Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Elise Boulding


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

October 14, 2014


                Today, from Richard Quinney, I received a copy of an obituary in The Norwegian American Weekly for Elise Boulding that appears online at http://www.na-weekly.com/heritage/norwegian-american-women-of-distinction-elise-boulding/ .  It is based on an interview with her son Russ, who living in neighboring rural Brown County, Indiana, hosted participants at the International Conference on Penal Abolition I organized in 1991 in Bloomington.  My wife Jill and I know Elise and Ken Boulding best as Quaker activists we met and heard at the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), which they co-founded.  One insight that I heard and later read by Elise was the 5-generation window of history in which we live—that among the living there are numbers of great grandparents of children who are old enough to remember people of their great grandparents’ generation, and learn history and past traditions from their elders before they die.  Beyond that, for Jill and me both, our years in IPRA were richly rewarding, both to gain a global understanding of peace studies traditions and work, but to make lasting friendships and ties.  Elise, I join Russ: you live in me, you are remembered.  Love and peace, hal

Monday, October 13, 2014



Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

October 13, 2014


                "Sharia" means law, or in religious terms, law that follows Islam. In political and social life, and among Muslim legal theorists, many are the ways of interpreting and applying the Koran to today's world, far richer and more diverse than schools of interpreting the US constitution. To say "Sharia law" is at once redundant and disrespectful to the peacemaking premises by which many devout Muslims whom I know interpret the law. Among Islamic interpretations of law, ISIL law enforcement ranks far more fundamentalist and retributivist than its Saudi neighbor.  I cringe when I hear that “they” impose “Sharia law” with a capital S, as though fundamentalist retributivism in the name of God, and more generally the assumption that violence “naturally” demands punishment, isn’t acted out and justified in all religious and ethical traditions.  There is nothing inherently Islamic about ISIL interpretation of law.  There is nothing inherently more civilized than their indiscriminate summary executions in the way we hold one in four of the world’s prisoners, indiscriminately incarcerating in the industrial process we call plea bargaining, caging more and more of them for life without parole, letting some among them linger for a decade or more before they get the needle.  I propose that we take the “Sharia” out of our criticism of ISIL’s version of law and order.  The fact that they cite the Koran is beside the moral point: belief that punishment is morally and practically justified is the problem, there and here.  To say that ISIL imposes “Sharia law” is an ethnocentric, religious slur.  Love and peace, hal

Indigenous People's Day


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “pepinsky” at blogspot.com

October 13, 2014


                Today in Minneapolis and Seattle, it is Indigenous People’s Day.  Let’s be frank: My country is founded on genocide and enslavement by Anglo and Dutch Protestant immigrants, economically grounded in agricultural and military-industrial for-profit enterprises, aka corporate capitalists.  In the wake of the US civil war, the military-industrial enterprises, now for-profit corporations as persons who now control political advertising and sponsorship at local and state levels.  Today my country commonly names itself (so I was taught in elementary schools after the Spanish Explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who “discovered” that the Western Hemisphere went all the way to the Pacific.  The celebration of Indigenous People’s Day is a substitution for the nationally recognized Columbus Day, not to dishonor Italians, but to recognize as Italians have what it means to be economically and politically exploited as foreigners, as immigrants, by corporate capitalism and the hold it has over who holds office and what s/he does there.  That phenomenon reflects a culture of national pride and identity that we know as individualism—a belief that life depends on demonstrating one’s ability (whether one is a human being or a corporation) to stay ahead of others by whatever standards the market or authorities we happen to accept.  It is a way we judge and place one another as early as the third grade by national standards where failure occurs by statistical assumption, according to private corporate standards.  For many of us, it represents an Anglo-Christian tradition.  Implicitly, the US war on ISIL is religiously rooted in a sense of sense of inherent capacity to represent civility, of righteousness.  Max Weber didn’t live to see it: Today, the US and its military represent the supreme spirit of capitalism.

                Today at democracynow.org, Amy Goodman interviewed Kshama Sawant, a member of the Seattle area city council who introduced both a resolution to raise the Seattle minimum wage to $15.00, and to follow Minneapolis in renaming Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day.  She is a socialist.  (The only nationally ranking political socialist I can think of is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who created the country’s first urban land trust in Burlington.)  Describing the significance of honoring Indigenous People’s Day, Sawant pointed out the fact that the US is, as the British were in South Asia, one more nation state born of genocide and enslavement, creating a ground for a corporate power to take hold of cultures of exploitation at home and abroad…by extension, in Chinese terms, one more global dynastic cycle.

                A part of the interview focused on Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  I have scarcely heard it mentioned on US news media, but before the UN, Yousafzai denounced global capitalism for creating inequality, oppression and war worldwide, and proclaimed herself, like Sawant, to be a socialist.  Sawant noted that the last Socialist to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Albert Einstein, and before him, Helen Keller.

                I draw a distinction between those publicly employed and publicly selected to represent constituents and the common good, and the non-profit/NGO’s incorporated to serve alongside on one hand, and contracting out social services to for-profit corporations, to alleviate inequities for the common good, rather than serving the God of profit.  Put in context, as Sawant and Yousafzai do, I guess that makes me a socialist too, just as it reflects the many forms of circle government indigenous to my homeland, which survive and which I honor today.  Love and peace, hal

Friday, October 3, 2014

democracynow.org's US war teach-in


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

October 3, 2014


                The last two days, democracynow.org has offered a comprehensive teach-in on US warfare in Iraq and its wider history:

·         Yesterday’s first segment, an interview with Iraqi novelist and journalist Sinan Antoon, on how the US de-Ba’athified and divided occupied Iraq, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/2/after_us_sanctions_wars_tore_iraq .

·         Background: Henry Kissinger’s proposal that if elected to stay in office, President Ford bomb Cuba to destroy the state, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/2/secret_history_of_us_cuba_ties .

·         First segment in today’s broadcast, home page at http://www.democracynow.org: Iraq Veterans Against the War.  They are about to put out a statement condemning renewed US air bombardment there.

·         The second segment is a return interview with Jeremy Scahill, trained both in law and at democracynow.org itself.  Scahill, author of “Dirty Wars,” has been on the ground in virtually every recent war ground, from Iraq through Yemen.  His is the most well-nuanced, succinct summary of recent US involvement in Iraq and its results I have heard.  He is co-founder of The Intercept.


I return to a simile I drew when the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.  The US has figured out how to kill without being killed, so spectacularly so that we fire Cruise missiles by the hundreds at over a million dollars a shot, and release bombs bursting to the media.  Scahill mentions that one ISIL leader is a former Iraqi Ba’athist general, cast out by Paul Bremer in May 2003.  Participants in all three segments agree that the bombardment creates more US enemies than it kills.  As I said of Afghanistan, US bombardment has the same effect as fighting a grease fire with a water hose.  Sad but true.  Love and peace, hal

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Barack Obama, the human being


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

October 1, 2014


                Notwithstanding the dismay I expressed in. yesterday’s blog post on “the emperor president,” at President Obama’s proclamation that “America leads,” I recognize the gifts that got him elected, and very much respect the integrity and dedication with he performs his duties of office.  He is in many ways extraordinary.

                Barack Obama is an extraordinary communicator.  He demonstrates skills at taking in, in law school terms, “briefing” or boiling down information to its logical essentials, to reach a reasoned conclusion, that earned him the editorship of the Harvard Law Review, and that well qualified him to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago.  He is articulate and forthright, and he processes and boils down complex information with skill.

                He is also a consummate grassroots organizer, and is obviously deeply, pragmatically and spiritually committed, to performing his duties of office.  I have no question of his sincerity.  In his heart, he wants to leave office with honor, leaving the country he loves as safe as he can.

                I vaguely remember that around the time we got married, Jill and I had a little debate over whether the president should do something.  We agreed that “it” was something that should be done.  But, I argued, in reality, no person would qualify to be president and be able to do “it.”  Every president has human weaknesses.  Barack has two that stand out to me.


Obama has no demonstrable experience in international relations or world history, or domestic penal history.


He has no demonstrable in managing bureaucracies from the top down, rather than from the grassroots.


Hence, he must depend on information briefed to him on topics with which he has no independent background.  Living in Indonesia and having a Kenyan father may make him globally empathic at heart, but it says nothing about his knowledge of military and diplomatic history, nor of how “justice” operates at home.


                I know of no president since JFK who came into office with a deep sense of his country’s history, who presided over a much smaller, simpler government.  My point with Jill was, as it remains, that blaming gets in the way of peacemaking.  In my country, our violence is only represented at the highest level.  Over the years, time and again, I have found the punitive trajectory of the US to permeate in our culture, notably in our militaristic approach to parenting and teaching our children.  And so, as with Jill some time in the early seventies, I conclude that in some generation to come, the US president will be among the latter folks in my country to begin substantially lowering that sword and shield.  When the time comes, I wish this president a blessed rest.  Love and peace, hal