New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Archive for the ‘Matt Meyer’

From Dictatorship to Democracy

October 22, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Guest Author, Matt Meyer, Politics

New Visions for Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution

By Sherif Joseph Rizk (adapted from an interview with Matt Meyer)

There are many myths about the Egyptian Revolution — first and foremost that it was a success story based completely on the principles of strategic nonviolence. The main fact is that, though it was a mostly nonviolent effect, our only success was in getting rid of the dictator. The rule of the dictatorship, however, continues.

It is important to understand that during the uprisings of 2011, there were elements of confrontation that could be considered “borderline violence” — if you consider throwing back tear gas canisters or Molotov cocktails violent. There was plenty of that. I think there is a threshold that has to do with the proportionate use of force: if the force that is used to counter the opposite force is proportionate, it may not be appropriate to deem that force as violent. In the case of Egypt since 2011, I would say that the force used against the security state was disproportionately small, and therefore, by my standards, should be considered nonviolent. To confront a security state, one needs to throw back tear gas canisters, and though I wasn’t personally involved in those activities, I was close to others who were. I don’t think that’s violent — it is part of the ground tactics needed in confronting a security state.

Fortress Tahrir, during the 18 days when the square was occupied by the Egyptian people, faced many complicated tactical issues. One was how it might best be defended; it was being attacked on many levels by all sorts of challenges. (more…)

We Have Not Been Moved

October 02, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Matt Meyer, Politics

Celebrations, Resistance, and Us

by Matt Meyer

This week, a project six years in the making — and which many of us hope will have a significant positive impact on US movements for social change — finally shot off the presses. We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America, which I had the honor of co-editing with Mandy Carter and Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez, is ready for distribution. In thinking about how this fact needs to be celebrated — in addition to the very real, vital and hard work of coordinating speaking tours, loading and unloading boxes, and paying for printing costs — it is hard sometimes to remember how vital celebration actually is, and how very poor the left can often be about positive thinking. We are so mired in the depressing work of fighting against a seemingly all-powerful empire, and in the tedious work of basic survival (sometimes our own, sometimes our organizations), that our output becomes more negative than is healthy for either of those worthy goals. How then to stay positive while not getting distracted from the struggle?

Two short examples came to mind:

The first is from Africa, from a recent book by Albie Sachs, the former political prisoner, former ANC militant based in Mozambique, who had his arm blown off with damage to one eye when a car bomb intending to kill him exploded one day outside his office-in-exile in Mozambique. (more…)

Roots to Fruits

September 24, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Matt Meyer, Politics

Gandhi, Luthuli, and Contemporary South African Nonviolence

by Matt Meyer

An historic gathering of South African activists, U.S.-based civil rights veterans, Indians involved in various constructive programs, and assorted other internationalists convened in Durban last August for a conference on Roots to Fruits: Nonviolence in Action. Sponsored by the Gandhi Development Trust and Satyagraha newspaper, and organized by Ela Gandhi — a lifelong African National Congress (ANC) leader, former Parliamentarian, and grand-daughter of Mohandas K. Gandhi — the three-day event brought together over one hundred educators, students, community leaders, politicians, and religious figures to discuss the future of nonviolence on a global scale. With a wide diversity of viewpoints on the meaning and contemporary significance of nonviolence — from a tactic for militant resistance to a philosophy which sometimes helps adherents tacitly adjust to the status quo — the best part of the gathering was the networking possibilities amongst a strong and energetic grouping of participants.

One poignant moment which spotlighted the occasionally divergent viewpoints began with a talk from Kirti Menon, Registrar of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Speaking as an administrator about the difficulties of balancing individual rights with the need to maintain a calm space for building higher education, Menon — a great-granddaughter of the Mahatma — noted that often “the room for negotiating is so tight that it is like walking through a tunnel.” (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…)

The Avengers’ New Vision

May 08, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Family, Matt Meyer

Peace and Justice Activists, Assemble!

by Matt Meyer

It has been one of those life-affirming weeks. When something that has been a part of you for decades finally gets the attention and admiration you’ve felt it has deserved all along, a special pride is evoked; you can now pass it coolly and smoothly on to your own children and to the next generation. I’m speaking, of course, of the new, mainstream Hollywood blockbuster: the Avengers.

OK, by now the reader may be wondering if they are viewing the correct website, where movie reviews of major new releases, especially apparently militaristic ones, are not commonly lauded. Allow me to explain, or rather — to confess. Since about age eight, now more than forty years ago, I have been a more-than-avid Avengers fan-boy. At first, it was just a simple reader’s favorite, one of many comic books which sparked my imagination at a young age. As I grew older, however, and the others were swept aside and replaced by passionate interests in music, and then my grown-up commitment to the movements for social change, the Avengers remained a faithful reminder of fun things past and maybe possible; I’d take my vacations each August finding a comic book shop and buying the past years’ worth of stories, catching up on old friends. When I landed my first substantial paycheck, one of my first acts (after paying numerous bills!) was to go to a local comic convention and fill in the “blanks” of my still-preserved Avengers collection — including the rare and wonderful “first issue.” (more…)


April 13, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Matt Meyer, Politics

Resisting All Armies, Not Just Kony’s

by Matt Meyer

We can come to quick consensus that Uganda’s Joseph Kony is a bad man. And while we’re not looking to separate the world into friends and enemies, we can probably get just about everyone to agree that Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been doing some pretty heinous things — crimes against humanity, in international legal terms. The question, then, in this interconnected, faster-than-the-speed-of-Internet world, is what to do about him and the conditions which enable him to continue?

In the viral video “KONY 2012” by the US-based non-governmental group Invisible Children, filmmaker Jason tells his young son Gavin — and the audience of over 100 million who have now viewed his slickly-produced half hour infomercial — that our electronic, Facebook-age “greatest desire” is to belong and connect… to share the love.” I am also a US-based father with a son only slightly older than Gavin, I too have traveled to and long worked for peace and justice in Africa, and I agree strongly with Jason that the only appropriate answer to the every-person question “Who are you to end a war?” is: “Who are you not to?” We are, as Jason suggests, every last one of us shaping human history nearly every day. What, then, will be the world’s new shape? (more…)

Word Games

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

Removing ‘War’ from the History Books?

by Matt Meyer

As any good teacher should do on weekends, I have been preparing for my New York State Regents-based course in United States History. In light of last week’s revelations that the New York City Department of Education (the largest such public bastion of knowledge in the country) has sent out a list of proposed words to be avoided in the creation of tests, the scope of my new curriculum might end up looking something like this:

After the Revolutionary Skirmish of 1776, there were great debates about the founding principles of the new nation. As the thirteen colonies became thirteen states, questions of representation became especially heated when Southern state leaders asserted the need for the continuation of freedom-less-ness for people of African descent. Eventually, a Civil Hostility took place, which saw an end to vassalage. This helped pave the way for the US to become an even more respected power, but it did not truly become an international force until involvement in World Big Fight One. (more…)

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