Welcome to the Saturday, March 31, 2012 issue of this Peace&∓Justice action email!
These blogs containing the newsletters will keep with the basic peace and justice touchstone of not filtering out reality (within human limits) – a people of peace must engage in the full human dynamic. Thus these blogs will only be moderated to catch spam and attacks on personal character, falling heavily on the side of freedom of speech. It is hoped that passion and respect can be held in balance.
Secondly, please note that this newsletter is actually a combined February-March edition. Unfortunately the February edition got snared in a convergence of changed hardware, software and conflicting schedules and was never sent. So this edition contains a few remaining relevant pieces from it, plus the usual March items.
Finally, this has delayed until the April edition, another new feature. It will be an occasional section that focuses more in-depth on an issue. It will now start in April and will focus on the issue of “Mental Health”. This topic more generally points to the topic of Human Nature, which underlies, informs or shapes notions of peace and justice.
THE ARAB SPRING – ONE YEAR LATER
It has been a year since the “Arab Spring” uprisings. While this newsletter is primarily focused on actions that might move us to a more decent world (and an action on this topic follows in the next section), the scope of the past year`s upheavals is worth some brief reflections, which will be focused on four countries: Egypt, Syria, Mali and Turkey.
However firstly I want simply to list the scope by country. Most lists include between 15 – 18 countries. Rulers have been forced from power in four countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen); civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests have broken out in six countries (Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman); and minor protests have occurred in five countries (Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara). Freedom House indicates that the most significant gains were concentrated largely in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, while the largest declines in freedom included Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Egypt: On the upside, the protestors did learn the lessons from the past, as mentioned in past newsletters, and kept up the pressure until Mubarak was gone and elections were held. The downside from an idealized Western script standpoint was that: (a) the resulting playing field was not level – some parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood have for years had an extensive, well-running structure and were able to use it to capture a disproportionate vote; and (b) the West tended to project onto most Egyptians the aspirations of the protesters. While that was not unfounded in terms of the basic desire to remove the past’s oppressive factors, it did not extend that far (specifically to the rural areas) in terms of a more Western-style, secularist style government. In the end, one can only hope that despite the ever-present geo-political meddling and the uneven nature of current power dynamics, basic human rights will gain an ever stronger presence.
Syria: Syria forms the other end of the spectrum, where Syria’s president has ruthlessly suppressed all dissent, resulting in 9000 dead. See the article below – complicated.
Mali: Mali had been a stable democratic nation for 21 years. It had nothing directly to do with the Arab Spring. But indirectly, Mali’s recent coup that ended its stability can be traced to the Arab Spring, one of the unintended consequences of toppling Libya (to see the connection read the Al Jazeera article). The point is simply that not all repercussions can be even remotely imagined nor are good.
Turkey: Turkey was also not part of the Arab Spring. But Turkey is a key indicator of the fluid nature of the democratic space that might be attained, specifically it democratic-economic-Islamic balance. As a bridge between East and West, Turkey has a strong secular legacy. But it has become harder to read recently, for instance, due to trouble with the military which led to a tighter fist and fear of further oppression of its own people (at least 70 journalists detained recently). See Is Turkey the Best Model for the Arab World?.
Brief Background: Sample of the clichéd views and more solid footing:
Far from the Tahrir Dream [Oxford professor; Globe&Mail]
The Egypt Backlash [FP]
Inside Syria – complicated [IRIN]
TELL HILARY CLINTON TO CONDEMN ABUSES IN BAHRAIN
Human Rights First has created an action to pressure Bahrain to stop the crackdown on its people. While most actions originally created for the Arab Spring anniversary have passed, this one remains active. It should be noted that Bahrain is home the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
[Update: On March 16 Clinton criticized Bahrain (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12762500). However as long as the petition remains open it should be signed, since nothing has changed].
THE #KONY2012 DYNAMIC
Starting in March 6 2012, the social media started buzzing about Joseph Kony, the repugnant leader of the ruthless Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The buzz was sparked by a US-based charity called Invisible Children (IC). For years they have been trying to get Kony captured. IC decided to make 2012 the year to achieve their goal and used social media to try creating an aware and motivated [primarily US] constituency that would then force politicians to act more deliberately to capture Kony The centerpiece was a very slick 30 minute video, integrated with social media and celebrities. It has been the most stunningly successful marketing campaign I have ever seen, and I would be surprised if anyone reading this newsletter has not heard about it! Since then it has gathered both praise and criticism.
Due to its widespread awareness at this point, I will simply refer readers to my reaction to it contained in the following blog, based on this newsletter’s fundamental concepts of openness and dialogue:
US: EXPAND NUCLEAR EVACUATION ZONES
The current evacuation zone around a nuclear plant is 10 miles. But Fukushima demonstrated that it needs to be at least 25 miles. The following petition calls on the U.S. government to extend the zone, as well as create secondary zone:
AMAZON.COM – SELLING WHALE MEAT !!
I always associate the Amazon.com web site with books, even though I know it has long since sold other items. But until last week I never knew it had been selling whale and dolphin meat (in Japan). It stopped doing so last week (within certain constraints), but only after an online petition. I am adding the following action both for its own sake and as I reminder to myself – and perhaps yourself – that even seemingly innocuous-sounding companies can, unseen, grow into areas over cross over lines.
=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
ICC: Historic First Conviction: Congo’s Thomas Lubanga
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has handed down its first verdict, convicting the little known militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, of war crimes (using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo). The ICC was created ten years ago as a permanent replacement for the ad hoc tribunals created for such atrocities as Rwanda. The ideal is that the court: (a) brings a sense of justice for the victims of those convicted; and (b) acts as a deterrent to those who have felt free to terrorize a people. The hope is that with the first conviction, over a period of time it will build up such a legacy. The fear is that until other international dynamics fall in line with such ideals, that the ICC will have limited success. There are also other criticisms of the ICC, which must await a future newsletter.
One year After Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Disaster Continue reading