No to U.S airstrikes! Yes to aid and international sanctions!

Assad

Obama is more similar to Assad than he is to Martin Luther King Jr. Evidently, just because Obama is the first black president, it doesn’t make him the messiah. As the U.S administration sits on the edge of their seats waiting to strike down Assad’s hold on Syria, it just seems like there is going to be another justified trigger-happy invasion from the west into the Arab world (that will result in more civilian casualties not less).

Like his predecessor, Obama is a war criminal who has tortured and killed just as many civilians as Syria’s defiant president. Yet besides the fact that the U.S government is just as guilty of heinous war crimes as the Assad family’s 42 year reign, something needs to be done about the crisis in Syria. I’m not advocating for a U.S led airstrike nor am I advocating for a fully-fledged military invasion, but I am promoting the dire need for imminent and comprehensive humanitarian aid and the will to embrace democratic conversation for the sake of the Syrian people.

We live in an ultra-connected globalized age of human society, yet it is apparent that when suffering arises in our neighbouring countries, their sufferings don’t bother us until they actually ‘bother’ us. I’d like to think that the international community is one big-little neighbourhood; if that is the case then we need to find a staunch yet democratic way of stopping the crisis in Syria. Humanitarian aid needs to be at the precipice of discussions as well as the need for heavy international sanctioning upon the Assad regime. Hear me out, I’m not advocating for the ‘rebel forces’ (for they have also killed and displaced many civilians) but I am promoting a change in government in which the country’s authorities prize the wellbeing of its citizens above their own pride.

There needs to be a change in the political status quo of mapping the global community into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘us’ versus ‘them’, the ‘righteous’ as opposed to the ‘terrorists’. Then and only then can the international community galvanize past the sectarian categorization that prohibits truth, justice, human rights and the reciprocal accountability of living in a big-little neighbourhood.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice and brotherhood.” – Martin Luther King Jr. 1961

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Stuff international law, get into Syria and help the people

syria

The late ‘possibility’ of international intervention from Obama and Co. should not be seen as the heroic west coming to rescue the Syrian people from chemical weapons, rather it should be perceived in context as a ‘saving face’ tactic that could be likened to someone offering an amputee a band-aid…two years after the limb was cut! Indeed, the civil war didn’t magically begin a week ago; the Syrian people have been suffering since April 2011.

This was always a human rights and social justice issue, a concern that hasn’t been adequately addressed either by the Arab league, the European union or the United States. Over 100,000 people have died, over 4 million remain displaced within the boarders and over 2 million people (of which 1million are children) are displaced just outside the war torn country.

Due to international law, the UN Security Council (in spite of the mass killings that have occurred since 2011) are continuing to be overly PC about when to act with their pittance of a response. As UN weapons inspectors attempt to establish definitively whether or not chemical weapons have been used and by who; I would imagine the millions of Syrian civilians (in and just outside the boarders) are scratching their heads, thinking something along the lines of: “where have you guys been for the past two years?”

Stuff international law, for if the UN Security Council religiously abided by international law, then a lot of social atrocities would not be tolerated as they are (i.e. Australia’s economic neglect of their Aboriginal people; the Israeli apartheid government and their treatment of the Palestinian people; Canada’s land rape of the First Nation’s for oil; and the plight of Egypt’s civil turmoil). Evidently the people who make the rules don’t really stick to them, and when they do it is usually too late.

The Syrian people have been calling out for help for the past two years, if the international community is indeed one big diverse global family unified by human rights, then it’s about time we act like it. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Now is the time to act…for the people, for the people, for the people.

 

 

Criminalizing the homeless: A man named Harry

homeless-feet

Last Wednesday I met a man named Harry (pseudonym), sitting on Queen Street with no money. He didn’t bash me with the Bible, harass me with a petition, or eyeball me to donate towards a cause I don’t believe in. Actually, he never said a word to draw my attention.

Offering my hand towards his own I introduced myself and sat down beside his cup of coins. “How’s your week been bro?” So starts a conversation that neither myself nor he expected to receive on a cold Auckland morning.

45 minutes with a total stranger that I will forever remember as Harry.

The new by-law that essentially criminalizes beggars is a disgrace to democracy let alone what it means to live in society. Time, money, a listening ear, an attentive heart, and the will to see the humanity of another; we have forgotten what it means to encounter someone’s needs other than our own. I’m all for giving to charity, but you can go your whole life giving to charity and never see poverty humanized, incarnated, fleshed out, and needing help in the NOW. The new by-law has fundamentally killed the spirit of the Samaritan, just to justify the ignorance of the priest and the neglect of the Levite.

“People walk past…but they don’t see me… If someone just gave me a chance…” – Words that I will never forget.

Stand up for social justice in Aotearoa New Zealand

Death to the GCSB2

27th July 2013 Nation-wide protest (2pm-4pm Aotea Square, Auckland). Stop the govt. from turning NZ into a capitalist empire of right wing bigots who prey on the poor. Stand up for human rights, stand up for democracy, and stand up for social justice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Global monopoly: Tax havens and the capital of the 1%

Monopoly_pack_logo

The top 100 billionaires added $240 billion to their wealth in 2012- enough to end world poverty four times over.”[1]

As the chasm between the rich and poor widens, it is evident that a more creative approach needs to replace the trickle-down theory. There needs to be a comprehensive system that takes into account ‘all’ available sources of taxable revenue as well as pushing for a macroeconomic structure which revolves around an ethos of social investment, rather than the accumulation of individual capital. Namely it is time that WE ALL (as in everyone globally) do our part in closing the gap.

“If the top 100 were a separate state, their combined wealth would outstrip the Gross Domestic Product of all but eight countries. They would rank behind Italy, but ahead of India and Russia. Of course, being billionaire capitalists, the top 100 don’t actually produce anything. They own, and they reap the benefits of the labour of others.” [2]

Whether you’re at the minimum wage end of the spectrum flipping burgers at McDonald’s or whether you’re earning a healthy doctor’s salary towards the other end; the one thing you will have in common with everyone else is that we all pay tax. But it is clear that not EVERYONE is chipping in their 5c of social responsibility. “At least $21 trillion of unreported private financial wealth was owned by wealthy individuals via tax havens at the end of 2010.”[3]

I propose the abolition of private tax havens run by global financial giants located in 1st world cities. It is interesting that the OECD, the World Bank, IMF, and the G20, have carelessly given offshore tax havens so little concern; even though a trillion dollars could significantly close the global income gap. I’m not proposing universal communism nor am I advocating for mass Marxist redistribution. All I’m saying is that a new economic ideology needs to replace the failed equity system of capitalism; in which the separation between “the rising fortunes of the billionaires and the declining living standards of the masses is an essential feature.”[4]


[1] Oxfam, The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all. Oxfam media briefing: January 2013

[3] Tax justice network, The price of offshore revisited: press release. July 2012

New Zealand: The stingy society of an unequal nation

green-1-in-42

As councils push to get rid of begging eyesores lining the streets of the major cities, it could be argued that our society is heading towards a growing global trend of ‘encouraging’ inequality. Whether it is the bliss of ignorance or the arrogance of an individual society capitalising on a capitalist ethos of civic systems; if you’re poor and live in NZ, nobody gives a damn. Indeed the recent campaign to get people to give to charities not to beggars (1), highlights not only the move away from Samaritanism but also the inability of long working ‘charities’ aimed at helping the homeless. Giving to charities is great but discouraging people from helping the poor ‘immediately’ is a sure step in the wrong direction. As the 270, 000 kiwi kids in poverty know, NZ’s stingy streak is becoming a social routine; a routine more and more justified by the underbelly of New Zealand’s ‘middle-class.’

No matter what socio-economic index is used, it is evident that our nation is becoming more unequal by the day. We live in a society in which the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer; the top “20% of the population earn five times as much as the bottom 20%” (2). It is evident that something needs to change; the failed economic structures of the past 10 years need to be addressed as well as the developing public philosophy of ‘stuff thy neighbour.’

Occupy Jesus: Re-framing the ‘good news’

OCCUPY JESUS P 

“A gospel of hell-evasion provides a cheap, convenient, and fast alternative to the kingdom of God.” [1]

In his book, ‘Everything must change’, Brian McLaren describes the failure of dominant Church culture in being an ambassador of a loving God. Evidently the Church has exclusively focused on dealing with ‘spiritual needs’ while neglecting social problems; seemingly obsessed with individual post-mortem destinations. Seriously, is it just me or is the threat of hell the basis for Church membership?

Is there anything in the Bible about social justice and equitable global economics or is it just a random old book used by religious fanatics and middle class conservatives to further violence, global poverty and environmental destruction? There is. Indeed one could say that Jesus was a political activist and social revolutionary more than a spiritual guide to a foreign kingdom of utopian ecstasy.

Starting off his ministry, Jesus declared in his local synagogue:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

It’s no secret that Jesus was all about social justice, the proclamation of liberation, hope, freedom and  restoration seems to be at the heart of what can be termed ‘the good news’. Disappointedly, the dominant Church culture focuses on the avoidance of justice – “which is what an obsession with being forgiven and avoiding hell begins to resemble when it is not accompanied by a desire to forgive others and pursue justice on their behalf.”[2]

I purpose an alternative narrative, one which sifts the traditions of religious capitalism to reveal a movement of justice and equity. It’s time to fly the flag of humanitarian, ecological, religious and governmental revolution. It’s time to OCCUPY JESUS.


[1] Brian D. McLaren, Everything must change: When the world’s biggest problems and Jesus’ good news collide, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 219

[2] Ibid,. 219