|Detroit- City of Hope is part of an emerging global movement to restore hope to our daily lives.
With the onset of computer technologies the industrial mode of production which still prevailed in the 1960s has been replaced by knowledge-based production which produces not only physical or material entities but mainly immaterial ones: services, relationships, information, emotions, ideas, which can be summed up in the word “culture.” Only about 20% of American workers are now engaged in manufacturing material goods.
That is why all our institutions (education, justice, health, government) need rethinking and remoulding, They were created in and for the industrial era.
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As capitalism has gone global, the power of nation-states has been replaced by the power of transnational corporations who use global bodies like WTO, IMF and global treaties like NAFTA, to subject communities and peoples the world over to the domination of the world market, replacing local cultures and creativity with a homogeneous consumer culture that serves the needs of global capital. This consumer culture provides conveniences but robs us and our communities of any control over our daily lives and reduces all our human relationships and relationships to Nature to commodity relationships.
The first sign of grassroots resistance to this new form of capitalist domination emerged on January 1, 1994, the day that NAFTA went into effect. On that day the Zapatistas took over Mexican cities, making clear that their goal was not to take power but to create space for indigenous peoples and all sections of Mexican society to enter into democratic discussions on how to go beyond Opposition to Resistance by creating new horizontal alliances and infrastructures from below.
A few years later, in November 1999, the whole world witnessed “the Battle of Seattle” in which the WTO was closed down by nearly 1400 groups representing very diverse sections of society, including environmentalists, feminists, steel workers, longshoremen, anti-war activists, religious groups, native peoples, peasants, prison abolitionists, artists, elders, mostly rooted in local communities.
Since the “Battle of Seattle,” similar convergences of diverse groups have taken place in Toronto, Miami, Davos, Genoa, Cancun. Also, beginning in 2001, tens and hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups from all over the world have gathered every January at World Social Forums in Porte Allegre, Brazil, and Mumbai, India, to declare that “Another World is possible.”
In the process of convening these massive demonstrations and gatherings, a new form of Democracy is being created which is much more participatory, deliberative, cooperative, consensual and (like the cosmos) more rooted in community and more horizontal than the representative democracies that were struggled for and achieved within 19th and 20th century nation-states.
At the same time individuals are coming together at the local level to imagine and begin creating new ways of living that will give us back control over our own lives and redefine what it means to be human in the 21st century. One estimate (by Paul Hawken, (author of Blessed Unrest) is that there may be as many as half a million of these self-healing civic groups, most of them small and barely visible, in every country around the world.
In two widely-read books, Empire and Multitude, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri emphasize the diversity of these groups. They do not fuse into some unity like “the people” or the “workers of the world” and are not connected in centralized organizations like the 2nd`or 3rd Internationals, as in the Marxist-Leninist era. What they have in common is that they are each imagining and creating the new social identities, the new political subjects that will take the place of the cogs and consumers to which global capitalism is seeking to reduce us.
Each in its own way is pushing back against the destructive practices of global capitalism, In order to join this push we do not need big leaders or huge funds. What we need to do is find each other and develop practices at the local level that humanize some important aspect of our daily lives. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.
/fontfamily>THINKING FOR OURSELVES
Budgets and Nooses
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2007
The ink had barely dried on the presidential veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program when Bush announced he wanted an additional $46 billion to pay for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. This manipulation to prevent a discussion of national priorities is an outrage to democracy and democratic practices.
Bush chose to sacrifice the health of children rather than have an honest discussion of the nation’s priorities. In fact, Bush has never allowed funding for this war to be included in budget discussions.
This latest spending proposal brings the total current fiscal year request for war to $196.4 billion, the largest annual tally since Sept. 11, 2001. It would bring the total appropriated since then to more than $800 billion. At the current rate war appropriations could reach $1 trillion by the time Bush leaves office, a total that by some measures exceeds the cost of the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.
A Congressional Research Service report in July estimated that the total cost over the next 10 years could reach $1.45 trillion, even assuming the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is cut in half by 2013. The war is costing about $10 billion a month.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) derided the warfunding bill as an example of "misplaced priorities.” "For the cost of less than 40 days in Iraq,” she said, “we could provide health-care coverage to 10 million children for an entire year.”
Bush knows he can cower the Democrats by isolating the discussion to the old “support the troops” argument.
Most Americans oppose funding this war, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Just a quarter of those surveyed supported the president's full spending plan, and seven in 10 wanted it reduced. About 46 percent wanted it cut sharply or altogether.
This juxtaposition of priorities embodied in vetoing a bill to protect the health of our children while planning on expanding the war brings to mind the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in opposing the war of his generation. “Any nation, ” he said, “ that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
In making this statement Dr. King was talking about something more than the question of moving money around. He was calling our attention to what happens to a people who devote themselves to programs of death rather than polices of life. Such misplaced priorities erode our humanity.
The House Judiciary Committee hearings on the Jena 6 convened by John Conyers vividly reflected this erosion. Conyers said he wanted to talk about the “stain on our history of race relations, namely racial violence and hate crimes.”
Yet Conyers focused only on the nooses that hang from the trees. He was unwilling to follow the rope back to its anchor. That would lead him where it led Dr. King, to see that racism is inextricably entwined with militarism and materialism. King said:
“War is not the answer. We must not engage in a negative anti[terrorism], but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against[terrorism] is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of [terrorism] grows and develops.”
To follow the rope all the way back, Conyers would have to be willing to impeach the man who has made a mockery of our democracy. He would have to acknowledge that the noose in Jena is tied to a government that justifies any atrocity to protect its own power.