Posts Tagged ‘grassroots’
by stuartbramhall in Feminism, Inspiring Moments in Resistance
“Selling Books” recently did a fantastic interview about my young adult novel The Battle for Tomorrow: a Fable
Tell us something about yourself:
I’m a 63 year old, recently retired child and adolescent psychiatrist, single mother and activist, who emigrated to New Zealand 8 ½ years ago after being targeted by the FBI for my political activities. I write about this in my 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee. I was born and grew up in Milwaukee and raised my own family in Seattle. I have been writing for nearly 25 years and presently serve on the National Executive of the New Zealand Green Party.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have always had in mind to write two novels: the first would explore how real political change comes about and the second how young women become conscious of subtle oppression in their relationships with men. In 2009, it suddenly occurred to me that by making my main character a teenager I could combine the two in one book. Since 2005, my clinical work has focused almost exclusively on teenagers, which gives me unique insight into the difficulties they face in contemporary society. Age discrimination is a biggie, especially in the US. In most parts of the world, teenagers are allowed to leave home, work and live independently at age 16. In some countries, they even vote at 16.
How did you choose the title?
It came to me as I was writing that teenagers should have as much right to a future (a “tomorrow”) as their parents and grandparents. However unfortunately this right is no longer automatic. With the total unwillingness of US political leaders to address catastrophic global warming (or catastrophic food and water shortages) or the major lifestyle changes necessary to prevent these occurrences. This means that teenagers will probably have to fight really hard to even have a future.
(go to http://www.sellingbooks.com/dr-stuart-jeanne-bramhall-the-battle-for-tomorrow/ for complete interview)
Available in soft cover from Amazon for $18.95 (new) or $13.81 (used)
or as ebook (all formats) for $5.99 from http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/51531
by stuartbramhall in End of Capitalism, Sustainability, The Wars in the Middle East
“Teen fights for equality in power-packed novel”
My new book (a novel) went up on Amazon today. It’s about a sixteen-year-old girl who participates in the blockade and occupation of the US Capitol.
As the story begins, Angela Jones is the primary caretaker of her invalid mother. Having taken on the responsibilities of an adult, she is still treated as a child by law. A 23-year-old political activist opens her eyes to the urgent issues facing humanity, including the sinking economy and catastrophic climate change, problems that will have devastating consequences for Ange’s future.
Ange is arrested during the protest and winds up in a juvenile detention facility. While there, she finds herself fighting for the right to live independently, in opposition to laws that require her to be released to a parent or guardian.
Living overseas has really highlighted for me the massive age discrimination experienced by US teenagers. In most developed countries the school leaving age is 16, also the age when most working class youths get full time jobs and move into their own flats and apartments. In many countries, sixteen-year-olds (as full fledged taxpayers) are allowed to vote. I blog about this at http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/07/17/election-2010-lowering-the-voting-age/
I suspect The Battle for Tomorrow will be controversial because it talks frankly about teen sexuality, contraception and abortion. Americans don’t believe in talking about sex to teenagers, which may be the reason the US has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 43% of girls and 39% of boys have had sex by age 18 (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_024.pdf).
Here’s hoping The Battle for Tomorrow will be the 21st century Catcher in the Rye, only the hero is a sexually active female and the action takes place in the streets of Washington DC.
To celebrate my new book, I am offering a 2 for 1 offer (expires May 14th) – a free ebook version of The Battle for Tomorrow with purchase of new, used or ebook version of my memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee. Email receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org for coupon code for a free download.
Links for The Most Revolutionary Act
(winner of 2011 Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award):
New and used soft cover from $13: Amazon
Links for The Battle for Tomorrow
softcover $18.95: www.thebattlefortomorrow.com
ebook (all formats) $5.99: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/51531
Link to audio file of Battle for Tomorrow (Chap 1)
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, Mind Control and Disinformation
My last blog was about the five memes or psychological messages that discourage Americans from joining with co-workers, neighbors and other community members to fight the business and corporate interests that negatively impact so many aspects of our lives. These paralyzing messages, which bombard us constantly via TV, movies, newspapers, magazines and billboards, have become so pervasive that many of us unconsciously incorporate them into our belief systems. Moreover, even when we become conscious that we are being “brainwashed,” it requires constant vigilance to keep them from creeping into our thinking. In my own case, I have specific counter messages or mantras I repeat to myself to dispel them, a technique I learned from cognitive behavioral training:
1. The taboo against being “workers” or “working class”
Counter message: Persuading American workers to think of themselves as “middle class” is a trick the government and media play on us to make us think our interests are the same as those of the middle class and ruling elite. No one, except for the power elite and the politicians, managers and professions who look after their interests, is safe in the current economic and political environment. Anyone who works for the government or corporate boss is a “worker.” Because, unless they belong to a union, their employer wields all the power in deciding whether to pay them enough to live on and/or to provide decent working conditions (in 2002, I myself had the privilege of joining the New Zealand union, Association of Salaried Medical Specialists).
2. American workers have it better than workers elsewhere in the world
Counter message: American workers have it far worse than most industrialized countries, including Egypt (only 41 – out of 133 – countries have worse income inequality http://www.blogforarizona.com/blog/2011/02/mouth-dropping-data-on-us-income-inequality-ranking.html ). In the US, the average CEO makes 263 times as much as the average worker (http://www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/paywatch/pay/). American workers also have far worse quality of life in terms of public services. All other developed countries guarantee all their citizens universal health care and basic education (which is no longer guaranteed in the US), subsidized child care, paid parental leave and a living wage.
3. Protesting and striking hurts our kids.
Counter message: Americans have a higher obligation to leave their kids a planet run by true democracy, in which they still have some chance of providing clean food, water and air (free of toxic pollutants and infectious disease) for their own children and grandchildren.
4. Corporate controlled government and media are too powerful for ordinary people to bring about change.
Counter message: The most powerful antidote to alienation and apathy is the empowerment that comes from engaging (if only with neighbors over a dangerous intersection) in collective political activity.
5. Americans need to leave politics and economics to politicians.
Counter message: No politician in history has sacrificed his own interests or those of his supporters to undertake reforms benefiting ordinary people – without being forced to by the mass mobilization of dedicated, well-organized citizens.
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class, Things That Aren't What They Seem
The end of January marked my one year anniversary blogging. I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that blogging would be the main event of my sixties. When my publisher first suggested it, I thought blogging was something only young people did. That a blog was a public diary that announced to the world what you had for breakfast and what movies and bands you liked. I also had no idea that blogging would lead to on-line relationships with other bloggers of all ages – some even older than I was.
While I still struggle to think of anything earth shattering to blog about, I am coming to recognize the unique perspective I enjoy as one of seven million Americans living overseas. I have recently begun a new book, a collection of essays, about my new life in New Zealand and how it affects my view of my native country. The following is from the introduction, which attempts to describe the mindset that led to my decision to emigrate.
Vietnam, Watergate and My First Attempt to Emigrate
When I finally left the US in October 2002, I had been thinking of emigrating for many years. I had even made a prior attempt to live overseas. In June 1973, I shipped all my belongings to England, intending to start a new life there. Many Americans of my generation left the US in the early seventies, for Canada, Europe and more remote parts of the world. Most were draft-age men afraid of being sent to Vietnam. A few were women involved in illegal abortion clinics that sprang up before the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision officially legalized pregnancy termination. Many were artists and intellectuals like me, disillusioned by the extreme political corruption that was exposed by the Pentagon Papers and the Washington Post coverage of Watergate, CIA domestic spying and Nixon’s apparent use of US intelligence for his own political purposes.
In 1973, I myself was totally apolitical, and my decision to leave the US had very little to do with Vietnam or Watergate. My disillusionment stemmed more from watching rampant consumerism overtake the humanist values I had grown up with – the strong family ties, deep friendships and involvement in neighborhood and community life that were so important to my parents’ and grandparents’ generation.
During my eighteen month stay in England, it was deeply gratifying to meet people in London and Birmingham who could care less about owning “stuff” they saw advertised on TV. People who still placed much higher value on extended family, close friendships and the sense of belonging they derived from their local pub, their church or union, or neighborhood sports clubs, hobby groups, and community halls – which had all virtually disappeared in the US.
The Murder that Turned My Life Upside Down
A downturn in the British economy in late 1974 forced me to return to the US to complete my psychiatric training. While I never abandoned my dream of living overseas, my time in Europe had politicized me. I still scanned still scanned the back pages of medical journals for foreign psychiatric vacancies. However in my spare time, I also joined grassroots community organizations seeking to improve political and social conditions in the US.
For many years, believing Nixon was an aberration, I was naively optimistic about the ability of community organizing to thwart the corrupting influence of powerful corporations over federal, state and local government. It never occurred to me the institutions of power themselves were deeply corrupt and had been for many years.
As I in write in The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee, the truth came crashing down on me in 1987, when I became part of a movement to create a Seattle African American museum. Owing to my financial and social standing as a physician, this struck a raw nerve somewhere in the power elite. Suddenly I was barraged with prank and threatening calls at all hours of the day and night, while unsavory looking strangers stalked me and tried to run me down with their vehicles.
Despite the extreme turmoil this systematic harassment and intimidation caused my family, it was the 1989 murder of one of my patients, an African American postal worker and union activist, that turned my world upside down. The brutal murder – the autopsy photos revealing that Oscar was beaten before he was thrown from the fifth floor of the Seattle YMCA – was upsetting enough. However the event that opened my eyes to the total depravity of the American political system was the seizure of the police evidence file – essentially shutting down the homicide investigation – by a little known branch of US intelligence known as the Postal Inspectors.
To be continued
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Much of the work that went into the Voluntary Simplicity and Y2K movements (see prior blogs) has been incorporated into Transition Towns and other sustainability-related movements. There are now literally millions of groups worldwide focused on some aspect of bioregional sustainability. The most visible evidence of their success are the blossoming of home veggie gardens, urban community gardens and orchards and farmers’ markets; the 1,040 cities and towns (nearly 1/3 of the US population) which have signed onto the Kyoto accord; and the 125 communities voting to place citizens’ above corporate rights (see http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan2011kanner).
One of the most important factors in this success is the ability of the sustainability movement to address apathy and alienation head-on, by reengaging people in neighborhood and community life. For many people, local civic engagement leads on to re-engagement in the political process. I would never argue that progressives should focus on local community building to the exclusion of critically needed government reforms. Corporate lobbies still have the ability to overturn local and state laws in the courts by claiming that they violate alleged constitutional rights. Thus organizing to end so-called constitutional protections for corporations (which clearly run contrary to the intent of the founding fathers) – either through federal legislation or constitutional amendment (www.movetoamed.org) must be an extremely high priority. At the same time, I see the neighborhood and community sustainability networks playing a pivotal role in building strong grassroots lobbies to tackle banking reform, restoring of civil liberties or ending the wars in the Middle East.
The Basics of Sustainability Organizing
Sustainability-related work can be broken down into concrete, achievable steps, which also lends to its appeal. In preparing for the End of the World as We Know it, Y2K activists predicted local communities would need to prepare for breakdowns in the following services:
- Global commerce (food imports being the most crucial)
- Water and energy utilities
- Waste removal systems
- Telecommunications, Internet and mass media
- Financial institutions
- Transportation systems
- Governance and government services
- Health Care
- Institutions and agencies responsible for education, justice, manufacturing and security
In most places, organizers have found it easiest to begin with food, water and energy security – in part because they are most critical to human survival. However the bioregional economic network established as a first step in addressing food, water and energy security can also be used to prepare for breakdowns in other systems. For 99.9% of human existence people have relied on a bioregional economic model in which they have sourced the vast majority of their food and other essentials for life within a 100 mile radius. The process of re-creating this network is very helpful in learning to shift our thinking away from relying on national and multinational corporations to meet our needs.
Although the sustainability movement receives little attention in the mainstream media, it has it has been quietly building for nearly two decades – often with the support of state and local government (it receives the most state support in California). In Europe it receives national and EU support. The following is just a small snapshot of local accomplishments around energy, food and water security.
FOOD AND WATER SECURITY
- Increased local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, as industrial fertilizers and insecticides (manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive.
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens. In addition to improving food security, this restores watersheds by reducing run-off, a major threat to water security in the industrial world.
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and veggie gardens.
- Support of local farmers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture Schemes (in which residents “subscribe” to weekly deliveries of fresh veggies and fruit).
- Neighborhood and municipal systems of rainwater collection and purification and gray water collection
- Adoption of active run-off management plans, in which lost groundwater is measured and minimized in development planning – and replaced, for example via the Blue Alternative (in which groundwater is replaced by digging small catchment pools in open spaces).
- Reduced fossil fuel dependence in transportation:
o Beginning work to create local consumer-farmer/consumer-retailer networks, including state and locally owned banks, credit unions and cooperatives. Given that local businesses struggle to compete (their costs and prices tend to be higher) with national and multinational corporations, this can be facilitated via the creation of local barter systems (example from Greece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12223068) and/or local currencies, such as Ithaca hours, that can only be spent locally.
o Community and municipal initiatives to increase public and active transport (cycling and walking) through urban planning that incorporates growth management and sprawl reduction, creation of urban villages where residents live closer to essential services, and restricted permiting of malls and big box retailers (Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia are excellent examples).
o Community and neighborhood street reclaiming initiatives to make streets safer for people to use cars less and walk and cycle more.
o Increased uptake of car sharing schemes, employing efficient electric or hybrid vehicles or those run on regionally produced biomass fuels.
- Reduced home/business fossil fuel dependence:
o State, local and power company subsidies for home insulation schemes and solar water heaters.
o Subsidies and reduced permit fees for Green Building (buildings purpose-built to be energy/water/waste self-sufficient).
o State and local regulations and subsidies (as per German model) to increase distributed energy systems based on alternate energy sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc).
o Active promotion of Open Source computer and information technology.