Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Don't Forget, We Are Killing People.

The United Nations reports that at least 2,038 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first ten months of 2009.

"If President Bush was in Kindergarten, President Obama is in first grade, but nothing more than that."

(watch the interview)

SUNITA NARAIN: Ninety-two. I was in Berlin when the Berlin Mandate was set. That was ’95 when the Berlin Mandate was decided upon. I was in Kyoto when we talked about the Kyoto Protocol in end of 1997. And every conference had definitely difficulties. Definitely we’ve had difficulties between the North and the South. But I think the kind of distrust that you have at this meeting, the kind of bad organization that you have, the lack of process, the lack of transparency, the enormous effort there seems to be to somehow fix the deal—and that’s completely unacceptable. And I think, you know, if it’s the Danish government or if it’s the US government working with the Danish government, I think the only lesson to them is that they really cannot do this and get away.

Time. I think what is really being lost today is time. We know that climate change is urgent. We need to do something about it. We need to reduce the emissions that we have. And this conference was to come after two years of negotiations.

And yet, what you have at this conference is a complete breakdown, and it’s not because of the developing countries. It’s not because of India and China. That’s, you know, just hiding behind two countries. It’s very clear: it’s because the United States wants to dismantle the Kyoto Protocol. They want to dismantle the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is based on the notion of equity. They want to bring to—in fact, they want to replace it with a completely different multilateral system. So there is a breakdown here, and there are countries responsible for it, but my suspicion is, on Friday, when President Obama does descend to the city, the world media is going to blame the poor nations and not the rich nations.

Well, I think there’s both overt pressure and there is pressure from—you know, which is hidden pressure. When you look at—firstly, we need to understand what’s the deal that the rich nations want. The rich nations want a deal in which, without Kyoto, they have an agreement, which is based on pledge and review, a system in which every country, including the United States, puts up a number and says this is what they will do domestically. So there is no multilateral framework which will make every country agree to a certain target for reduction. And we know that the US has put on the table a very small number, three percent below 1990 levels, when it needs to cut 40 percent. That’s the deal they want.

To get that deal, there is enormous pressure. There is pressure on our governments to be able to agree, to sign on it. There is pressure on poorer nations with the offer of money to break them from the G-77. There is all kind of pressure. And my fear in this, as an environmentalist, is that what we are doing is really not good for climate change, because we are not working towards an effective agreement. We’re undermining a good agreement

How is the Obama administration different from the Bush administration, George W. Bush? Or is it?

SUNITA NARAIN: Well, I think if President Bush was in kindergarten, President Obama is in first grade, but nothing more than that. Well, it just means that President Bush didn’t understand—rejected the very notion of climate change for a long time. He also rejected the Kyoto Protocol. And he said that the US will do nothing about it. President Obama accepts that climate change is real, which is welcome, but he also rejects the Kyoto Protocol, and he also puts on the table a very weak target for his country to do. He has not shown leadership at the scale that is needed in the world. The world has a crisis, and we need leaders who can face up to that crisis. And as yet, President Obama has not shown that.


Change we can not beleive in.

Now that some time has past since Obama's election it is time we take a second-gander at the "change we believe in" and exam the caliber of this change. An inspection, even a general one, would bring to light the trivial nature of this change--or complete lack-there-of change--that electoral politics offers. We may then be humbled to realize and admit to ourselves that electoral politics are neither a viable tactic nor solution for the "change we want" and the issues we face.

The Flobots, a rock/hip-hop band from Colorado, published a series of cartoons regarding issue of their choosing. One cartoon titled "Vote for Change" was an attempt to empower folks to vote for the 2008 elections and to remind the masses that they have a voice through their vote. Now, this common and overused approach-rhetoric of change is a nice thought; but does little in the reality of change, not historically not currently.

Voting, in and of itself, is not a
negative or evil thing. The idea of voting is, in fact, a precious skeleton for a consensus democracy. The value of this realization and paradox is that our votes do matter, figuratively, but in the reality of the current political climate in the United States votes do not, actually, matter. It didn't matter in Copenhagen nor in Afghanistan, it did not matter in Health Care Reform nor in the Bail-Out. The avenue of voices, supposedly our ability to vote, is inexistent and thus voting is a voiceless endeavor; one that guarantees much of the same. The only votes that matter are the ones backed by bucks.

That said, I take offense to The Flobots cartoons touting voting as if it were the path to solution and holistic justice. There is a danger in thinking that voting matters, for it does nothing to challenge the power imbalance in the United States and breed contentment. (Bill Hicks offers some insight on this matter, please watch)

The Flobots, all in all, have some good undertones. The song "Same thing" that ironically gets at elements that were represented earlier:

Saying the same things over again
Repeatin’ the same slogans we don't know where we've been
We've been all over the globe on our government's funds
Leavin’ man, woman, and child dead bloody and numb
Saying the same things over again
Repeatin’ the same slogans we don't know where we've been
We've been overthrowing leaders with legitimate views
Democratically elected but we didn't approve....

the short-comings are disappointing in that even with this realization they and their listeners still seem, at least somewhat, fooled by the electoral process. The title of their album is "fight with tools" I hope that the band and their listeners pick better tools to fight with than the voting ballets. The current stakes are too grave, the power too imbalanced and the propaganda increasingly invasive, for us to think that voting and American politics will bring anything but the same status quo, not justice, not peace, not change. The idea of FIGHT WITH TOOLS is encouraging but we need to question what tools we are fighting with. The lyric that starts off "same thing" suggest a plotting of action" Somewhere between prayer and revolution, Between Jesus and Huey P. Newton". I would recommend considering a bit more Newton than Jesus style tactics, it is time for change it is time for us to get the power back, and not sit idly by. Singing peace songs and raising pickets’; while the world and its people are ripped apart and its people deemed second class citizens is not enough. Question your tactics. Feel the pressure. Challenge yourself. Challenge the Systems. Risk your comfort. Fight with Tools .No Justice No Peace.

National Day of action Against Electoral Politics.