Thursday, September 24, 2015

War Resistance: Is "The Hunger Games" Laying the Foundation That We Want?

The Hunger Games
I've embarked on a long-overdue project: reading The Hunger Games trilogy.

Millions of people are into these books, and the possibly even more are into the movies.

I'm only a few chapters in, but already it seems to me that The Hunger Games provides a foundation to an entire generation to think about the deep structures that perpetuate war, and to resist the attempts of the older generation to drag them into it.

I recently wrote that "the means available to us today for eliminating war vary greatly from those available from those working to eliminate war in decades past." One of those means is popular literature and film!

So here's my question to all my readers: what do you think? What makes The Hunger Games the antiwar literature for our time? (Or do you have a different opinion?)

Comments please ! ! ! 

Update: November 30, 2015

Donald Sutherland as President Snow in the Hunger Games
movies. (Photograph: Murray Close/Lionsgate)
The newest Hunger Games movie is out, and so are the media appearances by the stars.

Here's what Donald Sutherland says:

“If there’s any question as to what it’s an allegory for I will tell you.

It is the powers that be in the United States of America.

It’s profiteers.

War is for profit. It’s not “to save the world for democracy” or “for king and country.”

No, bulls**t.

It’s for the profit of the top 10%, and the young people who see this film must recognize that for the future ‘blind faith in their leaders,’ as Bruce Springsteen said, “will get you dead.”

(See clip of Donald Sutherland on Hunger Games, the US, and war on

More in "Donald Sutherland: 'I want Hunger Games to stir up a revolution'" by Rory Carroll in The Guardian, November 19, 2015.

Related posts

Two themes -- hunting vs. healing and the socio-economic underpinnings of war culture -- are just a few of the many that have leapt out at me as I've ready Book I of The Hunger Games.

(See Hunger Games: Hunting vs. Healing)

What's really interesting is the way Book II depicts people becoming aware of their own oppression, including the forces of state repression, and developing consciousness of the need to resist.

(See Hunger Games II: What does it take for coal to catch fire? )

Eventually, in large part due to Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the United States was converted from a country in which a small number of people thought slavery needed to be ended into a country determined to act to end slavery. This literary work took the movement wide, and it took it deep.

Why is a novel an important tool for creative resistance?

(See Creative Resistance 101: Uncle Tom's Cabin )

Re-reading George Orwell's 1984 recently made me see at least 15 ways 2013 is like the world he describes in the book . . . .

(See 2013 = 1984 ? )

What are the 2 or 3 -- or 5, or 10 -- biggest lessons about "collaborating in peaceful mode" that we might be able to witness if we were to seek the answers in Minecraft worlds?

(See Go dig up the solution to world peace in a video game environment )

Leveling Up is the creative work that demonstrates just how thoroughly America's new ways of warfare have become intertwined with the other dominant strands in our culture.

(See Level Up, Step Up, Grow Up, Man Up . . . Wake Up)

A big Hollywood production of Ender's Game is scheduled for release on November 1. It's a perfect opportunity for us to ask: Are we happy seeing our schools turned into "Battle Schools"?

(See "Ender's Game" and the Militarization of Youth: Can We Talk About This? )

I've suggested that it's time for a serious debate on drones, and that a good place to start is with Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics."  Here are 10 questions that come straight out of the writings of Asimov and that can help spur the debate.

(See 10 Questions to Spur the Drone Debate )

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

#PeaceDay 2015 - Ten Thoughts on Peace

Rainbow peace sign flag
(Image: @fieldsforever58)

Yesterday was the UN International Day of Peace.

The day nudged me to think about what -- if anything -- I feel I really know about peace and the movement for peace.

Here are 10 things that are true for me . . . .

(1) Nuclear abolition

The risk from nuclear weapons is so great, the only responsible course is total elimination now.

(See What's YOUR "appetite for risk"? (Eliminate nuclear weapons NOW!) )

(2) Getting with the times

The means available to us today for eliminating war vary greatly from those available from those working to eliminate war in decades past.

(See Not Your Father's Antiwar Movement )

(3) Social media power

One means that can be the source of enormous power is social media.

(See News Worth Spreading: "There IS An Alternative to War!" )

(4) Intersectionality

We face a whole lot of obstacles to peace and justice. To be a peace activist means committing to work on multiple fronts.

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color )

(5) Grounding oneself

Where do people find the grounding to sustain their work for peace?

For many people, grounding is found in community and/or faith.

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry) )

(6) The centrality of nonviolence

Eventually, it becomes clear that "nonviolence" is not just an aspect of style, and somehow optional, but is, in fact, a central source of the essential power needed by anyone working for peace.

(See Chenoweth on Why Nonviolence Gets Results (The "Cliff's Notes" Version) )

(7) A challenge to the Church

How much attention should Christians give to the work of actually opposing war?

To me it seems clear that Jesus' "good news" is a subversive, anti-imperialist, anti-establishment, anti-status quo call to action.

(See How Shall We Live in the Face of Empire? (Reading Mitri Raheb) )

(8) Peace work

Peace is a system, and we should approach it as something to work at.

Peace work requires resources: hours, money, skills.

(See A Global Security System: An Alternative to War from World Beyond War.) 

(9) Permawar

The main characteristic of war has become its persistence. Why?

(See J'ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar)

(10) Go ahead, say "never"

One of the best things we could do is get out of the "little bit of war" habit. Saying "no" is the first step to finding alternatives to war.

(See Greenwald Was Right: "Humanitarian" War in Syria? It's Just More War )

What's true for you?

Friday, September 18, 2015

In the UK: Anti-Nukes + Democracy = ?

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

Like many people, I am excited to see that the new Labour leader in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, is a strong advocate for the elimination of the UK's nuclear weapons.

Now I've read a very interesting story about how Corbyn is enhancing the practice of democracy in the UK. A long-standing practice in Parliament is the weekly "interpellation" - in which the Prime Minister responds to questions posed by the opposition. The tendency is for this to be highly contentious, almost gladitorial, with an emphasis on showmanship, harsh barbs, and "gotcha moments."

Two days ago, however, in the first session under Corbyn's leadership, the practice was stood on its head. Following a completely new strategy, Corbyn read questions from among thousands submitted by constituents, and the Prime Minister responded to those questions. (See "Labour’s New Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Crowd-Sources Questions for British Premier" by Stephen Castle in The New York Times, September 16, 2015.)

This leads me to wonder: What would it look like if a Wednesday session were devoted to questions from constituents about the desirability of eliminating the UK's nuclear weapons?

For instance, what if that session took place on Wednesday, September 23, in anticipation of the September 26 UN-declared International Day for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons?

What if we gave democracy a chance?

Related posts

People in the UK are demonstrating that when enough people bcome vocal "no nukes" activists, politicians who purport to represent them are compelled to become vocal "no nukes" activists, too.

(See "No Nukes Politician" -- IS There Such a Thing ??? )

We should all learn from the the activism of people in the UK against the stationing of Trident nuclear-weapons-equipped submarines in Scotland.

(See We're Rooting for You, Scotland! (Trident NO Scotland YES) )

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry )

The decision about whether to live with the threat of nuclear annihilation is our decision. And that is why the entire country is mobilizing for mass action for nuclear disarmament in 2015. Are we capable of making sure the messengers -- Obama, Putin, the other agents of government -- hear their instructions from us clearly?

(See NEEDED: Heroes to Bring About Nuclear Disarmament )

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pope Francis and Nuclear Disarmament: Audacter Dis

Pope Francis
Pope Francis will be in the US in about a week.

It is exciting to see a faith leader pushing boldly on issues of peace and justice.

Like many people, I am reading the Pope's encyclical on climate change and inequality, On Care for Our Common Home ("Laudato Si").

I'll surely write specifically about Laudato Si when I've had more time to think about it -- it consists of 246 numbered paragraphs, and each one can stand alone as an important reflection on the intertwined issues of faith, stewardship, compassion, and justice.

I can't help thinking that there is almost too much in Laudato Si for Pope Francis to convey on his US visit. I keep wondering, "What's the single most important message?"

As an answer to that question, I thought back to a statement that the Pope made prior to the publication of Laudato Si, a statement on the need for nuclear disarmament from December, 2014.

The Pope issued a message to the Vienna conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons. that is a clear call for nuclear disarmament:

Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples and states.

Particularly important: the Pope takes the position that it is not just the use of nuclear weapons that is intolerable; it is also the threat of their use, and therefore their existence.

(See the full statement of Pope Francis on nuclear disarmament.)

So: As important as it is for the Pope to stand up to the US and say "you must mend your ways with respect to economic inequality, consumption, and the environment," I think there is something even more important for the Pope to do. He needs to stand up to the US and say, "It is your nuclear weapons that threaten everyone on the planet."

This is an especially timely message now. This summer marked the 70th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Perhaps more important, the US has just spent months wrestling with itself over its posture toward Iran, a country that has zero nuclear weapons.  Somehow the US was able to focus its attention on the possibility that Iran might someday have a nuclear weapon. Surely the US can now confront its own thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at the rest of the world.

And, yes, of course that message is not for the US. It needs to be delivered to Russia as well.

I don't know if the Pope can go to Moscow. I can only imagine what it would look like if the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church stood side by side to say, "Eliminate nuclear weapons."

But isn't now the time to find out?

(For more, see "Pope Francis Will Underscore Immorality of Nuclear Weapons" by Alanna Huck-Scarry, DC intern for Women's Action for New Directions.)

UPDATE September 26, 2015 (UN Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons): "Applause at UN for Pope's words on nuclear arms" (ABC News)

Related posts

Is it possible that we will only truly understand God's promise to humanity once we understand that there are some outcomes that would make a mockery of God's forgiveness, and that God has empowered us to prevent those outcomes, and that it's now up to us to do so.

(See ATOMIC HUBRIS: Are There Some Things That Won't Be Forgiven? )

Let's dedicate June, July, and August this year to recognizing the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 2015). . . AND let's do something about it: make a nuclear ban a reality.

(See TIME FOR A NUCLEAR BAN? On the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki )

Call me a demanding citizen, but I think the President should get off his butt and go talk to the leader of Russia.  (Yes, Putin.)  It's his job.

(See Obama: Go to Moscow!

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11 Fourteen Years On - A Visual Reflection (á la Alfred C. Barnes)

Last year on this day, I wrote about a visit to the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan.

This year, I encountered two separate images that seem filled with meaning for the day.

I provide those two images here. I think of this as an experiment in the spirit of Alfred C. Barnes, the art theorist who endowed the Barnes Foundation museum that I have enjoyed visiting so many times in Philadelphia.  Barnes encouraged people to consider art objects in juxtaposition with each other, to try to see possibilities brought up by seemingly unconnected objects, and to decide for themselves what the significance of the objects is. (No "expert opinion" needed.)

This seems very much in keeping with the spirit of blogging!

I hope people will think about them, and comment below.

(PS - Each image comes with metadata -- the former with quite a bit, since it went viral on Facebook -- and you are encouraged to follow the links to learn the "back story" of each of the two images.)

9/11 Rainbow
(CREDIT: Ben Sturner)

Nuclear I, CH
László Moholy-Nagy

Related posts

I was back in New Jersey to visit with high school friends in July. It gave me the opportunity to visit the newly opened 9/11 Memorial. Not surprisingly, what I saw made me spend days and weeks thinking about the memorial itself, and the larger issue of 9/11 in our national life. Out of all that I have seen and heard and read and thought about, several thoughts keep rising to the top.

(See 9/11 Memory: Grieving and Celebrating Valor, Leaving Vengeance Behind )

I never quite understood how much of a Chicago story the Bomb and opposition to it really is. I can think of at least three reasons why people right here in Chicago -- today -- need to make themselves heard about nuclear disarmament . . .

(See Unfinished Business in Chicago (Nuclear disarmament, that is))

Perhaps most startling of all, the area affected by 3rd degree burns would extend far beyond the city limits to encompass towns as far north as Waukegan, as far west as St. Charles, and as far south as Crete, and as far east as Gary, IN.

(See What Would a Nuclear Weapon Do to Chicago? (Go ahead, guess . . . ) )

Is it possible that we will only truly understand God's promise to humanity once we understand that there are some outcomes that would make a mockery of God's forgiveness, and that God has empowered us to prevent those outcomes, and that it's now up to us to do so.

(See ATOMIC HUBRIS: Are There Some Things That Won't Be Forgiven? )

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

WHERE'S MINE? Inequality in the US and the Military-Industrial Complex

"Don't like war? Don't pay for it! Your taxes arm the world."
New South Network of War Resisters banner at 2012 NATO protest in Chicago.
(Image: FJJ)

Columnist Mike Royko said in his book Boss that the motto of Chicago is "City in a Garden" but it should be "Where's mine?"

When Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel brought NATO (and attempted to bring the G-8) to Chicago, one of the proposals was that people across the city organize around the theme "Where's mine?" (In a way, that's what happened. The protests against NATO were bolstered by the high tide of the Occupy movement.)  NATO came and went; the uprising in Chicago is just beginning.

*    *    *    *

Social scientists puzzle over a basic disconnect: when you ask people what they think would be a reasonable amount of inequality of wealth among people in the US, they respond with something like this:

When polled, people say they think the richest might
reasonably have three times as much as the poorest.

And when you ask them how much inequality they think there currently is, they tell a different story:

People think the wealthiest probably have more than half the wealth.

But the sad reality is, the vast majority of people are scrunched up in one tiny corner of the wealth distribution picture:

The wealthiest 20% have more than 80% of the wealth?
(The rest of us are screwed.)

This information is widely available. Why don't people want to acknowledge it? Why don't they want to do something about it?

*    *    *    *

Thomas Piketty,
Capital in the
Twenty-First Century
There are some rumblings.

Unexpectedly, the person grabbing all the attention in the current electioneering for the 2016 Democratic nomination is not the presumptive heir apparent, Hillary Clinton, but the socialist, Bernie Sanders. Are people starting to ask where their bread is buttered?

In the last 1-2 years, a book by Thomas Piketty -- Capital in the Twenty-First Century -- has encouraged people to recognize inequality as the mainstream problem that it is.

 *    *    *    *

 I'm wondering when people are going to decide to do something about it.

. . . and when they're going to begin to ask about the connections between inequality and the military-industrial complex.

For a long time, organizations like the American Friends Service Committee have been making the connection between the money spent on war and the money that ISN'T spent on services.

US government spending: military vs "all other"
(More details here.)

How might an uprising against inequality and dismantling the military-industrial complex dovetail?

Update - September 12, 2015 

In the UK, the twin issues of inequality and the military industrial complex are resonating with progressive leaders.  In a surprise, the Labour Party has elected a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn on inequality: "We don’t have to be unequal, it doesn’t have to be unfair, poverty isn’t inevitable." Corbyn calls current levels of inequality "grotesque."

Notably, Corbyn has called for the UK to eliminate its nuclear weapons.

What will happen next?

Update -March 11, 2016

Kristine Wong reported in The Hill on a survey of 7,000 voters: "The majority trimmed the 2016 defense budget by $12 billion, including cutting $4 billion for ground forces, $3 billion for nuclear weapons, $2 billion for air power, $2 billion for naval forces and $1 billion for missile defense." ("Survey: American voters would cut defense spending by at least $12B")

Related posts

I'm grateful to my friend, Jim Barton, for framing the problem in a way that is adequately broad, and yet contains a measure of hope.  It's about the future, and whether we have one -- or can construct one -- he said.  Young people today are asking: Do I have an economic future? Does the planet have a future? Will (nuclear) war extinguish everybody's future?

(See A FUTURE: Can we construct one? )

What if we had a massive region in the heart of the country pushing back against the war-crazed conventional wisdom of "more weapons," "more consumption," and "more destruction of the environment"?

(See Another Modest Proposal: A Green, Demilitarized Midwest! )

There's no question that for the next 18 months, we members of the general public will be deluged with media about the 2016 presidential election. Maddeningly, 99 and 44/100% of that media will make no mention of the need to end U.S. wars, occupations, imperialism, and militarism.

(See I Support Antiwar Candidates! (Know Any?) )

To many people, the relationship between finance and war is obvious: banks finance the military-industrial complex. In my opinion, however, that misses the point. Banks finance everything (in our society); so why, in particular is it so desirable to have all these ongoing wars?

(See Why Permawar? It's All About the "Vol" .... )