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Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 140: June 2006

Also in this editorial:

Left in
The world is often assumed to be a certain way because it was ‘always’ so or because that is how it should be ordered. And when it gets out of the perceived necessary order then military intervention may be considered necessary to correct that ‘disorder’. This is a little part of what has been happening with Iraq which obviously had massive problems under Saddam Hussein (who at one stage was a superpower’s choice of regime and bolstered with armaments). The irony of the current situation is that it is in many ways worse than the latter years of Saddam Hussein’s regime when his room for manoeuvre was severely curtailed, and in some ways less opportunities exist now for creating a democratic and positive state in the future because sectarianism has become well and truly entrenched.

The USA has considered ‘the Americas’ its fiefdom since the mid-nineteenth century when the former colony became sufficiently strong to be able to exert control well outside its borders. This developed from the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ rejection of European control in the Americas, reasonable enough, into the statement by Theodore Roosevelt in 1904, that the USA was ‘an international police power’ for the Americas – but what went on hardly could be considered ‘policing’. The chronicle of late-nineteenth and twentieth century history in Central and Latin America is intimately connected with the US’s efforts, much of it through military coups and plotting, to control that whole swathe of the world. Cuba since 1959 has had its deficiencies in relation to human rights and political freedoms but has been a beacon of rectitude compared to some of the right wing and fascist regimes which the USA either supported or brought into being through coups; the Pinochet regime in Chile, the creation of that other ‘9/11’, is just one example among many. And yet it was Cuba which was victimised by the USA, and continues to be so.

Latin America has gradually become broadly democratic and more recently some countries have moved leftward including Venezuela and Bolivia (where the president recently announced plans to nationalise gas fields). This is a positive indication of the region freeing itself from past legacies and taking control of some of the resources which rightly belong to the people there and not to multinational corporations. The hope must be that at this stage the USA is powerless, though plotting, coups, and economic or political pressure, to engineer the overthrow of these regimes. But, given past history we should also not underestimate what the USA may be capable of in regard to what it considers its own backyard (but is in reality much larger in area, and more populous, than the USA itself, and should not be considered anyone’s backyard except those who live there). The USA knew in advance of the 2002 plot to overthrow President Chávez in Venezuela and welcomed it when it happened.

Venezuela is in the position, unlike most others in the region, or being a major oil exporter. Chávez has been trying to make a major difference to the health and wellbeing of the poor in his country using primarily the wealth that exporting around $20 billion of oil a year permits. The new left governments in Latin America do not accept the old neo-liberal arguments about what it is permissible for the state to do and control in the economy; the oil industry may have been nationalised in Venezuela in 1976 but it is only under Chávez that it has been used so radically.

The EU, meanwhile, has directives which determine competition and effective denationalisation of enterprises which might more sensibly be kept as one. Who can argue, in Ireland or the UK, for example, that improvements are needed in postal services? But the idea that the remedy is to open it to competition is arrant nonsense since this merely allows private enterprise to cream off the profitable bits and leave the state or semi-state provider with less profits, rising costs and rising prices for consumers when it is obliged to service all the unprofitable parts of the enterprise – a lose/lose scenario all around. Meanwhile public-private finance initiatives clearly increase costs and put that cost onto the citizen of tomorrow – while putting money into the pockets of those who already have wealth.

Perhaps Europe will, in the future, be able to learn from the Latin American experience .We certainly hope so, for the sake of both continents and of North America as well, who may realise that there are different ways of doing things in the economic sphere. And even greater learning will need to come in rich countries with the realisation that economic growth has to stop for urgent ecological reasons – and if the cake is not going to keep getting bigger then the only possibility is for it to be more fairly distributed. That will put into question and imperil the very existence of ‘consumer society’ and at that point things will become very interesting……

Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column:

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

“We’ve all been brainwashed by large corporations to believe that the solution to feeling sad or down or angry or upset is to buy something. That’ a myth they’ve created, and it’s been internalized by many of us and it’s going to take sometime to break. Now is a good time to start.
(Robert Greenwood)

Carol Allen, Drop the shop, Red Pepper, May 2006

As part of the induction course of my new job as an Environmental Education Officer with Bryson Charitable Group I visited their Recycling Depot in Mulusk just outside Belfast. There in different storage areas were house-high stacks of paper, glass bottles separated into different colours, and bales of crushed plastic bottles, cardboard, aluminium and steel cans. The plastic is sent to China, the paper to Wales, and the glass to County Fermanagh, all to be turned into new products. The recycling centre is hailed as the largest in Ireland, processing on average 20 tons of material a day. This is a significant amount, but minuscule compared to the tens of thousands of tons of waste we produce each day, most of which ends up in increasingly scarce landfill sites. Turning away from the noisy blue crusher I looked at the details on the concrete floor, newspaper titles caught my eye. There were crumpled and smudged copies of The Sunday Tribune, The Sun, The Belfast Telegraph, The Irish News and colour supplements, all of them carrying advertisements, stories and photographs encouraging us to buy, to take part in the near universal-wide experience of shopping, without a hint of the inevitable consequences, one of which lay at my feet.

Ecologically praise worthy as reduce, reuse and recycle is, the only remedy to the problem of ‘waste’, and all which that means in terms of global warming, the extinction of species, the ruin of landscapes, economic injustice, ill-health and wasted lives, is the production and use of commodities in closed systems that mimic those of nonhuman nature. Here there is no such thing as waste, rubbish, the unwanted, as everything is part of a life – death – life circle of energy transformation. The remedy of mimicking the natural world requires that we reconstitute our economic system, which means that we rethink the purpose of our daily existence, what self-realization means, as well as getting to know, respect and feel affinity with nonhuman nature. For our society, which is underpinned by a consume and dispose off mindset, and in which there is little awareness of ecological processes, what is required of us is nothing less than revolutionary. Let the revolution begin! We all can be agents of positive change. Beginning with our selves, our eco-sensitive behaviour will become like ripples in a pond.

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