Art Prayers for the New Year
by Ellen Greenblum
It’s New Year’s Eve and some of us may be feeling hopeful and some of us may be feeling hopeless after yet another year filled with local and global violence and tragedies. The Occupy movement reminded us that we still know how to gather up and say “No,” but it also reminded us that we may be hauled off to jail for standing up for love and justice. And it’s difficult for a mother or father or employee to publicly fight for basic human rights when we have family members depending on us for a plate of spaghetti and a good night story with a happy ending.
Where do we begin when we find ourselves haunted in the wee hours of the night by thoughts creeping into our psyches when we’re most vulnerable? What if we’ll fail in our role as a human being in the face of everything we strongly believe in about working toward a just and peaceful world?
This is when we turn to art. The Venus of Villendorf, one of the most widely celebrated early works of sculpture was created approx 25,000 ice age years ago during a time of dramatic harsh climates and compromised survival rates. This tiny but potent sculpture boasts voluptuous hips, a round belly and large breasts. The 4 inch Venus may be small, but is also a tenacious and potent prayer. Likewise, the meticulously crafted cave paintings of the ice age that were later discovered all over Europe depict scenes of animals representing hope for a wildly productive hunting season. The level of precision in these paintings is impressive and critical in order to win the attention of the gods residing in nature. Survival is serious business as the dedication to the divine is also serious business.
All of our ancestors spoke in aesthetic languages whether they were throwing salmon bones back into the water to produce more salmon, weaving sacred symbols into carpets and blankets, offering complex shell bracelets to a neighboring tribe or participating in elaborate songs and dances around fires. They were co-creating community and unity through gesture. These impulses, rhythms and urges in our fingers to mold clay and paint walls are an integral part of our being. It’s what we know when we don’t know anything else. It’s the hand extended out into the realm of the invisible as an invitation. We’re here. Come meet us now.
Perhaps for this New Year, we do something genuinely new (although technically very old). Perhaps we might step way outside of our fears of failure or feelings of defeat and step up to that sublime line between the seen and the unseen. The Buddha explains it this way through the principal of paticca samuppada, as Joanna Macy described in 1999: “Causality is reciprocal arising from interweaving circuits of contingency. It is not a function of the power inherent in an agent, but as a function of relationship — of the interaction of multiple factors.” When our ancestors were meticulously carving stone, painting on walls, or dancing along the shores of the sea, they were weaving their circuits of possibility and resources into the large web of all that is with the intention for all to have what they need to make it through another harsh winter or summer drought.
I say, for this year’s New Year’s resolution let’s activate the aesthetic memory within our cells and make some art.
Ellen Greenblum is an artist/educator interested in restoring the original intention of the arts into mainstream culture. She is faculty in both the undergraduate and graduate programs at Prescott College. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Massachusettes College of Art and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Goddard College.
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Peace Visions for the New Year
by David Krieger
May we embrace peace with justice. May we speak for it and stand for it. May we make our voices heard and our presence felt.
May we awaken to the possibilities of our greatness if we stop wasting our resources on war and its preparation.
May we end all war in the new year. Wars always end. May we end them sooner and lessen the toll of death and suffering. May we refrain from initiating new wars.
May we dramatically reduce military spending and reallocate the funds to meeting social needs — the needs of the poor, the hungry, the homeless and those without health care.
May we end the arms trade, and make pariahs of those who profit from it and from war.
May we stop provoking a new nuclear arms race with the Russians by the expansion of NATO and deployment of missile defense installations up to their borders in Europe.
May we recognize the omnicidal threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity and all life. May we take these weapons off hair-trigger alert, declare and enforce policies of No First Use, and begin negotiations for a new treaty for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of all nuclear weapons.
May we uphold and strengthen human rights for all people in all places. May we seek justice for the oppressed.
May we stop to appreciate the beauty and abundance of our amazing planet, our most important common heritage. May we make it a healthy planet for all life by restoring the purity of its air and water, the lushness of its forests and the richness of its soil.
May we demonstrate a decent respect for the lessons of history and for all who have preceded us on our unique planet, the only one we know of in the universe that supports life.
May we show by our actions that we take seriously our role as trustees of Earth for our children and their children and all children of the future — that they may enjoy a peaceful and harmonious life on our planetary home.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an organization that has worked to abolish nuclear weapons since 1982. His new book, Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, is available on amazon.com.
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My New Year’s Resolutions
by David Swanson
Work with not just this year but many future years and generations and centuries in mind.
Work with an international perspective as much as possible. Collaborate internationally as much as possible.
Work to turn last year’s Arab Spring into this year’s Worldwide Spring-Summer-Fall-Winter.
Help to create a worldwide movement against plutocracy and violence.
Stop thinking of defeating horrendous proposals as the only kind of “victory” possible.
Within the United States, help to advance the organization of a student loan debtors union large enough and strategic enough to both refuse payment and to build a campaign that will make education free going forward — in the United States and around the world.
Work to build a movement against the military industrial complex and for economic conversion, inclusive of libertarians and internationalists, civil libertarians, environmentalists, economists, labor, educators, humanitarians, local governments, state governments, and international allies.
Make U.S. residents aware of local struggles against U.S. bases around the world, and see fewer U.S. troops at fewer bases outside the United States and within the United States by the end of the year.
See reduced military spending in the 2013 U.S. budget.
See fewer drone strikes, fewer bombs, fewer assassinations, fewer prisoners, fewer torture victims, and less talk of a “war on terror” this year than last.
Use Iran war promotion as another opportunity to build resistance to predictable propaganda.
Develop a culture that includes our wars’ victims, not just their perpetrators, in the death and injury counts.
Help design an up-to-date anti-war movement that can effectively challenge drone wars, robotic wars, space wars, privatized mercenary wars, secret wars, and death squads. Revive the War Outlawry movement and spread the understanding that war can be abolished.
This May in Chicago build a movement to end NATO.
Repeal the 2001 and 2003 authorizations for the use of military force.
See the United States join the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and without the current qualifications the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Develop a global campaign to pressure the ICC to apply the same standards for prosecution to criminals in the governments of wealthy nations and permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
Help continue to build awareness and understanding of single-payer health coverage and to create it at the state level within the United States.
Help continue to build awareness and understanding of sustainable energy, and of why nuclear energy is not part of it. Work to advance this agenda at the local and state if not national or international levels.
Make central to each of these campaigns and a major campaign of its own the demand for accountability, for an end to corruption, for the equal application of the rule of law to the powerful and the weak, for transparency, for checks on political power, and for protection of the rights to speak and to protest.
Revive the practice of breaking up oversized corporations rather than bailing them out.
Work to protect and advance a free and open internet, and to otherwise build independent means of communication and journalism.
Promote the movement to amend the U.S. Constitution, both to re-articulate the old and the obvious (money is not speech, corporations are not people) and to create and enforce the rights we need but have never had.
Put in extra hours inspiring people to work on things other than elections, redirecting funding away from lesser-evil candidates and into truly good grassroots movements, developing energy behind clear-throated demands that will move the whole society rather than mealy mouthed lies that will move a few compliantly forgetful pundits.
Encourage people who refuse to work fulltime on something more important than elections to work for decent candidates at the local, district, or state level, and to back decent national candidates like Rocky Anderson or Jill Stein, with the understanding being advanced that there is nothing rational about picking the less evil candidate each time while allowing our political culture to steadily degrade in such a manner that both candidates next time can be counted on to be even worse than the more evil candidate this year.
Support the backing of candidates who meet the policy demands of organizations, rather than organizations that adjust their policy demands to meet candidates. Back candidates to the extent that they meet our demands, and never censor those demands in order to accommodate. Develop the concept of the public servant as a means of undoing the common understanding of the activist organization as the servant of the public official.
Be happy at the end of the year if I have increased the possibility of these projects succeeding someday, regardless of whether that day looks likely to occur in my lifetime.
David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He blogs at davidswanson.org and warisacrime.org, where this article originally appeared, and works for the online activist organization rootsaction.org.