….Week in Review 2/20/11

Not sure if this will become a regular “column”, but I hope it does. My hope is to provide some personal commentary on news items that have happened each week, or are continuing week to week with changing story lines. So anyway…

Protests in the Middle East and North Africa…

As we all know by now, the Middle East has become the catalyst for change. Whether it be the successful protests in Tunisia and Egypt that resulted in the heads of state stepping aside, or the still new protests in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Iran, Algeria, Kuwait and in Iraq (I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so I apologize in advance), the world as we know it is being reshaped. People across the globe are fed up with repression, oppression and any other -ession you want to throw in there. They want rights, they want to say what they want, when they want and they want someone to listen and do something about it.

For the most part, minus some nuts here and there, the protests have been non-violent. The non-violent nature of the protests has become an inspiration to many of us, and should prove to those that have limited (biased) views of the Middle East, they are just like the rest of us. They want basic human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. They are not the ghost in the closet with an explosive belt on, or ready to detonate the bomb in their sneakers. It’s time to set aside those silly biases and realize there are imbeciles all over the place, or are we forgetting Tim McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski and other “domestic” terrorists.

It’s not “us versus them” or “you’re either against us or you’re with us”, it’s time to come to the realization we are all the same, we all want the same things. It’s time to set aside the differences and stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for their freedom, the freedom most of us neglect to realize that we enjoy every day.

Protest in Wisconsin…

Public workers have been flooding the state house in Wisconsin, as Democrats have been fleeing, to protest Governor Walker’s bill that will cut public workers benefits. The problem is not the fact certain benefits are being cut, or that workers might have to contribute more, the issue is with the fact Walker is trying to push his idealogical hatred for collective bargaining agreements. The unions that represent public workers have worked in the past to garner certain rights for the workers via cba’s. These are things the people have fought had to get, and for the most part, that they deserve.

To me, personally, the teachers are the one’s really getting the short end of the stick here. Why state and federal programs are so willing to cut things involving education and the school system is beyond me. If we continue to cut these things, and pay teachers less, who is going to teach our children? Yes, there is homeschooling, but who is truly qualified to do that? You? Me? I don’t think so. You may or may not know, but Americans are falling behind education wise. We are ranked 14th  for reading skills, 17th for science and a 25th for mathematics. But let’s pay the teachers less, cut their benefits, cause they will still want to teach or children after that right?

Now we’ve got the “opposition” moving in with their “We aren’t as moranic and we seem” signs. I am willing to bet half of the folks being bussed in aren’t even from Wisconsin, anyone out there want to start checking birth certificates?

Arizona throws down the gauntlet once again, bans karma….

Seriously folks, where is this country headed? Intolerance is running rampant and no one is paying attention. We’ve got bigots out there, running local, state and federal institutions that are impacting us all. Because of their fears, we are being forced to believe this crap ourselves. Heck no!

The proposed law, HB 2582 states…

“Religious Sectarian Law” means any statute, tenent or body of law evolving within and binding a specific religious sect or tribe. Religious sectarian law includes sharia law, canon law, halacha and karma but dies not include any law of the United States or the individual states based on Anglo-American legal tradition and principles on which the United Stated was founded.”

What? What?? WHAT??? I don’t think I need to go on much more about this, it’s been said already by my friends at these following sites, I am at a loss what to say anyway… Reformed Buddha, The Buddhist Blog, The Worst Horse and Dangerous Harvests

Olathe, KS Buddhist group denied permit for “animal sacrifice”…

I “ain’t” lying, that is what someone actually said regarding a Buddhist organizations practice. Again, I’m at loss here, some folks ignorance is easily the spark other people need before the persecution begins. Without understanding, comes extreme stupidity! Before my mouth gets me in trouble, just read this….

Grammy Awards…

Like so many awards nowadays, the Grammy’s have become a sort of farce. They award popularity, not true talent. While I agree with a couple winners, like Muse winning (they performed a fantastic rendition of their song “Uprising”), I disagree with the fact my boy Cee Lo only won the category of “Best Urban/ Alternative Performance”. Regardless of the lyrics, the song “F$ck You” should have garnered “Song Of The Year”. It was ripe with talent. That being said, I leave you this week with the video for my vote for song of the year….

One Comment

  1. Being a Buddhist who has lived in the Middle East, I hope that the protests do reap the positive results of freedom and equality. However, we should note that we need to be careful to judge what is going on in the Middle East through American or European eyes. For the most part, the autocrats have provided stability not just geopolitically but in the region. Those who are protesting now have never lived in a democracy. Their society has never been part of the evolution our European democratic societies have had.

    For many European societies, democracy is still fairly new. Before WWII, most of countries were still monarchies, empires, and despots. They embraced those roles nationally, because that was what the people knew and accepted. The same is true of the Middle East. The Machiavellian idea of a single strong ruler (or ruling class) has been all that they have known.

    I say this, not because I endorse despotism, but because democracy is something that cannot be thrust on a nation, even if it is from a grassroots origin. There are many “democratice” republics in this world which are more corrupt and inept than those who are functioning. Heck, in our own United States we are seeing the conservatives bow down to corporatism over the benefit of the people: and we are a GOOD democracy.

    Unlike Egypt, where the government, the people and the military share a common national identity, countries like Bahrain do not. The ruling party in Bahrain are sunnis who conquered the island 200 years ago and still see themselves as Saudis. The people are Shia. The military are mostly Pakistanis and Jordanians who are little more than mercenaries.

    When I lived in Bahrain, the average citizen’s life was decent. They had little political representation, but they were not living in poverty like Egypt (which I just returned from on New Year’s Day). The government ensured good drinking water for everyone. They even gave women a vote in parliament. It was not a truly Western democracy, but it wasn’t random killing in the streets or secret police, like Iran or Libya. It is a gilded cage. I hope that they are able to resolve their fight for more rights, but I fear that — unlike Egypt– Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will not tolerate descent and will make the people pay dearly.

    So the question is, can the people’s desire to be more democratic be possible without them becoming more “Western?” Can the people establish a strong secular or pseudo-secular government in a place that had never had any experience in secularism and democratic process?

    This was the challenge of George Bush’s war in Iraq. Three people– kurds, shia and sunnis– were arbitrarily thrust together in a country designed by post-World War I European powers struggle to find a way to work together on their own. It is not working. The people or Bahrain are a shia majority with a sunni minority leadership– how will they survive if they break free from the sunni king? How will Saudi Arabia deal with this (who btw funds most of their government)?

    If Iran and Hitler-Germany has taught us anything, it is that in times of chaos people tend to look towards abdication of power to a strong man.

    I do not fear Egypt’s success. They are a poor country, but they are united and they have over 200 years of European influence. But I feel that the Arab Middle East will be at risk and vulnerable for something potential worse than what they have now. People tend to return to what they know.

    Nevertheless, IF the Middle East is able to win people’s independence AND make it work, it is only a matter of time before Saudi Arabia is at risk. That would put the OPEC nations all on the bargaining table again for oil revenues. In a democracy, they will certainly demand more for their resources and America, Europe and China will see ANOTHER spike in foreign oil prices. We need to prepare for this. We need to prepare for the stock speculators to drive oil prices up for just the possibility.

    And so the Middle East independence fights right now are directly effecting the lives of America. It is one more example that we are a global society and all interconnected. It is the understanding that liberals want a global free society, and conservatives want a stable global society.

    I wonder if we can have both?

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