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Tag Archives: Social Responsibility

An open letter to Justin Trudeau:

Image result for Light Armoured Vehicles

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Why is our Canadian government, which represents all Canadian citizens to the world, still committed to sending billions of dollars worth of weaponized Light Armoured Vehicles to the morally bankrupt, terrorism exporting, Wahhabist regime in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, you inherited this appallingly brokered weapons sale from Crime Minister Harper but that should not be an excuse for us to forsake morality, neutrality as well as common sense and sensibility in the name of the almighty dollar. The LAVs in question are still under development so none have yet been shipped. i strongly urge you to uphold Canadian human rights policy, practice and law and deny export permits for arms sales to the misogynist, oppressive oligarchy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  If you do go ahead with this mephistophelian matter you can add Human Rights abuser to your CV when you’re looking for your next job.

Sincerely,

rob clément

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A while ago i posted a comment on the internet about Mark Boal’s recent Rolling Stone Kill Team article about a group of US troops in Afganistan who had started killing unarmed civilians for fun. i was appropriately appalled and expressed indignation in sufficient amounts to convey how i did not condone that type of killing.

However i really didn’t get it; i didn’t understand what made them do what they did. Recently i watch In the Valley of Elah. i was disturbed by the film and actually watched it twice over two days just to make sure i understood everything and the motivation of the soldier who killed his comrade in arms. Watching the movie and reflecting on it i was able to draw a link between the inhuman actions it portrayed and those discussed in the Rolling Stone article.  i was able to figure out how adults can be transformed into inhumane killing creatures. Their training has changed a lot over the years as Gwynne Dyer mentions in a recent comment piece in the Winnipeg Free Press. Soldiers are not trained to think, they are trained to kill, and to follow orders; without question.

The recent execution of Osama bin Laden is a case in point. we now know he was unarmed, that he apparently did not surrender but made a threatening gesture: perhaps a raised middle finger… What ever it was the Navy Seal with his finger on the trigger perceived it as a threat and waxed Osama. End of story. The training took over.

Somewhere along the line we have managed to forget “Thou shalt not kill”.

The one thing i am glad about is that i’ve managed to convince my oldest son that he has other career options aside from joining the Canadian Armed Forces. The last thing i want happening is he becoming another statistic in Afganistan.

From May 16th to 20th several thousand people in Australia will be trying to see if they can get by on $2 a day. For students it shouldn’t be too difficult as we are often on the financial fringes of society.

Sign up with Live Below The Line! i’ll be signing up and following from a distance as a distance ed student. This should be interesting. You’ll have to forgo those ridiculously expensive cups of joe at “Fivebucks”.  Have fun.

Following events in Libya from a distance and listening to the political discourse surrounding the dire situation one can only wonder, worry and pray that the remaining citizens of that country will soon be rid of their dictator. Recent statements from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN Security Council make it very clear that no real action will be taken aside from alternately verbally urging and condemning Loony Tunes Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi to stop killing his citizens.

Listening to political pundits discuss the situation via various media a theme has arisen repeatedly. Commentators suggest the UN is impotent. Obviously our UN representatives need to “man-up” and take some political viagra so that the UN can insert itself into this egregious situation. If they go in without Ghadaffi’s permission will it be political rape? i don’t think so. He and his son are the only ones still suffering from delusions of grandeur. The citzens of Libya will welcome UN peacekeepers with open arms.

Libya needs blue helmets. That is the real blue pill that needs to be prescribed for this situation. Our leaders need to take action before more of our Libyan brothers and sisters become statistics. You need to contact your politicians/leaders and the UN and implore them to take action before Ghadaffi’s crimes against humanity shred the Lions of Libya.

i read with interest that today is the United Nations World Day of Social Justice. How apropos especially given all the people around the world striving for social justice, freedom and dignity in their lives.

i’m really wondering at what point the international community steps up and takes action when a member state systematically denies civil rights to its citizens and how many people have to die in the streets of the world’s cities before politicians take note. Do we need situations reach  Darfur and Bosnia levels before we take action? Where is the international Peace Keeping community when supposed leaders of nations are hanging on to power by brazenly killing their populations (and blaming foreign agitators and journalists)?

i would sooner see blue helmeted UN peacekeepers in the streets than dead and dying.

The blood on the streets of Egyptian cities isn’t even dry yet the naysayers and doubting Thomases are already coming out of the wormwood. What Khalaf Al Habtoor’s op-ed piece in today’s Gulf News lacks in accuracy it gains in paranoid delusions.

Al Habtoor initially praises the “young, educated” people who started the ball rolling by calling for a public demonstration on January 25th. He fails to mention that Asmaa Mahfouz, the vlogger who originally posted the call to rise up, is currently under virtual house arrest having been warned that if she goes out she’ll be taken by security services. He also does not discuss that Wael Ghonim, the blogger who started the We are all Khaled Said facebook page, is currently being detained by secret police at and undisclosed location and is presumably being tortured.

Al Habtoor correctly states that Mubarak has “maintained stability” but he does not detail at what cost: hundreds, if not thousands, of political dissenters imprisoned; rampant corruption and a hugh disparity in income distribution. The climate for foreign investment he “cultivated” is one which investors knew they only had to pay a 20% cut to the powers that be.  Al Habtoor disingenuously claims that Mubarak wasn’t aware that those around him were enriching themselves. This is laughable. Recent conservative estimates put the value of his family’s wealth in land, investments and cash at over US$40 billion held in offshore holdings and secret accounts.

While he does detail the recent evidence of lawlessness in Egypt, Al Habtoor does not properly accredit it to Mubarak, a dictator clinging to power with the only tools he knows: police brutality and overt violence directed at peaceful demonstrators. That Mubarak withdrew police off the streets and simultaneously emptying four prisons is indisputable. At the same time bands of thugs (many with police identification or poor people who admitted to being paid the equivalent of US$75 by NDP party hacks) came on the scene and chaos erupted. This was not a coincidence.

It is also not a coincidence that the military were brought in once the police had been beaten off the streets. Unfortunately for Mubarak they lacked the stomach to do the dirty work that he wanted them to do. After several days of watching the protests, however, they effectively turned a blind eye and deaf ear on the NDP thugs and secret police who tried, once more, to defeat the citizens of Egypt and silence the journalists there to record history in the making.  This resulted in the over 48 hours of unparalleled bloodshed on the streets on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

Ridiculously Al Habtoor states that Mubarak “immediately responded to protestors demands”.  Either Al Habtoor has problems with short-term memory or he wasn’t watching events on the ground in Egypt over the past 13 days. Mubarak only spoke to the Egyptian people from the secure confines of his Presidential Palace on the morning of Day 5 of the popular uprising. By then the initial demands were a thing of the past. Having endured days of attacks by thousands state security police, countless rounds of tear-gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition the ante had been seriously upped: the Egyptian people demanded his immediate ouster. Al Habtoor claims Mubarak has fulfilled their demands. This simply is not the case. Changing one crew of thugs for another is hardly the sweeping constitutional and legal change that Egyptians are demanding. They want basics freedoms and dignity: the rights to assemble, freely associate and elect a democratically representative government. Under the current one party state and constitution they get no such guarantees.

Al Habtoor claims the youth uprising has been hijacked. He fails to flesh out his accusation with any names or substantiation. He insinuates that Islamic fundamentalists will be out to suborn what ever democracy comes out of the revolution. He states that the Muslim Brotherhood should be excluded from the political equation. He fails to realize that in a democracy everyone is equal: everyone has one vote. Halas.

Tellingly, Al Habtoor calls the ignition of democratic ideals in the MENA region a “contagion” and warns of it spreading. He then uses the royal “we” when discussing what he does and doesn’t want. One can’t be sure who he is referring to but it’s probably himself and the rest of the well heeled board members of the Al Habtoor Group since his essay was originally posted on his company’s website the day before being published in the Gulf News. i’m sure the spreading of democracy in the region’s collection of paternalist autocracies shakes the very foundations of their privileged positions.

At the end of the day what matters is not what Al Habtoor wants but what the people of Egypt want or don’t want. It is patently obvious that they want a new constitution, one that allows fundamental freedoms recorded in the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. The current Egyptian constitution needs to be torn up and a new one written. It is also patently obvious the Egyptian people do not want Mubarak. A return to stability will be best engendered by Mubarak’s immediate departure to one of his posh properties elsewhere in the world.

i was just contacted by a former colleague who asked why i hadn’t posted anything about the situation in the MENA region. This is my response:

Hi P,

the problem with blogging about it; state agencies can target you if you do:

https://www.eff.org/wp/surveillance-self-defense-international  

i know that in Syria and Iran the state has used blog and social media postings to target activists. So i’m trying to keep a bit of a low profile. i track my twitter feed and feel overwhelmed. 

security here is Oman is up: yesterday, for the first time ever i’ve seen, armed soldiers with fully automatic weapons in the guard towers around the Sultan’s farm that i cycle past every day… i wave and flash the peace sign, they wave back.
things are happening bizarrely quickly and won’t happen here or there in the UAE, count on it.
In Oman the Sultan is genuinely revered. In his 40 years in power, since he told his father to stay home, he’s single handedly brought Oman from a 3 primary school state to a nation which now has universal primary and secondary education. There are several public and private universities which Ss are able to attend many on full govt scholarships. About the only thing i hear Ss complain about is internet access: how expensive it is; how slow it is; and how VOIP services like Skype and Gtalk are all blocked. i’ve been trying to teach them how to use the internet to improve their writing and teaching skills and it’s been an uphill battle as getting a steady internet connection on campus is a daily struggle.
In the UAE, Emiratis make up only about 20% of the population; all the expats, from the lowly paid labourers to the fat-cat expat executives are all there for the pay check. They’re not about to rock the boat.  And virtually every Emirati family has at least one family member earning a fat government salary and perks like a free house when they marry another Emirati so they don’t have anything to gain by tipping over the canoe either.
Things i do know about what is currently happening in Egypt:
It is not Islamist in nature; the Muslim Brotherhood came to the party late and have been shouted down by crowds when they try and get people chanting their slogans. So the crap on Fox News by O’Reilly is a total paranoid appeal aimed at getting the rednecks in the Ozarks scared about the Islamic boogyman.
The looting, featured in western media reports: much of it is being carried out by “thugs” police officers dressed as civilians (who first attacked protesters) and prisoners released from prisons yesterday to sow chaos. People are defending themselves and their neighbourhoods with the help of some honest police and military.
The people that have the most to worry about by events in Egypt are the Israelis. If the protesters succeed the status quo that has kept the population of Gaza bottled up will be gone. It will be a whole new ball game.
What will happen next? As i write this it is apparent that the protesters are settling in for the duration, if need be. A general strike has been called and is happening; the Cairo Stock Exchange has been closed indefinitely. Men are taking the night shift, manning road blocks, protecting museums and neighbourhoods and in the public squares. Women have decided they will take the day shift while their men rest. Women are an integral part of this popular uprising, they want a real future for their children.
the best view of what’s happening i’ve read is by an Egyptian twitter friend:
i’ve a couple of colleagues living and working in Cairo and haven’t been able to get in touch with them since the internet was cut there. i hope and pray they are ok.
interesting that many of Egypt’s fat cats fled to Dubai yesterday. i can imagine the parking lot at the end of the runway is now crowded with their private jets.
i’ll leave you with this video:
stay well
pax et amare,
rob
On 30 January 2011 08:30, P wrote: 

Hi Rob,
i just checked your blog to see what you’ve to say about recent events in Egypt.  I was disappointed not to read a well articulated analysis.  K says you’ve been following events closely.  Hope you’re well,
P

Saw this very interesting TEDtalk today and was immediately drawn by Lesley Hazelton’s eloquence and the depth of her research.  http://bit.ly/hAQViu

then you’ll want to have a gander at Derek Bowers’s Portfolio.  Interesting public education campaign aimed at exposing the link between STIs/STDs and alcohol.

The following was recently posted on the TAP e-list. i thought it was too good not to pay it forward

Avatar, despite all the negative publicity, seems to be garnering some positive feedback. This could easily become a classroom activity:  Ask Ss to determine how many of their colleagues have seen Avatar… Ask them to ask each other how they interpret it?

  1. read the article
  2. which interpretation strikes a chord and why?
  3. elaborate in writing / pictures / multi-media…
  4. present to the class…

Check out the link, it’s amazing…

Salaam, Shalom, Paix, Peace, Pax,

rob

A Palestinian "Na'vi"

“Avatar” Director James Cameron may have been thinking about the US in Iraq, but apparently many Palestinians have adopted the movie as a metaphor for their cause. In a rather bizarre demonstration, people in the West Bank town of Bil’in have been dressing up as blue Na’vi to protest at the border barriers. The image is striking, gets media attention, and certainly exemplifies the power of popular film.

Here’s an interesting list of how “Avatar” has been interpreted around the world, from China to Bolivia to Russia: “Avatar: an all-purpose allegory

David Bedell

Kudos to David for posting this on the TEACHERS AGAINST PREJUDICE e-list.