Tasks For Our Times:
Tasks For Our Times:
Daybreak. The opening verse. The first week of the first month of a new year.
What will the rest of it bring? Another epidemic of hostilities on top of the current plague? Who's to know?
"While [we] are trying to put out a fire on one side of the Earth, another fire inevitably begins to rage up from the sparks and tinder of history neglected," said Kenneth Champeon.
Without memory, the motivation behind the deeds of men can be terribly inscrutable.
A hundred years ago on January 5, the Wright brothers stated to the Associated Press that they had achieved their goal with the
Born of dreams but freedom was not the inspiration. According to George Monbiot, as soon as the Wright Brothers were confident that their craft worked, they "approached the war offices of several nations, hoping to sell their patent to the highest bidder. The
We hurtle towards the great unknown but we are not alone; the past is present. We are accompanied by the old hopes of wise folks who preferred the path that did not lead to oblivion.
Let the blind lead the blind.
Helen Keller, blind and deaf and childhood emblem. Disneyfied and handicapped by history to be forever extolled solely for overcoming her physical handicaps and not for her soaring spirit. "Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder! ... Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction!" said Keller to the working women and men assembled in Carnegie Hall in 1916, the year before the
Keller, who abhorred those she called "socially blind and deaf" who defended "an intolerable system." Keller, the visionary who speaks to us today: "Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought!"
As with J.R.R. Tolkien; he speaks to us too.
Celebrated author, creator of Middle Earth, he disliked the notion propounded by some of his readers that The Lord of the Rings was more than just "a story of what happened in B.C. year X, and it just happened to people who were like that!" He especially detested attempts to use his work as an allegory to cloak as "forces of good" wars waged by whichever side on another.
Yet Tolkien himself had to admit to the poet W.H. Auden that what he created was also a moral narrative, that although "the historical period is imaginary," the "theatre of my tale is this earth, the one in which we live."
"[M]y story is not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for domination)," wrote Tolkien in 1956. "Nuclear physics can be used for that purpose. But they need not be. They need not be used at all ... If there is any contemporary reference in my story at all it is to what seems to me the most widespread assumption of our time: that if a thing can be done, it must be done. This seems to me wholly false. The greatest examples of the action of the spirit and of reason are in abnegation."
The power to deny deadly power. The power of refusal.
Governments holding the mightiest of arsenals quake in the face of such power. A power discovered by 100,000 deserters in the
The power held by Mordechai Vanunu, who chose to tell the world in 1986 that
"It is a dangerous illusion to believe they [nuclear weapons] can be defensive," wrote Vanunu from his prison cell in
Vanunu, a fallible man of flesh and blood like the rest of us and yet
Vanunu's vile 18-year prison sentence will end this April -- the month the world celebrates Earth Day. What better way to show our planetary affections than to ensure the freedom of Mordechai Vanunu? He will soon be free. Let us all head to the Embassy of Israel and demand Vanunu's release. And the release of the
1. From "Lessons Unlearned: Gabriel Kolko's Anatomy of a War," Kenneth Champeon's review of Kolko's book.
4. George Monbiot, "A weapon with wings," The Guardian,
5. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Houghton Mifflin Company,
6. Passionate Declarations: Essays on war and justice, Howard Zinn, Pantheon Books, 2003.
7. "'We're air force pilots, not mafia. We don't take revenge'," Chris McGreal, The Guardian-UK,
8. "Anniversary of a whistle blower," Renato Redentor Constantino, TODAY,
10. For the best background concerning the famed whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, see http://www.vanunu.freeserve.co.uk/
[Renato Redentor Constantino writes a weekly column for the national Philippine newspaper TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Constantino's articles also come out in the largest Philippine news web portal www.abs-cbnnews.com and the UK-based alternative news site www.wwviews.com. The writer is based in