Shadiest deal of the century?

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Final_TTIP_infographic

The bits that have leaked out are enough to cause extreme concern if not panic. Our health, democracy, national freedom, and social and working rights all fought long and hard for by our ancestors may be about to be sold up river to big corporations. This deal gives them way too much power and hardly anyone is getting to read the small print. Many don’t understand just how much UK/ European law protects us from unscrupulous exploitation don’t let it be undermined by this deal.

(My morning rant)

Some Good News! (For a change)

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(Received this message this morning. I felt so inspired that I wanted to pass it on. Sometimes things seem overwhelming but folks really do seem to be banding together to fight the forces that seek to ruin our world.)

Dear Avaazers,

Lately, we’re not just winning, we’re winning BIG.

These are not small time victories, but the biggest stuff, the save the world stuff – on climate change, Monsanto, our oceans, the internet, democracy, and more! There’s a lot that’s depressing in the world today, but scroll down and see what our future could look like if we just stick together…

After the March — Real Progress on Climate Change!! From Europe, the US, and China!

Progress on climate change
One of our 2,600 climate marches!

We desperately needed Europe to kick off a global round of ambitious climate commitments at a recent summit in Brussels, so I felt deflated when I was told by insiders there was “no way” the EU would stand up to big oil and coal to cut carbon emissions by “at least” 40% by 2030. But we didn’t back down, and they did it!

Here’s how we got from “no way” to a big win:

  • Drove the largest climate mobilisation in history with 675,000 people in the streets in 162 countries!
  • Got the UN Secretary General, 18 cabinet ministers, and countless politicians to join the march.
  • Delivered a 2.2 million strong petition calling for 100% clean energy to world leaders including French President Hollande.
  • Held advocacy meetings with the climate and energy ministers of France, Germany, Brazil and the UK.
  • Lobbied Poland, a key blocker on climate action, with an ad campaign that got news coverage throughout Poland and phone calls from Polish Avaazers.
  • Commissioned opinion polls in Germany, France, Poland and the UK right before the decision.
The climate march was a game changer
30,000 marchers in Melbourne!

The climate march was a game changer, cited by president after president in their UN summit speeches. While hundreds of organisations contributed to the march and the win in Europe, our role was crucial. The BBC said: “The marches brought more people on to the streets than ever before, partly thanks to the organizational power of the e-campaign group Avaaz.” And Germany’s Environment minister said: “I would like to thank the millions of people who have joined Avaaz…Without public support it will be impossible to stop climate change.”

US President Obama also responded to the climate march, saying: “Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them.” Following the momentum building win in Europe, Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week – Obama promised reasonable-sized cuts in emissions, and China promised cuts as well, for the first time ever! The momentum we desperately needed has begun…

After big oil and coal, what’s the next worst soulless corporate lobby? Yep, Monsanto. And that’s the next big victory that our community has helped win.

Monsanto’s mega-plant blocked!!

Monsanto's mega-plant killed!
Protesting Monsanto’s seed factory.

When Monsanto tried to extend its grip over the global food chain with a massive new seed factory in Argentina, Avaaz members stood side by side with a local movement and stopped Latin America’s largest GM seed plant from being built this year.

Monsanto is a $60 billion mega-corporation that plays dirty. Here’s how we helped stop them:

  • Launched a 1 million strong petition and flooded the inboxes of decision makers with thousands of messages.
  • Worked with top lawyers on a briefing that showed Monsanto’s Environmental Assessment was illegal, making a splash in the media.
  • Released a poll showing that 2/3rds of town residents opposed the plant.
  • Supported local residents to build their power and a winning strategy.

Local grassroots leader Celina Molina said: “After more than a million Avaaz members stood with the people of Malvinas Argentinas, we won an important battle in the fight against Monsanto! From gaining access to documents previously denied to us by the authorities to running a game changing opinion poll, Avaaz was important for preventing the largest transgenic seed plant from being built in our backyard.”

Plus Big Wins on Saving our Oceans, the Internet, and Democracy

Big Wins on Saving our Oceans
Open Vote in Brazil
‘Nothing to hide!’ protest, Brasilia.

Thanks to several thousand Avaazers who donate monthly to sustain our small team, we can work on several issues at once. Here are some other big wins in recent weeks:

The Largest Marine Sanctuary in the World Created! – To support this critical reserve, over 1 million of us called on the US government, we commissioned an opinion poll in Hawaii, and more. And in the end, President Obama stood up to the big fishing lobbies and protected an area of the Pacific almost the size of South Africa!

Internet Neutrality Protected in Europe and the US!1.1 million of us lobbied the EU parliament to protect the free and open internet with strong rules on net neutrality. And against all the efforts of the big telecoms companies, we helped get the win! In the US, Obama just followed suit and took a strong position to protect net neutrality that “stunned” the telecoms companies.

Brazilian Congress Ends Secret Voting! – After several months of steady campaigning with call-ins, activist stunts, media attention and more, Avaazers in Brazil (now 7 million strong!) pressed the Congress to almost completely end the shady practice of “secret voting.” It’s a huge victory for one of the world’s largest democracies.

And More on the Way….

These are the battles won, but they take months or years. Dozens of others are in the works. Here’s some progress updates:

And more on the way...
ABP: divest from the occupation.
  • Ebola VolunteersOver 2,500 skilled Avaazers have applied to volunteer to risk their lives to go to West Africa to help stop this deadly disease in its tracks. A stunning example of courage and humanity. Many have been processed by our partner organisations and are beginning to travel to the front lines of the crisis.
  • Ebola fundraiser – Our community has raised over $2.2 million for relief organizations at the front lines!
  • Save the Bees – We delivered our 3.4 million strong petition to a US government commission studying whether to ban the pesticides that are killing the bees.
  • Palestine – After the horror in Gaza earlier this year, we’re pulling out all the stops to get some of the world’s largest pension funds and corporations to divest from businesses that support the Israeli military occupation and illegal colonization of Palestine. We’re getting close to winning, which could be a game changer for the conflict, and hopes for peace…
  • and much, much more…


I just came from a meeting of the Avaaz team, and some of us cried (ahem, maybe including me) at what a pure joy it is to serve our mission and this community, and just how much potential, together, we have to make a difference in the world.

The climate march and the Ebola volunteers campaign, as well as everyone donating, are examples of how Avaazers are stepping up to an even greater level of commitment to this vessel we share. And with each step we take, our power grows.

There’s a lot of fear and greed and ignorance in our world, but we are steadily bringing love and hope and smart, effective strategies to make a difference. And in every way, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible. Let’s keep building this vessel, and investing our time and hope more deeply in it, because something like this is precious, and the world needs us more than ever.

With love and huge appreciation for this movement,

Ricken, with Nell, Pascal, Marie, Laila, Andrea and the whole Avaaz team.

God’s Search.

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god touch
How often we see things back to front and inside out. Sometimes this whole fabric of society seems that way to me.

We should be sharing not accumulating, helping not condemning, reviving not destroying, even the old foundations on which western society was built seem to be slowly eroding, Heroes gets sent to jail, criminals get compensation. Money from the poor to lines the pockets of the rich and big business overrides a healthy population.

Yet it is within our power to change things, at least within our own small communities, to start positive things that can grow. Under democracy we have power to vote but few of our options seem good.

In this present system one of our greatest powers is in what we buy (many big brand name corporations could be made to prioritize human rights and eliminate dangerous commodities if we boycotted buying their stuff till they did.)

I came across a great quote from Andrew Wommac speaking of how many believers, seeing the need around them,. beg God for revival.
He said, “God is in Heaven with His arms out trying to release His power saying, “Is there anyone who will believe Me? Is there anyone who will stand up and start speaking, living and demonstrating My Word?” ”
The power is with us in every realm already if only we had the faith to stand together and use it.

Thoughts on China.

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china mist on river

(written for LexSolo’sPoliticalRantings)
China has always been close to my heart. I spent eight years in Hong Kong and four in Taiwan, but it wasn’t till more recently I finally realized my hearts desire of living in southern China (for four years). Even after so much immersion in Chinese culture I cannot say that I have experienced more than the tip of the iceberg, as such I feel unqualified to write about it, but at least I can perhaps clear away some western misconceptions.
To understand any people you need some idea of their past. China’s immensity and complex history, stretching back millenniums, makes this difficult. Though I studied many books I never grasped it fully, but an essential point is, successive Chinese dynasties exercised unlimited, deity like power over their subjects.
In spite of the surging enthusiasm and optimism in China due to their thriving economy and glimmers of change on the horizon there lingers an underlying inherited sadness. If you read Chinese history you’ll soon see why.
Although the heart is the same, Chinese thinking tends to be different to western in many ways, particularly the subordination of the individual. This often makes it difficult to merge western and Chinese companies/employees. Instead of a Chinese “boss” substitute “demigod” and you’ll get the idea. I never realized how much our civilization was founded on Christian ethics till I lived there. Many things we take for granted are a far off dream to Chinese families.
Much of the west blames communism, but this isn’t really the underlying problem. Many of the changes the communists brought about where good (changes in women’s rights for example). Much of the actual legal structure they initiated was beneficial also (so I was told), the problem is the laws are not enacted and corruption is rife in every aspect of life. The emperor’s dynasties have been replaced by new equally autocratic family dynasties who wield unlimited power. This is not to vilify all Chinese officials, like the emperors some are good people trying to do the best for their country, but unfortunately where no balance is in place corruption and despotism tend to thrive. Many of the safeguards we take so blithely for granted in Europe do not exist there. Some families are above the law, likewise military or government officials.
This was true in the days of Chiang Kai-shek and supposed democracy also and not only in China. The early “purges” in Taiwan were equally, if not more, oppressive than those of the communists though never publicized. I know only because I lived there and heard the stories sometimes whispered. The only unstained revolutionary leader I found was Sun Yat Sen (a true, selfless, hero in my book and revered in China and Taiwan)
There’s a restless urge in China now. They want freedom to build their business etc. without the fear that someone can just step in and take over; they want security and liberty to speak freely. Even among my westernized, highly educated friends no one could grasp that in England there are demonstrations outside parliament every day without anyone being arrested. They would not believe me it was so far from their scale of reference. I don’t see how these changes could come about peacefully and if violence did erupt it would be a blood bath, the very vastness of the population, now held in check, would make it uncontrollable.
I realized a lot about democracy while there. It’s not just a political system that can be imposed by revolution, foreign intervention or even peaceful negotiation. It’s formed gradually over a great many years and must be founded on sound laws and safeguards to which all are accountable. It also depends a lot on the integrity of the people, particularly those enforcing it. I became so thankful for English law (and police) but it took over a thousand years to develop amid much struggle, blood and sacrifice, even now it must be safeguarded.
China is surging forward in power and influence. I was astounded by a European news comment a few years back that the US couldn’t afford to go against China as they were too heavily indebted and were China to call in the loans it would pull the last financial props from under them. (I checked it out and it seems to be true!) We could learn a lot from the Chinese. For example even a lowly street sweeper will try to follow the tradition of half whatever he earns goes into savings! Families co operate together to “build their fortunes” and though often poor they are seldom in debt.
Their view on life seems honed by generations of having to survive in difficult conditions. Marriage for example is usually a very practical affair, with engagements sometimes continuing up to ten years till enough money is set by, and a man or woman’s suitability is judged very much on family and affluence and discussed pragmatically with in laws.
Children are pushed unmercifully to attain. A 7am to 9pm schedule of studies (including mounds of homework, after school classes and private tuition) is quite normal for elementary children of middle income families. Understand, after years of frustration parents have a chance to break free and they often see their children as that ticket. On the other side of the coin parents work hard and spend a very high percentage of those earnings on their children’s education in the hopes they will sustain the family in later years. Sadly many of China’s brightest and best are leaving for other climes where they can build more secure lives for their families. It is not a lack of love for their country that motivates this but a frustration at the corruption that curtails their efforts again and again.
I love China and consider it my second home. While it take some time to form genuine friendships (they are suspicious of foreigners and really check you out first) once formed they tend to be permanent. They are deep, emotional, wonderful people.
China has been described as a “sleeping dragon”. It is stirring now; to what effect I do not know.

(If you’d like to understand more deeply I’d recommend Jung Chang’s “Wild Swans. (Three Daughters of China)” which tells the story three generations of women (her grandmother, mother and herself) from 1909 to 1978. An honest, unbiased book it helps to understand how things came about and affected people’s lives.
General Chinese history is more difficult. The easiest and clearest source I found (for those without months to study) was a subtitled video made by Chinese Christians (“China Confessions”). While I would not recommend it to atheists (due to its very strong Christian message) it has a great encapsulation of Chinese history (watch with a box of tissues nearby!)