Curtain Raiser

For a New Brazil & U.S., Colltalers

To a considerable number of Brazilians and Americans, the past two years have been a cavalcade of back steps and heart breaking discouragement. But in a few weeks, they’ll all have a shot at disavowing and stopping this disastrous era, or gladly reaffirming it.
At stake, it’s whether the twin time bombs set by the Aug. 2016 coup that ousted Brazil’s one-and-a-half term president Dilma Rousseff, and the following Nov. election of popular-vote loser Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, can still be safely disarmed.
Millions, who feel as if living in a bizarro version of democracy, will go to the polls with a clear goal in mind: change. From South to North America, they’ll face off a loud pack of blind drones, assigned to shoot down any threat to the reining premeditated chaos.
Whatever the outcome, it’s bound to stir the sour continental soup of exceptions. While Brazil may push Latin America further into its conservative downward spin, the U.S.’ reenacting of Europe’s worst traits may wind up dragging down its hard-won stability.
Altogether, about a billion-plus may taste the bitterness of authoritarianism shoved down their throats, whether liking it or not.
Their fight to safeguard choice, civil rights, and the dignity of individual freedom, may be decided by what happens in the next couple of months. Casting a vote has seldom been so crucial Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Losing Elephants & Compassion, Colltalers

We may be running out of Earth’s resources to provide to everyone’s survival, but we’re still far from totally lacking them. What’s in short supply, however, is compassion to channel help where it’s most needed, and power to prevent the haves from having more.
A flawed metaphor to invoke may be the quest for saving the elephants, those gentle giants we’re slaughtering to extinction for their tusks. Because just alluding to their proverbial good memory, and how fast they may be forgotten, is almost too much to bear.
The textbook example to such a social quagmire is, of course, the U.S., the richest country in the world. Despite its wealth, and recent employment reports, it continues to see a rising contingent of the destitute and the homeless to rival developing economies.
By reversing protective environmental policies, and opening public land to oil exploration, the Trump administration is making sure natural resources will be fast depleted. And worst, proceeds will be diverted to tax-deferred corporations that’ll rather reward shareholders than create wealth to the country as a whole. The economy that ran us to the ground once is about to do it (us) again.
As for that imprecise metaphor involving elephants, it kept its currency this past month. On Aug. 12, a day dedicated to awareness about them, their global population was tallied at about 800,000, and preservation efforts were dutifully praised. But the estimated average of 100 killings a day in Africa was confirmed on cue last Tuesday, when 90 were slaughtered for their tusks in Botswana.
It was a gruesome massacre, done with customary brutality, and predictable frequency. Poachers, however, who get the blunt of public disgust about the murdering of these and other beautiful creatures, are but just a visible end of a multimillion dollar trade.
Low-paid and poorly-trained park rangers are never a match to the high-level precision and lethal capacity of raider teams Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Shame of a Trade’s Legacy, Colltales

The Age of Discovery, one the greatest moments of Western civilization, is arguably when Earth finally shrank to its real size, and the courage to brave new worlds became Europe’s manifest destiny. It’s also the age that triggered large scale slavery from Africa.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade, chartered 500 hundred years ago by Spain’s King Charles I, plundered Africa and, for the next three centuries, turned up to 12 million of its citizens into slaves to white Europeans and Americans. It was history’s biggest scourge.
Aug. 28 sad milestone may have passed unnoticed, but signs that at its racial core, it’s a still bleeding and festering wound, are all over the world these days. White supremacism is on the rise, and so is violence and oppression against blacks and people of color.
All progress mankind’s experienced since, from advances in the art of navigation, to medical and scientific breakthroughs, including the achievements of the Enlightenment Era, hasn’t been enough for us to evolve from that heart wrenching event. It ripped apart an entire continent, and spread out through the world like a disease: the despicable idea that one race has precedence over all others.
Despite all our ever growing understanding of the wonders of the human body and mind, we still act like our primitive ancestors when it comes to race: an assumed divine connection is all that’s needed for granting us the immoral authority to split the world according to skin color. And no other society did it with more cruelty and consistency than ours, possibly even in terms of length.
Rich nations still dispose of their vanquished peoples as if they’re properties, and a white self-attributed privilege still drives us to resist any kind of racial and class equality. As dominance is inseparable from economic power, it’s clear which social segment is fighting to hold on to an illegitimate control over all others, helped by Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Prisoner & a Prison Strike, Colltalers

People in seven U.S. states have just started a 19-day strike for liberty and social justice. Through hunger strikes and specific acts of civil disobedience, the organizers hope to trigger a national, ample movement focused on reforming and redefining the America’s prison system.
In case you’re wondering, you’ve read it right: the call or freedom is being led by incarcerated Americans, representing some 2.4 million inmates, or the biggest contingent of jailed people in the world. China and India, each four times the U.S. population, don’t come even close.
This staggering fact, though, is the one thing that can’t be added to the portfolio of horrors the Trump administration has already amassed in less than two years. It only fits neatly the president’s relentless agenda of singling out and vilifying every non-white citizens of this country.
A few other disturbing figures: although less than 13% of the U.S. population is African-American, nearly 38% of inmates are black. Of our current 350 million, 17% is considered Latino, or Hispanic. Behind bars, however, the percentage rises to 32% or almost third of all inmates.
The largest strike in U.S. history will last three weeks, to focus on issues such as slavery, access to rehab programs and lengthy sentences. Yes, slavery. To risk their lives fighting record-breaking wildfires of this summer, for instance, inmates in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Texas were paid nothing. In California and other states, they were paid up to $1 a hour, or some other, less undignified amount.
What follows, and perhaps this whole post, has no use to those who believe that the word dignity doesn’t belong in a same sentence as crime and punishment. But one measure of compassion and pragmatism of any society is its ability to provide redemption to its fallen citizens.
Not everyone can be included, and it’s yet to be invented a model utopia that doesn’t need police, and rules, and penalties for those who cause harm to others. That being said, we may be already living in a police state, specially for people of color, when one can be detained for being it. Millions of black Americans know society unduly fears them, and they may wound up getting shot by the police. Or going to jail.
A high percentage of the inmate population is composed of so-called drug offenders: people who either for socio-conditions, or lack of education, or disease and addiction, failed too quickly to the Reagan-era ‘three strikes law.’ Some were still in their teens Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

No Country for Indecent Rulers, Colltalers

Americans, who still abide by some of the ideals and aspirations of the Founding Fathers, seem a bit out of luck lately. For as the current U.S. president has sponsored and ridden on a disturbing anti-democratic backlash wave, the rest of the world is no place for solace either.
Some even decry the fact that, unlike U.S past leaders, Trump is not even in the same league as Putin, Xi Jinping, and Bin Salman. The rulers of Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia are the present-day versions of the Big Brother, Dearest Leaders holding the world by its strings.
So much for the malodorous jingoism of ‘making America great again.’ The U.S. may be finally downgraded from its top dog geopolitical spot not by humanistic concerns or its morally abhorrent foreign policies, but for the president’s pure incompetence at being, well, president.
It’s not clear whether his toddler-like tantrums, inability to grasp basic concepts of government, or mean-spirited Twitter and diatribes, will ever move down the needle of his supporting basis. But to Americans who still think for themselves, and the world, this cat is out of the bag.
Domestically, the country is thrown into such a death spiral of racism, social inequality, human rights violations, and a dismantling of environmental standards so extreme, that if it doesn’t drive record numbers of protesting votes at the November polls, then nothing else will.
But it’s been Trump’s displays of immaturity and lack of statesman skills at the world stage what’s really relegated the U.S. to second-fiddle position in global affairs. Hadn’t been by the feared firepower of our weaponry, his embarrassing meetings with E.U. and NATO leaders, and specially, North Korean Kim Jong Un and Putin, would’ve already deemed us as irrelevant as just another oversized banana republic.
Even among the weariest of Cold War remnants, there’s an almost universal consensus that Russia is indeed messing around with American politics, has control over the president, and is deeply invested in keeping him at the White House. Which means that if his base remains oblivious to his wrecking havoc of their own Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Never Normalize Racism, Colltalers

The firing of Steve Bannon from his White House job was arguably the only upside to the Charlottesville, VA, despicable white supremacist rally of a year ago. A small consolation indeed, as, one, he’d already done enough, and two, racism in America grew exponentially since.
By being held again in DC, yesterday, the hate event where Heather Heyer, a white civil rights activist, was killed by a Nazi sympathizer, is now also indelible from the Trump presidency’s legacy, and for once again normalizing racial extremism in the U.S. We’re all worst off for it.
It consolidates and aggravates some grim figures about the black experience in this country, and it’s helping to institutionalize racial hatred relations in ways that wouldn’t be possible, or acceptable, even during the worst moments of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
In little over a year, the Trump administration embracing of the white loss of privilege cause, whose anger still fuels his own rallies, has led to a dramatic rise of racial confrontation and violence. From shameful acts of terrorism perpetrated by seemingly reasonable Americans, a string of ‘calling-the-cops-on-people-being-black,’ to incidents of downright raw prejudice against every person of color, we’re living in dark times.
The president, however, not being capable of starting anything on his own, merely exacerbates this nation’s character flaws, and feeds off from the widespread intolerance his self-entitled attitude sows around. What’s a familiar, and utterly disturbing, sight to blacks, Latinos, and Holocaust survivors, all well acquainted with the harbingers of terrible things to come, remains all but ignored by most Americans, though.
Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police, according to Mapping Police Violence Website. And at least as many to be incarcerated for minor offenses, despite being less than 13% percent of the population. But the majority of non-supremacist whites don’t really think that’s a real problem, even if 90% of those killings won’t lead to indictment, suspension or firing of police officers. That’s a big problem.
The origins of the superiority complex shared by bigots, Nazis, proponents of violent ‘solutions,’ and assorted garden variety fascists, dates, of course, from slavery. There prior to the Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

What Comes After the Fire, Colltalers

Have we crossed the line? As the catastrophic realities of climate change become a global routine, a new class of man-made enemy emerges to disrupt efforts to save the planet: the sense of hopelessness. Have we already reached a point where any effort is to be rendered pointless?
Even seasoned environment warriors, who decades ago quit doubting about What Ifs, and focused on the Whens, are now pondering: isn’t time to direct resources to what’s still salvageable, or have not yet been attacked? Even more troublesome, who will we pick as winners?
The thought that complicates the matter is, of course, the wave of authoritarianism washing over world politics. Although most tyrants have invested interests in ignoring global warming, what if there’s a switch and it becomes another weaponized flag of xenophobia and exclusion?
Ever since rampant global warming has been observed, and properly diagnosed by the international scientific community, there’s always been a component of dread built-in in most potential solutions. Beyond a healthy pragmatic attitude, there was the all too common human fear that we were making too many assumptions about a positive outcome from our efforts, or that new technologies would come again to our rescue.
Many thought that when scientists and activists endorsed the Paris Agreement, they were doing so solely on its implied expectations that it could reverse climate change. In fact, what was remarkable was that 195 nations in the world could actually agree on something. As it turned out, they could but their ability to hold their side of the bargain hung on everybody else’s. And we all knew that it’d take a very long time.
Thus what if we lost the momentum, and such realization is taking a toll on our commitment to carry on because, clearly, not all is yet lost? Don’t sweat, nobody is saying that this is a necessary justification to feel despondent about our meager results, despite such a huge effort.
But if anything, the fight to re-balance the planet and keep it livable for at least a few generations has shown us that the obstacles are not just some powerful bad guys doing exceedingly bad things, and dragging us all into an inevitable whirlpool of escalating deadly extreme weather.
There are realistic thresholds that once crossed, make entire chains of interconnected efforts virtually moot. The aftermath of wild fires frying large swaths of California, Europe and Asia, for instance, will irreversibly change those badly depleted Continue reading