Latin American Soldiers, Unite

Most of you know that I’m a big fan of the Euronews Nocomment video podcast. The combination of pure video with the original sounds without commentary changes the experience of watching things happen in the world.

Soldiers on PatrolThis morning I watched and rewatched as Ecuadorian soldiers walked through the tropical forrest in formation. Heavily armed and pointing guns everywhere, in preparation for whatever enemy they are told they may have to face some day soon. Obviously the present enemy they perceive is Colombia, just across the border.

As I watch these soldiers do this, and cut to some other video of both presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela exchanging hostile words with the president of Colombia, I have a vision. That these soldiers in Ecuador would suddenly stop marching, put down their machine guns, turn to the camera and say.. “You know, Colombians are our family, our friends, and our neighbors… we’re not going to shoot at them just because the president says we should.”

It will likely be written off as a naive vision by all those who believe whole heartedly in obeying orders and never asking questions. By now more then ever, why not ask just what the hell these governments are trying to do? Why is one army invading parts of one country and then the other countries threatening to bomb in retaliation? Why do people who know each other, who share so much of the past and present in common, choose to support this kind of logic?

One thing that we’re missing in the world today, from Afghanistan to the Congo to Colombia and on and on… is for people to stop following without questioning. To stop obeying when the orders are to destroy fellow humans, to commit mass murder in response to mass murder.

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Statehood Doesn’t Pay Bills

Nationalism has long been the cause of alot of pain and broken dreams in the history of the world. Yet nationalism is the force that brings about so many changes in so many places, even in this day and age.

I was working in Portugal several years ago when East Timor formerly declared it’s independence from Indonesia. Needless to say it was a big deal in Lisbon, at some level, as the nation watched a new country set out on the quest for freedom, prosperity… insert lofty goal. And of course, as I watched the ceremony in Dili, I can’t deny a feeling, based on all that I know from world history and the inequality that is the world economy, that East Timor would never really achieve much of a quality of life. For all the beauty and nobility of independence, you could spin the globe, crunch the numbers, and know that the new nation’s odds of a prosperous survival were slim to none.

Burning down the borderNow we watch Kosovo. I know, I know, different details, different history, some different problems. But the facts still spell out the same feelings. Independence and freedom from whatever oppression, past or present, that certainly sounds good. No wonder lots of good people out there support the declaration. Yet what chance does it’s people have in this global economy and the political chess game that leaves a majority of the new nation as a bunch of expendable pawns; useful for flag waving news footage, but not worth a serious investment or some serious problem solving strategies. Powerful forces in the world of business and politics might have been salivating at the chance to use the cause and the region for their own goals, but now they can salivate even more as disorganization and internal struggles make it easy to profit.

Now you hear the whispers in different parts of the world get louder; Turkish Cyprus, Abkasia, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Palestine, Western Sahara, Aceh… places where the calls for independence grow louder now. And who would dare speak against many of those cases, where people have suffered and hoped for independence for so long.

While I don’t speak against most of these calls, I will add a question to the equation. How will they live? Will there be a way to seriously live without the threat of famine, violence, or some other terrible factor. Do they have some way to stand on their own two feet in a global economy that specializes in picking apart new nations without the luxury of lots of money or some magic resource?

Independence sounds lovely. But when calculating and dreaming of the kind of life people should have, I wish we would factor in what happens once you’ve got that independence. That’s the part that could really help make a better future for all people.

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bm241 Making Better Use of the United Nations

Lots of governments and supranational organizations like the UN have websites, yet few are really understandable or usable for the average person. At the 24C3 in Berlin this past weekend, I sat down with Julian from undemocracy.com . His work has helped create a place on the internet where anyone can search, link, and read about who said what at the United Nations, in order to better understand what our nations are doing on the international level.

We Discuss:

  • The problems with the regular UN website
  • Documents, votes, statements
  • Searchability, linkability
  • What was necessary to create undemocracy.com
  • connections with wikipedia
  • His UK parliamentary project, http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/
  • NExt steps
  • Appeal to the public

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Missile Tests Mean…

Ok the two-day festivus is over. And just as many people sit down to eat the roast beast (or vegetarian roast-beast), over in Russia they are testing new Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.  Yes, the ICBM, an acronym usually associated with the cold war and the 80’s.

Welcome to the new cold war.  In this version the US acts like Russia is their best friend and presidents look into each others souls and they drive around in pickup-trucks together.

Meanwhile behind the scenes, the US has military contractors who need to build missiles and fear in order to justify their existence and make a profit so you can trade shares in Boeing and help make the CEO’s very wealthy.   The Russian government, on the other hand, has taken control of all the big oil and gas companies and if it gets the arctic claim they will control 1/3 of the world’s hydro-carbon energy.  So Russia tests ICBM’s, launching them by land and from submarines like the year is 1981. The US tries to build missile defences in places like the Czech Republic, Poland, and Greenland, claiming that this is all necessary to protect the world from… Iran.

Then Russia protests and says — Hey, that missile shield seems to be pointed towards us! And the US responds, no no no, that missile shield that goes right up til your border is not a threat to you, you can still launch your ICBM’s at us, no problem. Plus we’re best friends remember?

That is my rendition of the high school play entitled, The Cold War Part Deux.

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