out of his whole catalogue. I was disappointed that I could hear a lot of people casually conversing while he was playing some of the quieter songs such as this one, as opposed to appreciating the words he was singing.
It was interesting to see he backing band. Pat Steward is really intense, like moreso than even Matt, when he's playing during the concert. Rich provides a steady groove with his bass. Christian, calm and quiet, dazzles us with his soundscape quitar work. And yes, if anyone's wondering, Matt himself did have one guitar solo, after the first chorus on Near Fantastica.
Anyway, it was a great day to be a Matt Good fan.
Bonus: I get to see Matt again tonight, this time while sitting at the Amnesty table. Hopefully folks at the concert tonight will take a moment out before or after to show that they care about human rights.
Posted by Stephen K at 2:41 PM
Sunday, October 30, 2005
There was an Amnesty International regional conference in Vancouver last weekend and I went. I met some other folks form here in Vancouver and from around the conference, so it was cool in that respect. There were different workshops, such as Business and Human Rights, which I attended, Fundraising, Introduction to Amnesty, and Fostering Community Activism, which I also attended. This was all on Saturday.
On Sunday, it was split into two six-hour workshops, Business and Human Rights, which I partook in, and Youth activism, which my age I felt disqualified me from.
I don't know much about business, and my learning curve will be really high, but I have decided to partake in a BHR working group they are trying to form here. It might not be as up front as going after governments, but its actually very interesting. There are many innovative and interesting ways that you can approach the business-human rights connection. I look forward to getting more involved.
Posted by Stephen K at 7:36 PM
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I went to to see Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, give the first of his CBC Massey lectures, at the Chan centre at UBC this week. He is one of my heros. In some ways he reminds me of Martin Luther King -- his combination of intellect, passion, and compassion. I met him when he signed my book afterward -- it was actually the second time I've met him -- and just being in his presence, I feel that the man exudes compassion and kindness. He greets everyone he meets with dignity and respect, even those with whom he sharply disagrees. He is what I aspire to be as a human being.
The title of his lectures is "the race against time," and it is fitting. The plight of Africa, which continues to be ravaged by AIDS and poverty, continues to eat away at him. The solutions are there and they are simple, yet governments and authorities continue to refrain from acting.
Here is a piece from Michael Valpy on the Globe and Mail on him:
The scene is the junior common room of the University of Toronto's Massey College. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations Secretary-General's special envoy to Africa for AIDS, is there to launch his book, Race Against Time, the text of the Massey Lectures he now is delivering in cities across Canada, which subsequently will be broadcast on CBC Radio.
The common room on a mid-October's late afternoon is packed and loud with talk. It is a come-and-be-seen event commensurate with Mr. Lewis's acquired celebrity status, filled with academics, writers, broadcasters, publishers, a thick slice of Toronto intellectual society jammed shoulder-to-shoulder over wine and canapés.
You can't see Stephen Lewis, but you instantly know where he is. He is at the far end of the room behind a wall of students, three, four and five deep, hanging on his every word, all of them holding his book, gazing at him reverentially.
If the bureaucratic establishments of the UN and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. State Department could see this scene -- this man many of them would love to see ousted from his job, being idolized -- it would, as Mr. Lewis might say with his trademark flawless diction, "upset them immensely."
Indeed, there is growing speculation that Mr. Lewis -- African AIDS envoy since 2001 and, before that, deputy executive director of UNICEF, Canada's ambassador to the UN and leader of the Ontario NDP -- has upset too many important people immensely, and is on the edge of being sacked.
He himself alludes to that possibility in his book, speculating that some of the things he has said may lead high-level UN officials and politicians to "exact retribution."
He has strongly criticized the U.S. administration and a number of Western and African governments by name -- the equivalent in UN bureaucratic etiquette to being flatulent at a garden party.
He has baldly trashed the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
He has verbally lashed some of the UN's top executives (Secretary-General Kofi Annan included, again by name) for being variously duplicitous and do-nothing while the HIV-AIDS pandemic destroys much of sub-Saharan African society.
He may, in fact, deny his critics the pleasure of seeing him fired -- by quitting.
In a conversation three days after his book launch, he talks of feeling emotionally beaten down by the hideousness of the pandemic he has witnessed over the past four years, and he wonders aloud if he is strong enough to remain at his job.
In the comfortably cluttered living room of the house in Toronto's leafy Forest Hill where Mr. Lewis, 67, lives with his wife, journalist and social activist Michele Landsberg, he struggles to make sense of the horror he sees on every visit to the continent.
He whispers statistics: The 40 million people infected worldwide -- 26 million in Africa. The millions, mainly young women, without access to treatment because the world won't pay for it. The 14 million children now orphaned by AIDS. The third of all children in Zambia who soon will be AIDS orphans. The half a million children who die each year, and yet not until a few months ago -- 25 years after the pandemic began in 1981 -- was the first pediatric treatment formulation finally worked out.
"I've often thought to myself that it's possible" -- he pauses for a long time -- "that you need a sturdier emotional psyche than I have. I mean, you know, I just can't take what I see on the ground. I just cannot take it. I am only one person.
"But I defy anybody to be able to take it over the long term. Because, you know, it's all so unnecessary."
His voice drops again to a whisper: "And they're all young women, they're all in their 20s and 30s. You go into a hospice, 25 beds, 23 of them filled by women in their 20s. You can't get the drugs to them in time. You know they're going to die in a matter of months. They all have children. You feel as though everything is out of kilter."
He says the HIV-AIDS assault on women has no parallel in history. "Women are the pillars of family and community -- the mothers, the caregivers, the farmers. The pandemic is preying on them relentlessly, threatening them in a way that the world has never yet witnessed. The virus threatens the very existence of women in some countries. I can barely talk about [the gender inequality] with equanimity."
He talks about the children.
"You go into a little community center for kids . . . and I remember this . . . you have a whole group of kids sitting in a little room. They look as though they're 4 or 5, they're all stunted, and they're really 8, 9, 10 years old, all HIV-positive, and there are no drugs. And you know these kids are measuring their lives in minutes. And you just wonder . . . why is this? How long can it happen? How long does it have to go on incrementally?
"It's just so bad. It's so awful. How do you get people to understand? How do you get things mobilized?"
Thus, Stephen Lewis -- who has established his own charitable foundation to fund AIDS projects in Africa, mainly for infected women, orphans and AIDS sufferers who have created their own support and education programs -- talks now about quitting.
Nothing, he says, is fixed. But he thinks maybe it will be next year after the biennial global AIDS summit is held in Toronto.
He says he is running out of steam -- those are his words. And when he is asked what the indices are of "running out of steam," he has a ready list:
"Crying too easily on public platforms.
"Awake at night with images in my mind.
"Tired." (No one who knows Mr. Lewis likely has heard him before say publicly that he is tired.)
"Apprehensive now about going to Africa and knowing what I'm going to encounter. . . . You meet people with AIDS, you make friendships . . . and then you come back six months later and they're gone."
He says: "I want to be around for the breakthrough. I want to feel this pandemic is going to come to an end at some point and I want to have been a part of that, of subduing it. But I'm not kidding myself. I think eventually" -- and then the words again -- "you run out of steam."
If steam is what Stephen Lewis is running out of, it is not happening quickly. Or even visibly.
His close friend and alter ego of nearly 50 years, Gerald Caplan, says: "It's no secret that the job takes an enormous toll. But for Stephen, it's not acceptable to give up. It's not acceptable to show despair or resignation. It's only acceptable to continue to inspire others to carry on the fight. Other than for his grandkids, that's why he exists. And that's what he does. True, too, though, every day is a test."
In the past few months Mr. Lewis has all but called the U.S. government recklessly negligent for tying its AIDS assistance money to Uganda to a condition that the country's public-health authorities de-emphasize condoms in their AIDS education programs.
When the Americans denied Mr. Lewis's accusations, he came within a hair's breadth of calling them liars -- something UN officials just don't do. There are persistent rumors out of Washington that the U.S. State Department wants Mr. Lewis removed from his post.
He has excoriated the World Bank and the IMF for imposing structural adjustment programs -- dictating how much African governments can allocate to social programs in exchange for loans from the two institutions -- that he says have crippled many countries' health and education resources.
He says the programs have resulted in one of the greatest wrongs in the fragile global South, the imposition of user fees for public education, with a resulting double penalty for the children of AIDS, orphaned by their parents' deaths and left in the darkness of ignorance by their financial inability to afford school.
In his book, Mr. Lewis writes that the World Bank and the IMF should pay the cost associated with abolishing school fees as "reparations" for the damage their policies have caused: "This is not some negotiable item. I am writing and speaking passionately about it because, every time I travel to Africa, I encounter orphan children who are desperate to be in school, who need friends and teachers and attention, who need one meal a day that could come from a school feeding program, who need the sense of self-worth that education could bring, who want so much to learn, and who are denied all of it because the costs of schooling are prohibitive."
He has criticized present and former UN officials -- for example, Carol Bellamy, former executive director of UNICEF and someone close to the U.S. Administration -- for publicly pledging to eradicate education user fees and then doing nothing.
He has accused UN executives, including Mr. Annan, of pledging to right the gender imbalance among UN senior staff, and the gender inequality in many UN programs and, most of all, in the impact of the AIDS pandemic -- but injecting virtually no substance into their promises.
He accuses the Canadian government of inexplicable hypocrisy in pledging to raise the level of its official development assistance to 0.7 per cent of the gross national product (it currently is less than 0.25 per cent), but refusing to declare a timetable for its accomplishment.
"The irony is that on an issue like HIV-AIDS in the developing world, Canada's record is excellent. The reality is that our initiatives on the pandemic are completely eclipsed by our failure on foreign aid."
He declares that there is no chance -- none, not a hope in hell -- that the much-touted Millennium Development Goals (which include reversing the spread of HIV-AIDS by 2015) will be attained unless all the world's wealthy countries raise their levels of official development assistance to 0.7 per cent. Which he increasingly doubts they will do.
He says the Group of Eight countries' pledge of $50-billion in aid to Africa by 2010 simply is not enough -- when the conservative estimate of the cost of sustaining and introducing new AIDS programs in Africa by that year will alone be $30-billion. The result, he says, will be as certain as night follows day: millions of people denied treatment; millions needlessly dying.
Time and time again in his book and in conversation, he returns to the theme of women bearing the brunt of the pandemic -- having no control over the sex they must submit to from "predatory" men, usually their husbands, who are HIV-positive; experiencing the frightfulness not only of becoming infected themselves but of infecting their children; being denied treatment by the hundreds of thousands, and finally dying at a young age and knowing their children will be left motherless.
Only 5 to 8 per cent of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa have access to PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission) programs, Mr. Lewis says. "This is a terrible deficiency. There is no excuse for this state of affairs" -- except the parsimony of the wealthy world and the empty pledges of its leaders.
"Because of the low access rates," he writes, "thousands upon thousands of babies are born HIV-positive who need not be infected; most of them die -- helplessly, pathetically -- before the age of 2. But for those HIV-positive women who have access to PMTCT, the program is a godsend.
"One tablet of the drug nevirapine during the birthing process, and the liquid equivalent within 72 hours of birth, and the infection rate is cut by 53 per cent."
He writes: "My own view is that the horrendous toll is yet to come. Countries will be fighting for survival 10 and 15 years down the road. It's simply impossible to tear the productive generations out of the heart of a country without facing an incomparable crisis."
He says: "I'm not some sweet innocent. I'm 67 years old. I've learned something about politics, diplomacy and multilateralism. I thought I understood the way the world works. I don't.
"I'll devote every fiber of my body to defeating this viral contagion, but I cannot abide the willful inattention of so much of the international community. I cannot expunge from my mind the heartless indifference, the criminal neglect of the last decade, during which time countless people have gone to their graves -- people who should still be walking the open savannah of Africa."
Will he get fired for his outspokenness?
Kofi Annan is believed to have come to Mr. Lewis's defense against the Americans over Uganda. A Canadian knowledgeable about the workings of the UN but speaking only on condition of anonymity, says the agency would not dare get rid of him.
"Everybody else [in the organization], including the Secretary-General, has criticized the UN recently, and then failed to introduce [Mr. Annan's] reforms. How could they pretend [if they went after Mr. Lewis] that they weren't just getting even because he named some names?
"I also think they know fully well how much personal support Stephen has throughout the world and how much trouble they'd be making for themselves if they turfed him."
As the conversation draws to a close in his living room, Mr. Lewis recalls the Massey College students clustered around him at his book launch. "They were sweet," he says.
Last year, 30 students from University of Toronto's law school approached him with an offer to do research on everything from women's property rights in countries with high AIDS death rates to intellectual-property rights in pharmaceuticals to the impact of user fees for health and education in AIDS-infected countries. Some of the papers were 50 to 80 pages long, Mr. Lewis says, and the quality was "so good, it's startling."
This year, there were many more law students volunteering to help than Mr. Lewis and his staff could use. And he cannot meet the demands from universities and high schools to have him come and speak.
Three weeks ago, he stepped onto an elevator in a Winnipeg hotel to go to the top floor. Halfway up, the elevator stopped, the doors opened, a man got on. The man looked closely at him. He asked: "Are you Stephen Lewis?"
Mr. Lewis nodded, smiled pleasantly. "Yes, I am," he said.
The man snapped at him: "My son is in Ethiopia because of you and I don't like it."
Young Canadians -- and likely young people elsewhere in the world -- have found a hero. Anyone who messes with Stephen Lewis better know that.
Posted by Stephen K at 9:41 PM
Sunday, September 25, 2005
I purchased the Matthew Good collection In A Coma a few days ago. I'm glad I have the standard greatest hits, as I don't have any of them MGB CD's on which to enjoy them. However, there are a bunch of perks to this packages as well. There is a second CD, with not only two MGB EPs, but also "Rooms", Matthew Good songs performed acoustically, pretty much with just him and his guitar.
I am really enjoying it. I've had a cold the previous week, and upon arriving home from work, very tired, I have been lying down and listening to Rooms. His voice is incredible on these recordings. I look forward not only to his concert at the Commodore on Nov 4, but also where his artistic direction will take him in the future.
I think he is someone to watch, as a very compelling singer and songwriter. It is easy to see that his songwriting has developed over the years. I have the feeling that he has much more potential is evident in what we have seen so far.
Posted by Stephen K at 9:57 PM
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Went to a protest today. Hu Jintao, the president of China, was on an official visit to Canada. Hu was concluding the visit with a speech at a luncheon at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver.
There we numerous people outside the hotel, many protesting, and disappointingly, very disappointingly, very supporting Hu.
Some protestors were protesting China's continued occupation of Tibet. This was the most vocal group. Some protested China's threats of force against Taiwan. Yest others strenuously objected to China's human rights record at home, and asked for redress for the Tiennenmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989. They were all united in an opposition to the Chinese government's history and continuation of human rights violations, and denial of said violations.
Others, as I indicated, continue to support Hu. What their motivation is I'm not sure. Maybe they buy the capitalist line that strong trade is the best antidote to human rights abuses. Maybe they buy the Chinese government's stated denial of all of the above. Only they can look into their hearts and answer that.
Posted by Stephen K at 6:34 PM
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
I read an article today by Heather Mallick of the Globe and Mail that revealed a lot about Canada. This is the country Heather loves, as I do as well, having been a life-long inhabitant.
However, recent behaviour exhibited by our federal government is very distrubing.
In the words of Heather,
And as Canada transforms itself into a nation that discards civil liberties and leaves Muslim prisoners starving themselves to death despite pleas from people like Alexandre Trudeau and their own guards, a country that has the permission of the Supreme Court to treat autistic children as waste products and a country that may well force me to hitchhike to Alberta for a speech this fall, I am starting to dislike this place.
read the full article here.
Posted by Stephen K at 7:18 PM
Friday, September 02, 2005
New Orleans is a disaster area right now. Yes, that's right, a major city in the wealthiest country in the world is in dire need of assistance. It is estimated that thousands have died. Probably just as many are missing.
And yes, it is a natural disaster that could not have been prevented. However, that does not excuse was in which man-made forces exacerbated the suffering. The vast majority of those stranded during the hurricane were poor and black. They were unable to leave. For one thing, it is criminal that poor people in large American cities are so disproportionately black. For another, the lack of US government help that was offered to help those stranded is appalling. It was too busy cleaning up Bush's mess in Iraq.
The result was looting and shooting. This was reminiscent of the LA riots of 1992, after the Rodney King verdict. Reminds me of the Tracy Chapman lyric
Give him drugs and give him candy
Anything to make him feel happy
And he won't ever come for us
But if he does
And if there's no one else around
Bang Bang Bang
He'll shoot us down
This is a wake up call to those who fail to address the causes that led to the human scope of this disaster. Is anybody listening?
Posted by Stephen K at 10:57 PM
Monday, August 29, 2005
Let me belatedly put in my two cents for Cindy Sheehan, the woman who is protesting outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. She lost her son, and is calling for the troops to be brought home. She has attracted the support of sympathetic celebrities, and the ire of the right, to the point of being on the receiving end of a nasty vilification campaign by right-wing talk show hosts.
I believe that Cindy Sheehan represents a beacon of hope for those who want peace. She is not a "lefty" in the traditional sense of the word. Her son died in Iraq, but she is basically saying that he didn't die for a cause. She died for nothing. That is quite something for a grieving mother to admit (despite its truth).
Because of this, she has credibility that "liberal" TV mouthpieces don't have.
Now, she and her entourage are apparently heading out on a three-week cross-country tour. I wish them the best, and hope they make the most of the opportunity. And, I hope that folks will at least respect her and listen to her.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:40 PM
Thursday, August 18, 2005
According to the Georgia Straight, apparently Michael Walker of the far right-wing Fraser Institute has invited US Vic-President (some would say president) Dick Cheney.
Long time fishing buddies, Walker and Cheney will meet in Alberta, likely for a fhsing and hunting trip.
Apparently Cheny will also be giving a taalk. and taking a look at tarsands near Fort McMurray
Gail Davidson of Lawyers Against the War has said that many in the peace movement oppose Cheney's visit.
I am willing to bet that protestors will not be silent during his visit, nor should they be.
Posted by Stephen K at 7:37 PM
Saturday, August 13, 2005
I'd like to explain why I haven't been posting that much in recent months. Maybe it's something that y'all can help me with.
I look at the world around me, and I see all the shit going on in so many aspects of the world. I have a sense of futility. I hate to say it, but that's where I'm at.
Someone has kidnapped the Stephen Karr who is passionate, idealistic, and optimistic about the future and his ability to make a significant difference, and replaced him with me.
Sure, I check out news sources, thought not as many as I used to. I consider posting something to my blog, and then I think to myself, what's the point? This won't do anything. The power's that be are way to powerful for 18 million people on the streets on February 15, 2003 to budge, let along little old me.
The irony of it is, making a difference is why I decided to start blogging in the first place. I think a lot about the purpose of my life, generally speaking, and consider one of my main purposes to be making a difference. How can someone see all this shit and not act? I shouldn't be posting about new grey hairs, but about the Downing Street Memo, and Karl Rove, Guantanamo Bay, the rise of fascism and the threats against civil liberties in the West. Actually no, I take that back. I created Ramblings so I could have a space to talk about whatever's going on in my life, personal or political. I'm glad I have that space for whenever I use it for personal stuff, but I've discovered that talking to the world about my personal life is just not something I'm very good at nor particularly comfortable with.
The short of it is: I know there is a shitload of work to do to clean up the mess that politicians have created, but I just need to be motivated to be more fervant in my actions. I need to believe that this flower will bloom if I water it enough.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:46 PM
Saturday, August 06, 2005
I wrote this on the spur of the moment. I don't usually publish my poems, but I wanted to make some dedication to this sorry moment in human history.
Hearts and lives torn apart
Black charred bodies laying strewn amidst the rubble.
Two hundred thousand voices screaming in unison
Sometimes silence is the only response
Sometimes silence is the only response
From the ashes
And a wish
For a peaceful tomorrow
Posted by Stephen K at 12:26 PM
Thursday, August 04, 2005
It is often said of the Nazi Holocaust, that we must never forget it, to ensure that it never happens again. It does, again and again, but that it beside the point of this post.
We must always remember the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for several reasons. One, to remember the horrors of nuclear war. Two, to remember the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. Three, to be ever mindful that the distinction between good and evil is not always as clear as we might like to think.
I watched a BBC documentary on CBC about Hiroshima tonight. It involved re-enactments of events from both a Japanese civilian and US military perspective, and recollections of both. The Japanese stories were truly horrifying: burnt bodies, incinerations, rescues, and radiation poisoning, and one very painful recollection, of a mother who tried in vain to rescue her trapped child from fire before fleeing.
What absolutely astounded me were the Americans who maintained that it had to be done. I have to wonder, what were the soldiers thinking and feeling, as they prepared to wipe out a city? The reasoning given is that it saved lives in the end by shortening the war. Saved more lives than were taken by the bomb? I doubt it. Another interviewed soldier said that the Japanese is responsible for it by not backing down. That's crap. The hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians weren't responsible. Actions of a much smaller scale could have gotten the attention of the Japanese. The applause of soldiers in response Truman's announcement of the successful bomb drop was sickening.
My feeling is that the US wanted to maximize civilian casualties. No warning was given of any kind, be they leaflets dropped, or a lower pass which would trigger an air raid siren in Hiroshima immediately preceding the bomb drop.
The solidiers aboard the Enola Gay, Harry S. Truman, and everyone in between in the chain of command could have and should have been tried for war crimes under the Nuremburg rules.
Check out this story from Common Dreams.
See Wikipedia on Hiroshima/Nagasaki
This Saturday is the 60th Anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. There are probably anti-war events in your community observing it. Regardless, I would encourage you this Saturday to take a moment to remember.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:50 PM
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Whoopee, another space shuttle launch.
Pardon the lackadaisical response, but I don't think it's what we need now. I'll admit, when I was a kid, outer space was fascinating. The idea of discovery of new world thrilled me. Star Trek series, particularly TNG, have fed that.
However, my feeling is that we should get our shit together on this planet before worrying about outer space. We've got a long way to go too. Extreme economic inequalities, rampant wars, famines, epidemics and growing environmental crises all demand the undivided attention of our leaders.
Hopefully someday, we will significantly expand our knowledge of the universe. However, let's get our own house in order first.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:05 PM
Sunday, July 24, 2005
From now on, posts of other authors' writings will only be posted here if they say something that is not being said by and large, and needs to be said. I'm going to start with this tidbit from Noam Chomsky's blog.
Any sane Israeli government would want to remove Israeli settlements from Gaza, where about 8000 settlers take a large part of the land and resources, and have to be protected by huge army contingents.
Far more rational, now that the occupation has turned Gaza into a hell-hole, is to get out and leave it as a prison in which the population can rot. The “Gaza disengagement plan” is, in fact, a US-Israeli West Bank expansion plan, designed to incorporate valuable land and resources of the West Bank into Israel, and leave Palestinians in a few unviable Bantustans which the US and Israel can call a “state”—rather as South Africa called the Bantustans “independent states.”
There is great agonizing now in Israel about the tragedy of the settlers who were handsomely subsidized to settle illegally in Gaza, where they have tortured and terrorized the population and stolen their land and resources, and now will be handsomely subsidized by the same generous fairy godmother (you and your friends) to settle somewhere else. People are wearing orange, etc. As the better Israeli journalists have eloquently described, it is a shame and disgrace. The same is true of the “trauma” of Jews evicting Jews. If Sharon wants to remove the settlers quietly, nothing is easier. Simply announce that the IDF will be withdrawn on date X, and a few weeks earlier the settlers will be gone.
It’s mostly cynical show to justify the US-Israel West Bank expansion programs.
The Gaza pullout is a rouse by the Israeli government to appear to do something without doing anything, or, as Chomsky suggests, to increase their power.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:48 PM
Friday, July 22, 2005
Number of people in London killed pre-emptively by "the terrorists" in the last 48 hours: 0.
Number of people in London killed pre-emptively by the police in the last 48 hours: 1.
A headline I saw today: "World unites against fear". Yeah right.
The British police has apparently asked for special measure which they can use to investiage and apprehend people. Furthermore, they have adopted a shoot to kill policy when it comes to people they think might be suicide bombers.
This, as well as the shooting today, is making Muslims in London very nervous. And this is how Britain is supposed to be made safe? By antagonizing an already marginalized group?
It's ridiculous. How many people die every year by homicide? Suicide? Car accident? Disease? And how many by terrorist attack? You get my point, I hope. Let's put the paranoia aside and deal with reality.
Let's not turn Canada into a police state. Ever. That is something which I would protest tooth and nail. As has been pointed out many times by conservatives, We can thank for the freedoms we enjoy the soldiers who fought in the "Great Wars." Right. Well, what would they think of suspending our rights due to an unrealistic state of paranoia?
There is a certain level of risk that comes with any aspect of life. I would rather take the remote risk of a terrorist attack and continue to enjoy the rights and freedoms I enjoy as a Canadian, than maintain a perpetual state of fear of attack, be it from terrorists orthe police.
I refuse to live in fear. That means I refuse to live my life in constant paranoia regarding people who might look "suspicious" when the likelihood is 99.9999% likely that it is nothing.
Posted by Stephen K at 7:01 PM
Friday, July 15, 2005
I got my haircut today. Everytime I get my haricut, I seem to spot a few more grey hairs. doesn't really bother me, but I am beginning to accept it as a sign of aging, and that I will never have a fully auburn head of hair again. Thus the march toward middle age continues.
I don't feel middle aged. I believe that youth is a state of mind, and I see myself as a big kid. I hope I'll always see myself that way. I hope I'll always be hip to what's going on -- new social and political ideas, new music that rocks, etc. I just gotta be me, and hopefully this will always be a part of my makeup.
I look back on my younger years with fondness. I look at all the things I did, and also all the things I could have done with the time I had. Still, as Paula Cole sang, all we have is this very moment. I'm still young, and there is still so much I want to do. Motivation is the thing.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:27 PM
Monday, July 11, 2005
Saturday, July 09, 2005
After 9/11, we didn't get it. Now, hopefully we will. We will understand that the cycle of violence must end, and that responding in kind to violence will only get us more of the same in return.
We as a species need to develop a new way of relating to one another, and fast. We need to recognize the humanity in each other, and stop letting the fundamentalists play on our fears. It is vitally important that we stop succumbing to their agenda.
I observed in my previous post that thousands uneccessarily with no attention in Africa everday. It is disturbing that so much attention is paid to tragedies that occur in the West, to the exclusion of likewise attention to the rest of the world.
That said, I believe an opportunity presents itself here for the world to united against violence. Violence is wrong, regardless of whom the target is, and in the immortal words of chief Seattle, we are all connected, and that which hurts one of us hurts us all in some way. Love isn't a choice here folks. Our world continues to become more and more violent, and if we're going to rescue ourselves, we will have to see that in the battle between love and fear, we must let love prevail.
On that note, I am now going to reprint an essay on Love and Fear I wrote over a year ago:
There are two primary motivations, two primary sources for action. One is love, and the other is fear. Mahatma Gandhi was motivated by love. So were Martin Luther King, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and other great humanitarians. Adolph Hitler was motivated by fear. So was Mussolini, Joe McCarthy, Ernst Zundal, Richard Nixon, and others, as are currently, George W Bush and Osama Bin Laden.
Any solution to the world's problems must be motivated by love. Fear is the source of reaction. We react, lash out wild-eyed and defensively at the Other, without knowing exactly where we are lashing or where it will lead. It is not a productive or efficient use of energy.
Love is the source of proaction. We recognize not only what the Other is doing to us, but also how we are feeling, and the humanity in the Other. Love is purposeful, thoughtful, and compassionate. A response to an injustice based on love holds the Other to account, and presses for a fair resolution of the injustice, but does so nonviolently and while recognizing the humanity in the Other.
An action that lashes out in defensiveness and resorts to lavelling of the Other is based on fear. An action,or lack thereof, to appease or avoid confrontation is also based on fear. An action that nonviolently and humanely challenges an injustice is based on love.
We all should have no air of superiority when it comes to moral quality. We all have within us the capacity for good and evil. Obviously, one of these qualities becomes more manifest that the other in most of us. There are extreme examples at both ends, such as Gandhi and Hitler. In fact, near the end of his life, after gaining independence for India, Gandhi said that the only the only devils we must conquer are those running around in our own hearts. We must always be vigilant to ensure that it is the good in us that triumphs.
I also think that it is humbling to be ever mindful of the duality of out moral nature. This duality belies those, including those currently in power in the US, who would attempt to simplify matters by attaching easy labels, such as "evil", to the Other, as opposed to acknowledging the moral complexity of a situation. If we have this duality in mind, so much easier will it be to see the humanity in those who serve injustice upon us, and to answer injustices with acts motivated by love. The Other says, "I loathe you," or "I want to hurt you." We say, "those feelings are part of the human experience, but there must be a better, more constructive way of relating to me. I know, I have felt those emotions before, as we all have, but we must not let them win. We must not let fear rule our lives. What are you afraid of? Maybe I can help.
The emotion of anger does not itself possess a moral quality. It can come from fear, or it can come from love. The moral quality is contained in the response inspired by the anger, which will be influenced by the motivation i.e. love or fear. Motivated by fear, anger will lash out defensively, indifferent to its effect on the Other. Inspired by love, anger will be constructively channelled into nonviolent opposition to the inustice which is triggering the anger.
I believe that a further word is required about fear. Sometimes, fear is natural and inevitable. If someone points a loaded gun at me, it would be natural to be afraid. Or, if I encounter a mountain lion while hiking in the woods, fear should instigate a flight response. This is related to the avoidant response I mentioned earlier. There are situations, such as interactions with other animal species, where it is the only sensible response. If you are faced with a choice between avoidance and certain death i.e. becoming someone's dinner, choose the former. Nevertheless, anytime there is a hostile encounter with another human, we must overcome the fear in our hearts, and let love triumph.
Another form of fear occurs when faced with harm or death, due to some illness or bodily injuries. It is natual to experience fear, and it is psychologically important to acknowlege that. However, it is also an opportunity to love oneself and others as never before. It is a time to reflect on one's life, and to make the most of its remainder. This is proaction -recognizing the purpose of one's existence, and working to fulfill that purpose - and it is based on love.
It has been said before that the opposite of love is greed, or selfishness. While not a desirable quality, I don't believe that greed is at the core of the problem. I think it goes deeper than that. I have used the phrase "the fear in your heart." In the phrase, substitute "greed" for "fear." The greed in your heart." It doesn't work. What is in your heart is honest, pure, unadulterated. Fear is honest, it is real, it isw what is at the core of reaction. Greed is often dishonest, required to be so by its self-consumed pursuits. Greed is a negative approach to social relations. However, if we strip away the surface, the pretenses, the show, the facades of greed, what do we find, purely there, the basest instinct, without having been given any time to think or scheme. I believe it is fear.
The kind of world we see in the future will depend on which human motivation dominates. Will fear continue to divide us according to race, religion, gender, etc? Or, will love bring us together; will the love we have for our fellow human beings overpower our fear? That is the question of the time.
Posted by Stephen K at 12:37 AM
Thursday, July 07, 2005
This morning London time four bombs, three in the Underground, and one on a tour bus went off, killing at least 37 and injuring over 700. A European offshot of Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility. I was listening to CBC radio during the day as reports came in from eyewitnesses and politicians. Several things went through my mind. The first was shock. Senseless violence (how's that for a redundancy) always shocks me. My heart goes out to all those families and the citizens of London who have been affected by this tragedy.
The people who undertook this endeavour are not heroes of any kind. They are murderers and powermongers, and I very much hope that they will be brought to justice through legal means. They have killed innocent people, and probably only served to aggravate the cycle of violence. They have drawn attention away from the G8 Summit which thanks to Live 8 had the attention of the world focussed on it.
The temptation among some may be to respond in kind. Some would be tempted to do so out of self interest, such as the militaristic regime in the US. However, many will want to out of anger. I would strongly advise against that action. That is exactly what the terrorists want. They don't want us to stop, as Bush and Blair suggest. They want us to respond in kind and bring us one step closer to an all out war. In fact I would speculate that they are counting on it because of the nature of the Bush regime.
What I would like to is for people to stand up and take a stand against violence. Take a stand against extremism, against fundamentalism, against fascism, regardless of it's country of origin, regardless of it's motivation.
I want to quote something my net pal Andrea Valois from Hamilton said about the ethics of violence, a thought which I have been thinking myself for many years:
...to fight violence with violence is to condone the first act of violence because you are playing by the same rules. did that make sense? if someone is violent to you and you respond by being violent back to them, essentially you are confirming that violence is an appropriate course of action and you give the green light for further violence. and in the end, you lose because you end up playing by the same rules as the person who harmed you in the first place. but to engage in the 'moral jiu jitzu' of nonviolence is to change the rules entirely, thereby giving you the upperhand and the advantage in the conflict. violence is undoubtedly a cycle and eventually, someone needs to be the bigger person and put an end to it.
When are we as a species going to learn that violence begets violence, and that it only takes one to stop?
Though the terrorist acts in London today are unustifyable, at the same time I believe it is important to understand root causes. Terrorism doesn't happen in a vacuum. Conservatives may dismiss that viewpoint as coddling terrorists, but I believe it's actually much more realistic than playing global cowboy.
While I'm at it, I would also send my heart out to the thousands who will die of starvation in Africa today, and the estimated 100,000 who have been killed in Iraq, and furthermore to all who die unecesarily due to violence, whether it be physical or economic.
Posted by Stephen K at 7:35 PM
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Live 8 is happening in several cities around the world this weekend, and i hope the kids have a great time. I also hope that while they are partying, they don't forget what it's all about i.e. addressing the problem of extreme poverty in Africa. That said, I wonder how much a difference the event will really have. I really hope a huge one but I'm not so sure. There have been varying criticisms of the event, from the left as well as the right. The criticism from the right goes along the lines of: don't give to corrupt governments. I went to see Joseph Stiglitz talk the other day, and he explained how Western governments are complicit in corruption in the developing world.
Bitterly sarcastic comment of the day: I think we should do absoutely nothing to help folks trapped in poverty because of a government which is corrupt through no fault of their own. That'll show them.
Anyway, there are criticisms from the left as well, which for me are much harder to dismiss. I don't think Live 8 does enough to address the structural problems which are at the root of poverty in Africa. The .7% spending proposal is important and i hope it is agreed to by the parties to the G8, but much more fundamental are unfair trade policies, high-interest loans, and "structural adjustment programs" which put pressure on developing countries to make certain right-wing economic reforms, such as privatization and deregulation. A recent example of this is the recent agreemtn on debt relief. It would have been better to wait for a better deal, which should be a no-brainer, than one which forced such reforms on these countries.
I hope it's a great event. I hope the music is great, and that millions appreciate it. And I hope the people there remember why it's happening in the first place.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:10 PM
Sunday, June 26, 2005
To follow up on my last post, the only answer that I can come up with is the same one I keep arriving at. There are no guarantees in life, or in afterlife. Yes memories are important, but the best thing that we can do for ourselves in this moment is to make the most of it, to know our purpose, and to live it in our day-to-day lives. That that leads to the creation of memories is incidental.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:45 PM
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Life is fleeting. Before you know it, it is gone. The thing that obsesses me the most, the thing that frightens me the most, is the reality of our impermanence. We're here, and then we're not. Nothing. Once second, alive to dead. Is there an afterlife in which our soul will rise? Do we even have a soul? I don't know. As far as I can tell, that's impossible to know. That brings me to my point. The only kind of immortality we can be sure of having are through the memories we leave behind. My dear great Uncle Bob is remembered through the memories he left with those he loved, friends and family. I will be remembered through the memories I leave with those I touch.
However, who will remember all the lonely people out there, homeless people, and so forth? I find that incredibly sad that our society can be so wrapped up in materialism, and in the here and now, that we don't consider all of the negative ways this effects those who fall through the cracks.
Who will remember them when they are gone?
I will try to.
Time it was and what a time it was it was,
A time of innocence a time of confidences.
Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you.
-Paul Simon, 1967.
Posted by Stephen K at 5:47 PM
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
I finally, for the first time in my life, got to see the extremely creative and talented Sarah Mclachaln perform at GM Place. I have been a huge fan of hers since Fumbling. She did not disappoint. She did all of her songs from Afterglow. Train Wreck was really awesome,as was Time, featuring Sarah on acoustic guitar. She also did four songs from Surfacing and five from Fumbling Toward Ecstacy, though nothing from Touch or Solace. One surpirse for me was an excellent rendition of the Peter Gabriel song Solsbury Hill. It was an emotional concert as it was her last concert of the tour, and in her hometown. Here's a Vancouver Sun article on the concert.
Sarah, fans soar on happy homecoming vibe
Last stop of the tour has McLachlan 'feeling love, feeling awesome' as the crowd hangs on every word from the sentimental star
Monday, June 13, 2005
With an enchanted forest backdrop behind her, carrying a guitar, wearing clunky boots and a flowing skirt, a relaxed-looking Sarah McLachlan traipsed onto the stage at GM Place Sunday night and settled into one of her newest songs, World on Fire.
The concert was the last of the tour, and McLachlan radiated excitement to be wrapping up in her home base, with family and friends present and a free summer ahead. Outside on one of the tour buses someone had hung a sign that said, "Home Sweet Home." Jason Priestley could be spotted picking up tickets at will call. And about 11,000 fans filled seats to witness the adult contemporary star's home coming.
McLachlan had suffered a setback earlier in the year when she contracted sinusitis and laryngitis and was forced to postpone a few tour dates. Logistically, it made sense to end in Vancouver, which made the singer happy.
"It's really fortuitous that I got sick near the end of the tour because otherwise I wouldn't have finished in Vancouver," she said, to many cheers, following a breezy version of Building a Mystery, the hit off 1997's Surfacing.
The lovely Adia, also from that album, was the first song of the evening to get the reserved crowd revved up. The momentum hit an occasional wall, however, by the less successful new material such as Perfect Girl and Drifting, pleasing enough but meandering, overly subtle songs, nonetheless.
McLachlan dedicated love song Push to husband and percussionist Ash Sood, jokingly introducing the song as an apology for the months of postpartum crying jags he had to endure following the birth of their daughter three years ago. McLachlan is a more communicative performer than she was in her Lilith Fair years, talking frequently and intimately with her audience (as intimate as one can get in front of 11,000 people).
She reiterated self-deprecating anecdotes she'd given in recent interviews involving her own control-freak tendencies, rolling her eyes when she mistakenly referred to herself as a "young mother," and changing it to "young-ish mother."
It went over big with the fans, particularly one mom who consistently shrieked for long, almost disturbing intervals. Everyone else erupted for the emotionally charged, sweeping songs for which McLachlan is idolized, including Push, I Will Remember You, Arms of an Angel, Sweet Surrender, Possession, Ice Cream. McLachlan's voice remains a powerful instrument, the star of the show.
"If I had to choose a song off my newest record this is probably my favourite," she said, introducing piano ballad Answer, a quiet, hymn-like song that brought McLachlan around to her piano, accompanied only by three seated bandmates singing back up. McLachlan's note-perfect delivery inspired the audience to start applauding halfway through, and it was around this point that the audience loosened up enough to start screaming the "I love you's."
By the time she sang an acoustic version of Arms of an Angel, she had the room on its feet. An earlier highlight was McLachlan's stellar cover of Blackbird (from the I Am Sam soundtrack), a folksy version of a classic that was given new life by signature McLachlan's vocal style.
The show had an air of something special to it, being the last stop. At the end of the set, fake leaves fell from the ceiling and littered the stage as McLachlan and her seven-piece band took their bows in the din of applause. Her roadies sang Carol Burnett's "It's so nice we had this time together" theme song from the side of the stage as part of the encore.
"I'm having such an amazing time tonight," McLachlan told her equally polite crowd. "We are all feeling love here. We are feeling awesome. It's so nice to end at home," she said. "Thank you so much."
Posted by Stephen K at 6:30 PM
Monday, June 13, 2005
Any meaningful change has to be instigated by a grassroots movement. How can a movement like that really develop momentum? Education? I think so, but what form does the education take? Communication. Other forms of media, books, music, I think can all be powerful forces in instigating positive change.
As much as I think the idea of celebrity is a bit absurd, Matthew Good, as well as others, have a certain level of fame. Bono, Sting, Geldof, Bruce Cockburn, etc.
He reaches a lot of people not only with his music, but with his blog as well. As distasteful as it may be, I think that maybe humanitarianism and social activism has to be seen as "cool."
It was John Lennon I think who started it. In 1969 he said, "We're all Christ and we're all Hitler. We are trying to make Christ's message contemporary. We want Christ to win. What would he have done if he had advertisements, T.V., records, films and newspapers? The miracle today is communication. So let's use it."
I don't know. There's got to be more to it than that. I think it's more basic than that. What is communicaton? It's any interaction between two or more people where information is sent back and forth. Could be verbal or nonverbal. You could include other animals as well, but for the purpose of this discussion, let's focus on people. This humanitarian education can be as simple as taking the form of a conversation between friends or family members, or even your neighbour.
Leading by example I also think is important. I get involved with Amnesty International. I don't broadcast it, but friends, family, and some acquaintances know about it. Then, it's at least on the brain for them.
Demographics are important too. Let's break them down. Youn'g folks nowadays are particuarly disenfranchised. Many of them don't vote, because the feel they have nothing to vote for. How can they see that there are ways for them to change their world? I don't know. I'm asking.
Simultaneously, though, let's not forget the other generations. Once folks get a little older and start having families, their harder to reach, though. Their time is consumed with diaper changes, driving kids to soccer practice, and so forth. How can they see that creating a better world is important for their kids, and their kid's kids futures?
The seniors are very important too. As folks get older, I do think they tend to become more conservative. How can they see through manipulation from right-wing sources.
Anyway, a few thoughts.
Posted by Stephen K at 8:46 PM
Saturday, June 11, 2005
Went to see John Ralston Saul talk tonight. He is on a tour promoting his new book "The Collapse of Globalism." I didn't copiously take notes, but toward the end of the talk I pulled out my calendar and scribbled a couple of points that stood out for me from the talk:
The current economic system we have been undersince the early 1970s actually has nothing to do capitalism, and is instead a re-invention of 17th century mercantilism.
Internationalism in itself is not bad. Globalism, though, is a narrow subset of internationalism in which, foolishly, all political decision making is based on economics. This, incidently, runs counter to traditional economic wisdom. Karl Marx and Adam Smith, contrary to popular conception, both eschewed this thinking, and Smith in the end actually argued precisely the opposite.
According to Saul, globalism is actually dead now. It was alive from about 1971 to 1995. He cited numerous examples, and said he could have cited thousands more, where politicians have violated the principles of globalism by raising a tariff or something similar when one's own interest is threatened. The example that stands out for me was raising tariffs on Chinese exports when it was predected that it would flood Western markets with cheap exports. Why become protectionist: to protest slave wages? That was a factor in the exports being cheap, but not why the attention from Wstern markets. There was no hue and cry in response to Sri Lanka or Bangledesh in that regard.
Speed is a hallmark not of civilization, but of war and barbarism. Napoleon got things done very quickly. Civilizations, on the other, require time and patience to ensure that everything, not just economics, is considered.
There are two kinds of nationalism, positive nationalism and negative nationalism. Negative nationalism is often based on religion and always based on fear, whether it's of the erosion of one's culture, or of the unkown, or whatever. He criticized Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" as a book that, intentionally or not, promoted fear and racism.
Positive nationalism, on the other hand, is using the nation state to make a positive contribution to world affairs. Forgiving the debts of thrid world countries is an example of that, and n fact, recent and soon forthcoming announcements in that regard could usher in a new, more positive era of internationalism.
He concluded his talk by saying that it is key that young people from NGOs get involved in electoral politics. While maintaining considerable respect for them and recognition of their importance,he seemed to be suggesting that the real difference can be made in the electoral realm (I actually disagree with him on that).
Posted by Stephen K at 10:14 PM
Friday, June 10, 2005
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
I would like to introduce you to my alter ego, Charlie. I could have used other names, but Charlie prefers to be called by his real name. Charlie is the calming ego within me. Though, I am generally pretty easy going,I can get really worked up sometimes about things I care about. Charlie is the one who brings me to consider the sensitivities of those who arouse my animosity and receive my wrath, whther they no it or remain ignorant. He is a brief example:
Stephen: What an idiot! That guy cut me off.
Charlie: Stephen! That's not nice! How can you talk like that.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:14 PM
Saturday, June 04, 2005
The soundtrack in my head these days is playing Pop by U2, especially "Mofo," a very dark, end-of-the-world song. The CD has taken years to grow on me. I thought it was just OK, even after a little while. However, while I really to appreciate there return to early form over the last couple of years, it has also made me more greatly appreciate Pop. It's still not as good as Achtung Baby, the first of their three experimental efforts in the nineties, but it's clearly better than Zooropa in my opinion, and has a great sound.
By the way, Achtung Baby in my opinion is one of the best recordings ever by anyone, and would highly recommend it for listening.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:09 PM
Sunday, May 29, 2005
i whispered quietly as the dog scratched his ear. it looked infected so i said let's go to the doctor; he might have something to say. liz said no, he needs to see a vet silly; she's a dog. so we went to the vet and the vet said I like what you've done with your hair today, liz. then the vet said it's just fleas, here's a flea collar
Posted by Stephen K at 2:16 PM
Saturday, May 28, 2005
I'm watching Evita right now on Much More Music. I love that movie, especially Antonio Banderas as Che, the narrator. Modonna doesn't have the greatest voice or acting ability, but she does have stage presence. The first time I saw it in the theatre eight years ago, I cried at the end. I don't usually do that.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:28 PM
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
was a hockey goalie
who stopped so many pucks
the hockey goalie
didn't give a fuck
the hockey goalie
got into a fight
the hockey goalie
knew it wasn't right
the hockey goalie
ate a big tortilla
the hockey goalie
had a great idea
the hockey goalie
said no more of this
the hockey goalie
gave other players a kiss
Posted by Stephen K at 10:22 PM
Monday, May 23, 2005
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005
An interesting thing happened after grabbing something to eat the other night. I wanted something for desert as well, so I decided to walk down to Robson St. and have a three dollar gelatto. On my way there, I passed an old man, homeless, hungry, and begging for change. I was about to cross the street, and paused for a moment. Instead of getting a three dollar gelatto, I could give the homeless man $2, and go to McDonalds for a one dollar cone, and I would come out roughly even. So, of the three dollars I was prepared to part with that evening, I made the decision to neglect spending it all on an overpriced Italian ice cream cone, in favour of giving two thirds of it to help this man.
It also gives me pause to think how ignorant all of use who live in relative comfort are of our good fortune. We go out for our three dollar cones and fifteen dollar dinners while were could purchase a similar meal elsewhere for much less. Conversely, homeless folks nourish themselves, if you could even call it that, by eating from dumpsters.
I know that the two dollars I gave this man wouldn't have gone very far, and that it does nothing to address the systemic problem of extreme poverty in our downtown ghettos. Yet, I am glad I a decided to make an economically and socially just decision on the spur of the moment.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:24 PM
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
The Liberals have won re-election in BC, albeit with a significantly reduced majority. There is talk, especially from the NDP, of ending the polarization of politics in our province. This is a positive development. It is also a positive development that there will be a stronger opposition to hold Gordon Campbell to account and stand up for the disenfranchised citizens in our otherwise beautiful province.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:24 PM
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Saturday, May 14, 2005
You want to know what really bugs me, what really makes me feel like shit.
I live in a big city. Every day when I walk the streets, I get asked numerous times for spare change.
I am a social activist at heart. I detest the fact that a society as prosperous as ours allows some people ot fall through the cracks. It kills me to see people suffering because of the inequalities inherent to our society.
Simultaneously, though, I generally don't give money to them. My reasons for this are not the reasons of many people, such as
"He should just get a job"
"She'll just spend it on drugs"
If I give to one, I'll have to give to all. I don't have that much money. That's why. And even if I did, I wouldn't even begin to address the problem of structural inequality.
Still, I feel like shit when this happens, like I'm not walking the talk or something. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe the more folks who feel this way, even if its on an unconscious level, the closer we will come to the creation of a just society. We shouldn't be comfortable with the fact that we allow folks to exist like this.
Posted by Stephen K at 11:47 PM
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Jack was playing with a moon and then he said to himself "What is this? Why am I playing with a moon?" The moon then said, "Why are you playing with me." The moon, of course, was made of cheese, and Jack loved playing with dairy products? Then he put the moon down, and he put a bug in his ear. This made his ear itch, and he decided that he had one of two options. He could either remove the bug from his ear, or he could inject soothing moisturizing cream into his ear. Of course, this created two problems. For one thing, the bug would likely die, and for another, it would affect his hearing, and he would have to strain vigorously to hear anything, including the plaintive death cries of the bug. He decided to remove the bug from his ear, so the above is moot. So, the next time someone asks you, what do a moon and a bug have in common, you can tell them the story of Jack.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:14 PM
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Anywa, I returned from Taaiwan realizing that I'm 37 years old, have no career and no relationship. I very much want both of those things. My life so far has just been a series of failures and disappointments.
I stayed with my folks in Penticton for a few months upon returning home, and too the opportunity to have some career counselling. I did that, and after examining my interest, aptitudes, values, and attitudes. In the end, I realized that I wanted to be a library technician. I love books, and I adore working with information. I have applied to Langara College in Vancouver. I hope to take their Library Technician program.
I am now looking at find out why I have had so much difficulty. I strongly suspect that its ADD. I have moved to Vancouver and have a doctor now who I am seeing. I hope to get a referring to a doctor.
I haven't heard back from Langara yet, but I have landed a full time job as a courier for a graphic design company. We deliver to architects and engineers. The job could become permanent. I've already been on the jjob for a week, and wouldn't mind that. It is a low stress job.
Posted by Stephen K at 5:46 PM
I went to see a slide presentation by a man with Christian Peacemakers who was in Iraq. During the presentation, the man showed slides from Fallujah, post-US assault. The destruction was dramatic. He said that Fallujah had 400,000 citizens, and 10,000 remained for the US assault, because they were advised to leave. They were told that if they carried white flags with them while outside, they would not be shot. Several bodies were found in Fallujah by the man and his team. Some of them, he reported, were found holding white flags.
Anyone still think Fallujah is not a war crime?
Posted by Stephen K at 12:07 AM
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Well, I think it's about time I tell my life story, in random installments, or at least what's going on for me lately.
I am 37 years old, and strongly suspect I have attention-deficit disorder.
I was hyperactive as a young child, and put on Ritalin. i remember sometimes not taking the pill, and bouncing off the walls and not being able to do anything about it. I had no self-control. As I grew, I became less hyperactive, but developed difficulties with concentration and focus. I would often "space out" in class. In elementary school, this was fine. However, once I entered grade 8, a had huge academic difficulties. I didn't do my homework. I failed my tests. I ended up repeating grade.
I ended up graduating hight school, but I had taken mostly business/office courses, a product of my very low level oof self-confidence at the time. That problem had been fed by my poor performance in school and my social isolation.
I struggled and persevered through several years of community college and eventually transfered to the University of Victoria, where I completed a BA in psychology.
Unfortunately, a Bachelor's in psych will, as they say, get you a cup of coffe and not much more. Since then, my life has entailed a series of failures, career pursuits that didn't work out. Social Work and Community Support Work pursuits both resulted in failure. I chose social work because of my idealism, and wanting to make a difference. Same with CSW.
After my most recent disappointment, I decided to take a radical turn and go overseas to teach English. I went to Tawain and generally had the time of my life. Made numberous friends, had times I will never forget, saw some beautiful places.
I'm tired. More later.
Posted by Stephen K at 10:45 PM