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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An Encounter with Four Secular,Athiest Friends

I Couldn't Say God Save the Athiests Because I Happen To Be One!
I think it appropriate to refer to a hot debate that took place just yesterday, in the course of my travel by train. I must say that I just ran into that. I met there four athiests; middle aged men,who were all Muslims by birth and educated people possibly with access to the knowledge systems up to date and with own views in favour of what they believe as true secularism. They are members of a prominent athiest organization of Kerala and were bound for Ernakulam in connection with some meeting of their Organization. They were discussing Prof.Hameed Chennamangalur's article on the present ills of Islam as practiced ,which was published in the latest issue of Malayalam weekly. I was truly astonished to hear from these friends that the Malabar(Mappila) uprising of 1920s was wrongly depicted as peasants' struggle and infact,the trouble was started by the muslim communalists who were supporters of Khilafat and forcible mass conversions (of Hindus to Islam, in the Eranadu taluk). One of them even maintained that there was nothing acceptable as truth and dependable in terms of consensus in historical opinion. Further, I heard from them that as many as forty percent of the people killed in the post-Godhra violence were Hindus!.. Again, I heard that there was no necessity of any constitutional provision or law to defend the rights of religious minorities as such. All these learned middle class men (who were committed to atheism and secularism) maintained that the muslims are asking for too much and that was the cause of all problems.
Coming back to the State-sponsored violence in post-Godhra violence, they wanted me to answer their question 'who started it, any way?'. As they argued that advaita was the best philosophy that could ever help the mankind, and Arthasasthra of Kautilya was the best and the oldest treatise on statecraft, the train pulled up at Thrissur, and I said bye to them shaking hands with each of the four.... Neither was I left with the time to clarify my points, nor was in a mood to continue the debate.
Besides, I was terribly upset by the thought that I may not be as secular as those friends, though I am an atheist too!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

7th Std Text Book : Controversy Over Secularism

There's a controversy going on in Kerala in relation to a text book
lesson in Malayalam for 7th std ,State syllabus:-
Let me narrate the content here:
Jeevan is taken to school for enroling in the 1st std by his parents
- Hide quoted text -of two different religions.The Head Master asks Jeevan's parents whichreligion is to be entered for the boy. Jeevan's parents request forleaving the column (related to religion and caste ) blank, whichprompts the HM to ask what would happen to the child as he grows upwithout religion/caste appended to his identity. The parents coollyreply that as he grows up he could chose any of the faiths or nofaith!This has become a cause for much ire being vent by the parties andstudents' unions in the rival camp ,on the Left Democratic Frontgovt.in Kerala. The opponents demand withdrawal of the lessonpromoting atheism and anti-religious mentality and even communism!!??Though the above text (lesson )appears to be the main focus in thecontroversy,much more text portions elsewhere from the current schooltexts are being brought under fire by the opposition parties andstudent unions. One thing that significantly eludes focus in the current politicalwarfare between the two fronts, ie; the LDF, led by the CPI(M) and theUDF( comprising Congress, Muslim League, Kerala Congress,etc )is thatCaste plus Religion plus most of the Superstitions like jaatakams,pujas and rituals are seen publicly glorified and practiced everywherein Kerala by leaders as well as cadres on both sides of the divide.Hence,the ideals of secularism that are sought to be promoted in youngminds, unfortunately , do not really match the realms of both thepublic and private spheres largely influenced by the left partieshere.At least as seen contradicted from the point of view of the dismaltrack record of many a left politician in promoting real secularism inprivate and public life, the present controversy on the text bookportions will not take us the society too far.
The contradictions resulting from promotion of unilateral learning ofideals by rote without a thought of accentuating them in real lives onthe one hand, and resisting even marginal struggles for social reform( the negative attitudes by and large displayed against intercastemarriages, struggles against casteism etc, for example) on the other,has come to the fore ,with the present controversy over the abovetext. In this aspect, perhaps this can signify a fair deal of selfreflectivity on the part of the 'big' people in the Left.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Kerala State Women's Policy -Draft (Comments)

The Kerala State Women's Policy is wished to be an excellent model, worth being emulated by other states of this country; let the authors/makers of the current draft take further steps in generating unbiased,open and elaborate discussions among sections of concerned human rights, social activists, women's groups and writers already struggling on the front of gender justice ,in a shortest available time span.
From a point of view as aforementioned, this is an excellent draft to begin with,
though conspicuous lacunae seem to be too obvious for one to to miss, on many vital questions of conventional assumptions on gender,for example,in the context of sexuality vis a vis the patriarchal family.
Conceding women any role of active agency in asserting the sexual rights (which may even be constitutionally and legally valid and enforceable)is an obvious challenge before this kind of well intentioned Draft(Policy).
One hopes it could go beyond the protectionist attitude, and develop into one which wants to recognize the rights of all women as equal citizens, irrespective of their being categorized into "good" and "bad",according to how they adhere to the norms of patriarchal monogamy. The role of women in sexuality as that implying any active agency is virtually denied; instead, it is invariably taken for granted as that of a passive victim (of atrocity). On the other hand, the atrocious institution of patriarchal family with its extra- legal, extra- constitutional moral canons,which are even overdetermined by the tradition, is exonerated under the cover of this protectionist policy which is designed only for helping the 'victims'.Obviously,this is something short of a panacea for all kinds of sexual atrocities. Many atrocities continue to be institutionalized thanks to the very existence of this patriarchal value system and the attendant double standard and linked to the conspiracy of silence about women's important right to have autonomy over their bodies.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

CHITHRALEKHA GETS NEW AUTO

Public Function On 7th June Held at Kannur Concluded Successfully -Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee, Kannur,Kerala






Inb

Modest function held at the police club auditorium ,Kannur in which Ms.C.K.Janu of Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha gifted the keys of a new Bajaj diesel auto to Chithraleka was concluded yesterday with a firm resolve and perseverance to support Chithralekha in her continuing struggle for the right to work and live with honour.
A.Vasu (Vasuettan), Dileepraj, V.P.Zuhra , Advocate P.A.Pauran, Mini K Philip, M.K.Jayaraj and Munderi Balakrishnan spoke at the function presided by Dr.D.Surendranath (Chairman, Chithralekha Punaradhivasa Committee).

Jenny Roweena and Carmel Christy, authors of the much debated report"Chithralekha's Burning Auto: Caste and Gender In the Urban Space of Keralam" ( paper published in Sarai), who had stood all along with the Chithralekha Punaradhivasa Committee in support of this campaign, were also present in the function.

The session was temporarily taken outside the hall, while Ms C.K.Janu handed over the keys of vehicle to Chithralekha , with Chithralekha standing aside the auto. Chithralekha had chosen to name her new vehicle after Mayilamma, the heroic Adivasi woman of anti-coke struggle at Plachimada who passed away last year. This choice of name has the additional relevance that it was Mailamma who had inaugurated the convention for protection of Rights of Dalits and Women
held at Payyanur by the Citizens' Action Committee in 2006 February in the context of the early stage of struggle by Chithralekha in the aftermath of the grave crime of burning her vehicle.

Texts from messages received from B.R.P.Bhaskar (senior journalist and human rights campaigner), Dr.A.K. Ramakrishnan (Jamia University, New Delhi),Prof.Shiva Shankar(Chennai Institute of Mathematics), J.Robin (Editor,Keraleeyam Monthly), Dr.J.Devika (CDS,Thiruvananthapuram), Benjamin Paul Kaila(ambedkarsholarships),Dr. Hari.P.Sharma of South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy(SANSAD) were read out to the audience.
Messages in expression of solidarity from Dr.T.T.Sreekumar, Anivar Aravind,.Salim.T.K, Aftab Ellath, K.Ajitha, K.Venu, Sunny Kapikkad, P.V.Ayyappan, Rekha Raj, C.Padmanabhan, K.K.Kochu, Dr.K.M.Seethi(M G U, Kottayam), Dr.A.K.Jayasree, Sarathchandran, Mitesh Domania (US),Dr.Ranjith (Indira Gandhi Open University,New Delhi) ,Deepa V.N, Joy Charles(US),Prof.Alladi Sitaram(Indian Institute of Science, (Bangalore), Prof.Sujata Ramodari Stalin.K (documentary film maker) and many others who though could not directly attend the function but whose support had been reiterated on various occasions throughout the ten months' long campaign were acknowledged by K.M.Venugopalan, Convener, as he read out the texts of felicitation messages.Earlier,he gave the welcome address .
Mr.P.K.Ayyappan, Treasurer, (Chithralekha Punaradhivasa Committee) proposed the vote of thanks before the session concluded.

A fair presence of media persons, both of print and the electronic, was there throughout the function.
K.M.Venugopalan,
Convener,
Chithralekha Punaradhivasa Committee

PS:
Afew words about the accounts:-
A total sum of Rs 1,53,700 is received as donations as against the targeted amount Rs 1,50,000.00;
the Committee has yet to sit and formally announce the particulars of contributions.
Certain out station cheques received in the later phase have yet to get credited to our Account, and such delay of several weeks in getting the cheques collected in the conventional banking practice is considered" normal"!
There is already an understanding that after realizing the actual expenses incurred in the campaign and the expenses incurred in relation to the purchase ,insurance ,road taxes,body etc of the vehicle,the actual balance left in the Account will be transferred to the personal account of Chithralekha.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

CHITHRALEKHA REHABILITATION COMMITTEE
Update As On 11-05-2008



It is 9 months since the campaign to raise the targeted amount of Rs 1.5 lakhs in rehabilitating Chithralekha by restoring her means of livelihood by procuring a new auto rikshaw for her, with the money raised from concerned citizens took off. The whole story needn't be repeated here, as we are too well aware of the background from which this campaign happened to take off.
Presently, we have an amount of over Rs 1,00,000.00/= collected .We feel that this modest effort to raise funds can no longer be maintained indefinitely in time, and therefore, we have to close it without further delay.
We are expecting at least another sum of Rs 30,000.00 coming in shortly ,thanks to promises from various quarters .
Nevertheless,we hope that this will be sufficient to meet the ex-showroom cost of a brand -new Bajaj auto with all expense for road taxes , body make-up and other related expenses; besides, the initial expenses and the expenses for conducting the public function also can be met .Further, after the successful completion of the mission for which the present Committee had taken shape, balance if left any, is proposed to be transferred to the personal account of Chithralekha.
The future course of action whatever will be intimated to all who have co-operated with this campaign.
Chithralekha had been violently deprived of her means of livelihood by political actors encouraged by the characteristically casteist and sexist hate toward a dalit woman who wanted to stand up against the hegemony at her workplace. Eversince her autorikshaw was destroyed in 2005 December by putting it on fire , Chithralekha has been eking out livelihood by going out for unskilled manual jobs in house construction and farming sectors. Hence, immediate steps to rehabilitate her (notwithstanding the outcome of the cumbersome legal battle, in which too, she needs support.) became the imperative for all concerned with the kind of caste-gender violence which had been acted out against her.
The Rehabilitation Committee based at Kannur is now to decide the future course. It is proposed to shortly convene a well attended public function; many leading figures and activists on the human rights front will be invited to participate. The new vehicle which is to be purchased thanks to the support obtained for this campaign, will be handed to Chithralekha, in a different atmosphere of goodwill and better understanding, where the old hostilities are best expected to be rolled back.


[Following is the translated text of an appeal released at a press conference on 26-09-07 in Kannur, by the Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee, Kannur, Kerala ]

Dear friends,
Despite our pride in having achieved 100% literacy, we have to acknowledge sadly that Kerala's social life continues to be reigned by several unwrit rules of caste and gender, rather than by law. A series of incidents that took place at Edat (Payyanur, Kannur District) starting from organized abuse and harassment of a dalit woman at her workplace, physically attacking her for having complained to the police, and finally seeing her only means of livelihood, an autorikshaw, destroyed by unknown persons setting fire to the vehicle in the dead of night, and to cap these all, a CITU autorikshaw workers' union coming out openly to defend the accused persons, seems to demonstrate this.

Chithralekha had procured her autorikshaw under the PMRY Scheme in October 2004. Nevertheless, she had to wait for three months before the permission to park her vehicle in the Payyanur College bus stop Autostand as well as the membership in the Union was given to her by the CITU Union.
When finally she did succeed in this, she was greeted by an all-male group of non-dalit autoworkers by the following comments"Look, the pulachi ( female gender for pulaya, name of a prominent SC) is coming with with her auto".

Since then, Chithralekha had to suffer a host of humiliations and untold sufferings. On 11-10-2005, Ajith, a fellow auto driver tore the hood of her vehicle. She complained to the Union only to be ridiculed and turned back. Further, a complaint made to the Police ended up with her tormentor being warned by the police. Obviously outraged by this daring act of Chithralekha petitioning against a comrade to the police, Ajith along with Pavithran, Naveen and Rameshan physically attacked Chithralekha at her workplace, the auto stand on 14-10-2005 morning. They publicly dragged her out from the vehicle and drove one of the autorikshaws on to her body, which caused injury to her leg serious enough to stay as inpatient in the Payyanur Govt hospital for many days. As they were doing all these acts of brutality, one of them shouted these words" pulachies of your ilk in future shall never ride auto here, and it is the union's decision"


The above incident has been booked by the Payyanur Police under various sections of IPC as well as under sections of the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act of 1999. This case with FIR No 367/05 is presently posted for trial before the Special Court (SC/ST Atrocities), Thalassery.
We believe that but for the timely intervention of the District Level Monitoring Committee which is a statutory committee for monitoring such cases of atrocities against dalits, the above mentioned case would not have been booked at all; on the contrary, the dominant caste-gender set up in combination with the generally existing status-quoist bias of individual police officers would have ensured impunity for the offenders and further institutionalization of such crimes.
Even against the successful intervention on the part of the Dist Level Monitoring Committee to get the case booked and properly pursued, collectively expressed hatred and openly displayed hostility against Chithralekha were only heading to a point of vantage. In the night of 31-12-2005, her vehicle was burned by unidentified persons. This incident was registered as FIR No 474/05 in the Payyanur Police Station.
As we hear further stories of intimidation and demoralizing of witnesses by several quarters of vested interests with a view to weakening of these cases as such, we notice that unless the civil society actively involves in the process of bringing justice to the victim, this kind of crimes motivated by caste and gender is going to get institutionalized.
Chithralekha is presently dependent solely on the Monitoring Committee that includes a few civilian(dalit) representatives and the State mechanism available. While it needs to be clearly reiterated that without such State mechanism it would not have been possible to bring the culprits to book under the relevant provisions of law, the ridiculously unwarranted attempts to impose virtual compromise on the victim by intimidating and demoralizing her witnesses and in many other ways need to be resisted. The absolutely unfair interventions of political manipulators to protect the non-dalit, male accuseds from the reach of law, in this case, should be effectively challenged by vigorous pursuit of the Rule Of Law by an informed civil society.
It is worth mentioning in this context, that a citizens' action committee based at Payyanur was indeed on the scene until April 2006 to support Chithralekha. The committee though succeeded in getting an auto for her on rental basis and as part of their endeavour to restore work to Chithralekha, it became defunct soon after the election campaign for the Kerala Assembly picked up momentum. Due to several reasons, Chithralekha was virtually compelled to return the hired vehicle to its owner. Since then, she had to support herself and her family by going outside for unskilled labour in the building sector, evenwhile she refused to compromise in her determined struggle against the cast-gender hostilities still propagated against her.
On the 29th August of this year, a new initiative to support Chithralekha came to existence by forming a new forum based at Kannur, the District headquarters. The meeting convened by Dr D.Surendranath was personally attended by Mr. K.K.Kochu,the well known dalit leader.Several other prominent dalit activists and intellectuals had also extended thier support to this initiative. This committee was named as Chithralekha Punaradhivasa (Rehabilitation) Committee and it took stock of the situation as a whole.,against the background of conspicuous lack of any collective expression of solidarity with her continuing struggle.The next meeting of this committee on 4-09-2007resolved to extend unconditional support to Chithralekha in her struggle for justice.The committee identified the urgent need of rehabilitating Chithralekha, with the work as well as a nightmares-free workplace restored to her. For this, it was decided to purchase a new autorikhshaw for her by collecting the necessary fund from the people. For carrying out this effectively and transparently, Dr Surendranath(Chairman), Mr.P.K.Ayyappan (Treasurer) and Mr.K.M.Venugopalan (Convenor) would jointly operate an account in the Thalap branch of the Kannur District Central Co-operative Bank in connection with collecting and depositing of a targeted fund of Rs1,50,000/=
While we ourselves fully endorse the above mentioned objectives of the Chithralekha Punaradhivasa Committee,Kannur, we would like to request the entire civil society of Kerala to come forward in support of these causes ,viz; of ending hostilities toward a dalit woman and allowing the law to take the right course on the one hand, and helping rehabilitation of Chithralekha by restoring her means of livelihood and work.


Among the persons who have already signed this draft are ---Bhargavi Thankappan (former Dy Speaker,Kerala Assembly), L.Natarajan ( Retd IAS),K.C.Venu ( Retired Director, Public Relations, Thiruvananthapuram) K.K..Kochu (Dalit activist and writer),Sunny Kapikkad (Dalit writer and activist, Kottayam) , M.B.Manoj ( Poet and Dalit activist, Kottayam), Rekha Raj (Dalit Women's Forum, Kottayam), K.Panur (Senior campaigner and writer on Adivasi-Dalit issues & Human Rights, Kannur), K.Venu , Dr.M.Gangadharan, Dr .A.K.Ramakrishnan (School Of International Relations, MG University, Kottayam), K.Ajitha (Campaigner in Womens' issues and the leading activist in Anweshi, Womens'Organization, Kozhikkode) , A.Vasu ( Human Rights activist, Kozhikkode), Dr.J.Devika (CDS, Thiruvananthapuram), V.P.Zuhara ( Nisa,Organization For Progressive Muslim Women, Kozhokkode) , Anivar Aravind (Greenyouth Forum& GAYA, Trissur), B.R.P.Bhaskar (senior Human Rights campaigner and journalist, Thiruvananthapuram), Dr.V.C.Harris (School Of Social Sciences, MGU, Kottayam) , C.K.Janu (leader, Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha, Wynad), Prof Sara Joseph ( Literatuer and Womens' Rights campaigner, Thrissur), Advocate P.A.Pauran (PUCL-Kerala, Manjeri), K.Haridas ( writer and Human Rights activist, Mumbai ), Dr.Jenny Roweena (Writer and Researcher in Gender and Caste Issues ,Hydbad), Carmel Chrity (Research Scholar, Hyderabad Central University & activist researcher In Gender and Caste ), Elizabeth Philip( Sahaja, Womens' Rights organization, Kottayam), Ranjith Thakappan ( Lecturer, Indira Gandhi Open University, New Delhi), I.Gopinath (Media Initiatives and Human Rights activist, Thrissur), Sarat (Thirdeyefilms , Ernakulam), A.Arun (Research Scholar, Hyderabad Central University), P.Baburaj (Thirdeye films,Ernakulam), K.K.Ushakumari (Janakeeya Samskarika Kendram, Kodungallur), Radhika Menon (Forum For Democratic Initiatives,New Delhi), Vinod.K.Jose ( Human Rights activist and Fellow, Columbia Journalism School, New York), K.P.Sasi( Human Rights activist and film maker, Bangalore), Bauraj.K (writer and activist, Kodungallur), Shyla.K.John (Secretary, AIMSS, Kerala), Advocate Kasthuri Devan (social activist, Kannur), Dr.A.K.Jayasree( womens'rights campaigner,Rajamundri, A.P) ,Dr.K.M.Seethi (School Of International Relations and Political Science, MG University, Kottayam), Deepa V.N (Sahayatrika, Kerala), Girija K.P (Kerala),S.Sanjeev (Kerala), Rev Sunil Raj (Bangalore), Mustafa Desamangalam ( Media and Films activist, Kerala), Sudeep Joseph (Bangalore), Bobby Kunju (Human Rights and Legal activist,New Delhi),Sandhya P.C (GAIA,Thrissur, Kerala), Anil Tharayath Varghese (National Centre For Advocacy Studies, Pune), Dr.Ratheesh Radhakrishnan (Kerala), Shinaj.P.S(Hyderabad Central University), I.K.Shukla (Writer, Los Angeles ) ,Sushovan Dhar (Radical Politics,Mumbai).Subhash Lokjith (Pune), Sukla Sen, (Peoples' Media Initiative, Mumbai ), George Pulikuthiyil (Jananeethi Institue, Kerala), Bindhulakshmi (Hyderabad), Ajay(People's Watch), Dr.Sanal Mohan (School Of Social Sciences, MGU,Kottayam), Salim.T.K (Greenyouthsgooglegroup), Savad Rahman (Journalist, Kochi),Rajesh Ramakrishnan (Activist and Researcher, New Delhi), Dr.Soma Marik( Kolkatha), Dr.T.T.Sreekumar ( Academic / Asst Professor, National University Of Singapore), Gilbert Rodrigo (Pondicherry Fisher peoples' forum),T.Peter (Secretary, National Fishworkers' Forum & President, KSMTU,Kerala), Dileepraj ( writer and Human Rights campaigner, Kerala ).


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Revolutionising Against the Morality

Did we ever have to be bothered by a kind of discursive scheme about right & wrong, good & bad, virtue & vice, prevailing in varying degrees at any place on earth inhabited by humans and from time immemorial, which is absolutely constructed on the foundations of gender- ie; on the worst of arbitrary division of the entire humanity into men, women, transsexuals, trans gendered, eunuchs, etc.?

Why is it that most of us remain so unsuspecting and obedient to the ways through which certain attitudes and practices about making friends, loving, mingling, sharing, living together, experiencing joy by exercising autonomy over bodies, etc are seen as disastrous deviances, while certain others are rigorously imposed on all, as unchanging laws of virtuous living?

The near-universal mode of propagation of the human species, largely bases itself on organization of all thoughts, imaginations ,dreams and actions concerning love and sex, around a single institution, viz, the hetero-sexual family. This is possibly the single institution that has played the pivotal role in selectively sanctifying certain kinds of economic, social and cultural activities of people through ages cutting across geographical, anthropological and other differences, while certain others were just demonized.

The system of privileges and deprivations emanating from the hetero-sexual, monogamous and patriarchal family and its gendered social life, unfortunately, is taken for granted by most of us, despite many historical efforts to successfully add to the statute book the concept of gender justice, albeit in a rudimentary form.

Though the law remains there at a distance to be operative for certain category of actors, as against others for whom there is virtually no meaning for citizenship, gender continues to be an instrument of denying, or being denied important human rights. Certain kinds of human interactions compared to certain others, are too conspicuously identifiable by gender that one will find it far less cumbersome to go by the local ethos, than to go by the the law of the land, for that matter. Further, if anyone dares to invoke the law and the Constitution of the country with the hope that tyrannies acted out in the name of tradition, culture, protection of morality etc may be diffused, more violent attempts to suppress aspirations for freedom are sure to be encountered.

This is has come especially characteristic of our situation, which is often tagged as third worldly. By belonging to this category, at least majority of us are considered lesser entitled to human rights compared to the way most people in the West are. Often, we are told that in our context, individuals' freedom matters less when the great crisis of our times is that crass commercialism is destroying our great culture and tradition. Likewise, we are told that invoking the right to personal liberty, autonomy and dignity of individual is a sin by itself, which is originating from the outlandish patterns of destruction; which in turn might portend dreaded anarchy and chaos around.

Hence, you need to be conforming to the dominant modes in everything: unchanging faith in religion and god; unchanging faith in the system that rule; faith in the hetero-sexual, monogamous and patriarchal family- stated or unstated in the last though, but not the least by any means. What is likely to pass off quietly in between, however ,is the already existing insecurity in the minds of people ,the feelings of already becoming prey to a host of anarchical forces, economic , social , cultural and so on , which have scant regard for the law or for the rights of fellow humans.

What were the courts doing ?

Ordering a stay on a 'public interest' litigation against Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere during the last year for having enacted a demonstrative kiss in public view the Supreme Court had made certain remarks gravitating itself to a preference for Puritanism .and orthodoxy in attitudes toward expressions of love and sexuality. Significantly, 'the kiss case' had originated in the context of the campaign Gere& Co had undertaken for promoting awareness among the public and ending discriminations against HIV victims.

As Ratna kapur, Director, Centre for Feminist Legal Research, Mumbai has observed;

"What is at issue is not whether the 'kiss' deserved such
attention, but the extent to which India's obscenity laws are
increasingly being used for moral policing and encroaching on
the rights to free speech and expression.

While there has been no opposition expressed by feminist
groups or civil society members to 'the kiss' there has also
not been any enthusiastic endorsement of the 'performance.

The resounding silence speaks to a deeper discomfort around
issues of sex and sexuality that continue to haunt the borders
of free speech and expression"

[Times of India article , 25-05-2007: Bold and Beautiful]

According to Ratna, the Shilpa Shetty / Richard Gere case when did arise in the context of a public awareness campaign on AIDS and the controversy it generated provided an appropriate moment for feminists and others to generate a healthy
debate on the line between safe, consensual sex and risky
behaviour, the issue was simply caused to be hijacked by the censorship lobby.

Through a number of decisions on censorship issues etc and striking down the ban on the bar dancers in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court has bothered themselves more with imagined or actual threats to the regime of heterosexual -patriarchal -monogamous value system, than with protecting the freedom of expression itself. For example, it decided that where the bar dancers at beer halls who were comparatively few in number need not be banned from performing, it was categorically considered not desirable to allow such performances everywhere by other women in other establishments, for example.
Such decisions clearly send the message that sexual explicitness is
immoral by itself, and further that sex and sexuality are not a normal part of our
humanity, but a corrupting and unhealthy influence from which
'decent people' must be protected.[Ratna Kapur]

The Battles for Citizenship

The politics of claiming autonomy over bodies cannot perhaps wait, until all the fears associated with morals and culture are settled forever. It is imperative to talk about how deeply the gendered individuals in a hetero-normative society would love to assert their freedoms as others would.We seem to have reached a point that no political movement can inch ahead, unless the conspiracy of silence about sexuality is broken. Sexuality is an important arena of struggle, where everybody would perhaps need to fight at least for the legally enforceable rights against those privileges and deprivations perpetuated by the ill founded morality regime, based solely on gender.

What do you think of same sex love?

In most countries of the West, discriminating provisions of law relating to the practice of same sex love have been removed from the statute books. The Psychiatric Association of America, as early as a quarter centaury ago, had called for understanding homosexuality less as a mental disorder than at par with patterns of sexual behavior termed as normal (heterosexuality).

Gay politics has now become part of the antiwar and human rights movements. One of the stipulations for any European country to become a member of the EEC is that the aspiring state should decriminalize homosexuality. Paradoxically enough, the Indian Penal Code has section 377 still intact , with the effect that homosexual love relation could be booked as offence punishable under IPC. It may be recalled that the law itself had come to effect under colonial rule to enforce Victorian morality on the indigenous people, and in most the countries where this reigned, similar laws have already been thrown to the dust bin of history.

In recent decades, there has been sweeping change world over in ways of addressing sexuality. For example, in many countries laws have been reformed with a view to ending social discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and the transgendered (LGBT). Rights of LGBT have even become part of agenda of the left, albeit with serious limitations originating from rigid conceptual paradigms. Further, at least a few of the important bodies affiliated to the UN has recognized the right of sexual self-determination and sexual orientation of individual as inalienable human rights. Similarly, ending stigmatization of sex work has lately been among the agenda of reforms in many sovereign states and societies. Yet another area where the taboos have disappeared,

is the realm of imparting scientific sex education to children right from their schooling age.

Despite many of these changes taking place around, moralism has become an easily identifiable obsession with our dominant societal attitude to sex, cutting across the divides of class, gender, caste and religion.

Fear, inconsistency, duality in standards, hypocrisy, opportunism and most often, hate and violence form the hallmarks of this moralism. We find newspapers celebrating moralistic gazes on peoples' private lives, which stop at nothing short of trampling upon legal rights of individuals quietly leading their peaceful lives. Stories brought out under the caption of news are largely designed for reproducing the same values of morality, apart from being the stuff that feeds sensationalism. At one end of this morality spectrum one finds cowardice though, proceeding to the fag end, you will see a diabolic propensity for mob- violence that can visit upon all categories of minorities including women(in the sense of women being a cultural minority as observed by Kate Millet), transsexuals and the transgendered.

Viewed against this kind of scenario, human rights in the context of sexuality become virtually denied to large sections of people. These sections comprise those yet kept waiting at the doors for entry to the enterprise of heterosexual family , or who have been pushed to the outskirts of this family for not being able to conform. For example, to the unmarried, widower, widow, divorcee, homosexual, transgender, lonely, sex worker, differently abled , and so on.

There is certainly no disagreement that forms of sexual behavior leading to aggression and violence are to be condemned as anti social. But the imperative, however, is to realize that sex- related atrocities are not same as demanding sexual freedom. Despite the fact is clearly understood that patriarchal standards of conformity in sexual behaviour is most often the root cause of sexual atrocities, we still shy away from raising many fundamental questions. For example, despite elaborate discourses we had on patriarchy, many a feminist fails to take note of the fact that sexuality itself is a social construct built around a gendered society. Most of the assumptions of gendered life that are generally accepted without questions therefore do not just result from a shameful ignorance, but they also constitute criminal neglect in a serious political sense. There is criminal disregard for the lived experience of people which in turn, has played a major role in suppressing the great faculty of creativity in humans.

We have been virtually made into a people with unspeakable mental stress and neurotic disorders on the one side, and to a horde extremely intolerant, revengeful and insensitive toward the idea of change, on the other.

Any societal attitude that refuses to treat the people with sexual orientation other than the hetero as human beings would necessarily amount to justifying unspeakable acts of violence and discriminations. Same sex love relationships certainly do raise questions about the stereotypical, which in turn, contribute to the ultimate challenge to the presiding system of privileges based on gender.

Judith Butler

and Gender Trouble

Judith Butler, through her epoch-making 'Gender Trouble' and some other works has strived to raise pertinent questions as to how the comparatively irrelevant features of biology between male, female and the transsexuals should stand in the way of people's claim for commonality as humans, for example, equal rights to citizenship. Heterosexuality has simply got to be thrust as the norm, according to Judith Butler, for which there would have been no basis at all, save the irrational and arbitrary division of gender. According to her, the whole of humanity becomes divided to actors as though they were required to perform the differing roles as man and woman according to a pre-written script of gender. It is these roles for performance that readily deny access to the trans gendered people; their very right to exist as humans with feelings and intelligence, as people capable of loving, being loved ,learning, thinking , struggling, taking part in politics, dreaming about future,etc etc. are most invariably and instantly denied by the hetero normative society.

From this universal scenario of heterosexual norms when we come to the Indian context, we find that caste in Hindu belief system undoubtedly exaggerates and accentuates those malfeasances originated by gender in the first place. Here, every atrocity or discrimination perpetuated against women bears complimentarity to atrocities against people of lower castes.

The gory accounts of witch –hunts recently acted out against women, reported from eastern, central and even the southern states of India signify how the brutal practices of witch hunt go by a caste- gender formula. Atrocities against unattached single dalit woman following allegation of witchcraft, apparently pass largely unopposed even by male chieftains of the concerned dalit community, possibly because the victim in most such cases is living outside the heterosexual family!

Coming back to recent reports of witch hunt in India as largely caused by caste, we need to pause for a moment. If the massive hate generated against the victims were attributable only to their belonging to certain lower castes, the fact of their being all women would have had no significance. If we were to take a look at the Europe of the dark medieval ages, we would find that as many as 15-20 million women were murdered at the behest of the Catholic male clergy in a period of three or more centuries. All these women were whites , as the dark people and continent were yet waiting to be explored by the white men, then.

This might suggest that most debates taking place in our country being focused on caste though for reasons valid enough, have nevertheless, had a tendency to bye pass the equally important factors of gender.

Dismembering of Bhutmangi family,

(Khairlanji-2006, September)

As we go further, we just can't but believe how an entire village of upper caste people almost ceremoniously participated in a brutal mass violence involving parading naked a woman with her higher secondary school - going daughter, college-going son and another son who was blind , maiming, , killing them all ,and finally mutilating even the corpses of the four members of the dalit family in Khairlanji, Maharashtra.

The dalit woman's staunch resistance against the upper caste peoples' demand to cede her small piece of land for a road and the complaints made by her to the police against previous assaults were reported as the provocation for the mob violence .

Significantly, another story referring to the allegedly bad moral of the woman too was reportedly employed to generate hate; perhaps this story had apparently been put in place the moral regime of right vs wrongs. Participation of the nearly the whole of upper caste village in this diabolic act of hate on the one hand and glaring failure on the part of the district administration and the media to take cognizance of the incidence until a month after the occurrence on the other , should indeed sound bizarre. Bhutmangi's alleged adulterous connection with another man, possibly was used in augmenting the hate ; that the family needed to be taught a lesson was perhaps made easier to be bought by the villagers by invoking ideas of moral terror and hate. It is also noteworthy that the series of violence in Khairlanji were so typical of moralistic terror when characterized by stripping, parading of the women victims naked, forcing them to be raped and so on.

What do the Religious Texts Say on Women's

Probable Claims for Autonomy Over Bodies?

Several scriptures and other ancient texts are replete with examples where women are forbidden from claims for inclusiveness like active citizenship or its equivalent, and they are placed alongside the people of lower castes. . For example, in the anushasana parva of Mahabharath, we find Bhishma advising Yudhishtira never to trust women as they are innately lascivious to such extent that even if you make them tread a hotbed of burning desert, they will never compromise their desire. Same is said about the need to keep the lower caste people under strict control and vigil,on umpteen occasions in many texts including the arthasaasthra by Kautilya.

Women of all castes , especially in their reproductive ages are presumed impure by virtue of their bodies, more or less in same ways as the working class, who in turn, labour with their bodies.

Upanayans for Brahmin boys are performed these scientific days with more fervour than before, perhaps; never mind the underlying purpose of this ritual is cleansing a male Brahman of the impurity of birth, to become a true dwija (twice born); this is to rectify the imperfection due to having come out of the womb of a woman.

Why does the superiority

in number fail to make a difference?

Perhaps numbers do really matter; but may be so only in a genuinely functioning democracy. This, we haven't come across though, it should definitely help asking why the minority dictums of the elite males should prevail, despite women and lower castes actually being far more in number.

Why are shikhandis being made out

To be repositories of perpetual hate?

Transsexuals, like Shikhandi in Mahabharath are invariably despised and placed in status, even much lower than that of women, and are often employed for doing dirty jobs. We find the most bitter of abuse averywhere in India, in someone being called a napumsaka (transsexual/transgender/eunuch) . This is usage is loaded with much more contempt than a man being accused of behaving like a woman, or vice versa.

What Could be the Answer?
Determined efforts both in thought and action, to revolutionize the existing notion of morality by all concerned seem to be imperative for a change for better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CHITHRALEKHA PUNARADHIVASA COMMITTEE, KANNUR(Campaign update as on 08-04-2008)

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CHITHRALEKHA PUNARADHIVASA COMMITTEE, KANNUR

(Campaign update as on 08-04-2008)

Dear friends,
It is 8 months since the campaign to raise the targeted amount of Rs 1.5 lakhs in rehabilitating Chithralekha by restoring her means of livelihood by procuring a new auto rikshaw for her, with the money raised from concerned citizens took off. The whole story needn't be repeated here, as we are too well aware of the background from which this campaign happened to take off.
Presently, we have an amount of Rs 70,000/= collected so far .You may please note that this is much below the target. We feel that this modest effort to raise funds can no longer be maintained indefinitely in time, and therefore, we have to close it without further delay. In order to meet our end, we are left with no option other than availing a loan for the remaining sum needed to purchase an auto rikshaw. With a view to minimising the burden of bank loan to the least extent possible on the Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee, we request that those who haven't already made a donation may do it immediately.
Please peruse here the details of contribution we received so far:
S/sri
1.Salim T.K ( Thalassery/ UAE): Rs1,500.00
2.Jayasree A.K (Rajamundry,A.P) : Rs 1,000.00
3.Mr.K.K.Baburaj(Kottayam) : Rs 1,000.00
4.Dr Sivashankar (Chennai) : Rs 1,000.00
5.Sri.K.Panur (Kannur) :Rs 100.00
6.Jenny Roweena, }
Carmel Christy, Ranjith.R} Rs 10,000.00
and others (Hydbad), }
7.Jenson Joseph (Hydbad): Rs 1,000.00
8.P.V.Ayyappan(Trissur): Rs 1,000.00
9.Dr.A.V.Bharathan(Trissur): Rs 1,000.00
10.Dr.M.R.Govindan(Thrissur) Rs 500.00
11.Dr.K.K.Rahulan(Thrissur) Rs 200.00
12.C.R.Parameswaran(Thrissur) Rs 500.00
13.K.Venu(Thrissur)
Rs 1,000.00+1,000.00= Rs 2,000.00
14.Dr.A.K.Ramakrishnan
(MGU,Kottayam): Rs 1,000.00
15.Dr.V.C.Harris,
(MGU,Kottayam): Rs 1,000.00
16.Dr.K.M.Seethi
(MGU,Kottayam): Rs 500.00
17.Dr.N.J.Phillip(Kottayam) : Rs 1,000.00
18.V.P.Zuhara(Kozhikkode) : Rs 500.00
19.Deepa V.N( Kottayam) :Rs 5,000.00
20.Mythri, Roshni,
Sunitha, Vijaya(CDS,Tvm) : Rs 500.00

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21.Dr.Alice(CDS,Tvm) : Rs 500.00
22.Dr.Anita Thampi(CDS,Tvm): Rs 500.00
23.B.R.P.Bhaskar(Tvm): Rs 1,000.00
24.Dr.Ranjini Lakshmi(CDS,Tvm): Rs 6,650.00
25.Dr.Shivanandan(CDS,Tvm): Rs 500.00
26.P.N.Gopeekrishnan(Thrissur) Rs 500.00
27.M/s.SNA Oushadhashala(Thrissur) Rs 500.00:
28V.G.Thampi (Thrissur): Rs 250.00
30.Hiranyan(Thrissur) : Rs 500.00
31.M/s Anveshi (Kozhikkode): Rs 2,000.00
32.Dr.Mini Sukumaran(Calicut University)
33.Ravi.P.C(Thrissur) : Rs 500.00
34.N.N.Gokuldas,(Thrissur) : Rs 1,000.00
35.K.Radhakrishnan(Thrissur) : Rs 500.00
36.Dr.Jayaraj,(Thrissur) : Rs 1,000.00
37.Anil, Altermedia(Thrissur): : Rs 250.00
38.K.V.Abdul Azeez(Thrissur) : Rs 2,000.00
39.Dr.T.T Sreekumar (Singapur) : Rs 6,000.00
40.Dr.K.V.Devadhasan(Payyanur): Rs 1,000.00
41.V.P.Sreenivasan(Payyanur) : Rs 1,000.00
42.K.M.Hrisheekeshan(Payyanur) : Rs 1,000.00
43.K.M.Nandakishor(Payyanur) : Rs 1,000.00
44.Dr.K.Aravindakshan(Thrissur) : :Rs 500.00
45.T.P.Yakub(Kozhikkode) : Rs 2,000.00
46.Suresh,K.P.Mohsin,
Dinesh,Dr.K.V.Balakrishnan, } : Rs 500.00
Dr.Geethakumari,Raju Kuttan,
(Calicut University)
47.Mohanakrishnan.V (Calicut University) Rs 500.00
48.Ganga Parvathi Shankar (Pune) : Rs 1,000.00
49.Ajesh C.A (Calicut University) : Rs 500.00
50.O.P.Ravindran (Calicut University) : Rs 500.00
51.C.R.Ramesh(Thrissur) : Rs 200.00
52.Harinarayanan (Mumbai) : Rs 1,000.00
53.U.K.Nair(Mumbai) : Rs 1,000.00
54.Harishankar,(Mumbai) : Rs 1,000.00
55.Dr.J.Devika (CDS) and others : Rs 1,100.00

Total amount so far: Rs 70,000.00(approximately)
This list is almost update, with the possibility of very few omissions ( for want of returns of the details/ pendency of remittance by friends who may be involved in collection)
We hope however, that the process will successfully be completed in another short

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period, by active participation from everybody.
Chithralekha, had been violently deprived of her means of livelihood by political actors encouraged by the characteristically casteist and sexist mode of hate, which was ultimately played out against the victim. We need to take immediate steps to rehabilitate her, notwithstanding the outcome of the cumbersome legal battle (in which too, she needs support.)
It is proposed to shortly convene a well attended public meeting; prominent leaders and acivists will be invited to participate , and the keys of the new vehicle will be handed to Chithralekha in a different atmosphere of goodwill and better understanding,where the old hostilities are best expected to be rolled back.
Yours sincerely,
K.M.Venugopalan,
Convener, Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee.
phone:09447488215.




Let's also go back to the original message by the Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee here, which may help recap the whole story . It also helps to find to where and how the donations ( very much needed still), are to be sent .

Subject: An Appeal Made On Behalf of The Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee, Kannur, Kerala

[Following is the translated text of an appeal released at a press conference on 26-09-07 in Kannur, by the Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee, Kannur, Kerala ]

Dear friends,
Despite our pride in having achieved 100% literacy, we have to acknowledge sadly that Kerala's social life continues to be reigned by several unwrit rules of caste and gender, rather than by law. A series of incidents that took place at Edat (Payyanur, Kannur District) starting from organized abuse and harassment of a dalit woman at her workplace, physically attacking her for having complained to the police, and finally seeing her only means of livelihood, an autorikshaw, destroyed by unknown persons setting fire to the vehicle in the dead of night, and to cap these all, a CITU autorikshaw workers' union coming out openly to defend the accused persons, seems to demonstrate this.

Chithralekha had procured her autorikshaw under the PMRY Scheme in October 2004. Nevertheless, she had to wait for three months before the permission to park her vehicle in the Payyanur College bus stop Autostand as well as the membership in the Union was given to her by the CITU Union.
When finally she did succeed in this, she was greeted by an all-male group of non-dalit

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autoworkers by the following comments"Look, the pulachi ( female gender for pulaya, name of a prominent SC) is coming with with her auto".

Since then, Chithralekha had to suffer a host of humiliations and untold sufferings. On 11-10-2005, Ajith, a fellow auto driver tore the hood of her vehicle. She complained to the Union only to be ridiculed and turned back. Further, a complaint made to the Police ended up with her tormentor being warned by the police. Obviously outraged by this daring act of Chithralekha petitioning against a comrade to the police, Ajith along with Pavithran, Naveen and Rameshan physically attacked Chithralekha at her workplace, the auto stand on 14-10-2005 morning. They publicly dragged her out from the vehicle and drove one of the autorikshaws on to her body, which caused injury to her leg serious enough to stay as inpatient in the Payyanur Govt hospital for many days. As they were doing all these acts of brutality, one of them shouted these words" pulachies of your ilk in future shall never ride auto here, and it is the union's decision"


The above incident has been booked by the Payyanur Police under various sections of IPC as well as under sections of the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act of 1999. This case with FIR No 367/05 is presently posted for trial before the Special Court (SC/ST Atrocities), Thalassery.
We believe that but for the timely intervention of the District Level Monitoring Committee which is a statutory committee for monitoring such cases of atrocities against dalits, the above mentioned case would not have been booked at all; on the contrary, the dominant caste-gender set up in combination with the generally existing status-quoist bias of individual police officers would have ensured impunity for the offenders and further institutionalization of such crimes.
Even against the successful intervention on the part of the Dist Level Monitoring Committee to get the case booked and properly pursued, collectively expressed hatred and openly displayed hostility against Chithralekha were only heading to a point of vantage. In the night of 31-12-2005, her vehicle was burned by unidentified persons. This incident was registered as FIR No 474/05 in the Payyanur Police Station.
As we hear further stories of intimidation and demoralizing of witnesses by several quarters of vested interests with a view to weakening of these cases as such, we notice that unless the civil society actively involves in the process of bringing justice to the victim, this kind of crimes motivated by caste and gender is going to get institutionalized.
Chithralekha is presently dependent solely on the Monitoring Committee that includes a few civilian(dalit) representatives and the State mechanism available. While it needs to be clearly reiterated that without such State mechanism it would not have been possible to bring the culprits to book under the relevant provisions of law, the ridiculously unwarranted attempts to impose virtual compromise on the victim by intimidating and demoralizing her witnesses and in many other ways need to be resisted. The absolutely unfair interventions of political manipulators to protect the non-dalit, male accuseds from the reach of law, in this case, should be effectively challenged by vigorous pursuit of the Rule Of Law by an informed civil society.
It is worth mentioning in this context, that a citizens' action committee based at Payyanur was indeed on the scene until April 2006 to support Chithralekha. The committee though succeeded in getting an auto for her on rental basis and as part of their endeavour to

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restore work to Chithralekha, it became defunct soon after the election campaign for the Kerala Assembly picked up momentum. Due to several reasons, Chithralekha was virtually compelled to return the hired vehicle to its owner. Since then, she had to support herself and her family by going outside for unskilled labour in the building sector, evenwhile she refused to compromise in her determined struggle against the cast-gender hostilities still propagated against her.
On the 29th August of this year, a new initiative to support Chithralekha came to existence by forming a new forum based at Kannur, the District headquarters. The meeting convened by Dr D.Surendranath was personally attended by Mr. K.K.Kochu,the well known dalit leader.Several other prominent dalit activists and intellectuals had also extended thier support to this initiative. This committee was named as Chithralekha Punaradhivasa (Rehabilitation) Committee and it took stock of the situation as a whole.,against the background of conspicuous lack of any collective expression of solidarity with her continuing struggle.The next meeting of this committee on 4-09-2007resolved to extend unconditional support to Chithralekha in her struggle for justice.The committee identified the urgent need of rehabilitating Chithralekha, with the work as well as a nightmares-free workplace restored to her. For this, it was decided to purchase a new autorikhshaw for her by collecting the necessary fund from the people. For carrying out this effectively and transparently, Dr Surendranath(Chairman), Mr.P.K.Ayyappan (Treasurer) and Mr.K.M.Venugopalan (Convenor) would jointly operate an account in the Thalap branch of the Kannur District Central Co-operative Bank in connection with collecting and depositing of a targeted fund of Rs1,50,000/=
While we ourselves fully endorse the above mentioned objectives of the Chithralekha Punaradhivasa Committee,Kannur, we would like to request the entire civil society of Kerala to come forward in support of these causes ,viz; of ending hostilities toward a dalit woman and allowing the law to take the right course on the one hand, and helping rehabilitation of Chithralekha by restoring her means of livelihood and work.

Hence,we request everybody to make contribution to the Cithralekha Rhabilitation Fund either by depositing direct to Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee SB Ac. No.1 of Thalap branch of CDCC bank of Kannur ( Kannur District Central Co-operative Bank), or by sending in Ac.Payee Cheque or crossed DD payable at Kannur, or Money Order, to the following address :-
Dr.D.Surendranath,

Chairman,

Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee,

Pallikunnu P.O., Kannur.



Among the persons who have already signed this draft are ---Bhargavi Thankappan (former Dy Speaker,Kerala Assembly), L.Natarajan ( Retd IAS),K.C.Venu ( Retired Director, Public Relations, Thiruvananthapuram) K.K..Kochu (Dalit activist and writer),Sunny Kapikkad (Dalit writer and activist, Kottayam) , M.B.Manoj ( Poet and Dalit activist, Kottayam), Rekha Raj (Dalit Women's Forum, Kottayam), K.Panur (Senior

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campaigner and writer on Adivasi-Dalit issues & Human Rights, Kannur), K.Venu , Dr.M.Gangadharan, Dr .A.K.Ramakrishnan (School Of International Relations, MG University, Kottayam), K.Ajitha (Campaigner in Womens' issues and the leading activist in Anweshi, Womens'Organization, Kozhikkode) , A.Vasu ( Human Rights activist, Kozhikkode), Dr.J.Devika (CDS, Thiruvananthapuram), V.P.Zuhara ( Nisa,Organization For Progressive Muslim Women, Kozhokkode) , Anivar Aravind (Greenyouth Forum& GAYA, Trissur), B.R.P.Bhaskar (senior Human Rights campaigner and journalist, Thiruvananthapuram), Dr.V.C.Harris (School Of Social Sciences, MGU, Kottayam) , C.K.Janu (leader, Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha, Wynad), Prof Sara Joseph ( Literatuer and Womens' Rights campaigner, Thrissur), Advocate P.A.Pauran (PUCL-Kerala, Manjeri), K.Haridas ( writer and Human Rights activist, Mumbai ), Dr.Jenny Roweena (Writer and Researcher in Gender and Caste Issues ,Hydbad), Carmel Chrity (Research Scholar, Hyderabad Central University & activist researcher In Gender and Caste ), Elizabeth Philip( Sahaja, Womens' Rights organization, Kottayam), Ranjith Thakappan ( Lecturer, Indira Gandhi Open University, New Delhi), I.Gopinath (Media Initiatives and Human Rights activist, Thrissur), Sarat (Thirdeyefilms , Ernakulam), A.Arun (Research Scholar, Hyderabad Central University), P.Baburaj (Thirdeye films,Ernakulam), K.K.Ushakumari (Janakeeya Samskarika Kendram, Kodungallur), Radhika Menon (Forum For Democratic Initiatives,New Delhi), Vinod.K.Jose ( Human Rights activist and Fellow, Columbia Journalism School, New York), K.P.Sasi( Human Rights activist and film maker, Bangalore), Bauraj.K (writer and activist, Kodungallur), Shyla.K.John (Secretary, AIMSS, Kerala), Advocate Kasthuri Devan (social activist, Kannur), Dr.A.K.Jayasree( womens'rights campaigner,Rajamundri, A.P) ,Dr.K.M.Seethi (School Of International Relations and Political Science, MG University, Kottayam), Deepa V.N (Sahayatrika, Kerala), Girija K.P (Kerala),S.Sanjeev (Kerala), Rev Sunil Raj (Bangalore), Mustafa Desamangalam ( Media and Films activist, Kerala), Sudeep Joseph (Bangalore), Bobby Kunju (Human Rights and Legal activist,New Delhi),Sandhya P.C (GAIA,Thrissur, Kerala), Anil Tharayath Varghese (National Centre For Advocacy Studies, Pune), Dr.Ratheesh Radhakrishnan (Kerala), Shinaj.P.S(Hyderabad Central University), I.K.Shukla (Writer, Los Angeles ) ,Sushovan Dhar (Radical Politics,Mumbai).Subhash Lokjith (Pune), Sukla Sen, (Peoples' Media Initiative, Mumbai ), George Pulikuthiyil (Jananeethi Institue, Kerala), Bindhulakshmi (Hyderabad), Ajay(People's Watch), Dr.Sanal Mohan (School Of Social Sciences, MGU,Kottayam), Salim.T.K (Greenyouthsgooglegroup), Savad Rahman (Journalist, Kochi),Rajesh Ramakrishnan (Activist and Researcher, New Delhi), Dr.Soma Marik( Kolkatha), Dr.T.T.Sreekumar ( Academic / Asst Professor, National University Of Singapore), Gilbert Rodrigo (Pondicherry Fisher peoples' forum),T.Peter (Secretary, National Fishworkers' Forum & President, KSMTU,Kerala), Dileepraj ( writer and Human Rights campaigner, Kerala ).

We look forward to your co-operation in further spreading the message.

.


thanking you,
for Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee, Kannur .
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Kindly use the following postal addresses/ emails as well, for future communication:

Dr.D.Surendranath,
( Chairman, Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee),
Pallikkunnu P.O;
Kannur-4,
Kerala (State),
S.India
Pin code- 670004
email: dskannur@gmail.com
phone: 04972-701279


K.M.Venugopalan,
Convenor, Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee, Kannur.
email: kmvenuannur@gmail.com
phone: 09447488215.

C.K.Vishwanath,
Member, Chithralekha Punaradhivasa Committe, kannur
email: ckvishwanath@gmail.com
ck_vishwanath2000@yahoo.com
ck_vishwanath@yahoo.com
phone: 04985-277680.

With immense gratitude to everybody and In solidarity,
K.M.Venugopalan.



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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

USA 2008: The Great Depression?

Printer Friendly Version

USA 2008: The Great Depression?

By David Usborne

01 April, 2008
The Independent


We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story.

Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000. "We have seen a dramatic increase in recent years, but we have also seen it climbing more in recent months," Maureen Sorbet, a spokeswoman for Michigan's programme, said. "It's been increasing steadily. Without the programme, some families and kids would be going without."

But the trend is not restricted to the rust-belt regions. Forty states are reporting increases in applications for the stamps, actually electronic cards that are filled automatically once a month by the government and are swiped by shoppers at the till, in the 12 months from December 2006. At least six states, including Florida, Arizona and Maryland, have had a 10 per cent increase in the past year.

In Rhode Island, the segment of the population on food stamps has risen by 18 per cent in two years. The food programme started 40 years ago when hunger was still a daily fact of life for many Americans. The recent switch from paper coupons to the plastic card system has helped remove some of the stigma associated with the food stamp programme. The card can be swiped as easily as a bank debit card. To qualify for the cards, Americans do not have to be exactly on the breadline. The programme is available to people whose earnings are just above the official poverty line. For Hubert Liepnieks, the card is a lifeline he could never afford to lose. Just out of prison, he sleeps in overnight shelters in Manhattan and uses the card at a Morgan Williams supermarket on East 23rd Street. Yesterday, he and his fiancée, Christine Schultz, who is in a wheelchair, shared one banana and a cup of coffee bought with the 82 cents left on it.

"They should be refilling it in the next three or four days," Liepnieks says. At times, he admits, he and friends bargain with owners of the smaller grocery shops to trade the value of their cards for cash, although it is illegal. "It can be done. I get $7 back on $10."

Richard Enright, the manager at this Morgan Williams, says the numbers of customers on food stamps has been steady but he expects that to rise soon. "In this location, it's still mostly old people and people who have retired from city jobs on stamps," he says. Food stamp money was designed to supplement what people could buy rather than covering all the costs of a family's groceries. But the problem now, Mr Enright says, is that soaring prices are squeezing the value of the benefits.

"Last St Patrick's Day, we were selling Irish soda bread for $1.99. This year it was $2.99. Prices are just spiralling up, because of the cost of gas trucking the food into the city and because of commodity prices. People complain, but I tell them it's not my fault everything is more expensive."

The US Department of Agriculture says the cost of feeding a low-income family of four has risen 6 per cent in 12 months. "The amount of food stamps per household hasn't gone up with the food costs," says Dayna Ballantyne, who runs a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. "Our clients are finding they aren't able to purchase food like they used to."

And the next monthly job numbers, to be released this Friday, are likely to show 50,000 more jobs were lost nationwide in March, and the unemployment rate is up to perhaps 5 per cent.

©independent.co.uk

First Chapter: 'The Appeal' (March 30, 2008)

Peter Mendelsund



Thrillers thrive on villains and heroes, and usually these characters are not overly complicated; writers don't want to confuse or slow the plot. In John Grisham's page turners the villains are corporate titans and their lawyers, and the plucky, idealistic heroes (played in the movie versions by Tom Cruise in "The Firm" and Julia Roberts in "The Pelican Brief") are renegade lawyers or law students, shocked into action by the corruption they have stumbled across.


Grisham sticks with his formula for the villains in "The Appeal." But he paints a more complicated picture of the heroes, while making an important point about how the justice system in more than half of the 50 states is increasingly threatened by the kind of big-money gutter politics that have made so many Americans disgusted with Washington.

Grisham's heroes in "The Appeal" are plaintiffs' lawyers, the much maligned litigators who represent victims of alleged corporate wrongdoing. Their excuse for taking a third to 40 percent of their clients' winnings — even if those winnings are in the millions or billions (in the case of mass tort claims against asbestos or tobacco defendants) — is that their little-guy clients don't have the money to pay hourly fees in advance of a verdict, and that it's those big paydays that give them the incentive and resources to take on risky cases that deliver powerfully deterrent punishment to those who would otherwise keep committing all kinds of corporate jihad. It's an argument, however, that's been undermined by the spectacle of trial lawyers cashing in on cases where deep-pocketed, well-insured defendants who might not be fully culpable or culpable at all threw in the towel out of fear that sympathetic juries were too easily rewarding any tug at their heartstrings, and by revelations of corruption in recruiting clients and divvying up fees among fellow vultures of the bar who did little more than race to the scenes of tragedies.

Grisham presents both sides. While plaintiffs' lawyers are the heroes in this fast-moving, smartly constructed tale, they also come off as greedy, self-absorbed and repugnant — true ambulance chasers. In fact, at the small, beleaguered Mississippi firm run by his two heroes — the husband-and-wife team of Mary Grace and Wes Payton — a paralegal asks during some down time from the big case if he can go back to chasing ambulances, literally.

To be sure, Payton & Payton are doing God's work. They've spent years representing a woman in a small town in Mississippi whose husband and son died within weeks of each other, victims of cancer allegedly caused by deliberate cost-cutting spills into the town's drinking water by big, bad Krane Chemical. The Paytons' painstaking marshalling of the evidence against Krane makes for a seemingly indefensible defendant. The cancer rate in the town has become 15 times the national average. The town's water is so fouled that the swimming pool has long since been closed and bottled water is trucked in daily for everyone. No one would consider drinking out of the taps; even showering is a bungee jump.

In the real world, most companies would settle a case like this. (Although in the real, real world, no evidence would be as lopsided as Grisham makes it.) But Krane is part of a Manhattan-based conglomerate run by Carl Trudeau. And Trudeau is not settling with anyone.

Trudeau is a parody of evil, Grishamstyle. No shades of gray here. He's an East Side Manhattan insider-trader, corporate killer and philanderer so devoid of redeeming qualities that he even dislikes the 5-year-old daughter he's procreated with the latest trophy wife.

Mary Grace and Wes Payton have had to endure years of the pretrial war of attrition that companies like Krane can throw at plaintiffs. Having ditched other paying clients to concentrate on this case, they've had to sell their house and their car, and move with their two young children into a shoddy rental, where they can afford to hire only an illegal immigrant to be the nanny.



risham opens "The Appeal" with the verdict about to be announced, finally, after 71 days of a mind-numbing trial. Facing the sleepless Paytons in the tense small-town courtroom is a team of well-coiffed corporate litigators. Grisham captures the leader's "I'm getting $500 an hour no matter what these goober jurors say and we'll win on appeal anyway" smugness exactly as I saw it when I was covering trials like this.


I'm not giving anything away by revealing that after 10 pages of overwritten setup, the Paytons win a $41 million verdict, which in theory means $13 million-plus for them and $29 million for their longsuffering client. It also means the start of the appeal process, which is when the real story begins.

Now that one jury has punished Krane and made potential millionaires of the Paytons and their still-teary client, dozens of trial lawyers swarm the town to recruit others who've been harmed. There have already been hundreds of other cancer deaths. Thousands more are sick, and others, encouraged by their new lawyers, will now claim to be sick. Grisham treats us to a vivid picture of the good, the bad and the ugly (mostly bad and ugly, except for Mary Grace and Wes) of plaintiffs' lawyers as they try to cash in on the victory by going after Krane for what could be billions in damages when all the claims are added up.

But the even better action is on the other side. Trudeau, the chief executive who controls Krane, soon hears — through a corrupt Southern senator — about a shadowy man in Florida who operates a secretive political consulting firm that can save Krane. How? Because Krane's appeal of the Paytons' case will go to the Mississippi Supreme Court in the next year or so, and Krane won't have to pay anyone a penny if the court throws the case out.

It turns out that in Mississippi (as in about 30 other states) the top jurists are elected, and one swing-vote justice happens to be up for election in the coming year. What follows is more political than legal thriller. The consulting firm, having taken an $8 million fee (by way of Bermuda) from Trudeau, targets and anoints as their candidate an obscure Mississippi lawyer. He's never been a judge, much less thought about being a Supreme Court justice. But he's a great family man and right on conservative issues (even those irrelevant to Mississippi jurisprudence but good for TV ads). He's especially right on his view of the need for upstanding corporations to be safe from suits by gluttonous plaintiffs and their sleazy counsel. The consultant's operatives tell the credulous lawyer that they represent conservatives who want to protect the nation's courts. Thus, because he's the model of probity and common sense that the Mississippi court needs, they'll contribute millions for a media blitz to support his candidacy. What's more, they'll find and finance a full campaign staff. Meantime, Krane's lawyers file blizzards of paper to ensure that the appeal to the Supreme Court won't be heard until after the judicial election.

An utterly depressing political campaign ensues, in which the scholarly, middle-of-the-road and blindsided incumbent Supreme Court justice is painted in attack ads as a left-wing woman of loose morals. Meanwhile, the Krane consultant's Manchurian challenger, coached by a platoon of operatives who would make Karl Rove blush, preens in 30-second TV spots with his family and his hunting rifle.

There's lots of other intrigue worthy of a Grisham novel — missing witnesses, destroyed evidence, insider stock trading. It's a shame, though, that Grisham's grace in constructing a sophisticated story is so poorly matched by his writing. Clichés and redundancies ("lavish splendor," "a hothead with a massive ego who hated to lose") fill the book, and at times his weakness with words is painful to watch. His description, for example, of Trudeau's anorexic wife at a charity dinner reads as if someone new to English decided to mimic "The Bonfire of the Vanities."

Still, Grisham keeps his story moving. And he not only moves to a surprising ending but makes a real point about how judicial elections undermine the integrity of any justice system. It's bad enough that those in our executive and legislative branches can take contributions from people who have business before them to finance elections quarterbacked by spinmeisters and filled with phony attack ads. But the notion of obscure judges — charged with ruling objectively on crucial, complicated points of law — being showered with millions from lawyers, litigants and other special interests who have cases before them is worse.

One of the publications I used to run, The Texas Lawyer, once did a series of articles on elections for that state's highest court. (We also made a small fortune selling ads to judicial candidates looking for contributions from our lawyer-readers.) Our exit polls found that voters typically knew nothing about the people for whom they had just voted, and that they mostly made their choices on name recognition. Texas was also the state where one obscure lawyer seemed to have been elected a justice simply because his name sounded like that of a respected former Texas politician.

To be fair, in many states big business started to sponsor judicial candidates only after realizing that the trial lawyers had beat them to it. Thus Texas and Mississippi had become what our publication called "plaintiffs' paradises," places where juries would indiscriminately reward plaintiffs' lawyers and their clients, and the appellate courts would go along. Grisham's story doesn't quite convey that Mississippi had, before the emergence of this Krane-sponsored Manchurian judge, become a plaintiffs' paradise, but he implies it in the way he describes the corporate reaction to the Krane case. More important, he focuses on the absurdity, no matter which side you are on, of judicial elections. Unlike a lot of novels and TV docudramas that selectively latch onto facts to create a false picture, "The Appeal" delivers a real picture of a real problem. And, it all goes down easily because he spins it around such a gripping tale.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Climate Change Is a Wake-Up Call to Radically Reform Our Economy By Preeti Magala Sarkar& Tram Nguyen (blog from Alternet)

Environment

Climate Change Is a Wake-Up Call to Radically Reform Our Economy

By Preeti Mangala Shekar and Tram Nguyen, ColorLines. Posted March 31, 2008.


In these efforts lay a hopeful vision-that the crises-ridden worlds of economics and environmentalism would converge to address the other huge crisis-racism in the United States. It is what some of its advocates call a potential paradigm shift that, necessitated by the earth's climate crisis, can point the way out of "gray capitalism" and into a green, more equitable economy. The engine of this model is driven by the young and proactive leadership of people of color who intend to build a different solution for communities of color.

Van Jones, president of the Ella Baker Center, talks about how earlier waves of economic flourishes didn't much impact Black communities. "When the dotcom boom went bust, you didn't see no Black man lose his shirt," he points out, only half joking. "Black people were the least invested in it."

Climate change is the 21st century's wake-up call to not just rethink but radically redo our economies. Ninety percent of scientists agree that we are headed toward a climate crisis, and that, indeed, it has already started. With the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, the clean energy economy is poised to grow enormously. This sector includes anything that meets our energy needs without contributing to carbon emissions or that reduces carbon emissions; it encompasses building retrofitting, horticulture infrastructure (tree pruning and urban gardening), food security, biofuels and other renewable energy sources, and more.

It's becoming clear that investing in clean energy has the potential to create good jobs, many of them located in urban areas as state and city governments are increasingly adopting public policies designed to improve urban environmental quality in areas such as solar energy, waste reduction, materials reuse, public transit infrastructures, green building, energy and water efficiency, and alternative fuels.

According to recent research by Raquel Pinderhughes, a professor of urban studies at San Francisco State University, green jobs have an enormous potential to reverse the decades-long trend of unemployment rates that are higher for people of color than whites. In Berkeley, California, for example, unemployment of people of color is between 1.5 and 3.5 times that of white people, and the per capita income of people of color is once again between 40 to 70 percent of that of white people.

Pinderhughes defines green-collar jobs as manual labor jobs in businesses whose goods and services directly improve environmental quality. These jobs are typically located in large and small for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, social enterprises, and public and private institutions. Most importantly, these jobs offer training, an entry level that usually requires only a high school diploma, and decent wages and benefits, as well as a potential career path in a growing industry.

Yet, though green economics present a great opportunity to lift millions of unemployed, underemployed or displaced workers-many of them people of color-out of poverty, the challenge lies in defining an equitable and workable development model that would actually secure good jobs for marginalized communities.

"Green economics needs to be eventually policy-driven. If not, the greening of towns and cities will definitely set in motion the wheels of gentrification," Pinderhughes adds. "Without a set of policies that explicitly ensures checks and measures to prevent gentrification, green economics cannot be a panacea for the ills of the current economy that actively displaces and marginalizes people of color, while requiring their cheap labor and participation as exploited consumers."

What remains to be seen is how green economics will transition out of current prevalent models of ownership and control. A greener version of capitalism could possibly address some of the repercussions of a consumption economy and the enormous waste it generates. But critics and activists also worry that a "replacement mindset" is largely driving the optimism and energy of greening our industries and jobs. Hybrid cars replace conventional cars, and organic ingredients are promised in a wide variety of products from hand creams to protein bars. Many mainstream environmental festivals like the popular Green Festival held in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, have yet to embrace a democratic diversity. Peddling wonderful green products and services that will reduce your ecological footprint, they are accessible, alas, only to elite classes that are predominantly white.

"An authentic green economics system is one that would mark the end of capitalism," notes B. Jess Clarke, editor of Race, Poverty and the Environment. And one that would ensure labor rights and organizing, collective ownership and equality are all at the heart of it, he adds. "The real green movement has not started yet."

A movement toward economic justice requires the mobilizing and organizing of the poorest people for greater economic and political power. A good green economic model would surely be one where poor people's labor has considerable economic leverage. "Wal-Mart putting solar panels on its store roofs is not a solution," says Clarke. "We need real solutions and strong measures-carbon taxes on imports from China would considerably reduce the incentive of cheap imports and make a push to produce locally."

"Green economics can create a momentum-a political moment akin to the civil rights movement. But unless workers are organized, any success is likely to be marginal. So the key problem is in organizing a political base," adds Clarke. Green economics, then, is not just a green version of current economic models but a fundamental transformation, outlines Brian Milani, a Canadian academic and environmental expert who has written extensively on green economics. He writes in his book Designing the Green Economy: "Green economics is the economics of the real world-the world of work, human needs, the earth's materials, and how they mesh together most harmoniously. It is primarily about 'use value,' not 'exchange value' or money. It is about quality, not quantity, for the sake of it. It is about regeneration-of individuals, communities, and ecosystems-not about accumulation, of either money or material."

The $125 million promised through the Green Jobs Act is admittedly a drop in the bucket as far as the amount of financing and infrastructure needed to implement green jobs, activists say. Among the Democratic presidential candidates, all of whom have proposals for clean energy investment, talk has run into the billions of dollars for green economic stimulus.

So who will pay to get the green economy going and train a green workforce?

Throughout history we have freely released carbon and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and not had to pay a penny for the privilege. Industrial polluters and utilities may face fines for toxic emissions or releasing hazardous waste, but there has been no cost for emitting carbon as a part of day-to-day business. However, we have come to find that the atmosphere is a limited resource, and it's getting used up fast.

By limiting the total amount of carbon that can be released, and making industries pay for their pollution, global warming policies finally recognize that the atmosphere has value and must be protected. The policy with the most momentum in the U.S. and around the world is to "cap and trade" the amount of carbon that can be emitted every year. With this policy, the government sets a hard target for CO2 emissions, and then companies have to trade credits to get back the right to emit that carbon, no longer for free.

One often overlooked fact, though, is that under a "cap and trade" policy, a tremendous amount of money could change hands-the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new value created by such a policy ranges from $50 -- $300 billion each year. So far, public debate has focused on setting targets and caps, but the question of who will benefit from those credits has largely been ignored. In fact, many proposals have simply given these valuable new property rights away to polluters for them to sell to each other, because they were the ones who were polluting to begin with.

Under an important variant of the "cap and trade" policy called "cap and auction," the government not only limits the total carbon emissions, but it also captures the value of those carbon credits for public purposes by requiring that all polluters must bid for and buy back the right to emit. A 100-percent auction of permits would give the public ready access to the ongoing funds we will need to reinvest in social equity and bring down poor people's energy bills, or to support new research, or to launch new projects that not only establish training for green jobs, but create those jobs themselves, rebuilding the infrastructure of our communities for a clean energy economy.

However, there can be a lot of slippage between the green economy and green jobs that actually go to workers of color, especially in today's anti-affirmative action context. In one pilot program, nearly two dozen young people of color were trained to install solar panels, but only one got a job. Ultimately, employers can't be told who to hire, though there are some ideas about providing incentives, like requiring companies to show they hire locally and diversely before public institutions will invest their assets there.

"Green for All," the campaign launched in September 2007 by the Ella Baker Center and other partners like Sustainable South Bronx and the Apollo Alliance, is currently among the leading advocates pushing for policy that would ensure a racially just framework for green economics to grow and flourish, without which, green economics can end up being just a greening consumption. With a goal to bring green-collar jobs to urban areas, this campaign positions itself as an effort to provide a viable policy framework for emerging grassroots, green economic models. The campaign's long-term goal is to secure $1 billion by 2012 to create "green pathways out of poverty" for 250,000 people by greatly expanding federal government and private sector commitments to green-collar jobs.

"A big chunk of the African-American community is economically stranded," Van Jones said in The New York Times last fall as the campaign began. "The blue-collar, stepping-stone, manufacturing jobs are leaving. And they're not being replaced by anything. So you have this whole generation of young Blacks who are basically in economic free fall."

The challenge of making the green economy racially equitable means addressing the question of how to build an infrastructure that includes not just training programs but also the development of actual good jobs and the hiring policies that make them accessible. How can we guarantee that all these new green jobs will go to local residents? As one activist admitted, "There's just no good answer to this so far."

Many of the answers will have to come in the doing, and the details, as green industry continues to take shape. There are plenty of ideas about how to create equitable policies, as outlined in the report "Community Jobs in the Green Economy" by the Apollo Alliance and Urban Habitat. They include requiring employers who receive public subsidies to set aside a number of jobs for local residents and partner with workforce intermediaries to hire them. Some cities are already requiring developers to reserve 50 percent of their construction jobs for local businesses and residents. Cities can also attach wage standards to their deals with private companies that are pegged to a living wage. In Milwaukee, after two freeway ramps were destroyed downtown, a coalition of community activists and unions won a community benefits agreement from the city to require that the new development include mass transit, green building and living wages for those jobs.

As we have learned in many progressive struggles, communities need to be mobilized and actively involved in generating inclusive policies and pushing policymakers to ensure that green economic development will be just and equitable. Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-author of Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, says the green economy movement is still in its early stages of building public support. "There is not yet an organized constituency representing the human face of what it means to face climate change. There is an urgent need for a human face, an equity constituency, to enter into the national debate on climate change."

Omar Freilla, founder of Green Worker Cooperative, an organization that actively promotes worker-owned and ecofriendly manufacturing jobs to the South Bronx, is convinced that democracy begins at the workplace where many of us as workers and employees spend most of our time. "The environmental justice movement has been about people taking control of their own communities," he says. "Those most impacted by a problem are also the ones leading the hunt for a solution."

Environmental racism is rooted in a dirty energy economy, a reckless linear model that terminates with the dumping of toxins and wastes in poor communities of color that have the least access to political power to change this linear path to destruction.

Defining and then refining green economics as a way to steer it toward bigger change is at the root of understanding the socio-political and economic possibilities of this moment.

Van Jones calls for a historic approach, one that considers the world economy in stages of refinement. "Green capitalism is not the final stage of human development, any more than gray capitalism was. There will be other models and other advances-but only if we survive as a species. But we have to recognize that we are at a particular stage of history, where the choices are not capitalism versus socialism, but green/eco-capitalism versus gray/suicide capitalism. The first industrial revolution hurt both people and the planet, very badly. Today, we do have a chance to create a second 'green' industrial revolution, one that will produce much better ecological outcomes. Our task is to ensure that this green revolution succeeds-and to ensure that the new model also generates much better social outcomes. I don't know what will replace eco-capitalism. But I do know that no one will be here to find out, if we don't first replace gray capitalism."

The people most affected by the injustices of the polluting economy are already helping to lead the way, and it's business at its most unusual.

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always want to defend peace, justice, peoples' right to love each other and live with dignity,struggles against parochial visions and hatred;instinctively a defender of socialist and democratic values  

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