Many rivers to cross

Sometimes, life leaves you reeling with nowhere to turn and no one to call out to. The capitalist juggernaut has left many of us one medical illness, one job loss, one paycheck from the brink. People who work all of their lives find themselves destitute in their so-called “golden years” and young people just starting out find themselves struggling under the weight of crushing debt loads. The stress of life inside the kingdom of capital is like an ever-present and mighty, rushing river; a current that carves canyons of despair and futility into our communities and our homes. Indeed, the poets and the bards have always known this truism, that there are many rivers to cross and that sometimes it’s only our will that keeps us alive. May we find comfort in one another’s stories and may we find the courage to change the things we cannot accept by hearing one another’s voices. Peace and solidarity to all readers.


(Here is another electrifying version of this song by Jimmy Cliff.)

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The bluest collar

(Photo credit: The All-Nite Images)

(Photo credit: The All-Nite Images)

 “I think organized labor is a necessary part of democracy. Organized labor is the only way to have fair distribution of wealth.”

-Dolores Huerta
It is already May in the land of good and plenty, a vast territory that was evidently the white, European settlers’ manifest destiny to inherit. It appears those pesky indigenous peoples who already inhabited the land were just squatters who needed to be foreclosed upon and evicted ASAP. To accelerate the manifest destiny PR campaign, some of the white, European settlers had the brilliant idea to import human beings from overseas in chains like so many Hondas and allow them and certain classes of immigrants and indentured servants to do all the labor in building up the new world’s order. In the 1800’s, British magnate Cecil Rhodes, who never met a natural resource in Africa he couldn’t exploit, had declared, “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labor that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” The settlers took this message to heart and, hundreds of years later, their descendants have perfected a unique brand of capitalism that has been exported around the globe. In Vietnam, what American bombs and bullets couldn’t do, the global bankers and billionaires could as the Free Market™ has been pried opened to Western capitalists. Meanwhile, corporations in the homeland can luxuriate in the knowledge that there will always be people poor enough and desperate enough to work for modern day slave wages.
(Photo credit: United Workers)

(Photo credit: United Workers)

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

-Nelson Mandela

A particularly insidious method that capitalists have found to maintain social control and class order is by linking people’s work to their healthcare. This causes the job market to be rigid and inflexible for millions of workers who know that if they leave their jobs, their healthcare will not leave with them. Thus, men and women can be compelled to accept austere working conditions because they know that their families will lose healthcare if they complain or lose their jobs. What should be an inalienable human right becomes a political ball of yarn for the ruling mice to bat around for their amusement. Insult is added to injury in states where low income workers and their families have been denied health coverage because of the refusal to expand Medicaid in ideological opposition to the admittedly flawed Affordable Care Act. Allan Lokos, founder and guiding teacher of The Community Meditation Center in New York City, has stated“There is no illness that is not exacerbated by stress.” Workers in menial, subsistence level jobs are trapped like hamsters in a wheel while technology has enabled a 24/7, always on workforce. The bluest collar is reserved for those who cannot afford to take off work due to lost wages or implied threats to job security and, even if they are able to take off work, do not have sufficient health care to get treatment without incurring life threatening debt. The American dream in the abstract takes on a nightmarish tinge in all of it’s concrete lethalness.

(Photo credit: Jaime Fearer)

(Photo credit: Jaime Fearer)

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Somehow and somewhere along the long and winding road to full spectrum dominance capitalism, we have been conditioned to equate a person’s productivity with their worth. Rather than work for the sake of one’s craft, for personal fulfillment or as a contribution to the greater good, labor became a means to a profitable end which has been funneled to a select few. In the twentieth century, consumerism sped up the hamster wheel as people raced to work and earn more so they could buy more. Industrialism and the ability to mass produce things has been matched by the capability to mass transport things. These factors and many more have created a perfect storm for global capitalists who are no longer confined to narrow trade lanes based on geographical or political boundaries. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, like free trade agreements before it, was crafted by corporate and state interests to knock down any remaining barriers to the glorious Free Market™. A story that has long stuck with me tells of a Palestinian farmer named Avi who rose early tending to the olive trees and chickpeas that were among the ingredients in the fresh hummus he made daily. When an American observed Avi’s operation, his first thought was how Avi could scale up his operation and brand it for a wider market. But Avi told the American, “I don’t want to make more money. I make enough money. And I am done by 9 a.m. every day. The rest of the day is mine.” Some have the wisdom to never put on their collars in the first place. Peace and solidarity to all readers.

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Jeffster Awards #43

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

This is the next installment of an ongoing series at Deconstructing Myths…the Jeffster Awards! This award will be given on an ongoing basis to five outstanding blog posts that caught my wandering eye. There are no strings attached or requirements for reciprocation. I don’t have time to comment on other blogs as much I’d like to so the least I can do is direct readers to some of these outstanding writers, poets, and visual artists. Please direct all feedback (likes, comments, follows) to the blogs themselves. I hope you enjoy these exemplary posts as much as I did. So, without further ado, here are the recipients of this week’s Jeffster Awards…hot off the (Word)presses.

Avi at Scars Upon the Earth

First review of Confessions of a Carnivore at Nobody Wakes Up Pretty

Michael Eric Dyson’s Hatchet Eulogy for Cornel West at The Rancid Honeytrap

#CVSmatters at Abagond

Not the Independence and Socialism the Revolutionary Vietnamese Thought They Won at Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

_________________

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

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Food Chains

I have had the privilege of marching with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and meeting some its members. The CIW works tirelessly on behalf of the tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida and farmworker justice. The grassroots, coalition of the willing follows in the tradition of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta who helped to organize farmworkers in the California fields decades ago. The struggles that farm and migrant workers have faced in the U.S. offer a stark reminder that not all men (or women) are created equal in the land of Big Agriculture’s milk and honey. This post is dedicated belatedly in honor of International Workers’ Day of May Day to all those who labor and toil under the capitalist grind. Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Source: Food Chains Film (currently airing on Netflix)

Resources: Fair Food Program, Coalition of Immokalee Workers

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ESSAY: WHAT TO DO WITH THE NEGROEZ?

Jeff Nguyen:

“What is gone is not just houses or pictures on the wall, not just the little neighborhood store we used to frequent, or the tavern where we hung out on warm nights; not just the small church in the middle of the block or even the flower bed alongside the house; not just the old landmarks or some of the schools we used to attend, not just the jumble of overcrowded habitations or the storied stacks of bricks we called the ‘jects (aka projects), housing schemes we knew by name and reputation. No, it is not just brick and wood that is missing from the landscape. What is gone, what we miss most of all is us.”

Originally posted on Moorbey'z Blog:

photo by Peter Nakhid

There is a secret hidden in the heart of New Orleans, a secret hidden in plain sight but ignored by all but the secret citizens themselves. Before Bienville arrived in this area in 1718, Native American scouts informed the adventurous Frenchman that there were groups of Africans—they probably said “blacks”—living over there in their own communities and that these self-ruled women and men would not talk to whites.

Although how the Native Americans knew that the blacks would not talk to whites remains unexplained, the report seems accurate on the face of it. After all, close to three centuries later in post-Katrina New Orleans there remain a number of us who are reluctant to talk truthfully to outsiders—not out of fear of repercussions or because of an inability to speak English but rather we remain reticent on the general principle that there’s no future in such conversations.

Indeed, I am…

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Longform: Nuns and Nuclear Security

The Y-12 National Security Complex sits in a narrow valley, surrounded by wooded hills, in the city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Y-12 and Oak Ridge were built secretly, within about two years, as part of the Manhattan Project, and their existence wasn’t publicly acknowledged until the end of the Second World War. By then, the secret city had a population of seventy-five thousand. Few of its residents had been allowed to know what was being done at the military site, which included one of the largest buildings in the world. Y-12 processed the uranium used in Little Boy, the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Seven decades later, Y-12 is the only industrial complex in the United States devoted to the fabrication and storage of weapons-grade uranium. Every nuclear warhead and bomb in the American arsenal contains uranium from Y-12.

Strict security measures have been adopted at the site to prevent the theft of its special nuclear materials. Y-12 has some five hundred security officers authorized to use lethal force within its Protected Area, five BearCat armored vehicles, Gatling guns that can fire up to fifty rounds per second and shoot down aircraft, video cameras, motion detectors, four perimeter fences, and rows of dragon’s teeth—low, pyramid-shaped blocks of concrete that can rip the axles off approaching vehicles and bring them to a dead stop. The management of Y-12 calls the place “the Fort Knox of Uranium.”

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility was built, at a cost of more than half a billion dollars, to safeguard Y-12’s uranium. Situated at the north end of the Protected Area, the storage facility is an imposing white structure, longer than a football field, with guard towers at all four corners. If the tops of the towers were crenellated, the building would look like an immense, windowless White Castle. Some nine hundred thousand pounds of weapons-grade uranium are stored inside it. Little Boy—a crude and highly inefficient atomic bomb, designed in the early nineteen-forties with slide rules—contained a hundred and forty-one pounds of weapons-grade uranium, and almost ninety-nine per cent of it harmlessly blew apart as the bomb detonated. Just a couple of pounds underwent nuclear fission—the splitting of atoms—above Hiroshima. And, when that happened, two-thirds of the buildings in the city were destroyed and perhaps eighty thousand civilians were killed. The amount of weapons-grade uranium needed to build a terrorist bomb with a similar explosive force could fit inside a small gym bag.

At about half past two in the morning on July 28, 2012, three people were dropped off at the Scarboro Church of Christ, a modest brick building with a single white spire in an African-American neighborhood of Oak Ridge. They walked through the church parking lot to a nearby dirt path, followed the path through a stand of trees, reached a meadow, and turned left. Up ahead, in the darkness, they could see the silhouette of a steep hill called Pine Ridge. On the other side of the hill was Y-12. All three had spent time in federal prison. They belonged to a loosely organized group whose members have been prosecuted by the Justice Department for violent crimes, sabotage, and threatening the national security. The three hoped to reach the uranium-storage facility before sunrise, having carefully planned the intrusion for more than a year. But they had no desire to steal anything or to make a bomb. They wanted to “heal” and “transform” the building with their own blood; to mark it as a symbol of evil, empire, and war; to protest against its role in maintaining America’s nuclear arsenal. Gregory Boertje-Obed was a Christian pacifist in his late fifties who painted houses for a living and worked with the homeless in Duluth, Minnesota. Michael Walli was a Catholic layman in his early sixties, inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi to live humbly and serve the poor. Megan Rice was an eighty-two-year-old nun, a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. Carrying flashlights and backpacks, they headed toward the hill.

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Jeffster Awards #42

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

This is the next installment of an ongoing series at Deconstructing Myths…the Jeffster Awards! This award will be given on an ongoing basis to five outstanding blog posts that caught my wandering eye. There are no strings attached or requirements for reciprocation. I don’t have time to comment on other blogs as much I’d like to so the least I can do is direct readers to some of these outstanding writers, poets, and visual artists. Please direct all feedback (likes, comments, follows) to the blogs themselves. I hope you enjoy these exemplary posts as much as I did. So, without further ado, here are the recipients of this week’s Jeffster Awards…hot off the (Word)presses.

The Devil at the Top at The Two Thousands

The Replacements at Kate Houck, Poems

The Fight to Keep Mumia from Being Silenced at Abolitionist Law Center

Poem for Hopi Land: All People’s Land at A Global Public Servant

A poem against internalization at Race-less Gospel

_________________

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rest in Power, Eduardo Galeano

Jeff Nguyen:

I am embarrassed to admit I did not know of Eduardo Galeano until recently. In the minds of the somebodies, we are all worth “less than bullets”. Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Originally posted on roger hollander:

Posted on April 13, 2015 by chrmaria


Dedicated to The Nobodies
The nobodies: the sons of no one, the owners of nothing.
Who don’t speak languages, but rather dialects.
Who don’t follow religions, but rather superstitions.
Who don’t make art, but rather crafts.
Who don’t practice culture, but rather folklore.
Who are not human, but rather human resources.
Who have no face but have arms.
Who have no name, but rather a number.
Who don’t appear in the universal history books,
but rather in the police pages of the local press.
The nobodies,
the ones who are worth less than the bullet that kills them.

losnadies

Los Nadies, by Eduardo Galeano

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The Age of Austerity©

(Photo credit: Teacher Dude)

(Photo credit: Teacher Dude)

The parties with the most to gain never show up on the battlefield.

-Naomi Klein

It is springtime in the land of homogenized milk and processed honey. The birds are birding, the bees are beeing and the ruling class in America is doing what it does best…ruling. The days of Kings and Queens may seem like an antiquated notion in 2015 but make no mistake, as George Carlin wryly observed about the American nobility, “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.” Since the 2008 financial collapse that saw not one high ranking Wall Street executive cuffed and stuffed, the American peasants have endured the indignity of roboforeclosures, dozens of states refusing to provide health coverage to their poorest residents, and the encroachment of the private, corporate sector into the hallways of the nations’ public schools. The American people have been repeatedly taken to the breathless brink by the corporate media who tell us that the government will shut down if more social services aren’t slashed and burned. Yet, somehow, there is always enough money for the U.S. military to conduct unending wars in mostly brown and black lands while domestic law enforcement keeps the homeland secure from it’s own (mostly brown and black) huddled masses.

(Photo credit: Jerome Olivier)

(Photo credit: Jerome Olivier)

What we have been living for three decades is frontier capitalism, with the frontier constantly shifting location from crisis to crisis, moving on as soon as the law catches up.”

-Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein has documented the origins of what is now known as disaster capitalism or the shock doctrine. The premise being that citizens in shock from a natural or manmade crisis are more susceptible to sweeping societal changes. In New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina was used as cover to dismantle public education and housing. From Latin America in the 1970’s to Europe in the 2000’s, the neoliberal policies of austerity have been characterized by deregulation, privatization and deep cuts in social spending. Free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership act as naked power grabs for corporate interests to be placed on par with the interests of the state. Here, fascism and feudalism intersect to meet the self-serving needs of the elite, where the public good is not even a consideration. National debt has been used as a sword of Damocles against countries who are given an offer they can’t refuse by means of crippling, IMF-backed bailout packages. Historically, as the full weight of austerity measures are applied, the public eventually reaches a tipping point where it mobilizes towards resistance, thereby, necessitating the need for the militarized, police state to step in to suppress dissent.

(photo credit: v3rbo.com)

(photo credit: v3rbo.com)

Unquestionably, however, something else is at work, something that cuts deeper into the American psyche. We have a profound hatred of the weak and the poor, and a corresponding groveling terror before the rich and successful, and we’re building a bureaucracy to match those feelings.”

-Matt Taibbi

Austerity as economic theory conveniently masks the true ideology behind it’s cruel countenance. In America, the resistance to austerity repackaged as “The Sequester” has been minimal because we have been conditioned from the cradle to the grave to esteem the wealthy, rugged, “self-made” man and to envy the lifestyle of the rich and famous. As long as our faces are turned in veneration to the poverty-challenged, by necessity, our backs must be turned in contempt to the poor. Thus, the pot of water starts to boil for the middle class frogs who might have been warned to jump by the rapidly boiling pot of lower class frogs. So long as we tolerate austerity, or the severe life, for our prisoners, our black and brown citizens, our homeless, our mentally ill, our drug addicted, our migrant workers, our abused women, there won’t be anyone left to speak out when they finally come for the rest of us. For there to be hope, much less change, it will take a monumental shift in the way we value the dignity of each and every human life in this country. To be compassionate means to be a co-sufferer in another’s suffering, to turn our eyes to their struggle. After all, a watched pot never boils.

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 59 Comments

Waiting on a world

(Photo credit: inefekt69)

(Photo credit: inefekt69)

Waiting with bated breath
for a word to fall from a pen
for a song to rise like wisps
dreaming in expectant repose

Waiting for the morning rays
to crack open the Southern sky
revealing the secrets
only the stars were able to bear.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments