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[OPIRG-EVENTS] Fw: no_to_nato Is a festive, celebratory event still appropriate?

I thought this was important enough for all the activist community to read.

Date: September 12, 2001 3:39 AM
Subject: Re: no_to_nato Is a festive, celebratory event still appropriate?

>Dear Richard,
>with all due respect I must differ with you on certain points of your
>> Given the horrendous violence of today, we are re-evaluating aspects of our
>>  "No to NATO: Festival of Creative Nonviolence."
>>  It seems at this time inappropriate to have a celebratory or festive event
>>  so close to such a huge tragedy, which itself will surely spark other
>>  tragedies.  The US military will be very anxious to retaliate.  By October
>>  6, the US may very well be launching bombs at a variety of global targets.
>>  In this context, is a Festival atmosphere appropriate?
>>  Should our response be seen as a festive, fun, happy, celebration?  I
>>  believe the tone of our event must change to suit the context in which we
>>  find ourselves.
>This is the biggest illusion of North Americans that somehow we find
>ourselves in a new context.  Yes maybe for North America this is novel, but
>the reason many people initially objected to a "festive, fun, happy,
>celebration" is that there is nothing "festive, fun, happy" about the daily
>situation that Third World people's live, a situation of oppression, torture,
>military aggression, genocide, mass starvation, and incredible misery.
>Whether it be the monuments destroyed by NATO, the fear in my grandmothers
>voice, the thousands of poor Ecuadorians I met, the faces of children on the
>verge of death in maternity clinics across Ecuador, the cries of Palestinian
>mothers whose children had their heads blown off by Israeli security
>personel, the brother, son, and father who lost his entire familly in the
>ethnic carnage spawned by Rwandan and Ugandan occupation forces in Congo that
>has left over 2-million resting in unmarked graves across the Great Lakes
>region, the Colombian villagers massacred by right-wing paramilitaries who
>used chain-saws to dismember their victims, the 4-million infants of less
>than a month in age that die each year, the black inmate executed like so
>many others, or the countless other victims and examples of how globalization
>crushes life and the human spirit, I personally never thought, and many
>others concured with me, that a "festival" atmosphere was the "best" idea or
>even "appropriate" within this context.  I think that for those interested,
>an examination of the "carnivalesque" as analysed by cultural studies
>theorists, and the debates this form of social disruption has engendered, is
>worth a study to contextualize in a more sober fashion my admitedly emotive
>reactions to the current discussions.
>>  Now more than before an event to plea for nonviolence is surely needed.
>Why now more than ever?  Is it b/c this time the victims are North Americans?
> This is the only difference between today's sad event and the countless
>other examples just like it.  Please Richard, avoid falling into the trap of
>American exceptionalist discourse where everything that happens to the United
>States is somehow seen as distinct and novel in the anals of history and
>worthy of special attention and human compassion.  Like Fanon argued "the
>unity of humanity, which in the colonial experience had not been positively
>manifested has to be striven for. This unity can only be achieved by the
>negation of social conditions that deny the common human essence".  By
>accepting American victimization on September 11th, 2001 as somehow outside
>of history and a unique event that from hereon-in should mediate all our
>actions as human-beings, we in effect contribute to the very same social
>conditions that give rise to the monstrous denial of the humanity of those
>"alien others" that are so carefully and meticulously constructed by the
>corporate media.  I think such a stance should be avoided at ALL costs.
>>  Nonviolence should be what we most strongly emphasize.  Opposition to the
>>  repeated cycle of violence is very important.  I believe it is appropriate
>>  now to emphasize that we oppose violence whether by a rogue superpower
>>  (US), a military alliance of its friends (NATO) or by terrorist groups.
>>  In this context, is it appropriate to hold a festival with an antiNATO
>>  message in a park facing the US embassy?
>Of course, why not?  NATO and the US are terrorist groups in my mind, they
>terrorized my familly, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances.   If we oppose
>terrorism these acts should crystalize how the victims of not just NATO, but
>Western foreign policy feel on a daily basis.  I think it is very appropriate
>to hold a PROTEST in front of the US Embassy, b/c it is the most symbolic
>structure in all of Ottawa.
>> Can you picture the security that
>>  will be assembled there?  can you imagine how sensitive they will be and
>>  how easily provoked by the slightest thing?  Personally I think this would
>>  be a major turn off to many folk who might otherwise attend.  Getting as
>>  many people as possible to attend is surely one of our goals.
>I think even less people will attend if this thing is turned into some
>amorphous and vague teach-in on such broad and harmless categories as "Love
>and Peace".  Richard, I think you understimate the extent to which NATO and
>imperialism animates imigrant comunities in this country, there are real
>passions behind people's opposition to Western militarism, the very same
>passions you felt today towards the perpatrators of the tragic acts that have
>transpired across the USA.  Think about how you felt today...please, reflect
>on it solemenly and seriously.  Did you feel like your whole world was turned
>upside down?  Did you feel like things, including yourself, could never be
>the same again?  Did you feel like you wanted to call everyone you knew, even
>if they were far from the disaster,  just to verify that they are okay?  Did
>you feel like nothing was safe anymore?  That all security was abandoned in
>that plume of smoke?  Did you feel that pain in the pit of your stomach, the
>one that almost made you feel like you would vomit?  Did you feel this
>violence rock your daily life, prevent you from concentrating on anything
>else?  Did it pervade your thoughts, emotions and feelings?  Did you cry at
>the sound of another human voice cracking in desperation as it tried to
>relate the horror it had witnessed?  If so then I think you can be sure that
>the countless friends, relatives and co-nationals of the victims of US
>aggressions across the world will come out to Ottawa regardless of the
>security measures taken, b/c they have felt what you felt today for maybe
>their entire lives.  For half my life I've endured the pain and suffering of
>watching my country being torn to shreds.  I know kids who've only known
>suffering and pain of this nature for their whole lives.  These are acts that
>hurt, that maim, and injure, kill and crush, not only those they claim
>physically, but also those that they end-up affecting in the heart or in the
>>  Perhaps because I have spent so much time organizing this event I am more
>>  sensitive than some others may be to concerns that something may go wrong
>>  at the event.  I have more of myself invested in it.  Any problems will
>>  reflect badly on COAT.  I'd rather avoid that, go figure!
>The fact you are opposing NATO already reflects badly on COAT in the
>corridors of power.  Everyone who matters however will support you...
>>  This is one of the most difficult dilemmas that I have ever faced.  Moving
>>  the event to an inside location not too far away will deal with the
>>  potential problems associated with proximity to the US embassy.  That is
>>  the main concern.
>The proximity to the US embassy is THE essential component of the demo.
>Without this, the demo is no different than any run of the mill seminar.
>When Ghandi and Martin Luther King espoused non-violence, they espoused
>"non-violent direct action" and not NO VIOLENCE.  They willfully placed their
>bodies and those of others in the face and in the way of brutal militarist
>aggression and the entire repressive aparatus of the systems they faced off
>against.  Non-violence should never be confused for non-confrontation b/c
>non-violent direct action leads to social change while non-confrontation can
>only lead to cooptation, marginalization and irrelevance.  Do you honestly
>think that anybody is going to care about a bunch of people - no matter how
>creatively dressed and colourfully painted they are - meeting in some hall in
>Ottawa, (other than the local media maybe?)?  Richard, are your convictions
>so week that at the first serious sign of trouble you are willing to call the
>whole thing off and change directions completely?  Did you not begin
>participating and working with COAT in order to change things?  How are you
>going to ever end the "Arms Trade" if you're unwilling to confront its main
>perpetrators head on (non-violently of course)?  Do you think that Ghandi
>would've rid India of the British Raj if he always simply relocated his
>protests to some neutral site and changed their intention to some vague
>anti-violence message that condemned all and sundry "bad people", without
>distinguish opressor and opressed?  Do you think Blacks would have achieved
>the gains of the Civil Rights movement if they adopted the proposals you are
>offering for O6?
>>  However it will also deal with some other problems that we have been
>>  desparately trying to deal with, I'm refering to possible problems
>>  associated with the weather.  If it rains we are in big trouble.  A lot of
>>  time and efforts will be wasted.  A tent holding only 100 seated people
>>  will cost us about 1100 dollars.  That is alot of money for us.  It will
>>  not provide for everyone who attends.  Moving the location will therefore
>>  deal with several problems at once.  It is very appealing.
>In DC I personally witnessed 2,000 people standing in the rain and forming
>human chains to face off with police.  In Quebec I saw 10,000s of people face
>down tear-gas without any weapons in order to simply show that they would not
>be moved by repressive tactics b/c they believed strongly enough in their own
>convictions that they could withstand any type of attempt to silence their
>voices.  Our movement has been hardened in the last few years by so much that
>has transpired since "Spray-PEC", which from our perspective today seems
>almost harmless, that I hardly doubt "rain" will act as a deterent for anyone
>willing to go to Ottawa.
>>  At our emergency meeting on Thursday, I will propose that we find an indoor
>>  site immediately. The time can stay the same and we can do tons of email
>>  publicity to get the word out as widely as possible about the change.  We
>>  can post notices and people at the site to direct people to the new
>>  location, which should be fairly close by.
>I completely disagree with such a radical knee-jerk change.  I think
>something much more prudent and less radical would be to keep the protest
>where it is but to try to secure an indoor location in case that on the day
>of the protest: 1) the police decide to block access to the US embassy, and
>2) it rains.  That way you wouldn't be making sweeping changes that could
>adversly affect the moral of those protesting, or boost the moral of those
>who have been sent to repress the protest, but you would still be preparing
>contingencies in case worse case scenarios played out (as should have been
>done even before today).  If you change venues now I think you will loose a
>lot of support for your action.  It will seem that the coalition that is
>gathering to oppose the NATO PA meeting is fickle and prone to indicesion,
>compromise and accomodation with an illegitimate system.  You have to decide
>if you want this to be a local, national or international affair.  The only
>way you're going to touch people in other country's is if the protest ends up
>challenging the prevailing strucutre in a way that can be symbolically
>captured and diseminated globally.  I think that the best tactic to achieve
>that in early October will be through non-violent (although not necessarily
>non-confrontational) actions.  Unfortunately, Richard, I'm afraid that a
>bunch of ordinary people gathered in an assembly hall has never been and
>never will be considered "newsworthy" other than for local channels.  Not to
>say that this isn't a legitimate form of dissent, but I am suggesting that it
>may not be the best way to give this summit the international attention it
>Once again Richard, thanx for the hard-work you're doing, and please don't
>take this as a personal attack.  I hope you can understand where I'm coming
>from and maybe take these suggestions into consideration.  Best of luck for
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