Volume 16, Number 2
Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor
A Preferential Option for the Market?"
A Terrible Sense of Entitlement
Breaking Through the Gender Barrier
Fair Trade Coffee Comes to the Huddle Mart
The Conditions for Justice in East Timor
Hearts and Minds: Avoiding a New Cold War
Afghanistan: Something Must Be Done…
One Tragedy Must Not Block Out Another
Brutality Smeared in Peanut Butter
Globalization, Poverty, and Terror
Afghanistan’s Cricketers: the Sound of Bat on Ball
The Twentieth Century "Festival of Cruelty"
Centuries of Vatican Anti-Semitism
The Serpent in the Garden
Berrigan at the Beach
A Nation Once Again
Letter to the Editor
Intelligent criticism of U.S. foreign policy is not furthered by gross overstatements such as that of Carl Estabrook's "Bring the War Home" in your last issue. Estabrook packs an astonishing assortment of exaggerations and half-truths into a short article; one hardly knows where to begin. Let's take just one point: the statement that U.S. troops "killed perhaps twice as many people [as died in New York on Sept. 11] in Somalia and continued with the killing of at last as many in Serbia." Both of these interventions, however misconceived and misguided, were motivated by assaults on Muslim populations. The perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attack simply wanted to kill as many innocent civilians as possible. To equate these situations is grotesque and morally obtuse.
In fact all five U.S. military interventions in the 1990's have, at least in theory, been carried out on behalf of Muslims. This does not necessarily mean that they were disinterested, wise or justifiable; for one thing, our tendency to try to solve all problems from 15,000 feet, by air power, is a deplorable habit. But these situations are much more complex than Estabrook's simplistic bombast would have it.
O313 Hesburgh Center
Carl Estabrook Replies to Alan Dowty.
Mr. Dowty can't mean what he seems to be saying: that it's wrong to compare the numbers killed by the US in Somalia and Serbia to the numbers killed by terrorists in New York because the former "were motivated by assaults on Muslim populations." So that's OK then?
The (CIA-founded) terrorist networks that seem to have carried out the attack on New York have been quite clear that their crimes "were motivated by assaults on Muslim populations": (1) US support for the corrupt family dictatorships of the Gulf, the result of US insistence on control of Mideast oil; (2) US sanctions on Iraq, called genocide by two resigned UN officials; and (3) US support for Israel's brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine.
But I doubt whether Mr. Dowty's description of US motivations is correct. It's difficult to believe that American killings in the Horn of Africa and the Balkans were indeed the "humanitarian interventions" that their defenders describe, when we note the locales: the approaches to the cynosure of US foreign policy, Mideast oil. Even without mentioning the shameful business at Rambouillet, we note that apparently the humanitarian impulse didn't prick so keenly in regard to, say, Rwanda.
Those who died under American bombs in Serbia, from Marines' bullets in Somalia, or as a result of terrorist attack in New York were the victims of crimes, and one cannot exculpate the US by insisting that "these situations are ... complex," as they undoubtedly are. But the unwillingness to recognize crimes when they're committed by "our" side makes it more difficult to condemn the enormities of others.
C. G. Estabrook
Letter to the Editor
I wish to correct an erroneous assertion made in Common Sense from time to time and recently again in its October, 2001 issue p. 6, that a young historian was “refused a renewal of his contract” in the Notre Dame History Department about thirty years ago as “punishment for being at the forefront of the protests” at Notre Dame against the Vietnam War.
This historian’s contract was not renewed for an academic reason only and it had nothing to do with the Vietnam War. He knows the academic reason for non-renewal, because as Chairman of the Department of History at that time, I officially informed him of the academic reason and of the Department’s vote against his renewal. Other Department colleagues can atttest to this academic reason and so can this historian’s file in the Provost’s office. He has had this information for three decades and can attest to it himself.
Vincent P. DeSantis
Prof. Peter Walshe replies.
Of course an academic reason must be given for a non-renewal of contract. However, I stand by my reading of the situation. The young historian mentioned in my Common Sense article had seriously alienated many of the senior members of the History Department by his anti-war activities. Thus he was vulnerable when his Ph.D thesis was not completed within two years.
A Preferential Option for the Market?
Probably you've been thinking that the combination of the sinking market and the distractions of war mean that the days of hectic leveraged buyouts are over. But you were wrong. Turns out the next hostile takeover is going to be in...YES ladies and gentlemen, ARTS and LETTERS. No joke, folks. Our very own Economics department is ripe for a buyout. And not them alone, either. Nooooo, you too (students as well as faculty) can now apply to the Seng Foundation Endowment for Market-Based Programs and Catholic Values through our very own ISLA and receive mucho moola to support your very own "scholarly and pedagogical projects that utilize market-based principles to promote sound economic growth and movement toward a more just society both domestically and internationally."
So what gives here? turns out in eons past, our economics department committed the dreadful solecism of suggesting to the bishops as they wrote the 1986 Pastoral on the Economy that perhaps the unfettered greed of corporations was not the best guarantor of the common good. The powers that be were much disturbed. William Simon was all aflutter. A little stick in the form of tongue lashing from the dean: kiddies, you've been publishing in the wrong journals! Then hey presto! The carrot, in the form of big bucks for those who can baptize market values.
It strikes me as only too typical to discover that Notre Dame is lining up to provide support for the inviolability of "market-based prinicples" just as many of their former devotees are beginning to notice areas where they don't work. For instance, airport security--did you hear the one about the guy from South Bend with penknife in his gymbag who--oh, ok, you got that. Nuff said. "Market based principles" have bombed in every area in the attempt to introduce for-profit primary and secondary schools. "Market based principles" have made us a stunningly wealthy nation in which 40,000,000 people have no secure access to health care (no insurance) and in which infant and maternal mortality are as high as many impoverished nations. Worst of all, "market based principles" have driven hospital emergency rooms to operate at a level of preparation that is inadequate for Saturday night, never mind for a national health emergency, like a plague of anthrax.
Aside from the issue of their ability to offer an acceptable quality of life even to the relatively affluent, there is the issue of the fit between "market-based principles" and "Catholic Values." Now I would be the last one to pretend that "Catholic Values" hasn't been a pretty flexible concept. Well into the twentieth century, Catholicism was broadly and relentlessly monarchist. American Catholics were on the defensive with the Vatican, which saw the pernicious habit of democracy as the insidious source of the "Americanist heresy." Except for the basque Jesuits slaughtered with the rest of Guernica, Spanish Roman Catholicism placed itself on the side of Franco's Fascist regime. And the Archbishop of Vienna found support for Hitler among his Catholic values. A recent New York Times piece gives a perspective into the role of church institutions in Pinochet's Chile; it reported that a Chilean professor has identified as among his torturers another professor who held a government-sponsored chair of military studies at the Catholic University in Santiago. The accused's response to this charge has been singularly weak, and the charge appears to be widely credited among other Chilean professors.
Nor are market values new to Notre Dame's Catholic character. Let's not even talk about touchdown Jesus and the NBC contract. The bookstore, for instance, sports Waterford crystal football helmuts alongside so many high-end religious tchotchkes that its e-mail address could be basilica.com. And the market rules the promotion and salaries of faculty: an offer from another school now trumps every other criterion of academic excellence.
But it doesn't have to be like this. When I was teaching at Villanova, Jon Sobrino, the Salvadoran Jesuit whose six companions were slain with their housekeeper and her daughter by US trained military, gave a talk about the Catholic University in which he described how the Jesuits at UCA (University of Central America) had tried to make choices in the university curriculum that would foster the common good of their nation. In the question period he proved uncomfortable with the claim that the Jesuit educational model in itself would serve just causes--right wing militarists as well activists for the poor had gotten their educations at US Jesuit universities. "It's the Jesuit drugstore," he said, in the question period. "You take something from this shelf and something from that."
The point here is that the San Salvador Jesuits had chosen, and from the perspective of the long history of Christianity, they had chosen well. However deeply compromised the tradition may be, I'd like to believe that "Catholic Values" offer and demand some greater goals thing more than "to build credibility for market-based solutions" or "using market-based principles" to "contribute to the understanding of economic aspects of social justice both domestically and internationally (e.g., employment, education, health care, housing, retirement saving, taxation, environment, production and trade, and innovation and technology transfer)." It's possible for Notre Dame to choose similarly, to begin from the option for the poor that they heard in Jesus' preaching: that God's reign is of and for the poor. to entertain with serious endeavor the principle expressed throughout the New Testament, that there should be neither need nor excess (2 Cor 8:14-15, Act 2:44-47, 4:34-35, James 2:1-17). Throughout the middle ages and the renaissance, at least some parts of the church struggled to defend a consistent theological principle against the claims of private property (the barons, the kings, then merchants): the right of the poor to eat. The concerns of the American bishops about the economy go back to a tradition that is catholic and universal, if not in practice, at least in expectation. Catholicism researching "market based principles" might begin by pointing out where those principles end
Mary Rose D'Angelo teaches in the Theology Department and is a member of Common Sense.
A Terrible Sense of Entitlement
Recently, the spouse and I had occasion to consult a business woman whose professional competence and know-how we respect. We have never discussed politics with her, whether out of protocol or fear of awkwardness I do not know. My hunch was always that her politics were likely to be parochial: it seemed wise to let sleeping dogs lie. (A lesson learned after discovering that the mechanic whose engineering brilliance keeps our antique Jetta roadworthy is a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh.) Usually this woman is in a great rush to get to her next appointment. This time was different. For over two hours, we listened as she poured out her reactions to the attacks of September 11th. What emerged from this stream of consciousness was how pointless the world now seemed to her.
At a superficial level, there was the anxiety about travel: a sense of no longer feeling safe. But the existential crisis was deeper and had obviously taken her by surprise. She has worked unstintingly to establish herself in the business world. Breaks are taken once or twice a year, in places like Las Vegas or Cancun. Otherwise, she is quite the old sober-sides. While she was raised in a large Catholic family it is impossible to detect any brush with Catholic social teaching; when she speaks of the poor, as she did briefly that afternoon, it was as undeserving beneficiaries of welfare. One’s instinct was to console her, but to express anything worth saying necessarily meant talking about politics and the world as it is - and she is not used to connecting to the world politically. The chasm was too wide to bridge, particularly at a fraught moment like this. Part of the problem was that I don’t identify with this notion that September 11th marked a tectonic shift. The world remains as it was, a place deformed by ingrained cruelty and injustice with a yawning gap between the haves and have-nots.
It only takes a trawl through a glossy magazine like Vanity Fair to catch a glimpse of America’s dark side. At the urging of one of my daughters, I picked up a copy of the September issue. She suggested I might want to read Gore Vidal’s perspicacious essay on Timothy McVeigh. However, two other articles were also riveting. One was on Martha Stewart and her empire, the other dealt with two spoiled, rich New York teenagers who had “hooked-up” and were preparing for prom night. Martha Stewart. it turns out, is the ideal icon for capitalist America, being both shamelessly inauthentic and very, very acquisitive. Let’s start with that true blue wasp name: it was acquire courtesy of a failed marriage. Martha is Polish and hails from New Jersey. (The flawless face is maintained by a make-up artist who trails her, always at the ready to camouflage any subversive facial crease.) The piece was about Martha and her stuff; there was no suggestion that this fabulously wealthy woman has a clue about the state of the world beyond her impeccable pumpkin shell. She has a string of “exquisite” houses - the most recently acquired was built by Ford scion, Edsel, and is reputably the most beautiful estate in Maine. There is a chapel, now de-consecrated, built for the Ford’s Irish maids. It was called “The Holy Family,” the same name as the Catholic parish church Martha attended as a girl.
Martha has coaches and horses, in imitation of her neighbors, the Rockefellers. This high priestess of the free market (the Harvard Business School uses her empire as a case study) connects with social and economic problems, both in this country and abroad, with about as much sensitivity as Marie Antoinette connected with those of 18th century France. Old Martha is thrilled by treasure: “I just bought a whole huge set - hundreds of pieces of sterling silver with a gold ‘MS’ on it - at Sothebys,” she crows at one point. I fear the Catholic Church failed to make any impression on the young Martha. Someone should have alerted her to Matthew 6 where Jesus does not mince words about the dangers of storing up treasures on earth, or Luke12 where the rich man builds bigger barns for his goods, only to have God thunder “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul: and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then? So it is, when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.” (Come to think of it, try imagining the nation’s favorite chaplain - the vastly over rated Billy Graham--preaching on these verses!)
The other story in Vanity Fair was just as emblematic of contemporary American decadence. Dara Kenigsberg and Ben Greene are the monstrous progeny of an amoral New York capitalist class. They live in a hermetically sealed capsule of conspicuous consumption, their narcissism impregnable. Dining out regularly at up-market resturants, they only pick at the expensive food in order to preserve a fashionable anorexic look. (Dara, running for class president at her tony prep school, submitted a proposal to allow kids to order in food from a gourmet market called Manis.) For the prom, Dara wore her little black Diane von Furstenberg drress and Ben his $2,000 Prada suit with pony-skin Louis Vuitton shoes (“I hope they died slowly and unmercifully. Just kidding,” he said.) There was Cristal champagne at $250 a bottle. Dara and Ben have done coke and acid and still do marijuana, behavior that would land the children of the underclass in prison. Sex too, was just another commodity. Among Ben and his friends, there was talk of wops, “their nickname for girls in lower grades who, they say, will give them head-- from heads wopping up and down.”
It is hard to stay sane when, after reading a story like this, one turns to a piece that was published in an October issue of The New York Times, “Emros Khan Is Having A Bad Day.” Emros lives in Peshwar, Pakistan. He is twenty one, and for ten years he has worked twelve hours a day, six days a week, for $.25 a day smashing car engines for scrap. A bulge in his arm is a piece of iron he drove in by mistake; he can’t afford to have it removed. A two inch gash that runs an inch deep, now covered with grease, is two years old. “We work like donkeys…It is the life of animals,” he says. Since he was ten, Baktiar Khan has worked in the pits from 5 am to 5 pm, making bricks. He cannot believe a foreigner is asking about his life; “Life is cruel… you wear nice clothes and are healthy, we have n o clothes to wear and we are not healthy. Your question is amazing.”
The poverty and despair described in the article made for painful reading. New Yorker Ben Greene had carelessly burned a cigarette hole in his cashmere tank-top which had cost more than Emros Khan makes in two years. The bill for Dara’s pre-prom “day of beauty” at the flagship Elizabeth Arden salon (where, inter alia, her feet were soaked in a bowl in which rose petals floated) was the equivalent of eighteen months wages for Baktiar. When I hear those who own and run the United States say that the Emroses and Baktiars - should they join a jihad - are motivated by envy of American freedoms and democracy, I find myself wanting to start a jihad of my own! In this country there is a terrible sense of entitlement which erases conscience - precluding solidarity with one’s neighbor.
Last year, the spouse and I had the chance to accompany several members of the Israeli Knesset on a visit to Gaza. They were going to interview Palestinian fishermen who were being tormented by Israeli Navy conscripts. Gaza is a desolate place, and the contrast with the Jewish settlements that dot the landscape is stunning. On the day we visited, the festival of Purim was being celebrated, so the settler children were in costume having fun. That same sense of entitlement prevailed there, permitting a glacial indifference to the poverty and despair of Palestinian children. We have yet to learn that a world governed by entitlement is morally disordered, intrinsically unstable and violent.
Ann Pettifer is an alumna of Notre Dame and member of Common Sense.
Breaking Through the Gender Barrier
“Outdated gender roles hurt us all, gay and straight. In fact, they’re killing us.” This is the conclusion of Riki Wilchins writing in The Advocate, on pondering what really drives violent homophobia. She says, “‘Gender’ has become the new ‘gay’: the thing we no longer talk about in polite society. It’s the new thing we’re closeted about. If we’re assaulted, it must be because of our sexual orientation, because of what we do in the privacy of our own bedrooms. But in public? We’re all ‘just like straight people.’” Indeed, it’s vogue (though not a new phenomenon, of course) for gay males to be “straight-acting,” to “pass” at all times, relying on stereotypical notions of heterosexual male behaviors-straight, except in bed. Witness gay chat rooms: many chatters’ bio lines include things like “str8-acting,” and “top,” and asking “flamers” and “queens” to stay away.
Now, of course, gay people should not accept the stereotypes put upon us by straight society. And neither should straight people. The real task, as Wilchins points out, is to recognize how far gender roles inform our perceptions and actions; how much gender limits our range of emotional expressiveness, our contacts with members of the same and other sex; how much gender transgression has to do with the harassment and violence against those people who violate the traditional boundaries.
Earlier this year two reports were released by major human rights organizations that dealt with harassment and violence towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. The first of these is entitled “Crimes of Hate, Conspiracy of Silence,” from Amnesty International, dealing with rights abuses of “sexual minorities” around the world, and the second is entitled “Hatred in the Hallways,” from Human Rights Watch, which documents discrimination and harassment of GLBT students in US schools. The reports are significant for acknowledging the issue of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation or “sexual identity” as a legitimate human rights concern. As Amnesty puts it, “sexual orientation goes to the core of a person’s right to physical and mental integrity. That right must include the freedom to determine and express one’s sexual orientation and to do so on the basis of equality-free of fear and discrimination.” The reports are useful because they insist that governments must do much more to protect the rights and bodily integrity of their gay citizens. But perhaps the most significant contribution of the reports to the human rights discourse is the acknowledgment of the role of gender in the abuses documented.
The Amnesty report says, “The victims of torture highlighted in this report include…activists seen as threatening the social order; women seeking to exercise autonomy over their bodies; men seen as traitors to masculine privilege because they are perceived as adopting ‘feminine’ roles; and transgender people calling into question the traditional assumption that all humankind must fall irrevocably into one of two gender categories.... Violence against LGBT people is gender-based violence, inflicted on those who challenge or fail to conform to traditionally defined gender roles.” And from interviews with US students, the Human Rights Watch report says, “the abuse of [LGBT] youth is predicated on the belief that girls and boys must strictly adhere to rigid rules of conduct, dress, and appearances based on their sex...youth who violate these rules are punished by their peers and too often by adults.” The recognition of gender role issues by these mainstream international organizations is an important development in the gay rights struggle, and signals a growing consciousness of the root issues involved in heterosexist and homophobic prejudices. In implicating gender role norms in a major-though broadly ignored-human rights problem, these groups give legitimization to the idea of gender as a social construction, and one that, in its traditional forms, has been fodder for prejudice, discrimination, and violence.
I’ve recently learned that because the Catholic Church does not recognize transsexuality, the term “transgender” is not allowed to be used officially by Notre Dame groups concerned with gay issues, such as the Standing Committee for Gay and Lesbian Student Needs, or the Campus Ministry group that serves questioning/gay students. While more thoughtful and humane religious thinkers have recognized an equal dignity in gay sexuality, traditional gender norms are still strong in religious institutions (not to mention society at large), and transgenderism lies outside a safe boundary. Apparently, the Vatican feels it is being more than generous in recognizing gay and bisexual orientations, and does not need to extend the dialogue to the deeper challenges to gender roles that come from transgenderism.
Timothy Beneke writes of the “straightjacket” of traditional gender role identity. In assigning gender to ourselves, to objects, and to experiences, we open up the opportunity for oppression, and limit our emotional and physical range of expressiveness. Challenging these gender conceptions, as these two reports call us to do with the aid of vivid documentation of gender’s terrible implications, is the only way that we might one day find ourselves in a world without fear of heterosexist (and sexist) violence.
This brings us to a consideration of gender and sexuality post-9/11 (if I may indulge in the seemingly obligatory rule that all commentary must somehow relate back to our “national tragedy”). It’s a shaded relationship, to be sure, but it certainly exists. We can agree with Laura Riscol, who writes on alternet.org that, “sexual liberty and justice are virtues of the civilized world. . . . Islamic fundamentalists most definitely hate our sexual freedom. As the religious right does here [in the US].”
The nationalist sentiment that has swept the nation since September 11th has been informed with terrible prejudice and scapegoating-Jerry Falwell’s and Ann Coulter’s commentary being some of the most explicitly contemptible. And that “highjack this, fags” had been scrawled on a US bomb destined to purvey destruction in Afghanistan is one high-profile example of the link between gender and violence. To emasculate the Taliban in such a way serves to further justify punishing them with bombing (at the very least, in the minds of those who wrote that). What else do fags deserve but some serious punishment for their transgressions? Even a society that might try to uphold the rights of sexual minorities is allegedly prone to punishment: witness the letter received by Kate Kendell of The Advocate and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and other employees of gay organizations, “U PERVERTS R THE CAUSE OF THE PAIN IN NEW YORK. YOU HAVE TURNED OUR NATION INTO A NATION OF PERVERTS AND SINNERS, U SICKOS. REPENT! OR WE WILL CONTINUE TO SUFFER JUDGMENT.”
If we can recognize the hold that gender role constructions have on our lives-the “straightjacket” that they put us in-we will have taken a great step toward liberation, sexual and political. It is not enough to say that gay people don’t have to fall into the stereotypes assigned us, or that straight men can “be in touch with their feminine side.” Liberation requires understanding precisely what is oppressing us: as Paolo Freire said, “To surmount the situation of oppression, people must first critically recognize its causes, so that through transforming action they can create a new situation, one which makes possible the pursuit of a fuller humanity.” Thus, the addition of gender role considerations to the human rights arena is an important step toward the full liberation of people around the world, allowing us all to pursue a fuller humanity.
Paul Ranogajec is a fourth year architecture and peace studies student, and editor of Common Sense.
Fair Trade Coffee Comes to the Huddle Mart
To many coffee drinkers, surviving a day without their morning cup is hard to imagine. However, for the farmers that grow the coffee beans, survival is much more basic. In fact, because of the current low price of coffee on the world market, countless farmers around the world are forced to beg for food and clothing, and engage in harvesting illegal crops to make a living. There are days when some members of farming communities simply go without eating.
Concerned coffee drinkers at Notre Dame can now buy Fair Trade coffee in the Huddle Mart. While it certainly won’t solve all the financial woes of coffee farmers, Fair Trade certification does allow them to form cooperatives and to sell their beans for higher prices. A nonprofit organization, TransFair USA, certifies Fair Trade coffee and monitors the production process, including visits to sites where coffee is grown. Importers buying Fair Trade-certified coffee pay farmers a much higher price per pound than the prevailing market price. The extra cost is not passed onto consumers because farmers sell directly to importers, thus eliminating the middleman who raises the price importers pay anyway.
Currently, only the Huddle’s French Roast flavor is Fair Trade, according to manager James LaBella. He explained that Fair Trade coffee is more expensive, and the Huddle has been absorbing the extra cost. He wants to make sure Huddle customers are interested in it before switching additional flavors to Fair Trade. Last year, students, staff and faculty called LaBella requesting that the Huddle sell Fair Trade coffee.
LaBella orders the Huddle’s Fair Trade coffee from Thanksgiving Coffee, an importer located in California. Thanksgiving buys much of its coffee from small farmer cooperatives, including nine cooperatives in Nicaragua, with which the company has long term contracts to pay $1.40 per pound. Otherwise, under the prevailing market price, the farmers would receive 51 cents per pound for the same beans. Thanksgiving has also been helping small farmer cooperatives obtain the tools they need to improve the quality of the coffee they grow.
Last year, Thanksgiving CEO Paul Katzeff visited Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Colombia. He said he spoke with government and industry leaders in these countries about “the importance of restoring coffee cultivation to a sustainable type of agriculture as the only way to improve the quality of the taste and the quality of life of coffee producers.”
addition to Fair Trade coffee being sold at the Huddle, it will also soon be available at Reckers as a second option, according to manager Michael Davy. Davy is purchasing Fair Trade coffee from Starbucks, the company that supplies all of Reckers’ coffee. Although the ground coffee Starbucks sells in supermarkets is not Fair Trade, the company does sell Fair Trade coffee in its stores and to business accounts. Much like Thanksgiving, Starbucks enters into long-term contracts with farmers to pay them between $1.25 and $1.45 a pound. Some farmers, however, that Fair Trade price still seems low, because in 1996, a pound of unroasted Arabica coffee sold on the wholesale market for $3. However, factors such as large harvests in coffee-producing nations, and an influx of coffee from Vietnam, have driven the market price to 51 cents a pound.
Ironically, Vietnam is producing so much coffee because the World Bank and French government invested heavily in the country’s coffee industry. The idea was to help peasants by working with them to develop a cash crop. Now, Vietnam trails only Brazil in coffee production, but Vietnamese success has come at the expense of producers elsewhere. The beans grown in Vietnam are also primarily Robusta, a lower quality and cheaper coffee than Arabica beans, which are the only kind grown in certain other places, such as Nicaragua.
People who brew coffee at home can also help the plight of farmers by not drinking canned coffee, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Canned coffee, which is primarily sold in supermarkets, contributes to declining coffee prices because producers search for the cheapest coffee beans, even if they are not the highest quality. The canned coffee that Nestle, Folgers, and Maxwell House sell accounts for 60 percent of the U.S. coffee market, and is not Fair Trade-certified. And despite the slump in prices, these major coffee companies have dropped their prices only a small percent compared to the raw bean price. For people who buy coffee at the Huddle, choosing the Fair Trade French Roast flavor is a small way to help struggling farmers. Perhaps it will encourage Huddle management, and managers of other campus establishments, to offer more Fair Trade products.
Erin LaRuffa is a student in Arts and Letters and a member of the Common Sense staff.
The Conditions for Justice in East Timor
On August 30, 1999, the people of East Timor, through a United Nations-sponsored referendum, voted overwhelmingly to reject special autonomy within Indonesia and consequently determined themselves independent as a nation. Over 95 percent of the eligible population turned out for the vote during which 80 percent of the East Timorese population selected independence. Soon after the results of the referendum were released, however, the situation in East Timor again deteriorated into one of violence and destruction. A terror campaign ensued, carried out by militias organized and directed by the Indonesian military, displacing hundreds of thousands of East Timorese refugees, targeting and burning the modest infrastructure across East Timor and costing the lives of thousands of people throughout the island nation.
The international community, after much reluctance, finally succeeded in mustering the political will to effectively pressure Indonesia to end the abuses in East Timor. This end came with the withdrawal of the Indonesian military from East Timor and the allowance of an Australian-led peacekeeping force to enter East Timor and stop the violent activities carried out by the militias. The United Nations soon set up the UN Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET), and a process began to establish East Timor as a fully independent nation. In August of this year, the East Timorese people participated in their first national election, selecting members for their country’s constitutional assembly. The elections proceeded without any violent incidents and over 90 percent of the eligible population participated.
Despite the hopeful advances made by the East Timorese people in recent years, many injustices remain. The path to full independence will be difficult as East Timor continues to construct an entire infrastructure out of the destruction that occurred in the fall of 1999. In Indonesian West Timor between 60,000 and 80,000 East Timorese refugees, displaced after 1999, remain trapped in militia-controlled camps. An international tribunal to try those guilty of organizing, ordering, or carrying out the crimes against humanity in East Timor has yet to be established.
Some believe that Indonesia should try those guilty of crimes in East Timor under the auspices of an Ad Hoc Tribunal to be held internally within Indonesia and administrated by the Indonesian government. It has been two years since Indonesia was asked to form such a tribunal and as of yet no meaningful action has been taken. According to Australian based lawyer Kate Halliday who recently worked on justice issues in Dili, East Timor, “the Indonesian criminal code does not provide adequate protection for women from violence. Under this law, for example, it is not prohibited for a man to rape his wife… It is also inconsistent with international human rights standards, in that women do not have the full support of the law in seeking protection from violence.” Women were repeatedly targeted during the illegal Indonesian occupation, and only an international tribunal would adequately address the abuses against women and hold those guilty of such abuses fully accountable. An internal Indonesian administered tribunal would only focus on events that occurred in April and September of 1999 and then only such events that took place in certain sections of East Timor. These conditions neglect the numerous incidents of torture, massacre, rape, disappearance and destruction that occurred during the Indonesian occupation lasting between 1975 and 1999.
In June 2001, forty-five church aid agencies and human rights groups meeting at an international donors conference emphasized the need for an International Tribunal to address the abuses in East Timor. This declaration echoes the requests of Bishop Carlos Belo, Catholic Bishop in East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, for an internationally administrated Tribunal. On the 16th of October 2001, the East Timorese NGO forum concluded, “After initial glimmers of hope, subsequent political turmoil and instability, and ensuing continual revisions to the mandate and scope of any Ad Hoc Tribunal which is to be established, has clearly demonstrated that Indonesia is incapable and unwilling to take responsibility for prosecuting those culpable for the crimes against humanity in East Timor.” The only viable option to allow for justice in East Timor and to begin a process of reconciliation between East Timorese people remains clear.
The United States’ current ban on military relations with Indonesia instituted by Congress in the fall of 1999 stipulates that US military ties will not be restored with Indonesia until the “Leahy conditions” are satisfied. These conditions include: permitting the return of East Timorese refugees in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia; applying “effective measures to bring to justice” officers of the Indonesian military “aiding and abetting militia groups” in addition to members of the Indonesian military and the militias themselves; and assisting in investigations of human rights violations. The decision to ban US military relations with Indonesia supplied the necessary pressure to allow for the atrocities in East Timor to stop and for the East Timorese to begin a process towards independence and self-determination.
The Indonesian military occupation lasting between 1975 and 1999 cost the lives of 200,000 East Timorese, or one-third the population of East Timor. The oppression during the occupation produced some of the twentieth century’s worst crimes against humanity. During that time period the US sold over $1.1 billion worth of weapons to Indonesia and concurrently little international pressure was placed on the Indonesian military to clear up its human rights abuses in East Timor. Certainly any resumption of military ties, before the Leahy conditions are met, would not return the forcibly held refugees to East Timor, would not promote the establishment of an essential and necessary International War Crimes Tribunal, and would only act to encourage an Indonesian military to continue its gross tradition of human rights abuses.
Jim Madden is a junior mechanical engineering major at Notre Dame. He was in East Timor this summer with the East Timor Action Network.
Hearts and Minds: Avoiding a New Cold War
This is a different kind of war. That much of what we are being told, at least, is true. And because of that, a different kind of analysis is required.
The single most common question antiwar activists are confronted with is, "What's your solution?"
Although many elements of a sensible solution have been offered, the antiwar movement has reached no general consensus on the fundamentals.
In the past, activists who critiqued and/or resisted unjust U.S. foreign policy and militarism faced three main scenarios in which U.S. actions were blatantly unjust and the raw exercise of U.S. power was obviously wrong:
• U.S. attempts to overthrow democratically elected
governments, such as Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and
Chile in 1973.
In all those cases, there was no threat to the people of the United States, even though many of the interventions were carried out in the context of the Cold War project of making people afraid of threats-that-might-come. The solutions were simple -- in the first two cases, no intervention by the United States, and in the third, diplomacy and negotiations within the framework of international law while keeping the United States from unilateral military action.
But this war was sparked by attacks on U.S. soil, and people feel threatened and afraid, for understandable reasons.
In a climate of fear, it doesn't matter to many that the military strategy being pursued by the United States is immoral (the civilian death toll from bombing and starvation resulting from the attack will no doubt reach into the tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands without immediate action) and ineffective (it will most likely breed more terrorism, not end it). Americans are confronted with a genuine threat and want to feel safe again.
As a result, proposals offered by some in the antiwar movement have been difficult for the public to take seriously. It is clear that pacifism is of interest to virtually no one in the United States. That is not said out of disrespect for principled pacifists who consistently reject violence, but simply to point out that any political argument that sounds like "turn the other cheek" will be ignored. It is also hard to imagine how it would have an impact on the kind of people who committed the crime against humanity on Sept. 11.
The only public display of pacifism that would be meaningful now would be for pacifists to put their bodies on the line, to put themselves somewhere between the weapons of their government and the innocent victims in Afghanistan. Short of that, statements evoking pacifism will be worse than ineffective; they will paint all the antiwar movement as out of touch with reality.
Also inadequate are calls for terrorism to be treated solely as a police matter in which law enforcement agencies pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice through courts, domestic or international. That is clearly central to the task but is insufficient and unrealistic; the problem of terrorist networks is a combined political and criminal matter and requires a combined solution.
So, what should those who see the futility of the current military strategy be calling for?
First, we must support the call made by UN-affiliated and private aid agencies for an immediate bombing halt to allow a resumption of the serious food distribution efforts needed to avoid a catastrophe.
There will need to be a transitional government, which should be -- as has been suggested for the past decade -- ethnically broad-based with a commitment to allowing international aid and basic human rights. It must, however, be under UN auspices, with the United States playing a minimal role because of its history of "covert" action in the region. It should also be one that does not sell off Afghanistan's natural resources and desirable location for pipelines on the cheap to multinational corporations.
While all that goes forward, the United States should do what is most obviously within its power to do to lower the risk of further terrorist attacks: Begin to change U.S. foreign policy in a way that could win over the people of the Islamic world by acknowledging that many of their grievances -- such as the sanctions on Iraq, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, Israel's occupation of and aggression against Palestine -- are legitimate and must be addressed.
This shouldn't be confused with "giving in to the terrorists" or "negotiating with bin Laden." It is neither. It is a practical strategy that demonstrates that a powerful nation can choose to correct policies that were rooted in a desire to extend its dominance over a region and its resources and are now not only unjust but untenable. It is a sign of strength, and it is the right thing to do.
Some have argued against any change in U.S. foreign policy in the near term. International law expert Richard Falk wrote in The Nation, "Whatever the global role of the United States--and it is certainly responsible for much global suffering and injustice, giving rise to widespread resentment that at its inner core fuels the terrorist impulse--it cannot be addressed so long as this movement of global terrorism is at large and prepared to carry on with its demonic work."
In fact, the opposite is true: Now is precisely the time to address these long-term issues.
Here we can actually take a page from "liberal" counterinsurgency experts who saw that the best way to defeat movements of national liberation was to win the hearts and minds of people rather than try to defeat them militarily. In those situations, as in this one, military force simply drives more people into resistance. Measures designed to ease the pressure toward insurgency, such as land reform then and changing U.S. Middle East policy now, are far more likely to be effective. The alternative in Vietnam was a wholesale attempt to destroy civilian society -- "draining the swamp" in Donald Rumsfeld's phrase. The alternative now would be unending global war.
In the past, such strategies were part of a foreign policy "debate" in which the end goal of U.S. economic domination of Third World countries was shared by all parties, and so they were entirely illegitimate. Now, it is different -- these terrorists are not the voice of the dispossessed and they are not a national liberation movement. Their vision for their own societies is grotesque.
But they do share something with the wider populace of their countries.
There is tremendous justified anger in the Islamic world at U.S. foreign policy. For the vast majority of the populace, it has not translated to anger at the United States as a nation or at Americans as a people. For groups like al-Qaeda, it has. Their aims and methods are rejected by that majority, but the shared anger at U.S. domination provides these terror networks their only cover. A strategy to successfully "root out" those networks must isolate them from the populace by eliminating what they hold in common. It is necessary to get the cooperation not just of governments of Islamic nations but of their people as well. The only way is to remove their sources of grievance.
These changes in policy must be preliminary to a larger change. The United States must drop its posture of the unilateralist, interventionist superpower. In lieu of its current policy of invoking the rule of law and the international community when convenient and ignoring them when it wishes, it must demonstrate a genuine commitment to being bound by that law and the will of the international community in matters of war and peace.
Many have said of the Afghans, and perhaps by extension of many other deprived peoples, "Feed them and you'll win them over." This attitude dehumanizes those people. Nobody will accept bombs with one hand and food with the other. Nor will anyone feel gratitude over food doled out by an arrogant superpower that insists on a constant double standard in international relations and makes peremptory demands of other nations on a regular basis. To win the support of Afghans and others for the long term, which will be necessary to substantially reduce the danger of terrorism, the United States must treat other peoples with dignity and respect. We must recognize we are simply one nation among many.
This strategy will not win over bin Laden or other committed terrorists to our side; that's not the objective. Instead, we have to win over the people.
The choice we face as a nation is similar to that faced at the end of World War II. The capitalist West, the Communist world, and many of the colonies had united to defeat fascism. That could have been the basis of building an equitable world order, with the United States helping to equalize levels of wealth and consumption around the world. Had that path been taken, the world would be a far safer place today, for Americans and others.
Instead, U.S. leaders chose the path of the Cold War, which was not so much an attempt to contain Soviet-style communism as it was to destroy any example of independent development in the Third World, to extend and entrench our economic superiority. That effort harmed democracy in our country and in others, killed millions, and has led in the end to the creation new and terrifying threats to all our safety.
Government officials are already speaking as if we are fighting a new Cold War, with President Bush calling the war on Afghanistan "the first battle of the war of the 21st century."
We cannot let history repeat itself.
Rahul Mahajan serves on the National Board of Peace Action. Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas. Both are members of the Nowar Collective (www.nowarcollective.com). They can be reached at email@example.com
Copyright Z Magazine, http://www.zmag.org
Afghanistan: Something Must Be Done…
“They killed all of my children and [my] husband.” Following U.S. led attacks on Kabul, Gul Ahmad came home to discover something horrible: her husband and seven children had been killed while eating breakfast together in their small home. Additionally, debris from this attack killed two neighboring children. Those children were not a part of al-Qaeda. These people and more died following continued bombings by the United States. Then, on Sunday, October 28, fifteen more innocent people died in Kabul, including a whole family. These people were not a part of al-Qaeda or the Taliban; they were innocent people who died at the hands of U.S. missile strikes. They may not be the targets, but they are the victims. Something must be done; these attacks must stop.
The U.S. has been bombing for over three weeks, and there has been no positive change. No goal has been met, and if anything has resulted from this “War on Terrorism,” it is increased hatred of the United States and of Christians. There have been more than 750 deaths in Afghanistan directly resulting from these bombings. Notably, none of these have resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden or the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban. The bombing victims are not the intended targets. Rather, they are victims of the same brutal violence the U.S. government has condemned so loudly since the September 11 attacks. Is there any acceptable reason for all of these deaths?
The war America is fighting is not a "War on Terrorism" by any means. If our country truly wants to fight a war on terrorism, we must first examine the poverty and health issues facing the Afghan people. We must do something-something other than attacking innocent people.
A host of information about the situation in Afghanistan can be obtained from the UNICEF website (www.unicef.org). For instance, only 46% percent of males and 16% of females in Afghanistan are literate. Each year, there are over 293,000 deaths of children under five years old. This is largely because only 13% of the total population have access to clean water and 12% have access to proper sanitation. One in two children are malnourished. And, with over 50% of the population under the age of eighteen, who is educating all the children? Who is feeding the people? People are starving in Afghanistan-people with nowhere to turn. Something must be done to help these people.
The United Nations estimates that there are 7.5 million people in desperate need of aid in Afghanistan. These people need food. They need shelter. With the coming of a harsh winter, they need blankets and heat. This is a serious crisis, and the United States is not doing anything to help. Aide is left up to the United Nations, Catholic Relief Services, The Red Cross, and others. Eric Laroche, the UNICEF representative in Afghanistan, explains that these and other global relief efforts are urgently needed. "More than a million Afghan children were born over the past 12 months, and their lives are now at risk," he said. "If we want to prevent another humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, if we want to prevent the loss of another generation of Afghan children, we must act now."
Remember the pain you felt on September 11th? Many people knew someone in the World Trade Center when it collapsed. But even if you didn't know anybody, you still felt the horror of the attacks, of death, and of violence. What if this happened everyday? The United States is creating terror and people are fleeing because of the daily bombings in Afghanistan. A missile or bullet may not kill a refugee, but the deprivation of food, shelter, water, and medicine brings the same results. As Americans-citizens of a country that promotes "freedom and democracy"-we must make our voices heard so that these attacks will stop. With humanitarian aid provided by the United States, the Afghan people would benefit and bin Laden’s message against the U.S. could be silenced. Instead, our country is bombing and killing innocent people-to all appearances proving bin Laden’s claims that the U.S. is evil and selfish.
If you feel the least bit disgusted, enraged, or even unsettled by the attacks brought upon the Afghan people by the United States, email the Notre Dame Peace Coalition at
Paul Graham is a sociology and Catholic social traditions major.
One Tragedy Must Not Block Out Another: We Must Struggle With All Our Might Against Violence and for Human Development
It is with profound dismay that the international community has learned of the tribulations suffered by the American people. These have likewise affected citizens of other countries. We can do nothing other than associate ourselves with the pain of the families so cruelly afflicted, and condemn the criminal intrigues of the authors of these attacks. Their ability to cause further harm must be destroyed while we take care not to crush, in the same flow of actions, numerous innocent people. It is by putting an end to the causes of these tragedies that we can best promote humanity on our battered planet.
It would be futile, however, even senseless not to direct our struggle against all these causes, without exception, for they are tightly interdependent. It is worrisome to observe how little this interdependence seems to be on the world’s agenda. This is why it is urgently necessary to appeal to the universal conscience of humankind to seek the means needed to find a way out of the many dangers facing us.
1. The first grave error to correct is the confusion between Islam’s spiritual message and the community of Muslim believers with the actions of an army of lost and misguided warriors who, in distorted fashion, invoke the Muslim faith to justify their deeds. Athough jihad was invoked in early battles to spread the message of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him!) in a violent world over ten centuries ago, today it has no meaning other than internal spiritual warfare waged to achieve perfection. All believers must wage this combat within their deep inner selves, so that what gains the upper hand in their souls is the love of God which, in turn, commands the love of human beings and calls forth fraternity, equality, and justice. This, in essence, is Islam’s message and here the Muslim religion joins the basic tenets of the great spiritual currents in humanity. Criminal terrorist actions are the very antithesis of this way.
2. We are convinced, for reasons both of equity and efficiency, that we must fight against all the perpetrators of the violence and the injustice which bloody the world, and not only against the authors of the recent American tragedy. Justice demands, therefore, that we call to mind the drama of millions of victims who perish under the weight of crushing inequalities in conditions of life and death in the several continents, under the yoke of a violently unequal world system. One victim of violence who dies in America deserves as much attention as one who, lacking food or medical care, dies of hunger or AIDS in Africa. The reciprocal statement is no less true: a death in Africa merits the same attention as a death in America. The international community and the nations which comprise it must take responsibility for fighting against these deadly inequalities. Refusing to give aid, or giving it insufficiently, as well as tolerating or imposing systems of inequality on the world, wound and kill just as terrorism does.
For this reason it would be senseless and unjust to mount an international coalition against terrorism alone, without also working to forge an equally potent international coalition to assure all human beings who are the victims of violence their right to life, to education, to citizenship, to development. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ratified by the community of nations constitutes a pressing obligation to do so. Nevertheless, we are forced to admit that, on these fundamental points, in many countries that Declaration remains, tragically, a dead letter.
3. How can we fail to note that development aid to Africa is decreasing steadily and that it amounts to only one-fourth of the volume of the urgent assistance - so legitimately and rightfully granted - for dealing with the catastrophes of New York and Washington.
Numerous voices have been raised to urge that the mobilization which targets terrorism be conducted in close collaboration with the United Nations. This institution, which is indispensable for regulating humanity’s vital interests, must create possibilities for broadening the scope of this mobilization to embrace the fight against poverty and on behalf of development in the world’s hot spots. It is a fact that terrorism and fanaticism can find no better breeding-ground than the misery, despair and sence of injustice which weigh down upon the disinherited. The United Nations must find a way, in this conjuncture, to make the profound reforms that it urgently needs to carry out its difficult mission in the present world.
Why not immediately convoke, within the framework of the United Nations, global assemblies against violence and terrorism and for human development? Civil society should be broadly represented and play a major role in such assemblies, which ought to be assisted by lead teams from UNDP, which has already shown itself to be greatly sensitized to the problems evoked here. National commissions in every country could prepare these proceedings by making an inventory of problems and proposing solutions.
4. Our immediate concern, however, is to urge America - which is no doubt fully justified in mobilizing its power to end the terrorist threat - to stop preaching an artificial crusade under the banner of the good, which it claims to represent, against evil, which it imputes to outside powers. The United States should acknowledge, on the same grounds as the world’s other powers, that it is party to the unequal world system whose effects feed the spirit of violence and vengeance. One must deal with what is most pressing without, however, limiting oneself to merely tracking down the authors of the killings. In the same spirit it appears to us that the United States, a great nation which professes ideals of freedom, if associated with Europe and the Community of Nations, with an express mention of the Arab world as well, possesses the power and the duty to bring the full weight of its influence so that the Israeli-Palestinian drama may , in all urgency, find an equitable solution on the basis of UN resolutions. Peace in the Middle East takes on an extreme urgency if we are to resolve the dramatic situation we now face. Achieving peace in this region should lead to regional and international cooperation which, in this extraordinary crossroad of spiritualities and civilizations, would re-establish a pole of equilibrium , of development, and a model for dialogue at the service of all men and women of the nations which meet here, and extending beyond the region.
None of us, in our souls and in our conscience, can bear the thought that by failing to act today, tomorrow it may be too late.
Ahmed Ben Bella, former President of the Algerian Republic, President of the North-South Association, and Mamadou Dia, former President of the government of the Republic of Senegal, September 25, 2001. A press statement first published in Paris, Sept/Oct 2001.
Brutality Smeared in Peanut Butter: Why America must stop the war now
As darkness deepened over Afghanistan on Sunday October 7 2001, the US government, backed by the International Coalition Against Terror (the new, amenable surrogate for the United Nations), launched air strikes against Afghanistan. TV channels lingered on computer-animated images of cruise missiles, stealth bombers, tomahawks, "bunker-busting" missiles and Mark 82 high drag bombs. All over the world, little boys watched goggle-eyed and stopped clamouring for new video games.
The UN, reduced now to an ineffective acronym, wasn't even asked to mandate the air strikes. (As Madeleine Albright once said, "We will behave multilaterally when we can, and unilaterally when we must.") The "evidence" against the terrorists was shared amongst friends in the "coalition".
After conferring, they announced that it didn't matter whether or not the "evidence" would stand up in a court of law. Thus, in an instant, were centuries of jurisprudence carelessly trashed.
Nothing can excuse or justify an act of terrorism, whether it is committed by religious fundamentalists, private militia, people's resistance movements--or whether it's dressed up as a war of retribution by a recognised government. The bombing of Afghanistan is not revenge for New York and Washington. It is yet another act of terror against the people of the world.
Each innocent person that is killed must be added to, not set off against, the grisly toll of civilians who died in New York and Washington.
People rarely win wars, governments rarely lose them. People get killed.
Governments moult and regroup, hydra-headed. They use flags first to shrink-wrap people's minds and smother thought, and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury their willing dead. On both sides, in Afghanistan as well as America, civilians are now hostage to the actions of their own governments.
Unknowingly, ordinary people in both countries share a common bond--they have to live with the phenomenon of blind, unpredictable terror. Each batch of bombs that is dropped on Afghanistan is matched by a corresponding escalation of mass hysteria in America about anthrax, more hijackings and other terrorist acts.
There is no easy way out of the spiralling morass of terror and brutality that confronts the world today. It is time now for the human race to hold still, to delve into its wells of collective wisdom, both ancient and modern. What happened on September 11 changed the world forever.
Freedom, progress, wealth, technology, war--these words have taken on new meaning.
Governments have to acknowledge this transformation, and approach their new tasks with a modicum of honesty and humility. Unfortunately, up to now, there has been no sign of any introspection from the leaders of the International Coalition. Or the Taliban.
When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said: "We're a peaceful nation." America's favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also holds the portfolio of prime minister of the UK), echoed him: "We're a peaceful people."
So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is peace.
Speaking at the FBI headquarters a few days later, President Bush said: "This is our calling. This is the calling of the United States of America. The most free nation in the world. A nation built on fundamental values that reject hate, reject violence, rejects murderers and rejects evil. We will not tire."
Here is a list of the countries that America has been at war with--and bombed--since the second world war: China (1945-46, 1950-53), Korea (1950-53), Guatemala (1954, 1967-69), Indonesia (1958), Cuba (1959-60), the Belgian Congo (1964), Peru (1965), Laos (1964-73), Vietnam (1961-73), Cambodia (1969-70), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), El Salvador (1980s), Nicaragua (1980s), Panama (1989), Iraq (1991-99), Bosnia (1995), Sudan (1998), Yugoslavia (1999). And now Afghanistan.
Certainly it does not tire--this, the most free nation in the world.
What freedoms does it uphold? Within its borders, the freedoms of speech, religion, thought; of artistic expression, food habits, sexual preferences (well, to some extent) and many other exemplary, wonderful things.
Outside its borders, the freedom to dominate, humiliate and subjugate--usually in the service of America's real religion, the "free market". So when the US government christens a war "Operation Infinite Justice", or "Operation Enduring Freedom", we in the third world feel more than a tremor of fear.
Because we know that Infinite Justice for some means Infinite Injustice for others. And Enduring Freedom for some means Enduring Subjugation for others.
The International Coalition Against Terror is a largely cabal of the richest countries in the world. Between them, they manufacture and sell almost all of the world's weapons, they possess the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction--chemical, biological and nuclear. They have fought the most wars, account for most of the genocide, subjection, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations in modern history, and have sponsored, armed and financed untold numbers of dictators and despots. Between them, they have worshipped, almost deified, the cult of violence and war. For all its appalling sins, the Taliban just isn't in the same league.
The Taliban was compounded in the crumbling crucible of rubble, heroin and landmines in the backwash of the cold war. Its oldest leaders are in their early 40s. Many of them are disfigured and handicapped, missing an eye, an arm or a leg. They grew up in a society scarred and devastated by war.
Between the Soviet Union and America, over 20 years, about $45bn (£30bn) worth of arms and ammunition was poured into Afghanistan. The latest weaponry was the only shard of modernity to intrude upon a thoroughly medieval society.
Young boys--many of them orphans--who grew up in those times, had guns for toys, never knew the security and comfort of family life, never experienced the company of women. Now, as adults and rulers, the Taliban beat, stone, rape and brutalise women, they don't seem to know what else to do with them.
Years of war has stripped them of gentleness, inured them to kindness and human compassion. Now they've turned their monstrosity on their own people.
They dance to the percussive rhythms of bombs raining down around them.
With all due respect to President Bush, the people of the world do not have to choose between the Taliban and the US government. All the beauty of human civilisation--our art, our music, our literature--lies beyond these two fundamentalist, ideological poles. There is as little chance that the people of the world can all become middle-class consumers as there is that they will all embrace any one particular religion. The issue is not about good v evil or Islam v Christianity as much as it is about space. About how to accommodate diversity, how to contain the impulse towards hegemony--every kind of hegemony, economic, military, linguistic, religious and cultural.
Any ecologist will tell you how dangerous and fragile a monoculture is. A hegemonic world is like having a government without a healthy opposition. It becomes a kind of dictatorship. It's like putting a plastic bag over the world, and preventing it from breathing. Eventually, it will be torn open.
One and a half million Afghan people lost their lives in the 20 years of conflict that preceded this new war. Afghanistan was reduced to rubble, and now, the rubble is being pounded into finer dust. By the second day of the air strikes, US pilots were returning to their bases without dropping their assigned payload of bombs. As one pilot put it, Afghanistan is "not a target-rich environment". At a press briefing at the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defense secretary, was asked if America had run out of targets.
"First we're going to re-hit targets," he said, "and second, we're not running out of targets, Afghanistan is ..." This was greeted with gales of laughter in the briefing room.
By the third day of the strikes, the US defence department boasted that it had "achieved air supremacy over Afghanistan" (Did they mean that they had destroyed both, or maybe all 16, of Afghanistan's planes?)
On the ground in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance--the Taliban's old enemy, and therefore the international coalition's newest friend--is making headway in its push to capture Kabul. (For the archives, let it be said that the Northern Alliance's track record is not very different from the Taliban's. But for now, because it's inconvenient, that little detail is being glossed over.) The visible, moderate, "acceptable" leader of the alliance, Ahmed Shah Masud, was killed in a suicide-bomb attack early in September. The rest of the Northern Alliance is a brittle confederation of brutal warlords, ex-communists and unbending clerics. It is a disparate group divided along ethnic lines, some of whom have tasted power in Afghanistan in the past.
Until the US air strikes, the Northern Alliance controlled about 5% of the geographical area of Afghanistan. Now, with the coalition's help and "air cover", it is poised to topple the Taliban. Meanwhile, Taliban soldiers, sensing imminent defeat, have begun to defect to the alliance. So the fighting forces are busy switching sides and changing uniforms. But in an enterprise as cynical as this one, it seems to matter hardly at all.
Love is hate, north is south, peace is war.
Among the global powers, there is talk of "putting in a representative government". Or, on the other hand, of "restoring" the kingdom to Afghanistan's 89-year old former king Zahir Shah, who has lived in exile in Rome since 1973. That's the way the game goes--support Saddam Hussein, then "take him out"; finance the mojahedin, then bomb them to smithereens; put in Zahir Shah and see if he's going to be a good boy. (Is it possible to "put in" a representative government? Can you place an order for democracy--with extra cheese and jalapeno peppers?)
Reports have begun to trickle in about civilian casualties, about cities emptying out as Afghan civilians flock to the borders which have been closed. Main arterial roads have been blown up or sealed off. Those who have experience of working in Afghanistan say that by early November, food convoys will not be able to reach the millions of Afghans (7.5m, according to the UN) who run the very real risk of starving to death during the course of this winter. They say that in the days that are left before winter sets in, there can either be a war, or an attempt to reach food to the hungry. Not both.
As a gesture of humanitarian support, the US government air-dropped 37,000 packets of emergency rations into Afghanistan. It says it plans to drop a total of 500,000 packets. That will still only add up to a single meal for half a million people out of the several million in dire need of food.
Aid workers have condemned it as a cynical, dangerous, public-relations exercise. They say that air-dropping food packets is worse than futile.
First, because the food will never get to those who really need it. More dangerously, those who run out to retrieve the packets risk being blown up by landmines. A tragic alms race.
Nevertheless, the food packets had a photo-op all to themselves. Their contents were listed in major newspapers. They were vegetarian, we're told, as per Muslim dietary law (!) Each yellow packet, decorated with the American flag, contained: rice, peanut butter, bean salad, strawberry jam, crackers, raisins, flat bread, an apple fruit bar, seasoning, matches, a set of plastic cutlery, a serviette and illustrated user instructions.
After three years of unremitting drought, an air-dropped airline meal in Jalalabad! The level of cultural ineptitude, the failure to understand what months of relentless hunger and grinding poverty really mean, the US government's attempt to use even this abject misery to boost its self-image, beggars description.
Reverse the scenario for a moment. Imagine if the Taliban government was to bomb New York City, saying all the while that its real target was the US government and its policies. And suppose, during breaks between the bombing, the Taliban dropped a few thousand packets containing nan and kebabs impaled on an Afghan flag. Would the good people of New York ever find it in themselves to forgive the Afghan government? Even if they were hungry, even if they needed the food, even if they ate it, how would they ever forget the insult, the condescension? Rudi Guiliani, Mayor of New York City, returned a gift of $10m from a Saudi prince because it came with a few words of friendly advice about American policy in the Middle East. Is pride a luxury that only the rich are entitled to?
Far from stamping it out, igniting this kind of rage is what creates terrorism. Hate and retribution don't go back into the box once you've let them out. For every "terrorist" or his "supporter" that is killed, hundreds of innocent people are being killed too. And for every hundred innocent people killed, there is a good chance that several future terrorists will be created.
Where will it all lead?
Setting aside the rhetoric for a moment, consider the fact that the world has not yet found an acceptable definition of what "terrorism" is. One country's terrorist is too often another's freedom fighter. At the heart of the matter lies the world's deep-seated ambivalence towards violence.
Once violence is accepted as a legitimate political instrument, then the morality and political acceptability of terrorists (insurgents or freedom fighters) becomes contentious, bumpy terrain. The US government itself has funded, armed and sheltered plenty of rebels and insurgents around the world.
The CIA and Pakistan's ISI trained and armed the mojahedin who, in the 80s, were seen as terrorists by the government in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Today, Pakistan--America's ally in this new war--sponsors insurgents who cross the border into Kashmir in India. Pakistan lauds them as "freedom-fighters", India calls them "terrorists". India, for its part, denounces countries who sponsor and abet terrorism, but the Indian army has, in the past, trained separatist Tamil rebels asking for a homeland in Sri Lanka--the LTTE, responsible for countless acts of bloody terrorism. (Just as the CIA abandoned the mujahideen after they had served its purpose, India abruptly turned its back on the LTTE for a host of political reasons. It was an enraged LTTE suicide bomber who assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.)
It is important for governments and politicians to understand that manipulating these huge, raging human feelings for their own narrow purposes may yield instant results, but eventually and inexorably, they have disastrous consequences. Igniting and exploiting religious sentiments for reasons of political expediency is the most dangerous legacy that governments or politicians can bequeath to any people--including their own.
People who live in societies ravaged by religious or communal bigotry know that every religious text--from the Bible to the Bhagwad Gita--can be mined and misinterpreted to justify anything, from nuclear war to genocide to corporate globalisation.
This is not to suggest that the terrorists who perpetrated the outrage on September 11 should not be hunted down and brought to book. They must be.
But is war the best way to track them down? Will burning the haystack find you the needle? Or will it escalate the anger and make the world a living hell for all of us?
At the end of the day, how many people can you spy on, how many bank accounts can you freeze, how many conversations can you eavesdrop on, how many emails can you intercept, how many letters can you open, how many phones can you tap? Even before September 11, the CIA had accumulated more information than is humanly possible to process. (Sometimes, too much data can actually hinder intelligence--small wonder the US spy satellites completely missed the preparation that preceded India's nuclear tests in 1998.)
The sheer scale of the surveillance will become a logistical, ethical and civil rights nightmare. It will drive everybody clean crazy. And freedom--that precious, precious thing--will be the first casualty. It's already hurt and hemorrhaging dangerously.
Governments across the world are cynically using the prevailing paranoia to promote their own interests. All kinds of unpredictable political forces are being unleashed. In India, for instance, members of the All India People's Resistance Forum, who were distributing anti-war and anti-US pamphlets in Delhi, have been jailed. Even the printer of the leaflets was arrested.
The rightwing government (while it shelters Hindu extremists groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal) has banned the Islamic Students Movement of India and is trying to revive an anti- terrorist Act which had been withdrawn after the Human Rights Commission reported that it had been more abused than used. Millions of Indian citizens are Muslim. Can anything be gained by alienating them?
Every day that the war goes on, raging emotions are being let loose into the world. The international press has little or no independent access to the war zone. In any case, mainstream media, particularly in the US, have more or less rolled over, allowing themselves to be tickled on the stomach with press handouts from military men and government officials. Afghan radio stations have been destroyed by the bombing. The Taliban has always been deeply suspicious of the press. In the propaganda war, there is no accurate estimate of how many people have been killed, or how much destruction has taken place. In the absence of reliable information, wild rumours spread.
Put your ear to the ground in this part of the world, and you can hear the thrumming, the deadly drumbeat of burgeoning anger. Please. Please, stop the war now. Enough people have died. The smart missiles are just not smart enough. They're blowing up whole warehouses of suppressed fury.
President George Bush recently boasted, "When I take action, I'm not going to fire a $2m missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It's going to be decisive." President Bush should know that there are no targets in Afghanistan that will give his missiles their money's worth.
Perhaps, if only to balance his books, he should develop some cheaper missiles to use on cheaper targets and cheaper lives in the poor countries of the world. But then, that may not make good business sense to the coalition's weapons manufacturers. It wouldn't make any sense at all, for example, to the Carlyle Group--described by the Industry Standard as "the world's largest private equity firm", with $13bn under management.
Carlyle invests in the defense sector and makes its money from military conflicts and weapons spending.
Carlyle is run by men with impeccable credentials. Former US defense secretary Frank Carlucci is Carlyle's chairman and managing director (he was a college roommate of Donald Rumsfeld's). Carlyle's other partners include former US secretary of state James A Baker III, George Soros and Fred Malek (George Bush Sr's campaign manager). An American paper--the Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel--says that former president George Bush Sr is reported to be seeking investments for the Carlyle Group from Asian markets.
He is reportedly paid not inconsiderable sums of money to make "presentations" to potential government-clients.
Ho hum. As the tired saying goes, it's all in the family.
Then there's that other branch of traditional family business--oil. Remember, President George Bush (Jr) and Vice-President Dick Cheney both made their fortunes working in the US oil industry.
Turkmenistan, which borders the north-west of Afghanistan, holds the world's third largest gas reserves and an estimated six billion barrels of oil reserves. Enough, experts say, to meet American energy needs for the next 30 years (or a developing country's energy requirements for a couple of centuries.) America has always viewed oil as a security consideration, and protected it by any means it deems necessary. Few of us doubt that its military presence in the Gulf has little to do with its concern for human rights and almost entirely to do with its strategic interest in oil.
Oil and gas from the Caspian region currently moves northward to European markets. Geographically and politically, Iran and Russia are major impediments to American interests. In 1998, Dick Cheney--then CEO of Halliburton, a major player in the oil industry--said, "I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian. It's almost as if the opportunities have arisen overnight." True enough.
For some years now, an American oil giant called Unocal has been negotiating with the Taliban for permission to construct an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan and out to the Arabian sea. From there, Unocal hopes to access the lucrative "emerging markets" in south and south-east Asia. In December 1997, a delegation of Taliban mullahs travelled to America and even met US state department officials and Unocal executives in Houston. At that time the Taliban's taste for public executions and its treatment of Afghan women were not made out to be the crimes against humanity that they are now.
Over the next six months, pressure from hundreds of outraged American feminist groups was brought to bear on the Clinton administration.
Fortunately, they managed to scuttle the deal. And now comes the US oil industry's big chance.
In America, the arms industry, the oil industry, the major media networks, and, indeed, US foreign policy, are all controlled by the same business combines. Therefore, it would be foolish to expect this talk of guns and oil and defence deals to get any real play in the media. In any case, to a distraught, confused people whose pride has just been wounded, whose loved ones have been tragically killed, whose anger is fresh and sharp, the inanities about the "clash of civilisations" and the "good v evil" discourse home in unerringly. They are cynically doled out by government spokesmen like a daily dose of vitamins or anti-depressants. Regular medication ensures that mainland America continues to remain the enigma it has always been - a curiously insular people, administered by a pathologically meddlesome, promiscuous government.
And what of the rest of us, the numb recipients of this onslaught of what we know to be preposterous propaganda? The daily consumers of the lies and brutality smeared in peanut butter and strawberry jam being air-dropped into our minds just like those yellow food packets. Shall we look away and eat because we're hungry, or shall we stare unblinking at the grim theatre unfolding in Afghanistan until we retch collectively and say, in one voice, that we have had enough?
As the first year of the new millennium rushes to a close, one wonders--have we forfeited our right to dream? Will we ever be able to re-imagine beauty?
Will it be possible ever again to watch the slow, amazed blink of a newborn gecko in the sun, or whisper back to the marmot who has just whispered in your ear--without thinking of the World Trade Centre and Afghanistan?
Arundhati Roy, the Indian novelist and environmental activist, received the Booker Prize in 1999--Britain's most prestigious literary award--for her novel, The God of Small Things, a book that has been translated into 40 languages and sold six million copies since its 1997 publication.
Globalization, Poverty, and Terror
It is difficult to go beyond the grief, the bewilderment, the horror, and the anger generated by the events of September 11. And yet we need to try to make sense of terror. We need to try to understand why it is that some human beings are so full of anger and hatred that they would commit atrocities and wage a new form of war against the United States. The current process of globalization offers part of an answer.
Globalization has raised controversy and generated competing views on its effects. Peter Martin of the Financial Times offers the mainstream conceptualization of globalization. He defends and defines it as "the accelerated integration of previously marginalised societies." Moreover, he contends that: "This process is a true collaboration across borders, across societies, across cultures-not the false collaboration of spurious North-South dialogues and bureaucratic elites.” Globalization, in Martin’s view has “produced an enormous degree of improvement in human happiness in those countries which have taken advantage of the opportunities it provides." This transformation, he concludes, “will produce exactly the opposite of the effects that its left-wing critics claim. It will lead to an irreversible shift of power away from the developed countries to the rest of the world."
In his book, The Consequences of Modernity, Anthony Giddens offers a less Panglossian definition of globalization. In Giddens’ view, globalization represents "the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa." Globalization indicates therefore a fundamental acceleration, on a worldwide scale, of the sheer pace of social, cultural, and economic change.
The global movement of capital and in particular finance capital characterizes this acceleration. Finance capital moves freely across nations by electronic means, and such mobility generates truly global movements in exchange rates, interest rates, and stock prices. Competition, production, and speculation have become globalized. This in turn has led to a profound shift to profit-maximizing behavior at the expense of collective welfare. In the words of George Soros, the philosopher-capitalist: "the hallmark of the current form of global capitalism, the feature that sets it apart from earlier versions, is its pervasive success: the intensification of the profit motive and its penetration into areas that were previously governed by other considerations.” “We must recognize,” Soros, argues, “the growing role of money as an intrinsic value."
The triumph of money as an intrinsic value is only one aspect of the phenomenon; globalization is also a departure from the international economy that prevailed until the mid 1980s. Then, nation-states had a significant amount of control over their domestic economies and politics, and thus could regulate their relationships to global capitalism. Today, with globalization, such controls and regulations are evaporating. In other words, globalization seems to emasculate the nation-state, particularly Third World nations. Globalization places the interests of agents of unregulated economic liberalization over both the state and society.
This is not to say that globalization is a linear process. In my opinion, globalization is in fact a dialectical phenomenon generating contradictory tendencies. But why would globalization with its universalistic pretensions fuel contradictions? It seems to me that this is the inevitable consequence of the huge disparities of wealth and power that characterize the global political economy. Globalization has engendered explosive patterns of social polarization within and between nations. For instance, the 358 billionaires of the world have assets estimated at $760 billion which is as much wealth as the bottom 45% of the world population, that is about 2.7 billion individuals. You can put it in a different way: the three richest people in the world own assets that exceed the combined gross domestic products of the world's poorest 48 countries.
Obscene patterns of poverty and inequalities amidst ostentatious wealth are thus the very stuff of our global system. They raise basic issues of morality and ethics for the prosperous areas of the world. We need to be asking whether the current inequalities are legitimate and just? Can something be done to achieve some degree of human decency?
Information from the World Bank and other sources tells us that basic education for all would cost about $6 billion a year, a very limited sum when compared to the $8 billion spent annually for cosmetics in the United States alone. Installation of water and sanitation for all would cost about $9 billion whereas $11 billion is spent annually on ice cream in Europe. Basic health care and nutrition for all would cost $13 billion; that is $4 billion less than what is spent on pet food in Europe and the United States.
When animals in industrialized nations receive better treatment and resources than a large segment of humankind, there is clearly something wrong with the worldwide distribution of wealth. When dire poverty is so pervasive and yet $35 billion is spent on business entertainment in Japan; $105 billion on alcoholic drinks in Europe; then indeed there must be something wrong, very wrong with existing institutions and patterns of power.
Another negative potential consequence of globalization is the paradoxical intensification of nationalistic and localistic sentiments. The savage inequities of globalization create parochial forms of resistance rooted in an imagined past that never was. This may explain why globalization may go hand in hand with the emergence or re-emergence of ethnic and religious fundamentalisms and the fragmentation of nation-states into multiple micro nation-states. The very homogenization of culture brought about by globalization foments counter-reactions grounded in the exaltation of difference and local particularisms.
Today we observe that the nation state is both weakening and strengthening. On the one hand, nation states are eroding in many parts of the Third World because they are losing any meaningful sovereignty over their own internal economic and security affairs; they have become utterly dependent on international financial institutions for their material survival. On the other hand, the nation-state is getting stronger precisely because globalization generates such acute inequities that the stability of the world system requires the preservation and effectiveness of such states, so that their governments can control their own citizens. Such strategies need not take on openly coercive forms; they may in fact rest on processes of democratization. In my view, the recent wave of Third World democratization comprises a reconfiguration, rather than a rupture with previous relations of power. Democratization is quite compatible with the persistence and expansion of global inequalities. Democratization may indeed legitimize them.
Thus, the profound distress of abject poverty juxtaposed with the frivolities of conspicuous consumption, not to mention the reality of mass powerlessness in the face of continued elite domination are the opposite faces of the same global coin. In this sense, globalization is not fundamentally different from 18th, 19th, and 20th century imperialism. To put it more clearly, globalization is nothing more than the intensification of some of the longstanding manifestations of imperialism.
The current decline of national sovereignties is after all a logical continuation of colonization. Existing world inequities have their roots in the earlier imperial division of labor along racial and class lines. The transnationalization of Western culture is the direct descendant of earlier policies of "assimilation," and the internationalization of capital is nothing new, it has merely been accelerated and deepened by technological advances. Similarly, if imperialism fostered economic dependence while at the same time generating movements of de-colonization, and multiple forms of nationalism, globalization is bringing about a loss of sovereignty while at the same time prompting democratization and localization. All of these historical outcomes contain simultaneously patterns of accommodation and capitulation as well as resistance to the dominant forces of the world economy. Therefore, it seems to me, that globalization has not displaced the old categories of analysis. On the contrary, class, nationalism, ethnicity, gender, and race are still essential tools to understand existing disparities of power.
These disparities have led to revolutionary upheavals, brutal repression, and conditions of despair and resignation. The present historical conjuncture invites terrorism, and other pathological forms of violence such as so-called "ethnic cleansing." Such madness generates an overwhelming sense of the absurdity of it all. We may want indeed to shout with Shakespeare's Macbeth that the world "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
And yet, we cannot give in to a sense of absurdity. The current predicament demands serious thinking and an understanding of the role and responsibilities of the industrialized world. Deciphering these responsibilities is a matter of self-interest for the West and America in particular. For despite its military and economic hegemony, the US represents, alongside the industrialized world, a minority of the globe. Out of a total global population of about 7 billion inhabitants, only 1.2 billion people live in the rich industrialized countries.
Present unbalances of power cannot persist indefinitely; they are bound to generate explosive confrontations. The question then is whether we can avoid these confrontations by devising humane alternatives to the current global realities. That will not be easy; entrenched and powerful interests in both industrialized and developing nations are opposed to these alternatives which in turn require sacrifices that most of us are unlikely to contemplate.
And yet hope is not necessarily dead. The recent collapse of many third world dictatorships has indicated that in spite of obdurate limitations, there are signs of progress and that people need not and do not put up with injustice permanently. Human beings have the capacity to overthrow oppressive regimes and usher in improved and more humane forms of governance. Thus, while exploitative structures can be at times paralyzing, they are not immune from the liberating struggles of collective action.
To that extent, the world is also full of a sense of new beginnings. There are minorities in all societies which are actively pursuing more humane cooperation, more equality, and an expansion of democratic rights. It seems to me that the task at hand is to move silent majorities in the direction of these minority voices. This is possible given that the maintenance of the existing global status quo is an invitation to disaster. The possibility of waves of terrorism, ecological catastrophe, and limited nuclear exchanges, is such that radical change could occur on a purely utilitarian and self-interested way. The reality of "globalization" has made the so-called "good life" of the West imaginable to all and yet accessible to few. It is this gap between imagination and access that raises frustrations and invites conflicts. And it is the economic, political, and military methods used by Western powers and corrupt Third World elites to preserve that gap that fuel resentment and hatred.
Globalization is thus full of contradictions; it generates tendencies of universalism and yet leads to re-assertions of profound particularisms because universalism itself is to a large extent an illusion. What we have in fact is the coexistence of a minority of rich nomads moving freely around the globe and an overwhelming majority condemned to confining spaces of poverty or the dangerous exits of Global Boat People. Such unequal patterns of migration and existence cannot persist indefinitely; they are bound to generate explosive situations.
Thus, at the dawn of the new millennium, the era of the supposed global village, disparities are more extreme than ever before. Large segments of humanity live in conditions of dire poverty and forced displacement, and die premature deaths as a result. We live in a world of obscene inequalities profoundly divided by class, ethnicity, and race. While these conditions are neither an excuse nor a full explanation for terrorism, they certainly nurture this ugly, murderous beast. I am afraid, however, that while bombs and other forms of military reprisals will satisfy our primal desire for revenge, they will not prevent the beast from continuing to fly and multiply. Terrorism is a morbid symptom of a decadent world order.
Copyright Robert Fatton.
Afghanistan’s Cricketers: the Sound of Bat on Ball
Maybe it is the balance of terror--the nuclear standoff--that holds back India and Pakistan from full-scale war over Kashmir. Then again, these two cricketing powers share a national obsession, namely the standing of their white-flannelled warriors: those fast bowlers, spinners, batsmen, wicket-keepers, slip and short leg fielders who make up their teams.
It is not simply the diversion of national aggressions to the greensward, to the battle of bat and ball. Could it be that C.L.R. James, the West Indian classicist and Marxist, got it right when he argued in Beyond a Boundary (1963) that Britain, as it industrialized, was insulated from some of the nastier cultural depredations of capitalism by the civilizing influence of sport, particularly cricket? Cricket, he believed, provided a paradigm of an egalitarian society where cooperation, competition and the celebration of individual prowess were played out within the rules of the game. James also discerned a subtle sense of restraint--of respect for one’s opponents and an unwillingness to win at any cost. He was talking, of course, about those necessary prerequisites for sustaining the common good.
Such Jamesian thoughts came flooding back last week when the BBC (TV) World News carried a story on the Afghanistan cricket team’s visit to Pakistan--against a backdrop of harsh terrain, American bombing and desperate refugees. The side was setting out to seek international acceptance. Stage one was a series of club matches in Pakistan en route to recognition by the World’s cricketing control board. There on the screen were the Afghans: bearded, decked out in their white flannels, bowling and batting with considerable skill. Then came a break in the game. Both teams gathered together, knelt facing Mecca and prayed.
Interviewed by the BBC correspondent, who reported that most sports had been repressed by the Taliban but not cricket, the Afghan captain explained that his players had crossed the border into Pakistan leaving their families behind. They had no fears for their safety: wives and children would be taken care of by neighbors. As for the war, they had lived in the middle of conflict before, most recently against the Russians. Now, for these few days, there were more important matters. “We will play cricket,” he said, “in any situation, whether we are being bombed or not.” Pakistan had invited them to play, they loved the game and he expressed the hope that it would “bring the youth to peace.” Within a few years he anticipated matches in Britain, Australia, the West Indies, South Africa and elsewhere. “We have the potential,” he concluded. It is worth noting in this context, that the current captain of England’s cricket side is a British Muslim, Nasser Hussein.
If the Afghan cricketers struck a poignant, perhaps bizarre note in a news program dominated by September 11th and the US assault on their country, they also offered a glimmer of hope for our globalizing world. Even as it teeters on the brink of yet greater violence, networks of international cooperation are being strengthened. These include the United Nations and its agencies, non-governmental organizations such as Medicine sans Frontiers, Soccer’s World Cup and, yes, international cricket. Add to this recent, if tentative contacts between leaders of the great religions, and maybe--just maybe--the 21st century will not evolve into a nightmare.
Peter Walshe teaches in the Department of Government, International Studies, and Peace Studies. In a previous incarnation he played cricket at Oxford University.
The Twentieth Century "Festival of Cruelty"
Jonathan Glover, Humanity: a Moral History of the 20th Century, Yale University Press, 2000.
Reviewed by Donald Gutierrez
Jonathan Glover's Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century might also have been entitled Humanity: A History of the Immoral 20th Century. Early in the book he cites the estimate that from 1900 to 1989 86 million people were killed by war. Even given the difficulties of establishing the ratios of total population to war deaths in different centuries, 86 million dead is a stunning figure. Glover's book looks at the psychology of how wars occur and the atrocities they cause. He demonstrates cogently that this psychology is present as much in civilian as in military leaders. Over half the book is devoted to societies like Nazi Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China and Pol Pot's Cambodia that have committed mass atrocities. Glover's aim in part is to consider "the psychology which has contributed to this set of man-made disasters" (43).
Glover scarcely misses a disaster. Perhaps they are not all here, but the reader will likely feel that there are more than enough--World Wars I and II (including a sizable chapter on Hiroshima), Viet Nam (mainly My Lai), the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia (which Glover argues, convincingly, helped the Khmer Rouge take power), Rwanda and Bosnia, as well as the the social hell created by the totalitarian nations mentioned above.
Glover frames his detailed discussions of these disasters by discussing Friedrich Nietzsche's contribution to the erosion of an external moral law and of humane responsiveness. "To see others suffer," says Nietzsche in The Genealogy of Morals, "does one good; to make others suffer even more; this is a hard saying, but without cruelty there is no festival." Glover of course does not hold Nietzsche responsible for all the mass brutalities of the 20th century, but he does link the theme of cruelty in his work to a distinctive feature of the Nazi view of subject peoples: "There was an intensity of positive hatred in those who planned the genocide," Glover writes, "which was not matched in the Stalinist exterminations." Considering that one estimate puts the number of political deaths under Stalin at over 20 million, that is an appalling statement.
Glover, in a long, brilliant section titled "The Moral Psychology of Waging War," presents a crucial concept that he calls the moral slide. The moral slide involves moving downward from one immoral or evil act to the next, the second step or slide made possible and easier by having begun the first: "The blockade of Germany near the end of World War I, which led to the starvation of anywhere from 462,000 to 762,000 German civilians slid by degrees from having a slight effect to having a devastating impact. The blockade made area bombing seem acceptable. Area bombing was reached by a gentle slide from military bombing. The bombing of German cities made acceptable the bombing of Japanese ones, which in turn allowed the slide to the atomic bomb. The slide went on from the Hiroshima bomb to Nagasaki."
Glover suggests another form of the moral side that seems particularly relevant to 20th century modes of technology, industrialization, and bureaucratism: "There is another form of disconnection between what people do and their sense of moral identity. The division of labor can make the contribution of any single person seem unimportant." Glover cites the atomic bomb as a project so divided up among scientists, politicians, military brass and others that no one could feel exclusively or personally responsible for it. And so the slide went on. General Leslie Groves, director of the bomb project, was jubilant on hearing about the explosion, and, according to President Truman, "This dropping the Bomb is the greatest thing in history."
What strikes this reviewer as extraordinary in Humanity is the dozens of scenes and events of incredible cruelty and terror imposed by governments on their own citizens and on other peoples. Sometimes these are mass events, sometimes single scenes indicative of general cruelty. They include Mao's "Great Leap Forward," causing a famine killing 20-30 million people; a 17 year old Red Guard beating a kneeling, bleeding woman; Kulak peasants forced by the Stalin regime into barren, icy regions near the arctic, "left, with no food or tools, on bits of land in the middle of marshes. The paths back were guarded with machine guns. Everyone died." And Nazi officers trampling on the heads of Polish Jewish children, and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge murdering one-fourth of the entire national population.
There are some redeeming acts--helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson saving villagers at My Lai from Captain Medina's crazed soldiers; German-allied Italian officers protecting Jews from the Nazis; nuns, despite the Pope's passivity towards the Nazi regime, hiding Jewish children in their convents throughout Europe. Thrilling and wonderful as these acts were, they fail to balance the appallingly huge quantity of social brutality and murder committed mostly by the State during the 20th century. Though Glover feels there is hope for humanity in the future, his dependence on the acceptance of international legal authority by superpowers like the United States and China makes one dubious about even his moderate optimism.
One shortcoming in Glover's otherwise deeply moving, magnanimous and courageous book is his disregard of the role of commercial forces in shaping 20th century social violence. It is not, as he claims, only political ideology and the erosion of a universal moral law that led to the 20th century wars, but the rapacious, unrelenting drive to control markets by rival imperialist nations and the subjugation of small and vulnerable societies by overwhelming economic forces or the military regimes that served as their agents. Commercial greed has played its part in the brutalization and deaths of millions, and, though there may be no Stalin or Hitler of the moment, it continues unabated today.
Donald Gutierrez is Professor Emeritus at Western New Mexico University. He taught at Notre Dame in the 1970s and has for a long time been an active member of Amnesty International. He is a frequest contributor to Common Sense.
Centuries of Vatican Anti-Semitism
David I. Kertzer, Pope Against the Jews: The Vatican‘s Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism, New York: Knopf, 2001.
Ever since Hochhuth’s play “The Deputy” (recte The Vicar [of Christ]) and more recent historical studies of Pope Pius XII’s career and period (1939-1958), his reputation for justice and charity have become irrevocably tarnished. His sins of omission in regard to the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews of Europe, his Germanophile leanings, his assistance by a wink and a nod-if not by direct intervention-in the escape of Nazi criminals to Argentina and other safe havens have scandalized both believers and unbelievers, beyond remedy.
Nevertheless, and this is the value of his book, David Kertzer’s work in the recently opened archives of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (1988) shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that Pius XII lived and worked in the tradition of an immemorial of Jew-hating by both prelates and people that perhaps “relativizes” his personal responsibility to some degree. As Secretary of State under Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) and as Pope himself, he inherited an institutional animus against the Jews that is truly horrifying.
Of late, in an effort to escape the charge of deliberate hatred of the Jews from generation to generation, an especially established papal Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews labored for eleven years to produce an official document that tries very hard to exonerate the popes and the church and permit the present pontiff to both apologize for the faults of “some Christians” and at the same time free the church, as such, from the guilt of anti-Semitism and anti- Judaism. Perhaps if the archives had not been thrown open and David Kertzer had not worked in them with such industry, the rather dubious distinction between the church and the Catholic peoples of such nations as Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Hungary or Poland (who so cheerfully cooperated in the mass murder of the Jews) might have held some water. As it is, despite the frantic efforts of some to rehabilitate Pius XII and so many of his predecessors, the evidence of the new and not so new documents shows that one of the marks of the Church for centuries has been the will and desire to erase the Jews from European history.
Since the papal commission itself chose the late 18th and 19th centuries as the period of the invention of a “secular” anti-Semitism that had nothing to do with the “justifiable” anti-Judaism sponsored by the church, Kertzer has provided us with a blow by blow description of the Jew-hating reigns of all the popes of the 19th century and of those of Pius X, Benedict XV, and Pius XI of the twentieth. It makes for sad, sad reading.
Yes, there was indeed a tradition of a deep-seated and lying malevolence toward the Jews that can be fully documented.
For all its excesses, the French Revolution and its armies did more for the liberation of the Jews than had the whole of Christian Europe. Wherever its principles on the Rights of Man came to prevail, the walls of the ghettoes were torn down and the Jews were released into a new age of both freedom and full citizenship. The popes hated the principles of the Revolution and, as soon as they were free to do so, deprived the Jews of Rome of citizenship and herded them back into its filthy, overcrowded and compulsory ghetto and inaugurated a new campaign of vilification against them that persisted until the II Vatican Council (1962-1965).
Many Americans were shocked and amazed by the fierce resistance of so many bishops at the Council to the decrees on religious freedom and on the Jews. Even after the Holocaust, they still thought of the Jews as Christ-killers, the inveterate enemies of the church, and as the torturers and killers of Christian children whose blood they would mix with their Passover matzos! Despite the paranoid character of such charges, they were repeated at the Council and circulated in pamphlets to the Council Fathers by otherwise respectable prelates in a frantic effort to derail the conciliar decree. Even after the vote, the notorious Cardinal Siri could claim to have staved off the forces of humane liberalism. Nearly forty years later the Pope is still waffling on the subject of the Jews and pushing the canonization of Pius XII. Perhaps he should spend a few days in his own archives.
However misunderstood by Americans at the time, the anti-Judaism that was still prevalent at the Council is only explicable in the light of the traditional fear and hatred of the Jews that was still rife in so much of Catholic Europe. For centuries sermons, pamphlets, books, and journals had been devoted to isolating and demeaning the Jews. They had done their work so thoroughly that the enlightened minority barely swayed the Council in the right direction but the ensuing document proved lamentably weak and insufficient to its task.
In the light of the evidence presented by Kertzer from the papal archives, it should be no longer hard to understand the European-wide prejudice against the Jews and their massacre under the Nazis. The Mater et Magistra of European culture had shaped and prepared whole peoples to rush to the slaughter. A tiny handful of faithful and loving Christians could not prevail against centuries of Vatican ant-Semitism.
William Storey is Professor Emeritus of Liturgy and Church History at Notre Dame, and proprieter of Erasmus Books on East Wayne Street in South Bend.
The Serpent in the Garden
John Vore, Tell Me What Home Is Like: A Map/Memoir in Lieu of a Place,Chicago: Firetrap, 2001.
Reading John Vore’s powerful memoir of his boyhood and college years changed, probably forever, the way I think and feel about the University of Notre Dame. As a gay man who cannot keep straight how the game of football is played, I knew from the beginning I was somewhat out of place at this institution. But I have always remained grateful for the education I received and the friendships I made during my years on campus in the 1970’s. And I’ve felt a fond nostalgia for a place that thirty years ago had an unkempt beauty different from the slick corporate headquarters look it has today. Tell Me What Home Is Like forced me to acknowledge the brutality behind the pretty façade of Notre Dame. This book left me feeling sad for what John Vore experienced, angry for what more than 150 years of homophobia has done to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who have studied and worked at Notre Dame, and appalled anew by manifestations of Catholic corporate ruthlessness.
Tell Me What Home Is Like is a first book that could be subtitled “The Collected Works of John Vore, 1990-1993.” The book was written in 1993 as a Notre Dame master’s thesis, and it shows signs of its academic origins. It contains sections of autobiography, fiction written for creative writing classes, and numerous letters, memos, and media articles, some written by people other than Vore. There are appendices, notes, and a list of sources. (No reader should skip Appendix Five, which contains an excerpt from the truly horrific letter Notre Dame spokesman Michael Garvey wrote to the National Catholic Reporter after that newspaper published its story on Fr. James T. Burtchaell’s sexual abuse of students). A connecting apparatus, called Frames, in which the author comments on his own work, links the various sections structurally, while a concept about how we all take part in various Games as we live our lives provides a theoretical foundation. The Game concept, with its attendant terminology, grows a little tiresome, but Vore’s points are often well made.
The most problematic aspect of the book is the inclusion of four short stories and excerpts from a novel, all of which Vore wrote while a graduate student at Notre Dame. Vore uses the Frames to explain how these works of fiction relate to his personal history and his development as a writer. It is not unusual for fiction writers to discuss in print the germination of their work, but when they begin explicating their own texts, as Vore does, it is a risky business. By enlisting these stories in the service of his memoir, Vore denies them a chance to stand on their own. Could they do so? Probably not. This is apprentice work, with some shocking content, and the simple fact is that Vore’s commentary makes a greater claim for significance than his early fiction can bear. I think the book would be better, because more focused on its true subject, if these works of fiction had been left out.
The structural and theoretical devices in Tell Me What Home Is Like occasionally weigh down but never sink the book because the story Vore tells, both personal and institutional, is so gripping. John Vore’s already complicated life intersected with-and indeed he helped precipitate-some of the most important years in the history of gay and lesbian students at Notre Dame, the early 1990’s when the story of Fr. James Burtchaell’s sexual abuse of students broke in the national media and GLND/SMC applied for University recognition for the first time. Tell Me What Home Is Like is a first hand record of that era that is presented to the reader pretty much as it was originally written almost ten years ago. This authorial strategy also involves some risks, but ultimately it succeeds.
The primary weakness of Vore’s decision not to substantially rewrite his earlier work is that it limits its appeal to a wide readership. Much of the book was originally written for an audience at Notre Dame, readers familiar with people, places, and events little known outside South Bend. The treatment of Fr. Burtchaell provides an example. The very name James T. Burtchaell, C.S.C. is enough to provoke a reaction from gay and lesbian graduates of Notre Dame. He is a major character in Vore’s story, a man now fading from official memory, whose full significance may be lost on general readers because the book provides relatively little background on him. From my years at Notre Dame, I recall Burtchaell as a charismatic man of great arrogance, disdaining the Roman collar in favor of flashy suits, comically proud of his reputation as a gourmet cook. As early as 1974, when I was involved with the Gay Students of Notre Dame, we joked about Burtchaell, whom we knew was working behind the scenes against our organization while blatantly cultivating the most handsome young men on campus as his favorites. Burtchaell made enemies everywhere, even among members of the Congregation of Holy Cross. When he mysteriously fell from power as Provost, many were baffled but few felt sorry. Given the trauma of his involvement with Burtchaell, it is understandable that Vore did not step back and make this complex figure come to greater life on the page, but it is a loss for his book.
Another character whose fuller depiction would have infused a wider appeal into Vore’s history is Patricia O’Hara. I know little of her and have always been curious about this woman sent to do the dirty work of her male superiors. So too Fr. Richard Warner, C.S.C., the head of Campus Ministry who met with Vore after he wrote his courageous letter about Burtchaell to President Molloy. I have been told that Warner is the power behind Monk Molloy’s throne. How did Campus Ministry move so far backward from the 1970’s, when Fr. Bill Toohey let our gay and lesbian group use a small house on the edge of campus called the Bulla Shed for our regular meetings, to the sorry state it was in by 1990?
The book ends with Notre Dame’s denial of recognition to GLND/SMC in June 1992. What happened next, where do things stand now, what, in the larger world, is the significance of the troubled story of Notre Dame and homosexuality? This is a perspective Vore could not have had in 1993, but these are questions readers will ask in 2001, especially if they have not kept up with gay history at Notre Dame. To have answered them would have made Tell Me What Home Is Like a different, less personal, book but may have garnered it wider attention.
Because Vore does not do more, I do not want to underestimate the importance of what he has accomplished. This book may well stand as the most honest treatment of this era at Notre Dame. Certainly these events will be little mentioned in official histories. In writing about his own abuse at the hands of Burtchaell, Vore makes it clear that this brilliant but flawed priest is a symptom, not the source, of the problem. The serpent in the garden at Notre Dame was not James Burtchaell but the Holy Cross Order, or at least those members of the order who refuse to face sexual issues that no longer trouble most American high school students. In some of the most touching passages of the book, Vore relates how he came to forgive Burtchaell, whose fellow priests failed him when he needed them the most. Vore reserves his anger for two institutions, Notre Dame and Holy Cross, and in this he speaks for many of us.
When Vore writes about how and why administrators at Notre Dame and Holy Cross play their respective “Games,” the bluntness of his insights will cause readers to shudder. These people are playing for money and power. A Golden Dome is an ironic symbol for an insecure institution trying in vain to be both Catholic and a university. In a single short paragraph, Vore pins down the peculiar quality recognizable in so many Domers, passive in the hands of school and church authorities while remaining utterly assured that “the world has been set up for them,” that once they graduate they will be entitled to join “the ranks of power.” We can all attest that good people study and work at Notre Dame. But Vore is convincing when he maintains that the institutional center of power operates without concern for the harm it inflicts on people.
Despite the misgivings I have mentioned, I believe Vore’s decision to preserve his mindset of 1990-1993 is more than justified by the high quality of his autobiographical writing. He initiates his personal story with an original reading of the myth of Narcissus, the prototype of the homosexual for Freud and other commentators. Fine, says Vore, but note that Narcissus looked fully and honestly at himself and in dying was reborn, a flower rooted in the earth. John Vore would have had a lot of issues to resolve even if he had never been sexually abused by James Burtchaell. He is an adopted child with an alcoholic mother and a family unable to accept his homosexuality. He also had to discover and accept his own sexuality, a process tragically hindered by Burtchaell’s violation of his role as spiritual counselor. Determined to know his own “divine inner truths,” Vore writes an autobiography of a gay man as probing and honest as any I know. For the most part he avoids humor, a refuge that now perhaps belongs to an older generation of gay men. John Vore was an intense young man during his Notre Dame years. For me, his voice as a writer in this book has an authentic and virile forcefulness that might have been diminished if he had reworked what he wrote in 1993.
John Vore made me re-live my own struggles at Notre Dame and I suspect this book will cause other alumni to do the same. I do not agree with everything he writes about the dysfunction of the Catholic Church. For many gay and lesbian Catholics, the doctrines of Rome are not the teachings of Jesus and the institutional hierarchy is not the community of the faithful. I was conflicted to realize the extent to which the leaders of GLND/SMC had to downplay the right of their members to form romantic and sexual unions with each other when they tried to enlist Church doctrine in their quest for recognition in 1992. Back in the 1970’s the members of GCND worried about the same issue. Fearful that we would become a dating service, we imposed standards on ourselves that we did not always live up to. I still do not know if we were internalizing homophobia or being responsible activists. I do know that gay and lesbian students at Notre Dame should not be held to different codes of conduct than their straight peers.
John Vore has explored difficult personal and public territory and reported on his journey in a troubling and courageous memoir. How can we not admire the honesty and self confidence of a gay man who admits he had a “teen cult” of the awkward underdog Richard Nixon, who believed he too would some day be president of the United States, who loved a family that could never fully accept him, who survived and forgave Burtchaell, who bears his breast about his desire to become the writer this book proves him to be. I do not expect to read another book about Notre Dame that is the equal of Tell Me What Home Is Like.
More information about Tell Me What Home Is Like is available at http://www.firetrap.com.
Daniel Burr, a Notre Dame alumnus, is director of Financial Aid at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Berrigan at the Beach
Thanks to some good luck and a good friend, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Daniel Berrigan. A friend of mine who is a double domer and a theology professor at Miami’s St. Thomas University allowed me to tag along when he picked up Fr. Berrigan at the airport in advance of a speaking engagement at St. Thomas.
Since it was a picture postcard early April South Florida day, we took Fr. Berrigan to a late lunch at a streetside café at the south end of Miami Beach. We also took him for a brief walk along the beach before taking him to his hotel. Being with Berrigan on South Beach offered one of the most fascinating series of juxtapositions of my entire lifetime.
My friend spent two years working at the Catholic Worker house in New York in the mid-1980’s, so much of the conversation centered on Dorothy Day and other Worker personages. Listening to stories of the Worker movement while watching a series of scantily clad aspiring SoBe models parade past was the definition of paradox.
During lapses in the conversation, I had the chance to ask Fr. Berrigan about his experiences with Thomas Merton, the Kennedys and others. He was a favorite of the Kennedy clan for a few years in the sixties, but he fell out of favor after he and his brothers burned draft records in Catonsville, Maryland in 1968. He remained a close friend of Thomas Merton’s up to the time of Merton’s death that same year. He pointed out the numerous parallels between the lives of Day and Merton, and he warmly remembered the retreats that he had attended with Merton.
Fr. Berrigan had a presence that is unlike that of almost any person that I have ever encountered. It is not every day that one meets an 80-year old Jesuit coming out of a jetway wearing a beret and carrying his possessions in a backpack. Even more significantly, it is not every day that one gets to meet someone with the self-possession and sense of inner peace that Fr. Berrigan so visibly exudes. As we age, most of us begin to visibly bear our inner scars. While Fr. Berrigan has endured sufferings that most of us can only imagine, he has not lost his sense of interpersonal decency or his dry wit.
We took Fr. Berrigan to stay at Don Shula’s Hotel, which is located near the St. Thomas campus. While Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history, has been a local legend for over three decades, Fr. Berrigan had never heard of him. When we arrived at the hotel, we saw a goalpost at the front entrance. That goalpost contained a plaque which proudly proclaimed that it had been used at a Miami Dolphins practice field during the team’s glory days in the early 1970’s. Our society’s concept of sacred icons apparently differs from Fr. Berrigan’s.
Several members of the local media and an audience of about 300 attended his lecture that evening. Fr. Berrigan uniformly displayed a respect and a grace to all of the reporters and audience members who spoke to him in advance of the lecture. He then proceeded to give a lecture regarding Revelation that awed all who were assembled.
Fr. Berrigan recounted the story of John imprisoned on the island of Patmos. He explained that John’s references to the Babylonian Empire were allegorical references to the Roman Empire that was holding him captive. Fr. Berrigan then analogized these ancient empires to the contemporary American Empire and discoursed on the common elements of all empires.
According to Fr. Berrigan, truth is the first casualty of all empires. When the imperatives of power conflict with the imperatives of integrity, the imperatives of power will win every time. As he most pithily put it: “When the empire is intact, justice is a lost cause.”
Fr. Berrigan’s words hit home particularly hard in light of the recent terrorist attack in New York, and even more significantly, in light of the response to that attack. It currently appears that the American people’s natural inclinations to empathize with the victims of this horrific tragedy are being manipulated into support for the unquestioned extension of imperial power. The already bloated military budget is expanding for purposes which have yet to be explained, and plans are apparently being hatched for a ground war against peoples whose governments have harbored terrorists.
In a passage which has now proven to be prophetic, Fr. Berrigan stated: “The people have arrived, but there is nowhere to go.” When faced with a crisis of this nature, the American public naturally wants to do something in response. The agents of empire have, once again, sung the siren song of the efficacy of violence to that public. Turning plowshares into swords is the only potential response that we are being offered.
No one in a position of authority appears to be asking how many innocent Middle Eastern civilians have already fallen victim to violence which has been committed by our government and/or its allies. No one in a position of authority appears to be asking whether the infliction of further violence upon civilians will increase or decrease the likelihood of further terrorist attacks. No one in a position of authority seems to be pondering the morality of killing thousands of innocent foreign civilians in response to the killing of thousands of innocent American civilians. No one in a position of authority seems to be asking whether a government which spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year to project its power abroad could be doing a better job of protecting its citizens at home. No one in a position of authority seems to be asking why our government extended $43 million in aid this May to Afganistan, a government which now stands accused of harboring one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
As the inhabitants of an empire, most of us unhesitantly accept its benefits unless and until the burdens of empire become intolerable. Fr. Berrigan has spent the last four decades eschewing the benefits of empire and delineating its burdens for those who will listen. His message resonates even more clearly now than it did at the time that I had the privilege to hear it.
Pat Toomey is an alumnus of Notre Dame, now practicing law in Florida. He has contributed frequently to Common Sense.
World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
A few months before the start of the WCAR, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and secretary general of the conference, Mary Robinson, stated in an interview that one of the objectives of the conference would be to focus on the “roots of ethnic conflict in different regions.” This lofty goal was reinforced by the UN’s designation of 2001 as a Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. Less than a week after the conference, the terrorist attack on the US shattered any hopes that the world has moved any closer to an understanding of both the causes and the resolution of ethnic conflict. This realization, combined with the mostly negative press surrounding the conference, leads naturally to the question of whether the recent WCAR achieved any of its ambitious goals: to bring home the realities of racism in our societies, to unite the world in a renewed determination to implement both internationally and nationally agreed standards against racism and discrimination, and to find remedies for the victims of racism.
Nobody thought that it would be an easy conference. Getting delegates from 160-plus nations to recognize past injustices, to acknowledge the existence of multitudinous forms of prejudice within their own countries, and to agree on remedies for racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance would be under any circumstances a gargantuan, even impossible task. Conflict and controversy was bound to be severe.
I was at first reluctant to attend for various reasons. Some of the reasons probably derive from the collective guilt that I share with other white South Africans for the country’s notorious racist past, even though I was actively involved in anti-apartheid groups and was there to cast my vote and celebrate Nelson Mandela’s election as president after the watershed elections of 1994. Another, and stronger, reason for wanting to avoid the conference was a desire to avoid witnessing the painful testimonies of victims of racism. Becoming a witness creates a responsibility to advocate change. It is certainly easier to isolate oneself and pretend that racism does not exist, that equality is the norm, and that there is no urgent need to devise strategies to combat the evils of racism.
The main media coverage of the conference in the US leaves one with the impression that progress towards the goals of the conference was almost completely hijacked by the intransigence, intolerance and impudence of many participants. Not surprisingly, the conference has been reduced in the mind of the general public to two factors: not only did participants from Arab countries put all their energy and effort into denigrating Israel, but the USA’s small delegation of mid-level officials in typical fashion withdrew from participation in the conference’s formal debates. If this understanding encompassed the whole truth, the conference could only be viewed with cynicism and contempt. But as a participant myself in this marathon conference that went on for more than nine days, I am left with the firm impression that there was more to the conference than the narrow coverage by media in the US and that, despite its failure to find a solution to ethnic conflict, the conference represents a material step in the continuing attempt to hold nations accountable for preventing and remedying human rights abuses.
Notwithstanding organizational problems and long lines during the initial days, the conference was an opportunity for participants to celebrate a common humanity with thousands of delegates from all over the world. To be sure, the United Nations machinery seemed huge and sometimes lopsided, and the intense, politically-charged negotiations sometimes inhibited discussion. Yet the delegates did achieve a forward-looking declaration.
It is not surprising that the conflict in Israel played such a conspicuous role during the discussions in Durban. The enduring strife has resulted in a hardening of attitudes and a molding of perceptions that create constant tension between two populations sharing a geographical space. But it is unfortunate that this issue dominated media coverage during the Durban conference, created the potential to obscure the many significant accomplishments of the event and diminished the importance of future actions to combat racism in many spheres. The third World Conference Against Racism encompassed much more than the political wrangling over Israel, as is clear from the aims, the organization, and the concrete outcomes of the conference.
The aims of the third World Conference Against Racism differed from those of its two predecessors, mostly because South Africa, once the critical focus, has since embarked on its transition to democracy. In the post-apartheid era, the recent conference provided the first opportunity for the world to consider a broad agenda to combat racism and related issues. Five main themes formed the core of the conference’s agenda. First, the conference explored the sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism. Second, it concentrated on the identity and experience of victims. The third topic concerned measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance at the national, regional and international levels. Provision of effective remedies, recourse, redress and other measures was the fourth theme. And finally, the conference strived to devise strategies to achieve full and effective equality, including international cooperation and enhancement of United Nations and other international mechanisms.
The overriding aim was clearly to provide both visibility to victims of xenophobia and marginalization and an opportunity for individuals, NGO’s and governments to recognize racist attitudes and to address them courageously and honestly. To reach these aims, the different UN bodies worked together under the leadership of Mary Robinson, the former Irish President who was designated secretary general of the conference.
In a limited space it is impossible to do justice to the dimensions of a conference that took years of planning, including at least four regional UN meetings in Strasbourg, Santiago, Dakar and Teheran, and at least three NGO meetings in Chile, Equador, and Guatemala. These brought to South Africa fifteen heads of state, and at least 12,000 representatives from 194 states and hundreds of non-governmental organizations.
In Durban, immediately preceding the WCAR was a five-day NGO Forum, a gathering of activists and community workers from organizations across the world who wanted to secure recognition for their particular issues from the governments attending the conference. To get attention for their causes, some participants resorted to visible and audible means. “Dalit rights are human rights” proclaimed the headbands worn by delegates from the so-called “untouchables” of India. At the same time, they advertised their presence by sonorous chanting before the opening speech. Others were visible but silent, such as the delegates from Falung Gong in China, who, prominently displayed to the side of the stadium, meditated for the entire two hours of Cuban President Fidel Castro’s closing address. The tensions between the Palestinian delegation and the Israeli delegation that have so dominated the headlines were also evident at the forum and resulted in several confrontations between demonstrators throughout the week. Less conspicuous but not necessarily less confrontational was the program at the forum, which ranged from issues such as indigenous people’s rights in Canada, the treatment of Muslims and Roma gypsies in Europe, gender-based discrimination in Iran, and the role of the church in ending racism.
In contrast to the informality, vivacity, and sometimes outrageousness of the NGO Forum, government delegates embarked on the World Conference itself with characteristic pomp. The official venue was the International Convention Center, to which only a limited number of representatives from non-governmental organizations had access. It was in this venue during the daily plenary that some government officials presented ad nauseam their countries’ unblemished records, using officious lies to mask practices of discrimination, ethnic and religious intolerance, outright racism or the systematic violations of human rights. Meanwhile, in another hall in the same building, the voices of victims of racism, telling personal stories of racial discrimination from every region of the world, were heard for an hour and one-half every day. Victims from regions as far apart as Bosnia, South Africa and Brazil, and from different walks of life told their heart-rendering stories. While a judge, a Muslim intellectual, told of the horrors of sexual torture and rape during the Balkan war, a South African schoolgirl told how she was falsely accused of stealing from a clothing store, beaten and thrown into the street. From another continent, an Afro-Brazilian woman spoke of her life in servitude as a bonded child. In yet other quarters of the center, the work on drafting both the declaration and a program of action occupied working groups.
Across the street from the official venue, the Durban Exhibition Center provided a second venue to which all representatives from accredited NGOs had access. Here, and in other spaces across the city, more than forty panel discussions, organized mainly by the UN and often led by renowned panelists, gave participants a chance to consider in depth the many issues linked to racism and racial discrimination. My own interest was peaked by three broad motifs, which ran through many of the discussions. First, several panels explored the extent to which the tentacles of racism reach into all aspects of life, robbing victims of their most basic rights. Racism, for example, deprives populations of sustainable development, children of education, and persons of all ages of health care. In a panel on “Health, Environmental Racism and Public Policy,” Vernellia R. Randall, professor at University of Dayton Law School, addressed the effects of racsim on the provision of health care. She suggested that racial discrimination and racist conduct must be made visible through statistical analysis that breaks down health status and health care data by race, gender, facilities and providers in order to determine the effectiveness of legislation banning discrimination. Again, the interplay between race and health became obvious during a discussion of “The New Aspects of Racism in the Era of Globalization and the Gene Revolution.” Nadine Gordimer, a South African writer and activist for racial equality, raised concerns that while vast economic inequalities prevail, scientific advances in heath care will only benefit the “haves, mainly western and white skinned, and not the have-nots, mainly dark-skinned.” As a result, a longer and better live will be denied to those who cannot afford expensive medicine and health care.
Second, two panels explored the impact of multiple forms of discrimination on women. Race and gender converge to make women of minority groups particularly vulnerable to discrimination. For example, in Brazil and many other countries, black women receive the lowest salaries and suffer multiple discriminations on the basis of education, gender and ethnic origin. During civil strife, women of a certain ethnic group are often targeted for rape and sexual torture. This happened, for example, to Chinese women during the 1998 civil unrest in Indonesia, and to Muslim women in Bosnia. When thinking about remedies, the power structures, economic, socially and politically, have to be explored. Fighting racism means to peal off multiple layers of control to enable each person to exercise her fundamental rights.
Third, a study of slavery and racism reinforced the imperative that we have to come to terms with the past. The door to past crimes against humanity cannot simply be closed without serious consideration of how past injuries influence contemporary effects and future actions. The argument that slavery happened too long ago to create liability, can be overcome by thinking creatively about different kinds of reparations. For example, debt relief, a fund for education, or investment in housing and job training would constitute creative ways for correcting the damage that was done to disadvantaged groups.
Among the outcomes of the conference, at least two will have a lasting impact. First, the Conference decompartmentalized different forms of discrimination by recognizing that victims can suffer multiple or aggravated forms of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of language, sex, religion, political or other opinion, social origin, property, birth or other status. Second, after intense negotiation, participants agreed on a text that acknowledges and profoundly regrets the suffering caused by slavery, and declares it a crime against humanity.
While ethnic conflicts continue to rage within and between countries, it becomes even more necessary for each society to engage in self examination and to face racism squarely. This kind of self-examination can advance national efforts to promote equality and liberty. But it is equally important for different countries to try to cross difficult political terrain, to enter into conversation with another and to make a constructive contribution to the “dialogue among civilizations.” The US, after its walk-out at Durban, a rejection of such dialogue, may learn that the only way to promote such lofty goals as those embodied in the WCAR is, not to arrogantly insist on unilateralism, not to reduce the concept of “civilization” to a simple singular, but rather to build multilateral partnerships across racial, national, and ethnic divides.
Ada Verloren is a faculty member in the Human Rights Center of the Notre Dame Law School.
A Nation Once Again: Reflections on the Northern Irish Peace Process
The recent developments in the peace process in Northern Ireland have given new reason to hope that the prospect of a lasting peace is more than just a pleasant, but unattainable, dream. As the Irish Republican Army begins the process of decommissioning and the British government begins to reduce its military presence across the six counties of Ulster that constitute Northern Ireland members of both sides have cause for relief. However the issues that divide the people of Northern Ireland are far from resolved. While the peace process has seemingly gained new life in the wake of the IRA’s historic move we must remember that the road to a peaceful settlement is a long and hard one and its realization is years away.
Loyalist politicians have seemingly won a great victory. In an area plagued by dozens of legitimate issues they managed to shift the entire focus of the peace process, at least in the public mind, to the decommissioning of the IRA. While it is a necessary step in finding peace to eliminate the threat of weapons, Loyalists such as David Trimble and his Ulster Unionist Party have managed to divert attention from all other tenets of the Good Friday agreement and force Nationalists to make the first concession. Trimble’s actions in withdrawing from the government in protest are reprehensible; compromise necessitates movement on both sides but he and other Loyalists have refused to budge on other key issues and forced Sinn Fein and the IRA to make the first step. He endangered the already precarious peace to win a political victory, and he played his cards exceedingly well, there is no doubt of that. The result has been that equally valid concerns of Nationalists have been pushed into the background so that the already silent guns of the IRA can be destroyed. Meanwhile Loyalist paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Freedom Fighters retain their weapons and have made no move to disarm. Meanwhile there has been no progress towards the creation of a new police force for the six counties; the overwhelmingly Protestant and bigoted Royal Ulster Constabulary remains on the streets doing little to protect the needs of Catholics. Meanwhile the British presence in Northern Ireland, in the form of troops and military observation towers remains overly prominent.
What we must wait to see is how much progress will be made on any Nationalist concerns in the coming months. The British have said they will begin to tear down observation towers in Armagh, but there remains much to be done. Catholics in Northern Ireland have numerous legitimate grievances that have been grossly ignored both in the negotiations and in the media’s reports of these grievances. The British propaganda machine has been very successful in minimizing the importance of Nationalist concerns, forcing decommissioning to be the most prominent issue. Now that the IRA has taken the first step we must wonder how much longer Sinn Fein’s demands can be ignored.
This is a difficult time for Northern Ireland. As promising as any advances may seem immediately there are numerous reasons to be apprehensive. It is important to remember that there are two separate cultures at war in Northern Ireland who want entirely different things. Far too often the media here in America claims that this is a religious dispute; in reality religion in itself is immaterial. Protestants and Catholics in the North do not kill each other over theological debates. Religion is only truly significant in that it determines one’s culture, one’s historical heritage. This is key to understanding Northern Ireland; Protestants and Catholics are separated by more than religious denominations, they occupy entirely different cultural worlds. In order to find a lasting peace in the North it is necessary to somehow bring these worlds together and overcome the inevitable clash.
I recently traveled to Northern Ireland, with Notre Dame’s Dublin program, spending a few nights in Belfast. While there we toured the famous political murals that decorate the cities working class areas. What became instantly and painfully apparent was that while Catholic and Protestant areas of the city are often separated by only a few hundred feet they are entirely different worlds. Catholic murals depict Irish heritage; they mourn the famine and celebrate the sacrifice of Irish patriots such as Padraig Pearse, James Connolly and Bobby Sands. They demand British withdrawal and claim that peace is contingent upon Nationalist victory. Protestant murals celebrate the Battle of the Boyne incessantly. They mourn the sacrifice of Ulster Protestants for the British army at the Battle of the Somme and adamantly claim that there will be “No Surrender.” We can see why it is so difficult to bring these cultures together under one government; they don’t even share the same history. They each turn to different events in the history of Ireland as their defining moments. And the past is alive and well in the six counties; both sides try desperately to live up to past heroes and martyrs and refuse to disgrace their deaths with compromise of ideals. In a world where for so long neither side has been at all willing to negotiate the word compromise remains something of a dirty word.
So what chance does Northern Ireland have? In a land where two cultures are so deeply divided, not just away from each other but against each other, how can there be peace? The answer is not simple; years and years of difficult struggle both political and physical lie ahead if peace is to be realized. What is important is for both sides to recognize that it is time to move forward; that remembering and celebrating the past does not necessarily mean being impervious to the prospects of a new future. And this future, however uncomfortable it might be for Loyalists to admit it, lies in the confines of a united Irish Republic.
There is an Irish Nationalist slogan that is often used: Tiocfaidh ar la, the Irish for “our day will come.” It means simply put that eventually the British government will give up its hold over the six counties and allow them to rejoin the rest of the island. For years it seemed the idealistic chant of a people swept up in a revolutionary ideology. Now the changing climate of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have made it seem a simple statement of inevitability. For years Loyalists have claimed that they could not exist within the overwhelmingly Catholic South because its laws would stifle a Protestant way of life. The South has within the past twenty years advanced enough to make such claims seem immaterial, addressing such concerns through the legalization of divorce and contraception. Loyalists have since the early 1900s claimed that a unified Ireland would not be economically feasible, as the industrialized North would be forced to carry the rural South. The Celtic Tiger has eliminated these concerns; now the Southern economy outperforms the North and has recently even outperformed that of Britain. And even what has long been the trump card of Loyalists has slipped away; that of self-determination. Loyalists claim the sovereignty of popular opinion as a reason to remain a part of Britain, but the growth of the Catholic population has led many to project that within the near future Catholics will outnumber Protestants in the six counties. A unified Ireland seems now to be less than a distant dream and more of an inevitable reality.
I am not naive enough to think that a united Ireland is a quick fix to all these problems. I maintain that it remains years away and its realization will not come easily. Yet it seems inevitable and the sooner Loyalists realize that it is coming the better. Then the issues that divide the six counties can be addressed with a realistic view towards the future. The coming together of two cultures divided for years is not easy; there is no doubt that there will be more suffering to come. But this is not the time to hide behind illusions. The unresolved issues remaining in the peace process must be dealt with fairly and efficiently, but it is best that it is done turning a respectful eye to the past and a realistic eye towards the future.
Kevin Farrell spent last semester in Ireland at University College Dublin. He is a senior at Notre Dame and a member of the Common Sense staff.
In That Heaven of the Innocents
"Beloved lips, you speak to me again."
for S. K. / September 11, 2001
In that heaven of the innocents, the
everything goes as it should. For once the columns
landed softly. Floating down on the elevator,
Out on the street, she hears castanets and maracas,
Ultramarine clouds of night rolling on,
Alone in her apartment, a hand reaches for
And for once sleep comes unbidden and without
Max teaches English at Saint Mary's and is a regular contributor to Common Sense.
Rest in Peace
I am a World Trade Center tower, standing tall in the clear blue sky, feeling a violent blow in my side, and I am a towering inferno of pain and suffering imploding upon myself and collapsing to the ground.
I am a terrified passenger on a hijacked airplane not knowing where we are going or that I am riding on fuel tanks that will be instruments of death, and I am a worker arriving at my office not knowing that in just a moment my future will be obliterated.
I am a pigeon in the plaza between the two towers eating crumbs from someone's breakfast when fire rains down on me from the skies, and I am a bed of flowers admired daily by thousands of tourists now buried under five stories of rubble.
I am a firefighter sent into dark corridors of smoke and debris on a mission of mercy only to have it collapse around me, and I am a rescue worker risking my life to save lives who is very aware that I may not make it out alive.
I am a survivor who has fled down the stairs and out of the building to safety who knows that nothing will ever be the same in my soul again, and I am a doctor in a hospital treating patients burned from head to toe who knows that these horrible images will remain in my mind forever.
I am a tourist in Times Square looking up at the giant TV screens thinking I'm seeing a disaster movie as I watch the Twin Towers crash to the ground, and I am a New York woman sending e-mails to friends and family letting them know that I am safe.
I am a piece of paper that was on someone's desk this morning and now I'm debris scattered by the wind across lower Manhattan, and I am a stone in the graveyard at Trinity Church covered with soot from the buildings that once stood proudly above me, death meeting death.
I am a dog sniffing in the rubble for signs of life, doing my best to be of service, and I am a blood donor waiting in line to make a simple but very needed contribution for the victims.
I am a resident in an apartment in downtown New York who has been forced to evacuate my home, and I am a resident in an apartment uptown who has walked 100 blocks home in a stream of other refugees.
I am a family member who has just learned that someone I love has died, and I am a pastor who must comfort someone who has suffered a heart-breaking loss.
I am a loyal American who feels violated and vows to stand behind any military action it takes to wipe terrorists off the face of the earth, and I am a loyal American who feels violated and worries that people who look and sound like me are all going to be blamed for this tragedy.
I am a frightened city dweller who wonders whether I'll ever feel safe in a skyscraper again, and I am a pilot who wonders whether there will ever be a way to make the skies truly safe.
I am the owner of a small store with five employees that has been put out of business by this tragedy, and I am an executive in a multinational corporation who is concerned about the cost of doing business in a terrorized world.
I am a visitor to New York City who purchases postcards of the World Trade Center Twin Towers that are no more, and I am a television reporter trying to put into words the terrible things I have seen.
I am a boy in New Jersey waiting for a father who will never come home, and I am a boy in a faraway country rejoicing in the streets of my village because someone has hurt the hated Americans.
I am a general talking into the microphones about how we must stop the terrorist cowards who have perpetrated this heinous crime, and I am an intelligence officer trying to discern how such a thing could have happened on American soil, and I am a city official trying to find ways to alleviate the suffering of my people.
I am a terrorist whose hatred for America knows no limit and I am willing to die to prove it, and I am a terrorist sympathizer standing with all the enemies of American capitalism and imperialism, and I am a master strategist for a terrorist group who planned this abomination. My heart is not yet capable of openness, tolerance, and loving.
I am a citizen of the world glued to my television set, fighting back my rage and despair at these horrible events, and I am a person of faith struggling to forgive the unforgivable, praying for the consolation of those who have lost loved ones, calling upon the merciful beneficence of God/Lord/Allah/Spirit/Higher Power.
I am a child of God who believes that we are all children of God and we are all part of one another.
May we all know peace.
Copyright Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk and poet.