[wisehat] Wise Hat News #7

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  • Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2004 23:58:49 +0900

Wise Hat News #7
24 March 2004

The online version will be available at:

1. Happy Birthday
2. Unhappy Anniversary
3. Sticky Commemoration
4. What's Missing?
5. Dissolving Doldrums
6. Administrivia


I'm 43 years old today. If I remember correctly, and if I were a hobbit I
should be presenting you with a gift. Unlike humans, hobbits give on their
birthdays, rather than receive. If I remember correctly. It's years ago
since I read "The Lord of the Rings". Either way the idea of giving on one's
birthday is an interesting idea. Unfortunately, I have naught for thee now,
save a few words and a few links.

I had such plans at the beginning of the year. I was going to completely
renew the Wise Hat site. I was going to give it a completely fresh look, add
new material and present it in a new way. Oh yes, I had plans. And I planned
to complete them by the end of March. Well that's a week a way and I say
with confidence that a week won't be enough. Some how my initial enthusiasm
and resolve found themselves on the opposite arms of the seesaw of life.
When one was up the other was down. And like the Grand Old Duke of York's
ten thousand men I've been marching around and getting no where. Well not
completely nowhere. I've been trolling through the shadows and wallowing in
the doldrums. But at least I know why and I hope the knowledge will prove
beneficial to you, too.
Hang on a minute, I have a few candles to blow out.



"The Road Goes Ever On And On
Down From The Door Where It Began
Now Far Ahead The Road Is Gone
And I Must Follow If I Can
Pursuing It With Eager Feet
Until It Meets Some Larger Way
Where Many A Path and Errand Meet
And Whither Then I Cannot Say"

March 20th was the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and was a day of
action and protest around the World. I had lunch at Royal Host and went
shopping. This wasn't what I intended, but it was what happened. I ended up
doing nothing except making myself ill through guilt. This began a few days
after St Valentine's Day Eve. I write eve, rather than day because the eve
is the date when Allied forces bombed Dresden. The British set out to create
a firestorm and succeeded. Who needs modern-day weapons of mass destruction
when one has technique? Before the Second World War began bombing civilians
was considered obscene, akin to using poison gas. On the outbreak of war in
Europe in 1939 Roosevelt wrote an open letter warning against the bombing of
civilians [1]. The gassing that took place in the concentration camps is
rightly considered murder. But the deliberate bombing of civilians was not
condemned at Nuremberg. Instead it became known as collateral damage and an
instrument of policy that has been practised to this day. In the minds of
the military planners civilians are legitimate targets. The targeting of
infrastructure is the targeting of civilians. The use of cluster bombs
targets civilians. The strategy of 'shock and awe' essentially puts
civilians into the same category as soldiers [2].

Do the majority of civilians accept the idea that civilians are legitimate
military targets? It seems that they do. Otherwise this Saturday wouldn't
the streets have been blotted out under the feet of the protestors? Wouldn't
Tony Blair be sitting in some prison cell keeping Milosovic company at the
Hague (I'm assuming Milsovic is behind bars, I don't actually know). Wouldn'
t Bush be joining Clinton in impeachment, charged with crimes against the
people of Iraq rather than lying about sex? Wouldn't Israel be facing real
pressure to get out of the occupied territories and pull down its wall?
Where is the mutual understanding? Where is the solidarity? Stupid questions
I guess.

I've mixed up various issues in my last paragraph. But sometimes I feel that
things that should be simple and obvious get obscured by narrow rational
objectivity and self-interest.

On Saturday, I drove the forty odd minutes from Gosen where I live into
Niigata. I was looking for a Peace demonstration I'd read about. Parking is
difficult (the trains sparse) which is why I used Royal Host. It was in the
vicinity. The demonstration turned out to be a man with a loudspeaker
transmitting from a van parked by the side of the road and a few more men
handing out leaflets. The leaflet was against the war in Iraq. It mentioned
the number of US soldiers killed and the killing of Japanese diplomats but
failed to mention civilian casualties. It also questioned the sending of
Japanese Special Defence Force troops as unconstitutional and the financial
costs of being involved. It provided some information but gave no
suggestions for action.

Nearby, there was a woman handing out leaflets promoting a contact lens
shop. People passed by generally screening out both.

Has peace no more value than a discount coupon?

I think it is easy to be fooled into thinking that marching and leafleting
is doing something, is making change, is effective. But as Pattrice Jones
writes in her article '"Let's Put on a Show!" Spectacle versus Reality in
the US Peace Movement' such activities are in danger of doing more harm than
good [3]. In themselves such activities won't bring about change. Especially
in modern society where spectacle and image so often define reality. We
march. We leaflet. We capture the images on video and in photographs. We see
ourselves on TV and on the World Wide Web. We pat ourselves on the back for
a job well done. We've played our part. And yet the people die. The bombs
continue to fall. The bombs continue to explode, as do the buildings and the
bodies. What we are doing to stop it isn't enough. We need more. We need a

Why is it so difficult? Why is it so difficult?


** All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost. **

Fifteen years ago the Exxon Valdez spilled its black guts, contaminating
more than 3,200 miles of shoreline. Even now ExxonMobil, unlike other oil
companies, have avoided double-hulling their tankers. Of the 5
billion-dollar punitive damages awarded against them ExxonMobil has yet to
pay a cent to local fisherman and native communities. [4]

I never realised this had happened on my birthday.

I think the reason that Prince William Sound is still contaminated and the
reason that civilians find themselves military targets is linked to a common
factor, the idea that making profit is acceptable. We live in a world where
profits are put before people, where profits are put before life.

Taking action is important. Marching, demonstrating and leafleting can raise
awareness of issues and help build solidarity. They can put some pressure on
governments, but as the anarchist slogan goes, "no matter who you vote for,
the government gets elected". We need to look closely at our values. We need
to change our economic behaviour. We need to create economic systems that
stop rewarding anti-social behaviour. We need to put our money where we say
our hearts are. And if not our money, our time and energy.


** It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you
live near him. **

I guess most people know that Bill Gates is the richest man in the World. I
wonder how many people know which is the richest family. Between them the
Waltons have over 100 billion dollars. They own Walmart. In the book 'No
Logo' [5], Naomi Kleine, discusses the strategy that helped Walmart to grow
big. Unlike the more recent Starbucks, that uses a cluster approach to kill
off competition (saturating a given area until Starbucks shops start taking
profits from each other), Walmart adopted a one foot forward approach.
Starting in Arkansas slowly, but surely, Walmart crept across the United
States, more or less one state at a time. From what I've read (unfortunately
I lost the link) Walmart have plans to dominate the World one continent at a

Why am I mentioning this? Because I wonder if activists, people who would
like to create a more equitable world can do the same. Not the idea of
dominating the World, but the idea of taking tiny, but certain steps.

There's an interesting movie and book called 'Pay It Forward'. The idea is
that every person should do a big favour for three different people. The
favours should be something that the individuals can't do for themselves. In
turn each then does favours for three others and so the favours ripple
across the community and eventually the country.

I tend to agree with the Rangzen Alliance (a movement to Free Tibet) that
Direct Economic Action is "the only effective weapon we have at present"
[6]. Since our economic systems are based on making profit, only by
threatening profit can we hope to induce change. By learning how to do this
perhaps we can also start looking at economic systems that do without
profit. The Boycott Bush Network the Wise Hat top page links to has
identified six companies to boycott. If we combined the idea from 'Pay It
Forward' to the idea of this boycott the boycott could grow quickly. If
every person who took up the boycott decided to co-opt three others the
possibility of creating pressure would become real. It wouldn't even take
three others, just one would be enough.

I'm really wondering about this. A kind of "Pass it On" Boycott.


** He who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of
wisdom. **

This is the section where I give links to new the new material that's been
added to the site. I'm due at work in 15 minutes and I'm determined to post
this today. So these links will have to wait. Look out for a supplement in a
couple of days.


Way back at the beginning I mentioned doldrums. Not only had I been sailing
them, I'd run aground. The horizon of my birthday had caused me to focus on
what I was not doing and what I had failed to do. I need to admit my timing
has been off. There was so much I intended to write for this newsletter but
I didn't write when it was fresh. Instead I was occupied with completing my
renewal plans. I squandered my interest and my productivity by focusing on
results rather than creation from spontaneity. In part I was putting off
until another day the ease and satisfaction of working in the now.

At Walmart they have the Sundown Rule. This is a reminder to complete what
can be done before the sun goes down. A variation on never put off until
tomorrow what one can do today. Walmart focus especially on custom service.
I'm not thinking about self-service or indulgence I'm focusing more on the
idea of intuition and flexibility.

I've had a hard time getting this newsletter out, ramshackle as it is,
because I put off doing it when the time was right. My website plans, my
lesson plans and my game plans lie incomplete because I tried to force my
creations to a timetable. Other people may be able to do this, but after 43
years it's about time I recognised my self.

I don't work that way.

So my birthday gift to myself is to give up planning from ego and to stop
placing expectations upon myself. Rather than this I'm going to practising
following my intuition and my own sense of joy. This may make me more
idiosyncratic, but so is it.

I'm wrapping this up now even though I never got near the process of
applying this to ideas about teaching and learning. That will follow when it
's ready.
So that's it as my birthday ticks away. This newsletter has been too
sporadic, or perhaps not sporadic enough.

Read this space.

** All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.**


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** Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you
give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends. **

(Quotes this issue by J. R. Tolkein)

Reference Links:

[1] International Law on the Bombing of Civilians

[2] Shock and Awe Achieving Rapid Dominance by Harlan K. Ullman and James P.

[2] Shock & Awe: Is Baghdad the Next Hiroshima? commentary by Ira Chernus

[3] '"Let's Put on a Show!" Spectacle versus Reality in the US Peace
Movement' by Pattrice Jones http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0317-13.htm

[4] payupexxon. org http://www.redzone.org/payupexxon/v2/home.htm

[4] Exxon Myths/Sound Facts Video Presentation http://www.payupexxon.org

[4] Not another Valdez Flash Video http://www.notanothervaldez.com

[5] No LogoSite http://www.nologo.org/

[5] The Walmart You don't Know

[5] `Low Hanging Fruit' by George Monbiot http://www.monbiot.com

[6] Direct Economic Action http://www.rangzen.net/eng/dea/index.html

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