The Heresy of the Greeks Offers Hope

December 30, 2011

I asked a relative in Greece what’s it like over there now with the whole economic quake shaking things up. My aunt said, “Stavro, people are hungry. People are dying and people are killing themselves. The young, rich, educated ones are leaving and going to Australia and Canada. What can I say? May God have mercy on us.”

When Papandreaou was preparing to give the Greek people a referendum on the bail out deal, he was kicked out. Here, the birth place of democracy, the people were going to answer whether they would accept the IMF deal. The European Union leaders were in uproar. How dare the leader of Greece ask the people their opinion on what will happen to them? So, Papandreou has left and in his place we have econocrats in charge. Democracy was denied the Greek people.

Read this excellent article by John Pilger which gives an alternative to what we’ve been fed by corporate media.

The article is below.

Visit his website http://johnpilger.com/

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http://www.johnpilger.com/articles/the-heresy-of-the-greeks-offers-hope

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger inverts the perception of Greece as a “junk country” and sees hope in the uprising of ordinary Greeks protesting against the “bailout” of an economy plunged into debt by the tax-evading rich. Greece, he writes, is a microcosm for the developed world, where class war are the words seldom used because they are the truth.
As Britain’s political class pretends that its arranged marriage of Tweedledee to Tweedledum is democracy, the inspiration for the rest of us is Greece. It is hardly surprising that Greece is presented not as a beacon but as a “junk country” getting its comeuppance for its “bloated public sector” and “culture of cutting corners” (the Observer). The heresy of Greece is that the uprising of its ordinary people provides an authentic hope unlike that lavished upon the warlord in the White House.
The crisis that has led to the “rescue” of Greece by the European banks and the International Monetary Fund is the product of a grotesque financial system which itself is in crisis. Greece is a microcosm of a modern class war that is rarely reported as such and is waged with all the urgency of panic among the imperial rich.
What makes Greece different is that within its living memory is invasion, foreign occupation, betrayal by the West, military dictatorship and popular resistance. Ordinary people are not cowed by the corrupt corporatism that dominates the European Union. The right-wing government of Kostas Karamanlis, which preceded the present Pasok (Labour) government of George Papandreou, was described by sociologist Jean Ziegler as “a machine for systematic pillaging the country’s resources”.
The machine had infamous friends. The US Federal reserve Board is investigating the role of Goldman Sachs and other American hedge fund operators which gambled on the bankruptcy of Greece as public assets were sold off and its tax-evading rich deposited 360 billion euros in Swiss banks. The largest Greek ship-owners transferred their companies abroad. This haemorrhage of capital continues with the approval of the European central banks and governments.
At 11 per cent, Greece’s deficit is no higher than America’s. However, when the Papandreou government tried to borrow on the international capital market, it was effectively blocked by the American corporate ratings agencies, which “downgraded” Greece to “junk”. These same agencies gave triple-A ratings to billions of dollars in so-called sub-prime mortgage securities and so precipitated the economic collapse in 2008.
What has happened in Greece is theft on an epic, though not unfamiliar scale. In Britain, the “rescue” of banks like Northern Rock and the Royal Bank of Scotland has cost billions of pounds. Thanks to the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, and his passion for the avaricious instincts of the City of London, these gifts of public money were unconditional, and the bankers have continued to pay each other the booty they call bonuses. Under Britain’s political monoculture, they can do as they wish. In the United States, the situation is even more remarkable, reports investigative journalist David DeGraw, “[as the principal Wall Street banks] that destroyed the economy pay zero in taxes and get $33 billion in refunds”.
In Greece, as in America and Britain, the ordinary people have been told they must repay the debts of the rich and powerful who incurred the debts. Jobs, pensions and public services are to be slashed and burned, with privateers in charge. For the European Union and the IMF, the opportunity presents to “change the culture” and dismantle the social welfare of Greece, just as the IMF and the World Bank have “structurally adjusted” (impoverished and controlled) countries across the developing world.
Greece is hated for the same reason Yugoslavia had to be physically destroyed behind a pretence of protecting the people of Kosovo. Most Greeks are employed by the state, and the young and the unions comprise a popular alliance that has not been pacified; the colonels’ tanks on the campus of Athens University remain a political spectre. Such resistance is anathema to Europe’s central bankers and regarded as an obstruction to German capital’s need to capture markets in the aftermath of Germany’s troubled reunification.
In Britain, such has been the 30-year propaganda of an extreme economic theory known first as monetarism then as neo-liberalism, that the new prime minister can, like his predecessor, describe his demands that ordinary people pay the debts of crooks as “fiscally responsible”. The unmentionables are poverty and class. Almost a third of British children remain below the breadline. In working class Kentish Town in London, male life expectancy is 70. Two miles away, in Hampstead, it is 80. When Russia was subjected to similar “shock therapy” in the 1990s, life expectancy nosedived. A record 40 million impoverished Americans are currently receiving food stamps: that is, they cannot afford to feed themselves.
In the developing world, a system of triage imposed by the World Bank and the IMF has long determined whether people live or die. Whenever tariffs and food and fuel subsidies are eliminated by IMF diktat, small farmers know they have been declared expendable. The World Resources Institute estimates that the toll reaches 13-18 million child deaths every year. “This,” wrote the economist Lester C. Thurow, “is neither metaphor nor simile of war, but war itself.”
The same imperial forces have used horrific military weapons against stricken countries whose majorities are children, and approved torture as an instrument of foreign policy. It is a phenomenon of denial that none of these assaults on humanity, in which Britain is actively engaged, was allowed to intrude on the British election.
The people on the streets of Athens do not suffer this malaise. They are clear who the enemy is and they regard themselves as once again under foreign occupation. And once again, they are rising up, with courage. When David Cameron begins to cleave £6 billion from public services in Britain, he will be bargaining that Greece will not happen in Britain. We should prove him wrong.

              


4 days to freeze Mubarak’s billions!

February 16, 2011

I don’t normally send a message asking you to respond by email for any organisation. However, I’m doing so now because it sickens me that a dictator who has been receiving billions of dollars of aid from the USA has used it to line his own pockets rather than help his own people. Yes, I’m talking about Mubarak.

Please sign the following petition below and we may find that he has all his funds frozen. With any luck he may even be charged with corruption.

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Dear friends,

Mubarak may have stolen $70 billion from Egyptians — one third of their national income! The new Egyptian government is calling on the world to get it back. Sign the emergency petition for world leaders to immediately freeze his assets before the funds disappear, and then forward this message!

Egypt’s people have forced Mubarak out, but he may take unimaginable wealth out with him. Estimates of his stolen fortune range as high as $70 billion, more than a third of the annual Egyptian national income!

The new government is calling on the world to immediately freeze his assets in foreign banks, and a new UN Convention requires that stolen funds be returned to the country. Switzerland has already frozen his finances, and some EU leaders have offered to help — but only a massive outcry will get all governments to stop the Mubarak billions from vanishing into a maze of obscure bank accounts.

The G20 finance ministers meet this weekend — that gives us 4 days to call on leaders to freeze the accounts and ensure that Egypt’s money is returned to the people. If we reach 500,000 signatures by Friday, the petition will be delivered in Paris — sign now and spread the word!

http://www.avaaz.org/en/freeze_mubaraks_stolen_fortune/?vl

Millions of Egyptians live on less than $2US per day — yet experts say that corruption costs Egypt more than $6 billion in public money per year. The Mubaraks themselves have benefited massively from a web of business deals, crony-capitalist privatization schemes, and state-guaranteed investments throughout Mubarak’s 30 years as president. Estimates of their wealth run from a “mere” $2-3 billion to the staggering $70 billion figure, which would make Hosni Mubarak the world’s richest man. And 25 senior government officials are already under investigation for amassing fortunes while serving under him.

But the days may finally be over when corrupt rulers can escape with their fortunes intact. The new United Nations Convention Against Corruption explicitly calls for the return of corruptly-gained assets to the countries of origin, and Egypt’s military government has already asked European Union governments to freeze Mubarak’s fortune. The key question now is whether action will come fast enough: all the laws in the world won’t help if the Mubarak billions are shuffled out of sight before authorities can seize them.

Our voices as citizens can help the people of Egypt make good on the promise of their revolution. Join the call for Egyptian wealth to go back to the people of Egypt:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/freeze_mubaraks_stolen_fortune/?vl

As millions of Egyptians risked — and even gave — their lives for democracy, there was little that we around the world could do beyond send our hopes and solidarity. But now, in the aftermath of Mubarak’s ouster, we have a special responsibility: to ensure that our banks do not profit from the corruption of Mubarak’s government, and to do our utmost to restore the national property stolen by a dictatorship that our own governments tolerated for far too long. The people of Egypt are ready now to build a new nation. Let’s play our part to see to it that they regain the resources that were once taken from them, as they create the future that few dared to dream possible.

With hope,

Ben, Alex, Ricken, Mia, Rewan, David, and the whole Avaaz team

SOURCES

Washington Post: “Egyptians focus their attention on recovering the nation’s money”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/12/AR2011021203767.html

Egypt’s Mubarak Likely to Retain Vast Wealth; Mubarak Family May Have as Much as $70 Billion Stashed Away, Experts Estimate
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/egypt-mubarak-family-accumulated-wealth-days-military/story?id=12821073

Seize Money Stolen by Mubarak and Return it to Egypt
http://www.aljazeerah.info/Opinion%20Editorials/2011/February/15%20o/Seize%20Money%20Stolen%20by%20Mubarak%20and%20Return%20it%20to%20Egypt%20By%20Paul%20Dunk.htm

EU looking to freeze assets of Egyptian regime
http://euobserver.com/?aid=31805

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption
http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/convention-highlights.html#Asset_recovery

Support the Avaaz community! We’re entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way — donate here.


Submissions for current Refugee Issues UNHCR >> Dadaab Refugee Camp

May 27, 2010

Hi

I received this today. Those who can please send in a submission for the Dadaab refugees.

Below the reminder is the document and submission form.

stavros

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A reminder that the Australian Refugee Rights Alliance (ARRA) is calling for brief submissions from individuals and refugee community groups regarding current issues of concern to refugee populations in and from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions.

The due date for submissions is 31 May. Please see the attached information sheet for further details on making a submission. Feel free to distribute this information to your networks. If you have any queries, please feel free to contact me as per the details below.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

Kind regards, Lucy Morgan Information & Membership Officer Refugee Council of Australia

Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills NSW 2010 Phone: 61 2 9211 9333 Fax: 61 2 9211 9288 email: info@refugeecouncil.org.au

www.refugeecouncil.org.au

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INVITATION FOR SUBMISSIONS

TO THE UNHCR- NGO CONSULTATIONS

The Australian Refugee Rights Alliance (ARRA) is calling for brief submissions from individuals and refugee community groups regarding current issues of concern to refugee populations in and from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions.

ARRA is a coalition of Australian NGOs, refugee advocates and academics. Organisations involved in ARRA include the Centre for Refugee Research of University of NSW, Refugee Council of Australia, Amnesty International and Act for Peace (National Council of Churches).  Each year, representatives from ARRA travel to Geneva to participate in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ NGO consultations.

Prior to the UNHCR meetings, the group prepares a comprehensive set of documents addressing policy issues of shared concern. This process enables more effective advocacy at the meetings by ensuring coordinated and targeted action by the Australian delegation. In 2010, the meetings will occur in late June.

Individuals and refugee community groups are invited to make submissions on issues they would like to recommend that ARRA put forward during the meetings with UNHCR.

ARRA is particularly interested in current issues of concern to refugee populations in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions, however issues of concern to refugee populations in other regions of the world are also invited.

 Some possible themes you may choose to use include:

  • Women at Risk
  • Protracted Refugee Situations
  • Xenophobia/Racism 
  • Families at Risk
  • Urban Refugee Policy

 How Can I Contribute to the UNHCR NGO Consultations?

You can submit a brief submission to us, focusing on any current issue, but it should be limited to one page in length.  We will then read your submission contact you for more information if required and do our best to include your issues in our papers for discussion at the UNHCR in late June. 

 Please return submission application form with your submission to Lucy Morgan at the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA).

 All submissions must be received by 31 May.

Submissions must be received by 31 MayVia post or email:  
ATT: Lucy MorganRefugee Council of Australia (RCOA)  
Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth Street,Surry Hills NSW 2010

Tel: 02 9211 9333

Fax: 02 9211 9288

 
Email: info@refugeecouncil.org.au  
   

 

 

Submission Form        

 

Name:  
Organisation (if applicable):  

 

Contact Information:

 

Address:  
Email:  
Contact Phone Number:  
Country of Origin:  

 

 

Topic of Submission:

 

Regional Focus (Asia, Africa, Middle East, other)  
Country Focus:  

 

Issues Covered in Submission:
1.2

3.

4.

Recommendations to UNHCR  
1.2.

3

 

 

 

* * Please Attach your 1-page Submission


Help Make the Free Gaza Flotilla a Reality

April 9, 2010

Hi

I received this message today and it reminded me of the efforts made to make the Flotillas of Hope to Nauru a reality. Every little bit counts, every positive thought form focussed on manifesting the intention helps, every dollar and every dialogue that concerns this project helps make it a reality.

Please help make this Free Gaza Flotilla a Reality, support the Free Gaza Movement.

http://www.freegaza.org/de/donate

Why we care – written by Free Gaza Movement, April, 2009

stavros

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Our four boats are purchased or refurbished, flagged and registered. The cargo ship is now named the MV Rachel Corrie with the blessing of the Corrie family. Children in Gaza and the occupied West Bank will name the other two boats, and we will let you know what they chose.

The Free Gaza Cargo Ship "MV Rachel Corrie"

We are hard at work collecting the cargo… cement, books for children and universities, paper for printing books, water filtration equipment, and medical equipment, all being denied the people of Gaza by Israel’s brutal blockade.

So we ask one last time for a $25.00-$100.00 donation from each of you, a donation that will be used for our operating costs. It is not enough to buy, register and insure the boats. We need fuel for all vessles, crew expenses, supplies for all four boats, a crane to add to the cargo ship to offload the cargo, and miscellaneous expenses that always appear at the last minute.

Please go to http://www.freegaza.org/de/donate and help us raise the final 20%. You can donate in the U.S. by writing a tax-deductible check to our fiscal sponsor in DC, donate through our two PayPal accounts, one in Cyprus and one in the U.S. or wire an amount into our Free Gaza account in Cyprus. The website provides all of the detail for you.  

With your help, our final $100,000 can be raised in the next month as we get ready to leave Europe on May 3 and begin our voyage to Gaza. More than 5000 of you now follow our voyages; you have signed up for our TWITTER account, you have joined our newsletter, and you are members of many Free Gaza lists. Please donate, send our plea to your own lists, then watch our journey as we make our way across the sea to Gaza.

Thank you from all of us at Free Gaza. Every one of you has made this flotilla a reality.


The Triumph of Triviality – John Schumaker (from New Internationalist)

March 31, 2010

The triumph of triviality

John F Schumaker asks if consumer society is too shallow to deal with the deepening crises facing the planet.

The results of the cultural indoctrination stakes are not yet in but there is a definite trend – triviality leads, followed closely by superficiality and mindless distraction. Vanity looks great while profundity is bringing up the rear. Pettiness is powering ahead, along with passivity and indifference. Curiosity lost interest, wisdom was scratched and critical thought had to be put down. Ego is running wild. Attention span continues to shorten and no-one is betting on survival.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Half a century ago, humanistic thinkers were heralding a great awakening that would usher in a golden age of enlightened living. People like Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May and Viktor Frankl were laying the groundwork for a new social order distinguished by raised consciousness, depth of purpose and ethical refinement. This tantalizing vision was the antithesis of our society of blinkered narcissists and hypnogogic materialists. Dumbness was not our destiny. Planetary annihilation was not the plan. By the 21st century, we were supposed to be the rarefied ‘people of tomorrow’, inhabiting a sagacious and wholesome world.

Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower

Erich Fromm’s 1955 tome, The Sane Society, signalled the début of the one-dimensional ‘marketing character’ – a robotic, all-consuming creature, ‘well-fed, well-entertained… passive, unalive and lacking in feeling’. But Fromm was also confident that we would avoid further descent into the fatuous. He forecast a utopian society based on ‘humanistic communitarianism’ that would nurture our higher ‘existential needs’.

In his 1961 book, On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers wrote: ‘When I look at the world I am pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic.’ While acknowledging consumer culture’s seductive dreamland of trinkets and desire, he believed that we – those ‘people of tomorrow’ – would minister over a growth-oriented society, with ‘growth’ defined as the full and positive unfolding of human potential.

We would be upwardly driven toward authenticity, social equality and the welfare of coming generations. We would revere nature, realize the unimportance of material things and hold a healthy scepticism about technology and science. An anti-institutional vision would enable us to fend off dehumanizing bureaucratic and corporate authority as we united to meet our ‘higher needs’.

One of the most famous concepts in the history of psychology is Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, often illustrated by a pyramid. Once widely accepted, it was also inspired by a faith in innate positive human potential. Maslow claimed that human beings naturally switch attention to higher-level needs (intellectual, spiritual, social, existential) once they have met lower-level material ones. In moving up the pyramid and ‘becoming’, we channel ourselves toward wisdom, beauty, truth, love, gratitude and respect for life. Instead of a society that catered to and maintained the lowest common denominator, Maslow imagined one that prospered in the course of promoting mature ‘self-actualized’ individuals.

But something happened along the way. The pyramid collapsed. Human potential took a back seat to economic potential while self-actualization gave way to self-absorption on a spectacular scale. A pulp culture flourished as the masses were successfully duped into making a home amidst an ever-changing smorgasbord of false material needs.

Operating on the principle that triviality is more profitable than substance and dedicating itself to unceasing material overkill, consumer culture has become a fine-tuned instrument for keeping people incomplete, shallow and dehumanized. Materialism continues to gain ground, even in the face of an impending eco-apocalypse.

Pulp culture is a feast of tinsel and veneer. The ideal citizen is an empty tract through which gadgets can pass quickly, largely undigested, so there is always space for more. Reality races by as a blur of consumer choices that never feel quite real. We know it as the fast lane and whip ourselves to keep apace.

Rollo May described it accurately in his 1953 book, Man’s Search for Himself:

‘It’s an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when they have lost their way.’ So it’s largely business-as-usual even as the sky is falling.

Some critics did predict the triumph of the trivial. In his 1957 essay, ‘A Theory of Mass Culture’, Dwight MacDonald foresaw our ‘debased trivial culture that voids both the deep realities and also the simple spontaneous pleasures’, adding that ‘the masses, debauched by several generations of this sort of thing, in turn come to demand trivial cultural products’.

Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower.

In this dense fog the meaningful and meaningless can easily get reversed. Losers look like winners and the lofty and ludicrous get confused. The caption under a recent ad for men’s underwear read: ‘I’ve got something that’s good for your body, mind and soul.’ Fashion statements become a form of literacy; brand names father pride and celebrity drivel becomes compelling.

Not even God has been spared. Once a potent commander of attention and allegiance, God has been gelded into a sort of celestial lapdog who fetches our wishes for this-world success. Nothing is so great that it can’t be reconceived or rephrased in order to render it insubstantial, non-threatening or – best of all – entertaining.

The age of trivialization has left its mark on marriage, family and love. In a recent AC Nielsen survey, when asked to choose between spending time with their fathers and watching television, 54 per cent of American 4-6 year-olds chose television. The same study reported that American parents spend an average of 3.5 minutes per week in ‘meaningful conversation’ with their children, while the children themselves watch 28 hours of television a week. To which we can add cellphones, computer games and other techno-toys that are inducing a state of digital autism in our young people.

Out of this cock-up comes the most pressing question of our age. Can a highly trivialized culture, marooned between fact and fiction, dizzy with distraction and denial, elevate its values and priorities to respond effectively to the multiple planetary emergencies looming? Empty talk and token gestures aside, it doesn’t appear to be happening.

Some of the great humanists felt that there are limits to a culture’s ability to suppress our higher needs. They assumed that we are ethical creatures by nature and that we’ll do the right thing when necessary – we will transcend materialism given the freedom to do so. That seems far-fetched given the ethical coma in which we now find ourselves. Yet the ultimate test is whether or not we can do the right thing by the planet and for future generations.

Ethics and politics have never sat well together. When ‘citizens’ changed into ‘consumers’, political life became an exercise in keeping the customer happy. The imperfect democracies we have today have never been tested with planetary issues like global warming and climate change, which demand radical and unsettling solutions. In the race against the clock, politicians appear almost comical as they try not to disturb the trivial pursuits propping up our dangerously obsolete socio-economic system.

Global calamity is forcing us into a post-political era in which ethically driven individuals and groups race ahead of the political class. Soon centre-stage will belong to culture-change strategists who are able to inspire leaps of consciousness independently of hapless follow-the-leader politics. One such person is Jan Lundberg (www.culturechange.org). Lundberg is an environmental activist and a long-standing voice for pre-emptive culture change. He understands that hyper-consumerism trivializes reality and numbs people, even to prospects of their own destruction. In his essay ‘Interconnections of All in the Universe’, he writes: ‘Unless we broaden and deepen our perception of both the universe and our fellow members of society, we all may perish in persisting to manipulate each other and our ecosystem with materialism and exploitation.’

Culture-change strategists all agree about the urgent need to promote ‘global consciousness’ or ‘cosmic consciousness’ – a broad worldview with a high awareness of the inter-relatedness and sacredness of all living things. It is thought that such a universality of mind leads not only to intellectual illumination, but also to heightened moral sensibilities, compassion and greater community responsibility.

Behind the scenes some noteworthy organizations are working toward the goal of global consciousness, including the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality (www.globalspirit.org), whose members include Nobel laureates, culture theorists, futurists and spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama. The group points out the huge backlog of positive human potential that is ready to unleash itself once we assume control and carve healthier cultural pathways for people’s energies. According to their mission statement, the fate of humankind and the ecosystem lies in our ability over the next couple of decades actively to revise our cultural blueprints in order to foster global consciousness and create new, more ‘mindful’ political and economic models.

Global calamity is forcing us into a post-political era in which ethically driven individuals and groups race ahead of the political class

Even in the formal education system, a small but growing number of teachers are incorporating a ‘global awareness’ perspective into the curriculum, aimed at dissolving cultural barriers and building a sense of global community (www.globalawareness.com). Some are even encouraging a ‘global grammar’ that links students both to other human beings and to the entire planet.

In the war against trivialization some groups speak of ‘planetization’ – an expansive worldview that can slow our cultural death march. It was the French philosopher, palaeontologist and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who coined this term in calling for a global mind that fused our ecological, spiritual and political energies, and thereby paved the way for harmonious living and lasting peace. The organization Planetization Rising (www.planetization.com) sees this next phase as the only means by which we can ascend to a higher knowledge and thereby find a life-sustaining path for ourselves and the Earth: ‘It’s the next watershed mark in our evolutionary journey which alone can provide us with the empowerment and insight needed to overcome the gathering forces of ecological devastation, greed and war which now threaten our survival.’

The cultural indoctrination race is not over. The losers are still winning and the odds for a revolution in consciousness are no more than even. But is there an alternative – other than to drown in our own shallowness?

John F Schumaker is a US-born clinical psychologist living in Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. His latest book is In search of happiness: understanding an endangered state of mind (Penguin, 2006).

also by…
THIS AUTHOR

The happiness conspiracy
What does it mean to be happy in a modern consumer society? John F Schumaker argues that the elusive state has more to do with culture than genetics.

In greed we trust
John F Schumaker takes on the philosophers of greed.

Dead zone
John F Schumaker now lives and works in Aotearoa/New Zealand. But on a recent trip back home he came face-to-face with the monster of American consumer culture. The sobering encounter left him questioning both human greed and the pursuit of materialism.


A Voice from the Voiceless >> Dadaab Refugee Camps Kenya

March 9, 2010

Hi

I received the following message from some African refugee workers I am in contact with in my day job. This is stuff you won’t see on ABC, BBC, PBS or written about in UN Reports. It is a Call from those whose voice has been voiceless in Dadaab, Kenya. I have not corrected any grammar, syntax or spelling. I am posting this as I received it.

stavros

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Dear All the concerned Memebers,

With humble respect, on behalf of the refugees living in the camps of Dadaab, we would like to share our grievances with the world and ask for you to help us find our way to freedom.

Our lives in the camps are far worse than you can imagine. We live in an open prison, far away from justice and humanity. We talk, but our voices are never heard. We move, but only inside a cage. We have many skills and talents, but we are denied our chance to maximize our potential. We are chained to a life full of stress and despair; a life for which many would prefer death. We are denied opportunities for education and employment. We live in a condition without adequate water, food, or health facilities. We are arbitrarily beaten or detained by police within the confines of the camp. We lack the ability to freely express ourselves or have control over the decisions affecting our lives.

For those of us lucky enough to obtain employment with the agencies, we are exploited through the payment of mere “incentive” wages, while national and international staff receive much greater payment and benefits. How can you force us to live in a certain place that denies us our human rights and our basic needs?

 This note wishes to express some of the challenges we face here in the refugee camps of Dadaab in the hopes that we will be given a chance to have greater control over our lives, and have our fundamental human rights fulfilled. Although the challenges and abuses we face are numerous, we will only briefly mention some of our main grievances, including restricted movement, exploitative working conditions, poor service deliver, and false information and abuse by UNHCR and other agencies operating in the camps.

For many of us, the restrictions on movement and the conditions in our forced confinement have caused more psychological, economical, and health problems than diseases and wars have caused.

We ask the Kenyan government, the other governments of Africa, and the people of the world to hear our voices, see our condition, and look further into our situation. We only want our chance to thrive, to live our lives, to visit our family members, to attend school, to receive medical treatment, to help support our families, and to have control over the economic and policy making decisions affecting our lives. We only want the chance to live as other human beings live, with a hope for the future.

Please hear our cries, allow us to move freely from this open prison, and provide us the opportunity to live our lives, support ourselves, and pursue our dreams!

Restricted Movement

Some of us have faced the imprisonment of the refugee camps of Dadaab since 1991, while others of us are newly arriving. Although there have been changes and developments over the past nineteen years, our restricted movement has caused and continues to cause our underdevelopment and deterioration. Many people have died from simple diseases because they could not move to get treatment in Garissa (a town only 90 km from Dadaab). Many parents have remained separated from their children who disappeared from the camps because they could not move to search for them or inquire of their whereabouts. Many students have missed their chances for educational opportunities, have failed to take their final examinations, or have been unable to obtain education certificates earned because they could not receive the permission to move. Many people have been forced into greater poverty by being denied the chance to work and by having to pay three times the price of goods in other regions because they can not move to get cheaper goods for consumption or business. Perhaps worse still, many who have tried to move have been beaten, arrested, detained, and/or forced to pay heavy bribes or fines of large amounts of money they never imagined.

Exploitative Working Conditions

Ever since the creation of the refugee camps of Dadaab in 1991 and 1992 and thereafter, UNHCR and the agencies operating in the refugee camps of Dadaab have relied for their operations on the exploited labor of the refugee communities. Whether skilled or unskilled labor, refugee staff members have worked in conditions and received wages that are in violation of national and international labor laws. While many of the refugee staff in the agencies work tirelessly for the agencies and their fellow refugees, they still merely receive “incentives” for their hard work and dedication. Even highly experienced individuals, some of whom have graduated from Universities, colleges, and secondary schools in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan, etc., receive unlivable wages, let alone wages commensurate with their experience. In addition to the dreadfully low, unlivable wage, refugee staff members are discriminated against in their payment. Specifically, although refugee staff members work as many hours and complete as many or more tasks as national or some international staff members, refugee staff members are paid significantly lower amounts and are called the derogatory name of “incentive” staff members receiving not wages or a salary but “incentives.” Indeed, though the work load given refugee staff members often exceeds that national/international staff members, refugee staff members are not given their proper respect or payment.

In a related manner, refugee staff often face harsh and discriminatory treatment by national and international staff of UNHCR and the agencies. Several national and international staff frequently use harsh commands and create a difficult work environment, and are given titles of officers even though they do not have as much experience or strong work ethic as the refugee staff members. As an example of the unfair treatment of refugee staff members, these staff members often have to queue for long hours simply to receive their payments and such long lines often cause staff members to miss the limited opportunities to receive their payment and in turn delay their receipt of their hard earned payments. As another example, refugee staff members have great difficulty receiving transportation services of the agencies, sometimes even when travel is required by their jobs. Also, refugee staff members are often not given opportunities for training or scholarships, or even if they do receive such opportunities they are not given work permits at the end of even multiple degrees. Moreover, refugee staff members are not allowed to take part in decision making about the refugee programmes ironically that the refugee staff members usually must implement and that are intended to benefit refugee beneficiaries. Similarly, refugee staff members are not afforded an opportunity to participate in planning, writing project proposals, or otherwise participating in any other management functions despite in many circumstances years of experience and knowledge about the refugee communities who are supposedly the beneficiaries of the agencies’ programs and the conditions in which they live and operate. Indeed, refugee staff members are not even provided meaningful opportunities to present feedback that is received, considered, and/or implemented. Incentive Wages At the heart of the exploitation of refugee staff members lies the entire system of “incentive workers.”

The agencies in the camps of Dadaab divide staff into three main categories:

§ International staff

§ National staff

§ Incentive staff

While national and international staff have relatively similar salaries, working conditions, and privileges, the so-called incentive staff are barely paid, are discriminated against, and are often treated with disrespect. The national and international staff members have every thing required for the fulfillment of the respective work such as transport, office tools and equipment, refreshments etc. at their disposal. At the same time, the refugee staff generally have no such access despite the fact that the national and international staff often greatly depend upon the refugee staff in order to carry out their duties, gain access to and understand the refugee communities, and break through language barriers and cultural differences. Yet, while the incentive staff are indeed the back bone of the agency operations in the camps, the relationship between these two sets of staff and the treatment of refugee staff members is horrible.

 The agencies and UNHCR continue to simply pay only meager incentives, which are minimal amounts in and of themselves and are not accompanied by any significant bonuses, benefits, allowances, pensions, separation payments, or other components of standard national and international staff contracts even for refugee staff members that have been working for over a decade. An incentive worker will earn as little as 50 – 90 USD per month, regardless of the number of years of experience, seniority in employment or academic qualifications. Indeed, the skills, academic credentials, and experiences varies significantly across the work force of refugees, ranging from primary school leavers to those with multiple Masters degrees and diplomas who have worked for more than a decade. Yet all are subject to harsh conditions and meager payment. In addition, the ill treatment and lack of respect for refugee staff and their tireless efforts has taken its physical and emotional toll on many staff members, and in fact some young professionals have developed psychological problems due to the frustrations they face while others have chosen to even risk their lives to return to their respective homelands in the hopes of finding an adequate means of survival for themselves and their families. Moreover, the vast disparities between refugee staff and national/international staff continues to create envy and hatred among the staff of the same agency.

 The incentive system is often claimed to be necessary because of limited budgetary resources and because refugee staff members are not allowed to officially work under Kenyan law. However, in actuality, these supposed justifications serve only as mere excuses for the agencies to hide behind so that they can continue to exploit refugee labor. With respect to the limited resources, first of all limited resources can not serve as an excuse for exploiting refugee labour. Moreover, the amount of money that is wasted if not skimmed off the top by the agencies reaches huge amounts; if there are indeed limited resources, the agencies could shift resources away from ineffective trainings, corrupted individuals, and high paid national and international staff in order to adequately pay incentive staff members.

In a related manner, in line with the problem noted above of not including refugee staff in decision-making and managerial tasks: the agencies should “open the books” and allow refugee staff members to be a part of resource allocation decisions. With respect to the inability for refugees to work under Kenyan law, again the agencies and not the Kenyan government are setting the amounts of the incentive wages and if the agencies are able to legally provide incentives at all then the agencies can not point the finger at anyone other than themselves with respect to the exploitative amounts that are arbitrarily set by UNHCR and the agencies. Moreover, UNHCR and agencies are able to obtain work permits for refugee staff members in Nairobi and elsewhere when they deem it appropriate. Further, it is the obligation of UNHCR to advocate on behalf of refugees’ right to work and pressure the government of Kenya to follow its obligations under the Refugee Convention to allow for such rights.

We ask members of the international community to step up for this matter and come forward to help us refugee staff members regain our human dignity and equality and fairness for all in terms wage earning, working conditions and decision-making. Furthermore, we ask that international human rights bodies and the International Labor Organization study and scrutinize the years in which our talents, skills and services have been exploited and abused by the agencies in Dadaab. The title “incentive worker” The title given to the refugees working with the humanitarian agencies is itself exploitative and demeaning. Literally the word incentive means something given to some in order that he/she keeps the same spirit in the course of an operation; however the magnitude of the incentive in the camps of Dadaab is negligible. Considering the workload carried out by the staff or employees drawn from the refugee community, it is the case that refugee workers form the backbone of the humanitarian operations in the Dadaab camps. Indeed, without these workers, the agencies would suffer an acute shortage of human resources. Given the fact that the title “incentive” does not actually sound proper, the refugee workers often feel discouraged and humiliated to be called an incentive worker, which even can weaken the productivity and output of the workers. Furthermore the title incentive widens the already expansive gap between the refugee workers and the national and international staff, which further hinders the cooperation necessary to achieve the important goals of the humanitarian operations in Dadaab.

The more favorable the working conditions, the more efficient an employee will be in her/his daily undertakings, and the more cooperative relations amongst different categories of staff members, the more likely the operations in general will be successful. Thus, if only from the point of view of improving operations in Dadaab, the title of the refugee staff should be changed, the disparity in wages must be closed, and the working conditions must be improved. Harmonization Incentive Document for 2010 A memo concerning the “harmonization of refugees incentive workers wages” was developed by UNHCR in collaboration with all of the NGOs working in the refugee camps; some of the NGOs have shown skepticism about the effects of the document but the policy has been passed without adequate input or consideration of the viewpoints of current refugee staff members. While we recognize the potential positive effect of raising the wages of those agencies paying the lowest amounts, harmonization should only result in a harmonization upward. Moreover, we believe that individuals should be paid wages that are both living wages and appropriate for their jobs and their level of expertise and experience. The document is totally contradicting the conventions to the refuges. Indeed this is a practical evidence that UNHCR is violating the international conventions and protocols relating to the provisions and service of the refuges instead of promoting, it.

Furthermore, the UNHCR has not increased a sigle coin to the refguee workers and what it done was a cheating withno consultation to the concerned parties; indeed the amount that was dedected from the fellow refugee workers were increased for the other fellow refguee workers thus, creating envy and hatered among the working refguee workers!. In this world it has never been noticed that somesone’s pay is lowered without proper justifications.

Despite the fact that many other irrlguralies that can not be not be summarized is ongoing on daily, weekly, monthly or annually basses within the confines of the refugee camps of Dadaab.

Poor Service Delivery

The Dadaab refugee camps were established in the wake the devastating civil wars and persecution in neighboring countries, such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, and Eritrea. While we are grateful for the support that has been provided to those who have had to flee from their home countries, it is incredible that nearly twenty years after their adoption, their remains terrible problems in the service delivery and operations of the various agencies operating in the Dadaab camps: UNHCR, WFP, CARE, NRC LWF, IRC GTZ –IS, WINDLE TRUST KENYA, DRC HI, MSF, etc. The food distribution sector, the education sector, the medical care sector, the water and sanitation sector, and the land allocation and shelter sectors provide just a few of the many examples of the continuing and sometimes worsening poor service delivery. Food While the refugees in the Dadaab camps do appreciate the relentless efforts of the international community to ensure that the refugees in the Dadaab camps are given food, we ask the international community if a three (03) kilograms of maize and 50 grams of oil is enough to feed a person for a period of 15 days. This meager amount does not meet international standards. Worse still, a quarter of the amount claimed to be given is often stolen during food distribution, in large part because the workers of the food distribution are not adequately paid and are thus encouraged to steal from the beneficiaries. How can refugees be forced to remain in camps, told for twenty years that they are not allowed to work and raise their own livelihood, and then not be given enough food to feed themselves and their families?

Education

Education in the camps consists of several primary schools and secondary schools and other adult learning literacy institutions. While education, especially at the primary level, is a basic need and right, various factors have limited the quantity and quality of education provided in the camps of Dadaab. At the most basic level, the camps’ population has swollen thrice in recent years, while the capacity has only minimally increased. The focal organization for education in the camps, CARE international in Kenya, has not done a good enough job at increasing the education capacity. Poor quality education is matched with poor infrastructure, as many of the buildings remain the same as those built in 1992 to accommodate some 97,000 refugees while the population has currently grown to nearly 300,000. We have 18 primary schools across the three camps with an average of 3500 pupils per school. These large numbers of learners face many challenges in school. The general ratio of teachers to pupils is 1:80; a situation that has forced many learners to become dropouts, ending up on the market streets. All the 18 mentioned primary school are registered as Kenyan National examination centers while the learners in grade 8 (standard eight) must sit for the national exams in November of each year. The Kenya national examination law states that for a school to be a centre for national examination, there should be a least one trained teacher per class in that school; contrary to this law the schools in Dadaab do not have adequately trained P1 teachers. Yet the ministry of education of the government of Kenya officially has accepted this situation, which has resulted in poor performance in all these 18 schools. Another factor affecting education is the issue of payment. A teacher who is expected to serve as a role model, shape the study and character of various children, and teach the next generation of students, receive some of the lowest wages, lower even than donkey cart riders. The low payment causes more qualified individuals to seek other jobs, and for those who remain as teachers to have little motivation to do a good job in their work. Another problematic feature of the education system is that although as many as 4000 pupils sit for their national exams (KCPE), only roughly 120 students from each camp will have the opportunity to move on to secondary school, and even fewer of those who complete secondary school will have opportunities for further education after high school. Courses in Kenya University and colleges, despite funding by the international community, remains limited.

Medical Care

Medical conditions and nutrition have declined since 1992; down the line diseases are increasing while the interventions are relatively minimal compared to the number of patients in the hospital. In addition, as a result of acute malnutrition in the camps and anemia, child mortality rate is on the rise.

Further, due to ongoing fighting in neighboring Somalia, many refugees continue to come to the camps with numerous diseases, injuries, mental sickness, skin diseases and birth defects, many of which are not able to receive medical attention and are told that their ailment is too complicated to be attended to in the camps. As result many patients will converge at UNHCR field offices for their medical concerns but unfortunately UNHCR protection unit staff will keep refugees waiting and only refer them to the same doctors, nurses, and medical facilities that are already stretched too thins Which are expected to assist roughly three hundred deliveries per month in each of the camps. Currently, we have three medical charity organizations in camps MSF SWIZ in Dagahaley, IRC in Hagadera, and GTZ-IS in Ifo. Yet, especially due to the overcrowding, the medical facilities simply do not meet the incredible medical needs in the camps. Some of the most basic issues in the medical care sector include: – Lack of qualified personnel in hospitals – Lack of medicine/ procured – Lack of emergency equipment / ambulance theatre – Lack of adequate facilities or equipment to deal with many of the ailments Water and Sanitation Water and sanitation services are basic and essential; there are 15 boreholes in the camps which supply safe water to the refugee population since water is chlorinated before being supplied. Those boreholes are managed by borehole attendants or incentive workers who work from 6:30am to 6:30pm ever day, even on weekends or public holidays, since water is needed every hour of the day, and yet only earn minimal wages. Similarly, sanitation, waste management, and carcass collection and disposal, as well meat inspections/hygiene promotion are carried out incentives staff while the national staff seem to sit in the office browsing the internet and pretending to be busy in the offices. (Issues of latrine are handled by NRC whiles other sanitary and hygiene activities are done by CARE – RAP Watsan). In addition, the water crisis in the deeply populated Dadaab camps often results in fighting at the tap stands among families, village mates, and block mates. Sanitation and waste management is also worrying. The current network of latrines is hardly maintained and there are not nearly enough latrines for the Dadaab refugees in general. The latrine system in Dadaab camps is far below internationally accepted and minimum standards, such as 1 latrine for every 20 people.

Land Allocation and Shelter

For security reasons and because of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Somalia, many Somali refugees flee and escape ordeals in the war torn Somalia and seek protection in the Dadaab camps. Yet upon arrival in Dadaab, new arrivals often receive little guidance, orientation, or support to find land, obtain food, seek medical screening or vaccinations, etc. For instance, when a family comes to Dagahaley camp, where registration has been undertaken since 2005, the only thing they receive form UNHCR is a food ration card after waiting for around 10 days.

Finding shelter is often left to the good will of the refugees already living in the camps, despite the fact that severe overcrowding and congestion already exists in the camps. Most of the new arrivals simply build make-shift shelters that are susceptible being washed away by the heavy rains, or they resort to a living under the trees or a “house” where they are exposed to the elements. New arrivals thus face problems related to security, cold, wild animals, poor sanitation, etc. In addition, after registration the new arrivals often do not get non food items that they are intended to receive such as plastic sheeting, a cooking set, Jeri cans, and blankets; even accessing food is hard for new arrivals as they will start getting food from WFP up to 10 days after obtaining registration from UNHCR.

False Information Provided to Community Representatives and Visitors

Although there are the above problems and many more in the refugee camps of Dadaab, often visitors come to Dadaab and are shown a very different picture than the actual reality. Indeed, visitors of various high positions and organizations visit the worlds’ largest refugee camps of Dadaab in north eastern Kenya. Dadaab has in some ways become like a circus display or tourist attraction, with so many visitors coming in and out to see the camps and meet with refugees. Most visitors come with the intention of evaluating how the funds they have donated have been implemented for the target refugees. Visitors who individually only infrequently and occasionally pay visits to the refugee camps are thoroughly misguided about the real information on the ground. Visitors are often taken to pre-arranged places and meet with special people organized to supposedly speak on behalf of the refugees, who often give information that does not inform the visitors of the real circumstances of refugees’ conditions. It is believed that some agency staff members use bribery and other means of influence with refugee leaders whom they think can give substantial and fabricated information to the visitors that will protect and promote the agencies and their supposedly humanitarian work. It is believed that some agency staff members make false promises to such leaders, such as offering resettlement opportunities or contracts in order to entice these leaders to hide the true information about how agencies deal with refugees when high profile visitors come to the refugee camps. In addition, often when high profile visitors come to the camps, their time is scheduled such that they do not meet with many of the true leaders, intellectuals, young leaders, women’s groups and other stakeholders from the refugee community to hear and know from them directly without the presence of the Agency’s representatives. Moreover, the security guards (AGK) are given instructions to be on high alert and only allow those who had been chosen by the agencies to meet with the visitors. For instance during a recent visit by 17 embassies to the refugees camps, our community leaders, intellectual, young leaders and other stakeholders from the refugee community were only given an opportunity to present all of their pressing problems in a mere 45 Minutes, with agency representatives present who could note which refugees spoke and potentially deal harshly with those who spoke after the visitors had left. In addition, on the onset of the arrival of various visitors, agencies attempt to undertake various preparations intended to deceive visitors about the situation in the camps, such as intensive cleaning campaigns, having even senior officers wade through the rubbish, adding new/temporary infrastructure of all sorts (tables, seats, wall hangings/messages, computers, etc.), painting walls, putting up boards and signs to show orgnanized residential and office compounds, and so forth. As but one example, when some high profile visitors were coming to visit the camps in mid-2009, new buildings were constructed, walls were painted, old equipment was hidden, and intense cleaning efforts were undertaken at a surface level in order to deceive the visitors. If the amount of hard work that was taken to make these preparations was done on a daily basis to actually address the problems facing those in the camps rather than simply providing surface level window dressing to please visiting donors and officials, the situation in the camps could much improve. As another example, when an envoy of ambassadors visited the WFP food distributed centre, all of the former containers used for distributing food (which had been cut in size in order to limit the amount of food given to each refugee) were set aside and every individual was allowed to receive a full ration. But these measures only existed during the few minutes when the visitors were present.

 Taken together, the agencies make significant efforts to hide the truth of the situation of refugees in the camps of Dadaab when visitors arrive. We therefore make a heartfelt request to the Intentional Community, high profile visitors, media, government officials, human rights bodies, independent journalists and other concerned parties to always think beyond the box while visiting the Dadaab refugee camps, to be skeptical of what they are being shown, to try to ensure that they take some time to talk privately to a number of different refugees, and to visit unplanned areas in order to uncover the true living situation of the refugees and hear their voices longing to determine their uncertain future! Abuse from UNHCR Officers in Dadaab against refugee youth advocating for their rights. National and international staff members of UNHCR and other agencies in the camps of Dadaab often attempt to harass and intimidate refugees who advocate for their own rights. As a recent example, the UNHCR Head of Sub Office, in the presence of elder witnesses, threatened various refugee youth who intended to attend a meeting at his office, shouting that in case any youth came into his (UNHCR) office he would call the police and arrest them. Similarly, the senior Protection Officer has often failed to protect the rights of the refugees while allegations of harassment and human rights abuses flood his office in Dadaab. If UNHCR jeopardizes and denies the basic rights of the refugees in Dadaab Refugee Camps and denies the opportunity for refugees to advocate for their own rights; who will then advocate for the rights of the thousands of the disadvantaged societies in Dadaab camps? It can only be concluded that the UN and other agencies do not wish to see a community who can manage their own affairs independently. It can only also be concluded that the agencies in Dadaab are more political agencies than they are humanitarian agencies, with many agencies undertaking similar tasks and doing little to actually assist refugees as they claim. Moreover, the reports shared by the agencies with the donors often provide false information and figures, including but not limited to false information about living conditions, security, service delivery, movement, education, development, health, water and sanitation, food, and services they allegedly provide but often either do in a sub-standard manner or never have even undertaken at all. While agency staff often argue that refugees have no right to complain because the services they receive are free, it must be noted that agency staff also receive free of charge much better services than the refugees receive, including in the areas of water, medical care, food, housing, electricity, etc. We request from the international community and other concerned parties to help us mange our own affairs and that affect us by giving us a chance to get the jobs we can do for own selves.

Conclusion

 In sum, we wish to reiterate that we hope that the international community will hear our cries and undertake efforts to end the exploitation and abuse we face by pressing for an end to restricted movement, a reform of exploitative labor policies, an improvement in service provision, a greater allowance for participation in decisions about service provision to the refugee communities and refugee staff members, and the end to the deception and abusive practices of the Kenyan government, UNHCR, and the other agencies operating in the camps of Dadaab toward the refugees and the international community. Furthermore, the International community and the concerned goverments should watchout carefully the actions of the govermentof kenya, UNHCR and the other Agenceis opertaing in the region decissively and should held account for any inhuman acts. Thanks and looking forward to your immediate durable solutions.

Kind Regards,

Refugee Silent Welfare Committees


The Corporatisation & Destruction of TAFE – History Rhymes

November 7, 2009

Below is an article I wrote “History may not repeat itself, but it sure does Rhyme!” in 2008 while I was working in TAFE as the TAFE Teachers Association (Hunter Institute) Peace Officer. Peace Officer? Well, it was a title given so that Management couldn’t hassle me because I was representing the Union. I was aggravating Management with some of my communications questioning the Corporate Culture that was infecting Public Education – especially TAFE.

It’s primary intention was to record the history of the corporatization of TAFE for the younger teachers who would never get to know TAFE as a public education provider. TAFE was the greatest social justice and equity mechanism in the world because it gave hope and education to those who were disadvantaged and poor. Those educated and trained through TAFE could then get jobs that would alleviate their disadvantage. TAFE did not only cater for the needy but it’s Access and Equity programs and policies ensured that the needy were supported.

It was obvious to me that the plan to corporatize TAFE and gradually get rid of Access and Equity programs and policies was created at least in the early 1990’s. It was also obvious to me that the government wanted to privatize Vocational Education and Training (VET). We all knew it. In NSW we saw what happened in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. We would never let that happen in NSW? Well, we did allow it to happen and now we are witnessing TAFE’s destruction.

Knowing that the Senior Executive Service doesn’t strategise by the 6 monthly semester or even annually but at least a decade ahead I tried to organize Save TAFE Festivals and a website which would highlight the corrosive effect that corporatization was having. The website would include every Institutes’ offering with the numbers of vacant teaching positions NOT filled – by Faculty and Campus. It would also show the stupid, mindless restructures that happened over the years which were done to destroy TAFE staff’s morale. For some unknown to me reason TAFE TA didn’t support the idea. They didn’t support the Save TAFE Festivals idea either. I had two Institutes’ teachers showing interest with over 100 staff in both stating they would support the idea. I asked the Union for the email address database of all NSW members which they refused to give me. I asked that they forward the emails to all NSW members which they refused to do.

I was told that some Union Council members were against both the Save TAFE Festivals and exposing / dobbing in website because if they were successful it would show management that there was no need for extra resources because TAFE teachers could do so much just by organizing and donating their time and expertise. What the fuck! But that is what I was told.

I was also told by Council members that my ideas were far too radical and that most Union members only care about their salary and conditions. I couldn’t accept that baby boomers who were about to retire wouldn’t do as much as possible to Save TAFE because they had nothing to lose. They were superannuated and tenured so they couldn’t be sacked and even if they were hassled so what? They only had one to five years of not being liked by management. But no – in their smugness and complacency, in their relaxed and comfortable slumber they let TAFE be destroyed.

I left TAFE in 2010 because I was getting bitter towards my fellow teachers and Union members. We had a great  strike turn out for our conditions earlier but to SAVE TAFE – only very few gave a shit. I didn’t want a bitter heart while remaining in TAFE for a few more years. The way it turned out, I need not have worried because all those jobs disappeared! I must admit some schadenfreude  when I heard that most of my Managers & some of the teachers who told me I was over the top paranoid about the future of TAFE lost their jobs.

Now we are witnessing the wholesale destruction of TAFE – many of us saw it coming but few wanted to do anything about it.

The current Managers of TAFE should be ashamed of themselves for they are accomplices in the greatest destruction of world best mechanism for social justice and equity.

The following was originally sent as an attachment then I put it up on a cloud as a PDF document. I’m now including it here so that when needed I can send link via Twitter.

Right at the end of the History Repeats article is a post I put up about 6 months before I left TAFE. Since I couldn’t get a website going through the Union I did my little bit on this blog. The egroup & Save TAFE blog no longer exist.

Stavros

January, 2016

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UPDATE >> 29 June, 2018 Read this and weep! EVERYTHING predicted in this post has come to be. 

New figures quantify the extent of the TAFE disaster
http://stoptafecuts.com.au/blog/new-figures-quantify-extent-tafe-disaster

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UPDATE >> 21 November, 2017 Letter to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

Vocational Education a mere shadow of its former self.

TAFE Eviscerated

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Sometime in 2008

History may not repeat itself, but it sure does Rhyme!

Hello Everyone,

Greetings from your Hunter TAFETA Peace Officer.

I morphed into this role a few weeks ago during a TAFETA Branch Meeting at Newcastle Campus and I wasn’t even there! I accepted the nomination and here I am writing to you. I figure that I’m better placed than that poor bloke in Franz Kafka’s story,“Metamorphosis” where he woke up one morning to find he had morphed into a cockroach. At least in this role, I can communicate … and that is what this TAFETA role is about….. I think.

I have lived long enough to have experienced as a teenager the first landing on the moon by a human and a time when a single computer occupied an entire building. Now I live in a time, when other solar systems are being discovered in our galaxy and a silicon chip is in every home and office, if not in your pocket. I have also lived long enough to see Public Service change from serving the public to marketing to customers. In DET, students have become clients and in TAFE, we lost our Principals to get Managers and we are now in the process of losing our principles and teachers for trainers.

The document, TAFE NSW Doing Business in the 21st Century, arrived in my inbox and the thought crossed my mind that it’s important the history of what happened since 1988 to TAFE should be recorded. When we, the Great Demographic Blimp of Baby Boomers, leave TAFE over the next few years, this knowledge will disappear.

History may not repeat itself but I reckon it rhymes.

Rhyming patterns may be discerned in this 20 year history. These in turn may resonate into the future. Younger TAFETA members will tune into echoes and hear the rhymes of crimes, the chimes in the times. They will be prepared to project from these rhymes of history possible “new” beginnings and probable lies.

So instead of looking towards the future I turned around and saw a hazy scene, a kind of otherworldly reminiscence. Like an eagle gliding above, I saw over 50,000 teachers from schools and TAFE colleges converging and congregating at Hyde Park in 1988. I remember having travelled by bus from Wagga, along with many others from across NSW, to protest the fundamental change in direction for public education which was being pushed by the then Greiner Liberal State Government.

Terry Metherill, the Education Minister at the time, decided that it was time for Public Education to walk the path (plank?) of economic and cultural redemption. As a matter of historical record, Nick Greiner was a disciple of Margaret Thatcher’s Gospel of Economic Rationalism, she of the “there is no society” fame. He took it upon himself to transplant the Corporate Business Culture (CBC), structure and processes into the Public Service.

You may ask, “What is wrong with Corporate Culture?” Well, it may be fine if the prime purpose of an organisation is to make money at the expense of everything else. In fact, if a human was a Corporation their psychology would be diagnosed as psychopathic. A book by Joel Bakan called “The Corporation – the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power” outlines these features and why the Corporate model is dangerous for a Public Service.

Educational service exists for reasons that transcend making a profit, so if you transplant a culture and model – of being from an entity which exists solely to make money onto education you have created an organisation creaking with tensions and contradictions. These tensions are exacerbated because Corporate goals contradict Teaching goals, no matter how many Mission and Quality Value Statements are made in glossy brochures.

Anyway, Terry Metherill, Nick Greiner’s loyal Education Minister began his major restructure of Education to make it Corporate. He didn’t explain why, he just didit because it was a matter of economic rationalist faith – a user pay doctrine of an irrational ideology.

So how did we arrive where we are now? What did these Economic Rationalists do? Why did we educators, teachers and citizens protest in 1988 and have gone quiet since then?

Well, the first thing Greiner and Metherill did was to create the Senior Executive Service SES. The Corporate Business Model dictated an SES which was separate from the rest of the organisation and placed on 3 – 5 year contracts. They could earn bonuses too if they performed according to the specifications of their contract. So, if they could demonstrate that under their watch they came in under budget they would get a bonus.

No longer were the Heads of Public Service organisations permanent with tenure andthus could advise and run their organisation according to the needs of the public withoutfear or favour but had to perform according to the dictates of their political masters or face the sack. Greiner had politicised the State Public Service which Howard would later do tothe Commonwealth Public Service in a much more sinister way. The best example of this was the break up of Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) to Jobnet Private Providers.

About a year or so later, Greiner set up the Scott Report and then the Predl Report which had to review all of the Access and Equity Services. When Scott and Predl reported that the Access and Equity Services were excellent and needed more funding rather than be dismantled, Greiner and Metherill weren’t too pleased.

The next step was to impose a “Managerial” culture onto the Principals and Teachers. They got rid of all Principals and in their place created Managers. I remember talking with a few of the Principals who had lost their jobs because of the restructure and how they felt about the changes. They felt that Corporate Accounting Procedures were central to their new role rather than pedagogy and educational guidance. They lamented the loss of true educational leadership and the rise of the Corporate Manager within an educational institution.

One feature of this Corporate Managerialism is that no longer is it expected those in management roles in Faculties have to have expertise in the Faculty’s skill base they manage. In fact, they don’t even need to have been teachers. All that is needed are generic management skills where the manager does not have to know anything about the educational content of the faculty, just how to manage budgets and human resources, preferably with an MBA. So, an accountant would be ideal to be a Faculty Director of Access and General Education.

One thing that was pivotal in creating the “Corporate Business Culture” in TAFE was to ensure that there was a separation in working conditions between Principals and Teachers. This meant that the new Managers did not have the same conditions as Teachers which guaranteed that no longer would there be “solidarity” between Principals and Teachers. The first Institute Managers (IM’s) were restructured into these positions from their previous educational leadership positions. They had no choice but to take up what was on offer or lose their jobs.

A friend who was forced into becoming an IM told me that when he complained to the Institute Director (ID) about the situation the ID said, “You’ve got a job, haven’t you? Don’t complain.”

In the 1990’s we witnessed a change from TAFE Regions to Networks. In fact our Institute was separated into three networks Newcastle Urban Network, Hunter Network and Central Coast were part of North Sydney Network. Along with these Networks came new signage, new stationery and new offices. In the Network model it was believed that Network Administration offices had to be separate from the “business” of the campus. This meant that money was spent in creating new office space away from the campuses. A little later another restructure saw the creation of Hunter Institute of Technology. Only a few of the TAFE Institutes were Institutes of Technology, the majority were Institutes of TAFE. This entailed spending money on NEW signage and stationery. The new signage evenwitnessed new logos for each Institute. Then there was another restructure where all Institutes became Institutes of TAFE and with one brand sign TAFE, NSW.

All the while the Marketing areas of these restructured organisations gained in powerand status. To emphasize the new Corporate Hierarchy, palatial offices were created to house the CEO’s, the Institute Directors. Meanwhile, classes and programs were cut and new “Centres of Excellence” were created which rationalised the delivery of programs away from local campus provision to one place within the Institute. So students who attended a Muswellbrook course in Automotive Engineering would now have to travel to Glendale Campus which was the ONLY campus offering the course.

I do not know if there has ever been a cost benefit analysis of all these restructures but I imagine that the cost would be in the order of millions. How many classes could have been run for the cost of these failed restructures? Has anyone reviewed the Senior Executive Service structure to see if it is beneficial to the community?

I don’t know if Teachers Federation has researched and reviewed the restructures involved. Maybe I’m a little naive about this but it seems to me that whenever there has been a review and then a restructure we just go along with the ride. WHY?

Sure salary and conditions are important, but who is responsible for the “culture” of an educational organisation, if not us teachers? The effect is that we now have the Managerial Culture infecting head teacher positions where the main work seems to be compliance and accounting of the budget.

In another decade we may find that TAFE will become TVT Technical and Vocational Training, where Head Teachers will be Program Managers on 3 – 5 year contracts responsible for hiring “trainers” casually or on short term contracts. These Program Managers may also be offered bonuses if they perform according to their contracts. In other words, they will have similar work conditions to the Senior Executive Service but with much less pay and less responsibility.

We may even find that online education will do away with buildings so that TAFE campuses become smaller and in regional areas non existent. Private providers may rent these ghost buildings for bugger all and if students need practical training they can come in for a few days per year. Impossible? Improbable? Let’s see.

Already the powers that be, have decided that TAFE teachers do not need a Diploma of Education, just a Training Certificate will do, since we all have Cert 4’s to satisfy Registered Training Organisation (RTO) status. Do you remember your initial response when told that you have to do the Certificate 4 in Workplace Training? I bet it was something like, “Why? I’ve already got a Dip Ed. I can’t see why I have to get a lower qualification because you say so.” But most of us did it and now we find that TAFE Management doesn’t want your Dip Ed because they want trainers NOT teachers. Don’t forget, trainers are cheaper than teachers and in this competitive market place private providers use trainers, so what chance have teachers got? Why has our Union gone along with this? Beats me! I refuse to do the Certificate 4 – and so should all of us.

TAFE lost its Principals in the 1990’s to get Managers, now it looks like TAFE will lose its Teachers to get Trainers in the 21 st Century.

 I remember a few years ago when I was visiting Bethlehem in Palestine, sitting on a bench in Nativity Square. Along came an old man with an Arafat like profile who sat next to me. When he realized that while I was of Middle Eastern appearance, I didn’t speak Arabic but only Greek and English, we began speaking in that half telepathic, half verbal way in English that happens sometimes between people of different backgrounds when they want to communicate.

Anyway, he found out that I was a teacher and he said something which has touched me to the core ever since. He said, “In our culture a Teacher is a Lamp because a Teacher brings the light of knowledge to the darkness of ignorance.” Note, not a trainer but a Teacher. The two roles are completely different and now Management wants to get rid of Teachers in TAFE.

How many restructures have we had since the late eighties? What happens when an organisation is in a constant state of restructuring? One thing that is obvious is that there is an ambience of uncertainty. People worry about their positions and their jobs. As anyone with a modicum of common sense knows, people do not innovate and create when they are scared and insecure. We have had a culture of fear and uncertainty for about 20 years and I don’t think having an Institute Manager position Director of Innovation will create the psychological space for creativity to be born. It appears that we have been surviving in the Realm of the Perpetual Restructure.

While I’m sympathetic to the Buddhist concept that the only constant in the world is Change, I do not feel that these constant restructures are based on a sense of the sacred.

I believe that the Equity Units of TAFE are what makes TAFE uniquely different to any private provider. In many ways the Equity Units are TAFE’s sensitive antennae picking up trends and subtle changes in the scales of social justice. What happens to Equity Units happens to everyone else in DET, sooner or later. Right now all Equity Units are going through another review and there is talk about creating a new Social Inclusion Unit. However, before you younger ones cheer, please understand that 20 years ago the Central Equity Units had more than 60 people and now have about 20. If we go by what has happened in the past, why wouldn’t we believe that the Central Equity Units will become a Social Inclusion Unit with three, if not one member of staff?

Hunter Institute’s Multicultural Education Unit won a Quality Award in 2007 for the work it is doing with African refugees. This is great, good work is being acknowledged but when you consider that the category in which the Quality Award was given, it kind of changes one’s feelings. The Award states: “The African Experience” Business Relationships. Yes, a social justice project that worked closely with the local community did not have a category called “Social Justice” or “Community Relations” to call home. To fulfil the Corporate ethos this spherical, “Whole of Life” project had to be put into a corporate cube.

History may not repeat but it sure does rhyme!

After the consultations for the Doing Business in the 21st Century are over, you can bet, like clockwork, there will be another Restructure, Realignment Re – whatever word they will use for it. Why don’t we have a Review of the “Restructurers”? I sometimes wonder if these Managers who order restructures do it just to be seen to be doing something. It is often easier to dismantle and restructure than to create and build.

Maybe, I’m having an attack of nostalgia for a world that has disappeared and a paranoid fantasy that in TAFE’s place, a 21st Century TVT Corporation is coming. Assuming that there will be another restructure, whatever name or spin they put to it, what will happen? What needs to happen? Can we do anything about it?

I believe that Teachers Federation is like a sleeping giant. I don’t mean to take away any of our great achievements as a Union but I would love to see the sleeping giant wake up and say “enough is enough” with the corporatisation of our educational service. We can do it if we have the will. However, I am inclined to feel that as we older ones leave TAFE, the younger ones who have not known a non corporate TAFE culture, will go along with the changes because that is all they know and recognise.

What if we do wake up collectively, what can we do?

Well, being a Peace, Love and Hope kind of bloke, I believe that if enough of us have a vision and if this vision is rooted in pure intention, that Magic can happen, that serendipity and synchronicity are not just long words but mean something vital, that Leonard Cohen was right when he wrote, “God is alive, Magic is afoot”, that, Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly are right that “From Little Things Big Things Grow”. However, saying this does not preclude organising collectively. We can organise locally by forming affinitygroups / clusters of action.

To do what?

We need to take individual responsibility and to join with other like minded members to develop and create new strategies that arise from locally relevant issues. As a start, every time our Managers tell us to do something we can ask

“WHY?” and keep asking “Why?” and not be satisfied with answers that allude to “because that is the way it is” or “because we have been told to”. Keep onpushing through to the essence of what is being directed by asking the simple question “why?” I have been surprised how far this question has taken me into the realm of the human instead of the wasteland of the corporate.

Here’s some other stuff we can do:

If asked for a student tally, refer the manager to CLAMS; for a budget summary, tell them to see Buddy; for FCPS, say, “Here’s my current provision, for next semester’s, ask me then.” You all know that these “tools” do not help us, they are a burden. Yet we do them. Then the managers ask us for simple info instead of using the tools created for their use! Don’t forget that as we use these “tools” we embed the “managerial” culture into our positions and we acquiesce and then comply in the corporatisation of education.

If you want you can reply with some feedback which I can use to create a threadand send to TAFETA members. You may wish to share your own experiences of “corporatisation” and ways of taking it on. Keep sending your input to the Doing Business in the 21 st Century people, if it’s still open.

This may not sound like much but when you consider how many of us there are I’m certain that our combined imagination and creativity will come up with countless strategies to “decorporatise” our TAFE. Or, we can simply do nothing, roll over and sleep until we are superannuated out. The choice is ours.

For the younger members, at least you now have a story of how TAFE became corporatised before it became TVT Corp and maybe you will be able to recognise that historical rhyme when you hear it and thus be prepared.

All the best

stavros

Your Peace Officer

===========================================================================

I found a printed copy of an email I sent the then Director General of Education & TAFE, Michael Crouts-Trotter. I couldn’t find the last paragraph but this is the main part o the email. I think it was written around 2006. Anyway, reading it now in 2020 I realise how idealistic I was. So, here it is, a copy of the printed email made by my mobile phone camera.

Reply to Michael Cotts Trouter


From the Archives – Newcastle, Australia becomes a Welcome Town for Refugees

September 11, 2009

 

Way back in 2002 I was part of two groups which had a focus on human rights and refugee issues.

The more “operational” and lobbying aspect had expression in the group Newcastle Action for Refugee Rights (NARR). My more “cultural jamming” and “Situationist – Anarchist” aspect had its expression in HOPE Caravan. It was through HOPE Caravan that I was involved in the Easter Actions at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002 and Baxter Detention Centre in 2003. It was also as part of HOPE Caravan that the Flotillas of Hope found expression.

Hope Caravan logo we used on our now absent website.

Hope Caravan logo we used on our now absent website. The drawing was based on an original pencil drawing made by a prisoner at Woomera Detention Centre. He gave us permission to use it.

As part of NARR, I, along with others presented a proposal to Newcastle City Council to make Newcastle, Australia, an official Welcome Town for Refugees. Here’s the link to the whole proposal we presented at Newcastle City Council >> Welcome Town Presentation – thanks Jack for taking the time to make it available on your website.

Now that the dark years of the John Howard’s Decade is over in Australia, it is important that we are reminded that there were people in Australia (many, many of us) that were ashamed at the opportunistic tickling of the xenophobic underbelly of the Australian people that Howard’s genius did. People say that he was not a racist. Maybe he wasn’t in a way that Hitler was, but his myopic vision and policies that demonised innocent people who were seeking a new life were.

Anyway, I don’t want to go on about him here, suffice to say that there were Australians around during the Dark Howard Decade who stood against his crap.

My social conscience is clear and I’m proud to say that I was one of them.

NARR conducted a sympathy fast with the hunger strikers at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002. This is the tent we lived in at Civic Park, Newcastle. The head on the corner is a paper mache of Philip Ruddock, the Immigration Minister at the time.

NARR conducted a sympathy fast with the hunger strikers at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002. This is the tent we lived in at Civic Park, Newcastle. The head on the corner is a paper mache of Philip Ruddock, the Immigration Minister at the time.

 


I’m a Holy Man

September 9, 2009

I wrote this rhyming “poem” on a day when I was pissed off reading stories about gurus and fake “holy” ones who have expensive cars and luxurious life styles so that they can smash the stereotype that the “sacred” is somehow tied in with voluntary poverty. You don’t need me to point out the orange and the lemon people, the boy swami who smiles with a diamond glint from his teeth, the guru who teaches prosperity while touching up sweet  boys and girls.

I know, it’s not just the New Age types that do this, what with paedophilia and rampant materialism in the church, the synagogue, the mosque and the temple.

Getting back to my “I’m a Holy Man”, I know that I wasn’t cool and detached. In many ways it is a childish rant but, hey, that’s OK…..here it is >>>

====================================================

I’m a Holy Man.

Sitting on top of this icy mountain                              
my eye gazes on this dicy situation.
Nation on nation fall in rotation
while I’m on my long vacation,
here in my last reincarnation.

I’m a holy man, that’s what I am.
Don’t  need  no  mama  to  hold my  hand,
just need a mantra to be what I am,
cos’ I’m a holy man, the only man, oh yeh!

Liberation is here in my corporation
sign off your isolation with a donation.
Give me your adulation and veneration,
I’ll guarantee there’ll be no more damnation
here in this holy reservation.

I’m a holy man, that’s what I am.
Don’t need no mama to hold my hand,
just need a mantra to be what I am,
cos’ I’m a holy man, the only man, oh yeh!

If you freak out in this wasteland
you can sneak out to this dreamland.
You can howl out what’s been unchained.
You can throw out what’s been retained.
You can swallow what’s been profaned.

Yeh, I’m a holy man, that’s what I am.
Don’t need no mama to hold my hand,
just need a mantra to be what I am,
cos’ I’m a holy man, a holy, holy man,
the only man, a lonely, lonely man, oh yeh!

phil_at-the-gurus-feet


Cognitive Imperialism

August 21, 2009
Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna

“Archaic Revival” is a book by Terence McKenna where he explores issues regarding consciousness, civilization, the use of magic mushrooms and he goes as far as to say that language may have been generated by the ingestion of psicylbin. He bases his argument on the fact that once people domesticated cattle, there were many mushrooms which rose from the dung! Others have explored this idea as well, particularly when the 5,000 year old Ötzi the Iceman was found with magic (or “medicinal” as the mainstream media say) mushrooms in his little bag.

Now I don’t want readers to think that I’m encouraging the ingestion of magic mushrooms, but it is important to keep an open mind about the big questions pertaining to consciousness and if experimentation with entheogens opens doors to alternate aspects of the reality rainbow then we shouldn’t shut our eyes, minds and hearts to them. Entheogens means the “god revealing ones” and people are using this term more often nowadays rather than psychedelics I suppose to “clean” their image. Here is a link which is excellent concerning the entheogens  http://deoxy.org/index.htm .

I remember many years ago after reading Aldous Huxley’s “Doors of Perception” and other books of the psychedelic era a few of my own experiments. I was blown away by the fact that ingesting a few mushrooms totally changed my perceptions and made me question the parameters of what is taken to be “real”. doors_of_perception

Over the years I became convinced that just as there is a geopolitical imperialism there exists a cognitive imperialism. In fact, I now believe that much of the problems humanity is confronting in a political way stem from the narrow “reality tunnels” we walk through.
The general hypnosis,  indeed, the slavery of peoples’ awareness is due to cognitive imperialism implicit in our whole culture. For example, the Inuit  people have over 20 different words to describe 20 different snows…we of the West only have one word “snow” because that is all that we see. The Aboriginal peoples of Australia also have many different words to describe “sand” because they cognise many different “sands” but again we only have one word because that is all we see.

These examples are pretty trivial but I think you see my point. When we move into realms away from the the so called “real” 3 D world we enter a domain where words become almost useless. For this reason, I believe, symbolism comes to the fore. Symbols are multivalent entities which cannot be circumscribed by just one linear meaning, thus the symbol of a triangle or a cross cannot be reduced to just one meaning. Now, entheogens have been found to reveal multi levels of meaning simultaneously so that the experience is exactly like a Window or a Door opening up to the light. I believe Plato’s analogy of the cave where people are strapped to chairs facing a wall upon which shadows are moving across it depicts the closed realm of darkness. In his story he tells of one person who frees himself from the chains and turns his head to see that a candle has been creating the shadows on the wall of the cave. As he looks around the dark cave he notes a glimmer light coming from another direction. Slowly his eyesight adjusts and he finds himself outside the cave. Initially he is blinded by the intense light of the sun but as his vision adjusts to the new realm he sees a whole new world full of colour and life. When he returns to the inside of the cave to tell his friends still strapped to their chairs watching the shadow world, they think he is crazy. They cannot free themselves from their cognitive slavery and they believe that the liberated one is the one who is a slave to a delusionary state.

I believe that the cave in Plato’s analogy is the Consensus Reality which has its verity established under the Great Bell Curve which statiticians cite as the realm of reality. What I find particularly interesting is that physics and mathematics are pointing to the new direction away from the shadow world. I’m not a physicist nor a mathematician but as an ordinary bloke I’m interested in the little I understand because it is a completely different world to that which Isaac Newton experienced when the apple hit his head. Indeed, the apple of Newtown’s day would now be 3 different apples and each as real as each other while seeming to be the same apple. Firstly, it will be the 3 D one he felt on his head, secondly it will be the apple of subatomic physics which Newton would not recognise as real and thirdly it would be an apple which would not fall on his head but attract the earth to it. Each of these perspectives are “real” depending on which paradigm we are operating from.
Whether Carlos Casteneda’s don Juan existed or not, the Yaqui Indian sorcerer’s idea of different descriptions of the world which are as real as each other but in a different way holds true.

Carlos Casteneda

Carlos Casteneda

So, it seems that science is finding some “evidence” of a Global Mind. Shamans, mystics, magicians, saints and others have known this intuitively for millenia. Entheogenic experience just opens the Doors of Perception – it is up to us to
walk through and be able to perceive multiple worlds simultaneously without being shroomed. As William Blake said in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” , “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” (Aldous Huxley got the title of his book from this quote, just as the rock band, The Doors, got their name from it as well.) This is similar if not the same as Plato’s individual’s vision when he leaves the cave.

Cognitive imperialism is the enemy. The way we become Spirit Warriors is to move from the imperialism of the head and into the heart. From the heart we feel the suffering and from the heart our actions will be powered with compassion. I believe that the Heart of humanity is connected with the heart of Gaia, the Sun and the rest of the cosmos. Indeed, our struggle against the forces of Darkness – the Masters of War, the Keepers of Concentration Camps, the Greed Kings who keep the poor shackled with hunger – our struggle is a struggle of Global Mind – Gaia Heart against those who watch shadows on the cave walls. The trouble is that the cave dwellers, those who are blind and deaf to the Light and the Word have the material power.

However, I have faith that in these times there will be more of us coming out of the shadows and as we adjust our vision to the world of  Gaia Heart/Mind we may usher in peace.

Below is a very interesting quote by Jonathan Ott:

“The Christian enmity (of entheogens) is easy to explain. Since the Christians were promulgating a religion in which the core mystery, the holy sacrament itself, was conspicuous by its absence, later transmogrified by the smoke and mirrors of the Doctrine of Transubstantiation into a specious symbol, an inert substance, a placebo entheogen, the imposture would be all-too-evident to anyone who had known the blessing of ecstasy, who had access to personal religious experiences. Thus a concerted attack on the use of sacred inebriants was mounted, and the supreme heresy was to presume to have any direct experience of the divine, not mediated by an increasingly corrupt and politicized priesthood. The Pharmacratic Inquisition was the answer of the Catholic Church to the embarrassing fact that it had taken all the religion out of religion, leaving an empty and hollow shell with no intrinsic value or attraction to humankind, which could only be maintained by hectoring, guilt-mongering and plain brute force.” Jonathan Ott


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