New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Becoming Mandela

December 31, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Matt Meyer, Politics

Media and the Making of Future Madibas

by Matt Meyer

Reading through well over one hundred portrayals of Nelson Mandela, and through the extensive comments made on my own “don’t mourn a myth” perspective which urged that we better understand the contradictions inherent in the man, it is hard not to conclude that few are worth a second look. If we are working towards assembling a collection of remembrances which might further the causes Mandela once championed, this month of memorials makes little contributions. Despite a fairly shallow overview in the New York Times Magazine, author Bill Keller was at least correct that Madiba was no saint, and that – in fact – it was his all-too-common human attributes of anger, aging, inconsistency and such that should make it possible for people to “aspire to his example.” (more…)

Water World

December 18, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Evaggelos Vallianatos

Are We Approaching a Global ‘Cadillac Desert’?

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

Water for the Greeks was the immortal natural world. The supreme Greek god, Zeus, sent rains; Poseidon, brother of Zeus, was the god of the oceans and seas; Metis, daughter of the Ocean River god and first wife of Zeus, was goddess of intelligence and mother of Athena, goddess of the arts of civilization.

Homer said the god of metallurgy, Hephaistos, sculpted the great Ocean River surrounding the Earth on the outermost rim of Achilleus’ shield. Achilleus, son of a water nymph, was the Greeks’ greatest hero during the Trojan War.

And the first Greek natural philosopher, Thales, proposed in the seventh century BCE that water was the stuff of life and the cosmos. (more…)

Time Has Come

December 17, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Politics

Let’s Begin Ending War Again

by David Swanson

Recently I noticed a post on a social media site honoring Rosa Parks for her refusal to move out of her seat on a segregated bus.  Someone commented underneath, that in fact another individual deserved credit for having done the same thing first.  What happened next was entirely predictable. Post after post by various people brought out the names of all kinds of forerunners of Parks, pushing the date of the first brave resister to segregated buses back further and further — many decades — into the past.

What we understand as the civil rights movement was successfully started after a great many failed attempts — by organizations as well as individuals.  The same goes for the suffragette movement or the labor movement or the abolition of slavery.  Even the Occupy movement was the umpteenth time a lot of activists had attempted such a thing, and chances are that eventually the Occupy movement will be seen as one in a long line of failed predecessors to something more successful. (more…)

Memories of Mandela

December 10, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Matt Meyer, Politics

Let’s Not Mourn a Myth

by Matt Meyer

As the world joins together in celebrating the life of Nelson R. Mandela, South Africa’s “Madiba” who symbolizes freedom and dignity in every corner of the planet, let us not make the too-easy mistake of constructing an icon rather than honoring a man. He was, after all, a rather heroic although complicated man — with almost one-third of his life spent as a political prisoner who refused to bend on his most basic beliefs and strategies yet lived to lead a mass movement of international dimensions which put a number of those beliefs into practice.

The mythology comes when we forget about the complications, smooth over the rough edges which actually make his story most meaningful for those looking to continue building movements for lasting and radical social change. (more…)

Remembering Mandela

December 06, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, David Swanson, Politics

What Didn’t Kill Him Made Him Stronger

by David Swanson

Nelson Mandela’s story, if told as a novel, would not be deemed possible in real life.  Worse, we don’t tell such stories in many of our novels.

A violent young rebel is imprisoned for decades but turns that imprisonment into the training he needs.  He turns to negotiation, diplomacy, reconciliation.  He negotiates free elections, and then wins them. He forestalls any counter-revolution by including former enemies in his victory.  He becomes a symbol of the possibility for the sort of radical, lasting change of which violence has proved incapable.  He credits the widespread movement in his country and around the world that changed cultures for the better while he was locked away.  But millions of people look to the example of his personal interactions and decisions as having prevented a blood bath.

Mandela was a rebel before he had a cause.  He was a fighter and a boxer.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that South Africa benefited greatly from the fact that Mandela did not emerge from prison earlier: “Had he come out earlier, we would have had the angry, aggressive Madiba. As a result of the experience that he had there, he mellowed. … Suffering either embitters you or, mercifully, ennobles you.  And with Madiba, thankfully for us, the latter happened.” (more…)

Called to Act

October 21, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Laura L. Finley, Politics

In Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples

by Laura L. Finley

Last I heard, contracts negotiated between two consenting and capable parties are supposed to be binding, with repercussions if one party violates what has been agreed upon and codified into a legal document.  That is, of course, unless it is the state entering into such agreements with indigenous peoples. Then these legal documents are little more than lip-service, or so it seems, based on the actions of the U.S., Canadian, and other governments who have and continued to trample the rights of indigenous peoples with impunity. Instead of being held accountable to the legally binding agreements they have signed, these governments continue to deprive indigenous peoples of their land, their livelihoods, and their cultures. Worse yet, they have the gall to point the finger at indigenous peoples and their allies who resist this continued destruction of their land and resources, calling them the criminals. (more…)

Tenacious Spirit

September 19, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Winslow Myers

New Book Spotlights the Life and Work of Dag Hammarskjöld

by Winslow Myers

Roger Lipsey has produced a magisterially comprehensive portrait of the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, in his 2013 book Hammarskjöld: A Life. Lipsey’s achievement is all the more remarkable because at first glance Hammarskjöld appears to be, in the combination of his monastic bachelor dedication to his role and his veiled diplomatic tact, a uniquely unknowable person.

As Secretary-General, what kept him steadily moving forward against the gale-force winds of chaos, violence, and cynical double-dealing by governments was his systematic subjugation of individual will to a fervent wish to be used by God. Brought up in Swedish Protestant Christianity, a deep reader of the Christian mystics, Hammarskjöldnot only valued, but actually lived, what he called “stillness,” a creative discipline that enabled him to stay flexibly creative in the welter of such events as the Suez crisis of 1956, when he was one of the first to initiate the exhausting process of shuttle diplomacy.

The working heart of Lipsey’s approach is to subtly tie the entries in “Markings,” Hammarskjöld’s spiritual poetry, a number of which are specifically dated, to the stream of acute international crises in which Hammarskjöld was crucially involved, including the battle for Congolese independence, during which he lost his life in a plane crash — a crash that may not have been accidental. (more…)