MAGA CRACKERs — New from Discomfort Foods!

By Priti Gulati Cox and Stan Cox

The following is a hypothetical ad copy for a product released to commemorate this year’s US Senate race in Kansas, which pits First District Congressman Roger Marshall (R) against state senator Barbara Bollier (D). Both are physicians.

There’s no cracker like a WHITE LIES MATTER CRACKER! Take them along to superspreader rallies, voter intimidation operations, tiki-torch marches, and just about anywhere a good cracker is always appreciated.

Discomfort Foods brings you a wide variety of products and recipes that create new memories. Each of our CRACKERs carries the thoughts (in edible ink!) of our Dear Leader President Trump, as conveyed to us by his Prophet Roger Marshall on a recent Keep Kansas Great Bus Tour—including old favorites like

“We’re going to keep you safe.”

“We’re rounding the corner.”

“What we’re doing is working.”

“Does not Amy Coney Barrett represent Kansas values?”

Our CRACKERs are crackers like no one has ever seen, delicious and far superior to those lame CHINA fortune cookies. You can not only read the Dear Leader’s Wisdom but also bring that Wisdom inside the body, kind of like a Disinfectant. 

But WAIT! There’s more! Does your city or town have an Unconstitutional CHINA VIRUS mask mandate? We have a solution! For a limited time, every box of our CRACKERs will include a special bonus prize: a one-of-a-kind MAGA MASK!

Unlike those dangerous CHINA VIRUS masks, the MAGA MASK can LIBERATE you to exhale freely, getting those CRACKER crumbs and CHINA VIRUS particles out of your lungs as you holler and chant for our Dear Leader and his Prophet at MAGA VOLUME! 

You have plenty to cheer about through your MAGA MASK: The Prophet Roger Marshall (a Licensed Physician, no less!) recently revealed that the CHINA VIRUS so far killed ONLY TEN THOUSAND Americans, not almost a quarter million like the Fake CDC and those Corrupt Professors of Medicine want you to believe.

More reason to cheer: the Prophet (as we said, a Licensed Physician) has also revealed that our beloved State of Kansas is on the way to developing Herd Immunity

And unlike an Unconstitutional CHINA VIRUS mask, the MAGA MASK can help you promote Herd Immunity by spreading both the CHINA VIRUS and the Dear Leader’s Wisdom with great efficiency, to achieve the Dear Leader’s declared vision for America: “HERD MENTALITY”! 

A few of Rep. Marshall’s 1st District constituents dressed up in Handmaid’s Tale costumes made an appearance at the Keep Kansas Great Bust Tour stop in Salina (photo credit Salina Journal, Oct 6)

AND, if you are following the excellent example of both the Dear Leader and the Prophet by taking a daily dose of HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE, you and your family will be able to take that Miracle Pill to stay safe from Malaria without removing your MAGA MASK!

So get your box of WHITE LIES MATTER CRACKERS today! Remember, no MAGA event is complete without some crackers!

Cross-stitch embroidered packaging

Purple Derechos

I am one of those who did not obtain help to fix the house. I am living in it because I am not the owner of the house Ive been living in for six years, and without documents I could not obtain help to repair it. Staying here in these conditions is not easy. But since I have my daughter and grandson of four years here with me, living here and not in the street is worth gold. I hope my guardian angel arrives soon. — Wilma Miranda Ramos, part of a handwritten testimony, February 2019, Salinas, Puerto Rico.

It’s been almost three years since Hurricane Marie hit Puerto Rico and devastated it. Wilma was and still remains one of the thousands of Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed.

Today, as fires rage on in California, over 3,000 inmates are out there earning $1 an hour fighting it, many working 24-hour shifts, sustaining themselves on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; farmers in Iowa are reeling from the long-term impacts of the freak August 10 derecho; the climate emergency is continuing to churn out more frequent and stronger hurricanes like Laura; and the DNC has “quietly dropped language calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks from its party platform” according to HuffPost.

He was getting sick on Monday before he went to work… They take his temperature… and they give him ice cream. And I called him, I said, why they give you ice cream? He said, that’s what they do when they check you. And I said that’s not good. They try to chill you down so you can go work. And they’ve been doing it for four days straight. And he was so hot and I said you not going to work… He found out after he really get sick and then went to the ER. That’s when he found out he had the virus. — Jilna Jean Baptiste, widow of Miska Jean Baptiste, the Baltimore Sun, May 15

It’s all well and good for Perdue Farms in Salisbury, Maryland to hang a sign outside their facility that says “thanks for feeding America during these challenging times” when it cares less about the workforce that keeps America fed. Why else would they stoop to the level of employing nauseating tactics like feeding fevered employees ice cream trying to cool down the symptoms of capitalism?

Meat processing plants like Perdue Farms where Miska Jean Baptiste, a native of Haiti worked have been hot spots for the pandemic. Across the country about 500,000 people work in meat and poultry packing and processing plants and many of them are Black and Hispanic. Perdue Farms kept Jean Baptiste on the line as an “essential worker”, laboring day after day despite not feeling well, until his keeping America fed with nonessential foods like unlimited meat and poultry finally took his life on April 16.

Just two days before Jilna Baptiste spoke to the Baltimore Sun about the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death, a 17-year-old Palestinian named Zaid Fadil Mohammad Qaisiya was shot in the head and killed by Israeli occupation forces in a refugee camp in Hebron.

And a month later on August 13, Trump made the announcement of an Israel-UAE agreement that set in motion the normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries. In exchange, Israel agreed to halt efforts to annex territory in the occupied West Bank, which turned out to be a bogus affirmation since not only did Prime Minister Netanyahu not waste any time in declaring that annexation was “still on the table,” but that in actuality the Israeli government had already delayed its annexation move weeks before the agreement. 

Biden described the US-brokered Israel-UAE deal as a historic step that “builds on the efforts of multiple administrations,” including the preceding Obama-Biden administration that made sure that Israel continues to annually receive the $3.8 billion in military aid. Kamala Harris for her part pledged that Israel will “always maintain its qualitative military edge” under a Biden-Harris administration.

My heart goes out to you [families who are fighting for convictions and for policing practices to be changed]. I know what you’re going to go through, I know what you’re gonna endure. Just be prepared for them lonely nights when all the cameras are gone, all the people are gone and all the interviews are gone, and moved on with their lives. You still have to be alone because they took your husband, or they took your father, or they took your son, or they took your brother, or your sister. Just be prepared for what comes next. — Esaw Garner, Eric Garner’s widow, Revolt, August 20.

On August 28, on the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, Eric Garner’s son Eric Garner junior told us that “It’s been six years since my father’s words became our words… I’m challenging the young people to go out and vote. It’s possible for a change,” he said. As we all know, Eric Garner was choked to death by Daniel Pantaleo on July 17, 2014 for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. And we all also know Pantaleo hasn’t yet been indicted for it.

The August DNC rightly included a panel discussion on ending racism that featured Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Car. But we didn’t hear a single American Muslim voice in the lineup of speakers during the four day convention, leave alone a discussion on ending Israeli apartheid that could’ve featured one of the many thousands of Palestinian mothers who have lost a son to the Occupation.

Both Jean Baptiste and Eric Garner were 44 when the state murdered them. One’s death was prolonged for keeping America fed and the other’s was taken away instantly in a chokehold for feeding America’s institutional racism. The state decided when and how these two American’s would die.

Biden’s line describing the Israel-UAE deal as a step building on the efforts of multiple administrations couldn’t be more true. But who are these efforts benefiting? Surely not the Wilmas, the Baptistes, the Qaisiyas and the Garners of this world. The civil unrest unfolding all around us in Portland and Kenosha and other places is not despite the efforts of multiple administrations but because of it. They’re all little derechos that will keep popping up here and there all across America until and unless the Democrats and Republicans come to their purple senses and stop feeding militarism domestically and abroad.

Or is American democracy too far gone and can only be measured in ice cream, cigarettes, gas, oil and coal, twenty-dollar bills and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

A People’s Manifesto for Ecological Democracy

by Countercurrents Collective

Scan 2Mother Earth. Cross stitch embroidery of a Dongria Kondh, from southwest Odisha, framed by the Hasdeo Arand Forests in Chhattisgarh; framed by a river; framed by a border that includes from top left: a Bandipur tiger, a Ragi plant, a Mahua plant, the endangered Nilgiri Pipil, paddy, a handwoven basket from Kangal village in Telangana, and a scrub cow.

Preamble

Our planet is not a lump of inanimate matter circling the sun every year, providing humans free lodging, boarding and endless resources to exploit recklessly. She is a living, breathing, sentient Being, to be treated with love, care and deep respect. Revered in all ancient cultures around the world as Pachamama, Gaia, Bhumi or Mother Earth – She gives us generously but her respect needs to be earned too.

Humans, even though they pretend to dominate it,  are not ‘masters’ of the planet. We are not mysteriously destined to rule over all other species – whether plants, animals or microbes. Humans, like every other living organism, are the children of Mother Earth and just one out of millions of other forms of life. And it is the ability to coexist peacefully amidst immense diversity, that makes all life itself possible.

The quest for endless and ruthless domination of everything around us is at the root cause of our historical downfall, because we do unto others within our species, what we do unto members of other species. Much before the exploitation of humans by humans, came the exploitation of Nature by humans. The idea of colonisation of Mother Earth has to be defeated in order to truly end the colonial domination of race, caste, gender and wealth  within human societies.

The source of all spirituality, over the millennia, has been the awe-inspiring beauty and  compassion of our planet as well as the deeply humbling realization of the ephemeral and transient nature of human life. There is a need today to recover our lost spirituality by connecting back with Mother Earth and all its life forms, not just for the sake of the planet but for our own survival and salvation.

Are human beings redeemable at all? Yes, of course they are. Humans are the only creatures on the planet, who look after, not just their young, but also their elderly, sick and disabled members. Humans are in other words, at their finest, when they fight against injustice or show solidarity and empathy towards each other, especially the weakest in their midst. It is these noble qualities, of an otherwise flawed species, that need to be preserved and nurtured at all costs, in all that we do. They are the only source of hope for our future.

The Context

What has hit the second most populous nation in the world – since the beginning of 2020  is nothing short of a catastrophe of Biblical or Puranic proportions. An untreatable viral epidemic, a debilitating lockdown, a collapsed economy, hunger stalking every corner of the land and growing tensions on the national borders, to name just a few challenges.

Already for the last six years now, India has been subject to rule by a government that is the most petty, communal, callous and incompetent regime the modern Republic has ever seen in its entire existence. The consequences are there for everyone to see – erosion of every universal value and principle, the complete debasement of democratic institutions, increased oppression of minorities, persecution of dissidents and rampant violation of human rights.

And to top it all, on the 5th of August 2020 the Indian Prime Minister formally endorsed the idea that all criminal acts would be legitimate as long as they were carried out in the name of the country’s religious majority. He did so by agreeing to lay the foundation of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, on the very site where the Babri Masjid once stood for over four centuries, but was brought down by goons of the current ruling party three decades ago.

Let us not mince words here. Yes, this country is now officially a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, the Jurassic monster finally breaking out of its long protective saffron shell and now ready  to devour everything that India has been cherished for – democracy, tolerance, non-violence, ancient wisdom and of course, its vast and vibrant diversity.  And yes, the Republic of India 1.0, that emerged seventy years ago from the fire of anti-colonial struggles, is dead without even a decent funeral, its corpse openly decaying on the streets and alleys of the nation.

No disaster happens overnight and every evil act or policy we witness today has a history perhaps as old as the Republic itself. The current regime builds with evil efficiency on the wickedness of past regimes, but what makes it different from any of its predecessors is its open attempt to trash the Indian Constitution and  establish a theological, majoritarian dictatorship.

A dictatorship working solely for the benefit of traditional caste and corporate elites, drawn to each other by their common desire to rule without resistance or accountability. A Hindu Rashtra where religious minorities, Dalits, Adivasis, women, workers, peasants, the poor in general will be second class citizens on a permanent basis. In the dystopian new order, unfolding before our eyes, much of the nation will be turned into a vast slave labour camp, where everyone will ‘know their place’ and quietly accept it or perish under the iron heels of the police state.

This is not unique of course and at the global level similar trends are visible in country after country, whether it be the racist regimes of Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel or the majoritarian Islamist Recep Erdoğan in Turkey. Everywhere different political elites are using hatred, violence and propaganda as weapons of mass distraction to divert people from the real issues they face – from crumbling economies to ecological catastrophe.

And all this bitter and unfortunate wrangling on the planet comes at a time when collectively the entire human species faces annihilation due to runaway global warming. Studies reveal that much of India’s coastal villages and cities will be under water by the end of the century and high temperatures will make most of India unliveable. On top of that fossil fuels and other resources are depleting fast, making it impossible to maintain the current models of economy, urban lifestyles or even meet the needs of the growing population of India. Sooner or later there is going to be an economic, social and ecological collapse.

Where do we go from here? What are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed today? What can we do to regenerate hope? What can we learn from our own history as well as that of others around the world? What is the pathway to a future India where everyone can live in peace but also with justice and dignity?

This document attempts to make a small and very modest beginning in outlining, based on suggestions from a very wide variety of people, some of the principles we need to firmly uphold and base our actions on. It is not an exhaustive document and has many limitations, but it is one that will always be open to fresh suggestions. Like a living document it will grow as the Indian people continue their struggle for liberty, equality, fraternity and justice.

This document is not prescriptive either and only indicative of the kind of the broad framework everyone can use to create their own manifestos at different levels – urban, rural, national, regional  and local. The more such Manifestos that emerge, from diverse groups and voices, the greater will be the strength of Indian democracy.

Principles and Demands

Civilizational Justice

Adivasi

On the Indian subcontinent, we need to recognize and celebrate the primacy of those who represent the longest, unbroken legacy of  living in harmony with Mother Earth – the indigenous people of India. They are the original inhabitants and protectors of the entire subcontinent, brutally and tragically pushed off their lands, enslaved, their way of life destroyed  by colonising migrants, settlers, invaders, marauders of all kinds over the centuries. Restoring the centrality of these populations to everything that happens in India will be the first step towards not just healing the deep wounds inflicted on the indigenous people themselves but also redeeming the souls of the rest of the population.

  • Declare the Adivasis and Dalits as original inhabitants of India and restore to them, full autonomy and control over their resources. Nothing will be done in the territories they control without the explicit permission of their own institutions.
  • The Government of India should apologize to the Adivasis and Dalits of India, across all religious denominations, on behalf of rest of the country’s population. It should set up a special Commission to estimate the costs of displacement and destruction of their lives and territories since Independence and the compensation amount to be paid to them.
  •  Pass a law for the, “Rights of Mother Earth”, considering our planet as a living being with rights of its own.
  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was meant to undo the historic injustice done to tribal communities. However, the tribal communities still continue to be viewed as encroachers in the forest and are denied the benefits of this historic Act. Instead of examining the claims of persons from the ST community, which may be open to the whims of officers, every adult should be allocated the 4 hectares of land, the maximum permissible under the law, to do justice to this community.
  • Give official recognition to all Adivasi languages and ensure availability of text books for children in these languages.

Global Justice

jalian-wala-bagh

The history of modern colonialism, carried out over the last five hundred years by Western powers, cannot be undone but the injustice of the past can be confronted in the present and compensated for. All of us want to forgive and move on into the future but we cannot forget the crippling legacy of colonial abuse that has never really been brought to justice. 

The Indian ruling class has never asked for such compensation on behalf of the people of India all these decades because they have, in so many ways, continued the colonial legacy of plundering the nation on behalf of a tiny elite. Even worse, while seven decades ago India was itself a colony, today as an independent nation, it has become a junior partner of global imperialism – mainly at the service of its former colonial masters. In that sense, the fight against imperialism today is closely linked to obtaining justice from our current colonial rulers too.

  • India must insist on payment of compensation for colonial plunder by Great Britain for nearly two centuries and also demand reparations for all former colonies of the world in Asia, Africa and the Americas from their colonizers. A national and international Commission should be set up to study and estimate the compensation to be paid.
  • India must call for setting up of international commission, under the aegis of the United Nations, to restructure the global financial architecture to waive the debts of low-income nations and strictly regulate the influence of speculative, usurious and fictitious capital on the world economy.
  • Cancel all treaties or agreements that compromise the fundamental interests of the Indian people, particularly those imposed on behalf of global corporations or armament manufacturers.
  • India should strengthen relations with countries of the Global South and  build a new international alliance against the domination of the world by a few rich and powerful countries.

Ecological Justice

earth-worm

Restoring the health of the soil, water, air and forests of India has to be the top priority in the days ahead for everyone, as this is the very basis of survival of the people as well as all other life forms on the subcontinent.

It is predicted by several studies that human life will be difficult on the Indian subcontinent due to global warming by the end of the century or even well before that. The world and our nation are staring at an ecological collapse. We will have to protect our ecosystems to sustain life and ensure that our children and grandchildren will survive with dignity.

And the great injustice in this unfolding tragedy is that, the poorest and weakest sections of the global population are the ones who will  bear the brunt of devastation, largely caused by the excesses of the richest parts of the world.  This is unacceptable and the polluters from the rich countries and the rich within our own country must pay for the damage they have caused.

  • India must insist that historical polluters bear their exactly accounted share of the US$200 trillion cost of reducing atmospheric CO2 back to 300 ppm CO2. It must also insist that all nations meet their exactly accounted share of inescapable Carbon Debt. Failure to pay this ecological debt will mean automatic cancellation of all globally-owed financial debt of developing countries throughout the world.
  • India must urgently implement water saving, arable land saving, climate change, sustainability, re-afforestation and  land restoration measures. Stop dirty transport, dirty energy and prevent air pollution deaths – 9 million people die worldwide from air pollution each year, including over 1 million in India.
  • India can lead the way to zero emissions and thence negative emissions for developing countries, by adopting renewable energy, re-afforestation,  biochar, energy efficiency  and building a sustainable,  needs-based economy.
  • India must decouple itself from fossil fuels. Private ownership of vehicles should be discouraged and public transport should be encouraged. Coal, nuclear and hydropower must be phased out. Clean energy like solar, wind, tidal etc should be the only energy production systems that the government builds on a large scale.
  • Further, energy production must be localised. Village communities and home owners should be encouraged to produce energy for their use. If they produce extra, they should be allowed to sell it to the public grid. National policies must help resolve the current crisis of overconsumption by a few and under-consumption by the many, as well as ensure the greening of energy.
  • Our ecosystem is a Commons and the ownership of the ecosystem should be handed over to the public. The idea of the Commons should be incorporated in school curriculum and a wider understanding of it should be encouraged through the public media, so that everyone becomes the custodian of the ecosystem. People should be the custodians of rivers, lakes, ponds, forest and the sea. Any changes to the status quo of these common assets should be done only with the assent of the public.

Defending the Constitution

constitution

The idea of a written Constitution, clearly expounding the rules by which societies should conduct themselves, was a gift to the modern world from the French Revolution, that smashed the capricious rule of monarchy and the cabal of clergy and aristocrats around it. Taking forward its slogan of liberty, equality and fraternity, the Constitution of the United States further consolidated the idea of fundamental rights of citizens. The Indian Constitution, adopted in 1950, enshrined all these values plus more, including the principles of federalism and the notion of affirmative action on behalf of those who had been subjugated for millennia.

However, as Dr B.R. Ambedkar, who drafted the Indian Constitution famously said  “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy”. In other words, democracy is too important to be left to just well written Constitutions or to the kindness and wisdom of  those in power. Democracy within human societies  is ultimately possible only through the restoration of  balances, by  demolishing all attempts to  concentrate wealth or unaccountable social and political power, wherever and whenever these manifest themselves.

  • Defending the Indian Constitution against all attempts to negate or dilute its content is a fundamental duty of all those who believe in both rule of law and also the need to preserve the Republic of India as a vibrant democracy. This will require the people of India to organise effectively to challenge every violation of Constitutional principles and provisions.
  • The Indian people will have to go beyond merely petitioning the courts in the defence of secularism, affirmative action, federalism, social welfare, freedoms of religion, cuisine, speech or the right to organise. They will have to draw from the history of the Indian freedom struggle and devise non-violent and peaceful means of enforcing these rights.
  • The electoral democratic system needs to be restructured to suit our diverse and large population. While the electoral system is the foundation, this core needs to be reformed drastically. We call for implementation of a combination of Proportional Representation System (PRS), People’s Councils System (PCS) and Separate Electorates.
  • Present day democratic processes and institutions help the concentration of power in a few hands. This has to change and power should be devolved to the people. The nation has had a history of republics, and direct democracy was practised at the village level. The village councils should once again be the centre of power. The central government should limit itself to finance and defence. The state government should limit itself to law and order, health and education. All other aspects of life should be governed by the village councils. The top down power structure should be turned upside down and power should emanate from the people.

Federalism

federalism

The modern nation-state called India, which consists of many nationalities, ethnicities, cultures and linguistic groups, was put together by the East India Company and later by the British government as one entity. The departure of British colonialism from the sub-continent saw the partitioning of British India into several countries and the formation of a federal Republic of India. It is this federal structure, provided for by the Indian Constitution, that is critical to holding such a vast and diverse nation together. Any assault on federalism therefore is also an attack on the voluntary unity of the Indian Republic.

Federal rights of state are currently being debased by the current ruling regime, under the guidance of the RSS, for whom this country is nothing more than ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’ – a tone deaf, monocultural, upper caste Hindu autocracy. The centralizing and unitary trend under the forces of Hindutva are threatening autonomy of many regions and cultures of the Indian Republic.

For the multicultural, multi-linguistic societies of South and North East India, this is a matter of very survival. For the political parties ruling these states – this is the last chance to stand up against the homogenising juggernaut of the Hindu Rashtra.

  • Colonial remnants like Governorship, Indian Administrative Services etc. are the tools the central government uses to interfere in administration of states. These undemocratic institutions, that are an impediment to true co-operative federalism should be abolished through a constitutional amendment once and for all.
  • States should raise demand for items in the current concurrent list to be moved to the State List in order to limit concentration of power at the centre. As a beginning, primary and secondary level education, animal protection, animal husbandry and agriculture should be moved completely to the State List.
  • Like in the case of G.S.T, direct taxes also, including personal and corporate income taxes, should also be equally shared between states and centre. Also any financial assistance to states from centre should not have any conditions attached.
  • The ‘Rajya Sabha’ should literally  become a ‘States Council’ as originally envisaged – a mechanism for giving due consideration to state’s views in central administration. For achieving this – aberrations like nomination of members and the provision to elect members who do not belong to respective states should be abolished. The ‘Money Bill’ mechanism, that does not require passage in the ‘Rajya Sabha’ and is being misused today should be abolished. States should demand a constitutional amendment for the same.
  • There is a need for mechanisms that foster direct co-operation between states in advancing developmental, educational and ecological agendas.

Green Economy

earth-1

The Club of Rome published its iconic report “Limits to Growth’’ in 1972 and  showed that economies cannot grow forever as our resources are limited. In this context the economy of exponential growth model must be replaced by a sustainable steady state economic model, or even a de-growth model. And as Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “ There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed”. It is time to move away from a system that allows a few people to get filthy rich while the majority work and die as their slaves. We need an economy where the not only are the poor brought out of poverty but the rich too are alleviated of their prosperity, in their own best interests. 

  • The gross wealth inequality in India should be done away with. A wealth limit should be put in place. Those who hold over and above this limit must relinquish their wealth to the state to be used for public good.
  • Corporations, estate owners and individuals own large swathes of land. A land ceiling legislation including that for plantations should be implemented. The land over and above the land ceiling should be taken over by the government and given to landless people.
  • Villages/Town/Cities should be allowed to have their own local currencies. Most of the trade among towns/village people can be done in their local currencies.
  • Implement a Universal Basic Income or equivalent system to ensure that every citizen gets a minimum income that allows them to live with dignity.

Agriculture and the Rural-Urban Divide

farmer

Historically, farmers and rural workers of all kinds have subsidised the growth and prosperity of cities and industry by providing cheap food, raw materials and supply of labour. Ironically, rural youth, recruited into the armed forces and police, have been used to force rural populations into a grossly unfair economic and social arrangement, that perpetuates their status as second class citizens in their own land.

Today, the age of industrial scale agriculture, which benefited a small section of big farmers and corporations, is coming to an end due to the ecological crisis as well as falling profitability. It is time to radically restructure urban-rural relations and ensure that farmers and rural populations get their fair share of national resources.

  • Make urban centers pay back the subsidy provided by rural populations to them all these decades by introducing a new rural compensation tax. Use the funds to develop basic infrastructure, improve living standards and expand health and education networks in rural areas to help populations there live as equal citizens with their urban counterparts.
  • Promote an agroecology paradigm that is based on suitable cropping patterns and local seed diversity revival, so as to build economically viable, ecologically sustainable, autonomous and climate resilient agriculture.
  • All towns/cities should be encouraged to produce their own food to reduce prices and improve nutrition of urban populations. Cities/towns can produce necessary vegetables in the vacant lots and through terrace gardening. Food grains required by cities/towns should be procured from nearby villages and long haul transportation of agricultural produce should not be encouraged.

Technology for the People

technology

Today, technology shaped and owned by corporates, is being used by governments and big media to influence, control, monitor and oppress the world’s population, including in India. Rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence and automation are on the way to eliminating millions of jobs in the near future. Appropriate technology must be harnessed by communities to effectively counter this asymmetry of  access to knowledge and  control over tools of production.

  • Foster community ownership of technology through learning, experimenting and adapting technology for the needs of local populations. Develop open source and sustainable technologies for all walks of life.
  • Create a global network of technologists who can innovate and exchange know-how and help communities adapt complex technologies for local needs.
  • Create alternate communication mediums to eliminate information asymmetry and misuse of data by corporates. Networked communities should collaborate to create glocal markets for goods, avoiding middlemen and ensuring data privacy.

Labour: Those who work shall rule

SANITARY-WORKERS

As Karl Marx put it a century and a half ago, the history of all humanity is the history of the struggle between masters, who control power and resources but do  not work and slaves, who own little but do all the work. In the Indian context, this class struggle, is best understood using the lens of caste, the social pathology endemic to the subcontinent for millennia.

In his brilliant analysis of the caste system, Prof. Kancha Ilaiah divides Indian society  into non-productive and productive castes and says, “Historically it was the ‘lower’ castes who produced everything from food crops and tools to metal-ware, clothes and shoes. It was the artisans and carpenters, the people who engaged in cattle rearing and Adivasis who harnessed forest produce who have always been the backbone of the economy.” However, it was the upper castes that accumulated wealth because of their higher social standing that gave them power over the lives, labour and resources of the lower castes.”

Even in the era of high-tech, financial capitalism, the control of Indian industry and business, not to mention political and cultural power, still rests largely in the hands of the upper castes. So the struggle against capitalist exploitation and for the rights of labour in India is inextricably tied up with the struggle to neutralise the deep rooted caste system – which is today also the main weapon of the ruling class to keep labour both divided and subjugated.

  • Mobilise labour around not just economic but also political and social demands. Those who work should not remain mere wage slaves but organize, rise to power and rule the country.
  • The only way to restore dignity of labour, completely absent in Indian society, is to fight for wiping out the gap in remuneration between those who work with their bodies i.e. manual labour and those who work with their brains i.e. intellectual labour. The difference in the resources they command for their respective contributions is a violation of the fundamental principle of equality and completely unjustified.
  • The labour laws protecting the rights and basic dignity of human beings should be strictly implemented. Labour laws related to those in regular employment and in unorganized sector or in contract jobs should be the same.
  • Right to employment should be made a fundamental right under the Constitution. An Act similar to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 should be introduced for the urban areas to provide jobs to youth. There must be no limit on the number of days of work under such employment guarantee laws and a minimum annual income must be guaranteed.
  • Universal Social Security for every employee, paid for by a part by the employer and a matching savings by employee (that will be financed fully to partly by the Government for all below a certain minimum income level) should be in place.

Health = Human Rights

hospital-health-doctor

What really lies at the heart of the dismal Indian health system is not inefficiency or inadequate resources or lack of capability alone, but deliberate racist and colonial-style policies aimed at keeping the Indian population in a state of perpetual ill-health, anxiety and inability to physically fight for radical change. 

Even a cursory glance at India’s public health system reveals it to be nothing less than a brutal killing field – one that throws an endless supply of patients as collateral damage to be dealt with by small numbers of poorly equipped doctors. While some get saved miraculously, the rest are condemned to chronic suffering or early release from existence altogether.

As the famous Austrian doctor and social revolutionary Rudolf Virchow said health is not about doctors, hospitals and medicines alone but linked to political and social realities. Primarily, it is about human rights in its most fundamental sense – the right to live to the full extent of human biological potential and live in peace in peace with dignity.  It is impossible to ensure the health of any population without achieving all other democratic rights and the right to both freedom and basic necessities of life.

  • Make Right to Health a fundamental right for all citizens, linking it to the social, economic, cultural and political rights of citizens.
  • Implement a free and universal healthcare system nationally of the highest quality.
  • Raise the health budget to 5% of GDP immediately and to 7% at the end of five years.
  • Launch a ‘Zero Hunger’ project to wipe out malnutrition in India, particularly among the Adivasi and Dalit communities. Ensure that income poverty does not result in physical and biological poverty too.
  • Decriminalise medical practice by rural, unqualified doctors but set up a special Board to monitor their work and improve their quality. Give full scholarships for 10,000 unqualified rural doctors every year to undergo 2 or 3 year training to become qualified medical doctors. Set up new medical colleges for this purpose in a phased manner.
  • Launch a special initiative to improve air quality in major Indian cities, particularly New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai to lower health impacts.
  • Bring all essential medicines under price control through a system of price fixation based on manufacturing cost.

Redefining Education  

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In a 1926 essay entitled “A Poet’s School,” Rabindranath Tagore points out “We have come to this world to accept it, not merely to know it. We may become powerful by knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy. The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”

These are words that ring true even more in our times than in Tagore’s own as we stare,  as a species, into the abyss of global war, ecological destruction and a deep alienation of the individual from everything around. An education that represents mere accumulation of information, techniques and aggressive pursuit of power and wealth has to give way to a different kind of learning that is imbued with far greater understanding about the place of our species in nature and the limitations of both human intelligence and actions.

  • A public and universal school system providing high quality education to every child in India will help provide the level playing field required to remove the discrimination due to socio-economic differences. However, so far no government in independent India has been willing to implement such a system. The gap between the education available to the elites and the poor continues to widen despite a Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 being in place. Apart from making schools truly child-centric, the number of hours at school must be reduced so that the child has time for participating in play, community activities and productive work (not paid labour). The time spent in productive work must increase with age gradually in an organic manner.
  • English medium education should be provided free of cost to all children from kindergarten to class 12.
  • Higher education should not be tuned to the needs of capitalist requirements and all education, including higher education, should be subsidised by the state.
  • Education in liberal arts should not be neglected due to overemphasis on skills in science and technology.
  • Expand the idea of education outside schools and university to recognize practical skills, folk talent and innovative individuals irrespective of their formal educational status. Recognize achievements outside the formal educational sector – e.g. award PhDs to outstanding farmers, workers, artisans.

Gender Justice and Rights of Sexual Minorities

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For centuries men everywhere around the world have been predatory towards women and Indian men in that sense are not very different. The situation of women in India is perhaps even worse than elsewhere because of the deep-roots of patriarchy, the hierarchical caste system and the abject poverty that affects women more than men.  The usurpation of power and resources by men in every walk of life in the country is rampant

On top of all this, India, in recent years, has also emerged as the global rape capital, owing to the impunity with which violence of all kinds is allowed in the country.  The systematic attack on women in this country, has been institutionalized through the ghastly caste system and rigid cultural codes related to marriage and sexuality. The mindset of the Indian caste system is in fact not very different at all from that of an average rapist- ‘the mighty can and should always take advantage of the weak’. In many parts of India, even today, the sexual assault on Dalit or Adivasi women, is routine and considered ‘normal’ by upper caste males. The fight for gender justice is therefore closely tied to the fight of all oppressed castes and communities of India for equality and the right to live with dignity.

  • Till date women have failed to obtain the proposed 33% reservation in Parliament and State Assemblies. The demand should be for 50% and the seats should be divided among different caste, religious and ethnic communities in proportion to their presence in population.
  • The rights of people with different sexual orientations – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual needs to be respected.
  • All the laws that criminalise or discriminate against the LGBTQIA community should be abolished. India should pass laws that allows marriage among same sex and LGBTQIA communities.
  • Unequal wages and salaries to women for the same work as done by men should be made a criminal offense. Unpaid work done by women should be compensated in a fair manner.
  • Cases of violence or sexual harassment against women must be dealt with strongly by the law implementation authorities.

Social justice

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India is one of the oldest settler civilizations in the world  with waves of migrants from many parts of the world arriving over the last four to six thousand years, taking over land and resources from even older indigenous populations. The Indian caste system, irrespective of its origins, has evolved into a marker of these migrations with the top of the social ladder occupied almost entirely by lighter-skinned, ‘Aryan’ migrants.

Annihilating the caste system is closely linked to the fight to establish a truly democratic society, as envisaged by the founders of the Indian Republic and the Constitution. And while the ultimate goal is of establishing the equality of every citizen in the country, the injustices of the past have to be also accounted for in various ways, including through affirmative action on behalf of the oppressed castes and people of India.

  • Make reservation mandatory in all sectors, including private establishments. All converted scheduled caste citizens should get reservation in education and jobs.
  • All religious establishments should immediately stop reserving the post or job of priests to those from the upper castes and open them up to everyone,  irrespective of caste.
  • The wealth of all religious institutions should be used for public welfare mandatorily.
  • Inter-religious and inter-caste marriages must be promoted and those carrying out or supporting honour killings should be strictly punished.
  • All citizens should be given the right to choose their own religion, without fear of intimidation. All laws preventing the free choice of religion should be abolished.
  • A law on the lines of SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is required to counter violence like mob lynching or hate crimes, including speeches, instigated by communal and fundamentalist elements. Similarly law to prevent communal riots should also be in place.
  • Everyone should have the freedom to choose the cuisine or wear the dress they want. No one should be coerced by the state or any other party to give up their way of life.

Peace in South Asia

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Keeping in mind the dangers of nuclear war and imperialist meddling in South Asia, a high priority for all those interested in peace in the region is to build public support for South Asian unity.  They should use the common history, concerns and aspirations of the people of all South Asian countries to create a new cross-border culture of unity among the masses, with special focus on the legacy of joint struggles against British colonialism. 

  • Develop a minimum common program for the welfare and rights of people of South Asia, cutting across national borders.
  • Abolish nuclear weapons completely from South Asia and reduce military expenditure by fifty percent as a first step.
  • Work towards formation of a United States of South Asia – with maximum autonomy and independence to all nationalities and the expansion of the federal concept.

Acknowledgements

People’s Manifesto For India – Science-based Indian Blueprint For Developing Countries In A Worsening Climate Crisis
by Dr Gideon Polya

A People’s Manifesto for India’s Future: The A-Z of the India of my dreams
by Nivedita Dwivedi

People’s Manifesto on Social Justice and Human Rights
Co-Written by Sandeep Pandey, Shreekumar, Shiva Shankar, R. Ramachandran, Lubna Sarwath and Rajeev Yadav

A Manifesto For An Inclusive Electoral System
by Vivek Sakpal

For Peoples’ Manifesto: A Suggested LGBTQIA Perspective
by Dr P S Sahni

Manifesto For English Education For A Post Corona India
by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

Manifesto for a New India
by Nidhin Sowjanya

People’s Manifesto for India’s Future
by Prem Verma

Manifesto for mass movements for the future and survival of India
by Bhabani Shankar Nayak

A New Economy after Corona Virus
by Dr Walter Fernandes

 

 

 

 

 

Black Lives Future, Present, and Past: Ivore Westfield, Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice

IMG_6939This seed portrait of Ivore Westfield is part of the Salina Responds #blacklivesmatter exhibit at the Salina Art center, July 29 – Aug 30.

The officer let go of me to begin hitting her [Ivore] with batons… I’ve never seen officers do anything to somebody like that for… curfew. — Rachel Harding, July 6, WTHR

It was May 31, five days after the lynching of George Floyd when the streets of Indianapolis were filled with BLM protesters, and many of us watched in horror the video of police officers using excessive force on Ivore Westfield, beating her with batons and firing gun pepper balls at her at close range. Ivore says that since the incident she’s been a trainwreck emotionally and physically. Wouldn’t you be? If institutions like the police departments in this here “Homeland” that supposedly are there to serve and protect you instead turn on you again and again and again with their hands full of batons and pepper spray and guns and freedom to arrest?

It doesn’t matter to the state machinery that Ivore’s ride home didn’t make it before the 8 p.m. curfew time; or that Rachel Harding, who happened to be there that evening, offered to drive Ivore home; or that they’d almost made it to Rachel’s car when the cops pounced; or that despite Rachel telling them, “my car is right there,” they were seized; or that one of the officers grabbed Ivore in a sexually inappropriate way, causing her to flinch out of his grasp; or that in response, a police sergeant yelled “hit her,” and three officers took turns doing just that, causing serious bruising and swelling of Ivore’s legs and pelvic area.

It doesn’t really matter to them that Rachel shouted “why her? why her?” before herself being pushed to the ground; or that they were both being arrested for “resisting law enforcement,” a charge that was later dismissed by Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears; or that while in jail Ivore wasn’t offered any medical attention for her wounds. What matters to them is that the names of those officers and the sergeant involved haven’t been released and that for now they are simply referred to as “John Doe.” And so the injustice continues.

 

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White people, yes, Black people know that all lives matter. But what I need you guys to understand is that being a black person in America is very very hard… Black racists have no power. Whereas white racists, do. They have power because they are in positions of control, or they are in positions where they can influence the control over black people. Yes, that is very true. So to my friends… that are upset about the picture that I posted? Oh well! I will not apologize for it because at the moment Black. Lives. Matter. They matter. Our media is showing you obviously they don’t. So for y’all that can sit around and say all lives matter? I want you to go put it on a poster and stand out on a corner somewhere. If we can get enough white people to show that all lives matter maybe they’ll stop killing our black brothers. ‘Cause obviously that’s what it’s gonna take. For the white people to get up and get tired of black people saying black lives matter. So if y’all want it to stop you get out there and do something about it. — Sandra Bland, Sandy Speaks, April 8, 2015.

It doesn’t matter to white America that Sandra Bland was fighting the system that killed every black person before and after Tamir Rice; or that the system has left mothers like her own mother Geneva Read-Veal, and Tamir Rice’s mother Samaria Rice with aching hearts and truncated memories; or that she was found hanging in her jail cell three days after she was arrested on July 10, 2015 after a “routine traffic stop”; it doesn’t matter that one of the last things Sandra said to her mom was “Mom! you know? I know what my purpose is now… my purpose is to go back to Texas and stop all the injustice against Blacks.” What matters to them is that by the time the 2017 Sandra Bland Act was passed by the legislature, “the racial profiling and police training component (of the bill) was largely stripped” and that it “became mostly a mental health bill.” And so the injustice continues.

 

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Im not really allowed to be normal because of what America has done to my family… My son, he was twelve. You know what I’m saying?… That officer [Timothy Loehmann] should be in jail. Both of ‘em [officer Frank Gramback]. Ya, both of ‘em should be in jail. Ya. For life! For. Life. They should never be able to get out of jail. After destroying my life like they did?… I don’t even know what my son would’ve looked like at 14, 15… I wanted to see what my baby boy was going to look like, but I don’t have that vision and that’s the most painful thing… you know, I’m just going to have this 12-year-old face to look at for the rest of my life. That’s hurtful. That’s painful. That’s like a stab in my heart…You know? Nobody should be comfortable in America sleeping at night [with] what’s going on in this country right now.

Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, July 13, abc NEWS.

And it doesn’t matter to these patrons of injustice that Tamir was only 12 when he was murdered by one of their many stooges in a park in Cleveland, Ohio; or that he was playing with a toy gun at the time; or that his mother Samaria grew up in an America where democracy works only for a certain type of American and she wasn’t that type; or that she was, as she says, “basically part of the system already,” coming from a broken home, raising herself “from the age of twelve,” traumatized, and that after losing her son at the hands of the state, she developed severe PTSD, feeling like a victim of war. What matters to them is that American democracy came to the rescue of officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Gramback, and not to Tamir and other Black and Brown Americans like him.

I think we know “why her?”. Why Ivore Westfield? I think we know why white people insist on chanting their insular mantra of “All Lives Matter.” And I think we know why Samaria feels she’s at war with her own government.

The white, privileged U.S. shit that has been flying all around the globe killing and maiming and occupying and displacing millions has finally come to the homeland and hit the proverbial fan of American democracy. What we are now witnessing, exacerbated by the pandemic, are pieces of that shit sticking to the shirts and ties of the corporate elite, politicians, the media, racist Americans and the police. And that’s why the “friendly fire” this time around isn’t accidental. It’s intentional. And that’s why “why her?”. Why Ivore Westfield? And that’s why why Samaria Rice? Why Tamir Rice? Why Geneva Read-Veal? Why Sandra Bland? And for that matter, why Rachel? And that’s why why Navy Veteran Chris David in Portland? And that’s why why 75-year-old Martin Gugino in Buffalo?

And so the injustice continues. And that’s why Ivore and Rachel tell us that this won’t be the last time we will see them at a protest for justice.

 

The same physical seeds (with a little variation) that were used to plant the portrait of George Floyd were used for the portrait of Ahmaud Arbery and others. The point being that the seeds for racial justice sprout from the same history-roots of Black and Brown resistance to state violence; only the branching faces change. These ephemeral portraits bloom for a short time before another seed-face-bloom of resistance replaces it. Seeds used include mixed beans, legumes, okra, sorghum, sunflower, watermelon and wheat.

American While Black: Includes George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery

Black Women’s Lives Matter in the USA and the UK: Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga

Why impose punishment before the facts have been fully assembled? Why have the chief and the mayor created a termination document amped up with hyperbole? Unfortunately, the answer is that this termination is a cowardly political act. — Attorney of former Louisville Metro Police Detective Brett Hankison, WDRB, June 25.

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A cowardly political act has been done indeed. Not toward Brett Hankison but toward justice for EMT Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Hankison. On the night of March 13, Hankison  and two other plainclothes officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department—Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove—burst through Taylor’s apartment door while she and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker slept. The cops had a no-knock warrant to search for drugs. Waking up from the commotion and seeing that intruders had broken in, Walker reached for his gun and shot Mattingly in the leg. The officers fired back with more than 20 rounds, eight of which pierced Taylor’s body, killing her. 

No drugs were found, because the cops had broken into the wrong apartment.

The lynching of George Floyd has sparked Black Lives Matter protests all across the nation, calling for racial justice and police accountability. They include voices calling for the media to focus its attention not only on murdered Black men, but also on “the Black and Brown women who have been attacked, assaulted, or killed by the police.” 

A long, long three months after the night of March 13, Hankison was finally fired. But protesters rightly want more. Hankison’s attorney claims, pathetically, that the firing was a “cowardly political act,” and demonstrators in the streets of America beg to differ. They are demanding that all three officers be criminally charged. 

The United States of America has never ever been the (so-called) Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Instead, it’s the Land of the Free to Kill and the Home of the Cowardly Cops.

… I’m sorry I didn’t do more to protect you

And make sure the world know they must value and respect you

I’m sorry your life was taken in the hands of police

Who while your were asleep decided for you to rest in peace

But Breonna, I want to turn this sorrow into better tomorrows

Better tomorrows for your mother and your loved ones

Better tomorrows so you can be proud of what your life has done

Better tomorrows of the children you dreamed of

Better tomorrows for those who rarely have seen love

Better tomorrows for some who say we are blessed and some who say we are lucky

Better tomorrows for Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort and all of Kentucky

Better tomorrows for this country

I can see ’em coming

Better tomorrows begin with us lifting up the black woman

Love!

— Rapper Common on the steps of the capitol building, Frankfort, Kentucky, Courier Journal, June 25.

 

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The man asked her what she was doing, why she was there, and she said they were working. The man said he had the virus and spat on them. They reported it. — Lusamba Gode Katalay, husband of Belly Mujinga.

On the morning of March 22, nine days after the brutal cop-killing of Breonna Taylor in her bedroom in Louisville, Kentucky, 4240 miles away, Belly Mujinga, a railway ticket officer, was working at Victoria Station in London, UK when a man who said he had Covid-19 allegedly spat and coughed in the faces of her and a colleague. Within days of that incident both women fell ill with the virus. Mujinga died on April 5, leaving behind an 11-year-old daughter, Ingrid and husband, Lusamba. 

Mujinga’s cousin Agnes told The Guardian that Mujinga had begged her employers, Govia Thameslink, who were well aware of her underlying respiratory problems, not to send her outside of the protected ticket office and into the concourse area without PPE. That wasn’t all. Immediately after the spitting incident, Mujinga was ordered back onto the concourse, still unprotected, to interact with passengers.

After investigation, the British Transport Police concluded that there was “no evidence to substantiate any criminal offences having taken place,” and that her death was not a result of the spitting incident. They have since closed the case.

Mujinga has become the face of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK, which, with 309,455 confirmed Covid-19 cases to date, is fifth in the world after the US, Brazil, Russia and India, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Justice for Belly Mujinga!

Justice for Breonna Taylor!

Please DM me @PritiGCox if you would like the patterns for the cross stitched portraits of Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga.

 

 

A Walk With George Floyd in Tiffany’s Shoes

 

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What I can’t do is change my skin color for y’all… Just like when I go to work everyday, it’s a choice… no matter what happens in that day, good or bad, I chose it. When I was born I didn’t choose that. I didn’t choose to be the color I am, but I’m proud of who I am and I would not change it for the world. So, before you decide it’s just not a big deal. Before you make excuses. Before you say enough is enough and get over it. I’ll get over it when I don’t have to pray to hear from my kids every morning to know they’re okay. I don’t have to have a meltdown if they didn’t respond within the first hour or so, because I’m now worried something happened to my Good. Black. Kids. So when I can start waking up every morning and not fearing for my kids or my loved ones, then, then, and only then you ask me to stop. — Tiffany Cooper, June 15, Salina, Kansas 

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Please take this eleven minute walk with Salinan Tiffany Cooper, in which she covers the last eight minutes and 46 seconds of Floyd’s life, and his dying words.

It was Thursday afternoon, May 11th when I got the text from Larry, a fellow Salinan, saying that he “was doing a chalk installation drawing along with Tammy” on the sidewalk downtown, and they needed an artist to add some visuals to it. The drawing was a three-quarter-mile-long electrocardiogram tracing (the familiar heartbeat pattern) depicting the eight minutes and forty-six seconds during which Derek Chauvin’s knee was on George Floyd’s neck as he was murdering Floyd on May 25. Ten-second intervals were indicated along the tracing, and Floyd’s dying words were chalked in at the various times he said them.

Larry suggested that I render an image of a knee on Floyd’s neck at the beginning of the heartbeat tracing and another of Floyd with eyes closed at six minutes, three seconds—the point at which he became unresponsive. (At 6:03, the pulse on the sidewalk goes flat.)

I asked Larry to elaborate on how he came up with the heartbeat concept and what kind of reactions he had to it.

Larry:

A friend had asked me if I had done any of the 8:46 events and realized how long that was. Then walking to Ad Astra [Tammy’s coffee shop], I thought about how long the walk was. I felt that a 8:46 walk and you had to read what George said while dying could make us think. The heartbeat seemed like a dramatic thing to tie the words together while showing how long he was suffering and then flatlined/non responsive.

Tammy and I were still drawing when a husband of a friend came to us. His wife had to stop midway through because she was so moved and upset. Later she came by Ad Astra still teared up. Thanking us for such a moving and eye-opening experience.

A few people stopped me and asked what I was doing. They did not get it, as if they had not heard of George Floyd.  

One man agreed that George’s death was horrible, “BUT…” and that’s all I have to say about that. 

Larry and Tammy’s powerful installation of George Floyd’s heartbeat stretched two blocks on Santa Fe Ave. from in front of Martinelli’s, a popular local restaurant, up to Ad Astra. 

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I went to Santa Fe Ave. on Friday morning in response to Larry’s text and spent the day recreating the infamous image of Chauvin’s murderous knee on Floyd’s neck in chalk outside Martinelli’s. I did the same with a now-well-known photo of George Floyd at the 6:03 mark, but I showed his eyes closed.

The next day at 4:00 pm I got a text from Larry saying that he was sorry to have to tell me but that my art had been rubbed out.

Larry:

When I heard Saturday that your pics had been rubbed out, I was outraged. I wish we’d had cameras. But it doesn’t matter who. What matters is it shows that this heartbeat walk is so necessary for whites to open their eyes to the hate our fellow humans with darker skins than ours experience every fucking day.

The Flower Nook [a local flower shop] donated a bucket of flowers at the end of the walk. We placed a sign encouraging others to drop flowers there. The entire bucket of memorial flowers was stolen.  No respect for Floyd and no respect for those mourning his death.

IMG_6714 copyIMG_6713The photos of the defaced art were taken by Larry

It was a sad day for me to be a Salinan, when just two weeks ago I was really proud to be one. On May 31, I walked in the “No Justice No Peace” march that was prompted by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and organized by another friend, Miranda, along with  others. Hundreds of protestors in face masks participated in this historic event. In the twenty years I’ve been living in Salina, Kansas, I have never experienced such love and solidarity for long-overdue racial justice.

Miranda:

On May 31st I was so proud to be from Salina. 400 people came to walk for civil rights eight blocks and no problems. I expected 50 people to show up. At the most. It was overwhelming pride but heartache that we are still marching, all these years later. There were kids there among people in their 70s. It was amazing.

When Priti’s art was defaced on Santa Fe just two weeks later, I felt the exact opposite. Sad. Mad and frustrated all over again. Frankly, the defamation made me want to march again.

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Are some people that ignorant or untouched by our world’s injustices? It saddens but encourages me every day. I personally thought if any person [who disliked it] had any respect they would simply look away. It’s unfortunate we, as humans, seem to choose the wrong times to “look away”. Not anymore. I refuse to let the City of Salina “look away”. That’s why I proposed a “Know Justice Know Peace Plaza” so we can paint a mural, have a safe space for minorities and remember Dana Adams, who was killed by a mob here in 1893. Salina will no longer turn its back on any minority or one person giving our communities strength and a sense of pride. A place where we all can demonstrate civil rights and not have it be destroyed. There will be a light in the darkness here in Salina. Love always outshines hate.

DSC_0267Photos of the “No Justice No Peace” march were taken by John Epic

What will it take for white-America to change its murder-ignoring ways? To wake the fuck up. To pay heed to Tiffany’s words. To walk in her shoes. To feel her pain as her body and voice make that posthumous eight minutes 46 seconds journey with George Floyd. 

Change is here. It has been an unprecedented time, no doubt, for Americans of all hues to take to the streets and sidewalks and dissent against systemic racial injustice and continuing police atrocities. But if you click on the link at the beginning of this article and take that journey with Tiffany, then you can see that the road to change is still hard and long.

George Floyd: A Timeline in Chalk, the Salina Journal, June 17.

American While Black

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The State’s knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on a Black man’s neck. That’s what it took BLACK LIVES MATTER America to take to the young but deadly pandemic streets like there was no tomorrow. And it’s been the same since.

Michael Cruse… killed a man before for running a stop sign… He was fired from the police department… He was tried [and] convicted of vehicular homicide. He got sentenced to one year in jail. He spent 30 days in jail… Then he was rehired. — Theresa Joyce-Wynne, mother of Dominique White, Mom’s Demand Action rally, Topeka, Kansas, June, 2018.

For the Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) it all started in September 2018 when I decided to convert my Congressman’s office sidewalk into a palette of peaceful direct-action where Kansas’ 1st District constituents could get together and plant dissent to systemic racial, climate, social and economic injustice via song, art, poetry, protest etc. And the first such seeds to be planted on the concrete of @RogerMarshalMD’s sidewalk were for racial justice and for Dominique White, a 30-year-old black man who was shot and killed by Topeka police officers Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey, a year earlier on September 28, 2017.

Scan 2Cross-stitch embroidery detail of Dominique White’s portrait, September, 2018

They say he (Dominique) was reaching for a gun. He wasn’t reaching for that gun. He was trying to get away. He didn’t know what was going to happen. They grabbed him! Trying to detain him and told him he wasn’t being arrested. A young black man in this day and age? He was scared for his life. He was scared for his life. So he tried to get away. — Theresa Joyce-Wynne.

According to Mapping Police Violence, “1,147 people were killed by police in 2017,” the year Dominique White was killed; only 1% of those officers involved were charged with a crime, and of the 569 officers who were identified, “at least 48 [like Michael Cruse] had shot and killed someone before”; about half of the 1,147 people killed by the police were reported to be armed with a gun, but “1 in 5 people with a gun were not threatening anyone when they were killed;” and if the police had simply spent their energy on de-escalating the situation Dominique White would’ve been one of 638 people who didn’t have to die that year.

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We all know that most people to be killed with impunity by the police and other racist Americans are people of color and/or LGBTQ. But what finally snapped the elastic cord of racial injustice in the beautiful and multicolored way that it did in America, at least when it comes to police violence? Was it a combination of the mismanaged Trump-presidency-style lockdown with the duration of Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck that made these rightly angry and emotional people fill the streets day after day after day to say ENOUGH!? All across America the streets have been filled with protestors invoking the names of people killed by police violence, including in Topeka Kansas where people chanted, “Say his Name! Dominique White.”

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IMG_6624Abbi says “We Are Responsible” with sainfoin and alfalfa seeds

A year and eight months have passed between the first planting of seeds at SMoC for justice for Dominique White and the planting of seed-portraits for justice of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. And it is clear that this year has been monumental in that it has seen an unprecedented momentum for racial justice and police accountability.

When I was at SMoC this June 3 working on Tony McDade’s portrait, a man walked up to me and looked at what I was doing and asked, “Is that George Floyd?” No it’s Tony McDade. He was a transgender man shot and killed by the police in Florida, two days after Floyd, I replied. Then he said, “He (George Floyd) broke the law. If he hadn’t broke the law the police wouldn’t a come after him. Now, I ain’t sayin’ the officer shoulda done what he did. And he’s gonna pay the price for it.” Saying nothing about the other three officers involved, then looking more intently at McDade’s portrait he said, “He looks like him (Floyd).” And I thought, wow! why? because he’s black? 

He was right. Not because McDade looks anything like Floyd, but yes, Tony McDade is George Floyd is Eric Garner is Philando Castile is Breonna Taylor is Michael Brown is Tamir Rice is Sandra Bland is Dominique White…

And McDade’s killer—who’s hiding behind Marsy’s Law, under which his name is kept secret—is Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane are Daniel Pantaleo and the multiple officers who pinned Eric Garner down before he died on the sidewalk are Jeronimo Yanez is Jonathan Mattingly and Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove are Darren Wilson is Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback are the criminal justice system.

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The death of George Floyd touched us deeply because the truth of the matter [is] we’re in a season of death… 60-70% didn’t have to die [from Covid]. 700 people are dying a day [from poverty] before we ever came to Covid… There are a lot of people already talking about healing!… you can’t heal this quick! We haven’t mourned enough yet! — Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President and Senior Lecturer, Repairers of the Breach, June 7.

Seeds used for the portraits include watermelon, sorghum, mixed beans, soybean, okra, sunflower and wheat. 

Masks for MAGAs

 

IMG_6583 2This latest pattern is for a face-mask designed specially for Trump’s see nothing/hear nothing climate-and-covid-denial base. Photographed at the Sidewalk Museum of Congress located outside @RogerMarshallMD’s office in Salina, Kansas.

 

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One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy and Keep On Keepin’ On

(Includes a Discomfort Foods recipe, and the words in bold inspire it)

For Trump the warriortalk isnt about shared sacrifice. He is adding a cheap patina of valor to his demand that people endanger themselves and in some cases die to restore the greatest economy that ever was … the one he created, the one he thinks will get him reelected in November. This is less warrior than cannon fodder. — Josh Marshall, TMP, May 7

Marshall wrote that in response to one of Trump’s latest nonsensical utterances: that he views the “great citizens of this county to a certain extent and to a large extent as warriors.” Of course, Trump wants America to snap out of its induced COVID coma and open up. After all he wants America’s “to-a-certain-extent-and-to-a-large-extent-warriors” get busy keeping America profiteering again. What Trump didn’t add was that the warriors are also “overworked, underpaid, under-protected, and under-appreciated,” to a large, very big extent. And by golly they work for rich white people like Trump.

But most of America is not white and rich. In fact it’s the opposite. It’s non-white and poor-white. In fact, there would be no rich white people in America if it wasn’t for exploitation of the hands of non-white and white working people. And come to think of it, there’s nothing truly rich about rich-white-America. In fact, it’s dull, boring, and bland.

They signed up for a job to work for a company and to make ends meet. These workers didn’t sign up to die. — Kim Cordova, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, Colorado, NBC News, May 8, 2020 

The real richness of America lies in the country’s frontline workers: its migrant fruit pickers and other farmworkers, its meatpackers, vegetable processing and frozen-food plant workers, housekeepers, bus drivers, poultry workers, undocumented dairy workers, grocery store cashiers and clerks, janitors, warehouse workers, nurses, cleaners, healthcare workers, nursing home and home health-care aids, and others.

With Covid, the way it’s treated, in my view it’s just a symptom of something that happens. All. The. Time. We still have construction workers who have cave-ins in trenches. Well that’s just ridiculous. Or falling off a building. No! We can’t have that! — Joan Ratzlaff, co-chair, Salina Area Workers Coalition, Kansas. 

Even before the pandemic hit, this country’s workforce was suffering unimaginable hardships. And their collective suffering has, for the most part, remained outside the government’s livelihoods-policy imagination like a scabbed-over wound that now, thanks to COVID, has suddenly exposed its rawness for all to see and act upon. A rawness without which this country could not come to a full ill-functioning circle. 

This richest country in the world, for instance, would have no public transit workers, 26% of whom are black, deliver restaurant workers to their place of work, every day. The well-off would have no restaurant workers to serve them their fave chicken dish; no chicken to give underpaid poultry industry workers carpel-tunnel syndrome; no carpel-tunnel syndrome to be left untreated because many workers like them have no healthcare to speak of.

There would be no healthcare for female and Latinx workers, 53.2% and 40.2% of whom work in building cleaning services, respectively; for women who make up 64.4% of all of the country’s frontline workers in industries where 41.2% of the workforce is also non-white; or for non-white workers, who along with women and foreign-born — 23% of whom live below the 200% poverty line—a poverty line under which live workers like the black bus driver who delivers restaurant workers to their workplace to serve chicken. Coming full circle, every day. 

And the real ugliness of America lies in the country’s rich, white profiteers whose latest fad is viewing their workers as COVID fodder.

Meanwhile, states are “opening up” without having met the White House’s own criteria that must be followed before going ahead with a phased comeback—criteria that include showing a downward trajectory of cases over a two-week period, and vigorous testing and antibody testing. 

The administration is lying. State governments are lying when they say things like it is safe to attend concerts standing 6 feet apart. And I suppose the owners of that crowded restaurant in Colorado — a state that has seen more than 19,700 cases of COVID and 973 deaths so far — were demonstrating how much they love their mothers on Mother’s Day.

Here, a worker at a large frozen-food factory in Kansas explains the company policies that he and his fellow workers have to live under:

I am to this day not 100 percent sure on what happens entirely when you call in absent or self quarantine or something like that. My impression… since about late March when they upgraded kinda the measures that were taking into account, employees would no longer be punished for calling in absent, which was the case before when there was a points system, where absences even with doctors’ notes would count as one point and at ten you would be terminated. And at six you would be denied any opportunity for promotion. Now it seems to be that theyve taken an incentivized approach to coming to work where you dont seem to be punished for calling out but you are rewarded with a $100 bonus [for a weeks work] for not missing any of your scheduled time to work, which to me seems like a bribe to come to work while sick… Its the appreciation bonus, is what they call it.

Self-quarantining to my knowledge doesnt seem to be rewarded. Theres no pay. If you call in with any amount of symptoms, youre not allowed to come back until youre symptom-free for three days. Which seems like good policy but youre either forced to take it without pay or to consume your vacation and holiday pay which is not unusual but not great… The only paid sick leave that I understand is if you are made by the company to quarantine if there were a confirmed case to happen there.

As for other measures like masks, there are temperature checks that occur on entering the facility… A lot of the time theyre done out in the cold in the morning and Ive seen an awful lot of instances where they would read temperatures that would suggest like, cold body temperatures and then allow people into the facility.

The problems then occur (with the masks) mostly when on the floor, er, the masks were implemented very recently… maybe one week ago. Before that there was a policy in place that everybody would be expected to maintain six feet of social distancing, except that in the more manually intensive packaging lines almost none of this changed. You would still have situations where the production speed is too fast for the packagers to keep up without more people coming to the rescue. 

So instead of maintaining maybe three packers on a line like six feet apart and four lines total, it would be five people at less than a foot and a half apart, desperately like flying one way or the other just like grab products and package it and ship it out. All day. The same people next to each other rotating around the line so that everybody would be in everybodys spot at one point. And you have members of management that would come by and they would catch you if you were talking to each other less than six feet apart… but they would seem to walk right past all the people that would package continually all day…

That was before the masks… Since the masks have been rolled out not only has that continued to be the case, as if this suddenly, you know, we can make up for the bad job we did before with the social distancing. Like this is the perfect defense against everything.

But the masks bring more problems. They are an extra piece of personal protective equipment that has to be worn underneath an additional full head net for your hair… everybody must wear. Its pinned down further with… safety glasses and with hard hat with ear muffs, so it peals very tightly across the mask which makes it even harder to breathe than just the mask. 

So if you rotate to a spot with harder work, it gets really hard to breathe right. A lot of people have started reporting signs of heat stress, or other things that like not being able to catch your breath. There have been some complaints about it but there are no solutions, and to an extent it seems like theres even been a mild effort to pass this off as, oh, this is just you not being used to the mask, you know. Your body just thinks the mask is choking you. Youll get used to it. Keep on keepinon.

Now if you look at some of the meatpacking facilities like Smithfield… some of the pork producers, theyve had cases skyrocket to the hundreds just in that facility alone. And I dont really think that our things here are the same as there, but I dont think that theyre so different that it shouldnt worry us a little.

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Keep on Keepin’ On Chicken Pot Pie Encased in a Lie-Crust

Ingredients for the lie-crust: 2 cups white flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons butter or crisco and cold tap water. 

Ingredients for the pie filling: 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/3 cup white flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 2/3 cup milk, 2 cups cooked chicken cut in small pieces, 2 cups frozen veggies and 3-4 tablespoons chopped jalapenõs.

Mix the salt into the flour. Cut the butter in little pieces and incorporate in the flour using your fingers. Add just enough cold water to make a stiff dough. Then break in half, wrap in saran wrap and chill for an hour or two. 

Melt butter in a pan on medium heat, add the onion and cook for about a minute. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Slowly add the broth and milk, stirring continuously. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil, continuing to stir. Turn the heat off and mix in the chicken pieces, veggies and chopped jalapenõs.

Take the dough out and roll one half of the pieces thin to fit your fave pie pan. Fold the pan over the rolled dough and cut around. Then roll some more. Press in pan and keep aside. For the top lie-crust layer, take about 2/3 of the remaining piece of dough and shape it like one of your face masks with straps and all, replacing pieces of cinnamon sticks and cloves for thread to make pleats. Fork 100 holes in the mask and keep aside.

Pour the pie-filling into the pie pan, and place the face-mask-shaped dough in the center. Then roll and shape the remaining 1/3 piece of dough to fit the circumference of the pie pan, leaving a small opening between it and the mask-shaped dough. Pinch edges and bake at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, till the crust is golden brown and you can see the filling bubbling through the opening.

IMG_6559Serve with fresh salad. 

Discomfort Foods uses the medium of ingredients, measurements and textures to communicate the state of the planet and its occupants, in the process creating new food memories and associations. For this recipe, for instance, I have stayed true to the comfort-food taste of chicken pot pie, but introduced an element of discomfort by establishing new livelihood-policy associations with the ingredients — dairy, chicken and veggies, decorating it with a 100-holed face mask, and adding jalapenõs.

This Summer We’ll Hear the Silencin’ / 70K Dead in the USA (and Counting)

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Yesterday, May 4, marked the 50th Anniversary of the Kent State University Massacre in Ohio, when the U.S. National Guard showered bullets into young anti-Vietnam war protestors killing four and wounding nine. 

According to David Paul Kuhn, author of The Hardhat Riot: Nixon, New York City and the Dawn of the White Working-Class Revolution, “If there’s an era when the tribalization of the trump era began, it’s this time,” and that “between Kent State and the hardhat riot you have the best microcosm that there is of the beginning of the polarization that haunts America today.”

Fifty years later, in pandemic-time, when more than 70,000 Americans officially have died so far, (the actual number is much, much higher) our politicians are too busy playing status quo politics in D.C. and to varying degrees all across the 50 states. But within the midst of these status quo shenanigans one thing is as clear as this vast, contrail-free Kansas heartland sky above the Sidewalk of Museum of Congress (SMoC) protest today: the core of the tragedy is the same, only the surface layers have changed.

The tragedy that was the Kent State massacre and that was captured in the iconic photo of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller—a 20-year-old man whose anti-war voice had just been silenced by a shot through his protesting mouth by superpower state machinery—speaks to us in ways that only those paying attention can hear.

The Guardian points out that the atrocity of Kent State was bookended by two other atrocities: the South Carolina State College massacre of 1968 and the Jackson State College massacre ten days after Kent State. Together, those two state-sanctioned shootings killed five young Black men — Samuel Hammond Jr., Henry Smith, Delano Middleton, Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, and James Earl Green, and wounded 39 other Black students. “Kent State is a story that people know, people can learn from, whereas Orangeburg and Jackson, because they happened on black college campuses, are stories that go untold,” said Bakari Sellers, son of student rights leader Cleveland Sellers who was convicted of rioting and was “the only person to go to prison over what became known as the Orangeburg Massacre.”

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Today, the silencing of justice and cries for accountability continues. Only the circumstances have changed. And through the fifty years, we can hear echoes of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: 

Health Workers and Democracy’s dyin’

Left strugglin’ on their own

This summer I hear the silencin’

A thousand dead in Ohio

 

Gotta get down to it

The government’s letting us down

Should have been gone long ago

What if you knew a Latina,

Found her dead on the ground?

How can you lie when you know?

 

Gotta get down to it

Administration’s mowing us down

Shoulda been gone long ago

If you saw a Black Man 

Lyin’ dead on the ground?

How can you lie when you know?

 

Meat workers and Democracy’s dyin’

Left strugglin’ on their own

This fall I’ll hear the silencin’

More dead in Ohio

More dead in Florida

More dead in Iowa

More dead in Michigan (How many?)

More dead in Illinois (How many more?)

More dead in Delaware (Why?)

More dead in Arkansas (No!)

More dead in Maryland (No more!)

More dead in Tennessee (No more!)

More dead in …

DSC_0152Photos of this recreation of the timeless photo by John Filo of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller were taken by John Epic at the Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) located outside Kansas’ 1st District Congress member @RogerMarshallMD’s office in Salina, Kansas, May 4. 

Protestors re-create Kent State massacre, the Salina Journal, May 5