กลุ่มเสรีภาพต่อต้านการเซ็นเซอร์แห่งประเทศไทย (FACT) มีความยินดีที่จะมอบ FreedomServer ซอฟท์แวร์ Open Source ซึ่งพัฒนาโดยบริษัท Psiphon จาก SecDev Group ประเทศแคนาดา เพื่อ FACT โดยเฉพาะ!

บริการ FreedomServer Web-based Proxy ขอสงวนโอกาสพิเศษเฉพาะผู้ใช้ที่ได้ลงชื่อใน FACT petition โดยคุณสามารถลงนามแสดงจุดยืนต่อต้านการเซ็นเซอร์ทุกประเภทในประเทศไทย ได้ที่นี่

เราจะทำการรวบรวมรายชื่อของคุณพร้อมด้วยผู้สนับสนุนรายอื่นๆใน FACT petition และแจ้งให้คุณทราบถึงวิธีการสร้างบัญชีสมาชิกผ่านทาง e-mail address อย่างไรก็ตาม หากคุณได้ทำการลงชื่อใน FACT petition เป็นที่เรียบร้อยแล้ว ขอความกรุณาแจ้งให้เราทราบอีกครั้งหนึ่ง

Proxy ปฏิบัติการอย่างถูกกฎหมายในประเทศไทย และถือเป็นหลักสำคัญสำหรับธุรกรรมทางการค้าระหว่างประเทศ อย่างไรก็ตาม หาก FreedomServer Web-based proxy ถูกบล็อก บัญชีสมาชิกของผู้ใช้จะค้นหาช่องทางการเข้าเวปไซต์ให้ใหม่อย่างต่อเนื่อง ทำให้คุณลืมเรื่องการเซ็นเซอร์ไปเลย!

FreedomServer ช่วยให้พลเมืองเน็ตสามารถต่อกรกับการเซ็นเซอร์จากรัฐบาลได้อย่างปลอดภัย ผู้ใช้โปรแกรมสามารถเข้าชมเวปไซต์และเนื้อหาออนไลน์ที่ถูกสกัดกั้นหรือกรั่นกรองได้ โดยยังคงสถานะนิรนาม

Psiphon เป็นโปรแกรมที่เขียนขึ้นโดย Nart Villaneuve จาก Secdev. Cyber และ Michelle Levesque จาก  Google โปรแกรมดังกล่าวเป็นส่วนหนึ่งของโครงการ OpenNet Initiative ภายใต้ความร่วมมือของ  Berkman Center for Internet and Society ณ มหาวิทยาลัยฮาร์วาร์ด และมหาวิทยาลัยเคมบริดจ์ ได้รับการสนับสนุนด้านเงินทุนโดย Open Soceity Institute ต่อมาได้รับการพัฒนาในโครงการ Citizen Lab ณ  Munk School of Global Affairs มหาวิทยาลัยโตรอนโต ประเทศแคนาดา

นอกจากนี้ ผู้สนับสนุนโปรแกรม Psiphon ยังประกอบไปด้วยสหภาพยุโรป, กระทรวงการต่างประเทศ สหรัฐอเมริกา, บีบีซี , Voice of America, Radio Free Asia และ Radio Farda

แม้ว่าประเทศไทยจะมีมาตรการการเก็บรักษาข้อมูลออนไลน์โดยรัฐบาล เช่นเดียวกับในสหราชอาณาจักร สหภาพยุโรป และประเทศอื่นๆทั่วโลก แต่การเข้าถึง FreedomServer นั้น ใช้การเข้ารหัสแบบ 128-bit   Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) ซึ่งเป็นมาตรฐานเดียวกันกับเวปไซต์ธนาคาร

FACT ขออภัยหากคุณได้รับข้อความนี้ซ้ำ โดยคุณสามารถ แจ้งให้เราทราบ เพื่อที่เราจะทำการลบที่ e-mail address ที่ซ้ำซ้อนออกไป ขอบคุณครับ!

Psiphon 3 (ฉบับภาษาอังกฤษ) เป็น software-based VPN ที่สนับสนุนระบบปฏิบัติการ Windows เท่านั้น สำหรับคำแนะนำการใช้งานภาษาไทยโปรดคลิก ที่นี่

ขอขอบคุณทุกท่านที่ให้ความร่วมมือในการเผยแพร่ข้อมูลฉบับนี้ไปยังกลุ่มเพื่อน, ครอบครัว, นิสิต-นักศึกษา และ contact list ของท่าน

NO CENSORSHIP! NO COMPROMISE!

Now you can live it…

Just say know!

At Least Five Major Web-Security Companies Will Not Help Pakistan Censor The Internet

Websense, Verizon, Mcafee, Cisco, and Sandvine will not submit proposals.

Jonathan Fisher

WebProNews: March 16, 2012

http://www.webpronews.com/at-least-five-major-web-security-companies-will-not-help-pakistan-censor-the-internet-2012-03

At least five major companies offering information security products will not submit bids to the Pakistani government, which has been openly seeking an internet censor since February.

San Diego-based Websense was one of the first to openly reject the offer, announcing in a March 2nd statement: “Websense will not submit a response to this request for proposal (RFP), and we call on other technology providers to also do the right thing for the citizens of Pakistan and refuse to submit a proposal for this contract.” McAfee, Inc. became one of the latest technological providers opting not to bid on the controversial contract. The company announced its position via tweet on Monday:

@McAfee

McAfee Inc.

Update for our followers: McAfee has confirmed that it is not pursuing the Pakistan Firewall RFP.

Free speech advocacy groups like the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Freedom Foundation are backing a Pakistani rights group, Bolo Bhi, in a campaign against the government’s request for proposal. The free speech organization, whose name means “Speak Up,” has made a direct appeal to eight internet security companies, asking them not to submit proposals to Pakistan’s government. Moreover, they encourage the companies to make public their rejections of the proposal. The idea is that, while companies considering the proposal might not be so keen to announce their plans, if enough of their competitors openly reject the bill, Pakistan’s potential internet censors will stand out by their silence. Those companies, by consequence, could be the recipients of a lot of negative PR soon.

In addition to Websense and Mcafee, Cisco, Sandvine, and Verizon are among the major companies who have taken a public stance against Pakistan’s proposal.

At present, Blue Coat Systems, Netsweeper, Huawei and ZTE, have remained conspicuously silent about the matter.

[Via: NY Times Bits.]

Jonathan Fisher is a staff writer for WebProNews. Google:+Jonathan Fisher

Dr. Tyrrell Haberkorn

ReadJournal: April 2011

http://readjournal.org/read-journal/vol-3-no-3-aril-september-2011/tyrell11/

 

ไทเรล ฮาเบอร์คอร์ณ | เรื่องจากปก

วันที่ 5 เมษายน 2494 (1951) เอเธล โรเซนเบิร์ก (Ethel Rosenberg) ถูกตัดสินประหารชีวิตในความผิดฐานสมคบคิดจารกรรมและขายข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับระเบิดปรมาณูของสหรัฐอเมริกาให้แก่สหภาพโซเวียต
วันที่ 28 สิงหาคม 2552 (2009) ดารณี ชาญเชิงศิลปกุล ถูกตัดสินจำคุก 18 ปีโทษฐานที่หมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพ
**
เอเธล โรเซนเบิร์ก ปฏิเสธว่าเธอมิได้ก่ออาชญากรรมตามที่ถูกกล่าวหา และเอกสารที่รัฐบาลสหรัฐฯ เปิดเผยในภายหลังก็ชี้ว่ากระทั่งในระดับสูงสุดของหน่วยข่าวกรองก็รู้ว่าเธอไม่ได้เกี่ยวข้องกับจารกรรมนั้น ขณะที่ดารณี ชาญเชิงศิลปกุล ยอมรับว่าเป็นผู้กล่าวถ้อยคำตามที่ถูกกล่าวหา แต่ปฏิเสธว่าการกระทำนั้นมิใช่ความผิดในการหมิ่นสถาบันกษัตริย์
**
ชีวิตของหญิงทั้งสอง คดีความที่ฟ้องร้องต่อทั้งคู่ และโทษทัณฑ์ที่มาสู่พวกเธอ ทั้งที่เกิดขึ้นแล้วในกรณีของเอเธล หรือที่กำลังเกิดขึ้น ณ ปัจจุบันขณะในกรณีของดารณี ทั้งหมดนี้แยกห่างกันคนละมหาสมุทร คนละห้วงเวลากว่า
หกสิบปี และคนละระบบกฎหมาย แต่ผู้เขียนอยากจะเสนอว่า แม้จะมีความต่างเหล่านี้ แต่ทั้งสองกรณีนี้ล้วนเป็นอาการบ่งชี้ว่ารัฐใช้ความกลัวเป็นเครื่องมือในการปราบปรามอย่างหนักข้อขึ้นเรื่อยๆ อีกทั้งบ่งชี้ถึงเงื้อมเงาทะมึนของวิกฤตชาติ
****

อ่านบทความฉบับเต็มได้จากวารสาร อ่าน

How Religion’s Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages

The most fervent advocates of religion in the modern world are also the most deeply inculcated with the mindset of command and obedience, which has dangerous consequences.

Adam Lee

AlterNet: March 19, 2012

http://www.alternet.org/story/154604/how_religion%27s_demand_for_obedience_keeps_us_in_the_dark_ages?page=entire

 

For the vast majority of human history, the only form of government was the few ruling over the many. As human societies became settled and stratified, tribal chiefs and conquering warlords rose to become kings, pharaohs and emperors, all ruling with absolute power and passing on their thrones to their children. To justify this obvious inequality and explain why they should reign over everyone else, most of these ancient rulers claimed that the gods had chosen them, and priesthoods and holy books obligingly came on the scene to promote and defend the theory of divine right.

It’s true that religion has often served to unite people against tyranny, as well as to justify it. But in many cases, when a religious rebellion overcame a tyrant, it was only to install a different tyrant whose beliefs matched those of the revolutionaries. Christians were at first ruthlessly persecuted by the Roman Empire, but when they ascended to power, they in turn banned all the pagan religions that had previously persecuted them. Protestant reformers like John Calvin broke away from the decrees of the Pope, but Calvinists created their own theocratic city-states where their will would reign supreme.

Similarly, when King Henry VIII split England away from the Catholic church, it wasn’t so he could create a utopia of religious liberty; it was so he could create a theocracy where his preferred beliefs, rather than the Vatican’s, would be the law of the land. And in just the same way, when the Puritans fled England and migrated to the New World, it wasn’t to uphold religious tolerance; it was to impose their beliefs, rather than the Church of England’s.

It’s only within the last few centuries, in the era of the Enlightenment, that a few fearless thinkers argued that the people should govern themselves, that society should be steered by the democratic will rather than the whims of an absolute ruler. The kings and emperors battled ferociously to stamp this idea out, but it took root and spread in spite of them. In historical terms, democracy is a young idea, and human civilization is still reverberating from it — as we see in autocratic Arab societies convulsed with revolution, or Chinese citizens rising up against the state, or even in America, with protesters marching in the streets against a resurgence of oligarchy.

But while the secular arguments for dictatorship have been greatly weakened, the religious arguments for it have scarcely changed at all. Religion is very much a holdover from the dark ages of the past, and the world’s holy books still enshrine the ancient demands for us to bow down and obey the (conveniently unseen and absent) gods, and more importantly, the human beings who claim the right to act as their representatives. It’s no surprise, then, that the most fervent advocates of religion in the modern world are also the most deeply inculcated with this mindset of command and obedience.

We saw this vividly in recent weeks with the controversy over birth control. As polls and surveys make clear, the overwhelming majority of American Catholics use contraception and in all other ways live normal, modern lives. They mostly just ignore the archaic bluster of the bishops. But the Pope and the Vatican hierarchy conduct themselves publicly as if nothing had changed since the Middle Ages; as if there were billions of Catholics who’d leap to obey the slightest crook of their finger.

The attitude the Vatican displays toward Catholic laypeople is perfectly summed up in a papal encyclical from 1906, titled “Vehementer Nos“:

The Scripture teaches us, and the tradition of the Fathers confirms the teaching, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ, ruled by the Pastors and Doctors — a society of men containing within its own fold chiefs who have full and perfect powers for ruling, teaching and judging. It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

An even more breathtakingly arrogant expression of this idea comes from New Advent, the official Catholic theological encyclopedia. Watch how it addresses that whole embarrassing Galileo episode:

[I]n the Catholic system internal assent is sometimes demanded, under pain of grievous sin, to doctrinal decisions that do not profess to be infallible…. [but] the assent to be given in such cases is recognized as being not irrevocable and irreversible, like the assent required in the case of definitive and infallible teaching, but merely provisional…

To take a particular example, if Galileo who happened to be right while the ecclesiastical tribunal which condemned him was wrong, had really possessed convincing scientific evidence in favour of the heliocentric theory, he would have been justified in refusing his internal assent to the opposite theory, provided that in doing so he observed with thorough loyalty all the conditions involved in the duty of external obedience.

To translate the church’s legalisms into plain language, what this is saying is that it’s OK to doubt something the church teaches, but only if you keep quiet about that doubt and outwardly obey everything the church authorities tell you, acting as if your doubt didn’t exist. And if the church teaches that something is an infallible article of faith, even that ineffective option is taken away: you’re required to believe it without question or else face eternal damnation.

Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, wrote that believers should “always be ready to obey [the church] with mind and heart, setting aside all judgment of one’s own.” To explain just how absolute he thought this obedience should be, he used a vivid analogy:

That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black.

Nor is it just from the Catholic side of the aisle where we hear these pronouncements. Even though Protestants don’t have one pope to rule them all, they still believe that following your betters is essential. Here’s a statement to that effect from the esteemed apologist C.S. Lewis, from his book The Problem of Pain:

But in addition to the content, the mere obeying is also intrinsically good, for, in obeying, a rational creature consciously enacts its creaturely role, reverses the act by which we fell, treads Adam’s dance backward, and returns.

According to Lewis, obedience is “intrinsically good.” In other words, it’s always a good thing to do as you’re told, no matter what you’re being told to do or who’s telling you to do it! It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the moral atrocities that could result from putting this idea into practice.

Another influential Christian writer and one of the intellectual fathers of the modern religious right, Francis Schaeffer, put the same thought — the same demand for mental slavery — in even blunter terms:

I am false or confused if I sing about Christ’s Lordship and contrive to retain areas of my own life that are autonomous. This is true if it is my sexual life that is autonomous, but it is at least equally true if it is my intellectual life that is autonomous — or even my intellectual life in a highly selective area. Any autonomy is wrong.

Just to prove that none of these are flukes, here’s one more quote, this time from Christian evangelical pastor Ray Stedman, excerpted from his sermon titled “Bringing Thoughts Into Captivity“:

I have noticed through the years that the intellectual life is often the last part of a Christian to be yielded to the right of Jesus Christ to rule. Somehow we love to retain some area of our intellect, of our thought-life, reserved from the control of Jesus Christ. For instance, we reserve the right to judge Scripture, as to what we will or will not agree with, what we will or will not accept… [Disagreeing with any part of the Bible] represents a struggle with the Lordship of Christ; his right to rule over every area of life, his right to control the thought-life, every thought taken captive to obey him.

Nor is the demand for mindless obedience confined to Christianity. Here’s how one Jewish rabbi explained the rationale for the kosher dietary laws, recounted in Richard Dawkins’ essay “Viruses of the Mind“:

That most of the Kashrut laws are divine ordinances without reason given is 100 percent the point. It is very easy not to murder people. Very easy. It is a little bit harder not to steal because one is tempted occasionally. So that is no great proof that I believe in God or am fulfilling His will. But, if He tells me not to have a cup of coffee with milk in it with my mincemeat and peas at lunchtime, that is a test. The only reason I am doing that is because I have been told to so do. It is something difficult.

In other words, the kosher laws have no reason or justification, and that’s a good thing, because they teach people the habit of unquestioning obedience, which should be encouraged. This uncannily resembles a piece of parenting advice from Stephen Colbert, who satirically wrote that “Arbitrary rules teach kids discipline: If every rule made sense, they wouldn’t be learning respect for authority, they’d be learning logic.” Religious authorities like this rabbi are making the exact same argument in all seriousness! And then, of course, there’s Islam, whose very name is Arabic for “submission.”

The social scientist Jonathan Haidt has identified what he calls the five foundations of morality: harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, in-group/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. Surveys from all over the world find that self-identified conservatives put far more emphasis on the last three, two of which are fundamental to a worldview based on obedience and submission. The implied similarity between conservatism and fundamentalist religion is too obvious to ignore, particularly in America, where the conservative political party is dominated by an especially regressive and belligerent strain of evangelical Christianity.

And like political conservatism in general, many religious rules are actively destructive to human liberty and happiness. Christian church leaders claim we should prohibit same-sex marriage and abortion and restrict access to birth control; ultra-Orthodox Jewish zealots want to erase women from public life; Islamic theocracies want to make it illegal to criticize or dissent from their beliefs. If moral commands could only be backed up by appeals to reason or human good, these unfounded and harmful laws would vanish overnight. Instead, the people who make these rules and want us to obey them claim that they’re messengers of the will of God, and thus no further justification is needed. It bears emphasizing that this is the exact same argument made by ancient monarchs and tyrants, all of whom used this idea to justify atrocious cruelty.

Those ancient monarchs were toppled because they proved, despite their lofty claims of divine right, that they were no better or wiser or more suited to rule than any other human being. This is a lesson from history that deserves wider attention in the modern world. Like them, religious conservatives claim that they’re passing along God’s ideas, and thus that we should obey them without critical challenge and questioning. This idea has always had disastrous consequences in the past — why should we expect anything different this time?

In sharp contrast to the religious and conservative worldview of obedience and submission, the worldview of freethinkers and progressives at its best is one that exalts freedom and liberty — freedom to make our own choices, freedom of the mind to travel and explore wherever it will. These are our commandments: Think for yourself and don’t blindly bow down to the claims of another. Exercise your own best judgment. Ask questions and investigate whether what you’ve been taught is true. There have been countless wars and devastations because people were too eager to subordinate their will and conscience to the ruling authorities, but as Sam Harris says, no atrocity was ever committed because people were being too reasonable, too skeptical, or too independently minded. If anything, human beings have always been too eager to obey and to subordinate their will to others. The more we throw off that ancient and limiting mindset, the more freedom we have to think, act and speak as we choose, the more humanity as a whole will prosper.

[FACT comments: The author of this thoughtful paper is a founding FACT signer. It’s blocked, of course. we have no idea why govt wouldn’t want you to read this. Guess they’re afraid we might wake up and think for ourselves…]

PDF English: 60-Years-of-Oppression-in-Thailand

Alternate PDF English: UPD to world leaders Eng.pdf 3.57 MB

PDF Thai: Thailand files for world leaders Thai.pdf 993.31 kB

For further information, please click here.

 

 

PREFACE

“This document brings together some of the evidence of the fearful tension that underlies the power struggle between the Institution of Monarchy and the Parliament of the People, tension that must be faced with dispassionate reasoning by all sides if the governance of Thailand is to mature in the name of peace and sustainable development.

Between these two competing forces there squats the greatly over-grown, hugely self-important Royal Thai Army – playing the game of ‘protecting the Monarch’ from ‘corrupt government’.

Our decision, after April-May 2010, to attempt to fill the void of public data about the fallen heroes of the people’s struggle for democracy gradually became an eye-opener – even for the seasoned activist, not just because of the number of top-down political assassinations but because of the consistency of the top-down brutality throughout the 6 decades of the current kingship.

In this document about the Land of Smiles we bring forward evidence, since 1947, of close to 11 000 people who, in one way or other, were assassinated in their struggle for democratic representation. For six decades the power elite in Thailand has done all it can to cover-up the trail of extra-judicial political killing it oversees with impunity, and it must be understood that the figure of 11 000 is probably less than half, or even only one third, of the actual level of sacrifice. Sustainable development and state violence in the name of protecting ‘national borders, Buddhism and King’ are incompatible.

The rulers and high administrators in Thailand must either face, or be made to face, their own feudalism. And, the ‘International Community’ needs to understand that, as with Burma, if it does not respond to the reality behind the smiles, the pain behind the smiles will only harden.

After 60 years of non-stop monarcho-militarism, heavy censorship and brain-washing about what it means to be ‘Good People’ or ‘True Thai’, the people of Thailand are facing a crisis of selfconfidence that is challenging their traditional submissiveness and their loss of ability to be truthful. As the people say in Thailand: ‘Truth cannot be eaten but it can bring you death’.

The data in this report serves to confirm that, for the ordinary people, fear of political victimisation and death is real, and is the reason why people in ‘Amazing Thailand’ cannot speak the truth, and the reason why the data in this document has never been brought together before. Never-the-less, despite 60 years of autocratic oppression and suppression, the people’s uprising that followed the 2006 military coup shows that the process of democratisation that began with the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932 is alive and stronger than ever.

The next step in the process of building ‘Thai Democracy’ is to remove lès majesté as a weapon of the ruling elite.

Junya Yimprasert

Action for People’s Democracy, Thailand (ACT4DEM)
General Secretary, Union for People’s Democracy (UPD)
savethailand@gmail.com”

An interview with Jonathan Schell, author of “The Unconquerable World,” on how non-violence can topple the greatest of empires.

Andy Kroll and Jonathan Schell

TomDispatch: March 1, 2012

http://www.alternet.org/story/154363/how_empires_fall_%28including_the_american_one%29?page=entire

 

When Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World, a meditation on the history and power of nonviolent action, was published in 2003, the timing could not have been worse. Americans were at war — and success was in the air. U.S. troops had invaded Iraq and taken Baghdad (“mission accomplished”) only months earlier, and had already spent more than a year fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Schell’s book earned a handful of glowing reviews, and then vanished from the public debate as the bombs scorched Iraq and the body count began to mount.

Now, The Unconquerable World‘s animating message — that, in the age of nuclear weaponry, nonviolent action is the mightiest of forces, one capable of toppling even the greatest of empires — has undergone a renaissance of sorts. In December 2010, the self-immolation of a young Tunisian street vendortriggered a wave of popular and, in many cases, nonviolent uprisings across the Middle East, felling such autocrats as Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in mere weeks. Occupations, marches, and protests of all sorts spread like brushfire across Europe, from England to Spain to Greece, and later Moscow, and even as far as Madison, Wisconsin. And then, of course, there were the artists, students, and activists who, last September, heard the call to “occupy Wall Street” and ignited a national movement with little more than tents, signs, and voices on a strip of stone and earth in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.

You might say that Schell, a former New Yorker staff writer renowned for his work on nuclear weapons and disarmament (his 1981 book The Fate of the Earth was a best-seller and instant classic), prophesied Occupy and the Arab Spring — without even knowing it. He admits to being as surprised as anyone about the wave of nonviolent action that swept the world in 2011, but those who had read Unconquerable World would have found themselves uncannily well prepared for the birth of a planet of protest whenever it happened.

That book remains the ideal companion volume for the Occupiers and Egyptian revolutionaries, as well as their Spanish, Russian, Chilean, and other counterparts. Schell traces the birth of nonviolent action to Gandhi’s sit-in at Johannesburg’s Empire Theater in 1906, and continues through the twentieth century, all the while forcing you to rethink everything you thought you knew about what he calls “the war system” and its limits, as well as protests and rebellions of every sort, and the course of empire.

One afternoon in January, I met Schell, now the Nation‘s peace and disarmament correspondent, in his office at the Nation Institute, where he’s a fellow, a few blocks from Union Square in Manhattan. It was a bright space, and for a writer, surprisingly clean and uncluttered. A Mac laptop sat opened on his desk, as if I’d walked in mid-sentence. Various editions of Schell’s books, including his Vietnam War reportage The Village of Ben Suc, were nestled into the bookshelves among titles popular and obscure. I settled into an empty chair next to Schell, who wore a jacket and khakis, and started my recorder. Soft-spoken and articulate, he described the world as elegantly in person as he does in his writing.

***

Andy Kroll: You’ve written a lot before on the nuclear problem, and one feels that throughout the book. But The Unconquerable World also stands on its own as something completely original. How did you come to write this book?

Jonathan Schell: It was a long time in the making. The initial germ was born toward the end of the 1980s when I began to notice that the great empires of the world were failing. I’d been a reporter in the Vietnam War, so I’d seen the United States unable to have its way in a small, third world country. A similar sort of thing happened in Afghanistan with the Soviet Union. And then of course, there was the big one, the revolutions in Eastern Europe against the Soviet Union.

I began to think about the fortunes of empire more broadly. Of course, the British Empire had already gone under the waves of history, as had all the other European empires. And when you stopped to think about it, you saw that all the empires, with the possible exception of the American one, were disintegrating or had disintegrated. It seemed there was something in this world that did not love an empire. I began to wonder what exactly that was. Specifically, why were nations and empires that wielded overwhelmingly superior force unable to defeat powers that were incomparably weaker in a military sense?

Whatever that something was, it had to do with the superiority of political power over military power. I saw that superiority in action on the ground as a reporter for the New Yorker in Vietnam starting way back in 1966, 1967. Actually, the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese understood this, and if you read their documents, they were incessantly saying “politics” was primary, that war was only the continuation of politics.

AK: As you say in the book, they sounded eerily like Carl von Clausewitz, the famed Prussian war philosopher of the eighteenth century.

Schell: Yes exactly, because they knew that the heart of their strength was their victory in the department of hearts and minds.  Eventually, the U.S. military learned that as well. I remember a Marine commandant, “Brute” Krulak, who said the United States could win every battle until kingdom come — and it waswinning almost every battle — and still lose the war. And it did lose the war. That was what I saw in Vietnam: the United States winning and winning and winning until it lost. It won its way to defeat.

Then there was the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland. I had friends, Irena and Jan Gross, who had been kicked out of Poland in 1968 for being dissidents and for being Jewish (thanks to an anti-Semitic campaign of that moment).  Even if there were sparks of rebellion in Poland, it seemed the definition of noble futility: to be up against a government backed by the Polish secret police, and the whole repressive apparatus of the Soviet Union — the Red Army, the KGB, a nuclear arsenal. What did the rebels have to work with? They weren’t even using guns.  They were just writing fliers and demonstrating in the street and sometimes occupying a factory. It looked like the very definition of a lost cause.

Yet, as the years went by, I began see some of the names of people Irena and Jan had been contacting in the papers. They’d been sending packages of crackers and cheese and contraband literature to someone called Adam Michnik and someone called Jacek KuroÅ„ — who turned out to be kingpins in the precursor movement to Solidarity and then in Solidarity itself.

And when Solidarity bloomed, being entirely nonviolent, it shed new light on the question I’d been asking myself: What was this something that overmatched superior violence?

Solidarity exhibited another version of political power, an entirely nonviolent kind. From there, I was led to see that there were forms of nonviolent action that could unravel and topple the most violent forms of government ever conceived — namely, the totalitarian. This went entirely against the conventional wisdom of political science, which taught that force is the ultima ratio, the final arbiter; that if you had superior weaponry and superior military power you were the winner. Really that was the consensus from left to right with very few exceptions.

So I asked myself what exactly is nonviolent action? What is popular protest? How does it work?

The Einstein of Nonviolence

AK: You pinpoint the birth of this force at a single event on September 11, 1906.

Schell: Precisely, a peaceful protest led by Mohandas Gandhi at the Empire Theater in Johannesburg, South Africa, on September 11, 1906. It’s rare that you can date a social invention to a particular day and meeting, but I think you can in this case.  Gandhi called himself an experimenter in truth. He’s really the Einstein of nonviolence.

Soon enough, I began to ask myself about other nonviolent movements and that, of course, very much involved the civil rights movement in the United States.

AK: You point to four key moments in history — the French, American, Glorious, and Bolshevik revolutions — and describe how the real revolution, the nonviolent one, took place in the hearts and minds of the people in those countries. And that the bloody fighting that, in some cases, ensued was not the true revolution, but an extension of it. It’s a revelatory part of the book. Did you already have this idea when you began Unconquerable World, or was it an Aha!moment along the way?

JS: It was really the latter. Gandhi’s movement landed the most powerful blow against the entire British Empire, and the Solidarity movement and the revolution in Czechoslovakia and other popular activities in those places were in my opinion the real undoing of the Soviet Union. That’s not the small change of history. Those were arguably the two greatest empires of their time. So, having seen that there was such power in nonviolence, I began to wonder: How did things work in other revolutions?

I was startled to discover that even in revolutions which, in the end, turned out to be supremely violent, the revolutionaries — some of whom, like the Bolsheviks, didn’t even believe at all in nonviolence — nonetheless preceded largely without violence.  Somebody quipped that more people were killed in the filming of Sergey Eisenstein’s storming of the Winter Palace [in his Ten Days That Shook the World] than were killed in the actual storming. That was true because the Bolsheviks were really unopposed.

How could that be? Well, because they had won over the garrison of Saint Petersburg; they had, that is, won the “hearts and minds” of the military and the police.

AK: The Bastille was like that as well.

JS: The Bastille was absolutely like that. In that first stage of the French Revolution there was almost no violence at all. Some people were beheaded in the aftermath of the action, but the victory was not won through violence, but through the defection of the government’s minions. It didn’t mean the revolutionaries loved nonviolence.  On the contrary, what followed was the Terror, in the case of the French, and the Red Terror in the case of the Bolsheviks, who went on to shed far more blood as rulers than they had shed on their way to power.

Usually the cliché is that the stage of overthrow is the violent part, and the stage of consolidation or of setting up a new government is post-violent or nonviolent. I discovered it to be just the other way around.

AK: On this subject, as your book makes clear, some re-teaching is in order.  We’re so conditioned to think of overthrow as a physical act: knocking down the gates, storming the castle, killing the king, declaring the country yours.

JS: In a certain sense, overthrow is the wrong word. If you overthrow something, you pick it up and smash it down. In these cases, however, the government has lost legitimacy with the people and is spontaneously disintegrating from within.

AK: As you note, the Hungarian writer György Konrád used the image of an iceberg melting from the inside to describe the process.

JS: He and actually the whole Solidarity movement had already noticed how Franco’s cryptofascist regime in Spain sort of melted away from within and finally handed over power in a formal process to democratic forces. That was one of their models.

AK: Reading The Unconquerable World feels like swimming against the tide of conventional wisdom, of conventional history. Why do you think antiquated ideas about power and its uses still grip us so tightly?

JS: There is a conventional assumption that superior violence is always decisive. In other words, whatever you do, at the end of the day whoever has the biggest army is going to win. They’re going to cross the border, impose their ideology or religion, they’re going to kill the women and children, they’re going to get the oil.

And honestly, you have to say that, through most of history, there was overwhelming evidence for the accuracy of that observation. I very much see the birth of nonviolence as something that, although not exactly missing from the pages of history previously, was fundamentally new in 1906. I think of it as a discovery, an invention.

The fundamental critique of it was that it doesn’t work. The belief, more an unspoken premise than a conviction, was that if you want to act effectively in defense of your deepest beliefs or worst cravings, you have to pick up the gun, and as Mao Zedong said, power will flow from the barrel of that gun.

It took protracted demonstrations of the kind that we’ve been talking about to put nonviolence on the map. Now, by the way, states have come to understand this power and its dangers much better. Certainly, those who govern Egypt understand it. And what about the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union? They saw it firsthand — the whole thing going down almost without a shot being fired.

Take, for instance, the government of Iran. They’re very worried foreign activists or certain books might show up in their country, because they’re afraid that a soft or velvet revolution will take place in Iran. And they’re right to worry. They’ve had two big waves of protest already, most recently the Green Revolution of 2009-2010.

It hasn’t succeeded there yet.  And to be clear, there’s nothing magical about nonviolence. It’s a human thing.  It’s not a magic wand that you wave over empires and totalitarian regimes and they simply melt away, though sometimes it’s seemed that way. There can, of course, be failure. Look at what the people in Syria face right now. And look at the staggering raw courage they’ve displayed in going out into the streets again and again in the face of so many slaughtered in their country. It’s anyone’s guess who’s going to emerge as the victor there.

AK: It can fail.

JS: It does fail. But the fact that it can succeed suggests something new historically. People, I think, are only beginning to understand this and notice it. Certainly, governments have noticed it. As soon as they see a few people getting out in the streets now, they start to get very nervous. For instance, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is obviously feeling this nervousness right now in the wake of the sub-zero activists in the streets of Moscow.

The Hidden Sphere of the Human Heart and Mind

AKUnconquerable World was published in the run-up to the Iraq war, when the drum beat of invasion mania reached a deafening roar. How did that affect the book’s reception?

JS: At the moment it came out, in this country certainly, the believers in violence reigned supreme. Here I was saying all empires are going under the waves, and here under George W. Bush was the U.S. styling itself as the last world-straddling imperial superpower about to administer an unstoppable, shock-and-awe demonstration of its might. So it was a particularly unpropitious moment for a message about the power of nonviolence. There were some favorable reactions, but at that point the book didn’t really enter the broader discussion.

I honestly wondered myself whether this history of successful nonviolent movements hadn’t… [he hesitates] if not ended, at least come to a pause. Eight years later, I was as surprised as anyone by the Arab Spring. And while I’d certainly hoped for something like the Occupy movement in the United States, I hadn’t foreseen that either. I was happily surprised by these movements, which gave new life to the whole tradition of nonviolent action and revolution.

The reason I had wondered whether we weren’t at some sort of pause was that so much of the nonviolent action of the twentieth century had been tied to the anti-imperial and anti-colonial movements. Certainly that was true with Gandhi and the Soviet Union. Even the civil rights movement in the United States was, in a certain sense, a response to a crime that had really begun under imperial auspices — namely, the slave raids in Africa, which were distinctly an imperial enterprise. If I was right that a certain kind of territorial imperialism imposed by force had run its course, then maybe so had the movements generated in opposition to it. There were a few examples where that wasn’t the case.  Myanmar, for example.

There was, however, another aspect to the surprise of 2011. I think it may be the nature of such nonviolent movements that they come as a surprise, because at their very root seems to be a sudden change in the hidden sphere of the human heart and mind that then becomes contagious. It’s as though below the visible landscape of politics, whose permanence and strength we characteristically overestimate, there’s this other landscape we rather pallidly call the world of opinion.

And somewhere in this landscape of popular will, in these changes in hearts and minds — a phrase that has become a cliché but still expresses a deep truth — lie hidden powers that, when they erupt, can overmatch and bring down existing structures. That’s what John Adams said about the American Revolution: the revolution was in the hearts of the people, the minds of the people. It was amazing to find that very Vietnam-era phrase in Adams’ eighteenth century writings. What John Adams was saying you find over and over again in the history of revolutions, once you look for it.

Occupy and Freedom

I used to say that, before the Occupy movement here, we Americans were suffering from our own energy crisis, which was so much more important than not being able to drill for crude oil.  We didn’t know how to drop a bucket into our own hearts and come up with the necessary will to do the things that needed to be done. The real “drill, baby, drill” that we needed was to delve into our own consciousness and come up with the will.

AK: How do you see the history of nonviolent action since Unconquerable World was published? What were you thinking about the Tunisian uprising, the Egyptian uprising, the Occupy movement, the general global protest movement of the present moment that arose remarkably nonviolently?

JS: I was astonished. Even now, I don’t feel that I understand what the causes were. I’m not even sure it makes sense to speak of the causes.  If you point to a cause — oppression, food prices rising, cronyism, corruption, torture — these things go on for decades and nothing happens. Nobody does anything. Then in a twinkling everything changes. Twenty-three days in Egypt and Mubarak is gone.

How and why a people suddenly develops a will to change the conditions under which it’s living is, to me, one of the deep mysteries of all politics. That’s why I don’t blame myself or anyone else for not expecting or predicting the Arab Spring. How that happens may, in the end, be undiscoverable. And I think the reason for that is connected to freedom.  Such changes in opinion and will are somewhere near the root of what we mean when we talk about the exercise of freedom. Almost by definition, freedom refers to something not visibly or obviously caused by anything else. Otherwise it would be compelled, not free.

And yet there is nothing obscure — in the sense of clouded or dark — about freedom. Its exercise is perhaps the most public of all things, as well as the most powerful, as recent history shows. It’s a daylight mystery.

Andy Kroll is an associate editor at TomDispatch and a staff reporter in the D.C. bureau of Mother Jones magazine. He writes about politics, business, and campaign finance. He can be reached at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Andy Kroll, an associate editor at TomDispatch, is a reporter for Mother Jones magazine. He lives in Washington, D.C.  To listen to him discuss the geometry of delusion in the Ponzi Era on the latest TomCast audio interview, click here, or download it as a podcast by clicking here.

 

Jonathan Schell is the Nation Institute’s Harold Willens Peace Fellow. The Jonathan Schell Reader was recently published by Nation Books.

[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Tony Cartalucci of Land Destroyer Report has written similar arguments: “Exposed Indy Newspaper Funded by US”  http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2011/08/exposed-indy-newspaper-funded-by-us.html and “The Arab Spring and US Global Hegemony” http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2011/12/2011-year-of-dupe.html. We largely say, so what? Many of the human rights NGOs have a long and distinguished history and accomplished some fine work in relieving the human condition. Of course, there are always those who would be willing to sell out founding principles for fame or greed. We believe in taking the money (nobody’s offered us any yet!) and then just getting on with fighting for peace, justice and freedom. When one takes money, this does not mean they own you! Nonetheless, all of us who care deeply about particular NGOs must stay constantly vigilant to prevent their cooptation and corruption.]

NGOs: The Missionaries of Empire

Devon DB

Global Research, March 3, 2012

http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29595

Non-governmental organizations are an increasingly important part of the 21st century international lanscape performing a variety of humanitarian tasks pertaining inter alia to issues of poverty, the environment and civil libertites.However, there is a dark side to NGOs. They have been and are currently being used as tools of foreign policy, specifically with the United States. Instead of using purely military force, the US has now moved to using NGOs as tools in its foreign policy implementation, specifically the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and Amnesty International.

National Endowment for Democracy

According to its website, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is “a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world,” [1] however this is sweet sounding description is actually quite far from the truth.

The history of the NED begins immediately after the Reagan administration. Due to the massive revelations concerning the CIA in the 1970s, specifically that they were involved in attempted assassinations of heads of state, the destabilization of foreign governments, and were illegally spying on the US citizens, this tarnished the image of the CIA and of the US government as a whole. While there were many committees that were created during this time to investigate the CIA, the Church Committee (led by Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho) was of critical importance as its findings “demonstrated the need for perpetual surveillance of the intelligence community and resulted in the creation of the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.” [2] The Select Committee on Intelligence’s purpose was to oversee federal intelligence activities and while oversight and stability came in, it seemed to signal that the CIA’s ‘party’ of assassination plots and coups were over. Yet, this was to continue, but in a new way: under the guise of a harmful NGO whose purpose was to promote democracy around the world- the National Endowment for Democracy.

The NED was meant to be a tool of US foreign policy from its outset. It was the brainchild of Allen Weinstein who, before creating the Endowment, was a professor at Brown and Georgetown Universities, had served on the Washington Post’s editorial staff, and was the Executive Editor of The Washington Quarterly, Georgetown’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, a right-wing neoconservative think tank which would in the future have ties to imperial strategists such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. [3] He stated in a 1991 interview that “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” [4]

The first director of the Endowment, Carl Gershman, outright admitted that the Endowment was a front for the CIA. In 1986 he stated:

We should not have to do this kind of work covertly. It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the ‘60s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created. [5] (emphasis added)

It can be further observed that the Endowment is a tool of the US government as ever since its founding in 1983, it “has received an annual appropriation approved by the United States Congress as part of the United States Information Agency budget.” [6]

No sooner than the Endowment was founded did it begin funding groups that would support US interests. From 1983 to 1984, the Endowment was active in France and “supported a ‘trade union-like organization that for professors and students’ to counter ‘left-wing organizations of professors,’” [7] through the funding of seminars, posters, books, and pamphlets that encouraged opposition to leftist thought. In the mid and late 1990s, the NED continued its fight against organized labor by giving in excess of $2.5 million to the American Institute of Free Labor Development which was a CIA front used to undermine progressive labor unions.

Later on, the Endowment became involved in interfering with elections in Venezuela and Haiti in order to undermine leftwing movements there. The NED is and continues to be a source of instability in nations across the globe that don’t kneel before US imperial might. Yet the Endowment funds another pseudo-NGO: Freedom House.

Freedom House

Freedom House was originally founded in 1941 as a pro-democracy and pro-human rights organization. While this may have been true in the past, in the present day, Freedom House is quite involved in pushing US interests in global politics and its leaders have connections to rather unsavory organizations, such as current Executive Director David Kramer being a Senior Fellow to the Project for the New American Century, many of whose members are responsible for the current warmongering status of the US. [8]

During the Bush administration, the President used Freedom House to support the so-called War on Terror. In a March 29, 2006 speech, President Bush stated that Freedom House “declared the year 2005 was one of the most successful years for freedom since the Freedom House began measuring world freedom more than 30 years ago” and that the US should not rest “until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation” because “In this new century, the advance of freedom is a vital element of our strategy to protect the American people, and to secure the peace for generations to come.” [9]

Later, it was revealed that Freedom House became more and more supportive of the Bush administration’s policies because of the funding it was getting from the US government. According to its own internal report in 2007, the US government was providing some 66% of funding for the organization. [10] This funding mainly came from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US State Department, and the National Endowment for Democracy. Thus, we see not only the political connection of Freedom House to US government, but major financial connections as well.

It should be noted, however, that Freedom House was not alone in supporting the government. Under the Bush administration, the US government forced NGOs to become more compliant to their demands. In 2003, USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios stated in a speech given at a conference of NGOs that in Afghanistan the relationship between NGOs and USAID does affect the survival of the Karzai regime and that Afghans “believe [their life] is improving through mechanisms that have nothing to do with the U.S. government and nothing to do with the central government. That is a very serious problem.” [11] On the situation in Iraq, Natsios stated that when it comes to NGO work in the country “proving results counts, but showing a connection between those results and U.S. policy counts as well.” [12] (emphasis added) NGOs were essentially told that they were tools of the US government and were being made part of the imperial apparatus.

Most recently, Freedom House was active in the Arab Spring, where they aided in the training and financing of civil society groups and individuals “including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen.” [13]

While the Endowment and Freedom House are being used as tools of US foreign policy that does not mean that the US government isn’t looking for new tools, namely Amnesty International.

Amnesty International

The human rights organization Amnesty International is the newest tool in the imperial toolbox of the American Empire. In January 2012, Suzanne Nossel was appointed the new Executive Director of Amnesty International by the group itself. Before coming to Amnesty, Nossel already had deep connections to the US government as she had “served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations at the U.S. Department of State.” [14]

Nossel is known for coining the term ‘smart power’ which she defined as knowing that “US interests are furthered by enlisting others on behalf of U.S. goals, through alliances, international institutions, careful diplomacy, and the power of ideals.” [15] While this definition may seem harmless, ‘smart power’ seems to be an enhanced version of Joseph Nye’s ‘soft power,’ which itself is defined as “the ability to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than using the carrots and sticks of payment or coercion.” [15] A possible example of this ‘smart power’ is the war in Libya, where the US used the UN as a means to get permission to engage in ‘humanitarian intervention.’

Yet, even before Nossel was appointed to Amnesty, the group was unwittingly aiding in the media war against Syria. In a September 1, 2011 Democracy Now interview, Neil Sammonds, the researcher and one of the author’s for Amnesty’s report Deadly Detention: Deaths in Custody Amid Popular Protest in Syria, spoke about the manner in which the research was done for the report. He stated:

I’ve not been into Syria. Amnesty International has not been allowed into the country during these events, although we have requested it. So the research for this report was done mostly from London, but also from some work in neighboring countries and through communications with a large network of contacts and relatives of the families, and, you know, other sources. [16] (emphasis added)

How can one write a report with any amount of authority if their only sources are through second-hand sources that may or may not have a bias or an agenda to push? How can you write a report using sources whose information has no way of being verified? It is reminiscent of the media war against Gaddafi, where it was reported in the mainstream media that he was bombing his own people and had given Viagra to his soldiers as so they could rape women, but absolutely none of this was verified.

While NGOs can have a positive influence on society at large, one must be aware of their backgrounds, who is in charge of them, and from whom they are getting funding from because the nature of the NGO is changing, it is being more and more integrated into the imperial apparatus of domination and exploitation. NGOs are fast becoming the missionaries of empire.

 

Notes

1: http://www.ned.org/about
2: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Church_Committee_Created.htm
3: http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/articles/display/Center_for_Strategic_and_International_Studies#P3782_823232
4: William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, 3rd ed. (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2005) pg 239
5: Ibid, pg 239
6: http://law.justia.com/cfr/title22/22-1.0.1.7.42.html
7: Blum, pg 240
8: http://web.archive.org/web/20110630143054/http://freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=92&staff=450
9: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0603/29/se.01.html
10: http://web.archive.org/web/20100331104836/http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/special_report/71.pdf
11: http://www.usaid.gov/press/speeches/2003/sp030521.html
12: Ibid
13: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/world/15aid.html?pagewanted=all
14: http://www.democracyarsenal.org/SmartPowerFA.pdf
15: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-nye/barack-obama-and-soft-pow_b_106717.html
16: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/9/1/amnesty_international_decries_assad_regimes_brutal

Devon DB is a 20 year old writer and researcher. He is currently majoring in political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.


Salman Rushdie & India’s new theocracy

Praveen Swami

The Hindu: January 21, 2012

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2817926.ece?homepage=true

Satan Rushdie [AP]

India’s secular state is in a state of slow-motion collapse. The contours of a new theocratic dystopia are already evident.

In 300CE, the historian and cleric, Eusebius, fearfully recorded the rise of a new “demon-inspired heresy.” “From innumerable long-extinct blasphemous heresies,” he wrote, the new religion’s founder “had made a patchwork of them and brought from Persia a deadly poison with which he infected our own world.”

Manichaeism, a new religion which posited an eternal struggle between good and evil, had dramatically expanded across the ancient world. Less than half-a-century after its rise, though, the faith had been all but annihilated. Bahram II massacred its followers in Persia; in 296, the Roman emperor, Diocletian, decreed its leaders “condemned to the fire with their abominable scriptures.” Khagan Boku Tekin, the Uighur king, made Manichaeism the state religion giving it a home — but even this last redoubt collapsed in 840.

Eusebius’ own Christian faith, by contrast, flourished after it won imperial patronage: the word of god grows best in fields watered by the state’s pelf, and ploughed by the state’s swords.

Salman Rushdie’s censoring-out from the ongoing literary festival in Jaipur will be remembered as a milestone that marked the slow motion disintegration of India’s secular state. Islamist clerics first pressured the state to stop Mr. Rushdie from entering India; on realising he could not stop, he was scared off with a dubious assassination threat. Fear is an effective censor: the writers Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar, who sought to read out passages from The Satanic Verses as a gesture of solidarity, were stopped from doing so by the festival’s organisers.

In a 1989 essay, Ahmad Deedat, an influential neo-fundamentalist who starred in the first phases of the anti-Rushdie campaign, hoped the writer would “die a coward’s death, a hundred times a day, and eventually when death catches up with him, may he simmer in hell for all eternity.” He thanked Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for his “sagacious” decision to ban The Satanic Verses. Now, another Indian Prime Minister has helped further Mr. Deedat’s dream.

The betrayal of secular India in Jaipur, though, is just part of a far wider treason: one that doesn’t have to do with Muslim clerics alone, but a state that has turned god into a public-sector undertaking.

Underwriting faith

Few Indians understand the extent to which the state underwrites the practice of their faith. The case of the Maha Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years at Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik, is a case in point. The 2001 Mela in Allahabad, activist John Dayal has noted in a stinging essay, involved state spending of over Rs.1.2 billion — 12,000 taps that supplied 50.4 million litres of drinking water; 450 kilometres of electric lines and 15,000 streetlights; 70,000 toilets; 7,100 sanitation workers, 11 post offices and 3,000 phone lines; 4,000 buses and trains.

That isn’t counting the rent that ought to have been paid on the 15,000 hectares of land used for the festival — nor the salaries of the hundreds of government servants administering the Kumbh.

Last year, the Uttar Pradesh police sought a staggering Rs.2.66 billion to pay for the swathe of electronic technologies, helicopters and 30,000 personnel which will be needed to guard the next Mela in 2013. There are no publicly available figures on precisely how much the government will spend on other infrastructure — but it is instructive to note that an encephalitis epidemic that has claimed over 500 children’s lives this winter drew a Central aid of just Rs.0.28 billion.

The State’s subsidies to the Kumbh Mela, sadly, aren’t an exception. Muslims wishing to make the Haj pilgrimage receive state support; so, too, do Sikhs travelling to Gurdwaras of historic importance in Pakistan. Hindus receive identical kinds of largesse, in larger amounts. The state helps underwrite dozens of pilgrimages, from Amarnath to Kailash Mansarovar. Early in the last decade, higher education funds were committed to teaching pseudo-sciences like astrology; in 2001, the Gujarat government even began paying salaries to temple priests.

In 2006, the Delhi government provided a rare official acknowledgment that public funds are routinely spent on promoting god. In a study of its budget expenditure, it said it provided “religious services, i.e. grants for religious purpose including repairs and maintenance of ancient temples, contribution to religious institutions and for memorial of religious leaders like Guru Nanak Birth Anniversary, Dussehra Exhibitions [sic., throughout]”.

The study did not reveal precisely how much had been spent on what kind of religious promotion. It did, however, note that spending on a broad category called “cultural, recreational and religious activities” had increased steadily — from Rs.526.5 million in 2003-2004, to Rs.751 million in 2006-2007. In 2006-2007, these kinds of activities accounted for 0.74% of Delhi’s overall budget — ahead of, say, environmental protection (0.17%), mining and manufacturing (0.59%), and civil defence (0.12%).

India’s clerics, regardless of their faith, have long been intensely hostile to state regulation of religion — witness the country’s failure to rid itself of the faith-based laws that govern our personal lives. In the matter of the perpetuation of their religion, though, the state is a welcome ally.

The contours of the bizarre theocratic dystopia that could replace the secular state are already evident. The state tells us we may not read the Satanic Verses, or Aubrey Menen’s irreverent retelling of the Ramayana; it chooses not to prosecute the vandals who block stores from stocking D.N. Jha’s masterful Holy Cow, James Laine’s history of Shivaji, or Paul Courtright’s explorations of oedipal undertones in Hindu mythology.

Regulation on what we eat, drink

It doesn’t end there: the state regulates, on god’s behalf, what we may eat or drink — witness the proliferation of bans on beef, and proscriptions on alcohol use in so-called holy cities. It ensures children pray in morning assemblies funded by public taxes, provides endowments for denomination schools and funds religious functions. It pays for prayers before state functions, and promotes pseudo-sciences like astrology. And, yes: it censors heretics, like M.F. Husain or Mr. Rushdie.

Even the rule of law has been contracted-out to god’s agents. Last week, a self-appointed Sharia court issued orders to expel Christian priests from Jammu and Kashmir; neither the police, the judicial system nor political parties stepped in. In many north Indian States, local caste and religious tyrannies have brutally punished transgressions of religious laws. In 2010, the National Crime Records Bureau data show, a staggering 178 people were killed for practising witchcraft.

For decades now, Indian liberals have shied away from confronting theism, choosing instead to collaborate with the marketing of allegedly tolerant traditions. Back in 2005, the Human Resource Development Ministry set up a committee to consider how state-funded schools could best promote tolerance. Lingadevaru Halemane, a linguist and playwright, made clear the committee was chasing a chimera. “These days,” he argued, “whichever religion dominates in the area, they open the schools.” Local culture, he said bluntly, “will be dominated by the dominant group.”

Spurious secularism

Leaving aside the question of whether India’s religious traditions are in fact tolerant — a subject on which the tens of thousands of victims of communal and caste violence might have interesting opinions — this spurious secularism has served in the main to institutionalise and sharpen communal boundaries. It has also allowed clerics to exercise influence over state policy — insulating themselves from a secularising world.

The strange thing is this: India’s people, notwithstanding their religiosity, aren’t the ones pushing the state to guard god’s cause. India’s poor send their children to private schools hoping they will learn languages and sciences, not prayer. Indian politics remains focussed on real-world issues: no party campaigns around seeking more funds for mosque domes or temple elephants.

Eight years ago, scholar Meera Nanda argued that “India is a country that most needs a decline in the scope of religion in civil society for it to turn its constitutional promise of secular democracy into a reality.” “But,” she pointed out, “India is a country least hospitable to such a decline”. Dr. Nanda ably demonstrated the real costs of India’s failure to secularise: among them, the perpetuation of caste and gender inequities, the stunting of reason and critical facilities needed for economic and social progress; the corrosive growth of religious nationalism.

India cannot undo this harm until god and god’s will are ejected from our public life. No sensible person would argue that the school curriculum ought to discourage eight-year-olds from discovering that the tooth fairy does not exist. No sensible person ought argue, similarly, that some purpose is served by buttressing the faith of adults in djinns, immaculate conceptions, or armies of monkeys engineering trans-oceanic bridges. It is legitimate for individuals to believe that cow-urine might cure their cancer — not for the state to subsidise this life-threatening fantasy.

In a 1927 essay, philosopher Bertrand Russell observed that theist arguments boiled down to a single, vain claim: “Look at me: I am such a splendid product that there must be design in the universe.”

The time has come for Indian secular-democrats to assert the case for a better universe: a universe built around citizenship and rights, not the pernicious identity politics the state and its holy allies encourage.

Prachatai: February 21, 2012

http://www.prachatai3.info/english/node/3065

 

The following is an update regarding two criminal defamation cases filed against FACT signer Frank G Anderson by Royal Thai Police based on accusations against him filed by UK national Akbar Khan and Thai police colonel Wattanasak Mungkijkarndee, both of whom in the past were very publicly connected with lese majesté accusations against Thais and foreigners, including the Foreign Correspondents Club and BBC in cases that are still current.

In 2008 Anderson posted dozens of comments on the editorial pages of his website, www.thekoratpost.com, critically analyzing what were then well-publicized comments by individuals and groups claiming loyalty and advocating lese majesté charges against others whom they openly accused of lese majeste.

In December 2008 Anderson’s first accuser registered a criminal defamation complaint (according to Paholyothin police) with the DSI, was then told to take it to the police station where jurisdiction was – Paholyothin, which, according to police, he did. Within a month or two, a close colleague of the first accuser lodged an identical complaint, claiming to police that he would have lodged it earlier but had been occupied with official police business.

From December 2008 until February 2010, Anderson was never informed by accusers, police or anyone else that any material on the website was defamatory of damaging to anyone’s reputation, but especially to those of his accusers. No one took a single step to contact Anderson or the website to register objections, ask or demand changes to information posted, or in any way hinted that the material was defamatory. The failure to do so is extremely important in jurisprudence – outside Thailand, but why not domestically? The nature of the failure to take reasonable steps to prevent damage or continued damage to reputation by immediate steps at notifying webmaster, from pre-investigation through to today, 19 February 2012, seems self-explanatory.

From February 2010 through to late 2012 Anderson was subject to almost monthly mandatory visits to police and prosecutor, having to drive the 500 kilometer round distance to Korat to personally appear. He was also able to have relatives appear in stead from time to time, but expenses and hardships were also present. Throughout all of the investigations, Anderson made it a point time and time again to remind police that they had initiated investigations based on wrongfully-translated evidence provided by accusers and that accusers were negligent, and possibly criminally negligent, in not taking any effort to arrange for removal or editing of the so-called defamatory material. Police did little to demonstrate they understood this principle.

Toward the end of 2011, Anderson’s monthly visits to prosecutor were changed by the prosecutor’s office to a no-need-to-appear-telephone call-only contact once every two months. According to the prosecutor, the police were still re-examining evidence.

In the middle of January 2012, Anderson visited the Department of Special Investigation in Bangkok and submitted a complaint and letter requesting DSI inquiry into the behavior of Royal Thai Police and his two accusers, citing earlier objections, claims of malfeasance, false criminal filing accusations he counter-filed against is accusers, and asking for cooperation in evaluating the cases against him with the objective of having them dismissed and his accusers prosecuted.

In the same letter he also advised DSI that he was considering filing formal terrorism charges against police and accusers. Currently Anderson’s next phone contact with prosecutor’s office for status update is in late March.

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