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Overcoming Misunderstandings: What if there were more disabled leaders?

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My name is Msafiri Ngololo and I am from Tanzania. The desire to have a disabled leadership career led me to pursue a Disability, Design and Innovation masters course; in order to create change, influence inclusion in social policy, identify and remove the disabling barriers in my home country and Africa at large.

Msafiri in Tanzania - alongside his adapted motor chair

Disability is a wicked problem

As a proponent of inclusion and self-representation of people with disabilities I consider disability is a wicked problem (it is a problem which is seen with an eye of difficult or almost impossible to be solved); even a literal meaning of disability is “difficulty with ability”. That implies it is a challenge whose solution is hard, complex and does not have a straightforward answer in some situations and context as it is a cross-cutting issue.

To illustrate this wicked problem, I can refer to my country. Challenges of people with disabilities are discussed daily in different occasions among disabled individuals, the parents, the family, the community and the government.

Recently, the government decided to deal with the problem of street beggars; many of these beggars are people with disabilities (PWD). The aim of that exercise was to protect the interests of people with disabilities and improve their lives. The media showed how some non-disabled people have infiltrated themselves in the begging business with some bad intentions of using disabled individuals as instruments of collecting revenue for other people. It has been stated that, non-disabled individuals have been transferring people with disabilities from their rural settlements in various regions. They deceive, seduce and bring them to the city of Dar-es-Salaam, providing temporary shelter for people with disabilities in places like guest houses.

In the guest houses they are provided with shelter, food and an assistant person to help them in moving with their wheelchair around the city, they are subjected to involuntary begging on the streets to earn money. In this exercise, people with disabilities receive money from Samaritan people. The view of Samaritan majority is that they are giving their help of money to enable people with disabilities to survive and reduce life hardship. Contrary to that; “under the carpet” every day these agents of people with disabilities use disability as a ticket of earning income, as they take the given money for their personal gain. The money given is misused, such acts have been seen as an act of humiliating and violating rights of people with disabilities.

Despite the good intention of the exercise of the government to combat the problem of street beggars and protect the dignity of people with disabilities, the community is still left in a puzzle without answers to some issues. In my observation, it can be a useful idea if that exercise of protecting the dignity of people with disabilities is sustainable.

As I reflect, I noticed that the majority of the victims who were ensnared in the beggars’ exercise were carried on buses back to their original homes. When you look closely, the challenges which these disabled beggars observed and experienced in their own families are the ones which influenced many of them to accept the temptation to leave their homes.

In my view, the act of repatriating them is not a sustainable solution that gets to the root of the problem. It is still a wicked problem. Because, despite such initiatives still there are many unsolved challenges of infrastructure, lack of income, lack of employment, lack of business capital, poor access to education, transport and absence of assistive devices for people with disabilities. These need solution apart from and in addition to dealing with challenges of street beggars.

Alternative sustainable solutions include: developing technical colleges for people with disabilities, providing unconditional loans fund, improving infrastructure and considering education provisions for those children with multiple disabilities, using a human rights based approach. This will help many people gain skills, knowledge and income and become part of the citizen who participates in building the country economy. This can assist in proving wrong the negative community attitude towards disabilities. Implying that inclusion of persons with disabilities into leadership and all parts of society is a desirable and necessary societal task.

Benefits of disability leadership

Personally, I believe that people with disabilities are among those gifted with a wide range of talents and creativity. Despite being a group of people who have been exposed to a wide range of life’s struggles; they are people who are capable of solving some of the barriers they face. Therefore, the involvement of people with disabilities in leadership and development movements is of great importance. Though, society has been sceptical about people with disabilities, they believe PWDs cannot make a meaningful contribution. However, given the fact that, decisions made by the community and the government directly affect people with disabilities; it is necessary for them to be heard as they have the right to participate in leadership, activities and the conduct of society as a whole.

Therefore, people with disabilities deserve to appoint or elect their representatives in decision making bodies. They deserve to be represented with their fellow disabled leaders, as well as being educated, appointed or elected. Disabled leaders are not passive they are ACTIVE. They can ACT for visibility, development and welfare of the present and future generations of people with disabilities and the society in general.

Disability should not be used as an excuse to deprive disabled leadership. Individuals with disabilities deserve to represent themselves and participate in leadership, policies and development programs. Individuals or authority must remember that people with disabilities are people first, their disability does not define, nor does it limit their potential.

There have been many discussions around disabilities and leadership, dominated by a negative attitude about the capacity of people with disabilities and the possibility of involving them in leadership position. It is important to stress that having more disabled leaders is fundamental.

Disabled leadership is vital for enabling disabled people to be included in all aspects of life, and for guaranteeing their social participation. Disabled leaders can serve as a liaison with organizations and institutions providing services to people with disabilities. This can assist along the process, conveying message to development partners and policy makers.

Disabled leaders also can inspire others, including the parents of children with disability. This can motivate them to remove barriers facing their disabled children, and assist in maximizing their potential. Furthermore, it can help the community at large to realize that disability is not a tragedy, but it is a normal part of human diversity.

Although policies and laws for people with disabilities are in place in various countries, they often gather dust without practical action, while people with disabilities continue to suffer. Such challenges justify the importance of having disabled leaders. Our presence can assist in increasing, motivating and creating an enabling environment for inclusion, improving infrastructure that promotes equality for all.

Disabled leadership helps people with disabilities to be fully involved and their issues to be addressed at decision-making level. Disabled leaders contribute to changing perceptions, helping the community realize the importance of having unique perspectives. It enshrines the effective and meaningful participation of people with disabilities and helps in disabled people to express themselves, recognize need, articulate their perspectives, evaluate services and advocate for change and community awareness.

Leadership that includes people with disabilities is important; it helps in solving the problems of people with disabilities, including those problems related with outdated legislation, insufficient political representation or simply inadequate data. The involvement of people with disabilities and discussing issues of people with disabilities in various development forums makes it easier to identify the source, results and challenges they face and identification of their abilities.

Therefore, having disabled leaders, disproves this lie about disability. People with disability (regardless of their diversity) deserve to represent and speak for themselves, as other human beings, they possess their unique personal ideas, potentials, thoughts, feelings and contributions.

My Experience with disabled leadership in the UK and Tanzania

Travelling in the UK from a lower middle income country (LMIC) (where support for people with disabilities are either non-existent or very limited), I felt happy and at ease with the various disability support I observed and witnessed being made available in the UK. I consider that such a situation happened as a result of the presence of active law, and a system of representation of the welfare and well-being of people with disabilities.

I participated as disabled leader at my university, I observed and used different services smoothly, such as the provision of ramps in different bus and train stations for those who use wheelchair; the provision of lifts and accessible bathroom facilities across campus; accessible roadway and public places; availability of sign language services for the deaf in different occasions; and events.

Observed Problem in disabled leadership

Before embarking for this Disability, Design and Innovation course, I have spent more than seventeen years’ in Tanzania working with a community of people with disability (PWD’s). I did a lot of social activities around people with disability, that contributed to my understanding that people with disabilities are mistreated, despite a fact that they deserve to be treated with dignity.

In my experience, I have observed that the majority of people with disabilities are powerless. This is influenced further by poverty and lack of political will in some countries to recognize disability inclusion. People with disability are less understood and more vulnerable to experience discrimination than other groups.

Disability has always been considered a barrier to inclusion, causing many people to suffer not only because of their disability but also for social reasons. Negative attitudes limit their participation in society, and some government still do not consider inclusion of disabled leaders. This leads to the development of public policies and programs that are not responsive, not effective and contributes in hindering rights of people with disabilities.

Add to that, some people in the community are still not comfortable in their hearts about giving people with disabilities leadership opportunities, for example people with hearing and communication difficulties (Deaf) in Tanzania has never had a chance to act as representative in parliament since 1961 when the first government come into power up to the present fifth term government.

It is a good idea for every type of disability to have a representative in organs like parliament because the groups of people with disabilities are not homogeneous, they are heterogeneous. The act of having a representative with the same type of disability has its consequences; because the same person can become incapable of recognizing different needs and challenges of all groups of people with disabilities. Therefore, it is necessary to make a mandatory of constitutional leadership to the marginalized PWDs by having representatives in their five respective groups of DPOs. For instance, this can apply to those representatives with physical disabilities, albinism, blind, deaf and mental disabilities. This should be considered as a constitution or legal need as it is considered in special seats for women.

In other occasion, when seeking leadership opportunities; people with disabilities in general have been facing the challenges of corruption as they opt to compete for leadership. Sometimes, people with disabilities indicate a willingness to compete for position, but when they come with empty hand (no money), they are openly told that “an empty hand does not deserve to be given even a single vote.” In such a situation, they can decide to withdraw early in the competition because the majority experience poverty. In such way, they aware of the fact that they cannot go farther forward in the competition process. The only possibility of being representative has been through special seat which are very few and does not consider the different kind of disability.

Though, the challenges of lack of representation and funding do not only apply to people with disabilities; it affects a large number of people living in poverty. Nevertheless, various theoretical sources confirm a fact that that there is a strong link between poverty and disability. As a result, it has become rare to have a balanced representation of a group of people with disabilities in leadership due to the vicious cycle of poverty and disability and multiplicity of phenomena including disease, discrimination, conflict and civil strife. As a consequence of poverty and exclusion, many disabled people in LMIC remain less successful and less impactful as compared to non-disabled people.

In some instance disabled leaders are blamed for being selfish, it has been stated that once a person with disability gain a chance to get a leadership position, most of them tend to forget the group of people with disabilities. They fail to defend people with disabilities in different opportunities or advocacy. Others do not even set aside time to visit DPO to hear concerns of people with disabilities as they avoid to engage in DPO dispute resolution.

The future

Disabled leaders as other members of the community have a lot of talent and potential, but stigma can cover people’s eyes so they only see what is negative. From my experience, as a participant and observer in my country and abroad, I believe it would be helpful for stakeholders of people with disabilities to form a global DPO (Disabled Peoples Organisation) leaders network with a unified goal. This could assist in influencing governments to be inclusive through advocacy, lobbying and sharing best practice of disabled leaders globally.

In Tanzania the biggest priority is to have an enabling and better environment. Having such environment will enable a community of people with disabilities to participate in the life process, something that will enable us to excel in education, skills, work and life which are healthy and of quality in additional to active policies and legislations, I believe that will assist to overcome this challenge of mistreating the community of people with disabilities. Furthermore, there should be a good strategy of looking at all groups of people with disabilities in parliament representatives for instance. In the sense that people with disabilities are not homogenous, they are heterogeneous. They should be given opportunity to choose representative candidates according to their diversity groups of disabilities in their respective association of representation. Representation of people with disabilities themselves helps in identify their needs, articulate their perspectives and priority, evaluate services and advocate for change and contribute to raising community awareness.

 

 

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Ralph Nader: No to Nukes, Yes to Ketanji Brown Jackson

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Ralph welcomes nuclear weapons expert, MIT professor Theodore Postol, to give us his insights into the possibility and the ultimate consequences of Vladimir Putin employing tactical nuclear weapons in the Russian conflict with Ukraine. And our resident constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein, weighs in on the hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Plus, Ralph answers your questions about the latest Boeing crash and money in politics.

The Ralph Nader Radio Hour is a weekly talk show broadcast on the Pacifica Radio Network. Ralph Nader is joined by co-hosts Steve Skrovan and David Feldman for a lively informative hour of interviews with some of the nation’s most influential movers and shakers and thought-provoking discussions of the week’s news.

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Chuck W.

CHUCK W.: How to create the future when the world is upside down?

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It has been well over 70 years since the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Created by Eleanor Roosevelt and colleagues after the atrocities of WW2, it shows how we can govern through the Rule of Law instead of War.

Combined with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, It provides a roadmap of what we can do to enable a peaceful and healthier co-Existence.
But it takes more than just words. It takes action.

After ongoing failures at U.N. symposiums, this public health leader discusses ways to prevent continual crises from famine and climate catastrophe to violence and safeguarding public health and human rights.

How can we go from thinking about our own Nations to realizing that all decisions we make in one location affect and impact those living in another nation?

This lively discussion features Mobilized News’ Jeff Van Treese and The Other Chuck Woolery (not the TV guy) discussing what we as a society can, could, and must do to prevent ongoing crises.

Chuck Woolery (not the Game show host)

Chuck’s professional grassroots organizing and advocacy successes on global health issues led to his elected position on the respected Action Board of the American Public Health Association (membership of 120,000 US Health Professionals). Later he was then elected by his peers to Chair the United Nation’s Association Council of Organizations (over 110 US based NGOs representing a collective membership of over 25 million Americans). His focus has been connecting local and global issues to US national security interests and using non-partisan fundamental principles to advance public thinking and US policy on vital systems and structures essential to forming a more perfect union and sustainable environment.


Chuck credits much of his successes to his mother’s love, father’s violence, the study of Biology and wrestling (having qualified for the 1972 Olympic Trials only to find out he was seriously not qualified – but was honored to make it that far after a childhood of obesity and sloth.) “We are all”, he says “always wrestling with issues and concerns our entire life. Or we should be — given the persistent changes in our bodies and the world.” “Loving persistence” and “ruthless compassion” are two qualities his mentors offered him. Admittedly to his detriment he usually offers people what they need to know instead of what they want to hear. Chuck is an avid quote collector… one of his many favorites — “Science is my passion, politics my duty.” Thomas Jefferson

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A web of Life for ALL Life

Truths or Consequences

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The Age of Consequences of Systematic Failure: Our existing situations are not problems. They are Consequences

By Chuck Woolery, Former Chair, United Nations Assn., Council of Organizations (not the TV host!) and Steven Jay, Creative Director, Mobilized

“At the root cause of our problems is the failure to recognize that Independence is a man-made concept. The truth of our reality is that everything is connected to everything and therefore, everything impacts everything.  Every action impacts the whole. Mobilized is firmly rooted in this natural law.” –Chuck Woolery

Every day is a new story of systematic breakdown, of tragedy, a shooting, a broken system, the election of an incompetent sociopath, a social media fiasco, or media companies at war with each other.  It’s a constant struggle to keep up with it all.

We feel like screaming from the roof “What the F%&K is going on here?”   Or,   we can go down the rabbit hole and discover the root cause–the epicenter of most of our inherent, continual, and seemingly unsolvable problems.

What follows is a blog Mobilized released a few years earlier.  It is even more relevant now.  Some edits have been made and a few recently relevant events added.  Please share it with others if you find it useful


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The Age of Consequences of Systematic Failure: Our existing situations are not problems. They are Consequences

By Chuck Woolery, Former Chair, United Nations Assn., Council of Organizations (not the TV host!) and Steven Jay, Creative Director, Mobilized

Summary:  After the Great Depression and the end of WWII the general sense of the common good generated by these global calamities gradually disappeared from public discussion.  With the exception of some civil rights activities that did yield important civil progress things have gotten worse. And most agree, things are going to worsen more, before they get better.  This is an examination into why things have gotten worse. And how we must change to change things for the better.

America’s success in the world and our fear of Communism helped fuel individualism, greed, and selfishness (the illusion of individual separation from the whole). This largely un-examined mindset eclipsed the ‘united we stand’ American character. It was an aberration of logic, compassion, and empathy that basically steamrolled American politics into the train wreck we have today. Recently, technology greatly accelerated this dysfunctional trend.  A trend that had been well established by a largely unregulated capitalism system that had spread the dangerous meme of independence globally for the past few decades.

The tragic and lethal consequences are now around us everywhere in the US and abroad.  And instead of recognizing our collective mental flaw that got us here, and confronting it, many people have doubled down on their narratives.  They want to make American Great Again or finance a Green New Deal to bring back the comforts, prosperous conditions, and selfish culture that tragically nurtured our disconnect from reality. The fundamental truth that “United We Stand” – still stands. And divided we are going to fall.   This time it will be a hard fall. One we may not recover from.

  • Trump is not the problem. He’s a consequence. …
  • Climate change isn’t the problem. It’s a consequence.
  • Unprecedented obesity rates, opioid deaths, mass shootings, and suicides rates are not health emergencies. They are consequences.
  • Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water, Honeybees’ Colony Collapse Disorder, Florida’s red tide… these are not environmental problems. They’re consequences.
  • The continuing violence in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria are all consequences.
  • The Russian/Ukraine dilemma threatening nuclear Armageddon or the use of biological/chemical weapons with the potential to spark a hot World War III.
  • Radical extremism, WMD proliferation, and China/Russian cyber hacks are now top national security threats.  Again, consequences a poorly engineered global governance system.
  • Growing economic inequality, fake news, and loss of privacy are not dilemmas.

They are all consequences.

  • These, and most of the other problems we are now encountering at a breakneck pace in newspapers and in our lives are the inevitable consequences of our thinking and actions.  They were not however inevitable.

They are the result of our collective failure to do what we know is needed to prevent such problems.

“Human behavior is the greatest threat to human existence”  Dr. Monty G. Marshall

All Americans have solemnly pledged dozens, if not hundreds of times, “Liberty and Justice for all”. But our desire for comfort, wealth, distractions, popularity, and freedom comes with all too real life and death consequences.

Americans love freedom. It is all we really have.  But freedom also comes with consequences.   Some freedoms have arguably been worth the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives and trillions of our tax dollars. But it has been our overindulgence with freedom without the responsibility that is the fundamental cause of our (and the world’s) growing list of profoundly dangerous, destructive, unhealthy, increasingly lethal, and persistent consequences. Unsustainable consequences that were predictable and often warned about.  Costly consequences that were, and remain, related to a simple conceptual flaw within our mental calculations.

We believe and then act out of that belief that we are independent.  We are not.  Yet, as Americans, we reinforce that sentiment every 4th of July.   In reality, it is only a concept that doesn’t exist anywhere in the known universe.  And it has zero accurate applications here on earth.  Our Declaration of Independence should have been titled the Declaration of Political Separation.  Not as catchy!  But powerfully accurate.

It has been and remains our unyielding faith in, allegiance to, and reflexive defense of this flawed human principle that has mentally disconnected us from much of our personal, civil, environmental, social, health, and economic responsibilities. Like Neo in the Matrix, we all sense something isn’t right… but can’t see the truth;

Every aspect of our lives is dependent on other people, the environment, our nation’s laws, other nation’s laws, and most importantly, the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” which is expressed in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

“Everything is connected, everything is interdependent, so everything is vulnerable”… “this has to be a more than whole of government, a more than whole of nation [action]. It really has to be a global effort.”   CISA (the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) Director Jen Easterly  (Oct. 29, 2021)

The growing mass of undesirable consequences that threaten our freedom, security, and prosperity were as inevitable as they were unintentional. But they are only self-evident when we are honest with ourselves about reality.

Our Founding Fathers understood reality as “Truths to be Self-Evident” based on the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”. Their catastrophic error was failing to codify this wisdom into their new government blueprint — the U.S. Constitution. The consequence was a civil war that killed more Americans than all the wars our nation has fought in since then, combined. And some of those consequences remain with us today.

Far more Americans will die from preventable causes in the years ahead related to global factors SUCH AS terrorism, pandemics, climate change, wars, and poverty because the systems and structures that our Constitution protects today on both the national and international level still fail to codify the wisdom of “liberty and justice for all” in a world of irrefutable and irreversible interdependence.

Interdependence is accelerating due to the advances in technology that are accelerating exponentially.  During the same time, our government’s capacity for change (or adaptation to change) has virtually stopped.  And in some areas, it has actually reversed.

Even before Trump was elected a survey of US national security experts put our own nation’s “government dysfunction” as the second greatest threat to our national security.  Just behind terrorism.  It was higher than, China, Russia, Iran, N. Korea, and Climate Change.  Pandemics were not on the list.

The illusion of Independence underlies most of our short-term thinking, long-term planning, slow policymaking, and reactive actions.

We assume without question our personal, budgetary, institutional, and national independence. The endless war against terrorism (a tactic that cannot be defeated) has only accelerated our loss of freedoms (including privacy) and security. Our modern world of unprecedented and increasingly powerful, affordable, and ubiquitous technological capacity for WMD creation – and the increasing difficulty in accurately attributing the identity of the attacker, put everything increasingly at risk.

Imagine the loss of lives, freedom, and prosperity from a bioterrorist attack or global pandemic far worse than Covid19 or the 1918 Flu epidemic.  Unlike nuclear war, such a biosecurity threat is inevitable. Yet we remain lethally unprepared for a catastrophe that will NEGATIVELY affect every system and structure in our bodies, our homes, our economies, and the world.
We have based our policies on our illusion of independence – instead of obeying nature’s fundamental principles that are used in science and technology to engineering things that work like magic.  Medicine, instant global communications, electrical appliances, and tools that work to save and protect life, while making our lives more comfortable, profitable, and secure.

It is our flawed human assumption of independence that leads us to abuse or misuse many of these amazing science and technology tools — that results in the creation and exacerbation of many of our current health and environmental problems.  Sometimes with catastrophic results.  But easily preventable problems if we had followed the laws of nature and nature’s God.

If you doubt this read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution.  As you do, offer a school grade to each of the five clearly stated intentions to form “a more perfect Union.”

Then consider the fact that Abraham Lincoln wrote that our “Declaration of Independence” is our “Apple of Gold” and our “Constitution” is its ‘frame of silver’.  Yet our elected officials swear an oath to protect the Constitution believing without reservation that it will protect our freedoms and security.  How’s that working out?

Now imagine a government that is engineered on the fundamental principles offered in the Declaration of Independence. A government that … soundly embraces and promotes the responsibility of inclusion with ‘liberty and justice for all’, globally.


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Some have asserted that the primary fundamental principle in both the laws of nature and nature’s God is justice. Note that the foundation of every major religion is the Golden Rule.  To do unto others as you would have them do to you.   Anyone experiencing an injustice doesn’t need to be a religious believer to understand the supreme value of this.  Our US Justice Department offers two quotes engraved in its exterior’s stone.

“Justice is found in the rights bestowed by nature upon man. Liberty is maintained in security of justice.”    And,

“Justice is the great interest of man on earth. Wherever her temple stands, there is a foundation for social security, general happiness and the improvement and progress of our race.”

Yet our federal (and lower) systems and structures of justice are profoundly unjust. They are in fact “legal” systems in which it is better to be guilty and rich than innocent and poor. Many of our laws are simply unjust.   And unacceptable injustices can also be found in our nation’s economic, electoral, education, healthcare, agriculture, military, foreign policy, and intelligence systems.

Is it really any wonder that things don’t work, that Trump has so many followers, wars persist, the environment is trashed, and our society is ailing?

Every time I witness another failing in our nation, a phrase I heard last year comes to mind;  “How healthy can we be if we are well adjusted to a profoundly sick society?” We are afflicted with a societal mental illness;  Before Covid, the Surgeon General rated ‘loneliness” as our nation’s greatest health risk.   Our mind has the capacity to believe anything! Literally, anything. We don’t even do what we know we should.  The spread of fake news and conspiracy theories are just consequences of a flawed and sometimes corrupt government system.   This should all be stunningly clear…as with our inappropriate worship of independence and freedom without responsibility or virtue.

Again.  Every system and structure in our body, our house, our environment, and our world is interconnected and interdependent.  And all depend on the health and sustainable functioning of a just world order.   Our mind’s illusion of independence … disconnects us from our vital needs of love, a safe community, healthy food, and functional relationships.   These vital things we have largely taken for granted.  Thus we have insufficient respect for the natural systems that maintain our planet’s capacity for sustaining all life, human health, future prosperity, and ultimately our species survival.

There is no guarantee … our nation will last.

The Federalists worried that hostile nations could exploit any domestic divisions. George Washington warned in his farewell address that partisan “factions” could rip the country apart. James Madison feared that liberty could be lost by the “gradual and silent encroachments of those in power.” John Adams said, “There never was a democracy yet, that did not commit suicide”. But, many in our Republic praise democracy, and rightfully blame both parties that are dominating our flawed two-party system that persistently delivers the consequences we are suffering today.

Some are proposing the creation of a “People’s Party”.  This puts too much promise in the will of the masses.   It offers a platform based on creative progressive or conservative ideas that are often devoid of fundamental principles. In other words – they would be engineering a political party that relies on creative and popular proposals that could win a majority.  Yet completely incapable of transforming the profound flaws in our current system and structures at either the national or international levels.

FACT:  Earth has an expiration date. And we the American people (and probably most of humanity) still reflect the opinion offered in the second paragraph of their Declaration of Independence.   It states “accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.” That’s bad!

But the tragic news is that the suffering that’s coming in our age of Consequences may be so great that our species may expire long, long before Earth. Given the acceleration of technology (WMD proliferation and AI) already knocking on our door, the majority of Americans or others in the world may not even get the chance to suffer the full effects of climate change. Due to a multiplicity of factors, time is NOT on our side.

If you are seeking the most practical action to take, a ‘justice for all’ system it is obvious that it would not be welcomed immediately by most policymakers or political parties.  Such a goal would require the legal protection of inalienable human rights for all and our environment with the force of law (ie the Rule of Law:  laws made and enforced by a democratic process, applied equally to all, and only used to protect human rights and the environment.    The only other option is what we have now.  The law of force.   This is where the protection of national sovereignty is more important than protecting human rights or the environment.  The working definition of ‘national sovereignty (another human-created concept using international law as it exists today with the UN) is the right of any nation to do anything it wants, to anyone it wants, anytime it wants within its own borders.  And, if it has nuclear weapons, it can do these things anywhere it believes it can get away with it.  Again, this is what we have now.  An irresponsible and unaccountable use of force prioritizing national interests which tends to accelerate chaos.  Chaos that often leads to refugees, the loss of freedoms, lives, prosperity, and our planet’s vital life support system.

There is a third option.  It would require the funding of those rights by the force of political will.   President Roosevelt offered the basics in his four freedoms speech; freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and … fear.”  Eleanor Roosevelt led the passage of a detailed list known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Like our nation’s Bill of Rights on steroids- but with no means of government enforcement.   Seven decades ago (December 10, 1948) this Declaration was offered in the context of world security. Those who had experienced World War II, the holocaust, and a new weapon that could vaporize 100,000 people in a second understood the essentials of ‘justice for all’ and these fundamental human rights.  But the UN’s lack of democratic power left it useless in this context leaving states’ rights above human rights.  This structural flaw in the UN resembles the original flaw in the US Constitution that led to our catastrophic Civil War.

What are some of UDHRs rights intended as a foundation for peace?  Universal access to clean water, safe sanitation, adequate food, access to basic health services, basic education, and an equal opportunity to earn a living wage are good starters.

Fortuitously, the fastest, most affordable, practical, and effective means of maximizing this movement of ‘Liberty and Justice for all” (both here and abroad thus laying the foundation for maximizing humanity’s freedom and security globally) is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These have already been agreed on by every nation in 2015 to be achieved by the year 2030.

It’s obvious that we will not get an enforceable Global Bill of Rights any time soon. But we could virtually enforce most essential human rights by funding the SDGs. The growing array of global threats to our freedom and security demands that we do this as rapidly as possible.

WARNING!   We have been repeatedly warned of the consequences of failing in prioritizing this human security approach.

In 1980 a bipartisan Presidential Commission concluded  “In the final analysis, unless Americans — as citizens of an increasingly interdependent world — place far higher priority on overcoming world hunger, its effects will no longer remain remote or unfamiliar. Nor can we wait until we reach the brink of the precipice; the major actions required do not lend themselves to crisis planning, patchwork management, or emergency financing… The hour is late. Age-old forces of poverty, disease, inequity, and hunger continue to challenge the world. Our humanity demands that we act upon these challenges now…” Presidential Commission on World Hunger, 1980.

Its commissioners specifically warned …“The most potentially explosive force in the world today is the frustrated desire of poor people to attain a decent standard of living. The anger, despair, and often hatred that result represent real and persistent threats to international order… Neither the cost to national security of allowing malnutrition to spread nor the gain to be derived by a genuine effort to resolve the problem can be predicted or measured in any precise, mathematical way. Nor can monetary value be placed on avoiding the chaos that will ensue unless the United States and the rest of the world begin to develop a common institutional framework for meeting such other critical global threats… Calculable or not, however, this combination of problems now threatens the national security of all countries just as surely as advancing armies or nuclear arsenals.”

They also stated “that promoting economic development in general, and overcoming hunger in particular, are tasks far more critical to the U.S. national security than most policymakers acknowledge or even believe. Since the advent of nuclear weapons, most Americans have been conditioned to equate national security with the strength of strategic military forces. The Commission considers this prevailing belief to be a simplistic illusion. Armed might represents merely the physical aspect of national security. Military force is ultimately useless in the absence of the global security that only coordinated international progress toward social justice can bring.”

In 1990 the nations of the world (including the US) agreed on funding a less ambitious but measurable, achievable, and affordable goals for the year 2000.  This was World Summit for Children.  Even though all governments at the time signed a pledge to “make the resources available” to meet these goals, few were fully funded or achieved.

In 2000 another more ambitious set of “Millennium Development Goals” was set for the year 2015.  These were also shorted.  Contributing to the wars, terrorism, climate change, refugees, famines, revolutions, state failures, infectious diseases, international crime, and genocides we’ve seen around the world and hounding us today.  Not as separate issues!  But as interdependent consequence.

If we fail this time in achieving the SDGs the deteriorating global conditions may overwhelm any chance of us or our children setting things right.

The discouraging news would appear to be that achieving these 17 goals would cost trillions.  And especially after Covid’s systemic costs, most governments have no money to spare.

The exciting news is that they don’t need to.  Governments just need the political will to freeze and seize a good portion of the estimated $32 trillion dollars that has been stashed in offshore bank accounts for years.  Thousands of accounts obtained by kleptocrats (dictators), oligarchs (their cronies), criminal cartels (drugs, guns, sex, hackers), violent extremist groups (terrorists, white supremacists…), and the extreme wealthy (avoiding taxes).   Most of these ill-gotten gains…should have been going to basic government services.  Now they can be devoted to basic human rights and environmental protection.

The political will could be generated if the general public is aware that their nation’s security and cherished freedoms depend as much on meeting the SDGs as they do on more military spending or a new “Space Force”.

This level of political will in the US could be achieved by progressives working together. With their millions of members personally petitioning their own Members of Congress with loving persistence.  This strategy and daily tactic is infinitely more powerful than voting every 2 or 4 years, protesting, or counter-protesting. If the peace, environment, and economic/social justice movements and their thousands of organizations came together to focus on one piece of legislation on all 435 House members, 100 Senators, and anyone running for these offices, our currently dysfunctional Congress could finally prove useful.  And Americans would finally have a government of “We the people” “by the people, for the people” with “a new birth of freedom” with “liberty and justice for all” that “shall not perish from this earth.” 

In the long run (if we have one) it truly doesn’t matter who is in office or what party they represent.  If fundamental principles are codified into laws, budgets, and all government action we could have the world we know is possible.  On earth, as it is in heaven.  A sustainable global garden of eating.

Given the multiple threats we face as individuals, nations, and a species it must be clear that few threats can be stopped with military power.  And, many are exacerbated by its unprincipled use.

Our primary goal as voters and citizens must be to recognize our global interdependence as the human race and the profound value of ensuring “liberty and justice for all”.  Make it your personal goal to educate your policymakers on this fundamental reality and act as though your life and your children’s future freedoms and security depend on it.

Connect the dots (everything is connected). See the web of life (all systems and structures are interdependent). Work for justice (always and for all) …or prepare for the consequences (which will inevitably happen and be increasingly catastrophic).

Chuck Woolery, Former Chair, United Nations Association, Council of Organizations
Steven Jay, Founder and Creative Director, Mobilized.news

 


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Roses.

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America loves to think of itself as a rose, in bloom.  We trumpet our freedoms and strength as if they are bright red petals on a summer day.  It’s a damn shame though, that for most of the world, for 6 or 7 decades now, they look at us… and they only see the thorny stem.

It was merely August, 7 months ago, that I decried the pointless and fruitless war in Afghanistan.  It wasn’t ever necessary, was doomed to failure, and represented a complete failure by our leaders to learn any lessons from history.  

I am a pacifist.  War is not the answer, and we’ve had 15,000 years to figure that out.  Over and over again old grudges birthed new conflicts.  So I decry this stupid war as well, the one Putin has started because he has nearly completed looting his home nation of Russia and now needs new lands to loot.  It is a pattern seen over and over again, so the fact that he is the most successful mob boss in the history of the world should not blind us to the fact he is also just another tinpot dictator flailing about in an effort to preserve his gains.  

Those are points 1 and 2: war is bad, and this bum is pretty run of the mill.  Point 3 is less obvious, but the Ambassador from Kenya made it very well in his speech the other day: nurturing grudges from the past does no good, it’s better to look ahead and build a better future.  This is something that is still possible, even though it seems unlikely with tanks rolling into Ukraine.  

Point 4: it’s shockingly hypocritical how we have chosen to ignore so many other conflicts because this one feels ‘closer to home’ for our politicians.  Syria has been mired in a water war for 8 years at least, too bad for them.  Yemen has been trying to throw off the yoke of their Saudi neighbors, but gosh darn it Mohammed Bone Saw is our ally; so you Yemeni’s get to die.  Gosh darn it.  But oh look, Europe has gotten it’s feathers ruffled because 20 years ago a bunch of venal politicians lied to each other and now tempers have flared about it.

Point 5: We must go back to my very first statement: learning from history is a MUST.  We failed to do so in our last 4 wars – – and pretty thoroughly lost them all.  We failed to do so at the beginning of WWII, when we chose to let Spain fall to the Fascists, namely to some guy named Franco.

Not all of us, natch.  Many Americans rightly saw the looming threat, and formed the Lincoln Brigade.  They fought and bled and died alongside the Republicans in Spain.  They lost, but they were on the right side of history.  And so it is with point #5… we need to be on the right side of history here.  

For 9 decades, since fall of 1945, the entire planet has lived under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.  It has, to put it mildly, clouded our judgment.  Most folk have pretended since 1991 that the cloud had lifted, but of course nothing at all had changed.  And so now two very large armies are skirmishing in the winter mud outside of Kiev, and mothers across the planet are wondering how they will be able to shelter their children if fallout comes their way.  

It’s unfortunate that the Russian people are going to be victimized just as the Ukraine’s people are.  They didn’t want war.  But they are trapped under his murderous sway, just as with Stalin and Lenin before him.

Pete Seeger told us that even pacifists should defend their home if it was invaded.  For years I wrestled with that, I told myself that pacifism means nothing if it is not absolute.  Fact is Seeger was right.  And Putin isn’t just invading Ukraine.  He is laying the groundwork for another time of soviet-style darkness for the whole world.  

The rose that America deems itself to be cannot fail this time to prevent the rise of Putin-style Fascism.  It galls me to say it, but this time we must set aside points 1 through 4 because #5 outweighs them all.  This war was preventable, yet it is here, now.  We made a deal with Ukraine when they gave up their nukes, we promised to protect them.  Before all that we founded the United Nations and wrote the UN charter, which specifically demands action in defense of basic democracy and human rights.  For these reasons, and for the ideals that we clung to as we defeated Hitler, this madman must be stopped.  Don’t let Putin’s paid lackeys Carlson and Trump pull the wool over your eyes.  After all, they have labored for ages to undermine the ideals of freedom and democracy.  

So it comes to this: it’s time for the thorns.  

I’m appalled at myself to be calling for war.  So be it, the time for diplomacy came and went, regardless of how I felt about it.  

I am a pacifist, though I never have been much of one.  My hope now is that the Allies act swiftly, and fully.  Don’t ‘half-ass’ it like we did in Viet nam, Iraq, etc.  Make a plan and commit to it.  Make plans not just for the battles but also for their aftermath.  And do it now.  There should not need to be a Lincoln Brigade stood up this time, governments should take the initiative.

The lessons of the Nuremberg trials were stark, and clear, and demanded that we never forget why that war was fought.  Once again a madman seeks to enslave the world, starting with his next door neighbor.  This time we need to rise against the threat, early enough to prevent a global catastrophe.


https://youtu.be/zZXuuKwhVvI

This version of “Morning Dew” features the song’s author, Bonnie Dobson.  It also has a calmness to it that I appreciate, as an older dude.  Of course it’s the most famous anti-nuke song of all time, it has been covered by just about everybody.  I first heard it done by Blackfoot, their version is a barn-burner.  Nazareth, too, tore the walls down with their cover.  But I’m old.  And tired, and this version sums it up best.  No war, no nukes.  The endgame is too horrifying to contemplate.  


https://www.facebook.com/heathercoxrichardson/posts/497064328455471

 

“Rather than form nations that looked ever backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known,” Kimani said.

https://www.npr.org/2022/02/22/1082334172/kenya-security-council-russia?

 

https://truthout.org/articles/chomsky-outdated-us-cold-war-policy-worsens-ongoing-russia-ukraine-conflict/

 

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/02/ukraine-russia-invasion-putin-kyiv-interview.html

 

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christopherm51/ukraine-bomb-shelters-russia-attack-kyiv

 

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/44296/what-putins-options-in-ukraine-really-look-like

 

“People who place themselves in the camp of Vladimir Putin are not patriots, they aren’t America First, they aren’t Christians, and they aren’t pro-life.

They’re also not people who get to drape themselves in the flag, or invoke allegiance to this nation, or feign offense at kneeling football players, or spout some red, white, and blue nationalistic nonsense—because they never cared about any of it.” – John Pavlovitz

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2022/02/23/when-americans-support-murderous-foreign-dictators/?

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