Symbols of Whats Right in the World
By Claudette Silver
Yes indeed, it is way too easy to point out whats wrong in the
world. Anyone working toward a sustainable future knows what I am talking
about. The world is awash with toxic waste, slave labor, and issues
of racism, classism, sexism and speciesism
I could go on and on,
but in this article, I wont. This article is meant to be an indulgent
account of ten things that make the world okay.
Why is it so hard at times to focus on the positive? For one thing,
we have all been raised with media teaching us that, If it bleeds,
it leads. So car crashes, sex scandals, disease and war are what
we have learned to accept as news. I have heard the logic asserting
that the media presents news this way because its what we want.
If we didnt want it, some say, they wouldnt give it to us
this way. I think its simply what we have gotten used toand
why so many of us have tuned out, burned out, or buried our heads in
the sand as a way to deal.
Its true, feeling down does no goodnot for you, nor the
animals, nor the situation you are hoping to change. I am reminded of
the words of Dorothy Day, peace activist and co-founder of the Catholic
Worker Movement: No one has the right to feel down and hopeless,
she said, Theres too much work to do. Sometimes its
pretty hard to recognize, but positive things are happening, my friends.
We are making progress. Take a lookand make your own list.
Okay, in no particular order, my Top Ten Symbols of Whats Right
in the World:
Women in Black
This incredible group of peace activists began in 1988 during the first
Palestinian Intifada, with a small group of Israeli women who wore
black and held signs that read Stop the Occupation. Since
then, Women in Black have expanded to several countries and now encompass
many issues in addition to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
I cant imagine saying this any better, so straight from their
Web site: The Women in Black stand in silent vigil to protest
war, rape as a tool of war, ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses
all over the world. We are silent because mere words cannot express
the tragedy that wars and hatred bring. We refuse to add to the cacophony
of empty statements that are spoken with the best intentions yet may
be erased or go unheard under a passing ambulance or the wound of a
bomb exploding nearby.
Women in Black hold silent vigils around the world every week. Check
their Web site for activities in your area: www.igc.org/balkans/wib.
If you havent seen this movie from last year starring Ben Stiller,
put this magazine down and run to your video store. It is ridiculously
funny with a biting commentary on the American fashion world and the
sweatshop conditions that make the industry thrive. Based on the sketch
Derek Zoolander, Male Model that Stiller performed at the 1996 VH1 Fashion
Awards, this movie typifies the absolutely vacuous nature of high fashion.
Though I dont think any anti-globalization groups used this movie
to its fullestit was released shortly after September 11it
is an example of how we can seize pop culture to draw attention to issues
were already working on. I wont give away any more of the
plot, but if you appreciate good satire, you will probably laugh yourself
According to the 2000 Census, white Americans are no longer the majority
in California. As someone who is part of the 46.7 percent white populace
in the Golden State, I am here to say hallelujah. Yes, perhaps I am
being selfish and like to be on the cutting edge of things, but the
multiracial society we are becoming is unprecedented, and its
right in front of us, folks. Make no mistake, I am not sitting here
humming We Are the World or Kumbayawe
are up for a huge challenge to learn how to coexist and thrive in this
complex arena, and our track record isnt so hot. With the internment
of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during WWII, Cesar Chavezs
fight to organize and protect farm workers and the L.A. riots all within
recent memory, we must proceed with care. Heres hoping that California
can become a model of true power sharing, self-sufficiency and sustainability
for other parts of the country.
This group is a true delight for any woman or girl wanting to learn
to ride the surf. I came across the Surf Divas a couple summers ago
in San Diego. My first thought as I felt the wave beneath my belly
was Wow, I see why people get hooked on this. The gals at Surf
Diva also conduct surf clinics for teenage girlsand what better
way to build self-confidence than to learn how to ride the crest of
a wave! They offer lessons year-round and hold special workshops several
times a year in Mexico. Contact Surf Diva at (858) 454-8273 or visit www.surfdiva.com.
The West Wing
Here is a bit of trivia for those of you who dont live in San
Francisconowadays, only folks with cable can watch NBC. In January
of this year, NBC in San Francisco switched affiliate stations and now
broadcasts from about 35 miles away. Luckily, our cable providers pointed
out that all one needs is cable to get the new station. (Oops, this
was supposed to be a positive article with no cynicismsorry!)
I am the sort of person who will probably never get cable now just on
principle, so The West Wing goes on without me. Sigh. The good news
is that regardless of whether I watch or not, it still sits high atop
the ratings. Take an episode from April that addressed the problem of
nuclear waste storage. Said President Bartlett, played by activist/actor
Martin Sheen: We pack this stuff in two inches of stainless steel,
four inches of lead. Weve rammed it with trains and dropped it
from helicopters and it still isnt going to protect us from the
thing we havent thought of. I dont know about you,
but I would love to have a president who thought like this. Overnight
ratings showed that this episode of The West Wing was the most watched
show at 9 p.m., drawing 17.3 million viewers. Those of you lucky enough
to still get NBC for free, please think of me when you watch, okay?
Whenever I need a reminder that integrity and self-sufficiency can thrive
within the music business, all I have to do is listen to anything put
out by the D.C. label Dischord, and I remember. This year marks their
20th anniversary, and Dischord continues to kick ass despite the pervasive
expanse of corporate music. From Ian MacKaye of Dischord Records:
In the early 90s there was a sudden and intense interest
in underground and independent music...Fugazi, the band that I started
with Brendan [Canty] and Guy [Picciotto] (from Rites of Spring) and
Joe Lally in 1988 was one of the largest in the underground, and soon
attracted the interests of many major labels. The bands decision
to remain on Dischord led to offers from the majors to buy the entire
label, but selling it was never even a consideration. We understood
the value of self-determination, and because the label was so well established
we werent faced with the same circumstances as many other bands
and labels at that time
Because we have tried to approach the label as a mission of documentation
as well as a community-based entity, we have managed to avoid many
the industry-standard practices. The fact that we are able to help
support the people who work for us as well as pay royalties to the
to be proof that such an approach is possible.
Fugazi still performs for $5 only at all-age venues, charges ten bucks
for their CDs, and has never sold T-shirts or any other promotional
items. For those of you who have never had the thrill of listening to
Fugazi or any of the other bands supported by Dischord, check out their
Web site at www.dischord.com.
I just conducted a search for the word vegan on one of the
more popular Internet search engines. What an incredible tool. In .08
seconds, I came up with approximately 449,000 pages. Stop and think
about that for a minute. Thats half a million pages that mention
something about veganism. You can order vegan goodies online, find cruelty-
and sweatshop-free shoes and learn everything you ever wanted to know
about how tempeh is made. My personal favorite is the Dr. Bronners
home page where you can actually download a PDF file with one of their
famous All-One soap labels.
Did you know that the technology currently exists to run a diesel engine
on discarded vegetable oil? Biodiesel is the generic name for an alternative,
liquid fuel produced from renewable resources, typically vegetable oil.
The most popular method of making this alternative fuel is to blend
20 percent biodiesel with 80 percent petroleum diesel, a mixture known
as B20. Although this ratio makes driving in the winter a problem because
vegetable oil congeals in cold weather, biodiesel is already common
in Europe and its use is now growing in the U.S. According to the National
Biodiesel Board, nine states are considering laws that would require
a mix of two percent biodiesel in all diesel fuel sold, and more than
100 government and municipal fleets use it to run vehicles.
For more information, contact the non-profit environmental organization
Chewonki at (207) 882-7323 or visit their Web site at www.chewonki.org.
Rents are going down in San Francisco. I recently overheard a friend
talking to her landlord about the two units available in her building.
When she asked what they were going for, her building manager paused. Well, about $1,000 a month, he said, but we are going
to have to lower the rent because we just arent getting offers.
It is the first time I have heard the words lower and rent
in the same sentence. I understand that the economy turning south has
had a lot to do with rents going down, really I do. However, the dot-com
boom was what pushed the prices up to begin with, pushing so many out
of their homes at the same time. With many of those businesses now defunct,
lets hope that people who are earning well below six figures
will have a shot at somewhat affordable housing.
I was so inspired when I heard about this I could hardly sleep. Ever
heard of the Canine Underground Railroad? Paws Across the Northwest?
Helping Hands? All across the country, networks of activists are working
to locate companion animals living in abusive situations or in shelters
that have a kill policy. Once located, then the real work
begins. First, they find a new home through their network. Then theres
the question of how to get the dog homebound. A route is planned, drivers
solicited and the journey begins. Everyday folks actually get in their
cars and drive the dog from point A to point B, where the next activist
drives to the next stop along the road...and so on until the doggie
arrives at his or her new home. What an awesome group of people. Maybe
we can get the biodiesel folks together with the Canine Rescue team.
Now wouldnt that be a real revolution? There are a lot of organizations
out there. For more information, start with the Basset Hound Rescue
at www.dailydrool.com or the
Canine Underground Railroad at www.golden-retriever.com.