Saturday, April 05, 2008

Why Protecting the People of Darfur, Tibet & Burma is in Our Own Self-Interest; & What These Crises Tell Us about Our Own Slide into the Pit

Edvard Munch's The Scream

Pro-democracy activists continue to be attacked by thugs in Rangoon as Burmese authorities tighten control on opposition groups ahead of the constitutional referendum in May ... Tin Yu, a member of the NLD ... was attacked ... by thugs carrying batons as he walked home from a bus stop. He was admitted to hospital where he received 50 stitches in the face. Irawaddy, 4-4-08

Chinese paramilitary police killed eight people and wounded dozens more when they fired on a protest by several hundred Tibetan monks and villagers ... They searched the room of every monk, confiscating all mobile phones as well as the pictures. ...
When the officials had removed the photographs, a 74-year-old monk, identified as Cicheng Danzeng, tried to stop police from throwing the images on the ground ... A young man working in the monastery, Cicheng Pingcuo, 25, also made a stand and both were arrested. The team of officials then demanded that all the monks denounce the Dalai Lama ...
David Gray, Reuters, 4-5-08

Sudan's National Islamic Front regime has begun its sixth year of genocidal counterinsurgency warfare in the vast western region of Darfur ... Without significant improvement in security on the ground -- for civilians and the humanitarians upon whom they increasingly depend -- deaths in the coming months will reach a staggering total. What Khartoum was unable to accomplish with the massive violence of 2003-04, entailing wholesale destruction of African villages, will be achieved through a "genocide by attrition." Civilians displaced into camps or surviving precariously in rural areas will face unprecedented shortfalls in humanitarian assistance, primarily food and potable water. Eric Reeves, "Genocide by Attrition in Sudan", Washington Post, 4-6-08

Why Protecting the People of Darfur, Tibet & Burma is in Our Own Self-Interest; & What These Crises Tell Us about Our Own Slide into the Pit

By Richard Power

Can you still hear the terrified scream emanating from Munch's dried brushstrokes on that 19th century canvas? Or have you become too desensitized over these last few traumatic years?

Every day that you and I wake up fortunate enough to have our physical health relatively intact, and our freedom of speech and right of redress still alive, albeit under assault, we must endeavor to know, speak out and act.

What does the genocide in Darfur tell us about life in the West and the USA in particular? There are powerful messages for us.

What do the brutal crackdowns in Burma and Tibet tell us about democratic institutions in the West in general and the US in particular? There are powerful messages for us.

We are fat, insulated, morally immature, intellectually malnourished, lazy, distracted and misled; if it were not so, the US populace as a whole would demand more action from its government.

We do not understand that the people of Darfur are not only victims of the world's failure to enforce its own laws on crimes against humanity; they are also among the first victims of the world's monstrous, two-headed climate and sustainability crisis.

There is great self-interest in recognizing the urgent need to save Darfur; today it is Darfur, the day after tomorrow it could be the people of some region of the USA who are displaced by environmental or economic collapse, and/or natural disaster. And if we fail to rise to the challenge of helping Darfur now, why should anyone else rise to the challenge of helping us if (and probably when) our time of tribulation comes?

There is also great self-interest in recognizing the urgent need to stand up for the people of Burma and Tibet -- in meaningful ways; today it is their right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that is being savagely oppressed, the day after tomorrow it will be those of our own populations unless certain debilitating trends are reversed.

What does Darfur tell us about the deepening of poverty in the USA? What does it tell us about the assault on the economic rights of the the US middle class, and, in particular, about our health care crisis?

What do Burma and Tibet tell us about the sanctity and security of our own democratic process? What do they tell us about the malign power of monopolized news media as a propaganda tool? What do they tell us about what happens when governments become beholden to corporate power instead of "we, the people"?

We were once a people of incredible wealth and freedom. Today, much of our wealth has been looted and most of our freedoms are in serious jeopardy. We are sliding downward, and at the bottom of the slide is a place as desperate as any refugee camp in the Sudan.

The suffering in Darfur, Burma and Tibet are not only opportunities to act altruistically as defenders of the human race and its higher nature; they should also be understood as stark warnings about what are own future could look like if we fail to act both globally and locally in support of a 21st Century agenda:

Promote the health of democratic institutions, particularly secure voting processes and a free, independent press

Protect human rights, particularly those of women, children and indigenous peoples

Embrace sustainability, in particular, ending dependence on the burning of fossil fuels by adopting green-powered economic models.

Strengthen the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.

Meanwhile, the visionaries cry out like voices in the wilderness, and the dim-witted and malicious are rewarded with their own hour-long shows on cable news networks.

Consider these recent remarks by Ted Turner, who founded CNN way back when there was much more hope in the world and a much greater appreciation of the need for global action and global perspective. That was before he was forced out by other business interests, which in turn dumbed the network down, and swapped out its principled journalism for empty calories and corporatist water-carrying:

Unchecked global warming and an exploding population could result in cannibalism, controversial U.S. former media mogul Ted Turner says.
If global warming isn't stemmed, "we'll be 8 degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow," Turner said during PBS' "Charlie Rose."
"Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals," said Turner, 69. "Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state ... living conditions will be intolerable."
Population control can help combat global warming he said. People should voluntarily pledge to have only one or two children, the founder of CNN in Atlanta said.
"We're too many people; that's why we have global warming," he said.
UPI, 4-3-08

Now contrast Turner's compelling Jeremiah-like concern for the future of the planet with recent remarks of Glenn Beck, who personifies the post-Turner debasement of CNN:

Last night on his CNN Headline News show, right-wing pundit Glenn Beck hosted global warming skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). Beck allowed Inhofe to rant about how — with “all the liberals” running the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works — he was forced to sit through hearings on “that nice white fuzzy polar bear.” ... Beck then jumped in and claimed that, in fact, the extinction of polar bears may be a good thing:
They eat people! For the love of Pete, they’re big, angry bears. They eat people. Not that I say we go out and kill all of them, but I mean, it doesn’t seem to be a problem here. Senator, I can’t take the — I can’t take the lies anymore.
Think Progress, 4-4-08

Both Beck and Inhofe are just shamlessly shilling for the oil companies who want to drill where the ice is melting and do not want the possible extinction of the polar bear to get in their way. That is a simple, naked fact

And, yes, CNN is providing them the platform on which to shill. That too is a simple, naked fact.

Why is Beck on the air? He is not funny. He is not brilliant. He is not attractive. He is not even popular. So why is he on the air? Perhaps he is on the air because he dumbs down the audience, he numbs it, he eats up the time and fill the air waves with his demented rantings so that it is safe from real controversy, honest debate and vital information?

Spare yourself from Beck's nonsense, and spend some time instead reading Jan Egeland's A Billion Lives: An Eyewitness Report from the Frontlines of Humanity. It is an extraordinary offering, and it will give you a strong foundation on which to understand what must get done that is not getting done.

Here is some excerpts from a recent Democracy Now! interview with Egeland:

As former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the former UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland spent years working with the world’s neediest and in conflict zones including Darfur, Colombia, Gaza, Lebanon, Uganda, the Congo and Iraq. ... He now serves as the Director-General of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. He is the author of the new book A Billion Lives: An Eyewitness Report from the Frontlines of Humanity.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. What do you think is the single worst crisis right now in the world?
JAN EGELAND: Today, it’s—I would mention perhaps three. One is still eastern Congo, catastrophically neglected. It was the biggest loss of lives on our watch these last fifteen years: five million people died. Darfur has spread as a conflict and as a catastrophe to Chad and the Central African Republic. But certainly Iraq and Afghanistan is still unfolding as a hemorrhage of human life.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the catastrophe in the Congo—as you say, five million people since about 1998—why has there been so little attention by the rest of the world to this crisis? And where is it right now in terms of the possibility for people in the Congo to be able to resume relatively normal lives?
JAN EGELAND: Well, it was one of the biggest mysteries when I had this job as the Global Emergency Relief Coordinator that we could not get enough attention to Africa, in general, and especially not to French-speaking, Portuguese-speaking Africa. The Congo was an enormous war, an enormous catastrophe, and it didn’t reach even the lowest levels of attention. We did a survey in my office in the UN, and in—I think in 2003, when it was at its worst, there were like six items on main US and network news. There were 1,900 of the Michael Jackson case. And it was the biggest war of our time. ...

AMY GOODMAN: ... This, Jan Egeland, is what you had to say during your visit to the Congo in September of 2006.
JAN EGELAND: This is the epicenter, really, of the humanitarian tragedy of the Congo, perhaps the worst in the world for this last decade. These women and children have been abused, have been raped, have lost everything. Some humanitarian assistance is now coming for the first time to this area to really help them. Our hope is, from the UN, to massively increase assistance and, more than anything, help them provide the peace in this area so they can return to their fertile land.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Jan Egeland in 2006 in the Congo. You remember that moment?
JAN EGELAND: Yeah, I remember vividly. I was at the hospital called the Panzi Hospital, and around me were 1,200 physically and mentally destroyed women due to sexual violence. The sexual violence of the Congo, but also in other conflicts like in Darfur, in northern Uganda, is rampant, and it’s not reported on, really. Sexual abuse, mass rape of women, is not a side effect of war; it is the war. It is the way they destroy the social fabric of the people they want to fight.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to be done?
JAN EGELAND: Much more attention, but, number two, the leaders have to be held accountable. So I met with President Kabila of the Congo and said, “I know you cannot have a lot of courts set up in no time, but you could fire these generals, these governors, these political leaders, who let this happen on their watch.”
AMY GOODMAN: His response?
JAN EGELAND: His response was, “If I am elected, I will do that.” He was elected, and he didn’t do it.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the responsibility and the role of the Western powers in this, of France and Belgium, the United States and others, who have long had interests, especially in the mineral wealth of the Congo?
JAN EGELAND: Well, the history is as black as it can get for the European colonialists in the Congo, in Central Africa, as it is for the West, generally, in Africa, I would say. Now, I would give credit, actually, to the European Union and the United Nations, supported by the US, for the operation in the Congo, because there was little interest in it, there was little reporting, and still the UN force was built up, and it is—it’s bad now in Congo, but it is infinitely better than when I came on my first visit in 2003 and they were fighting all across this tremendous continent, which is Congo. Now, it is more confined to the eastern strip of the Kivu provinces. ...
AMY GOODMAN: What about the fact that the US has not signed on to the International Criminal Court?
JAN EGELAND: Well, it is puzzling to me, because the US has, through its history, been a leader in fighting for human rights. I mean, my constitution, the Norwegian one, was in a way patterned after your Declaration of Independence. And it is now strange that the US would not ratify several of these international agreements, which is to further the whole fight for human rights. And, of course, it’s a good thing that Milosevic of Yugoslavia is now facing justice, Charles Taylor of Liberia is facing justice, the genocide responsible of Rwanda are facing justice. Why not join it? I mean, it seems to be some irrational fear in Washington that the US will someday be having people facing that. Well, if you don’t do genocide, which I don’t think you will do, you will not have anybody facing it.
Democracy Now, 3-28-8

I encourage you to follow events in Darfur on Mia Farrow's site, it is the real-time journal of a humanitarian at work; the content is compelling, insightful and fiercely independent.

Click here to sign the TURN OFF/TUNE IN Pledge.

For a Words of Power Archive of posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

Here are other sites of importance:

Dream for Darfur

Enough: The Project to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Genocide Intervention Network

Divest for Darfur.

Save Darfur!

For a directory of Words of Power Human Rights Updates, click here.

For Words of Power's archive of posts on Corporate News Media Complicity, Power of Alternative Media, Propaganda & Freedom, click here.

Some Tibet-Related Posts

How About Making Hypocrisy An Olympic Competition?

Human Rights Update: H.H. Dalai Lama to the World -- "Please investigate ... cultural genocide is taking place"

Human Rights Update: H.H. Dalai Lama to the Chinese -- "address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people"

Global Press Freedom Update: China Tightens Screws on Press in Preparation for 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing; Take A Look At Your Future

Words of Power #29: The Dalai Lama and The Blade Runner, Spiritual Challenges of the 21st Century Security Crisis, Part III

GS(3) Thunderbolt: Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Forty-Eighth Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day

Words of Power #20: Cusco, Kyoto and The Yellow Sand Storm

Some Burma-Related Words of Power Posts

Burma Crisis Update: Non-Violent, Democratic Resistance of Burmese People Offers Stark Contrast to US Political Scene

Burma Crisis Update: Talk is Cheap, Business as Usual; On Martin Luther King Day -- Remember Aung San Suu Kyi

In Burma & Sudan, Business As Usual -- What Must & Can Be Done Now!

Burma Crisis Update 11-10-07: Amnesty International on "Grave & Ongoing Human Rights Violations"; Alternate Media Vital to Resistance

Burma Crisis Update: An Open Letter to the Executives of Chevron

Burma Crisis Update: Two Weeks Into the Crackdown, China Has Not Tempered the Thugocracy's Hand; Chevron Has Not Even Slapped Its Wrist

Human Rights Update 10-6-07: Chevron, Condoleeza Rice & the Burmese Thugocracy

Human Rights Update: Blackwater, Burma, Darfur & You

Human Rights Watch to Business: "Keeping quiet while monks & other peaceful protesters are murdered & jailed is not ... constructive engagement."

Human Rights Update: Blackwater, Burma, Darfur & You

Hard Rain Journal 9-27-07: Aung San Suu Kyi was Elected in 1990, Al Gore was Elected in 2000 -- Consider What Has Befallen Both Countries Since

For a directory of Words of Power Human Rights Updates, click here.

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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