by G.S. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
May 21, 2005
It’s true. Down a block and across the street is a market, El Mercado Sanchez Pasques, where I walk each morning when the air is still fresh from the night, before the near-tropical sun makes broad daylight fit only for mad dogs and Englishmen to venture outdoors. I go to buy fresh crusty rolls, pan amarillos, with insides that hang together tenaciously, like good sturdy Italian or peasant French bread, bread you can, after breaking the crust, tear and chew, immune to crumbling. Adjacent to Sanchez Pasques the yard of a kindergarden faces the street. It’s usually full of romping, jumping squealing pre-school-age children, still living in wonderful oblivion, joyously ignorant of the world of adult horrors they will learn about all too soon. It lifts my heart to hear and see the tumult in that yard. Oaxaca is awash with children — probably Mexico’s greatest harvest (el más grand cosecho mexicano). And they come in all colors — southern Mexico is mestizo to the hilt — and I love it, a slice of humanity.
Of course, the desirability of happy children isn’t an original idea. One of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met was a biologist and peacenik, George Wald. His guest lecture, “A better world for children” to my Science for Humane Survival class in 1993, when he was 86, was an unforgettable experience for me, and, I’m sure, for the students. Wald explained that he choose that title because he wanted something short enough to go on a button — buttons were in vogue — everyone, it seemed, was a walking propagandist with buttons proclaiming his or her favorite causes. It was not only short, but inclusive, he explained, because “a better world for children” meant a better world for everyone.
During the “first” Vietnam War (we’re now in the “second”) Wald gave a talk, “A generation in search of a future” which the Boston Globe printed in full with the following preface:
The crowd of 1200 at M.I.T.'s Kresge Auditorium [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] last Tuesday was shifting and restless when Harvard biologist George Wald rose to speak. Students and professors there as a part of the “Mar. 4 movement” protesting the misuse of science were disturbed at the lack of focus in the day's numerous panel discussions and speeches. The 1967 Nobel prize winner in physiology or medicine provided a focus. As in his popular lectures at Harvard, Wald talked extemporaneously, his head back, his eyes almost closed. His words had an electric effect. A hush fell over the audience, broken just once by sustained applause midway in the speech, and climaxed by a prolonged standing ovation at its conclusion. It may be the most important speech given in our time.
Wald’s 1969 talk , as reported in the Boston Globe, began:
“All of you know that in the last couple of years there has been student unrest breaking at times into violence in many parts of the world: in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico and needless to say, in many parts of this country. There has been a great deal of discussion as to what it all means. Perfectly clearly it means something different in Mexico from what it does in France, and something different in France from what it does in Tokyo, and something different in Tokyo from what it does in this country. Yet unless we are to assume that students have gone crazy all over the world, or that they have just decided that it's the thing to do, there must be some common meaning.
“I don't need to go so far afield to look for that meaning. I am a teacher, and at Harvard, I have a class of about 350 students — most of them freshmen and sophomores. Over these past few years I have felt increasingly that something is terribly wrong ? and this year ever so much more than last. Something has gone sour, in teaching and in learning. It's almost as though there were a widesread feeling that education has become irrelevant.
“A lecture is much more of a dialogue than many of you probably appreciate. As you lecture, you keep watching the faces; and information keeps coming back to you all the time. I began to feel, particularly this year, that I was missing much of what was coming back. I tried asking the students, but they didn't or couldn't help me very much.
“But I think I know what's the matter, even a little better than they do. I think that this whole generation of students is beset with a profound uneasiness. I don't think that they have yet quite defined its source, I think I understand the reasons for their uneasiness even better than they do. What is more, I share their uneasiness.
“What's bothering those students? Some of them tell you it's the Vietnam War. I think the Vietnam War is the most shameful episode in the whole of American history. The concept of War Crimes is an American invention. We've committed many War Crimes in Vietnam; but I'll tell you something interesting about that. We were committing War Crimes in World War II, even before Nuremberg trials were held and the principle of war crimes started. The saturation bombing of German cities was a War Crime and if we had lost the war, some of our leaders might have had to answer for it.
“I've gone through all of that history lately, and I find that there's a gimmick in it. It isn't written out, but I think we established it by precedent. That gimmick is that if one can allege that one is repelling or retaliating for an aggression ? after that everything goes. And you see we are living in a world in which all wars are wars of defense. All War Departments are now Defense Departments. This is all part of the double talk of our time. The aggressor is always on the other side. And I suppose this is why our ex-Secretary of State, Dean Rusk ? a man in whom repetition takes the place of reason, and stubbornness takes the place of character ? went to such pains to insist, as he still insists, that in Vietnam we are repelling an aggression. And if that's what we are doing ? so runs the doctrine ? anything goes. ...”
Most of what Wald said in that 1969 talk applies unaltered today. The problem is,
In the past few days I got notes from a couple of thoughtful correspondents, each remarking on his sense of inability to contribute significantly to the changes our society needs to make.
L Urban Kohler <email@example.com> wrote “... Few can persist against the powerful forces that seem determined to define reality for us. I know I've given up...” And a few days later, “...I am grateful for the efforts of yours that I am aware of and please make any suggestions you have for those of us who feel so powerless!” Urban is, more or less, a contemporary of mine.
A younger man, Manuel Garcia <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote (in an impersonal note) “... While I see little that I can do to affect the course of current events, I still often think of what I might do or suggest to nudge us all toward nirvana. Beyond this I say no more, I think I contribute more to world peace by day-dreaming about sports cars (e.g., Ferrari 206 SP) and playing piano (e.g., Mazurkas) than by hurling essays into cyberspace.”
To each of you, Urban and Manuel, and for everyone to whom this note finds its way, I have a suggestion. We need to overcome the hopelessness inspired by feeling that what we can do as individuals is futile. By building our network, literally by communicating with each other (not only by “hurling essays into cyberspace” but also, and maybe even more importantly on a one-to-one basis), by sharing information, encouraging each of us to do what we can to break the deadly grip of corporate and government-promulgated ideology and lies, we can help in the effort to liberate ourselves.
1. Look for sources of information that are not only honest but upbeat. For example, although I turn pretty regularly to the truthout website  because I’ve come to trust it, it can be quite depressing to read. I’d say it’s basically an honest liberal site whose coverage is heavily oriented towards events in and closely related to the U.S. So it’s main page is full of the never-ending machinations of the Republicans and Democrats.
2. Much more lively and radical is the Counterpunch site.Alexander Cockburn is fun all the way. He and co-editor Jeffrey St. Claire put up a fine selection of articles, most of them by other writers. A recent item of Cockburn’s celebrates the growing success of the non- I ought to say anti-corporate media in competing for the eyes and ears of Americans. Titled, “Join the 14 Per Cent Club! We Won!”, Cockburn writes, “a recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 45 percent of Americans believe little or nothing of what they read in their daily newspapers.
“When specific newspapers were mentioned, The [New York] Times fared about average, with 21 percent of readers believing all or most of what they read in The Times and 14 percent believing almost nothing. Chalk up another victory for the left. We've been at it for thirty years at least, saying that most things in The Times are distortions of reality or outright lies and here is a robust slice of the American people agreeing with us.” (emphasis added)
3. Another favorite site of mine is Narco News, with its focus on Latin America, where the movement against continued U.S. domination is steadily gaining clout. Al Giordano, who began it five years ago, is an inspiration − a real fighter for truth in reporting − he calls it authentic journalism − and ruthless in exposing the complicity of the corporate media in colluding with the government. His recent article (May 1) article "Democracy Triple Play: Ecuador to Mexico to the OAS − The Smackdown of Condoleezza’s Agenda Came on the Week of Her Latin American Tour"  is a real upper.
4. Each of us can, in one way or another, talk with other people, important in overcoming a sense of futility. I’ve been building up a list of people (now it’s at about 1200) to whom I send occasional messages, and, as much as I can, I try to respond to everyone who writes me. A message came today about an organized group that’s going to talk with churchgoers tomorrow in Phoenix, Arizona, about opposing the aggressions against Iraqis and the Palestinians, certainly an act of hope. Here’s the e-mail:
Subject: A Vigil for Peace in Phoenix on Sunday
Please join us on Sunday, May 22, on the Public streets at: 7:15 AM
CALVARY COMMUNITY CHURCH
VIGIL FOR PEACE WITH JUSTICE
Project Strait Gate held a vigil at this church 27 months ago. Only a few Americans had died in Iraq then, and the first tragic human bomber had yet to destroy himself and others with him. Now, $380 billion later, we have lost 1600 men, and Iraqi deaths number in the hundreds of thousands. We could have given $18,000 to every living Iraqi for the cost of our war upon them.
IT IS AGAIN TIME TO CALL THIS MEGA-CHURCH TO BE A PEACEMAKER
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS
* Please park your car off the church property and walk only on
sidewalks and right-of-ways.
A Devotional after the Vigil will be led by the sponsors.
Project Strait Gate
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