When Times Get Dark, We Must Shine Brighter

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By David Suzuki for David Suzuki Foundation – Are we entering a new Dark Age? Lately it seems so. News reports are enough to make anyone want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers. But it’s time to rise and shine. To resolve the crises humanity faces, good people must come together. It’s one lesson from Charlottesville, Virginia. It would be easy to dismiss the handful of heavily armed, polo-shirted, tiki-torch terrorists who recently marched there if they weren’t so dangerous and representative of a disturbing trend that the current U.S. president and his administration have emboldened. Racism, hatred and ignorance aren’t uniquely American. Fanatics acting out of fear — of anyone who holds different political or religious views, of losing their real or imagined privilege, of change itself — are everywhere. But whether they’re religious or political extremists or both, all have much in common. They’re intolerant of other viewpoints and try to dehumanize those who are different; they believe in curtailing women’s and minority rights even though they claim to oppose big government; they espouse violence; and they reject the need for environmental protection.

Rise Up: The Game Of People & Power

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By Staff of TESA Collective – Lead a march of thousands of people. Write a protest song that goes viral. Fight for what you believe in. Rise Up is a cooperative board game about building people power and taking on oppressive systems to create change. It’s ethically manufactured and made by the creators of Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives. In each game of Rise Up, players take creative actions to fight for victory. Everyone wins or loses together. The game weaves a story about your movement, which can either be based in reality (like stopping an oil pipeline) or fictional (like fighting for dragon rights). But “the System” is hard at work too, maneuvering to crush your movement through tactics like setting up surveillance, making arrests, or causing infighting. A great choice for game nights with friends and family, Rise Up is an alternative to many mainstream board games that feature themes of conquest, exploitation, and warfare. It’s a strategy game that can only be won through player collaboration. And we’ve done something innovative: just flip the board over, and you’ll be able to play Rise Up Simplified, a version that’s quicker to learn and that has simpler rules. Rise Up Simplified is appropriate for younger kids and people who have less experience with games.

Why Social Change Needs To Be A Laughing Matter

Small dolls and other figurines display banners that read “I’m for clean elections” and “A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin” in the Siberian city of Barnaul. (Sergey Teplyakov/Vkontakte)

By Molly Wallace for Waging Nonviolence – Struggles against human rights abuses or militarism are rarely linked — in thought or discussion — to humor. As serious matters, they deserve serious, strategic thinking about how to dismantle the power structures that enable them. But what if humor itself is a powerful tool for doing so? In “Laughing on the Way to Social Change,” in the January 2017 issue of Peace & Change, Majken Jul Sørensen explores this possibility in the context of three recent examples of activism in Sweden and Belarus, asking how the use of humor affects the way nonviolent action operates — particularly its ability to disrupt dominant discourses and therefore challenge power. In the first example, two Swedish activists flew an airplane through Belarusian airspace, dropping 879 parachuted teddy bears with signs reading, “We support the Belarusian struggle for free speech.” A response to an earlier action where Belarusian activists assembled stuffed animals in a central square — bearing signs like, “Where is freedom of the press?” — the parachuting bears ultimately resulted in two Belarusian officials being fired. The second and third involved a Swedish anti-militarist network called Ofog, or “mischief.” In response to NATO military exercises in Sweden, Ofog created a “company” whose purpose was to make these exercises more realistic by providing civilian casualties.

Power, Politics, & Social Change

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By G. William Domhoff for UCSC – Welcome to WhoRulesAmerica.net, a site about how power is distributed and wielded in the United States. It both builds upon and greatly supplements the book Who Rules America?, now in its 7th edition. The book’s new subtitle, “The Triumph of the Corporate Rich,” reflects the success of the wealthy few in defeating all of their rivals (e.g., organized labor, liberals, environmentalists) over the course of the past 35 years. The story of how the corporate rich won all the big battles is complicated, but most of the answers are in the new Who Rules America?and/or this Web site; there’s also a YouTube video of Bill giving an invited lecture on the topic.

10 New Ways Other Countries Are Actually Solving Problems

Photo Credit: via YouTube

By Larry Schwartz for AlterNet – The Presidential candidates have been sounding off for almost two years now, pointing out (or in many cases manufacturing) all of America’s problems, and offering solutions they believe will make them the next President. The candidates, especially to the right of the political spectrum, extoll America as being exceptional, and they score empty points with voters by talking about how the rest of the planet looks to the United States to solve the world’s woes. It is surprising, then, to see how many of these seemingly intractable problems are being far more effectively tackled by the countries we are supposed to be “leading”.

What Role Were You Born To Play In Social Change?

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By George Lakey for Waging Nonviolence – Bill Moyer was a street-wise, working class white boy from rowhouse Philadelphia, who — in the turbulence of the 1960s — went to Chicago to work for an anti-racist housing campaign. He wound up joining Martin Luther King Jr.’s national staff as an organizer. I played tag football more than once with Moyer, catching his grin as he mercilessly overwhelmed his opponents through daring and smarts. He might have been the most joyfully aggressive Quaker I’ve known. By the time he died in 2002, Moyer had given significant leadership on multiple political issues, including the national anti-nuclear movement.

The Rumble From The People Can Work

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By Staff of The Nader Page – If only the people who engage in “road rage” would engage in “corporate rage” when they are harmed by cover-ups or hazardous products and gouging services, aloof CEOs would start getting serious about safety and fair play. With press report after press report documenting how big business stiffs millions of its consumers and workers, why is it that more of these victims do not externalize some of their inner agonies by channeling them into civic outrage? It has happened on occasion and with good results. After Candy Lightner lost her daughter to a drunk driver, she founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in 1980 as the only way she could deal with her intense grief.

6 Powerful Music Videos That Tackled Pressing Social Issues In 2015

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By Samantha Cowan for Take Part – From Bob Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind” to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” musicians have a long history of incorporating protest and social issues into their songs. And just like in 1963 and 1989, 2015 was no different. Hip-hop artists rapped about ending police brutality and advocated for better treatment for refugees. Singers lent their voices to victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Other musicians contemplated free health care and marriage equality. As seen in the music videos below, the artists used different visual tactics—stark black-and-white, cheery animation, and even an epic dance party—but each encouraged fans to challenge the status quo.

11 Ways The World Got Better In 2015

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By Angus Hervey for The Independent – As 2015 draws to a close, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d claim that it’s been a good year for the human race. The bad news has been relentless: war in Syria, a refugee crisis in Turkey and Europe, earthquakes in Nepal, terrorist attacks in Paris, mass shootings in the US, floods in India.With the media screaming blue murder and social media feeds filled with complaints about how selfish/materialistic/short-sighted our fellow human beings are, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world is going to hell in a handcart.

History Doesn’t Go In A Straight Line

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By Noam Chomsky in Jacobin Magazine – Throughout his illustrious career, one of Noam Chomsky’s chief preoccupations has been questioning — and urging us to question — the assumptions and norms that govern our society. Following a talk on power, ideology, and US foreign policy last weekend at the New School in New York City, freelance Italian journalist Tommaso Segantini sat down with the eighty-six-year-old to discuss some of the same themes, including how they relate to processes of social change. For radicals, progress requires puncturing the bubble of inevitability: austerity, for instance, “is a policy decision undertaken by the designers for their own purposes.”

Promises Made In Lead Up To Paris Would Slow Climate Pollution

Climate change activists’ graffiti on a billboard near the Didcot coal-fired power station in Oxfordshire, UK. Photograph: Tim Myers

By Climate Interactive – The current national offers of climate action submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would reduce projected warming by approximately 1°C, according to a new analysisreleased today from Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan. A Paris agreement based on these offers would put the world on track for a global temperature increase of 3.5°C (6.3°F), with a range of uncertainty from 2.1 to 4.6°C (3.7 to 8.4°F), down from the 4.5°C (8.1°F) of warming above pre-industrial levels if nations continue on the business-as-usual track. Climate Interactive’s Climate Scoreboard analysis, produced in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management (MIT Sloan), shows that the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) put forward in advance of the UN climate talks this December make a sizeable contribution towards curbing global emissions and limiting warming.

Critique Of Alinsky Organizing Methods

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By Staughton Lynd in Counter Punch – It was an evening late in August 1968. I was in the bathtub. Believing that the critical issue at the national Democratic Party convention would be whether First Amendment activity could be carried on outside the building where the delegates were meeting, I had organized a march from the lakefront to the convention site in southwest Chicago. Several of the demonstrators, including myself, had been arrested. All tension past, I was luxuriating in the hot water of the bath. The phone rang. It was Saul Alinsky. He wanted to talk with me about becoming a member of the faculty, along with Ed Chambers and Dick Harmon, at the new Industrial Areas Foundation Training Institute. Two things made me want to accept. First, I needed a job. . .

“Occupy” Spanish-Style… Big Lessons For Us?

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By Francis Moore Lappe in Huffington Post. Back from the first global conference on money in politics in Mexico City, I’m bursting with stories that might carry messages of possibility that Americans need right now. Sure worked for me. In Spain, with one-fifth of its population jobless, the Indignados movement–that paralleled our Occupy– erupted with protests in 2011. But instead of fading from sight, by early 2014 the Indignados had set the stage for the birth of a new political party: Podemos, “We Can.” In only a few months, Podemos surprised everyone by winning 8 percent of the Spanish vote for the European Parliament, giving it five of 54 Spanish seats. One year later, in coalition with other grassroots movements, Podemos won mayor’s races in Barcelona, Madrid and other cities. Today it is Spain’s third largest political party. “Unprecedented” declared the pundits.

Your Economic Guide To A Revolution Against Capitalism

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By Aaron Leonard in Rabble – The possibility of revolution is becoming more widely discussed, and even embraced, as capitalism’s crisis deepens. When I started drawing these comics, it was difficult to persuade most people to even entertain the idea or give it a hearing. I decided that if a cute bunny and guinea pig talked about challenging topics like the problems with capitalism and the need for revolution, it might feel less threatening and off-putting to potential readers. Also, colourful graphics help draw readers in to give longer texts a chance, which they otherwise might avoid as potentially boring. Plus, why should capitalist propaganda get all the attractive imagery? As for the bunny’s eye, during the narrative comic strip phase, Bunnista lost it to shampoo testing in a lab. He later escaped and returned to free his fellow bunnies and all the other lab animals.

Lakeland Students: “Won’t Let This Happen In Publix’s Hometown!”

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By Coalition of Immokalee Workers – This past Thursday, in a classroom just miles from Fair Food holdout Publix’s corporate headquarters in Lakeland, FL, a crowd of over sixty Southeastern University students, professors, staff, and Lakeland community members gathered to learn about the CIW’s groundbreaking work for farmworker justice and of the shameful, six-year refusal of their hometown supermarket, Publix, to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program. The began the evening with a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “Food Chains“. Lakelanders’ response to the film was strong and clear: excitement at the tremendous gains of the CIW, and dismay that their hometown grocer has refused to take responsibility for farmworker exploitation in its supply chain.