Earth Pilgrim Satish Kumar at Navdanya. ~ Carrie Stiles

One of the greatest blessings of my life was studying with the visionary peace pilgrim Satish Kumar at Navdanya for the Earth University’s (Bija Vidyapeeth’s) remarkable Gandhi and Globalization Course. Satish Ji founded Schumacker College in Devon England. He became a walking Jain monk at the age of nine in Rajasthan. Satish Ji escaped to join the Gandhian movement and Vinoba Bhave, the leader of Gandhi’s Satyagraha truth force movement. In 1962 Kumar and his friend E P Menon undertook a peace pilgrimage walking from India to the four capitals of the nuclear world: Moscow, Paris, London and the U.S. and took no money on their walking voyage at the advice of their guru Vinoba Bhave.

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“This was Mahatma Gandhi’s idea, moving from ownership to relationship — seeing that land does not belong to us. We belong to the land. We are not the owners of the land. We are the friends of the land, like friends of the earth. The fundamental shift is in this consciousness that land does not belong to us, we belong to the land.” ~ Satish Kumar

Satish Kumar on Vinoba Bhave Talks on the Gita. 

Earth Pilgrim Satish Kumar on Civil Disobedience.

Earth Pilgrim Satish Kumar on Nonviolence at Navdanya.

Earth Pilgrim Satish Kumar on the trial of Mahatma Gandhi Ji.

Satish Kumar & Madhu on Nonviolent Thought at Navdanya 

Satish Kumar No Such Thing as Utopia.

Earth Pilgrim Satish Kumar on Binary Dualism at Navdanya. 

“We live under the power of Modern Consciousness, which means that we are obsessed with progress. Wherever you are is not good enough. We always want to achieve something, rather than experience something. The opposite of this is Spiritual Consciousness. By that I mean you find enchantment in every action you do, rather in just the results of your action. Spiritual Consciousness is not a particular religion but a way of being.”

~ Satish Kumar

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My Interview with the former Prime Minister of Tibet in Exile Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche. ~ Carrie Stiles

“We know that social structures kill and maim as surely as the bullet and the knife” ~ Hoivik

Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung first proposed the theory of Structural Violence (Barash & Webel, 2009).

Galtung defines violence as the avoidable disparity between the potential ability to fulfill basic needs and their actual fulfillment. Poverty and unjust socio-political and economic institutions, systems and structures harm, or kill people. Structural Violence is indirect, avoidable violence built into structures where there is unequal power and consequently unequal life chances. Structural Violence is an oppressive framework that operates through powerful associations, organizations and institutions that guarantees privilege amongst its leaders, prioritization of their political agenda, and an enforcement of their methods and ideologies.

 

“The identification of redressable injustice is not only what animates us to think about justice and injustice, it’s also central … to the theory of justice (p. VII) … The impossibility of remaining silent on a subject is an observation that can be made about many cases of injustice that move us to rage in a way that is hard for our language to capture. And yet any analysis of injustice would also demand clear articulation and reasoned scrutiny (p. 1)” ~ Amartya Sen

“As the twentieth century draws to a close, the world’s poor are the chief victims of Structural Violence – a violence which has thus far defied the analysis of many seeking to understand the nature and distribution of extreme suffering. Why might this be so? One answer is that the poor are not only more likely to suffer, they are also more likely to have their suffering silenced.” ~ Dr. Paul Farmer

Creating a system of accountability requires tracing experiences of suffering back to specific sources in a global context.

The basis of many social movements hinges on tracing Structural Violence back to a source and holding those sources accountable through creative, innovative methods. It is not that Structural Violence exists when things are not clear, but rather where there is complexity of social forces. The complexity of social forces must be rendered comprehensible for constructive Conflict Resolution to mitigate Structural Violence. It is the role of Conflict Resolution Practitioners and Scholars to better understand the subject-action-object relations to create the space necessary for constructive dialogue.

Elaborating a theory of Structural Violence demands that we design a system of accountability by mounting evidence rather than accepting the illusive character of suffering. The example of the Life Patent and Intellectual Property Rights Regimes over Plant Genetic Resources illuminates an example of the complex forces that converge to generate Structural Violence.

~ Carrie Stiles

 

Stand Up and Join the Global Uprising!

Standing up for social change requires the joining of hands in a collaborative enterprise.

The potential for peace blooms when we share a transformative vision, and actively build social justice in our communities, in tandem. The transformative vision I seek to share is embodied in World Pulse’s uprising of women around the world. These women join hands to project their voices above the apathetic cacophony of defeat.

Women like Achieng Beatrice Nas and her resilient peers in the Voices of Our Future Network have overcome unfathomable circumstances to act as leaders in the struggle for social justice and equality. Their journeys prompt us to inquire: how can we empower, and be empowered, to harmonize our voices and stand up for social change?

My circumstances in easy Portland, Oregon are less poignant. However, I seized the opportunity to answer the prompt and amplify my convictions by joining millions of people around the word as they Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The annual Stand Up campaign takes place over three days to provide a forum for civil society to demand global leaders uphold their international commitments to the MDGs and End Poverty by 2015. The eight MDGs include the following commitments: end poverty and extreme hunger, universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and to build a global partnership.

My collaborative vision for the Stand Up campaign manifested in the form of a participatory art festival.

I designed the event to engaged Portland State University‘s campus by tapping into Portland’s prolific reservoir of local artists. The unique event mobilized over three hundred people to participate as performing and visual artists, speakers, volunteers and spectators. I was proud to see Congressman David Wu as our opening speaker affirming his commitments to upholding the MDGs. Organizations such as Mercy Corps, Jubilee Oregon, Portland Area Global Aids Coalition and Bread for the World participated avidly in creating the event and spoke about the MDGs during the festival.

My transformative experience creating space for an alliance of peace builders proved that collaboration is the key to generating a global uprising. We can unite and fortify the ties that uplift social justice by building a dialogic alliance, that values diversity and people’s creative potential. Let us collectively amplifying our demands and participate in the global decision-making process.

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Fore more information about the Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty and for the MDGs please visit:

http://standagainstpoverty.org/suap/

Read more about Portland’s Stand Up Art Festival: http://jubileeusa.typepad.com/blog_the_debt/2008/10/portland-artists-lead-in-portlands-standup-event.html

 

Why The GMO Free Movement in Europe? ~ Carrie Stiles

artichoke1

“However one defines it, dialogue is a democratic method aimed at resolving problems  through mutual understanding and concessions, rather than through the unilateral imposition of one sides views and interests. For its part, democracy as a system of government is a framework for organized and continuous dialogue.”

– Lakhdar BrahimiFormer Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General 

The GMO free movement in Europe has mobilized diverse stakeholders to participate in regulating the biotechnology industry.

Yet, important stakeholders are marginalized globally by power imbalances in the international political dialogue over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Indigenous peoples and American Civil society has largely been excluded from participating in the global decision-making process on biotechnology.

European citizens have mobilized on a large scale since 1996 by insisting major food retailers maintain a GM-free policy, demanding respect for the precautionary principle in approving new GM crops and monitoring nations and companies for compliance with the moratorium.

Stakeholders have contributed to the democratic process by holding media-focused symbolic protests against genetic patents, lobbying all levels of government in support of a GM ban and challenging the scientific claims of private industry and government agencies.

European GMO free campaigns have dramatically influenced the biotechnology industry.

Societal demands have influenced governments in Europe to open up the decision-making process to the public. However, the mechanisms of greater participation have not been widely clarified and so participation is fragmentary.

Evaluations of participatory exercises have demonstrated that the actual impact on the decision-making process has been uneven. However, Germany is portrayed as an exemplary model of civic inclusion on biotechnology issues because of clearly defined participatory mechanisms and early engagement on GMOs.

Democratic legitimacy is enhanced when diverse constituencies are included in decentralized deliberations over biotechnology issues.

Many researchers identify a need for the development of social technologies for public participation in discussion, debate and policymaking to counteract marginalization.

Hindmarsh & Du Plessis emphasize the significance of pluralist, inclusive, transparent and accountable decision making in biocivic trends. Through comparative case studies they explore the tensions, needs and opportunities for greater biocivic participation in democratic decision-making. The researchers insist on inclusive public participation at all stages of policy, research, development, release, monitoring and mitigation of GMOs.

Future trajectories of new technologies may be more effectively mapped in terms of potential benefits and harms through early, or ‘upstream’, civil society participation in scientific discourse.

Hayden and Du Plessis (2007) predict innovations in “upstream”, or early public dialogue, will help avoid the pitfalls of the biotechnology industry for future developments. The researchers ask for studies to be conducted on which dialogue processes are most effective that involve a wider group of stakeholders and conceptualize new strategies of engagement.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaguely considers GMOs to be “substantially equivalent” without allowing labeling or providing a clear legislative definition for an evaluative mechanism.

Yet many active civil society groups in the United States, such as those in the National Organic Coalition, have raised concerns regarding the environmental, health and political risks of untested and unlabeled GE foods and crops.

The FDA’s unilateral decision making denies citizens a chance to engage in the democratic process.

As much as 45 percent of U.S. corn and 85 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered (The Center for Food Safety, 2010). Additionally, an estimated 70-75 percent of supermarket foods contain GE ingredients in the United States.

The direct impact of political mobilization on public opinion and corporations vary. However, it is the ability of citizens to influence legislation and policy that has widespread implications.

Interview with Vasavi Kiro, Save the Forest Trust.

The voices of indigenous people resonate with a vast reservoir of knowledge for how to live sustainably with the earth. Listening to these voices is necessary to restore ecological balance and irrigate a desolate democratic landscape.

The following interview with indigenous journalist, activist and seed keeper Vasavi Kiro tells the story of the Save the Forest Trust with the ‘Torang’ tribal rights and cultural center. The center is based in Kotari Village, Ranchi district in Jarkhand state.

Why is it important to save biodiversity and medicinal plants?

Biodiversity and medicinal plants are very useful and very important for human beings, particularly for women’s health. Now we have collected about two hundred species and medicinal plants. In Jharkhand state there are two thousand species: edible leaves, roots, plants, fruits, flowers, etc that we are collecting, preserving and promoting.

What is the Forest Trust?

I am the secretary of this organization with Dr. Ram Dayal Munda who is the vice chancellor of Ranchi University in the capital of Jharkhand. He is a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He is a world leader of indigenous groups.

Why did you get involved with the Forest Trust and how has it grown over time?

When I was in journalism and writing about tribal people and societies I became aware of the problems of: land alienation, degradation, displacement, ecological balance and climate change. Seven or eight years back I found that so many life saving medicinal plants are going to be extinct. In rural areas, remote areas, tribal people use medicinal plants for their treatment as a practice in day-to-day life for every kind of disease. They use medicinal plants in every village where there is a folk physician.

We started the ‘Save The Forest’ movement in 2001 in our state. Very recently we have started our seed bank. Dr. Vandana Shiva visited and inaugurated the seed bank. We have put the seeds in mud pots. In our tribal villages there are so many types of Paddy varieties. We have twenty kinds of traditional seeds. Not only related to rice, but with pulses, millet, flower and medicinal seeds.

We have twenty activists in one block of our movement. They are collecting seeds and putting them in my center in Kotari. In this place we are collecting seeds 40 kilometers away form our headquarters. It is a prominent place for Multi-National Corporations: the mining industry and industrial department. They want to get land and make huge investments for power plants and coal mining. This creates a very dangerous environment for these species and ecology.

What are the consequences of industrial development in Jharkhand?

In the 60s after Indian independence the first Prime Minister started the development process. With the model of the Tennessee Valley Authority he laid the first stone in the valley. Thousands of tribals were displaced and now they are struggling for their rehabilitation.

There is no rehab policy, only in draft form. In parliament the Resettlement and Rehabilitation policy has been introduced but not discussed. Nobody is interested. Our Jharkhand state government has made so many ‘memorandums of understanding’. Mysteriously, the government did not reveal the MOU between government and the capitalists. We know from various sources that ArcelorMittal, the largest steel giant in the world, wants 25,000 hectares of land to establish a steel plant in Ranchi and Khunti districts.

What issues are of primary concern for the Forest Trust?

We are focusing on the forest issue only. We are doing campaigning awareness programs. We are organizing village-to-village meetings, small meetings, rallies, seminars, and small workshops to tell people the forest is important for the people: not only for the tribal, but also for the planet.

How do the villagers experience the awareness programs?

Tribal and indigenous people’s lives are very much related with nature. Tribals have a symbiotic relationship with nature and the forest. It is easy for them to talk on the forest issue, they become thrilled. We had a tremendous kind of response. Never did they believe that these educated people cannot understand the forest. Educated people are not interested in the forest. We are educated, civilized people. We told them we are the most civilized people because we are promoting the environment for the people, for the planet for the tribal, for the women and for the children.

We collected 35 leaves, and these are the edible leaves. Due to these traditional fruits they are surviving. We ask them in our awareness meeting: what is meant by forest? Forest means: rich biodiversity, many varieties of trees, flower and plants. It should be a natural forest. Nature has given a gift.

What is the role of women in the movement?

We are situated in the dense forest. Women have their spiritual, social, economic, mental, psychological, medicinal connections all in the forest.

In India there is a funding agency that support us. It focuses on women and children to organize them and make them aware of ecological issues like biodiversity and traditional seeds. They want to empower women. In our Adivasi society the tradition is that women carry the culture and the whole family and whole human activity. If the woman is educated then the whole family can be educated- this kind of thinking is in our society. Women have indigenous knowledge and preserve so many things in her hut and her mind when she starts work on any issue, like this life saving medicinal plant.

Women in our society, in large numbers, go to the forest every day. This is their daily routine. Women in the forest have very good relationships. Where there is no forest women have so many health problems.

Why is it important to have dialogue between Adivasi and the government and corporate sector?

In the 21st century, we are living in a high-tech era, and people want to live with dignity. The tribal people and women want to believe in a dignified life. The way is to convince corporate sectors and to communicate our plans, our ideas, our views. For this we have to make a dialogue process. We want to sit and talk.

The corporate sector makes choices with selected people from civil society – they never talk to the effected people. They never talk to the suffering women, they never want to talk to the people who are involved in the movement: educating, struggling. We are running this kind of seed bank. They do not want to contact us, they do not want to dialogue with us.

ArcelorMittal, the largest steel giant in the world, came to Jharkhand area with his private plane from London and landed in our state. Mittal talked to the chief minister. The ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Unit’ organized a meeting with selected NGOs from civil society – but they never called the Tribals. They talked to the town people who do not know anything about the traditional way, the seed bank and traditional indigenous knowledge. They are serving in the university and they are running small NGOs based in the town areas.

We want to go into the dialogue process. We want to give our message of what we are thinking, and what we are thinking for the welfare of our country and the ecological balance. Because of the degradation of forest there is climate change. The NGOs are not concerned with the forest. Adivasi and indigenous people were not participating in the discussion.

We want to convince them that huge land, 25,000 hectares of land, is not necessary. There is no need to take too much land for this work. There is a barren land; you do not need forest land. You can take the barren land and establish your steel factory.

Dialogue will be in the welfare of the state and the human.

IMF director’s behavior goes unscrutinized

http://centre4conflictstudies.org/wanderingthoughts/

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), arguably the world’s most powerful institution, was recently arrested for sexually assaulting an African woman. French journalist Tristane Banon also accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape ten years ago. The irony is palpable. Yet, the news media and international community failed to address this grotesque manifestation of the misogyny endemic to the IMF’s hegemonic decision-making process. Strauss-Kahn’s absence was crudely depicted as an inconvenience to European economies.

Why has the behavior of the French politician gone publically unscrutinized in relation to the institution he represents? Many grassroots organizations, like Jubilee USA, feel that the IMF metaphorically rapes the developing world through Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) and International Debt relations. SAPs were impregnated in the global economic order through the Washington Consensus (1980-2009).

The Washington Consensus contained ten, standardized, neo-liberal economic prescriptions designed to promote ‘market-friendly’ economic policies in developing countries. Following the deregulation disaster that led to the global economic crisis the top-down Washington Consensus was replaced with the Seoul Consensus, which provides a larger role for state intervention. The Seoul Consensus is sensitized towards considering the needs of individual developing countries.

Yet, SAPs are still coercively imposed on poor countries through imbalanced debt-relations created by the granting of loans that promote the IMF’s agenda. In the IMF rich countries control how poor countries are allowed to prioritize their budget because of ‘conditionalities’ attached to loans and debt. Conditionalities enforce a free-market programs and policies such as the privatization of natural resources. Countries that fail to enact free-market policies are subject to punitive, fiscal sanctions. Despite the shift in politically correct rhetoric, codified in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, the IMF’s agenda and decision-making process is clearly structurally violent.

The direct violence perpetrated by Dominique Strauss-Kahn mirrors the structural violence inherent in the IMF’s misogynistic, hegemonic decision-making processes. These processes neglect and marginalize the needs of billions of impoverished people in the developing world. The courage of the African, immigrant victim to voice her experience of assault serves as a point of inspiration for marginalized communities who are the victims of natural resources privatization.

Note: The Guardian did point out an ironic element to this telling incident. The IMF seeks to reduce the rights of workers and weaken the power of unions because they are inefficient “labor market rigidities”. Ironically, the victim was protected by a union contract, which likely influenced her decision to press charges since she did not have to worry about losing her job.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/may/24/dominique-strauss-kahn-unions

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/17/nyregion/imf-chief-is-held-without-bail.html