speak against censorship

Each morning, after some time of my own quiet reflection, I eventually face up to the news.

Now, more than ever, there is a lot of sorting out to do. Trying to find the truth of things is a job. And it doesn’t help things one little bit when someone somewhere decides for me what information or opinion I can or cannot access.

Censorship is damaging and disempowering – which is the intent. And I am alarmed at how rampant it is becoming.

There is so much we don’t know. Scientists don’t know everything. Doctors don’t know everything. One political party or another does not know everything. The CIA does not know everything. Fact checkers don’t know everything. 

And all of them have biases.

Investigation of both facts and ideas is a healthy thing. Discourse is a healthy thing. Awareness and education are fundamental. Critical thinking is – ahem – critical.

Even without outright censorship, the information made available to us already suffers from a lot of control and manipulation. There are the stories that rise to the front page, and the stories that don’t. 

There’s been plenty of censorship relative to the Coronavirus. This is a situation that should allow more information and viewpoints, not less. Still, viewpoints from certain perspectives, expert or otherwise, are routinely disappeared, suppressed, or disparaged.

As the protesting going on around the country progresses, one has to consider how censorship has played a role in both producing the situation and covering it. We often see in the news the police account of a given incident, with little to no input from individuals involved and with a complete lack of context. At the very least, this can easily create a bias towards certain people, or classes of people. And, as we have seen in far too many instances, it may not even be the truth at all. During the current crisis, we are repeatedly seeing journalists roughed up and arrested. Now, what would be the point of that?

On an entirely different matter, Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore’s documentary, Planet of the Humans, was taken down for an alleged copyright violation. It was available free for viewing until the movie’s criticism culminated in this allegation which apparently concerns 4 seconds of footage that Moore alleges was “fair use.” Rather than pursue the matter through appropriate legal channels, the aggrieved party appealed to YouTube which settled the matter by taking the movie down. So much for legal process. 

I did watch the movie before it went away. It is a disturbing and thought-provoking work which leaves the viewer with questions. That is the point. To ask questions. To wonder about the truth. To evaluate the path we’ve been on and see where we might be headed. I have been very disappointed to see people in the environmental movement just pile on against this film rather than to seize the opportunity for dialogue.

With such a constant barrage of information coming at us 24 hours a day, it is more important than ever to allow free thought and discourse. When we acquiesce to allowing “someone” to control what we are allowed to view or read, this is dangerous and dark. It is counter to a healthy and free society. 

The masks we now routinely see covering people’s mouths are emblematic. It is hard to see them and not think what censorship and control of information is doing to our society. 

Today marks the sad anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. In the context of the ongoing protests we are seeing now, coupled with the aggressive stance the president has articulated, it is more important than ever to speak up – to be able to speak up.

Say NO to censorship.

Update 6-6-20: Planet of the Humans is now back up on YouTube, free viewing.

if we truly care about health

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If we are so full of fear about health that we can be easily compelled to wear masks of dubious efficacy and to submit to severe restrictions of our freedoms — how is it then, that we fail to take the truly meaningful steps toward health?

If we truly care about health, we would change how we eat.

We would walk away from animal agriculture. We would say no to animal foods laced with antibiotics and unhealthy fats. We would not tolerate a system of slaughterhouses staffed with suffering, at-risk workers surrounded by suffering, doomed animals. We would walk away from dairy and processed foods, and head straight for the fruits and vegetables.

But, hey, we have masks.

If we truly care about health, we would seek fresh air and sunlight.

We would be outside every day, soaking up the vitamin D and oxygen, and moving our bodies. We would connect with nature instead of staring at screens as we huddle in our homes.

If we truly care about health, we would demand a healthy environment.

We would recognize that pollutants both on our earth and in the air we breathe are factors in the conditions that predispose a person to succumb to illness. We would recognize the terrible contributions of animal agriculture and other industry to the degradation of our environment and its impacts on health. We would refuse to support the practices, corporations, and government leadership that kill the planet upon which we depend. We would demand new leadership, and find new ways. We would stop walking around our yards spraying weed killers, too. Got your mask?

If we truly care about health, we would question our medical system.

We would insist that health care be readily available to all, not just to some. We would take the profit motive out of health care. We would insist that health care for all issues not be delayed or neglected while providers are busy flattening the curve or idled or laid off. We would look at the implications of the many drugs and treatments our system prescribes in both the current crisis and beyond. We would seek multiple perspectives from a diverse group of medical professionals. We would recognize that a system that promotes extended lockdowns by fiat across society is turning a blind eye to a host of serious health problems. We would denounce blatant propaganda and censorship attempts to thwart access to full information. We would question the mad rush to a vaccine, with all the risks and unknowns that entails, being prioritized over actually working to improve health.

If we truly care about health, we would insist on supportive community and government.

We would be intelligently going about the business of life, which involves other people. We would admit that forsaking actual community for virtual ones – or often, none at all – does not support health, but, in fact, compromises it. Going without employment, social commitments and relationships impacts our very ability to live at all, cutting off both economic means and derivation of purpose and satisfaction. We would demand a responsible, independent media. We would reject any form of censorship. We would not pick sides and vilify the others, rather we would join together to solve our problems – with new leadership that actually works for the people. We would reject any form of surveillance knowing that no thinking adult human being watched and tracked thrives under such treatment. We would insist on education that supports critical thinking. We would recognize that health does not derive in extreme authoritarian overreach that subverts the very foundations of a free society.

If we truly care about our health, there are so many things we could and should actively be doing — not just for the current moment but for the future. This business of corporate control of health, food, media, and government systems; extensive authoritarian lockdowns; economic devastation and instability; censorship; surveillance; pervasive fear, distrust, division, anonymity — this is not it.

If we care so much about health, our own and our neighbors’ and our loved ones’, we need to let go of our cowering fear. We need to own our responsibility in this — and that means far more than wearing a mask.

storm warnings

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After our balmy weekend temperatures in the 40’s, the snow had all but disappeared.

Mother Nature has taken care of that overnight, laying a blanket of snow on everything. Still, as I peer out into the early morning darkness, it doesn’t quite amount to what I would call a full-blown winter storm – at least not right where I am.

I thought about that yesterday, when I started noticing all the warnings about the impending weather. I wondered if there would really be any snow at all in my neck of the woods. Experience has shown there’s a heckuva lot of hand-wringing hype when it comes to weather. 

Same thing used to happen when I was in Florida – all the ballyhoo around the developing storms out in the Atlantic and all their various possible tracks, and, oh my, what they might become and do.

All the fearful advance reporting treats weather as a mythic, angry god before whom we cower and fight.

Weather is certainly important, much to be respected, and requires response, but the type of hype to which we are subjected mainly works to maintain the stress, worry, and fear that is so characteristic of our society.

It’s not as if people for thousands of years did not manage without weather reports ad infinitum.

I’m guessing the ancients were better about weather than we are. They would have been much more tuned into Nature, and would have noticed subtle signs and changes, and respected them. They would have planned ahead for winter based on experience, and without benefit of plows or snow blowers.

And they weren’t exactly pillaging the planet, either.

Even with all of our technology and science and advance warnings, we still have power outages, blocked roads, closings, flight delays, and plenty of destruction whether it’s snow or hurricanes, floods or fires. In fact, there’s more and more of them all the time.

And despite the avalanche of advance warnings, we basically do nothing anyway to take the steps we can to, say, ease climate change.

Just in the last few days, the US government released its Fourth National Climate Assessment. Now, there’s a storm warning! Among its dire findings, it reached this rather understated conclusion:

While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.

Hmm. Substantial damages. 

There is another approach. Maybe we could try trust and respect when it comes to earth and its atmosphere. Maybe we could be amazed by Nature, amazed by our interdependence – and try working with that. Maybe instead of wringing our hands, we could finally join hands with our planet. Maybe instead of hype, we could take heart.

And somehow weather the storm.

seeking truth

veru11_14_18aThe physicist Werner Heisenberg noted that ‘the act of observing changes the thing observed.’ This is oh so true when it comes to government and corporate activities.

It’s extremely important to watch what our government and corporations are doing. The very act of watching them affects their behaviors, which always and necessarily have an effect on the people.

As we all know, even when we are watching them, governments and corporations do unpopular, dishonest, damaging, and illegal things. If we stop watching, the sky’s the limit – and that won’t work in favor of the people.

The press is essential in our efforts towards a free country.

Yes, media corporations bring bias from various angles to the process. That means we need more voices, not fewer. It also means that we, the people, have a responsibility to be educated, discerning readers and citizens who support good, truth-seeking reporting. Independent media is more important than ever in our efforts to seek truth.

The President and members of his administration have led a lengthy and ongoing campaign to besmirch and cripple the press. Interestingly, the constant cries of “fake news” come from folks absolutely depending on the coverage of the alternative facts, outright lies, even doctored videos, deliberately and consistently generated.

This comes after the previous administration which reached new heights in threatening, disparaging, and silencing truth tellers. We have already been long and thoroughly coached to hold truth tellers in contempt – even when it has obviously served us in important and positive ways.

We should all be concerned when government/corporate powers so obviously and openly seize, control, and distort the messaging, and brazenly silence those attempting to report the truth of their activities.

As citizens, neighbors, parents, we have a responsibility in this. We must support those attempting to seek and report on the truth. We must demand relevant information. We must educate ourselves, and think critically about what we learn. It does not do to depend one on source for information.

It’s a matter of paying attention to what matters, and holding people accountable. We all have a part to play in seeking and defending the truth for the purposes of creating a just and peaceful society and to safeguard our ever more imperiled world.