Saturday, August 13, 2011

The People vs. The Machine by Cindy Sheehan


Cindy at Camp Henoko

The People vs. The Machine

Cindy Sheehan

Since the summer of 2005, when I began a camp in front of the vacation “ranch” of George Bush, I have traveled to many countries and all over the U.S. meeting with people who have been in long struggles against neoliberalism. Most of us in the U.S. are familiar with the term "neoconservative," but "neoliberal" is also a well-understood and often used term in other areas.

Wikipedia has a very good explanation of neoliberalism:

The term "neoliberalism" has also come into wide use in cultural studies to describe an internationally prevailing ideological paradigm that leads to social, cultural, and political practices and policies that use the language of markets, efficiency, consumer choice, transactional thinking and individual autonomy to shift risk from governments and corporations onto individuals and to extend this kind of market logic into the realm of social and affective relationships.

Opponents of neoliberalism would identify several enemy organizations that foster global neoliberalism: the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the U.S. Military—not to mention the collusion of most governments with private corporations in this headlong rush to economic disaster.

What I observe in the U.S. is the financial chickens coming home to roost after decades’ long foreign expansion and wars. I firmly believe that Barack Obama was (s)elected to put a minority face on this expansion to help quell rising protests against the aggressive wars abroad and the war against the poor here at home. Everything he has done during his disastrous first term in office has been done to shore up the economic defenses of the economic elite: expand wars, TARP, health care "reform" bill, bankster bailouts, and the recent debt ceiling debacle. 

Still in Japan, I was recently in Hana-shi, Okinawa Prefecture in Southern Japan. While there, I visited a protest camp in Henoko, where activists have been protesting against the expansion of a U.S. Marine Corps base called Camp Schwab.

Fifteen years ago when this protest started, the “profound wisdom” of the mighty Empire was to build an island offshore with landfill which would spoil the natural beauty of the ocean, and further harm species of endangered manatee and sea tortoise.

Through guerilla protests with boats and the taking over of platforms, the activists stopped the offshore base from being built, and so, the Empire decided to move the expansion onshore and build landing strips next to the already existing base, which would basically do the same thing as the offshore addition.

I was assured by the activists at protest site, that's been there for a decade and a half, that, while Okinawa is home to 80% of the U.S.’s military presence in Japan, a vast majority of the residents do not want the U.S. occupying their island any longer—I was asked the same question I have often wrestled with: If Japan is a “democracy” then why isn’t the government responding to the wishes of the people of Okinawa? Same, same in the U.S.—most of us want the wars to end and the tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations to be slammed shut, but we are not listened to in either country.

Henoko is not the only place that I have been where the people struggle against U.S. bases and militarism—it is quite common, actually. If only more world leaders were like Ecuadorean president, Rafael Correa, who refused to renew the lease of Manta Air Base in Ecuador when he became president and he said: "We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base."

Most of the time it is peace activists fighting against U.S. military bases—in Italy, in Japan, in South Korea, in Germany—but, as at Henoko, the environmental devastation the U.S brings with its occupations is also a component of any struggle.

The answer to these global problems is one that centers around peace and opposition to neoliberal policies.

Our indigenous brothers and sisters won a major victory against development on their sacred lands in Vallejo, Ca. After an encampment that lasted over 100 days, the park's commission finally granted a cultural easement that would avoid the areas that are sacred to most tribes in California and farther north. 

In Val di Susa, Italy--where I was recently--activists there have been fighting against the construction of a high-speed rail line that would slash their valley like a scar--for 20 years, now. It looks like this long fight will end in their victory, soon (we hope).

Along with Henoko, these are small, or regional victories, but every struggle honors and inspires the next one. The only way that we can win the ultimate overthrow of a system that cares about everything for profit and nothing for the lives of people, is to support each other, learn from each other, mourn with each other, and celebrate with each other.

The only way we can ever lose is to stop fighting.

We can never give up the fight!



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