Dangerous Disinformation

Monday, August 30, 2010

Unrestricted expression of our points of view is a human right (Art. 19, Universal Declaration). Article 1 of the Constitution of UNESCO, whose mission is build peace “in the minds of men”, provides for the “free flow of ideas by word and image”.

But this right is also the right to accurate, unbiased information that doesn’t invariably and without exception reflect the ideology, political party, etc. of those disseminating the news.

The concentration of audiovisual and print media in the same hands is so pervasive that it not only wields global influence to justify actions that are hardly justifiable to the majority of audiences, but also, through the most appropriate “group” media, they trigger speculative movements -"dollar zone" vs. "euro zone", for example- or create “enemies” to preclude a slow-down of the immense war machine.

Right here in Spain, with few exceptions citizens who read only one newspaper risk having a totally erroneous idea of what transpires. Consequently, their opinions concerning the government, justice system, political parties... are marked by the same bias, the same prejudices reflected in the newspaper. The same can be said of private television channels which are progressively falling into the hands of the same owners...

Thus, even with the best of intentions, many people are only aware of the “truth” presented by those whose sole obsession lies in the next elections.

The solution? Read newspapers that express obviously contrary opinions, watch television channels and listen, at least once in a while, to radio stations other than your “favorites”... And impartially and calmly discuss controversial topics with friends from other “walks of life”... And likewise observe what is happening beyond our borders, outside of Spain. And take time to think, to reflect on different matters.

I have often insisted that there is much risk in remaining mere spectators, passive recipients, irresolute and resigned to our fates. The future generations deserve better. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be convinced and manipulated.

Disinformation is very dangerous.

Federal Spain, Plural Spain

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cultural, linguistic, territorial, geographic diversity... is Spain’s greatest wealth. The different Autonomous Communities united by common democratic principles is our strength. Imposing union by force weakens and threatens to divide us all.

If you don’t want a divided Spain, then you must accept a plural one. The age of unitary domination, in which a few were in power while the rest remained resigned and obedient has passed.

The Constitution must be respected. But it must also be brought up to date. It was the result of a wise compromise in which some demonstrated much generosity. It shouldn’t be defended now at all costs... precisely by those who then showed so little enthusiasm for the autonomous system adopted for a stronger political union and other things that had to be accepted. The goal was to bring an end to a unitary State united by force, rather than by the will of its peoples.

For this reason, education for citizenship is so necessary. For this reason it is important to have an education that enables each person to “live his own life”. And not to remain silent.

If I could have, I would have participated in the demonstrations on Saturday, July 10th, in Catalunya. And in any case, my spirit was with the hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrated to say “no” to those who seek to impose the worst type of nationalism, which is repressive and stifling centralism.

In federal countries, a nation may be composed of many states. A state may have many nations, territories... In the United States, as its very name implies, 50 states make up the American nation. Why can’t the Spanish state be made up of different Autonomous Communities such as the Basque Country, the Kingdom of Navarre or the Catalan Nation (without having to disguise it in the Preamble)? Their intention is to equate state with nation.

If there is “no other nation but Spain”, can there be no other “fatherland” but Spain? Must the Asturianos cease to sing their world famous hymn “Asturias, Dear Fatherland”? And will Navarre cease to be a “kingdom” because there is no other kingdom but Spain?

After four long years with the Estatut in force to show that Spain hasn’t broken apart or become divided, with great difficulty that reflects its aberrant and dubious composition, the Constitutional Court has rendered a judgment with interpretations that likewise allow for different interpretations.

The first is that many of the things that it prohibits or restricts may be achieved legally through other means.

The second is that the Constitutional Court should never again render an opinion after a law has been sanctioned (having strictly following the established procedures) by the Spanish Parliament and by the people.

The third is that the Constitution should be brought up to date, perhaps rendering the Constitutional Court unnecessary.

The fourth is that a political party’s recourse to the Constitutional Court, seeking to “win” what it has already “lost” democratically, should be limited to exceptional cases.

The fifth is that what probably warrants reforming is not the Estatut, but rather the Constitution.

Yes: I was present in spirit at the demonstration in Catalunya. To demonstrate my support for a plural state, a diverse Spain, a federal Spain. And let me underscore that I do not support those who now, taking advantage of the present confusion, have delusions of sovereignty. Precisely now, when the unity of cultures is most important and urgent for the radical changes in government that the world requires. Now, when the well-rooted local citizenry must likewise be active global citizens.

I will never support those who against the tide and against world solidarity seek to glean votes for sovereignty in Catalunya among those who are logically in disagreement with the judgment and demand solutions rather than additional problems.

Nor will I support those who are now, as always, looking the other way, but who appealed the Estatut and collected 4 million signatures against the “fatherland of my heart”. They have always opposed the nationalists, but they are currently flirting with them, as they did in the past whenever it was to their advantage. These are the politics that the people reject, the politics of “anything goes”.

Those who now demand from us a “sense of country” are those who demonstrated that they lack one by instigating this conflict.

Both groups must take off their blinders and look forward. Toward what is really in the interest of Catalunya, Spain, Europe and the world. They are all obsessed with the upcoming elections. Both groups, those who favor independence and those who have made so may affronts to Catalunya, are in my opinion irresponsible and unable to build the different future that we desire.

Please, don’t invent an “enemy” now. Don’t provoke attitudes that are later unduly judged with severity. Those who should be judged are those who incited this conflict, who seek to continue to control the future of counties with the authoritarian and dominating rules of the past.

We have to go to the heart of these questions and, at the dawning of this century and millennium, promote the necessary radical changes through authentic democracies in which power truly “emanates from the people”.

Distance participation is now possible, thanks to modern communications technology.

Profound transformations are possible if we are capable of expressing ourselves and of listening. Of dialoging, allowing everyone to express their points of view, including ones which are diametrically opposed to ours. Without imposition, violence or threats.

A large percent of Catalonians have spoken. Let’s listen to them!

I will never tire of repeating that the great transition will be from force to the word.

Spain, a plural state. Spain, a nation of nations. Federal Spain.

Football, music... and peace?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Although it received little attention in the press and in the media, at the beginning of the World Cup finals games I was pleased to see the two teams gather around a banner that read “Say NO to racism” and to watch one of the team captains read on behalf of the players John Lennon’s famous saying “give peace a chance”.

For many years, since the 1970s to be exact, I have dreamed and worked with all possible means for a genuinely democratic system at the local, community, state, regional and world level, convinced that this is the only way to resolve the terrible conflict of conscience that enables us to passively observe injustice, poverty, confrontation, neglect, suffering and death, as if these were inevitable “collateral effects”. The collective shame of thousands of people dying of hunger and neglect each day should keep us awake at night. Thousands of people without access to water and sanitary and health services, subjected, exploited, humiliated.

We can’t be “happy” if we are aware that we are cowardly looking the other way. When we know that we are exploiting mineral wealth for our “technological progress” or depleting fishing grounds, while the peoples of those nations hardly survive in extreme poverty. When we delocalize production in the east, particularly in China, while greed prevents us from considering the working conditions or equal human dignity in those countries.

If the United Nations of international cooperation and sustainable development were duly reinforced and endowed with the necessary personnel and financial and technical resources, they could ensure respect for international law, regulation of all kinds of trafficking (commencing with the immediate suppression of tax havens), provide rapid and coordinated aid during natural disasters, and deploy “blue helmets” when countries (such as Cambodia or Rwanda) massively violate human rights shielded by their sacrosanct national sovereignty, or simply lack government spokesmen (as in the case of Somalia).

But the United Nations have been progressively alienated by “globalizers” and replaced by the G-7, G-8 or G-20 plutocrats.

Numerous declarations, manifestos, resolutions, congresses, demonstrations, concentrations... are held in the name of peace, non-exclusion and social justice, with hardly any media coverage. Texts endorsed by the world’s most prestigious people... and nothing. But there are pages and pages about football, about the status and evolution of a famous striker’s injuries... Hours upon hours on the radio. And the power of the media reaches its zenith on television, with endless programs devoted to impassioned fans (especially football and auto racing), who unconditionally support the deities of this popular fervor.

Since ideology and religion have lost all credit, because politics gave in to the market and values lost out to the churches, people now allow themselves to be carried away by new, all-powerful agents of social mobilization who, moreover, offer them interesting competitions and sporting events.

Nothing is questioned. Not even the huge salaries paid the top players, nor the investments made by team officials. No one is keeping tabs on the TV profits. Accustomed to counting each euro spent on efforts toward achieving peace and human rights, given the scarcity of available funds, and likewise accustomed to appreciating the few lines in the press or references in the media promoting conflict prevention and resolution initiatives (at home, in the schools, at work, in cities... in the world) through words rather than force, the banners and declarations initially mentioned in this article gave me hope.

"That’s the solution", I thought. We have to join them, rather than compete with them. The story of David and Goliath repeats itself from time to time. Rather than creating and reinforcing citizen power to attract the attention and support of thousands of people, it would be better and more effective to join those who already have the ability to break into the dominant media, such as the most famous athletes and musicians.

Undoubtedly, not only the most famous athletes and musicians, but also the immense majority of their fans are in favor of a new, more just world order in which force, violence and imposition will be replaced by peaceful dialogue and concerted agreements. Where “the peoples” mentioned in the United Nations Charter will decide the destiny of mankind, rather than a group of wealthy nations.

Yes: although they may often forget, I am sure that all of them find it intolerable that only 18% of human beings live in conditions of material welfare, while thousands of millions languish in breeding grounds that may prompt flows of desperate migrants or cause them to resort to violence.

Yes: I am sure that the immense majority reject the fact that so many human beings –all “equal in dignity”- are living in intolerable conditions, and dying of hunger. And when hundreds of thousand million dollars have been spent to “rescue” the financial institutions that are to a great extent responsible for the present crisis, that a few tens of thousand million cannot be devoted to the fight against AIDS and other diseases that are decimating the world’s poorest countries.

Thus, to those who today occupy key positions, I propose that we walk the roads to peace together, to facilitate a profound change from a secular culture of war to the culture of peaceful coexistence and fraternity enshrined in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its references to peace, democracy, human rights and non-exclusion… will have an extraordinary impact... and many “unconditional” football fans will support these great causes and will enthusiastically become citizens of the world. Numerous financial institutions will likewise agree to contribute funds to the “essential challenges”... that many citizens will progressively embrace.

Humanitarian organizations and especially so many “invisible” workers for peace will forever be indebted to all of them, and particularly to those who from their highly visible positions choose to commence this great process of transformation by taking a stand for peace and justice.