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Articles

This version was saved 10 years, 5 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Paul Baker
on May 20, 2010 at 10:00:07 pm
 

 

ECHOES of SILENCE

One Planet. One People. Peace. Justice. Beauty.

http://echoesofsilence-ecosdelsilencio.pbworks.com

 

Thanks for the Chocolates, Guys; now, How about a Planet for the Kids?

Paul Baker Hernández

 

Would you have believed that we’d ever actually be daft enough to sell ourselves pre-faded, pre-torn jeans? Yet, there they are, ‘gracing’ students, barrio kids, housewives, hubbies, TV presenters. It’s ‘fashion’, of course; so that’s all right then.  As an advert promoting a stone to ‘rub on jeans, concentrating on seat and knees for authenticity’(!), noted even in 1986, “It only seems silly you buy new jeans for $20 while jeans that are pre-faded and tattered by stone washing cost $45 plus. But time is money. Getting those pristine denims fashionably faded would take maybe years of hard work.” 

 

    Oh dear. And the pumice?  The water? Genuine individuality? Perhaps one comfort in all this brainwashing is that it shows just what suckers we are. Or, rather more positively, how we can persuade ourselves to do almost anything if we really put our minds, peer pressure, and the occasional ‘celebrity’, to it. So, sparked by a May awash in Mother’s Days, in the Americas at least, here’s something that, while obviously not in the same vibrant league as pumicing one’s pants, still just might be worth considering at this moderately critical juncture of human - planetary - life:-  Why don’t mothers everywhere unite to demand peace (plus a planet) for their children?  

   Blah! Bring on the flying pigs. Yet, post-Copenhagen, it’s obvious that ‘we, the peoples’, have to take the world back into our care; that few of our leaders are capable of actually taking the steps necessary to heal the Earth. And, despite the pitiful less-than-20% female members in our supposedly representative assemblies, the majority of the world’s adult population is actually women.

   Who would have guessed, wading through Hallmark, Interflora and Victoria’s Secret, that the original Mother’s Day had peace – and, to achieve it, women - at its very heart? In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, appalled by the carnage of the US Civil War and seeking to institute what has since deliquesced into our modern Mother’s Day, cried in anguish:

 

“Arise, then, women of this day! …  Say firmly:  ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’  From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.  It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’  

    “Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough ... at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them first meet, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be held to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”   

(Julia Ward Howe, Proclamation, 1870)

 

Entirely unlike the sentimental garbage we endure today then, the first Mother’s Day actually treats women as adults, as men’s equals, as critical actors in history; it’s Mother’s Day for Peace, not for consumerism. Consumerist culture has been trying to bury this subversive legacy in saccharine ever since.  It’s been tragically successful, of course. Here in Nicaragua, with typical impulsive enthusiasm, we’re no longer content with a single Mother’s Day (May 30th), the whole month is now dedicated to soggy tripe; in this land of absent fathers and wayward men, hypocrisy rages and ‘el mes de mama’ is primarily promoted by callous consumerism.

   However, like the stupid jeans and the limp cards, it does tell us something vital:- that, if we truly want to leave a planet for our children rather than a wasteland, we have to get at least as serious as the stone-washers, the fashion dictators, and the Hallmark versifiers. Making peace can no longer be confined to occasional ‘days’, or even months. If ever there was a dream to dream, a time to seize, a peace to imagine, this is it. The Earth and all our children beg women everywhere to stand up and cry out – Mum´s Day or Monday, today and every day: “Thanks for the chocolates, guys; now, how about a planet for the kids?”  And we men, properly to enable our own vital contribution, must seek out the women (and the children), not just with chocolates and flowers on their occasional days but all day, every day; must offer them genuine listening and respect; must try to grasp and act on their profound perspectives as primary life-givers/sustainers in the present and bearers of life into the future. It may take two to tango, today our very survival desperately needs the whole of humanity to dance – and to dream – together.

   And the flying pigs? In Pasternak’s ‘Dr. Zhivago’, he and his family are heading for Central Russia, by train, in an overwhelming snowstorm. The train finally bogs down; eveyone gets to shovel, one group here, another further on, another up the hill … hopeless. “But suddenly,” he exclaims, “the walls of snow between the groups came down and they saw the line flying into the distance like an arrow. And, seeing their numbers for the first time, they were amazed how many they were.” That’s us, folks. Now, how does the tango go again?

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Please sign the “We. The Peoples, Call for Water Not War” petition on www.Care2Care.org petitions and /or www.change.org – To learn about the Water not War campaign, share comments, request presentations, etc., please write Paul on echoespaul@tortillaconsal.com – Thank you.

__________________________________

 

When not on music/speaking tour with his creaky old ‘green guitar’, offering news and analysis, singing the wonderful songs of Víctor Jara or original ditties about Starbucks and mobiles/cellphones, Paul digs eco-drains in Managua, Nicaragua, and supports his wife Fátima del Rosario Hernández Chavarria, in her work with the Nicaraguan Community Movement health and education projects. He and the guitar plan to be on tour in the UK in October.

 

Bluewashing: The Truth Behind Bottled Water

 

posted by Mel, selected from Food & Water Watch Mar 22, 2010 7:01 am

 

For every liter of water that goes into a plastic bottle of water, two liters of water were used to make the plastic bottle and bottle the water. This eye-opening fact and others were published today in a new report from Food & Water Watch entitled, Why the Bottled Water Industry’s EcoFriendly Claims Don’t Hold Water.

In 1993, the United Nations established March 22 as World Water Day to focus on global water problems, but recently, the event has become hijacked by bottled water companies. The International Bottled Water Association in its press release titled World Water Day: Where Bottled Water Fits In said that “Bottled water is a healthy beverage that is produced by an industry with an outstanding tradition of environmental stewardship, protection and sustainability.” The American Beverage Association, with members such as The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Nestle Waters North America, said it “commends World Water Day and efforts to improve water resources and sanitation throughout the world.” Nestle Waters North America issued its own statement “Supporting World Water Day and Beyond.” These companies cite their donations to water charities or efforts to reduce the amount of water that they use in their production as evidence of the leadership role that they are playing in addressing the world water crisis. Yet these activities serve as a distraction from the water problems associated with the product—a prime example of corporate bluewashing.

Key Facts

  • Spring water used for bottled water comes from environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Groundwater pumping can cause water levels to decline both underground and in surrounding lakes, rivers and streams.
  • As long as water bottlers profit from water, they have no financial incentive to reduce their total water consumption.
  • Tap water has the lowest water footprint and the lowest carbon footprint of any beverage.
  • In 2007, bottled water production in the United States used the energy equivalent of 32 to 54 million barrels of oil—enough to fuel about 1.5 million cars for a year.
  • The manufacture of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, water extraction, bottling and distribution amounts to up to 2,000 times the energy cost of producing tap water.
  • In 2006, only one out of every four water bottles were recycled; at this rate, millions of tons of empty plastic bottles end up in landfills.
  • The distribution of bottled water uses energy and therefore contributes to climate change.

The bottled water industry’s attempts to sell itself as environmentally friendly cover up the real effects of the product and distract consumers from the most responsible source of water there is: the tap.

Many American consumers can see the truth behind the industry’s marketing tactics and are taking part in a nationwide movement to stop drinking bottled water. According to the College Sustainability Report Card, 23 college campuses had a disposable water bottle ban in effect as of February 2010. The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in 2007 stating the importance of municipal water, and another resolution in 2008 encouraging mayors to phase out government use of bottled water. A growing number of municipalities have banned government spending on bottled water, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.

Event planners have begun hosting bottled water free events, and restaurants, starting in San Francisco, have stopped selling bottled water. As more and more people are turning their attention back to the tap, it is not enough to simply stop buying bottled water–the public must also invest in public water infrastructure so that tap water remains a safe, affordable source of environmentally sustainable drinking water. A federal Clean Water Trust Fund would accomplish this goal by providing a dedicated and steady source of funding for public water infrastructure that would allow municipalities and states to make the necessary repairs and upgrades to their water systems to ensure clean affordable water for all.

For a compendium of World Water Day information, please see Care2’s World Water Day page.

Food & Water Watch is an organization dedicated to the belief that the public should be able to count on our government to oversee and protect the quality and safety of food and water. For more information, go to www.foodandwaterwatch.org.

 

Stand up and See! 70 years of Song

 

Echoes Coordinator, Paul Baker Hernandez, ruminates on making 70, still with a good pair of lungs.

 

I was born singing, 70 years ago. Songs of struggle? Hardly. There were nightly Luftwaffe bombs, of course, but my own small WWII struggle was with bone tuberculosis, tied down immobile to prevent my spine snapping. Four eternal years later, the lovely nursing nuns set me free, an eight-year-old with a refurbished back, a crypto-Irish brogue and a lifelong interest in bondage (later heavily reinforced by the Jesuits’ brutal ferula and the Trappists’ vicious flagella!). In the school choir, “Land of Hope and Glory” and, “Soul of My Saviour” were much more to my conservative taste than, “The Red Flag”, and the primary struggle was to ignore the writing on the wall - increasingly neon – tolling the collapse of the British Empire.

In 1960 I took refuge in the eternal silences of a Carthusian hermit’s cell. At 20, that was me gone, seeking the narrow way sign-posted celestial ice cream and gold plates. The life was indeed gratifyingly strict (woken twice every night to praise the Lord, for heaven's[?] sake), but the food was unexpectedly delicious. Home made bread, fish, soup. Thus cheated of some suffering brownie points, I compensated by eating raw salt. The consequent throwing up led to the hurried throwing out (“over-enthusiastic!”) and from the wastes of solitude I found myself abruptly handed off to the entirely communal Cistercians, who served nothing but vegetables and counted every grain. These monks weren't against penance, not at all (vegetables!), they just preferred to do it in community. The weekly high point was whipping yourself with a diminutive cat-o’-nine-tails, every Friday, to ‘celebrate the Lord’s Passion’. Ouch!

Intriguingly, it was this quaint hangover from the days when monks really did things in style - iron spike belts, body lice, steamy temptations in the Sahara - that first began to undermine our ivory fortress. The fabled '60s: in Paris, students were ripping up cobblestones to make barricades; in the US, anti-Vietnam campaigners were sticking flowers in guns; and, in Nunraw Abbey, Scotland, we were suddenly flogging our beds instead of our backs, smothering our giggles any which way so as not to ‘break silence’.

 

Born thus in laughter, the revolution was well begun. Crucially, as our discontent mounted, my family smuggled in original Bob Dylan on a rare visit (perhaps why they were). “The Times They are a-Changin’” hit us like a wall. We had hysterics. So did Brother Oliver when he discovered us: we were supposed to be practising Gregorian Chant, after all. Luckily, God (locally disguised as the Abbot) dismissed us with a chuckled caution, ear plugs, and a studied quote from St. Augustine(!): “He who sings prays twice”. Hmm! Had the Lord never heard our raggle-taggle 'choir' in horrid song?!

At all events, it was certainly true that the monk who revolts rebels twice: once against the Abbot and once again against God unmasked. The whips were part of a whole system designed to help us abandon our own will, everywhere and in everything. The Abbot controlled how we knelt, how we drank our tea, how we crapped (well, if he could). His powers would've had any tin-pot dictator dancing in the aisles, for, although holy modesty prevented him from actually following us into the toilet, his punishments brought eternal spiritual death. So, in dumping the lash, we were playing with serious double fire. However, revolution was inevitable, for as we tried to bury our heads, the very sand was shifting under us. In the event, as we discovered real impoverishment, human rights and ecological devastation, we began to realise we supposedly Holy Joes were actually serving the Mammon of agribusiness, keeping indentured servants (lay brothers), living in unseemly security, and selling off God’s food crops to keep rich men pie-eyed on Scotch whisky.

 

Sticking like limpets, burrs are nature’s time bombs. So the songs. They became burrs of revolution: “How many times can a man turn his head, pretending ...? What have we done to the rain … ? Buddy, can you spare a dime ?” Suddenly, they detonated: “How many homeless people would fit into this huge palace?” “Why are we monks ruining the Earth to make people drunk?” And the all-time favourite, “What exactly is so wrong with girls, anyway?” Everything came under the hammer of our new-found fervour: the Christian bible, the monastic rules, silence – our vows, above all: obedience, chastity and poverty. Dylan-driven, I obsessed over a guitar. A monk has no money, and anyway a £100 guitar to sing about people living on £100 a year - what kind of poverty is that? Luckily our garbage dump sprouted a rich harvest of broken tables, ends of chapel floor,ng toilet seats (retired!). Sudden inspiration, luck by the truck load, et voila! – my faithful companion of the past 40 years, this beautiful guitar.

The rest of the story essentially belongs to her. First, she taught me something of the profound silences of Flamenco, the Cante Jondo, contemplation by any other name. Then she carried me abruptly out of the monastery to become 'another Dylan; only quieter' (lots quieter: early efforts had one listener gushing: “We mums loved the songs. Your voice was so gentle all the babies fell asleep.”[!!]); into Queen Elizabeth's castle at Balmoral (with a posse of bishops protesting Margaret Thatcher's nuclear weapons); to Los Angeles to help fight off Salvadoran death squads operating even there; and, finally, to Chile, to join Víctor Jara's family in reclaiming the stadium in which the great singer/songwriter had been tortured and killed.

And now, suddenly 70, I find myself writing from Nicaragua, surrounded by family and community, digging eco-drains in the barrio, completing my latest sure fire hit: ¨That Expletives-deleted Mobile!”. Mrs Thatcher is a horrid historical footnote, the US has a black president, and the oppressed countries of the Americas are uniting to challenge northern greed and to heal the planet with all its peoples. Re-membering, re-singing, the great songs of this wonderful journey, only half begun even yet: “What Have We Done to the Rain?”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “We Shall Overcome”,, “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita”.

It's not just the songs, of course. But they were – are - a vital part of any lasting movement to make justice happen. More than half the world's people read only with difficulty, if at all. They live through their ears, and, especially in struggle, through their hearts. For, at the last, soaring high above both the tragic and the trivial, music's poetry encapsulates our human greatness, the vision shining clear even in the worst of times. Martin Luther King's, “I have a dream”; Joe Hill's, “Don't mourn – organize!”; The World's, “We Shall Overcome!”

Gracias a la Vida: Thanks to life” was one of Violeta Parra's last songs. Amen to that. Waking with love in my heart and a song on my lips, how can I have been so fortunate? Poor Violeta was not so lucky; she died tragically, abandoned, hanging alone in her folklore tent. But she passed on her spirit and her guitar; to Victor Jara, above all, who went on to write some of the finest and most moving songs ever to come out of the struggle for peace, justice and beauty. He too died horribly, of course, his hands smashed, tortured and shot to death by Pinochet's men in a ghastly charade of Russian roulette. But not before he too had passed on the spirit.

 

 

In these last times, then, when we're finally beginning to learn that true independence, personal and of nations, comes only through interdependent shared commitment to our one, beautiful, exquisitely fragile planet, let the last word lie with him. Born of a peasant family and part Mapuche Indian, Victor loved nature as profoundly as he hated injustice. In the wonderful festival we had to reclaim the stadium where they murdered him and his companions, we sang together in the echoes of the surrounding silence: “Levantate y mira la montaña - Stand up and see the wonder of the mountain: source of the sun, the water and the wild wind.” Violeta and Víctor, Rosa Parkes, Gandhi, Arlen Sui and Pablo Neruda, they’re all still with us, singing …

 

Paul Baker Hernández

 

Originally from Britain, Paul is a musician, writer and organiser. He lives in a marginalized neighbourhood of Managua, Nicaragua, working on community eco-projects, writing cheeky songs about mobiles, dictators, even the sainted Starbucks, and coordinating Echoes of Silence, an international network of 'artists with broken fingernails'. For information, to support Echoes' of Silence work, and/or book presentations/events or tours, please copy http://echoesofsilence-ecosdelsilencio.pbworks.com to your browser or write: echoespaul@tortillaconsal.com – Thank you. Paul is on tour in the US march 2 – 24, 2010; and in the UK in September/October

 

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