Archive for April, 2010

Migrant workers are all over the world, it is estimated that there are 185 million migrant workers spread around the world. The ones that get the most attention are in California, this is a controversial issue in this state, and every day they are denied more and more their basic human rights. In USA alone there are 10.8 million illegal migrant workers, that is 5.4 percent of the American workforce of 148 million. Out of these workers, 78 percent are Hispanic, most come from Mexico to work labour jobs (1 out of 5 work in construction, and 24 percent of the farming force is made of illegal migrants). If we consider these large numbers, migrant workers are a force in american economics, in 2004 there was a major government crackdown on illegal workers, 1 billion dollars were lost on neglected crops due to this fact. We must ask ourselves, what rights do these people have? Bills such as the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act are in place for protection, but without unions or strict oversight, their rights are often undermined. What often baffles me is that the majority of the farming industry uses illegal workers to tend to their crops, for example, 90 percent of the 950 apple growers in Michigan use illegal labour. Adam Ramirez, a retired mushroom worker, put it best:

“The farm worker is the most mistreated of all, yet it is the farm worker who feeds the world. No one else wants to do this work. Everyone needs us–the entire world needs farm workers.”

This is issue is even more relevant and important since the passing of the Arizona law against immigrants, this controversial law is meant to pass in either July or August, but people have not been quiet and have been protesting to demonstrate their opposition. This law would make it a crime under state law to be in the US illegally, it directs its law enforcement to question anyone about their immigration status is they may look like they would be illegal. There have been protests everyday since the passing of this controversial and blatantly racist bill, protesters used refried beans to smear swastikas on the state capitol. The protests are getting more and more heated everyday (unfortunately one protest did turn violent, some neo-nazi idiots showed up to protest illegal immigrants) and getting more attention from people around the country. President Obama is considering the legality of this new bill and its methods of racial profiling. He stated that he might have to intervene legally to overturn it, this is all depending on what will be concluded after they study the law.

I find it funny, the government wants to cut spending, but it is going to cost a lot of money to deport all illegal workers and to maintain the border to make sure that no one jumps the fence, so why not give them all amnesty and then at least they will pay taxes? I guess logic is not always the governments strong suit. Make sure to keep an eye on this issue, lets make sure that migrants have basic human rights at the very least. Stay informed and make sure to let everyone you know about this, knowledge is power and the more we now, the more we can make sure that every human being is treated as a human being. If you feel passionate about this you can also take action!

Take part : http://www.takepart.com/issues/migrant-workers-rights/33243

Fair Food Across Borders : http://fairfoodacrossborders.org/

Lets not forget that we showed up on boats about 400 years ago illegally, so who are we to judge and deny opportunity to other people? Like Propagandhi say “And we thought that Nation States were a bad idea?” and of course…. Fuck the Border!

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This week in Davis California two people were arrested for animal cruelty, it really troubled me to think that someone would torture innocent animals for no reason (I don’t think that there is ever a valid reason, one of the main reasons why I am vegan). This is the article that I came across:

DAVIS, Calif. — Two University of California, Davis students are facing charges after police say they tortured two hamsters with a cigarette lighter and posted a video of the incident on Facebook.
Campus police say 18-year-old Henry Nguyen and 19-year-old Josue Melendez were taken into custody Wednesday on suspicion of animal cruelty.
The two students allegedly battered and used the lighter to torture the hamsters.

One of the hamsters died, but the other recovered after being cared for at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
Police say the video posting led to the investigation of the two students.
Yolo County jail officials said Melendez was being held on $20,000 bail, while Nguyen was still in the process of being booked late Wednesday.

I find this so sad, that someone would do this to any living creature is beyond me. The kicker is that they even posted a video of themselves torturing these defenseless animals, what is the purpose of such an action? There are a lot of injustices in the world, but some of them are so easy to avoid if everyone would simply live a compassionate life towards all living creatures. Join me in spreading the word about this, there is a Nguyen tortures animals page on Facebook to help raise awareness, and also to make sure that he will be remembered for what he is, a coward. Lets look out for our furry friends, let us be their voice when injustice is done to them! Thank you for taking the time to tell people about this, also make sure that your state or province has animal cruelty laws that will properly punish people who decide to do such horrible acts towards animals.

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I woke up this morning thinking about Aung San Suu Kyi the Burmese people and their fight for freedom from an unjust violent military regime. Last year a documentary was released called Burma VJ where we were able to finally see what was happening in a closed country like Burma, it documents the monks (who are considered to be the moral authority) protest against this brutal regime. Here is the trailer to this movie and I hope that you will check it out, we must not be silent until Aung San Suu Kyi is released and that the people of Burma are free from fear and oppression. Help the Burma campaign and inform and educate your loved ones. The more pressure that we put, the better the hope that this will someday end!

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Hannah Arendt, a Jewish German political theorist is considered by some as a philosopher, but she refused the title because philosophy is concerned with the individual and not society as a whole, hence her self-appointed title of political theorist. Her works mainly deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, authority, and totalitarianism. Her works deal with the affirming the conception of freedom which is the synonymous with collective political action among equals. She is also the author of a very controversial text, Eichmann in Jerusalem: the banality of evil, where her own community treated her of being cold and unsympathetic towards the victims of the Holocaust. I find that her text took a lot of courage to write, especially to say that Eichmann’s evil was banal shortly after WWII was to guarantee to not be well received. She was very critical of the trials and the way that many Jewish leaders acted during the Holocaust (especially M.C. Rumkovsky) which is the basis of the animosity that grew between her and the Jewish community, and also by calling Eichmann’s evil banal. Her book as only been recently translated into Hebrew.

Arendt was in Jerusalem covering the trial for the New Yorker, it eventually evolved into the book that we now know, she coined the phrase the banality of evil to describe Eichmann. She raises the question of whether evil is radical or just a function of thoughtlessness – Eichmann’s tendency to simply follow orders and conform to mass opinion without critically thinking of the results of their actions or inactions. At the end of the book she does endorse the execution of Eichmann:

Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations — as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world — we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.

That same year she also published another controversial text, On Revolution, which was a study of  the two most famous revolutions of the 18th century. In this study she goes against the grain of Marxist and leftist thought by contending that the American Revolution was a successful revolution, and that the French Revolution was not.  Once the masses of France gained the sympathies of revolutionaries, the revolution turned away from the legal stability of constitional government and towards the lawlessness satisfaction of the constantly regenerating economic needs of these masses. Some saw this as anti-French sentiment after WWII, but this was not the goal and was a point that also echoed in the writings of Edmund Burke. Arendt argued that the revolutionary spirit that epitomized the American revolution did not persevere seeing as how most people do not have any role in politics except for voting. She does bring up Jefferson’s of dividing counties into townships, something similar to the soviets that was brought forth during the Russian revolution. Her interest in this “council system”, which was the only alternative to the state, is something that she continued exploring until her death in 1975.

It takes a lot of courage to stand by your ideas, no matter what your identity in society may be. All good ideas come with controversy, people do not like to question their identity and the role that they play in society. Thank you Arendt for making us question what makes a person and what political ideologies are we trapped in because of social convention.

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The Peacemaker Institute is a non-profit group that is doing incredible work around the world, they are training leaders for social change that is grounded in three tenets:

1- Not Knowing ~ letting go of our fixed ideas about ourselves, other, and the world.

2- Bearing Witness ~ this is a technique of learning to witness things as they are, including all forms of joy and suffering in the world.

3- Loving Action ~ compassionate and sustainable action that is grounded in not knowing and bearing witness.

The institute has different campaigns that help bring about social change, they also have a great training program for volunteers that want to bring this perspective and these techniques to their area. Path of Freedom is associated with the Prison Dharma Network, they work with people who are incarcerated in Colorado prisons as well with at-risk youth in schools. We are noticing that these types of campaigns are becoming more and more common in the North American prison system, the results also speak for themselves. Giving the tools to be able to not simply react to their emotions is extremely valuable for when they get out into the world again, and they are the people that need it the most. With the volunteering that I have done with meditation in prisons, I must admit that it is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever done.

There is also Bearing Witness to Genocide: Auschwitz and Rwanda, the website explains this program quite well : ” Based on our experience of working in prisons and jails, juvenile facilities and on the streets, our experience in facilitating transformational trainings and deep shadow* work, and our experience of bearing witness to genocide at Auschwitz-Birkenau and other concentration camps and genocide sites, we have developed a working hypothesis that the roots of most all the violence plaguing our world, from domestic violence, to urban crime, to religious and sectarian strife, to war and genocide, are the same — internalized trauma and shame resulting from child neglect, child abuse, poverty, systemic oppression, racism, structural violence and all the ways in which people, whether as children or adults, experience a lack of love, nurturing, inclusion, and empowerment. ”

Another campaign is Bearing Witness to Homelessness, where people participate in a street retreat, one is asked to practice on the streets and live like someone that is homeless. This project helps to experience a condition of life that millions of people are forced to live all over the world, it also helps to bring attention to a very deep and important problem that is happening everywhere but that is not so easy to solve. There are many roots and causes to this problem, lack of affordable housing, social and economic injustices, addiction and mental illness, war, racism, the drug ward, and the industrial prison complex.

They offer a lot of different training programs throughout the year, so if you feel like creating social change towards a more peaceful world, this organization might be able to help you out! This is very honourable work that must be encouraged, if you feel that you do not have the time to do social actions, a donation to a cause and organization like this is very appreciated by the people that need it the most! Like Fleet Maul has said during the Rwanda campaign (that is underway right now): ” What will it take for us to realize that violence, from domestic and street violence to war and genocide, is a worldwide epidemic, a virus being circulated in human culture by shamed-based education, poverty, oprression, racism, violence against women and children and all forms of violence? Can we mount a campaign to end or dramatically reduce violence, like our campaigns to erradicate polio and typhus?” Definitely food for thought!

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We all want to help when we witness a community or country devastated by natural disasters or civil wars and of course poverty, but which charity is actually the best one to support? We get bombarded by so many different ones when the event occurs that it is hard to know where our money will be best used. There is a great group out there, Give Well, that will help you decide where your dollar will be best used and where the highest percentage of your money will actually be given to the people in need and not stuck in administrative fees.

This site will help you see the top 10 charities in terms of change per dollar donated, helping you have the most power for your buck when it comes to helping improve the situation of a community/country after a disaster or to entice change in a society. The organization was started in 2006 by Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld, they wanted to help people find the best charities in their areas of interest.  They mostly concentrate on the following categories of impact: the development of world-health, developing world poverty, US early childhood care and education. They mostly encourage international-health causes, because the problems that must be addressed are much more straight-forward and very cheap. The main charities that are recommended by GiveWell are Partners in Health and Population Services International (PSI).

If you want to help by giving to a charity, but don’t really know who to support, this is a good start to help you see where your dollar will have the biggest impact in the cause that you choose to support. It is always important to do research when deciding to give to an organization, to make sure that you will support the work that they do and feel that your money is helping in the way that you see fit. We should never give blindly to any charitable organization, make sure that you know the facts about who you are supporting.

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Now that the dust has settle with all the Ann Coulter hoopla, there is an interesting issue that arose from this, are Canadians really allowed to speak freely? In an interview on CNN, the news anchor brought up the issue that a Canadian university was censoring Ms Coulter, because of the hate speech laws in Canada having criminal consequences. Americans are very proud of their first amendment right of freedom of speech, everyone is allowed to express themselves freely no matter the subject matter. In Canada however, there is a strict law that any speech that advocates genocide or incites hatred towards any identifiable minority will have criminal consequences. The law states :

In Canada, advocating genocide or inciting hatred[9] against any ‘identifiable group’ is an indictable offence under the Criminal Code of Canada with maximum terms of two to fourteen years. An ‘identifiable group’ is defined as ‘any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.’ It makes exceptions for cases of statements of truth, and subjects of public debate and religious doctrine. The landmark judicial decision on the constitutionality of this law was R. v. Keegstra (1990).

It is only normal that the university of Ottawa would warn Ms Coulter of this when she was planning to make a visit to the university. This seems even more well placed after the comments she had made at the University of Western Ontario in London about all Muslims being on the no-fly list, and when a student told her that unfortunately he did not have a magic carpet to fly on she told him to then take his camel to get around. Coulter took the letter from the university as her being the victim of a hate crime seeing as she was not able to exercise her basic right of free speech, something that a lot of far right pundits like to use to justify what they are doing but want to take away from anyone that is slightly left leaning. She said that she would file a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, she also went even further saying that if nothing would be done then the whole commission is a joke. With all this press surrounding her arrival in the capital city, and the hundreds of protestors waiting for her outside, the university decided to cancel the talk for fear that they did not have enough security to handle the crowd if it would ever get out of hand.

All of this obviously helped Coulter to go on an intense attack of Canada and its institutions of higher learning, stating that you would need a 0 IQ to get into the University of Ottawa, etc. Her next talk was scheduled talk in Canada was in Calgary (the capital of Canada’s Texas if you will), to which she got a standing ovation as she entered the theater. Reaffirming that people were still willing to see a political pundit that has spent a lot of her career insulting Canada and its citizens any chance that she got, and of course, always finishing with the treat of invasion by the USA someday. Of course she would not want to have us as citizens, and that is probably why it has not happened yet.

So, do Canadians have free speech? I find that we can still fight for social change or progress without attacking any specific group to help boost our image. I find that the hate speech law is something that should be in every country, it would help in the elimination of racism through stereotypes etc. A more civil and respectful world is what we should be striving for, no matter what your beliefs, respect is the basis of all human interactions.

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