Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Friday, April 20, 2007

A VERY DIFFERENT KOREAN DIES

This morning I received an email from Global Network member Sung-Hee Choi who lives in New York. She tells the story and reveals the suffering of another Korean man who has just died. His death will not make headlines in the U.S. media.


Recent days are very hard for many Koreans. Needless to say, the violence by a South Korean student in the United States, that sacrificed many precious lives is already unbearably sad.

But for me, today's Korean news of the death of a taxi driver, Heo Se-Wook, 53, who self- immolated himself as a protest against unjust FTA and US base expansion in Korea, on April 1 during the mass protest of Anti US-SK Free Trade Agreement in Seoul just makes me mute. I can hardly express this feeling. He just wakes up many Koreans including me.

He was a SPARK (Solidarity for Peace And Reunification of Korea) member. An introspective, calm but with the most integral personality, he was one of the rare examples of the organic intellectuals whose origin was desperately poor working class. Never having the chance of high education, he was always poor and desperate for making living.

His life was changed in 1994 when he saw a woman activist beaten by police during the protest for the poor in Korea. Since then, he began to study himself on social justice, knocking the doors of the activist organizations, always in agony for what he could do best for the people whom he loved.

The news of his death was known today. All the SPARK activists who were so loved by him and loved him so much are in deep unspeakable sorrow.

I tried to find a English summary of it in their website but quite understandably, they had no spare for it. I can only guess how his act and death was shock and sorrow for them . I feel it is my responsibility to let you know the news even if this is a humble summary.

You can see his photo and Korean web video (click on link in headline above). His name was Heo Se- Wook, born in 1953. He was the person who never abandoned his integrity. He will live forever in many Korean's heart.

Thanks very much.

Sung-Hee

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

POWER, FAME, WAR AND CONVERSION

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a bloc of 72 members of Congress led by California Reps. Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, have once again introduced their annual alternative budget that will get virtually no coverage in the mainstream media.

The CPC budget calls for an $86 billion cut in military spending and also calls for U.S. troops to be brought home from Iraq which would save us over $200 billion during the next two years.

Since we just had tax day in the U.S. we know the latest figures show that 51% of every tax dollar goes to the military (past and current Pentagon expenses). Human resources take 32%, general government costs 12%, and physical resources 5%.

Here in Maine our statewide share of the Iraq occupation is now $1.2 billion. That same amount of money could have provided 322,153 people in our state with health care. Quite a difference I'd say. (If you click on the link in the headline above you will be able to calculate your state's share of the war cost and get budget trade-off information from the National Priorities Project.) The peace movement needs to do more talking about how the money for militarism is leading to the disintegration of the human and physical infrastructure of America. People's programs are being defunded, roads and bridges are falling apart, community water systems are collapsing, etc...

I believe the plan is to dramatically lower the standard of living for the people in the U.S. We are not needed anymore except for "security export." We have superfluous populations today.

Cars and other products will be made in China. India will do certain things for the big corporations. On the story goes. So the last thing corporate globalization wants and needs is to have a well educated American people watching their nation collapse. Thus public education is being destroyed. Illiteracy in growing throughout the nation and a dumbed down public makes less demands on the corporate dominated government.

The top 1% of Americans, those with incomes in 2005 greater than $348,000, received the largest share of our nations income since 1928.

New figures reveal that the 300,000 Americans at the top of the pyramid now hold as much income as the 150 million Americans at the bottom. That is an oligarchy [a government which is in the hands of a few].

And when this is the case what jobs are their for working class kids? The military. Fighting endless war on behalf of corporate globalization.

In January I saw a story in USA Today called "The goal: Wealth and fame" about young people in America. The story said that 81% of 18-25 year-olds surveyed in a Pew Research Center poll said getting rich is their generation's most important or second-most-important life goal; 51% said the same about being famous.

The power of TV and other corporate media.

Robert Thompson, a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University, says "The way to distinguish ourselves is by our stuff. In some cultures, you're born into a caste. Here, you have to carve out your identity, and one of the most obvious ways to do that is to climb the ladder."

I've become aware that the "reality shows" on TV are all about teaching scarcity. Last one on the island wins. A whole lot of folks have got the clear message that it's every dog for themselves out there and you'd better grab all you can before the next person does. The idea of a cooperative sharing society is being killed in the minds and hearts of the people. And if you want to climb the ladder you'd better keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble. Thus participation in politics is drying up as people internalize the message. Corporate media has colonized the minds of the public.

As I see it we have basically one way out from this. That is to wake up from our militaristic slumbers and begin to take Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 warning to us seriously. Beware of the power of the military-industrial-congressional complex. That's where the money is and if we don't reorder things soon our society is going down the tubes fast.

The peace movement needs to quickly find a soft spot in their hearts, and on their agendas, for talking about the need to convert the military industrial complex. We need to begin talking more about the long-term military strategy of the Pentagon and their weapons corporation bosses which calls for endless war to grab the world's diminishing resources. We need to begin finding ways to help the public understand that disinvestment in America's infrastructure will lead to a collapsed economy and a desperate people. The third-worldization of America.

We have to create a debate in this country that surfaces the concept of coming scarcity and the growing economic divide. Working class people understand this as they lose their jobs and find it harder to pay rent and put food on the table. Right now they are left with TV entertainment to give them and their kids vapid dreams of wealth and power. We need to bring the truth home to the people that only the rich are benefiting today and that the children of the working/middle class have little to look forward except a tour in Iraq with the Army. We have to demythologize the warrior culture.

We have to begin to talk about the good things that could be done with our tax dollars if we convert the military industrial complex.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

WIND AND WATER AND THE PUDDING

We were supposed to do our sit-in today in Portland but this is a photo showing how the city looked yesterday. Here in Bath we did not see any flooding but our electricity was out for most of the day and night.

We heard that we had the equivalent of a category 1 hurricane here.

It would be hard to hand out leaflets on the street today, not that anyone would be walking around.

So we are going to have to reschedule. I'm sure Tom Allen's staff will be disappointed.

But don't worry folks, we'll be back to let the people of Portland know that our congressman continues to talk out of both sides of his mouth.

When the congressman says, "I voted against the invasion in 2002. I will vote now to end it by supporting the Iraq Accountability Act with its benchmarks and timetables for redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq."

He knows he is lying to the people. He knows this bill allows Bush to waive all the restrictions and timetables. Allen knows that he is voting to give Bush more money than he even requested for 2007. Allen knows full well that this occupation of Iraq is not going to end anytime soon.

My mother always told me, "The proof is in the pudding."

This pudding, that the Rep. Tom Allen is supporting, is a lie. We will continue to remind the public that our congressman says he is against the war but keeps enabling Bush. You can't have it both ways.