It's that time of year again!
I've already written about both Thanksgiving
and Buy Nothing Day
this year, as well as the brand new phenomenon of GivingTuesday
. Today I'm driving to Connecticut to chop down a tree for my apartment and I've already bought the flight home for Christmas.
It's holiday season, baby, and I'm in full swing.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the likes of Bill O'Reilly are at it too, again trumpeting the defensive in their mythical War On Christmas
. But thank God that John Stewart is always there to level his poignant critique, not so much taking up arms in the War On Christmas as much as the War on Stupidity and Fearmongering.
I could have easily posted this video on either the Privilege
or Matt 6:24
blog. It touches on both Christian privilege, which I wrote about last year
, and the consumerism that has completely corrupted and made a mockery of the otherwise holy day (for my own part,I could easily do without the presents
But knowing Santa's penchant for bringing gifts to well-behaved boys and girls (I always make the "nice" list), I've posted the following holiday wish list on my blogs the past few years. Lest Santa forget what kinds of gifts I prefer, here it is again. I hope that it will inspire others to adopt a similar model!
- I like the FAIR TRADE model best. By far. Such items are made in the same developing countries [as the gifts you typically get me] but they are made by people who are guaranteed fair wages and humane work conditions. You can find fairly traded items - clothes, toiletries, jewelry, games, even musical instruments - at fair trade stores and/or online. One great trick is to search "sweat free _______" on google. Just fill in the blank with whatever item you think would be ideal for the recipient.
- SECOND-HAND is second best. If you can't afford fair trade (ethical considerations are indeed more expensive) then aim low. Buy second hand. There are great stores that sell like-new clothes (Plato's Closet comes to mind). You may also get lucky at a Goodwill, Salvation Army, or even a garage sale [...] I also dig hand-me-downs.
- Buy local! Support your local artisans and merchants, designers, soap makers, musicians, luthiers, carpenters, welders...
- If there's no way to ensure that an item was made under ethical conditions, then buy American! There's no guarantee that American factories are doing it right either, but it's certainly more likely. Check the tag to make sure it was made in the USA, at least I'll know you tried.
- Consider utility and space. I live in NYC (!!!). So ask yourself, "does Gio really need this?" If you still can't figure it out, then just call and ask. Perhaps your tongue was in your cheek when you gave me soap and deodorant [last] year. I can appreciate a good joke, but I can appreciate utility even more! You rightly guessed that these are items I do not buy often and on principle. Yet I can and will use them simply because they are useful (helps that they were made in the USA ;) I've also appreciated the various musical instruments over the years. That's one thing I'll always make room for!
- Consider the environment. Avoid plastic and styrofoam and shoot for products made from recycled materials wherever possibe. Upon buying the item(s) let the clerk know that you don't need a plastic bag. [And don't worry about my hygiene this year, I'm all stocked up on soap, shampoo and deodorant]
- Be creative, not compulsive. Don't just buy me anything. If you must buy me something, make it something meaningful (if you've bought something with the above considerations in mind, then mission accomplished!) And if you're still struggling, then please don't feel pressured to buy anything at all! Create something. Say something. Take me somewhere (it need not cost anything)... Or just play board games with me.
Whatever holidays you celebrate this month, I wish you a joyous and peaceful season. But particularly if you celebrate Christmas, I exhort you to remember its true meaning: war is over (if you want it)
The turkeys and pies are being cooked as we speak. The tubes are being set for a football match and/or parade. The parties are being planned, the tables set. And the tents are being set outside the big box stores.
It must be Thanksgiving, which - don't get me wrong - I enjoy as much as the next guy! Being a vegetarian, I abstain from turkey and ham, but I certainly pig out on the casseroles, pies, mashed taters, sweet taters, and other veggies. Football's always great when enjoyed with family and friends. And what better day to tout my freegan anti-consumerist views than Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year? (AKA Buy Nothing Day, more on this tomorrow...)
But not everyone gives thanks today
. Me might do well to consider the Wampanoag, whose ancestors helped put food on the first Thanksgiving table of 1621. They now count less than 5000, at least ten to twenty times fewer than in 1616 (up to two thirds of their number were wiped out by plague which came with European traders before the Pilgrims arrived). But on this day, more than any other in the US calendar, Native American people are merely caricatured as they are painted into our national mythos of peace and prosperity. Standing at the intersection where our history meets that of the Native Americans, we hardly bother to look both ways before crossing.
But the Natives don't have the luxury of being so short-sighted. In fact, many of them gather this day each year at Cole's Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, not to give thanks, but for a National Day of Mourning.
And what of the people who work so hard to bring the food that we enjoy today to our tables? Too few of them are paid living wages and too many live in hiding, for fear of deportation. While we give thanks today, we will do well to remember and honor their hard work.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has produced this video, A Tale Of Two Holidays. It's their invitation for Publix (the big grocery chain in my home state of Florida, where Immokalee is also located) to come to the table, to join the Fair Food Program which will marginally increase wages for tomato farmworkers.
I realize that the video is a little corny (again, no pun intended) but I hope that it doesn't distract too much from the message. CIW is a great organization that does a lot to bring the concerns of our farmworkers to public consciousness.
Let's not follow in the footsteps of Pilgrim forbears, forgetting too soon the help that brings food to our table. If you are moved to thank your farmworkers today, here's a simple step you can take: join the voice of CIW in asking Publix to come to the table.
Thanksgiving can be an important time to remember where we've come from, give thanks for where we are, and look forward to where we might go next -together. With these objectives in mind, I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.
On November 15, my twitter feed was abuzz with news of a young Chicago hacktivist, Jeremy Hammond, who had been sentenced earlier in the day to 10 years in prison for his involvement in hacking a private security firm called Stratfor. Given that I follow many handles associated with the hacktivist collective Anonymous, the posts were all in support of Hammond, decrying the decision by Judge Preska and lamenting what was regarded as an excessively harsh sentence.
Not having heard much about Jeremy Hammond up to that point, I delved into the case. I learned about the elite hacktivist groups that Hammond had been involved with and his association with Sabu, a hacker-turned-FBI-informant. I learned more about Stratfor and their spying activities on members of Occupy Wall Street; about the conflict of interest for Judge Preska, whose husband was apparently a victim of the Stratfor hacks. I learned more about the FBI's involvement, seeing very clearly that Stratfor intel was somehow a strategic acquisition for the FBI (the bureau was monitoring the hack and has undoubtedly made use of the information that came out of it) and that Hammond's case was a textbook example of entrapment, wherein Hammond is paying the penalty for doing the FBI's dirty work.
Bust most of all, I was moved by the words of Hammond himself, which he delivered during his prepared sentencing statement
, published that day on SparrowMedia.com.
Though of course it's very important to draw attention to this case, which got precious little coverage in the media, I most wish to highlight excerpts of Hammond's moving statement, below:
Good morning. Thank you for this opportunity. My name is Jeremy Hammond and I’m here to be sentenced for hacking activities carried out during my involvement with Anonymous. I have been locked up at MCC for the past 20 months and have had a lot of time to think about how I would explain my actions.
The acts of civil disobedience and direct action that I am being sentenced for today are in line with the principles of community and equality that have guided my life. I hacked into dozens of high profile corporations and government institutions, understanding very clearly that what I was doing was against the law, and that my actions could land me back in federal prison. But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice—and to bring the truth to light.
I was particularly moved by the heroic actions of Chelsea Manning, who had exposed the atrocities committed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. She took an enormous personal risk to leak this information – believing that the public had a right to know and hoping that her disclosures would be a positive step to end these abuses. It is heart-wrenching to hear about her cruel treatment in military lockup.
I had to ask myself, if Chelsea Manning fell into the abysmal nightmare of prison fighting for the truth, could I in good conscience do any less, if I was able? I thought the best way to demonstrate solidarity was to continue the work of exposing and confronting corruption.
I was drawn to Anonymous because I believe in autonomous, decentralized direct action. At the time Anonymous was involved in operations in support of the Arab Spring uprisings, against censorship, and in defense of Wikileaks... It was an exciting time – the birth of a digital dissent movement, where the definitions and capabilities of hacktivism were being shaped.
Anonymous was also involved in the early stages of Occupy Wall Street. I was regularly participating on the streets as part of Occupy Chicago and was very excited to see a worldwide mass movement against the injustices of capitalism and racism. In several short months, the “Occupations” came to an end, closed by police crackdowns and mass arrests of protestors who were kicked out of their own public parks. The repression of Anonymous and the Occupy Movement set the tone for Antisec in the following months – the majority of our hacks against police targets were in retaliation for the arrests of our comrades.
As a result of the Stratfor hack, some of the dangers of the unregulated private intelligence industry are now known. It has been revealed through Wikileaks and other journalists around the world that Stratfor maintained a worldwide network of informants that they used to engage in intrusive and possibly illegal surveillance activities on behalf of large multinational corporations.
The U.S. hypes the threat of hackers in order to justify the multi billion dollar cyber security industrial complex, but it is also responsible for the same conduct it aggressively prosecutes and claims to work to prevent. The hypocrisy of “law and order” and the injustices caused by capitalism cannot be cured by institutional reform but through civil disobedience and direct action. Yes I broke the law, but I believe that sometimes laws must be broken in order to make room for change.
I am committed to working to make this world a better place for all of us... STAY STRONG AND KEEP STRUGGLING!
By his own words and the fervor of his ardent supporters, he strikes me as a man of passion and principle. Again, you can read the entire statement here
. If you are similarly moved, then I encourage you to learn more about the case and support his cause at freejeremy.net
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of Zuccotti Park's clearing by NYPD
and the end of any real, tangible, physical presence of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in the financial district of Manhattan.
At that time, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement
to the press, highlighting the illegality and supposed public danger of the occupation. He then loosed the NYPD gang (and I mean this in the violent-street-criminal-association sense) upon the park.
"Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags," he said. "Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments."
But what of the mayor's arguments? Do they
need to be powerful? No, no. Who needs powerful arguments when you can use the violent force of a large army (again, I refer to NYPD) to enforce your policies? We didn't have the corporate media machine to proliferate our message and arguments, however powerful they may have been, and we certainly didn't have an army to fight back (being peaceful demonstrators, we wouldn't resort to that anyway).
So we were bullied out of the park.
But please, let's talk about the power of arguments. If Bloomberg was really concerned about public safety and law and order, then he could have precluded the entire Occupy protest by instead unleashing the NYPD on the New York Stock Exchange and arresting all the white collar criminals whose shady dealings wreaked havoc on the US economy and the middle and working classes, and ultimately precipitated the Occupy movement.
But the stock exchange wasn't his target on November 15th. It seems that the power of the Occupy movement's arguments were no match for the power of the almighty US dollar. And there's no question now as to whom Bloomberg was and is beholden.
Two years have passed and perhaps our arguments have passed muster after all, at least with the populace. Bloomberg and his ideology will soon be a scourge of the city's past and Bill de Blasio, known to be sympathetic to the causes of the Occupy movement, will follow in his stead. Time only will tell whether de Blasio will enact the changes that Occupy fought for; but I sure hope that if he doesn't
, the park comes alive again!
Please watch this video that I put together and posted about one week into the occupation of Zuccotti Park, in September 2011. These are fond memories.
Long live the spirit of OWS.
I've had something of a sabbatical over the past two months, since my album
release show on September 15. I haven't written much on my blogs, or gone busking, or played any shows, or edited videos. As mentioned in the previous entry, I've really dived into music lessons again, hoping for some financial stability.
But I certainly don't wish to abandon my art and writing entirely!
So this week I began to settle into some new rhythms, allocating time for blogging, GioSafari, and some other creative ideas that have been on the back burner for years.
Two new entries emerged for the Privilege
blog, both on themes of feminism, sexism, and patriarchy. The first
excerpts a commentary by visionary feminist thinker and writer bell hooks on the blockbuster pseudo-feminist book Lean In,
by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The second
highlights cases of sexual harassment and describes how men can use their privilege to subvert abusive patriarchal structures by challenge sexist attitudes and behavior.
On the Matt 6:24
blog, I shared the story of the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra
, a musical ensemble based in Paraguay whose classical instruments were constructed using trash out of landfills.
There's a ton more a-brewing in this brain of mine, so stay tuned for much much more!
Yesterday was election day for many local and state governments. I was sure to make it out for the mayoral vote in NYC, though as usual I voted in protest.
To be honest, I haven't followed the mayoral race very closely (indeed, I was booed at my album release show when I said that I didn't vote in the primaries and didn't much care). But I've been told that as a proponent of the Occupy movement, I would appreciate public advocate and Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio.
Based on what I've seen in videos and writing, I must say that I do appreciate the change that he promises and that his supporters hope he will bring; but as I've done with Obama, I will remain skeptical until I see results (still waiting on the promised change, Obama!). I do wish him the best and have high hopes for his management of this great city that I call home.
But as I had assumed that he would win, given his large lead on the Republican nominee, I just couldn't stomach voting for a Democrat or Republican myself. So I again voted for 3rd parties, all down the line - a symbolic act that I've taken for the past few presidential elections as well. I refuse to let my vote count toward either of these corrupt parties; I'd rather throw my vote behind the prospect of a multi-party system.
Coincidentally, yesterday was also Guy Fawkes' Day
, as made famous in the US by the spectacular Wachowski brothers' film V For Vendetta
I had not been aware of any demonstrations happening in NYC, but as I scanned my twitter feed throughout the day, I saw glimpses of so-called Million Mask Marches occurring around the world. I beamed as Anonymous, Occupy, and like-minded movements for peace, justice, freedom, and equality brought me touches of hope - each in 140 characters - for this species (and city, country, planet).
In apolitical news, I've returned to music lessons (guitar and piano) as a primary source of income. It's been really tough to settle into a groove, but it's a thrill to be my own boss again. I've had the margin to return to my work with Word Up Bookshop and I'm now refocusing on my creative pursuits as well. In the coming months, I plan to write at least a few entries each week between my different blogs
and I'm doubling down on my GioSafari
work - performing, songwriting, promoting, etc.
One Nobel Peace Laureate took a lesson this week from the recent (and youngest-ever) nominee, Malala Yousafzai. She and president Obama - arguably the most powerful person on the planet and perhaps most undeserving laureate in the prize's entire history - met privately this week.
Since the president paradoxically has both violent military might
and the award for peace, perhaps it's high time that someone teach him the meaning of the latter.
And there's hardly anyone better suited to do so than sixteen-year-old Malala. She recounted to the Associated Press
:"I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees. I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."
And here I thought she had a good deal of chutzpah when she stood up to the Taliban...
I'm continually impressed by her courage and commitment to peace.
Kudos, sister. Kudos.
Ever since October 9 last year, when then-15-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai was gunned down by the Taliban, I've hardly been able to shut up about it. The very next day I recorded a song
about the attack, and with every news event that followed, I broadcasted my support - when it became clear that she would survive, when she established her Malala Fund
for education, when she spoke to the UN
Owing precious little to my own efforts, she's soared to world-wide notoriety in the span of this year. And on the anniversary of her attack, she was up for nomination to win a well-deserved Nobel Peace prize.
Malala didn't win the prize - not this year anyway - and there are many who are glad she didn't win. Indeed, I must say that I myself am glad she didn't win. As some commentators have suggested, the award is beneath her
. I, for one, would have hated to see her don the same prize as Barack Obama, who has done far more to further this nation's legacy of war and violence in the world (happy Columbus Day, everyone!) than to increase peace. Others have suggested
that her good work would have been stymied by the bestowment and accompanying fanfare of such a grand award.
But I'm so proud of Malala, with or without the prize. I know that she will go on to fight for the right to education for all children, that she'll continue to work for peace around the world. Meanwhile, we in the US who admire her and her work would do better to honor Malala by actually heeding her words and ideas, rather than holding her on pedestals to contend for shallow awards.
Today we observe Columbus Day in the US, honoring a man to whom the US legacy of violence could perhaps be originally traced. But I'll follow online cartoonist The Oatmeal's lead on this one, honoring Columbus' contemporary Bartolomé de las Casas instead. Read more about the two men here
Happy Bartolomé Day, everyone. And to Malala - keep up the good work.
After releasing my new double album Heliotropism & The Pulvinar Movements, and the #SingUpward music video last month, I decided to take a much-needed vacation. I mostly rested for ten days in NYC before flying out to Miami and Las Vegas for still another ten days of fun-in-the-sun activity with my beautiful girlfriend Meeko.
But leave it to the US government to ruin our vacation plans by shutting itself down. On October 1, we were on a flight to Las Vegas.
We wanted to kayak and cliff jump into Lake Mead or rock climb at Red Rock during our four days in that beautiful area, but our plans were stymied by this government's complete incompetence and stupidity. The National Parks which we so desired to experience and appreciate were closed.
Indeed, the US Congress has given all new meaning to "National Lampoon," and in my own personal life I'm sorry to say that they took on Chevy Chase's role in what could otherwise have been a marvelous Vegas Vacation.
But my personal grudge against this Congress aside, I think that a post regarding this ridiculous government shutdown is long overdue. So now that I'm back to work, if I may share a few thoughts....
I'm one of those who say "it takes two parties [in this country anyway] to shut down the government". Meaning, of course, that both parties are guilty in bringing matters to this point (we're now well into the second week of the government shutdown).
Most of my Dem or liberal friends will disagree with me, saying "no it's the stubbornness of the GOP and Tea Party, which refuse to come to terms with the new health care law." But anyone who's honest with him or herself can see the stubbornness in bipartisan gridlock. And while it might be presumed that Obama and the Democrats should not have to bend to the will of the right wing after the healthcare bill has been passed with due process, it's worth noting that we really do have too much debt and an unbalanced budget - issues that must be resolved sooner or later.
So why, pray tell, aren't our leaders on either side of the aisle suggesting that we cut costs for the military, FBI, so-called homeland security, or prisons?
And why hasn't medicinal marijuana been legalized at the federal level, given the widely recognized therapeutic effects of the plant. We can only wonder whether affordable and accessible marijuana would make a positive impact on our nation's wellness and healthcare.
But I digress.
I have long argued that there would be more than enough money for healthcare, education, infrastructure, etc if we didn't spend half the discretionary budget on the military or give tax breaks to the rich and corporations. There are plenty of common sense answers to the problems we face, but Congress would rather do the bidding of "too big to fail" banks and corporations (see: tax breaks and bailouts) than save the country and constituents that voted them into office.
If it were congressional paychecks on the chopping block, they would have come to a solution long ago. But unsurprisingly, they are exempt from the furloughs. If you ask me, they and Obama should be the ones working unpaid until this is all worked out. If that had been the arrangement in the first place, there's no doubt that this shutdown would have been prevented.
We premiered the Sing Upward music video
during my album release show at Word Up Books on Sunday! WOOHOO!
There's a lot more to be said about that show, but first I need to gather my thoughts and emotions (and photos and video). In the mean time I posted Sing Upward
last night, in celebration of Occupy Wall Street's second anniversary.
It can also be seen on vimeo
I want to give another big THANK YOU to the cast and crew, indiegogo supporters, and Word Up Bookshop for all the help and support. We couldn't have done it without all your beautiful voices. And now EVERYONE can sing upward with us.
I hope you all enjoy the video and sing along, at the top of your lungs!