A lot happened in 2011. People around the world were affected to a greater or lesser degree by what occurred. i was struck by an, at times, overwhelming sense that i could not do anything to affect change or to help those working for change either here in Sohar, Oman or in the streets of the cities and towns around the world where people are trying to make a difference. In the end, i decided i could, in my small way, bear witness to what was happening and work towards small positive changes that i think i can impact. i would ask that you consider joining me in my New Year’s resolution.
Every year, Jamie Mackinnon, a friend from my Cuso Nigeria days sends out a “Noel News” missive. This year he opined,
“Historical analysis seems to show that, over the millennia (beginning with the rise of the state) and more so in recent decades, violence has been declining globally, and the dignity of the human individual (as seen through the prism of human rights) has been increasing.”
As i read that i reflected on 2011 and what i had witnessed either in real life or through the words and pictures of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. i decided i had to beg to differ with Jamie. i feel that violence is increasing, partly because, at 7 billion and counting, there are more of us human beings around and partly because we are becoming inured to violence, both casual and causal. Violent action and rhetoric are, it seems to me, constantly being ratcheted up in attempts to hold off change and secure the status quo.
Here in Sohar we experienced the worst aspects of the Arab Spring when a citizen was shot and killed as he photographed the nascent movement for change. my workplace was closed for a week while our students demonstrated for change.
In Cairo twitter friend Mona Eltahawy had her left arm and right hand broken by military security forces while they sexually assaulted her. Mona writes of her experience in detail here.
Also from Cairo came this graphic image of a woman being singled out for gross abuse by the military. She was in the streets demonstrating for an end to rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. If ever a picture told a thousand words this was that occasion. The full story behind the picture can be read here. What is not told is the story of the Coptic Christian who attempted to save this Muslim demonstrator from the beating she was getting. He ended up being shot in the knee for his efforts.
In North America the quotidian use of violence against peaceful, non-violent demonstrators is best summed up by this now infamous picture of one sworn to protect and serve disabusing all and sundry of his role in life. Violence has become banal and utilized indiscriminately by authorities around the world to either maintain their power or the status quo. TIME magazine’s Person Of The Year issue featured The Protester; very fitting but the cover story missed several important protest actions in the MENA region and elsewhere.
If one thing has become crystal clear it’s that money talks. The upcoming election in the USA is up for grabs to the highest bidder. Occupiers are slowly changing the focus away from the 1% who control the pocketbooks to the 99% who should be controlling the streets.
At this time and place in my life i’ve decided that i can best effect change by watching how i spend my money. Going out on the streets while i have four kids in school isn’t a good idea. i won’t be able to help them if i’m occupying the inside of a jail cell.
As my New Year’s resolution i’m revisiting and renewing several of my long-standing consumer boycotts:
Nestlé because they are still illegally promoting their infant formulas as better than mother’s milk. i’ve been boycotting Nestlé ever since i was working in Nigeria in the late ’70s and i heard of their deadly practice which actually leads to mothers in developing countries inadvertently killing their infants. Maggi is also a Nestlé subsidiary and should be avoided like the plague.
Union Carbide since 1985 because they still haven’t paid full reparations for the Bhopal disaster.
Shell Oil since 1988 when i first started buy petrol/gasoline for their ongoing lousy environmental record in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria.
i’ve been boycotting Kraft the longest, since 1973, when i attended a Perth County Conspiracy concert. Band members railed against this food processing behemoth which consistently twists the arms of its supplier farmers in its pursuit of profit. There are better quality foods from a host of other more socially responsibly producers.
McDonalds ever since i worked there in 1974. They serve a product; they do not serve food. Nutritional value? Forget it. Working there, behind the grill, was eye-opening and disgusting.
Just two days ago i decided to add Chik-fil-A when i discovered that they are promoting homophobia. Not that there is any chance of my ever darkening their doors as my wife Kim and i decided to become vegetarians over a year and a half ago. It was, plainly put, the right thing to do, for ourselves and the environment. Meat production utilizes far too much resources.
So while you may feel there is nothing you can do there is. Occupy your wallet, spend your money where it won’t hurt others. Support a political party or politician whose views you agree with. Late last year i finally became a registered member of a Canadian political party despite never being either able or allowed to engage in the Federal political process through the ballot box in my home and native land. i’m now a proud member of the Green Party of Canada and will do what i can, from a distance, to see that we gain more seats in Parliament.
Stephen Harpy, his policies and his politics are the greatest threat to the Canada that i knew and loved growing up in the ’50s and ’60s. So i’ll rage against him and his, in this blog, on twitter and on a ballot if i’m ever allowed to vote as a non-resident Canadian citizen.