An open space for global conversation
We are hosting a dialogue with activists from the Middle East in the Cafe Tuesday from 9-12pm EDT. You can register to join the conversation by phone here, and to join us in person at Friends Center in Philly here.
International callers only: you can reach us Skype-to-Skype using the contact "maestro4294" (you do not need to wait for the contact request to be accepted to call in). This costs the Cafe a small amount of money, but is free to you. Use the Skype keypad to enter your PIN (not your computer's number pad!)
Here are the questions we are planning to discuss together:
One Middle East (actually in Africa) country that is very much associated with the Arab Spring is Egypt. Some of the things that we in the United States have in common with Egypt are sham elections (In the US the popular vote doesn't have to be counted and wasn't counted in 2000 and 2004, is not the final say as it can be overturned by unverifiable central tabulators, corrupt elections officials, the media, political party superdelegates, Congress, the Supreme Court, or the winning candidate conceding to the loser, and both major parties are funded in almost equal amounts by the same big corporations to which both are equally beholden for the billions of dollars they need to compete with each other for the billions of dollars they need to compete with each other, while in Egypt the ruling military junta, SCAF, decides who can and cannot be on the ballot and dissolved the newly elected Parliament on its own initiative just prior to the Presidential elections.) and the violent suppression of civil dissent (In the US all Occupy encampments were violently removed by local law enforcement acting under the direction of Homeland Security, while in Egypt at least 1,000 protesters were killed, many blinded by police sniper bullets, and at least 15,000 arrested, and Tahrir Square was inundated with more than twenty tons of tear gas sent by the United States just prior to the Parliamentary elections). In both countries real power lies with the military-industrial complex, and the Egyptian military junta is subordinate to the US government upon which it relies for arms, training, and $1.3 billion a year in military aid. Any disobedience by the Egyptian junta to US commands could result in the cessation of that aid and is therefore unlikely to occur. In the US, no administration since John F. Kennedy's has attempted to disobey Pentagon orders, and many researchers believe that JFK was assassinated by the US security state apparatus for refusing a large scale invasion of Cuba based on the Northwood Plan and attempting to end the Vietnam war.
In both countries there are extreme income inequalities and many people in both countries suffer extreme poverty due to government funding of the military and protection of private corporate interests instead of funding social programs.
In both countries power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people. Until recently, Egypt made no pretense whatsoever that it wasn't a military dictatorship, while in the United States both the Bush and Obama administrations stated clearly, publicly, and explicitly that the government does not allow public opinion to influence policy decisions. While the Egyptian government kills its own citizens freely, it was only recently that the United States made it legal to do the same thing here (NDAA).
In both countries people are beginning to realize that voting cannot change anything. Here's an essay by Egyptian activist Tarek Shalaby written before the elections for the Parliament that SCAF recently dissolved http://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-shalaby/why-i-am-boycotting-egyp... and here's a recent US initiative along similar lines by Gerald Celente http://lewrockwell.com/celente/celente100.html
The Egyptians have been more successful. The turnout for the recent Presidential election was only 15%, a huge drop from the 65% turnout in the Parliamentary elections. In the US, the Democratic Party has managed to co-opt large segments of Occupy away from direct democracy and back into politics as usual. In both countries there are many who would like to see less government power and more power in the hands of the people, but only in Egypt have a majority begun to understand that people cannot gain power by delegating their power to government.
Social media provides a wonderful opportunity for people everywhere to begin to recognize our commonalities, communicate, and collaborate. Thank you for starting this discussion, Ben, and I hope it flourishes.
Thank you, Mark, for this excellent comparison of the situations in the US and Egypt. More in common than meets the eye, eh? Very interesting about the election boycott there. I wonder if we will hear about that from our panel today. We have a woman from Egypt joining us, as well as another from Syria, along with our main contact in Amman and perhaps another Jordanian activist as well.
Here are the questions we originally brainstormed with Anslem, our point person in Amman who has pulled the panel together for this conversation:
Here are some questions we can begin discussing right now! which ones speak most powerfully to you?
If we are serious about improving communities, we must be aware of the local community context and the readiness of that context for change. Even the best strategies will not be successful unless the community environment has a culture of acceptance for new ideas. Conversely, if we have a context of readiness then anything we do will have a higher probability of success. The correlation between the probability of success and the readiness of the community cannot be over stressed.
In order to access the readiness of a community we must determine its ability to confront the conditions that inhibit growth and development. Are individuals open to the possibilities of change? What is the relational trust within the community between individuals and its institutions? Do people treat each other with dignity and respect? Where are the opportunities for open, safe and civil dialogue? Can we accept each other’s differences and build upon what we share in common? These answers begin to determine the readiness level of the community. Understanding the concept of readiness is the first step in increasing the collective capital of the community.
Before we start we must internalize the importance of why we are entering into this complex area of work? Why must we commit to working together differently? Are things really that much different than in the past? Why can’t we just go our separate ways and still be members of the same community? If can’t write on our hearts the answers to these why questions we will never succeed. Understanding the why is more important than figuring out the how. The need to commit to this effort is paramount to the future of the community.
If we want people and organizations behavior to change then we must change the context and the readiness level of the community. When the contextual culture of the community does not change then nothing really will change. Often we want to implement our ideas and we don’t recognize the level of readiness for the concept. When our ideas fail we are discouraged and lose energy. There was nothing wrong with idea; the community’s level of readiness was not strong enough to support the initiative. As we begin to work together differently we must recognize the present context and correlate or efforts to fit the degree of readiness. You don’t teach a child to run before they can walk. The same building principles apply as we start our collective journey in making our communities better places to live, learn, work, play and pray.
I would like to see this post added to the Visionary Feminist Blanket post so that it is placed in the center of the Philadelphia GA! Cheryl: Would you like to cut and paste it there? Deadline for all posts for Ivanca to carry to the GA is 8 o'clock this morning.
Our guests from the Middle East are:
I am a researcher, translator and activist
Fadi Amireh (Jordan):
I am a civil engineer. A leftist writer & activist in the social, cultural & political movement. I participated in the movement in Jordan since it started on January 2011. I wrote many articles in Arabic newspapers about the revolutionary changes in the Area and the globe.
Tareq al-Homsi (Syria - based in Jordan):
I am Syrian from Homs and I resident in Amman- Jordan. Since the Arab spring started in Tunis me and my friends started to see a bright horizon for our future. We followed every development from Tunisia since and then Egypt and Libya. As a Syrian who can't go to Syria due to Al-Assad military service obligation I started to follow every development in Syria through my relatives and through Twitter and Facebook. I always try to share all the information for the sake of the revolutionist inside Syria and collect donations in Jordan and let the world know about the massacres done by the Al-Assad regime on the Syrian people.
later to join: Amer Skeiker (Syrian, based in Jordan)
There were Libyans in Egypt who went to Tahrir Square and told the Egyptians that they were also revolutionaries and that they wanted to overthrow their cruel dictator, Gaddafi, the same way that Egyptians overthrew Mubarak. Many Egyptians didn't know that Mubarak was just a figurehead for the US/Israel-supported Egyptian ruling military junta (SCAF, which recently dissolved an elected Parliament, that has killed about a thousand Egyptians and imprisoned about 15,000, and has continued its repression without Mubarak as its figurehead), didn't know that Gaddafi had made Libya the most prosperous country in Africa while SCAF had maintained the same wide income disparities common in the United States, where a very few are wealthy and others are homeless and sleep in the streets, didn't know that unlike Egypt under SCAF, Libya under Gaddafi had free health care for everyone, free higher education, free housing, and local councils rather than a central dictatorship, and that the stories about Gaddafi killing his own people were lies spread by the CIA. Note that the US enacted NDAA which makes it legal for the US government to kill its own people. Many Egyptians fell for the CIA lies and helped NATO kill Gaddafi, impoverish Libya, destroy Libya's infrastructure, give Libya's wealth and resources to capitalist imperialist countries like the US, and plunge Libya into a state of conflict and misery. NATO killed more Libyan civilians in six months than Gaddafi had in forty years. When my friends and I pointed to what had happened to Iraq and asked the "Libyan revolutionaries" if they wanted NATO to do the same thing to Libya, they said that people should just support them in asking NATO to help them get rid of Gaddafi and that they themselves would then rid Libya of NATO. Obviously, if they couldn't get rid of a weaker force by themselves and needed help from a stronger force, they wouldn't be able to get rid of a stronger force. Now that Libya has been ravaged by NATO, we know that these so-called revolutionaries were CIA-trained and CIA-funded capitalist imperialists.
The same thing is happening now in Syria. I just saw a news headline last night that said that 10,000 armed troops had entered Syria for its civil war. A civil war is internal. When armed troops enter a country it is a foreign invasion, not a civil war. The choice in Syria is to support Assad or to support NATO. No country is perfect but Syria hasn't been invading other countries like the US and NATO, hasn't been drone-bombing innocent children in six countries like the US, and was relatively peaceful until the CIA sent in its death squads to attack Assad and Syrians who support Assad (the majority), in order to provoke an excuse to invade and destroy Syria.
The 1% in Libya and now Syria are just like the 1% in the United States. They do not mean anyone well except themselves. I will not be part of this phone discussion, but I want people to understand clearly that if NATO invades Syria, the Syrian people will be much worse off than they have been under Assad, although the Syrian 1% will prosper from their suffering.