Voices

Voices is open to all readers. Submissions should provide a thoughtful, well-articulated analysis or consideration of one or more PWPP articles in 350 words or less. Your article can support, reject, or provide alternative views of one or more aspects of a PWPP article or examine links between articles. Please begin by citing the article and keep in mind that your piece should be succinct and well-reasoned, with all claims reasonably substantiated. Within two weeks, PWPP will notify you whether it intends to publish your article. SUBMIT ARTICLE HERE


Articles

Name: James Patin
Institution: Clark University
Title: Who Really Teaches Children Violence
Date: August 24, 2015

In an article posted to pwpp.org on July 27, 2015, David Soleil, for Peace Voice, through Pace e Bene, argued that one of the ways in which violence is instilled in children is through the role models, super-heroes, and idealized figures that they encounter, as exampled by the toys that they play with. While Soleil makes a strong argument, and points out – quite correctly – that all superheroes and so many of the figures popularized in society use violence, whether for good or for bad, Soleil’s solution ultimately falls flat.

Soleil argues that in order to “take a stand for peace-making,” parents ought to discuss with their children how the actions of these popular figures compare to the belief systems of the family. There are numerous problems with this assertion, a few of which I will discuss here.

Firstly, when speaking of religion, we often consider childhood-indoctrination to be harmless. Yet, to truly be a belief personally held, free choice of acceptance is a prerequisite. By indoctrinating children from birth to believe in any certain faith-based, unverifiable system, that freedom of choice is inherently robbed, and belief becomes obedience, not love. When we create a culture of subservience to arbitrarily designated and circumscribed obedience-based beliefs, we cannot speak of a culture of peace, but at best, a culture of acquiescence to peace.

Next, one must also recognize that, while parents are a tremendous influence in a child’s life, humans are formed by the entirety of the culture around them, not just the parents. We must recognize, as Soleil fails to do, that the economic system of capitalism actively requires, promotes, instills, and encourages violence, not just through toys, but through every aspect of our culture, which emphasizes gender norms and roles, violently maintained, the oppression of the working class, violently maintained, and the supremacy of profit motive, violently maintained and carried out.

To build a culture of peace requires more than a conversation with our children. It takes active organization, systematic analysis, and thorough radicalization against the material and objective conditions which create and sustain our culture or violence.

Source of Article(s): http://www.pwpp.org/how-we-teach-children-violence/
 


Name: James Patin
Institution: Clark University
Title: AT&T-DIRECTV Merger Doesn’t Serve the Public Interest
Date: August 07, 2015

In its article posted to PWPP.org on July 22, 2015, Free Press calls out a proposed merger between AT&T and DIRECTV. The merger creates the largest television market base in the nation. There is a clear prospect that AT&T is now positioning itself in the television industry in the same vertical, anti-competitive, near monopolistic manner that led up to the original AT&T Corporation, which was so dominant in telecommunications, to be broken up in 1882 and to voluntarily break up again in 1995, when it held massive control in telecommunications, technology manufacturing, and computing. Even more troubling than this one repeat-offender corporation however, as Free Press points out, is the message that this merger sends to the rest of the market, and the lack of concern that it reveals on the part of the FCC for the consumers it is supposed to protect.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), headed by Tom Wheeler, has, according to the Free Press, “done many things to help consumers.” Tom Wheeler however, is the former President of the nation’s largest trade organization for the cable industry, and the former CEO of an international trade organization for the cellular and wireless communications industry. The very same organizations which he, as little as eleven years ago, headed, lobbied him hard for this merger. As Free Press points out, the merger which the FCC just approved will reduce competition in the TV industry and incentivize AT&T to decrease competition in the online video-streaming market. This merger also sends a message to the rest of the market that vertical integration is a profitable and acceptable way to crush competition.

The problem with all of this is that, when looked at as a bigger picture, the FCC, a federal organization to protect consumers, is granting a merger which would cut competition and harm consumers to an organization with a history of attempting to monopolize not once, but twice, all while the former head of a lobbyist firm tells us it is ok. This is a systematic problem which requires systematic answers. This is much bigger than AT&T.

Source of Article(s): http://www.pwpp.org/att-directv-merger-doesnt-serve-the-public-interest/
 


Name: James Patin
Institution: Clark University
Title: Open Communication Needed for Accountability, Not Secrecy
Date: July 24, 2015

An article by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism entitled “Chris Woods on CIA Accountability and US Drone Wars,” discusses a recent announcement by President Obama that control of all drone based operations would be transferred from the CIA to the Department of Defense’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). In it, journalist Chris Woods points out that this will not improve accountability for the US’ drone activities, since the CIA is required to report to the Senate about its activities, while there is no oversight process for JSOC. Woods goes on to argue that much of the public perception of drone warfare is shaped directly by the lack of reporting on the majority of US drone activities. The article displays that what is needed to hold the state accountable is open communication, so that opinion can be shaped accurately, and leaders held responsible democratically.

It is obvious that secrecy and open communication are opposites. It is no surprise then that secrecy does not belie accountability, much less democracy, since without a population aware of what its government is doing, democracy cannot hold the government accountable. By further shrouding the US drone programs in secrecy, Obama actually negates the possibility of accountability. If President Obama truly believes, as Woods does, “that drones can – if used properly – significantly reduce the risk to civilians on the battlefield,” then he ought to open the full records of the United States drone activity that could provide to the public accurate information about the types and results of all drone activities. If those, like Woods, who have access to this type of information side with Obama’s use of drones on “conventional battlefields, such as Afghanistan and Iraq,” then perhaps the public would as well.

Instead, President Obama has chosen to further bury this information, leaving the public skeptical of the opinions of Woods and the President. As the government increases its knowledge of its citizens, we are told that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. What then, does the President have to fear?

Article(s) under consideration: Chris Woods on CIA Accountability and US Drone Wars
Source of Article(s): http://www.pwpp.org/chris-woods-on-cia-accountability-and-us-drone-wars/

 


Name: James Patin
Institution: Clark University
Title: Lessons for Nepal Should be Heard in the United States
Date: July 01, 2015

In its article, “Reform the Police, Rather than Outsource Policing,” the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) makes the argument that a recent proposal to allow a paramilitary organization, the Armed Police Force (APF), would be in direct opposition to both law and human rights, and is driven by the pursuit of profit. In a time in the United States when the structural racism and classism of the criminal justice system have been forced into the spotlight, the United States could do well to pay attention to the AHRC’s warning.

Unfortunately, many voices within the U.S. fall victim to the same false logics as those in Nepal. For instance, in his article “Prevent Tragic Police and Citizen Encounters,” Bobby Vassar, J.D. argues that instead of focusing our efforts on reforming the criminal justice system, “it would be better … to prevent the need for a response in the first place.” While, to his credit, Vassar does argue “we should do BOTH (emphasis in original) [ensure a proper response and prevent incidences],” he focuses his argumentation on the prevention of incidents between at risk youth and police. He argues that this will greatly reduce the number of tragic incidents, and seemingly as important, save money.

Vassar fails to see that it is not the victims who must be held responsible for preventing police brutality. Vassar states that “when an innocent citizen is confronted by hostile police behavior, prevention may be irrelevant,” yet fails to recognize that many cases, such as the youth of McKenny, Texas, Freddie Grey, or Michael Brown are innocent. Just as in Nepal, “If the idea were to address delays in the justice process, Nepal would need to reform the police,” if Americans want to prevent tragic police and citizen encounters, it is the system which must be changed, not citizens. Americans, like Nepalis, should learn from the AHRC that paramilitary forces (which American police resemble more closely than civilian forces) are counter to Human Rights, and that reforms motivated by money, which represent “self-interested games of power and pelf [are] essentially against the citizen.”

Article(s) under consideration: Reform the Police, Rather than Outsource Policing; Prevent Tragic Police and Citizen Encounters
Source of Article(s): http://www.pwpp.org/reform-the-police-rather-than-outsource-policing/ ; http://www.pwpp.org/prevent-tragic-police-and-citizen-encounters/ ; http://www.cato.org/pubs/briefs/bp-050es.html

 


Author: Molly Kellman
Institution: Clark University
Title: Alternatives-To-Incarceration (ATI) Programs Aim To Reduce Over-Reliance On Prisons/Jails
Date: July 01, 2015

In a recent PWPP article, Fortune Society describes its Alternatives-to-Incarceration program, aimed to reduce the American justice system’s reliance on prisons and jails. The program works with various members within the judicial system on both sides of the prosecution to develop a more productive solution to an infraction rather than jail time. By engaging the defendant in life-building programs such as counseling, employment, education, housing and family and health services, Fortune Society may be able to help reduce the near 500% increase in incarcerated citizens since 1980.

The disproportionate number of incarcerated people of color only propagates racist beliefs and stereotypes, which we may hope to invalidate by giving citizens usable life skills instead of separating them from society. After being released, convicts often commit more crimes as a result of their unchanged social and economic circumstances. In this way, the ATI program offers a constructive process of rehabilitation to both would-be incarcerated citizens, as well as our society as a whole.

As promising as the ATI program seems, I have to wonder what will make it different from other programs of its kind. The article describes how participants receive these alternatives in exchange for their admittance of guilt, but there isn’t a lot of information about how participants are chosen or the severity of the crime they committed. However, the article’s focus on race makes me think that the program is aimed to change society’s prejudices and perception of the typical inmate.

Article under consideration: Alternatives to Incarceration Program: Giving Individuals a Second Chance
Source of Article(s): Fortune Society

 


Name: James Patin
Institution: Clark University
Title: A New Frontier, a New Method
Date: June 10, 2015

On May 16, 2015, Basil Fernando delivered the keynote address at the Fifth Human Rights Cities Forum for the Special Session on Asian Human Rights. The speech was recorded in an article from the Asian Human Rights Commission entitled ASIA: “We need a new frontier in the human rights field. This frontier is the frontier of institutional reform.” Fernando’s speech contains an analysis and method of building the movement for human rights that is rich, storied, and effective, even if he does not know it.

Despite the fact that Basil Fernando would appear to be disconnected from the strong Trotskyist history of his native Sri Lanka, his speech is overlaid with the transitional method of organizing that Trotsky and the Fourth International espoused . This method of agitation, education, and organization begins with demands to end the most immediate and pressing concerns of the working class, and through series of campaigns and victories, seeks to increase their consciousness and change the system of capitalism itself. Though Fernando does not point out capitalism as the root of Asia’s Human Rights issues, he does point out that the structure of the governance around the region is the issue.

The transitional program is explicitly socialist, and so never can be perfectly transposed to other forms of organizing. Due to its close alignment however, Basil’s method represents the strongest strand of activism for human rights in Asia.

http://www.pwpp.org/a-new-frontier-for-human-rights-in-asia/
http://www.marxist.net/trotsky/programme/index.html

 


Author: James Patin
Institution: Clark University
Title: Real Change Needed in Wake of Torture Report
Date: May 28, 2015

As pointed out in a PWPP posting from Citizens for a Global Solution — “The US and Torture: What Now?[1]” — the United States, through agencies like the CIA, has frequently committed human rights abuses against those it believes may have intelligence information. Although Citizens for a Global Solution outlines some of these abuses, and some ways to overcome the legal obstacles to achieving justice, they stop short of calling for meaningful administrative or policy changes.

Although the President claims that “One of the things that sets us apart from other countries is that when we make mistakes, we admit them,[2]” United States history shows otherwise. Reports have revealed the inhumanity of the U.S. torture and interrogation practices, as well as significant information on the injustice of drone strikes, immigration facilities, and the criminal justice system. These reports have time and again stirred up controversy, especially those documents which were revealed without government permission. Yet instead of “[admitting] them,” the United States has attempted to prosecute whistle-blowers such as Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Thus, based on Citizens for a Global Solution work, we must not only suggest punitive measures against specific low-level individuals following the Torture Report. In order for human rights abuses to be stopped, the United States must not only admit its mistakes; it must end its policies which cloak its military arms in secrecy, which treat civilians abroad and at home as military combatants, which prioritize the profits of war industry over the lives of human beings, and which place the interest of oil elites above the lives of millions of people around the world.

Citizens for a Global Solution have analyzed the torture report beautifully, and showed how the government’s actions are illegal. However the elites who are invested in these practices and the precedents they set will never end them. Learning from what Citizens for a Global Solution has done then, we must do more than just talk. We must build a mass movement to revolutionize our political and economic system so that human rights can be preserved, true democracy can be implemented, and the interests of the people, not the elites can be served.

[1] http://www.pwpp.org/the-us-and-torture-what-now/
[2] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obama-on-cia-torture-report-when-we-make-mistakes-we-admit-them/

 


Author: Molly Kellman
Institution: Clark University
Title: Sexual Torture is an Institutionalized Practice
Date: April 30, 2015

In a recent PWPP article, The Latin American Press highlights the widespread and fully entrenched practice of sexual violence and human rights violations by Mexican government authorities against accused citizens, both male and female. The article goes on to describe the “Breaking the Silence, Together Against Sexual Torture” campaign that was launched on May 5th, 2014, by 11 female survivors of sexual torture in San Salvador Atenco. This campaign works to end the practice of using sexual violence and torture to coerce innocent citizens into taking the fall for drug trafficking, and for punishing social activism, among other things. The article describes the case of Claudia Medina Tamariz, a Mexican natural products saleswoman who was tortured and wrongly forced to admit to belonging to the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel. The article also explains the cases of women who were arrested during a social activism operation in San Salvador Atenco, and were subjected to sexual torture by police during their transfer to prison. Many people have been forced to confess to crimes they did not commit through electric shock, asphyxiation, sexual torture, and threats against their families. While sexual torture can be used against both men and women, the sexual torture of women always has misogynistic undertones ingrained in police, military, and naval officers, which calls into question the subjugation of women specifically.

Many states surrounding San Salvador Atenco are not supportive and ultimately oppressive towards victims of sexual torture. While several cases of violence by police and the Mexican Navy are undergoing investigation, many states claim that they have not received any complaints. This raises doubt about the conditions of women in these states, and their ability to report any violations of their rights. There are several other states that have recorded a total of 112 cases, but have made no convictions. By carrying the stigma of rape openly and exposing their sexuality, the victims of sexual violence have the potential to inspire the reclamation of their bodies, sexuality and dignity. However, ending such established practices of sexual violence will need a catalyst of widespread public recognition and serious outcry that will lead to policy change.

 


Author: Steven Isaacson
Institution: Clark University
Title: Dugongs in Okinawa
Date: April 23, 2015

In the recent article from Earthjustice, “Coalition Argues To Save Species from U.S. Expansion in Japan,” we are told that “Okinawa dugongs can only live in shallow waters and are at high risk of going extinct” from the Center for Biological Diversity’s Peter Galvin. In order to continue the construction of a U.S. military airstrip in Okinawa, Japan, the habitat of a vital symbol of Japanese pride and culture, an animal that has said to carry the gods, must be shattered. The way of life found in Okinawa will be forever disrupted.

As specified by Dennis Normile of Science Insider, “[Dugong] populations have been decimated by hinting, habitat loss due to coastal development, and fishing by-catching.” He goes on to further say, “The Internationl Union for Conservation of nature lists to dugong as vulnerable to extinction worldwide.” Estimates say that there are only 50 of these great historical creatures left on Earth, and up to about 10 of them reside on Japan’s southernmost prefecture.

The scenario that has been unfolding now for decades, exemplifies exactly what is askew with the world today, mainly the United States. Money is being poured into defense budgets, while there are people still going to bed hungry across the globe. The Borgen Project estimates that $30 billion per year is needed to eradicate world hunger. The United States spends approximately 25 times that much on military affairs and other defense ‘needs’ every year.

The need for a restructuring of human priorities is pertinent and evident. We as a society must begin demilitarizing our nations, our communities, our homes. We must truly begin to spiritually heal from the devastations of World War II and the Cold War. We must rebuild our humanity, and our spiritual connections with nature, which through the wonders of evolution, we are also connected.