Saturday, October 15, 2005

"none but all of us"

please read THIS since you already have the time.

Bill Moyers
Keynote Speech to the Society of Environmental Journalists Convention
Austin, Texas - October 1, 2005
(from common

The Gilded Age has returned with a vengeance. Washington again is a spectacle of corruption. The promise of America has been subverted to crony capitalism, sleazy lobbyists, and an arrogance of power matched only by an arrogance of the present that acts as if there is no tomorrow. But there is a tomorrow. I see the future every time I work at my desk. There, beside my computer, are photographs of Henry, Thomas, Nancy, Jassie, and SaraJane - my grandchildren, ages 13 down. They have no vote and they have no voice. They have no party. They have no lobbyists in Washington. They have only you and me (journalists) - our pens and our keyboards and our microphones - to seek and to speak and to publish what we can of how power works, how the world wags and who wags it. The powers-that-be would have us merely cover the news; our challenge is to uncover the news that they would keep hidden.


Who is left to open the eyes of the country - to tell Americans what is happening? "There is no one left; none but all of us."

Count me in.

Friday, October 14, 2005

because you need to know...

Oldest noodles unearthed in China

from BBC news

Radiocarbon dating of the material taken from the Lajia archaeological site on the Yellow River indicates the food was about 4,000 years old.


The discovery goes a long way to settling the old argument over who first created the string-like food.


Exactly how long has this argument been going on, and has anybody been killed? This is what I'd like to know.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Millennialists and the State: A Microcosm for the "War on terror"

(note: Here I said that I would be posting more articles related to blog-relevant topics that I had written for school. Here is another. My purpose for publishing these is simple: the expansion of perspective through the open and relatively uninhibited vehicle of internet communication. Feel free to read, and feel free to comment. After that, feel free to consider other perspectives and feel free to investigate more.)

Author Michael Barkun re-examines the nature of the Branch Davidian conflict in his essay entitled "Millennialists and the State: Reflections after Waco", which was first published in the June 2, 1993 issue of the publication Christian Century. In the article, Barkun suggests that the government of the United States misunderstood the beliefs of the Branch Davidians, and this mistake inevitably resulted in a violent end to the standoff in Waco, Texas.

According to Barkun, U.S. law enforcement engaged the Branch Davidians under the false presumption that the religious group, led by David Koresh, was simply a cult operating through a convoluted and delusional perception of reality. Barkun states that the word “cult” supplies a stereotypic label, but not an explanation. Therefore, when the American media characterized the Branch Davidian body of believers as a “cult”, it was automatically cast in a misrepresentational light, and an important understanding of what the Branch Davidians actually believed was lost. The failure of the U.S. government to take the religious beliefs of the Branch Davidians seriously complicated the tense standoff, and perpetuated the church’s belief that the apocalypse was near and that the end would bring a “climactic struggle between good and evil.”

Barkun suggests that a millenarian is an individual who maintains a belief system that anticipates a supernatural revolution, one that redeems the believer from the tribulations of Earth and brings divine judgement on all “evil” in the world. Millennarians often retreat into communal settlements, and these isolated communities provide a shelter for individuals who wish to abstain themselves from the moral ambiguity of mainstream society. Historically, communal settlements offered chances for utopian experimentation, but they also function as a nucleus for radical supremacist ideology. The extreme nature of Millenarian seclusion often draws various stigmatizing labels from the cultural mainstream. These labels may function to demonize or dehumanize the divergent community to protect the homogeneity of the popular culture. Regardless, these labels only hinder the progress of knowledge, and the misuse of such labels can have drastic consequences.

The strategy of the U.S. government involved negotiations, a blatant display of armed force, and the bombardment of the Branch Davidian compound with loud noise and music. Attempts at negotiations failed because law enforcement didn’t recognize the depth of the Davidian faith. To the Davidians, these abrasive and condescending tactics were provocative, not intimidating, and further supported their beliefs that they were confronting an evil force. This enhanced their resolve and strengthened their convictions. In short, the strategies exercised by U.S. law enforcement during the Branch Davidian standoff only enflamed the problem to a devastating degree, as exemplified in the standoff’s infamous resolution.

When in conflict with millenarians, Barkun advises government officials to take the religious beliefs of such groups seriously, lest they underestimate the strength of millennialists’ belief and drive them to fully realize their self-induced fate. Barkun stresses the importance of understanding the nature of extreme religious belief from the perspective of the believer, as opposed to relying on divisive and misleading labels.

It is my opinion that the Branch Davidian standoff represents a microcosm for America’s current “War on Terrorism.” The euphemistic and misleading term “terrorist” is analogous to the label “cult” in more ways than one. In both arenas of social conflict, one can find the presence of fundamentalist, or absolutist thinking, coupled with a fervent devotion to supernatural ideals and the propensity of the individual to die in the name of religious faith. Perhaps the standoff in Waco was foretelling of future conflicts between subjective realities. In this way, the policy makers and law enforcement officials would be wise to re-examine the intense devotion of faith sustained by the Mujahideen holy warriors and the Muslim world which supports them, least another standoff end in an unimaginable fire.

I greatly appreciated Barkun’s article. I lived in Waco for a time, and I have visited the ruins of the Branch Davidian compound on several occasions. I saw the charred bus, the broken rubble, and the personal artifacts of lives long lost. I vividly remember a pile of debris heaping with trash, fabrics, and shoes. I remember seeing children’s’ clothing poking through the haphazard junk pile. I remember the questions that flooded my mind as I pondered what had taken place there. Barkun helps answer many of those questions. He writes with a strong conviction that we should learn from the mistakes made in the Branch Davidian standoff. His argument that we should avoid the pitfalls of label-think and understand the nature of divergent perspectives when resolving conflict is directly applicable to the West’s conflict with militant Islam. Americans would do well to read Barkun’s assessment of the Branch Davidian standoff.

The Kayapo Resistance

(note: Here I said that I would be posting more articles related to relevant topics that I had written for school. The following post is one of these articles.

To read another, click

In his essay, entitled The Kayapo Resistance, author Terence Turner outlines how the Kayapo Indians of the Brazilian jungle formulated a resistance against the industrial forces that threatened their home. The article was first published by the author in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, vol. 36, No. 3, in the spring of 1993. Using the example of the Kayapo resistance, Turner concludes that not only are indigenous forest people capable of reforming political policy, their knowledge is essential in understanding the hidden mechanics of humanity’s dependence on ecological balance.

The Kayapo maintain a profound sense of identity with the natural environment. Their subsistence behaviors consist of a fusion of slash and burn horticulture, hunting and fishing rituals, and flora foraging techniques. The farmland takes approximately fifteen years to recover its nutritional fertility, and the Kayapo sow, harvest, and burn their farmlands to perpetuate the regeneration of the soil. The Kayapo division of labor splits down a strict gender based function. Men do all the work that doesn’t require attending to children, such as hunting, fishing, farming, and construction. The Kayapo women, on the other hand, are solely responsible for raising children. They perform other tasks, such as maintaining gardens or managing domestic animals, but only if that task allows them to attend to the needs of children.

The Kayapo also engage in a curious ritual of territorial trekking. During trekking, units of villagers venture into the forest for periods of up to one to three months in a seminomadic pattern of travel. The groups vary in description. The whole village may leave, or just the eldest men. Women, children, or a mix of individuals will depart on treks, only to return again after a variable amount of time. Anthropologists often think that this behavior is influenced by the culture’s subsistence patterns, but Turner suggests that this is not the case. The environment around the base village provides an ample nutritional diet, and in fact, subsistence behavior doesn’t change to a great degree when a group embarks on a trek. Turner believes that the trekking behavior of the Kayapo represents a social function that operates to enhance the production of well-cultured Kayapo individuals. Turner refers to the strict division of gender labor, and concludes that while the Kayapo men are responsible for producing food, the Kayapo women are responsible for producing people.

According to Turner, the Kayapo believe that all humans are “beings” of nature. They equate the “being” of human with the plethora of “beings” in the natural environment. Through this paradigm, the Kayapo have created a unified identity with the Amazonian world they live in. However, the influences of industrialization were encroaching on their world, and threatening their very existence. Logging companies were buying up land and cutting down trees. The companies would burn large swaths of land to prepare the forest for logging and mining. The forces of modernity brought pollution and drove away the indigenous fauna that the Kayapo has identified with for so long. The Brazilian government ignored pleas from the Kayapo for assistance, and sided with the parties who sought to exploit the environment for economic gain. One Kayapo rebel leaked the plans for a government project to construct a series of dams to generate electricity to the press. The dams would’ve toppled the natural ecosystem, and killed much of the fish that constitute parts of the Kayapo diet. The Brazilian government, on the other hand, wouldn’t acknowledge the potential harm of the dam project. This placed the Kayapo in a precarious position. Overall, the industrial consumption of the Amazonian forest resources represented a dire threat to the Kayapo who identified the destruction of the forest as a fatal attack on the self.

The Kayapo fought back. They attacked and murdered “outsiders” who intruded upon their land, and eventually, the land prospectors learned to keep away. They petitioned their government and engaged in nonviolent protests and sit-ins. They issued pleas of assistance to anyone who would listen. They gained assistance from anthropologists, indigenous advocacy groups, and American congressmen. When the international media reported the stories of the Kayapo conflict, the world rallied behind their cause. Protests and awareness groups popped up around the globe. Kayapo leaders worked with outside advocacy groups to plan a large conference that would shed international light on the Brazilian government’s devastating dam project.

The conference at Altimira was the pinnacle of the Kayapo resistance. For five days, the Kayapo and other indigenous Amazonian people met with representatives of the Brazilian government, the World Bank, national and world media outlets, human advocacy groups, and corporate leaders. Together, they celebrated Amazonian cultures and discussed the significance of ecological balance. The World Bank, which had been debating a loan to the Brazilian government to pay for the dam project, decided it wouldn’t lend any money after all. The Brazilian government stated that it would re-examine the details of the dam project and suspend any construction plans. The Kayapo had won the life of their land and their people, at least for a time, and demonstrated the power and wisdom of indigenous cultural knowledge.

The Kayapo Resistance became a blueprint for environmental activism. It revealed that the knowledge of the Earth’s forest people is necessary to fully understand ecological balance. It also revealed how potent an indigenous people and their collective allies can be at shaping political policy, increasing awareness, and inducing change. The Kayapo Resistance strengthened the cause of ethnic self-assertion in the face of industrialization, and gave the modern world a glimpse at the great value of traditional cultural knowledge. Mass media markets have established a global forum for the communication of ideas, and the Kayapo Resistance set the precedent for global mobilization.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Here it is folks. I'm turning this blog up to eleven, in Spinal Tap terms that is.

(and if you don't know what I'm talking about then please by all means go and watch the movie Spinal Tap on DVD. You'll find it a rewarding experience.)

So, what does "eleven" mean? It means that I'm turning things up a notch. It means that on a scale of one to ten the subjective content of this blog will be turned up "one more". It's an amplitudinal thing. Don't fret, you'll catch on.

follow the rabbit?