Last month, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden had a public conversation about democracy, transparency, whistleblowing and more. In the course of it, Snowden – who was of course Skyping in from Moscow – said that without Ellsberg’s example he would not have done what he did to expose the extent to which the NSA was spying on millions of ordinary people. It was an extraordinary declaration. It meant that the consequences of Ellsberg’s release of the top-secret Pentagon Papers in 1971 were not limited to the impact on a presidency and a war in the 1970s. The consequences were not limited to people alive at that moment. His act was to have an impact on people decades later – Snowden was born 12 years after Ellsberg risked his future for the sake of his principles. Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective, and remembering this is reason to live by principle and act in hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious.The most important effects are often the most indirect. I sometimes wonder when I’m at a mass march like the Women’s March a month ago whether the reason it matters is because some unknown young person is going to find her purpose in life that will only be evident to the rest of us when she changes the world in 20 years, when she becomes a great liberator.
Category Archives: Revolution
On the morning of his first battle, Brace Belden was underdressed for the cold and shaky from a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. His Kurdish militia unit was camped out on the front line with ISIS, 30 miles from Raqqa, in Syria. Fighters stood around campfires of gas-soaked trash, boiling water for tea, their only comfort besides tobacco. “I’ve never been so dirty in my life,” Belden recalls. When the time came to roll out, he loaded a clip into his Kalashnikov and climbed into a makeshift battlewagon, a patchwork of tank and truck parts armored with scrap metal and poured concrete. Belden took a selfie inside its rusty cabin and posted it online with the caption “Wow this freakin taxi stinks.”
Without community, politics is dead. But communities have been scattered like dust in the wind. At work, at home, both practically and imaginatively, we are atomised.As a result, politics is experienced by many people as an external force: dull and irrelevant at best, oppressive and frightening at worst. It is handed down from above rather than developed from below. There are exceptions – the Sanders and Corbyn campaigns, for instance – but even they seemed shallowly rooted in comparison with the deep foundations of solidarity movements grew from in the past, and may disperse as quickly as they gather.It is in the powder of shattered communities that anti-politics swirls, raising towering dust-devils of demagoguery and extremism. These tornadoes threaten to tear down whatever social structures still stand.
“If we had spent those 23 years exchanging gunshots,” says Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in an evening address to the many gathered for “The Zapatistas and ConSciences for Humanity” encounter currently taking place in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, “would we have been able to build this?”
The Subcomandante was referring to the flourishing infrastructures of self-organized Zapatista life, lived by thousands of rebel Indigenous people in the Lacandon jungle of Chiapas, Mexico. The Zapatista movement today celebrates the 23rd anniversary of its uprising in San Cristóbal on Jan. 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. In the 23 years that have followed the Zapatistas are organized by small communities known as caracoles and have built autonomous hospitals, schools, health clinics, security, transport, and communications operations.
Dopo anni che sento parlare di ecovillaggi senza averne mai visti, ho deciso di andare a visitarne un paio non lontano da dove vivo – in realtà ci sono ecovillaggi anche vicino a dove abitate voi. Volevo capire come vivono persone che hanno scelto di condividere la casa, a volte lo stipendio, spesso anche le idee e la visione del mondo. Persone che vanno d’accordo e decidono di darsi una mano, in sostanza. Piccole utopie contemporanee nell’era della fine delle ideologie.
Ero anche curiosa di vedere come vivono i bambini in posti del genere, se è vero il detto africano – oggi molto citato – secondo cui per crescere un figlio ci vorrebbe un intero villaggio, anche se poi ognuno sta chiuso nella propria casa. Che la vita in comune possa essere una soluzione per combattere la piaga dei figli unici e la disoccupazione? Per dare vita a una vera alternativa antisistema? Sono andata a vedere tre comunità che fanno parte del Rive (Rete italiana villaggi ecologici) e che, con le dovute differenze, sono assimilabili alla definizione di ecovillaggio: un gruppo di persone che hanno scelto di lavorare insieme con l’obiettivo di un ideale o una visione comune.
There’s a feeling common among everyone I know from the weird, wild, fast-moving political days of 2011. It’s a feeling of having somehow gone down the wrong trouser-leg of time.
Five years ago today, the Occupy movement began in Lower Manhattan. Thousands of activists took over New York City’s Zuccotti Park, a square of semi-public land suspended between Wall Street and Ground Zero, and declared their intent to stay. Their goals were broad enough to appear incoherent: nothing more or less than total change to the political narrative, with jobs, healthcare, education and debt relief as transitional demands. The sheer gall of it started a global conversation about income inequality that continues to this day.
The Syrian civil war has evolved into a proxy war involving an array of both regional and global powers. On one side, Iran, Russia, and now China have acted to stabilize the government of Bashar al-Assad, while on the other, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Turkey, and the United States are backing anti-Assad rebels, in an effort to affect regime change in Damascus.
Yet the Syrian tragedy — which in five years of fighting has cost nearly half a million lives and provoked the largest refugee crisis since World War II — has brought to the fore forces that have muddied the waters for those powers seeking to oust the Assad government. While the West and its regional allies have sought to back what they describe as “moderate” rebels, the most effective military resistance to the Assad regime has come from a collection of radical Islamist groups. These have included Al-Qaeda’s local franchise, al-Jabhat al-Nusra, which recently rebranded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an organization which seeks to impose a radical version of Islam on not only Syria but the entire Muslim world.
Source: Between Rojava and Washington
Britain isn’t the only European country to hold a referendum this month. On 5 June, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected, by 77% to 23%, the proposition that every citizen should be guaranteed an unconditional basic income (UBI). But that lopsided outcome doesn’t mean the issue is going away anytime soon.
The idea of a UBI has made recurrent appearances in history – starting with Thomas Paine in the 18th century. This time, though, it is likely to have greater staying power, as the prospect of sufficient income from jobs grows bleaker for the poor and less educated. Experiments with unconditional cash transfers have been taking place in poor as well as wealthy countries.
London, May 2009. A small experiment involving thirteen homeless men takes off. They are street veterans. Some of them have been sleeping on the cold tiles of The Square Mile, the financial center of Europe, for more than forty years. Their presence is far from cheap. Police, legal services, healthcare: the thirteen cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds. Every year.
That spring, a local charity takes a radical decision. The street veterans are to become the beneficiaries of an innovative social experiment. No more food stamps, food kitchen dinners or sporadic shelter stays for them. The men will get a drastic bailout, financed by taxpayers. They’ll each receive 3,000 pounds, cash, with no strings attached. The men are free to decide what to spend it on; counseling services are completely optional. No requirements, no hard questions. The only question they have to answer is:
What do you think is good for you?
Billymark’s is the most working-class bar in Chelsea, if not all of Manhattan. On a Thursday afternoon in early March, union guys play darts as both TVs air a CBS report on the early days of Syria’s fragile cease-fire. A few minutes after five, Guy, 22, and Hristo, 23, walk in and we grab a booth next to a group of day-drunk FIT students. The minute we sit down, it’s clear something is different. The two men are vibrating with excitement.”You need a punch?” Guy asks me, as he always does at such meetings. He’s asking if I need his dime-size tool to pop the SIM card out of my iPhone — to prevent it from being surreptitiously turned into a microphone. He passes it across the table, and we all remove our SIM cards in silence. Then we turn our phones off — can’t be too careful.”So the first thing we should tell you is we bought our tickets,” Guy says. As usual for them, though, there’s been a hiccup. The bank has put a hold on Hristo’s credit card, suspecting fraudulent activity, so technically they have only one ticket. But after a year of planning, the moment is almost here.