Corporations

Beware of the Ministry-Industrial Complex

Occasionally, I end up going to one of those “Christian” stores, or I get some sort of advertisement from them. Where I live, they are called “Family Christian Stores” with an emphasis on the family part. In other parts of the country, such stores also exist, but with different names. We have all been to those kinds of places. When I was an evangelical, that was where you went to get a Bible or some accessory for it, but I still occasionally end up going there for one reason or another. These stores have books by Sarah Palin and Joel Osteen, and entire walls devoted to American flags and New International Versions. We all know the type.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an advertisement catalog from one of those stores, and for some reason I looked through it. First, there was a bunch of customized Bibles. Sort of like some sort of collector’s item, there was a bunch of needless varieties of Bibles for purchasing. I always see this whenever I go to any bookstore – people treating the Bible like some sort of fashion statement. What really annoyed me was when I saw this. They have this line of patriotic clothing, but it is not just patriotic. They mix Christianity into their patriotism in an amazing way. They even have a “Jesus Saves” shirt stylized to read “JesUSAves.” They literally made Jesus an American and linked Christian salvation to Americanism. They are mixing Christianity, capitalism, and the American state into one single chimera. Now, this is not new. I have known that they were doing this for a long time, but this example proved to be the ideal opportunity to bring up the issue. (more…)

Peacemaking and Land in Colombia

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

I’ve been here in Colombia with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) for a week and a half. This week I’ll be visiting Las Pavas, where CPT has been working with 123 families since 2009. They have been struggling to get title to the land where they have lived for decades while A palm oil company has been trying to push them off.

My colleague and I will be a presence with Las Pavas during an official visit by INCODER, the Colombian agency who grants land titles. I’m looking forward to meeting the community personally for the first time since I’ve been hearing about them for so many years.

Here’s a brief summary of the Las Pavas story from an article last year by the Colombia team.

The people of Las Pavas are a sustainable farming community in the southern Bolivar department (province) of Colombia. Through the years, paramilitary violence has forced community members to leave the land but each time they have returned. In 2006, the community was in the process of claiming its land rights under Colombian law when a Daabon consortium bought the land from absentee owner, who had lost his rights to the land due to years of abandonment. On 14 July 2009, the Colombian riot police forcefully removed the community of Las Pavas.

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Beyond Obamaism: Occupy Wall Street and the Capacity to Hope

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Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

It’s been a month since I wrote a piece on Young Anabaptist Radicals about my experience of visiting Occupy Chicago. It was three days after they had started camping in front of the Federal Reserve of Chicago and 10 days after Occupy Wall Street (OWS) kicked off in New York. At the time, I wrote with a mix of enthusiasm and skepticism. The visit gave me a glimpse into the sense of possibility that I remember from watching the Seattle protests but also a dose of skepticism bordering on cynicism. What could such a small group of people really do?

A month later, the answer seems clear: plenty. It still seems miraculous in many ways. While announcing the death of apathy and despair in the United States (as Michael Moore did at Occupy Oakland on Friday) is probably premature, the OWS movement has gone a long way towards tearing down the barriers that prevent so many of us from working together for change.

I’d like to share a few observations building on the framework that Steve Kryss developed in his article for the Mennonite Weekly Review. He named these parallels between the OWS movement and the Anabaptist movement that sprung up across cities in Europe nearly 500 years ago:

The Anabaptist movement emerged largely among the young. It moved through the urban contexts of educated Europeans without clarity but with a clear bent toward justice for the poor.

It emerged in and around the Peasant Revolts, which threatened established governments and religious perspectives. The radical Anabaptists were sympathetic to those whose lives were controlled by overlords.

Early Anabaptism was a movement of conversing, addressing powers and protesting. It was met with ridicule and with sympathy. There were dialogues and diatribes.

I notice three other parallels with early Anabaptism that inspire me: (more…)

Occupy Wall Street: Interview with Eli Robert and Riley

Amtrak crosses the county carrying overnight passengers, strangers who engage each other as little or as much as they want. I overhear the social analysis of foreigners, business owners, union workers, environmentalists, activists and Amish. Wide seats, scenic cars, and café tables host a unique social atmosphere, literally a meeting in between places with a cross-section of the world.

Last night I returned from New York State via Amtrak, following a weekend of faith-based social justice fellowship with the Word and World mentoring program. I heard three young men relate their weekend experience of Occupy Wall Street in New York City. Computer speakers played Colbert’s speech at the White House Press Dinner. Elderly voices discussed political debates in Iowa, “Those politicians are all liars” … “Well that should not attract votes the way they argue.”

Tim spotted the chance for a window into the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement from its source in New York City. We invited the activists to the café car for an interview. Eli Fender (23), from Seattle joined the camp for two weeks. Robert Smith (20) and Riley O’Neil (20) both originally from Rogers Park in Chicago (small world) both visited the camp over the weekend.

Charletta: Tell us about the movement’s shape. What are some of the tools that are important at OWS?

Eli: There’s the people’s microphone, which a lot of people know about. There’s also working groups such as the facilitation working group who guides the General assembly. In democracy you worry about where power starts welling up. So I joined the facilitation group meeting.

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Operation Payback, Anonymous and Wikileaks: A look at tactics, morality and innovation

Nearly two weeks after my first post on Wikileaks, their diplomatic cables and the resulting fall out continue to make the front page news. The arrest of Assange and attacks on Mastercard, Visa and Paypal by “Operation Payback” have garnered far more attention then the cables themselves. The New York Times quoted one Internet guru comparing Operation Payback to the battle at Lexington that started the Revolutionary war in the United States.

In looking at “Operation Payback” and its denial of service attacks, journalists have begun to focus on Anonymous, which is typically described as the group of hackers behind the attacks. Some portray it as a shadowy cadre of internet vigilantes, meeting somewhere out there in the ether, plotting their next strike. Others paint a heroic picture of activists fighting for free speech against giant corporations and governments. Estimates of the number of people (or computers) involved vary widely.

A little bit of history is useful in understanding Anonymous. I first came became aware of Anonymous through their Project Chanology campaign which focused around opposition to Scientology. In their protests outside Scientology offices, they wore masks modeled on that worn by the main character in V is for Vendetta. Along with demonstrations, their tactics used by Project Chanology were a lot like high school pranks: sometimes silly, sometimes crude, often juvenile and always motivated by a strong sense of righteous indignation. The collective culture of Anonymous was born in the /b/ section 4chan, an internet forum worthy of its own lengthy article. Suffice it to say that 4chan thrives on trolling, griefing, digital bullying and generally offensiveness of all sorts.

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Goldman Sachs, the global food crisis and faith in corporations

Last week, Harper’s magazine published an article by looking at the link between the unabashed greed of big financial firms and the 2007–2008 world food crisis. The crisis resulted in the starvation of thousands, hunger for millions and riots in some of the countries hit hardest. For a window into the pain of an individual family in Ethiopioa, see this article in the Independent.

Kaufman’s article includes an in depth look at the history of commodity markets and futures trading and detailed explanation of how recent “innovations” led to a dramatic rise in food prices. The bottom line of Kaufman’s allegation is: big financial corporations manipulated the food market for their own profit and millions of people went without food as a result.

It’s worth noting that Kaufman is not critiquing the over all system of wheat futures. He is specifically pointing to “innovations” by the financial industry that created a “food bubble.”

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Never doubt that a small group of marginal wierdos chan change the world.

In fact, according to Clive Thompson, marginal weirdos brought us computer, democracy and the novel. Basically, Thompson argues that when the audience gets too big for a conversation, it stops taking risks. Which is why I’ve come to see these long posting breaks on YAR as pruning moments. A 10% drop in visits to YAR in March means 10% more risk taking! Another part of Thompson’s argument is the way small groups can have wider ripple effects.

For example, I have to admit that I’ve been a Twitter skeptic. I just can’t bring myself to try to squeeze a meaningful into 140 characters. Its probably quite closely tied with my lack of enthusiasm for texting. Maybe its a generational thing. But I discovered that technology doesn’t wait for us to get used to it. Turns out people have been tweeting about YAR for at least a year. (more…)

Colombian Paramilitaries defend Multinational Corporations from “bureaucrats”

An urgent action from the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin American just arrived in my inbox. It included this quote from a new death threat from the Colombian paramilitary group Black Eagles, who are also active in Barrancabermeja, where I’ve worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams:

With the help of “Familias en Accion” “Guardabosques” and the country’s Democratic Security policy, a group of men and women worried about the state of the country. We have decided that it is necessary to start a fight against those that camouflage themselves as social organizations such as the CUT Valle, NOMADESC, Human Rights Defenders, NGOs, enemies of our democracy.

Those bureaucrats don’t allow us to progress in CAUCA, where they don’t allow multinationals to enter which would benefit the communities of SUAREZ, MORALES and BUENOS AIRES…

…Today we have decided to declare as military targets those (SOB) bureaucrats, human rights defenders, NOMADESC, CUT VALLE, PCN, The Community Council of La Toma, Cerro Tijeras, Licifredy, Eduar Villegas, Jose Goyes, Diego Escobar, Recheche, Plutarco, Meraldiño Consejal”

Claiming associations between social organizations and the guerilla is almost as old as the civil war itself, but I’ve never seen a paramilitary group so open about acting on behalf of multinationals. The Colombia CPT project has often pointed out paramilitaries clear the way for multinationals coming in to set up mines and palm oil plantations, but it now appears the paramilitaries are beginning to make the connection too. Its interesting to note the increasing similarities with right wing rhetoric in the United States. Good intentioned Multinationals vs. that SOB Bureaucracy. It sounds like a Glenn Beck special.

Jesus Radicals! Anarchism and Christianity

New Heaven, New Earth: Anarchism and Christianity Beyond Empire
August 14 & 15, 2009

Location
Caritas Village
2509 Harvard Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38112

This year’s anarchism and Christianity conference, hosted by Jesus Radicals, will look squarely at the economic and ecological crisis facing the globe, and point to signs of hope for creativity, for alternative living, for radical sharing, for faithfulness, for a new way of being. We are living in a karios moment that will either break us or compel us to finally strive for a new, sane way of life. The question we face at this pivotal time is not if our empires will fall apart, but when they will fall–and how will we face it? We hope you will join the conversation. (more…)

Corporations, Scriptural Sacrilege and Saucepan Revolutions

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Every once in a while, I stumble across a bunch of links all at once that don’t quite have the coherence to link together in one story, but each offer a compelling perspective. Here are the links that caught my eye this week with brief summaries of the stories:

  • Life Inc: How the world became a corporation and how to take it back – I first became aware of Douglas Rushkoff last month after he published two of the best articles on the financial crisis I’ve read (here and here). Now he has a new book out on corporatism that lucidly illuminates the ruthless role of corporations in our economy as they extract maximum value while giving as little as possible in return. The article above includes brilliant excerpts from chapter 8 and chapter 9 of his book.
  • Onward, Christian Soldiers – GQ magazine got their hands on cover sheets from Donald Rumsfeld’s reports to Bush featuring bible verses superimposed on images of war machinery. I don’t use the term lightly, but these images are sickeningly sacrilegious. In the lower left hand corner you can see the dates of each report. They were used during the first days and months of the Iraq invasion. These images go along way to cement the invasion in people’s minds as the face of US Christianity.
  • (more…)

The Secret Millionaire

“I haven’t been entirely truthful with you…” says the young, well-dressed, middle-eastern man. The camera focuses in on the pained expressions on those he is speaking to in that shaky, fast cutaway style of those Jason Bourne flicks. Intense, dramatic music plays in the background. The editors let this cliff-hanger like suspense build for, well, seemingly forever. I guess, in reality, 10 seconds.

This is the Fox network, the network that, when drama doesn’t exist enough for the producers, they go ahead and make it up. Young married couples on an island with a bunch of hot singles. The screaming, shrieking Gordon Ramsey. The Fox network, God bless ‘em, takes decent ideas for shows and makes the dramatic effect linger like a sky-diver in mid-air. Then they find talent to pump that drama up. It’s all really unnecessary. The material is good, let it be.

But here we are. “I haven’t been entirely truthful with you…” “…” “…” “…” “…” “I’m really a multi-millionaire.” SHA-BANG! And, lo-and-behold, the victims of what Fox believes to be a cruel joke could give two shits. Who would? The lying millionaire has been a part of their lives for six whole days. (more…)

The Trouble with Thanksgiving: A Reflection by Nekeisha

Thanksgiving makes me nervous.

For years, I’ve gotten a sinking feeling in my stomach as the month of November draws to a close and this day looms. On the one hand, Thanksgiving is about joy and gratitude. It is a time when I travel to see family and friends, welcome a few days of rest and look forward to the holiday season. In my mind, I know it is a good thing to have a day where the sole emphasis is to give thanks to God for all God has done. I also appreciate the opportunity to celebrate all my loved ones do and are to one another.

And yet Thanksgiving reminds me of a beautiful but altogether itchy sweater. Sure it looks good on the rack in my closet. It is slimming, well-made, gorgeous color—everything you could hope for in a sweater. But if I put it on I’m guaranteed to spend the whole day tugging, scratching and feeling downright uncomfortable. Try as I might, I can’t shake that weird feeling about that good ole holiday. It gets to the point where weeks in advance I’m trying to come up with other things to say besides “Happy Thanksgiving.” And since “Happy Day Off” doesn’t cut it I go ahead and mutter the greeting anyway, wheels still turning for a suitable substitute. (more…)

Bible Verses of the Day: Acts 19:23-29

23 About that time no little disturbance broke out concerning the Way. 24A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans. 25These he gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said, “Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business. 26You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.”

28 When they heard this, they were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29The city was filled with the confusion; and peoplec rushed together to the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travel companions.    – Acts 19:23-29 (NRSV)

(my version of Acts 19…don’t get huffy I’m not translating from the Greek)

A man named Henry Paulson, a secretary who made decisions about currencies, brought no little business to the Senate. These he gathered together, with other wealthy men, and said “Listen everyone, I don’t like to mix in the market anymore than you do. De-regulation has served us well for some time. But you see, we’ve gotten ourselves into a bit of a mess. This market, it has served us well for some time and made us all rich and powerful. But, the market needs more – it’s hurting. And we can’t lose the business. Now, a number of so-called “progressives” are concerned about the mortgage crisis – remember those mortgages? Ah, they were good for us weren’t they? Well, now they’ve gone sour. And a number of folks are concerned that everyone is going to lose their homes and be out on the street. But, really gentlemen, I’m much more concerned that, if we don’t act quickly, they’ll not only lose their homes, but we’ll lose lots, and lots, and lots of money. And we don’t want to upset the market – it gives us all that power remember? So, I need you guys to help me out: tell all those bleeding hearts to shut up for a while, scare the nation into thinking that all will be lost, and pass this bill giving me a lot more power to make you and all our friends alot more rich. I know you are concerned now, but you’ll thank me in the long run.”

When they heard all this, they agreed and said “Great are the fudamentals of our economy!” The country was filled with confusion, and bills were hastily past, and many were left wondering what protection was out there for them.

A week later, everyone forgot and Paul went to Macedonia (Acts 20:1).

Two hopeful stories in the news

Sunset over the EvergladesI recently finished reading Rebecca Solinit’s Hope in the dark: untold histories, wild possibilities (find it at a library near you). It’s a small, wonderful window into hope, written in the midst of the apparent failure of the anti-war movement. It inspired me to watch a little more closely in the news for hopeful stories in the news. I came across two stories about inspiring victories that will both (hopefully) lead to large new areas of land being protected and allowed to return to their natural state. They also show case an interesting contrast in tactics. (more…)