New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Citizen Diplomacy

October 11, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, David Swanson, Politics

Can It Still Save Us?

by David Swanson

For as long as there’s been a United States of America, its private citizens have done some of its best diplomacy.  In 1798 Dr. George Logan eased tensions between France and this country.  He got a law named for him, criminalizing such services, but nobody’s ever been prosecuted under it — probably because the crime prosecuted would itself be the act of crime prevention.

One of my favorite cases, recounted in When the World Outlawed War, involved James Shotwell, who worked for the Carnegie Endowment for Peace (created by Andrew Carnegie to work exclusively on abolishing war, and currently working on everything but).

In 1927, Shotwell drafted a public statement for the Foreign Minister of France proposing to the United States the creation of a treaty criminalizing war.  When few took notice, Shotwell’s colleague Nicholas Murray Butler wrote a response to the Foreign Minister in the New York Times.  These two ventriloquists’ public diplomacy resulted in a treaty banning war to which the United States, France, and 79 other nations are party today. (Ssh! Don’t tell them.) (more…)

Beyond Argumentative Activism

October 05, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Jan Lundberg, Politics

Are Progressives Barking Up the Wrong Tree for Social Justice?

by Jan Lundberg

The Occupy movement refreshingly broke through the corporate media’s suppression of the gaping gap between the wealth of the super rich and the rest of us. But many of the movement’s adherents seem wedded to misguided expectations, or their route is questionable. For when we mainly demand “a piece of the pie,” and it’s the same old toxic pie, does this really advance the fundamental changes needed for a just, sustainable society?

Probably not, even if we stand for totally turning around today’s warped federal spending priorities.

Moreover, meeting social justice aims would not necessarily result in an ecologically conscious culture, as argued by many social justice activists who rarely address resource limits, climate change, or the system of wage slavery. (more…)

Good Fellows

September 12, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Jay Walljasper

Young People’s Fascination with Detroit Is Only Part of the Story…

by Jay Walljasper

Sprinkled among gloom-and-doom stories coming out of Detroit is some unexpected good news: the city’s growing appeal to young people.  According to plentiful media reports, well-educated twenty-somethings are streaming into the Motor City to test out new ideas, explore art and music projects or launch D-I-Y revitalization initiatives.

The real story is a bit more complex than that, but you can spot a number of once-dormant corners of the city now pulsing with activity thanks to young entrepreneurs.  Corktown, in the shadow of the much-photographed ruin of Detroit’s train station, sports pubs and restaurants that would fit in Brooklyn or Portland.   (more…)

New Revolutionary Nonviolence

September 06, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Matt Meyer, Politics

Dealing with Errors and Breaking with Empires

by Matt Meyer

In my recent piece Building Bridges between Principles and Practice, I noted that there were “concrete, historical incidents in which principled pacifists stuck to their ideals about not engaging in individual acts of violence, but were blinded to the larger issues of institutional violence being perpetrated against those socially considered ‘others.’” These incidents, I wrote, are seemingly more than simple coincidences:

“They suggest fault lines, especially along race and class, where one set of principles contradicted or trumped another. Sometimes without self-awareness, time and again, pacifist attempts to create a nonviolent culture (especially a single, white-washed or homogenized culture) led to acts which served to solidify institutional violence. Similarly, through ignorance or distance from those oppressed peoples struggling for justice ‘by any means necessary,’ even when they were often predominantly using nonviolent tactics, ‘First World’ pacifists missed — and still miss — the vital lessons offered by people who could easily be our closest colleagues.” (more…)

Breton Fisherman’s Prayer

September 05, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Can We Reclaim Our Reverence for the Planet that Sustains Us? 

by Robert C. Koehler 

“Oh God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

The Arctic ice is melting at a record pace this summer — just one more measurable phenomenon indicating that extraordinary change in the global ecosystem is in progress. As the ice melts, and the vast polar reflecting surface diminishes, the planet absorbs more and more of the sun’s energy and . . . grows warmer. More ice melts.

So what? Sitting at my desk in Chicago, I was tempted to opt out of caring about this — trend Republican, you might say. Put it on the back, ahem, burner. It takes a leap of consciousness to align my own well-being with the fate of the Arctic ice, the ocean, the Inuits, the polar bears. (more…)

Working for Peace & Justice

June 12, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Politics

Why Even Failed Activism Succeeds

by David Swanson

I enjoy reading histories of past activism, including memoirs by long-time activists, such as Lawrence Wittner’s new book, Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual (University of Tennessee Press, 2012).

Almost every such account includes belated discoveries of the extent to which a government was been spying on and infiltrating activist groups.

And almost every such account includes belated discoveries of the extent to which government officials were influenced by activist groups even while pretending to ignore popular pressure.

These revelations can be found in the memoirs of the government officials as well, such as in George W. Bush’s recollection of how seriously the Republican Senate Majority Leader was taking public pressure against the war on Iraq in 2006.

Of course, activism that appears ineffectual at the time can succeed in a great many ways, including by influencing others, even young children, who go on to become effective activists — or by influencing firm opponents who begin to change their minds and eventually switch sides. (more…)

Taking a Stand

April 09, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Jennifer Browdy, Politics

What Will It Take to Accomplish Real Change?

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher and Jamphel Yeshi, the young Tibetan monk who recently set himself on fire, are more alike than might first meet the eye.

DeChristopher, one of the founders of the group Peaceful Uprising, took direct action to disrupt the sale of wilderness to mining companies in a closed Federal auction.  He ended up in prison, but he also did a tremendous amount to raise public awareness about the issue of land sales to corporate industry, and inspired the PeaceUp folks to greater activism.

Jamphel Yeshi also took a dramatic personal action at huge cost to himself — he lost not just his liberty, but his life. He and the 30 other monks who have taken this drastic step in the past have succeeded in letting the world know how deeply the Tibetan people are suffering under Chinese repression, and how passionately they yearn for autonomy to practice their religion and preserve their culture. (more…)