Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ongoing Stories From Around The World

The underlying theme is: profit is more important than human life or dignity.

Let us follow up on some international stories we've been following off and on. Please click and read as you find interest...

From Haiti, a statement by the leader of the Peasant Movement of Papay. It's a perspective on Haiti by a Haitian. He is critical of models that "save" Haiti by making it "a market for international export and for labor in the free trade zones." This is the way the larger countries tend to 'help' smaller countries and people who are suffering. We sort of enfold them into our economic system regardless of their identity or their needs. It's the paternal hand of global trade and it is worth examining, for the sake of our ecology as well as human dignity.

In Honduras, where a coup has been successfully laundered with a new president serving and being recognized by our own Secretary of State, journalists are being killed and farmers who have given up on reversing the coup are back to agitating for land reform. Of some interest, if you really find politics interesting, is this manifesto for a "refoundation of Honduras." No, I don't read Spanish, either. Yoshie Furuhashi translated it, though. English version here. In the meantime, working with the current regime, it does not hurt to push back and ask our own State Department to support a truth commission.

Ending the travel ban in Cuba? Good idea. While we're at it, let's really do an agricultural exchange. Not just opening up markets for products, but mutual farming education. Cuba has had some fascinating success with its urban farming and local distribution. We can learn from them, and they could probably learn from us. Of course, again, the first impulse would likely be to enfold them into our big-ag economy and send in Monsanto.

In Peru last summer, we shared some stories with you about the government's violent crackdown on indigenous people protesting the sale of the land out from under their feet and the virtual (and literal) strip-mining of eco-systems. The government still wants those minerals and other resources, so it is working to relocate entire villages. This is, sadly, an ongoing story.

Why follow such stories? What grabs my attention about them, of course, is the violence and suffering, but the underlying theme is consistent: the need for a few people to make cash profit is more important than human life. We can move from country to country, and see the same story playing out. Those who do not have economic power are oppressed, dominated, strapped to the treadmill or called "useless," and even killed. This happens every day and there is scarcely more than a peep about it. When the Peruvian government opened fire on unarmed indigenous families who were sitting down in a road, few international journalists who took an interest. Likewise, the right-wing coup d'etat in Honduras, overthrowing a president because, perhaps, he was a bit too activist on behalf of the poor. The stories on that in the American press were embarrassing -- "look, this weirdo in the cowboy hat got deposed! He was probably a commie!"

Profit is more important than human life. It is an ugly truth about the human realm. It's behind the ugliness in our own politics, too. To the extent that the Tea Party movement has a consistent political idea, it is a libertarian idea: leave profit alone. Let it ride. People gotta die anyway. If you want to help the sick or the poor, you are compared to Hitler. The people who say such things are very well connected to political power in our country; the same is true in other countries.

Profit is more important than human life. Economic expansion is more important than human development. This is a powerful organizing idea on our planet -- and, for most of us, it is an invisible idea, like a contagion in the air we breathe.

Is there a way to bring this idea into our conversation, to name it and call it out?


Ji Hyang said...

My loyalties will not be bound by national borders, or confined in time by one nation’s history, or limited in the spiritual dimension by one language or culture. I pledge my allegiance to the human race, and my everlasting love to the green hills of Earth, and my intimations of glory to the singing stars, to the very end of space and time.
--Edward Abbey via Hugo Schwyzer

Nathan said...

Many of us in the Global North have the privilege to choose to ignore all this. I'm glad you and I and others are choosing to pay attention, and share what we see and learn with others. I love that Abbey quote as well.

Jane R said...

Thank you, Algernon.

Word verification: turga. I'm sure it means something in some language.