Statehood Doesn’t Pay Bills

by bicyclemark 3 Comments

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.

bm241 Making Better Use of the United Nations

by bicyclemark 8 Comments

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

Missile Tests Mean…

by bicyclemark 3 Comments

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.

The Year was 2000

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

I sit in south jersey next to a warm fire place.  I sometimes forget that it is a fake fireplace and the fire turns on with the flick of a switch.

On television I’m watching Public Broadcasting, and to my great surprise, the documentary film about Ralph Nader’s life is on.  “Unreasonable Man” is an amazing film to watch, because the man himself is amazing and every bit of his life is inspiring and the definition of courage.  I love that the title of this film is “An Unreasonable Man”.  I hope that one day I too can be an Unreasonable Man in this tradition.

I had never seen videos, photos, and audio from the  60’s and 70’s… as Ralph took on the giant corporations and disfunctional government and became a force to be reckoned with, a force that reports directly to and represents, regular people.

My work revolves around questions of quality of life, the quality of life that humans could live versus the quality of life they are being denied, everyday, everywhere.  Nader has worked his whole life effecting change in this very area.  He made change when people thought it impossible, and he fought battles even when people lost the will to support him.. when people decided to settle for less than justice.. less than true democracy.

Some of the images on the screen as I type these words, are of the super-rallies back in 2000.  I remember the one I attended so vividly; Madison Square Garden.  I remember the Garden filled to the brim and the music and the speeches and the long list of inspiring people who took the stage that night.  I found some old photos of those days in my closet here in New Jersey.  I even found the old Nader/LaDuke poster from the 2000 election.

As I so often say, it is films such as this one that should be shown in high schools throughout not only the US but the world.  Because when people want to understand what it means to be a citizen. Or what it means to care about your community and your neighbors… they can just look at the shining example of Ralph Nader… a true fighter and for this podcasting journalist, a hero.