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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.



  1. I have known you, rob, for decades, and your boycott of Nestle is what I salute! “Occupy My Mind” with the right values for the Earth, Cheers!

    • thanks Swee Hiang. Time passes but the problems seem to remain the same. Perhaps it’s time to make a more concerted effort?

  2. great post, rob! It’s good to get an insider perspective from where you are!
    I have to admit that I don’t specifically boycott companies but I just don’t buy from major corporations. As much as possible I buy small and local… and as you know, I eat vegetarian, too. How’s that going? If you’re ever looking for new recipes, check out Green Kitchen Stories. (just google them) They are vegan from Sweden and I’ve been following them for a couple of years now… but you must have some great local options in your area. I remember the humus and flat bread in Jordan mmmm

    • Hi Hillary, the vegetarian eating is going very well thank you. We had roasted vegie soup for dinner this evening and make our own humus. Kim has a great recipe for dhal curry. And we keep experimenting.
      i think boycotting is always an option. You’re lucky you live in a large city where you have options. we don’t really; very little locally grown produce (but we do buy it when it’s available.) Most everything is freighted in.

  3. Good for you. I’ve been against Nestle since I joined the La Leche League while pregnant with my first child. I didn’t know about Maggi, though. There’s another one for my list.

    • Yeah my older sister was a big breast-feeding activist; she and her fellow moms occupied a bank the day after the manager told her that her quietly breast-feeding her newborn daughter without exposing anything was anathema. i’ve actually seen the Nestle “nurses” at work when i was a Cuso volunteer in Malaysia.

  4. Reblogged this on marsk and commented:
    Since i was 16, i am now 60, i have tried to fight the big money, the way it has power on us all and it pollutes the world, keep on fighting. Occupy is a real good movement all over the world to show the moneymakers/bigspenders it has to change. If we wont change it, earthly power will and then most of us will not be here anymore. Nothing to sell or buy.Is that what u want? NO, SO GO FOR IT.

    • Thanks for reblogging. Pax et amare for 2012!

  5. 2011 was full of surprises for almost everyone! What happened in Oman was so unexpected. I never knew that money talks!! I was very sad while reading the article as I have always used some of the products you mention but never knew this information about them!!
    Mr. Rob, I wish to post this article in Sohar Horizon magazine !!! Let me know, if that’s possible 😛

    • Hi Kawkab, i don’t think my political rants are the thing of Sohar Horizon. However i would have no problem with you posting the last half of the blog posting about boycotting and being a conscientious consumer. i’d be happy to rework it a bit if you think it’s appropriate. OK or KO?

  6. I ran in the federal election in Canada last May for the Green party of Canada in the constuency of Welland. We appreciate the support immensely in whichever capacity you are able.
    And thank you for your excellent blog.

    • Hi Robin, first thanks for taking the time to read my blog. i’d really like to attend the GPC conference this summer but time, travel and $ will prevent me from doing so. Is there anyway someone like me, who is not a member of a riding association can participate albeit at a distance?

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