Cool Quote of the Day

Without the recognition of non-violence on a national scale there is no such thing as a constitutional or democratic government.

-Mahatma Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War

Cool Hero of the Day: Mahatma Gandhi

gandhi_eastwest

One of the most significant facts about the life and vocation of Gandhi was his discovery of the East through the West. Like so many others of India, Gandhi received a completely Western education as a young man. He had to a great extent renounced the beliefs, the traditions, the habits of thought, of India. He spoke, thought, and acted like an Englishman, except of course that an Englishman was precisely what he could never, by any miracle, become. He was an alienated Asian whose sole function in life was to be perfectly English without being English at all: to prove the superiority of the West by betraying his own heritage and his own self, thinking as a white man without ceasing to be “a Nigger.” …

Gandhi was unusual in this. Instead of being fooled by the Western costume, and instead of being persuaded that he no longer really existed as an Asian, he recognized that the West had something good about it that was good not because it was Western but because it was also Eastern: that is to say, it was universal. So he turned his face and his heart once again to India, and saw what was really there. It was through his acquaintance with writers like Tolstoy and Thoreau, and then his reading of the New Testament, that Gandhi rediscovered his own tradition and his Hindu dharma (religion, duty). More than a tradition, more than a wisdom handed down in books or celebrated in temples, Gandhi discovered India in discovering himself. Hence it is very important indeed to understand Gandhi’s political life, and particularly his nonviolence, in the light of this radical discovery from which everything else received its meaning. Gandhi’s dedicated struggle for Indian freedom and his insistence on non-violent means in the struggle–both resulted from his new understanding of India and of himself after his contact with a universally valid spiritual tradition which he saw to be common to both East and West.

-Thomas Merton, Gandhi on Non-Violence

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in New Delhi.

Code Pink flash mobs Union Station

Code Pink descended on Washington, DC’s Union Station today to deliver a message about stopping the spread of weapons and reducing U.S. militarism abroad. Sporting funky pink costumes, Code Pink activists sang and danced in the main hall of Union Station, even more crowded than usual with travelers arriving for Inauguration Day. Security was also at the max.

While entertaining the crowd, Code Pink interspersed antics like dancing a can-can with a serious message. “End gun violence now, end drone violence now,” they chanted. Many of the songs and remarks were addressed to President Obama. “It’s been 10 years, it’s time to leave Afghanistan and end the war on terror,” said Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin.

On the morning of Inauguration Day, Code Pink will join a coalition of progressive organizations in a rally at Malcolm X Park, then march down 14th Street.

More photos of the flash mob are here.

And video highlights by @organizerx:

Cool Quote of the Day

Before being in jail, it was hard for me to understand what Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi meant when they said that prisons are the temples of freedom. It’s clear that they can do many things to your body and try to oppress you and use psychological violence. But there’s something so strong inside each of us, the human spirit, that they can not reach. They can put you in shackles and cold cement cells, and feed you horrible food, and put you in solitary confinement, but there’s no way that they can reach the human spirit. That was powerful—to find once again that that part is sacred.

– Pancho Ramos-Stierle, who was arrested while meditating during the police raid on Occupy Oakland on Nov. 14, 2011

Cool Quote of the Day

If violence is answered by violence, the result is a physical struggle. Now, a physical struggle inevitably arouses in the minds of those directly and even indirectly concerned in it emotions of hatred, fear, rage and resentment. In the heat of conflict all scruples are thrown to the winds, and all the habits of forbearance and humaneness, slowly and laboriously formed during generations of civilised living, are forgotten. Nothing matters any more except victory. And when at last victory comes to one or other of the parties, this final outcome of physical struggle bears no necessary relation to the rights and wrongs of the case: nor in most cases, does it provide any lasting settlement to the dispute.

-Aldous Huxley

Cool Quote of the Day

artwork by davis.jacque

A violent act can never put down another violent act. If you do not believe in violence, you should not exhibit violence in any way. Every act of yours must be based on non-violence. That means you have to build up that capacity within yourself, that faith in the virtue of non-violence. Until that capacity is developed, peace marches, demonstrations, protests and things like that will not bring any real benefit. It would be better for you to sit still and find peace within yourself; then you will be able to take peaceful thoughts, peaceful vibrations, with you wherever you go.

-Sri Swami Satchidananda

Cool Hero of the Day: Václav Havel

Former Czech Republic President Václav Havel passed away at the age of 75 after a long illness. Playwright, essayist and frequently jailed dissident under the Communist regime, he was a prominent figure in Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Havel’s artistic work and dissidence arose out of personal alienation. Privilege gave him a sense of inferiority and difference, not superiority, and he adopted the viewpoint of an outsider.

His 1978 Essay “The Power of the Powerless” greatly influenced the resistance to Communism in Eastern Europe and provided its theoretical underpinnings. The beginning echoes Marx: “A SPECTER is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called ‘dissent.'” He describes ordinary acts of acquiescence as “living within the lie” of coercive regimes and calls on people to stop participating: “revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.”

By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth.

Havel here articulates the basic premise of Cool Revolution: cool heroes accessing their inner truth are the starting point for political action. The spheres of personal freedom they create radiate outward and coalesce into nonviolent social movements.

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The Lady: New film dramatizes life of Burma’s Daw Suu

I’m pleased to hear that The Lady, a new biopic by Luc Besson about cool hero Aung San Su Kyi, is making the rounds of film festivals and cities in limited release. Shambala Sun has a review here.

Burma may be among the world’s most repressive regimes, but it has almost always flown under the radar of American consciousness. The “Saffron Revolution” of 2007, when monks joined anti-government protests, is a notable exception. Southeast Asia isn’t the hotspot that the Mideast is, and drawing neighboring China into conflict over Burma’s natural resources isn’t a strategy that the US can afford. Besides, Western nations have generally “done the right thing” by isolating Burma for its leaders’ appalling treatment of its people.

Aung San Suu Kyi, often called The Lady, stands out among leaders of conscience for the extent of her personal sacrifice and practice of non-aggression. She isn’t the household name that some Nobel Peace Prize winners are, since she has been under house arrest for 15 of the last 22 years and is unable to leave the country to promote its cause. Although she was released from house arrest last year and just this month met with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, there’s no way of knowing if the party she presides over, the National League for Democracy, will ever take control.

A dramatization of ASSK’s inspiring life story is some ways overdue. Yet with some signs of change there, this film is very timely and build of foundation of familiarity with Burma’s situation that will prove beneficial, whenever a critical moment arises.

Update: The US release of the film is scheduled for February 17, 2012.

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Cool Hero of the Day: Aung San Suu Kyi – Cool Revolution