New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Peace Lessons

July 10, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Politics

New Book Covers Familiar Terrain with Original Perspective

by David Swanson

I just read what may be the best introduction to peace studies I’ve ever seen. It’s called Peace Lessons, and is a new book by Timothy Braatz. It’s not too fast or too slow, neither obscure nor peace lessonsboring. It does not drive the reader away from activism toward meditation and “inner peace,” but begins with and maintains a focus on activism and effective strategy for revolutionary change in the world on the scale that is needed. As you may be gathering, I’ve read some similar books about which I had major complaints.

No doubt there are many more, similar books I haven’t read, and no doubt most of them cover the basic concepts of direct, structural, and cultural violence and nonviolence. No doubt many of them review the 20th century history of nonviolent overthrows of dictators. No doubt the U.S. civil rights movement is a common theme, especially among U.S. authors. Braatz’s book covers this and other familiar territory so well I was never tempted to set it down. He gives some of the best answers available to the usual questions from the dominant war-based culture, as well: “Would you shoot a crazed gunman to save your grandma?” “What about Hitler?” (more…)

Golden Rule

January 19, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Jerry Elmer

Sea Level Rise, Eniwetok, and Bert Bigelow

by Jerry Elmer

One of the most talked-about consequences of climate change is sea-level rise. The melting glaciers of Greenland could cause a rise of 7 meters, and in March 2014 scientists learned that Greenland’s glaciers are melting much faster eniwetok2than previously believed. The melting West Antarctic ice shelf could cause an additional sea-level rise of 5 meters – and in May 2014 it was learned that that ice mass is also melting far more quickly than previously known.

Two-thirds of the world’s cities with populations above 5 million people would be inundated by a sea level rise of only 3.5 meters – and that is not even accounting for storm surges from increasingly powerful hurricanes (think Katrina and Sandy). Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and the Philippines (the last two are archipelagos) will be particularly vulnerable by the rising sea level, and atoll nations such as Maldives and the Marshall Islands may literally cease to exist.

It is in this context that the long-forgotten name of Bert Bigelow may re-emerge in the twenty-first century. But before I tell you about Bigelow, I need to tell you something about Eniwetok. (more…)

What Is It Good For?

April 18, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Economy, Politics

War Brings Peace and Prosperity, New Book Claims

by David Swanson

Ian Morris has stuck his dog’s ear in his mouth, snapped a selfie, and proclaimed “Man Bites Dog.” His new book War: What Is It Good For? Conflict and Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots is intended to prove that war is good for children and other living things.  It actually proves that defenders of war are growing desperate for arguments.

Morris maintains that the only way to make peace is to make large societies, and the only way to make large societies is through war. Ultimately, he believes, the only way to protect peace is through a single global policeman.  Once you’ve made peace, he believes, prosperity follows.  And from that prosperity flows happiness.  Therefore, war creates happiness.  But the one thing you must never stop engaging in if you hope to have peace, prosperity, and joy is — you guessed it — war.

This thesis becomes an excuse for hundreds of pages of a sort of Monty Python history of the technologies of war, not to mention the evolution of chimpanzees, and various even less relevant excursions.  These pages are packed with bad history and guesswork, and I’m greatly tempted to get caught up in the details.  But none of it has much impact on the book’s conclusions.  All of Morris’s history, accurate and otherwise, is put to mythological use.  He’s telling a simplistic story about where safety and happiness originated, and advocating highly destructive misery-inducing behavior as a result. (more…)

Destabilizing Power

April 14, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Devon G. Pena, Politics

Student Perspectives on the Necessity of Ethnic Studies

moderated by Devon G. Peña

{Moderator’s Note: We are presenting selected blog posts written by students in a winter quarter (2014) course, “Introduction to Chicana/o Studies” (CHSTU 101 that just completed meetings at the University of Washington. My graduate assistant Victor Rodríguez pre-selected the blogs and I did final copy-editing and formatting but the ideas and representations made here were entirely the result of the eight weeks of group research activities conducted by these young students. When we ask first- and second-year students to perform at this higher level of independent inquiry and critical thinking by asking them to engage in collaborative research and writing, we are actually revealing their capacity for a genuine love of learning that introduces them to diverse methods of inquiry and idea testing. When this happens, all is well in the classroom and we can feel a bit more confident that they will be better prepared to engage the prospects for democracy toward more just, equitable, and sustainable future. (more…)

Talking Peace

March 17, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Politics

On the Genius and Relevance of Erasmus

by David Swanson

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, who lived from October 27, 1466, to July 12, 1536, faced censorship in his day, and has never been as popular among the rich and powerful as has his contemporary Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. But at a distance of half a millennium, we ought to be able to judge work on its merit — and we ought to have regular celebrations of Erasmus around the world.  Some of his ideas are catching on.  His name is familiar in Europe as that of the EU’s student exchange program, named in his honor.  We ought perhaps to wonder what oddball ideas these days might catch on in the 2500s — if humanity is around then.

In 1517, Erasmus wrote The Complaint of Peace, in which Peace, speaking in the first-person, complains about how humanity treats her. She claims to offer “the source of all human blessings” and to be scorned by people who “go in quest of evils infinite in number.”

The Complaint is not a contemporary twenty-first century piece of thinking; its outdatedness in any number of areas is immediately obvious. But that’s to be expected in an essay written 500 years ago in Latin for a readership made up of what we would call creationists, astrologers, monarchists, and Eurocentric bigots. (more…)

Professor Falcón’s Lessons

March 14, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Family, Matt Meyer, Politics

Solidarity and Camaraderie in a Puerto Rican Context

by Matt Meyer

On Monday, March 10, Puerto Rico’s leading intellectual — sociologist, educator, lawyer, author, organizer, and Independentista — passed away at age 84. A world renowned authority on colonialism, repression, and Puerto Rican history, Dr. Nieves Falcón was founder/director of the University of Puerto Rico’s Department of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, founder of the Committee on Human Rights, president of the International PEN Club, and a member of the International Advisory Board of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. He was also this author’s mentor, godfather to my son, and a great friend; it was an honor to be the only non-Puerto Rican to deliver a eulogy at his March 12th funeral. This essay is based on my remarks that afternoon. (more…)

Circulate and Grow

March 01, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Pancho McFarland

From the War on Poverty to the Revolution in the Garden

by Pancho McFarland

I teach a “Class and Stratification” course for the Sociology Program at Chicago State University.  In the course we focus on inequality, the global capitalist economic system, critiques of it and examinations of alternative economic systems.  We examine the problems of inequality caused by the capitalist economy and then focus on our city, Chicago, as a means to understand our places in the economy as working class people of color.  To learn about ourselves in Chicago I use a text written by the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce.  The book, Urban Renewal or Urban Removal? is volume one of a planned eight.  Authors of the text include activists, teachers, parents, long-time residents and professors.  It is a grassroots bunch of dedicated organic intellectuals.  (more…)