Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Peace Tapes – an interview with Joe and Harmony

Joe Flower & Harmony Breeze are two 60s aficionados who sing the songs that transformed life in the West as we knew it. That iconic music has become their personal soundtrack as they pursue peace and love, advocating that old universal remedy to a modern world polarised between an “effete corps of impudent snobs” (as Spiro Agnew so memorably put it) and the silent majority of staunchly patriotic and pro-war working class folks living in “middle America.” As the counter memory that Joe & Harmony makes clear, the concept of peace and love is extremely common within the working class — much more common, in fact, than within the middle and upper classes — even though working class people do not always express themselves in the language of class politics. While challenging and correcting popular conceptions of what war can achieve, Joe & Harmony also offer numerous insights into what makes for successful and peaceful community organising, the interplay of class cultures within social movements, and the possibilities of a United Nations of Peace in our own time.

Joe & Harmony were gracious enough to sit down with me for an interview about these ideas and their implications for world politics today. This is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation:

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JG: You’ve both been performing popular music from America’s mid-60s peace & love era for a number of years now, haven’t you?

JOE: That’s right. Harmony and me first performed our Trippy Hippy 60s show on vacation in the Australian Blue Mountains a while back, and then it toured America, West coast to East in 2014.

JG: In particular, you identify with the U.S. hippie movement as it began with Bob Dylan. The folk revival in Greenwich Village?

JOE: I do, but I think Harmony was “neo-country rock” first, and then later, hippy.

HARMONY: Yeah, neo-country rock was around between The Byrds and The Eagles in the early 70s. I was going to school during much of the country rock movement, and after that I sang harmonies in a Gram Parsons tribute band and also part-time in a Weavers cover group. I met Joe at a peace rally in San Francisco and our musical influences were like two halves of a bridge that had been growing towards one another for years.

JOE: That music is now the soundtrack of our Trippy Hippy 60s show and our personal soundtrack as we journey towards peace.

JG: Now, the Peace & Love ingredient of The Trippy Hippy 60s Show is what separates you I think from the 60s cabaret acts I’ve seen over the years. I was wondering if we might talk at length about what you have both become aware of in your pursuit of peace and if you could tell me a little bit about what war and peace means to Joe & Harmony?

JOE & HARMONY: Right.

JG: Great. Well, let’s start with an obvious one: peace and love, can you know one without the other?

JOE: Total peace? Total love? I don’t think so. When you embrace love, totally, peace is the result, right? If you’re at peace – and I don’t mean dead, right, I mean, open to truth and seeing old ways in a new way, right? You can’t do that unless you’ve already embraced love.

JG: Is peace and love the upshot of war?

HARMONY: Let me start by saying…everything war is, peace and love is not – can you get behind that? War starts when people get scared, people start forgetting how they’re related to the people they’re warring against. They start trying to force an outcome, right? And forcing something to be a certain way, well, that’s just unnatural, man. War is unnatural – and peace and love is not the upshot, no.

JG: History appears to provide many examples of where war has eventually resulted in peace.

JOE: Well that’s just perception, man.

HARMONY: The end of war does not bring peace – let’s get that right – it just brings about the end of war. The war machine’s been duping people into believing that winning a war brings peace – but it’s crap, man.

JG: So achieving peace thru war is an oxymoron?

HARMONY: Exactly! Peace will never come thru war because war is a total contradiction of peace, and peace is a total contradiction of war. “War and Peace” is just the title of a book, man. One can’t exist with the other; war won’t make peace and peace won’t make war. They’re two opposites that won’t ever get it together.

JG: The world has seen many examples of what war looks like – what does peace look like?

JOE: Well, firstly, being peaceful is not about not waging war.

HARMONY: Right.

JOE: It’s tricky to describe, man, because it’s not a place, dig? I mean, sure, you can have a peaceful setting, right, but a peaceful setting can be wiped-out by nature or more often than not destroyed by humans. So peace is really a quality within a person, in the way they live and how they treat others within the setting they’re at, right? So if peace looks like anything it looks like a bunch of people living peacefully, embracing and extending peace by being peaceful and by deliberately pursuing peaceful ways of existence. So if you ain’t got “A Peaceful Easy Feeling” then, man, you’re not at peace.

HARMONY: And that goes whether there’s a war being fought someplace or not.

JOE: Yeah, right! – Or whether you like The Eagles or not.

HARMONY: Right!

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JG: Many would site common sense examples of where civilisation thought war was necessary in our past to bring about peace. Can you understand some people can’t comprehend how the world could have survived without engaging in war to either protect ourselves or gain something we valued or believed we needed?

JOE: Well, World War 2, man, Hitler, I mean, that happened because he deliberately went far, far out of his way to not see that there is always a peaceful solution.

HARMONY: That war…all wars start from the same point, man, where one side or both go too far to go right back to from where they started. And where they start is at the point where people stop being peaceful with one another. So, you know, time Pearl Harbour rolls around, in they come and blow things to smithereens, which is way, way beyond the time to start waving a peace sign yelling, Hey! Let’s pursue peace coz it will result in peace…

JOE: Your ass will be fried chicken, man.

HARMONY: It will at that stage, man, coz it’s too late, and by then all you can do is fight to stay alive. Sometimes you have to fight a war when you don’t really want to. It’s like, fight or die. And if miraculously you survive the dumb war you have another chance to pursue love, and hopefully come to an understanding that war will never result in peace and will only result in more war, more pain and more suffering.

JG: So how do you stop a war?

JOE: The only successful way to stop a war is to not start one, right?

HARMONY: Right!

JOE: I know that sounds kinda glib, but see, peace is not the act of not fighting or not demanding vengeance. Peace comes when people like you and me do away with the anger and fear that brought about what they felt was the need for war or vengeance in the first place.

HARMONY: War won’t stop anger and fear, man, it just means the anger and fear of the stronger army will later or sooner overpower the anger and fear of the lesser army.

JOE: See, there is no winning, there is just the idea that, okay, great, and the enemy is dead so we’ve gained control…but control is not victory. Control is oppression, and on a war footing oppression is maintained thru fear, dig? – Peace will never-ever exist in a place where people are living with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.

JG: In 2001, America experienced an act of war against them and the response was to wage further war and to seek vengeance. Is the world a better place today because of the “war on terror”?

JOE: Oh, man, I mean, was the world a better place before or after the Americans made deals with Bin Laden in Afghanistan? Was Afghanistan better before or after the Russians invaded? Vietnam, better before or after the war? How about Korea?

HARMONY: Or the American Civil War – oh, but it ended slavery. Really?! Try telling that to black Americans living South before 1965.

JOE: Not only is the world today not a better place, but it’s now even more hot-blooded than before 9/11 happened. Like Harmony said, war just creates more war and more fear. The only way to “win” thru war is to totally annihilate your enemy, just wipe them out! But it won’t bring peace, just the end of that particular war.

HARMONY: America’s post 9/11 goal is all about “winning the war on terror” which has nothing to do with “bringing about peace.” Peace will never happen because of “the war on terror,” because peace is not part of the goal…peace won’t ever be the consequence of that war.

JG: So, what were America’s options after 9/11? What else could America have done to bring about peace….just fold up and ignore what happened? Was America supposed to simply turn the other cheek and say “Please, hit me again”?

HARMONY: Well…that’s the attitude, man. Right there: that’s the attitude that creates more war. See, I don’t know if post 9/11 peace will ever happen. It’s all gone way too far right for this hippie, yah know? I mean, it started from the wrong place on the wrong foot and the powers that be just keep making it worse.

JG: Is it hopeless?

HARMONY: No, man, no. It’s grim, but where there’s life there’s hope. No one should give up on the idea of a United Nations of Peace. That would be a total bummer, man. Peace is not about apathy; it’s about getting your head and heart straight, about peaceful actions and effects, and not about giving up on peace.

JOE: Can we just embrace the idea of The United Nations meeting to discuss love? I mean, peace would be the result. Then healing could really begin.

HARMONY: In any situation and within any occasion…

JOE: Right! Peace doesn’t look to find blame and it doesn’t care who started the hassle, right? Peace looks beyond all judgement, and the UN could simply decide to apply healing to all sides of the apparent crisis so that the issue can be seen truthfully and then fully resolved to where everyone does win, peacefully.

HARMONY: When any form of attack happens, the world can choose to accept the attack and then attack back, or we can choose to see the attack as an unanswered cry for help which should tell us that big healing is required for this situation.

JOE: Can you imagine after 9/11, instead of embracing thoughts of vengeance and war, George.W.Bush had focused on providing healing to the situation that allowed the attack to happen in the first place.

JG: And what might that healing have looked like?

JOE: Well, think about what the world might look like today if George had said something like…America’s dealings in the past have provoked you to fear us so greatly that you felt you had no choice other than to hit us and try and provoke us into an all out world war. Neither of us have done the better thing, here. We are both responsible for a bloody, fucked-up mess where colossal healing is needed so that peace can be given a chance.

HARMONY: How groovy to dig George.W.Bush standing with Pete Seeger and singing “All we are saying, is Give Peace A Chance…” instead of popping on his pith helmet and demanding you are with us or with them! – Which was no choice at all, man, because on either side the only choice was war, war, and more war! How about George or Bin Laden saying… – no, wait! Hang on, forget about both of them, it’s all history, man. It’s been written. This is all just imaginary. It’s fantasy, man. How about getting real? Getting now! How about President Obama, or the next stooge they stick in the White House, saying to ISIS, you can side with war or you can side with peace? There is nothing in between, man, because you can only embrace the dark or the light, one or the other, but never both. Do you welcome peace or do you welcome war? Which side are you on?

JG: You’ve already stated that peace is not about inaction, not about inactivity. So, let’s play devil’s advocate and assume IS would reject this gesture and continue to chose war. What then?

HARMONY: Okay, so the President addresses the United Nations and offers, as a first step towards healing and peace, to change what motivates America, which would also change the way America relates to the world. Imagine the President saying, We have decided to relinquish our self-appointed mantle as the world’s police and to stop meddling in the relationships between other nations and we will stop doing so immediately. From now on, I am the President of Peaceful America; we will defend our country, but The United Nations can be the collective that manages world policing.

JOE: I guess the exception would be countries currently under attack that need military defensive aid, the UN could handle that. Otherwise, all U.S. troops are coming home.

HARMONY: Right, the U.S. will only use its military defensively from now on.

JOE: Right! I mean, America’s dealings to date have included deliberate ignorance of areas of the world that are truly in need, but had no natural resources they wanted to exploit, right? Can you imagine the U.S. President saying to IS, saying to the UN, from now on we’ll provide financial, technical and educational support to the starving nations and struggling people throughout the world and help stimulate new growth and true hope thru peace?

JG: Devil’s advocate again, no, no I can’t imagine that.

JOE: Well, of course…not with the current heart, which is always on red alert. The President would have to work in a reciprocal way with all nations to help best distribute the resources of the world as equally as possible amongst all nations so that the seeds of war are not sown in the first place…

HARMONY: All countries in the UN would have to lead by example and show all that matters now is feeding, housing and educating our brothers and sisters of the world to live in peace.

JG: It sounds utopian, like Dostoyevsky’s “Dream Of A Ridiculous Man.”

HARMONY: Well, I’d prefer John Lennon’s “Imagine” – but okay. Dostoyevsky’s “Man” may have been ridiculous, right, but if you’re saying I’m ridiculous, I’m faced with a choice, right? I could say “Screw you, asshole!” – an act of aggression, of war. Or, I could choose not to turn away from peace: All is forgiven because we have all contributed to this state of the world, so there is no blame to cast and no guilty party to destroy.

JOE: Right on, Harmony – America, so-called leaders of the “Free World” should be the ones to not behave foolishly and warlike. America should tell IS “We are not at war!” So, please stop any future attacks and let’s sit down and truly heal the rift that has allowed this situation to fail so miserably. America extends the olive branch to you, and whether you believe it or not or initially accept it or not, you will come to see it within us as we radically change how we treat all nations and all people of the world.

JG: Do you think Israel is ready to offer that to Palestine?

HARMONY: I think the heart of Israel is ready. The sleeping giant has been dreaming of war for a while, man, but really…Israel’s heart is a heart of peace.

JOE: Yeah, pursuing peace instead of war is humanities most important option and Israel should try a little harder to show it knows that.

JG: Do you think America is ready to wage peace?

HARMONY: America’s been ready since the 60s, man. “Tune in, turn on, drop out” – but that got bastardised by an administration that used its might to inflict a misguided concept of world order on its own people and the people of other nations. Their greatest thought then was the Vietnam war, man, catastrophes, economic collapse, poverty, starvation, disease…that is what they helped bring about, and what they always supported. Then you had Flower Power which had the sway to bring about what the love generation’s greatest thought was – a desire for all people and nations to pursue peace, along with a genuine wish to work fairly with everyone in the world…that is what they tried to bring about…and always supported.

JG: How do we get back to that garden?

JOE: We’re already in the garden, man; we’ve been there since Woodstock. We just have to respect it.

HARMONY: And do what the children of the revolution did, they pursued peace and love. It’s not a secret recipe of eleven different herbs and spices, right? The formula will never change: pursue love and peace will follow – and peace will remove the need for war. It will simply vanish. The result of peace is the absolute dismissal that war is even the slightest part of an answer: war and peace cannot exist at the same time and will only ever annihilate each other – that’s what ended the 60s.

JG: Can Christianity live in peace with the state of Islam?

JOE: And vice versa?

JG: Yes.

JOE: Both have to be a part of ridding this earth of war. Instead of seeing war as inevitable, prophesied or even divinely necessary, both have to choose instead to see peace as the only solution and be open for what peace will bring. To look away from all other ideas and options and choose peace, it’s that simple. Be open to love. Be open to peace. Be willing to see and make the future of this world peaceful. Be part of the reason that it spreads quickly…be the model of achieving peace thru peace.

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Money No Object When Great Power Scorned

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“The IS is a direct result of the adventurism of the West”

A generation of controversy can be compressed into that spare, declarative statement by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He speaks as a free man; free in the most basic and important sense – he is free to speak his mind. Yet he speaks as a refugee, living under the diplomatic protection of the government of Ecuador since June 2012, in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

In 2010, Julian Assange supervised the examination and publication of over half a million documents from the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon. He arranged hundreds of media and human rights groups to scrutinize these documents, which revealed thousands and thousands of embarrassing misdeeds and transgressions perpetrated by the United States government. The deaths of more than 100,000 individual people in Iraq and Afghanistan were amongst the precise details.

This upset the ruthless Americans no end. They began a criminal investigation into espionage charges aimed squarely at Julian Assange and his staff at WikiLeaks. As this article goes live the investigation is ongoing.

Also in 2010, a separate investigation was initiated by Swedish prosecutors who wanted to question Julian Assange on allegations of sexual misconduct. Just questions. He was not charged with any crime, let alone convicted of anything. Despite the availability of alternatives, and complete cooperation on the part of Julian Assange and his lawyers, the Swedes insisted he answer the questions in Sweden and issued an extradition order to that effect. Under house arrest in the UK, he fought that extradition in the English courts for over two years. In June 2012, Julian Assange lost the extradition case at the final court of appeal. He was faced with indefinite pre-trial imprisonment in a Swedish jail and the reality of at some stage being handed over to U.S. authorities by the obedient Swedes.

When Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19th 2012 to exercise his superior right under international law to seek asylum, he was guilty of the following: a dedicated defence of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as well as exposing America and other countries deliberate abuse of power. After more than two years “on the run,” the threat of political persecution against him was stated simply as a fact. The Ecuadorian government granted Julian Assange asylum on August 16th 2012.

He has been inside the Ecuadorian embassy ever since.

The situation is currently gridlocked. The embassy remains surrounded by the London Metropolitan Police force prevented from entering by the Vienna Convention. The UK authorities continue to reject negotiations aimed at providing Julian Assange with safe passage to Ecuador. Ecuador continues to offer the Swedish government an interview with Julian Assange on its premises, thereby facilitating Swedish due process and at the same time protecting Julian Assange from being transited to the United States. To date, the Swedish government continues to rebuff this offer.

So far, the UK taxpayer has spent multiple millions of £GBP keeping Metropolitan Police officers stationed 24/7 outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, on the off chance that Julian Assange will just nip out for a cuppa coffee (see the real time running total here https://govwaste.co.uk -).

Swedish Attorney General Anders Perklev was recently quoted via Rixstep News, saying “Costs to UK taxpayers [is] not our problem.” London Mayor Boris Johnson called the situation “absolutely ridiculous…[money] completely wasted.” Deputy chair of the Police & Crime Committee at the London Assembly, Baroness Jenny Jones said the situation had reached ridiculous proportions – “It’s time to end the stalemate and stand down the officers.” Former Scotland Yard royalty protection chief Dai Davies echoed the sentiments of many British subjects when he stated: “It is unfair for taxpayers to continue to fund this farce.”

It is an acutely embarrassing situation for all powers concerned, especially Prime Minister David Cameron. The UK government can’t back down from its position: Julian Assange must be arrested if and when he steps outside the building. Therefore, while America and Sweden remain in bed with one another the UK taxpayer is effectively paying for their room service.

In February 2015, Swedish State TV channel SVT2 aired an episode of Agenda discussing whether the case against Julian Assange should be dropped. Swedish Liberal Party spokesman Johan Pehrson stated, “All are losers in a lawsuit that drags on.”

But truth is rarely so simple, especially in a case that has stirred so many emotions and is so intertwined with issues just as large as the documents on WikiLeaks. The UK Inspectorate of Constabulary says that in austerity Britain, police can’t give priority to property crimes because they don’t have the personnel to attend the scenes of such crimes in person. But the UK’s domestic security apparatus does have millions to squander on a full time stake out of Julian Assange.

How long will this waste continue? It is a question to which UK taxpayers must demand an answer. For almost 3 years, defenders of Julian Assange have protested his maltreatment (and that must continue); surely now it is time to effectively protest the mounting costs to UK taxpayers, with full mention, in all instances, of the grounds which have shifted under this fundamentally important issue.

#RDU15 #julian #assange #free #street #manning #europeanunion #britishsoil #snowden #whistleblower #globalawaken #truthovermedia #embassy #humanrights #wikileaks #civilrights #ecuadorembassy #julianassange #dignity #forthemasses


Let’s Just Blame Tony – it’s easier that way.

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What, then, begins to emerge as the truth when as a nation we wonder what is Tony Abbott teaching us? What are we learning about ourselves? That the typical Aussie is pretty fair dinkum? About keeping thy nose out of other people’s business, yes. About not being terribly sleep deprived by the facts of history, yes. Australians will cruelly, thoughtlessly, and irresponsibly turn a blind eye, sometimes in ways that will cause permanent damage to their land and the way of life they claim to love, often because they don’t give a shit. Another lesson is that when responsible Australians will not deal with difficult issues, irresponsible one’s wait in the wings. When Kevin Rudd, rightly counted as one of the great polarising figures in the history of Australian politics, affirmed that he should never have turned his back on Julia Gillard, he opened the door to Abbott. (Australian voters kept the door open by welcoming the LNP’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind tactics on issues such as refugees, climate change and the economy – “don’t know don’t care just fix it.”) Could the Abbott era have been avoided? It can be argued that he might simply have found another swamp to play in; it is difficult to imagine he could have found one so damaging to Australian public life.

For militant Australians, the ironies of the evolving historiography of the Abbott era are extraordinary, among them that when the LNP began tabling cuts to pensioners, long-term unemployed, DSP recipients, health services and indigenous people, they were targeting the very groups that had voted them into office. Thus, at least in part, we owe public indifference of the truth of the definitive fact of the LNP’s reign to history repeating. This provides its own lesson, namely that the judgments of voters in a democratic system are made not on the basis of the best interests of its country, but on the electorate feeling cynical and powerless. Outside of the ballot box they have given up. In the Australian context, the balance between learning from history, on the one hand, and on the other applying that wisdom to military, diplomatic, and even social welfare programs, will never be easily or perfectly made so long as the average Australian isn’t savvy enough to vote below the line.

“What difference would that make?”

Attempting to dilute that listless attitude with education while pointing out that your typical Aussie often doesn’t give a shit, especially with patriotic pride set to swell to dizzying heights as the 100 year Anzac Day celebrations loom, and so on, is guaranteed to produce both failure and even further cynicism, the latter being by far the more dangerous commodity.

So let’s just blame Tony – it’s easier that way.

Is it?

#RDU15


A Generational Change Will Occur

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For too long, the terrorism of the Middle East has been used to argue the innocence of global data surveillance.

Looking for terrorists: good.

Spying on me: bad.

But why bad for me; me who has nothing to hide?

The people with “nothing to hide” must wonder why that archive of personal data is being collected at all; why are the millions of details of our everyday personal lives being processed; what is the government, what is the system learning from all that mundane data? The people with “nothing to hide” agree, governments are learning how we the people live in the 21st Century (all thanks to digital profiling). All this “learning” does make people wonder, as the profile of our civilisation is built and expands and changes over time, what conclusions are being drawn from the study of that expanding profile? And to what degree will that information be used to manipulate civilisation? – that is, massage it along a certain corridor or path?

The truth, in the end, is more complex and even more interesting than me who has nothing to hide can imagine: the gradual erosion of democracy and the subtle division of colleagues and traitors is merely the beginning. In the fullness of time, people with “nothing to hide” will find themselves controlled by either colleagues or traitors, and at that time every person will be accused of being either one or the other. By then, governments will have privatised everything and own nothing – nothing except the people who feed them, the colleagues who perpetuate the myth of why we need a government, and the traitors who oppose that old-fashioned system of rule.

Postmodernists may snub the very idea of truth, but this author finds its pursuit and even its imperfect image have value beyond the nihilism so prevalent across social media. Let us not lose faith that a generational change will occur, and at that hour may we all recognise the people who pushed for that change towards truth with tenacity, integrity, and courage.

As the 24 hour news cycle evokes still-painful memories with fresh controversies imbedded in basic moral issues, may we always see truth and human loyalty prominent among those many stories. In the end, it will be truth that will liberate us from the smog that rose up after the twin towers collapsed, the dust of which has covered our democratic processes for so much of this century.

#RDU15