SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Nov 15

Democracy and the Detroit Election

By Tolu Olorunda, Dissident Voice | Interview

Last week, voters in Detroit elected a new mayor, Mike Duggan, to carry on the work of the emergency managers and governor in rebuilding a “new Detroit.”

Duggan is self-branded as a “turnaround specialist,” for his work at the Detroit Medical Center, which he “saved” from shutting down during his tenure as president and CEO in 2004. A year ago, the former prosecutor moved from Livonia to Detroit to file for Mayor.   Months later, a Michigan appeals court ruling deemed the candidacy ineligible, failing to meet residency requirements. He was, however, able to secure a write-in ballot and in the April primaries acquire over 40,000 votes in his name (53% of the votes being write-ins).

In an initially pointless exercise that lasted nearly an hour, I flipped between two Palestinian television channels, Al Aqsa TV of Hamas in Gaza and Palestine TV of Fatah in the West Bank. While both purported to represent Palestine and the Palestinians, each seemed to represent some other place and some other people. It was all very disappointing.

Hamas’ world is fixated on their hate of Fatah and other factional personal business. Fatah TV is stuck between several worlds of archaic language of phony revolutions, factional rivalry and unmatched self-adoration. The two narratives are growingly alien and will unlikely ever move beyond their immediate sense of self-gratification and utter absurdity.

“School ™ is not so bad now, like back when my grandparents were kids, when the schools were run by the government, which sounds completely like, Nazi, to have the government running the schools?”

So proclaims what sounds like a Twitter tirade by angry, futuristic teenage reincarnation of Milton Friedman.  Rather, it is Titus, the wired teen protagonist M.T. Anderson’s prophetic 2002 Young Adult (YA) novel Feed,who lives in a world in which Friedman’s neo-liberal economic philosophies have been taken to their dystopian extreme: America’s environment is so spoiled by consumption that everyone must live in hermetically-sealed bubbles, in which the public commons have been so privatized, that even the clouds are trademarked.  Titus – and most Americans – also live in a hermetically-sealed bubble of their mind, each plugged into the “feed” – a chip which connects his brain to a corporate controlled internet, which is constantly bombarding him with marketing, even in dreams.

Sound familiar?

Nov 14

Now That Parades Have Ended

By Camillo Mac Bica, Veterans Today | Op-Ed

Now that the parades have ended and veterans have enjoyed the “heartfelt gratitude” of an appreciative nation (and a free meal, from a “select menu” at Applebee's), I would ask veterans, as they resume their lives of anonymity and neglect, to put aside, for a moment, all the bunk we have been fed over the years from those who were not there. You know who I am talking about. The politicians, war profiteers, and “troop supporters” who cavalierly make and profit from war, cheer and wave flags as they send us off to fight, bleed, and die in some remote place for a cause we don’t understand. Self-proclaimed “patriots” who, while remaining safe at home, try to convince us that the threat to our way of life – to America and to freedom – is real and grave and that our sacrifices are necessary, noble, and glorious.

Nov 14

A Culture of Walls

By Lawrence Davidson, Intifada Palestine | News Analysis

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his government’s intention to construct another “separation barrier” - a large fortified wall or fence referred to by Palestinians as an apartheid wall – “between the West Bank and Jordan after completing walls on the Egyptian and Syrian borders.” Netanyahu is doing this for a variety of reasons, such as to keep Arab and other non-Jewish refugees from coming into Israel and, in the case of the West bank – Jordan wall, to symbolize Israel’s ongoing control of the area.

The original Zionist rationale for the state of Israel was that it would serve as a place of safety for the world’s Jews as anti-Semitism played out its allegedly inevitable horrid destiny. Well, the problem today is that the policies of Israel are the major motivators of worldwide anti-Semitism, and because of these same policies, there is no place in the world more potentially dangerous for Jews than Israel. Thus the Israeli fondness for walls. It may very well be that when all of this wall construction is finished, Israel will look like the world’s largest ghetto.

For political animals like us in Detroit, it is important to reflect before heading back into battle, or worse, retreating. I read with interest the analysis of Chokwe Lumumba's victory in Jackson, Mississippi. A son of Detroit, he was at the pulpit at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church for a rally for Benny Napoleon on the Fridayevening before the Detroit mayoral elections. I attended, at the last possible minute, the "Thousand Women for Benny" event at the urging of Helen Moore. The music was inspiring and a lot of Detroit's who's who who had not taken the money were there. Some who had taken the Duggan money were there. But there was a clear understanding of what was at stake. Having been part of the recount of the primary election out of sheer curiosity, I was certain that the election was a done deal, even the Friday before. But I could not help but admire the faith of the crowd. They were hopeful, but I did have the sense that we all knew the fix was in.

Polling shows Bachelet with a significant lead over her closest competitor, Evelyn Matthei. The two women share a history in Chile's tragic past when the democratically elected Salvador Allende was overthrown in a bloody coup that the U.S. supported and helped to plan. Michelle Bachelet's father, Gen. Alberto Bachelet, who was loyal to President Allende and the Chilean constitution and rule of law, was arrested by Augusto Pinochet on September 11 1973, the first 9/11. He was tortured while in prison by the junta and died in prison in 1974. Michelle Bachelet and her mother Angela Jeria were also arrested and imprisoned for two weeks before going into exile. Both had been tortured while in custody.

Even before the Budget Control Act of 2011, thousands of programs that rely on non-defense discretionary (NDD) federal funding, including those that serve victims of domestic violence, had their budgets sharply cut. A new report released today by NDD United shows how millions of Americans are being hurt in the process.

"These continued cuts mean that thousands of victims fleeing violence are not able to find emergency shelter, crisis intervention, and other critical services they need to escape and heal," said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic violence (NNEDV). "These are lifesaving services for crime victims who are already in a terrible situation-and there aren't alternatives."

Nov 13

Stifling Activism, the Bureaucratic Way

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I am writing and raging. Raging because I am tired, oh so tired, of my activism being repressed or limited by bureaucratic minutia and ridiculous protocol. I am even more upset at the ways bureaucracy stifles my students who, because they are informed and outraged, want to act and are told they can't, or can only under certain conditions...blah, blah, blah.

I am coming to realize that this squelching of real activism happens on so many fronts, even those we typically associate with freedom to assembly and expression. As a college professor, I have witnessed the difficulty of enacting a true mission for social justice because, any time we get "too controversial," we might alienate a donor, future donor, or other bureaucratic big-wig. Thus final approval for activism, it seems, must come from, of all places, a division devoted to making money for the institution, not one devoted to its mission or to the empowerment of students as leaders.

In his book, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes: "I was told by some New Zealand sheep farmers that sometimes a particularly smart lamb will learn to undo the latch of a gate, evidently not an uncommon skill, and the sheep farmer then worries that the lamb might teach his less clever companions to do the same."

Masson asked a group of farmers, "What do you with sheep who can undo the latch?"

"We shoot them," came the reply, "so they can't pass on their knowledge."