Thursday, October 25, 2001

i discovered today that my blog is on the "Suffocatin' cyberhugs" (credits) list at unknown news. cyberhugs are nice. whoever is in charge of that: thanks.
i had a brief chat with my dad last night about what's going on in afghanistan. i mentioned people are starving to death. he seemed to think that the "food drops" were actually helping in any significant way. maybe this is a point of confusion. hopefully this will help clear things up:

morten rostrup, president of "Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)", on common dreams writes "The people of Afghanistan are in desperate need and have almost no assistance. Millions face starvation. The United Nations has drastically reduced operations; all but a few aid workers have withdrawn from Afghanistan and now wait across the border. On one side tons of aid and hundreds of staff; on the other side millions of people suffering."

jonathan schell of the nation writes "On September 24, two weeks before the military campaign began, the UN warned in a report that 'a humanitarian crisis of stunning proportions is unfolding in Afghanistan,' and Secretary General Kofi Annan appealed for assistance to head off 'the world's worst humanitarian disaster.'"

patrick wintour of the guardian writes "The agencies, giving evidence to MPs yesterday, said they were baffled by claims from Clare Short, the international development secretary, that enough aid might be reaching the country."

so just to sum that all up: people are starving and we're bombing them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

dave winer writes "Afghanistan. Afghanistan. Afghanistan. I'm so tired of Afghanistan." life is full of mirrors these days. imagine how tired of afghanistan you'd be if your town was full of afghan restaurants, your tv was full of afghan stations, your movie theatres were full of afghan movies, your businesses were full of afghan money, your country was full of afghan-trained warlords or your land was being struck with afghan bombs. the rest of the world may be tired of us too.
unknown news pointed to this with the headline "How to create future generations of terrorists": if words don't work, maybe pictures will.
that previous post may be the longest and most personal thing i ever write on here. or maybe not - we'll see. i would normally be writing about the continued bombing of afghanistan, but i'm having trouble saying anything new about that. it's the same old arguments that make sense to me, and don't seem to make sense to very many other people: killing innocent people is bad. bombing afghanistan is killing people who by all accounts are innocent. therefore this is a bad thing. i'm still waiting for someone to explain to me where my logic breaks down here. i'm going to a "stop the bombing" march this saturday. maybe someone will show up and explain to me their point of view. so far the most thoughtful argument i've heard was "U-S-A! U-S-A!" then they drove away. before i even had a chance to agree with them.
a few months ago some of my already-gradutated friends started a listserve to keep us all connected. in the last month or so, everyone gradually started talking about the possibility of starting a commune together. i was initially rather skeptical, but i've become more and more excited about the idea - particularly after visiting the commune in wisconsin.

a few days ago one of my friends got mad at and made a personal attack on another friend over the listserve. reading it was a very unpleasant experience and as i was thinking about why it was so unpleasant (because it had nothing to do with me), i realized that i had spent the weekend around people who related to each other (and to me) mostly with compassion and love. i had quickly grown to feel that was a good way to relate to people. but then seeing another way, which looked to me to be full of violent language and relatively void of love or compassion, left part of me thinking that this was an okay way to deal with people.

i don't like this part of me, and i don't want it to grow. so i asked my friends to refrain from personally attacking each other on the listserve. the only person who responded was the person who made the original attack, and the response was generally defensive - the attack was deserved, they said.

i thought back to what i learned at the commune. when dealing with difficult people, you can either adapt yourself or leave. you simply can't force other people to change. i didn't feel ready to adapt to this situation, so i left the listserve, along with whatever role i might have played in planning a potential commune.

funny how that worked out: what i learned at the commune left me thinking it was unhealthy for me to interact with the only people i know who might start a commune. there's some irony for you.

i'm not sure i made the best decision, but i just ran into my friend who was the target of the personal attack and they had just read the emails that bothered me so much. i said "how are you?" and they said "not so great." and then i realized they were crying.

so that's where i'm at now - i'm tired of being involved with killing people or exploiting them for my own luxury - or making them cry. it'll be unfortunate if i have to give up a few friends to remove myself from those things.
so now i want to talk about nonviolence. we talked a lot over the weekend about the philosophy of nonviolence and then we did some roleplaying exercises, which really made the theory seem very practical. i'm not sure i could sum it all up here, so i'll just try to run through a few points that really struck me:

* when someone commits a violent act, there is some part of them that doesn't want to be doing what they are doing. this is the part of them it is best to interact with if you hope to make them a better person. so you speak to their better nature. you agree with them whenever you can do so honestly. you empathize. you listen. and if none of this changes their view of you, you go away. you leave the situation as good or better than you found it - never worse.
* our government spends around %60 of our tax dollars on military expenses. even a fraction of this money put into things like education, food, healthcare, etc. would have a huge impact on preventing violence. we're so stuck in reacting to problems after the fact.
* the current standard system for measuring GDP is based on an essay written in britian during world war II, titled something like "how to fund the war." that is to say, the global economic system is based upon the assumption of war. and we wonder why there's so much war.
* america's national economy is so tied up in international sales of military equipment that our economic success depends on continuous war.
* our whole economy is based on money, which doesn't maintain equal value for everyone. the most obvious example of this is the work of many women, which doesn't technically exist according to our economic system. some guy sitting all day in a nuclear missile silo is more "productive" than a housewife who drives her children all over town, cooks dinner, cleans the house, etc. our economic system measures productivity not in what is actually produced, but in what money is transacted. the alternative? time is the same for everyone and a much more accurate means of measuring a successful economy. time-use tables show what people really need to make their lives easier - they need things to alleviate whatever burdens they spend the most time on.

i guess that'll do for now. these are things i've been thinking about the last few days.
now the commune. it was awesome. i won't even try to cover everything here, but just some major points. first, composting toilets. this was a very practical part of the general theme of the whole community: take care of your own shit. they put it back into the ground as tree fertilizer. the houses were all heated by the sun, simply by covering windows that didn't face the sun and uncovering windows that did. if that wasn't warm enough (and when we were there, it was actually too warm), they had wood-burning heating systems. that's also how they got hot water. and some of them even got all of their electricity from the sun. the whole lifestyle made it so obvious that life is a cycle, not a linear process. you can't separate the taking from the giving. but regardless of ecological concerns, the way they live is economically great. they hardly have any monetary costs. the main cost is instead time. life is slow on the commune. but that didn't seem like such a cost to me.
okay. i finally have a bit of time now with not a lot to do. back to blogging. speaking of blogging, my girlfriend aki started a blog a while back. it's mostly her life as a foreign grad student in america, so if that sounds interesting, take a look.