A Look Back

Reflections are, by definition, mediated by time. And so, as we reflect on 2007, it is only by viewing the whole that an impression of anticipation and potential seems to sit expectantly at the feet of the New Year.

Many events, people, ruminations, and frustrations have filled the pages of recycledminds over the past year. From the impact of global inequalities on health, food supply, and the environment, to uplifting and promising steps for the planet’s traditional and indigenous peoples, we have witnessed the recognition of Maya land rights, the indigenous-corporate battle in Peru, the impact of Wal-Mart on class in Mexico, and, most recently, the declaration of independence from the U.S. by the Lakotas. We have also tuned into what people are saying about this crazy world we live in, from the thought provoking messages of Terence McKenna, Sean Padraig Donahue, and Daniel Pinchbeck, to Subcomandante Marcos and Henry A. Giroux. Films such as The War on Democracy, The Story of Stuff, Czech Dream, and Sicko have laid bare the problems of governments and cultures run by corporations, and, in music, Mos Def’s “Tell the Truth” sang an anti-anthem of sorts for post-911 America. Our own, more internally focused musings have told stories of mourning and of uncertainty, but also of compassion, honesty, and fruitful exchanges.

What has been truly amazing is the sense of hope that pervades all these messages; the sense that change is not only necessary, but possible.

May optimism be fervent in the New Year!

Sir No Sir

Another film recommendation ::::: "Sir No Sir," which tells "tells the long suppressed story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam. This is the story of one of the most vibrant and widespread upheavals of the 1960’s- one that had a profound impact on American society yet has been virtually obliterated from the collective memory of that time."

The documentary is an interesting look at how history can be rewritten, at how ideologies are manufactured. By extension, it illuminates the U.S.'s current complacency.

The Story of Stuff

here's another interesting installment in our posts about consumption, globalization, and consumerism. the story of stuff tells a compelling story (from their website):
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
how do you consume?

Lakotas Declare Independence from the US!!

Somehow I missed this until today, and I'm sure many of you have as well. In an interesting development coming out of Native America, members of the Lakota tribe have declared their independence form the US, and have officially withdrawn from all treaties signed between the tribe and the US government. Leaders have gone to Washington DC to make the announcement, and lobby foreign embassy's for support. They have also renounced their US citizenship (by cutting up driver's licenses) and plan to take their efforts international. Reportedly, these actions were put in place based on the belief that the recent UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will offer legal and political support. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, and I'm wondering what it will take to get this on the nightly news! I will continue to post as I find out more, but you can start with checking out these sites and articles:
- from the AFP: Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse Break Away from US
- the Lakota Freedom Delegation website
- an article by Barbara Peterson: Lakota Secession: No Longer Tolerating Broken Promises

stay tuned...

GNN & the Rebel Communique

I came across this posting on GNN this morning, and thought they had some good article links to some under-publicized stories - it's called the Rebel Communique, and it looks like they do this type of thing on a fairly regular basis. Here's a sample of some of the stories they link:
- Families Pay as US Agents Under Attack Fire Tear Gas Into Mexico
- Once Volatile, Crossing Is Opening With a Whisper
- Slave Labour That Shames America
- Mexico Remembers 1997 Indian Massacre

plus there's more too...

Happy Solstice!!!

this year offers us all a full moon along with the longest night of the year...
may we all know new life in the days ahead...
may the world
a friendlier place
for all of the people
who share
this space...

Marcos and Global Decomposition

Although this video is not new, the more opportunities to view it, the better. So, at the risk of posting something some have already heard or seen, here is Subcomandante Marcos's (Delegado Cero) greeting to the Free Media Conference in New York.
I found this video (with the help of under-mind) when I was searching for something to show to one of my English classes, something that exemplified the idea of putting belief (writing) into action. Thoroughly disheartened by my students' apathy, I had also become disillusioned by their recognition and acceptance of the problems with popular media's world view. I never did get to show this video to them, and even if I did, I'm pretty sure they would have rejected it since it was coming from me, an authority figure.
In any case. Here are some highlights from Marcos's talk about the "global decomposition" taking place, the "attempt to eliminate that multitude of people who are not useful to the powerful":

"We have a choice: we can have a cynical attitude about the media to say that nothing can be done about the dollar power that creates itself in images, words, digital communications, and computer systems that invade our minds with 'world news' but with a perspective of the powerful, of how they think the world should look.
"We could say, well, 'that's the way it is' and do nothing.
"Or we can simply assume incredulity: we can say that the media giant is a total lie. We can ignore it and go about our lives.
"But there is a third option that is neither conformity nor skepticism: that is to construct a different way, to show the world what is really happening, to become interested in the truth of what happens to the people who inhabit this world."

...czech dream...

If you're interested in consumerism, capitalism, globalization, advertising, or any combination thereof, check out this documentary film out of the Czech Republic, chzech dream. The directors - two film students - decide to see how a western capitalist advertising campaign may affect the general public in the recently post-communist country. With funding through their university from the government, they released massive advertising in the forms of billboards, tv and radio promos, ads in the paper and magazines, and fliers - all for a store that didn't exist and never will. Perhaps not incidentally, the film/hoax was filmed/carried out as the country was being asked to vote on entrance into the European Union, and it brings up some interesting points in regards to how advertising is "used" on people... Check it out.

Introducing... the "I-RACK"

I never watch MAD TV, but a friend passed this along, and it is really quite funny. I think it will at least make you smile...


(i appologize for the formatting on this)
I Thought Dictators Couldn't Lose Elections!

December 3, 2007
By Carlos Martinez

Last night was a very tense evening for all in Venezuela, awaiting the final results of the referendum while varying rumors about the outcome came every few minutes with the only certainty being that the vote was closer than many expected. I was in front of Miraflores, the presidential palace, at the time the results were released. As one can imagine, there were many teary eyes and bowed heads in what was a particularly perplexing moment for a people not accustomed to losing for a very long time.

The image that appeared on the massive video screens in front of the palace immediately after the results were read was that of an unusually somber faced Chavez. What followed may have been even more unexpected for those in the opposition and weary of Chavez?s unrelenting bravado. In contrast to the lack of diplomacy that many now associate him with, Chavez went on to gracefully concede the election and congratulated his adversaries. This was especially significant considering the closeness of the margin, with 4,504,354 votes against, (50.70%) and 4,379,392, (49.29%) for the YES. Chavez went on to say that he was happy to see the election end peacefully.

While many in the progressive community have been trying to argue that democracy is in fact alive and well in Venezuela for so long now, it has been a difficult argument to maintain with Chavez always on the winning side. Certainly, Chavez?s concession of the vote and his request that those in favor of the SI recognize the results serves to delegitimize those that continue to call Chavez an "aspiring tyrant" as Donald Rumsfeld did in his editorial released yesterday entitled "The Smart Way to Beat Tyrants Like Chavez?"

The opposition response has been jubilant. The irony is thick considering what a response from the opposition might have looked like if the results were switched. There were reports that opposition groups were already found to be printing shirts reading "Fraud". Something that has been particularly interesting in the last few months has been to see the way the opposition has come to embrace the 1999 constitution as their own, adding to the irony, since many of these same people were vehemently opposed to the that constitution's passing.

However the opposition has also been forced to recognize that many people did in fact want to see the constitutional reforms pass, leading them towards a new rhetoric. Former Chavez ally, General Isaias Baduel, who came out against the reforms has emerged as a new leader amongst the opposition. Calling for national reconciliation yet continuing to champion inclusion of the popular sectors, he is essentially establishing a more moderate opposition pole. Meanwhile, Manuel Rosales, governor of Zulia State and losing candidate in the last presidential elections has said that he will support the creation of a "Social Fund for the Self-Employed", one of the articles proposed in the constitutional reform.


December has arrived and Venezuela basically closes down at this time of year. It will be an important time for reflection for those in support of the Bolivarian process. There are many reasons that one could offer to explain the outcome of this election. Many are pointing to the powerful disinformaton campaign launched by the opposition with heavy financial support from the United States. It is true that to a great degree the constitutional changes themselves were not actually voted on yesterday, but rather peopele's perceptions of the reform. Many did go to polls still believing that their children or their third car or their home could be taken away by the government, although in reality the constitution did not contain any such articles and actually reiterated its recognition of private property.

It is evident that many in the Chavista camp abstained from voting or actually voted against the referendum. It has been said that this outcome is not an indication of a growing opposition but rather reflects those who have traditionally been supportive of Chavez but remain tied to a
bureaucratic vision of governance and do not want their own power challenged. There has also been talk of disillusionment amongst the popular sectors, the poor and working class citizens who have been considered the real base of support for the Bolivarian Revolution. Partially this is seen
as a result of the effects of this bureaucratic class widely perceived as a primary cause for the continuing disfunction within the revolution. As I write this, a spontaneous concentration has formed outside of Miraflores Palace demanding a "house cleaning" to remove the corruption pervading the process.

Additionally, some believe that the way the constitutional reforms were proposed was not as inclusive as it should have been of these popular sectors. While this constitutional reform did receive a wide amount of consultation from a variety of social movements, there are some who believe that the participation was not profound enough for a country seeking to establish a radical model of democracy and whose citizens want to truly be at the forefront of change.

Regardless of what the actual reasons were for the outcome, those supporting more radical changes will undoubtedly be in a state of serious evaluation to try to figure out what this means for Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution. Chavez proclaimed in his concession speech "por ahora no pudimos", for now we could not, repeating the famous phrase he made in 1992 after his failed attempt at taking power through staging a military coup. Many are hopeful that this is another necessary step needed for the Bolivarian Revolution to evolve and deepen, possibly even beyond Chavez and with a greater focus on doing base building at the grassroots. Indeed many of the changes proposed did not need to be made through the process of a constitutional reform and many believe that the next steps needed to deepen the process such as the expansion of the communal councils, the acceleration of the land reform, and the growth of a grassroots economy really depend on the role that social movements play and how determined the government is in
supporting them.

Carlos Martinez
Global Exchange
Venezuela Program Operations Director