Posts from April 2007

Over My Shoulder #34: on parenting a free and autonomous child, from Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from chapter 21 of Harry Browne’s How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World (1973).

Raising the Child

As early as possible, it’s valuable to establish relationships with your child that are similar to the relationship you have with your lover.

The child should have his own world where he is clearly the sovereign. That means a room of his own that is subject to his control alone. If he doesn’t take care of it, he’ll learn the consequences of that sooner or later. But if he’s forced to keep it as his parents wish, he’ll never discover for himself the consequences of alternative courses of action.

He should also have other property to use in whatever way he chooses. Property isn’t owned if it can be used only in approved ways.

You’ll have to decide how he’ll obtain his property. He can earn it, receive an allowance, get outright gifts, or he can receive property in any combination of these ways.

But once he receives something, it’s important that he learn to understand what it means to own something and be responsible for its preservation. He shouldn’t be taught to expect automatic replacement of any of his property that he might destroy.

The importance of his sense of ownership can be seen by observing the difficulties many adults have in dealing with the world. For close to two decades, most people are led to believe that they aren’t sovereign.

Then, suddenly, they’re thrust out into the world, and expected to make far-reaching decisions concerning their lives. It’s no wonder that they have difficulty foreseeing the consequences of their actions and fall back on any authority that appears to be competent to make decisions for them.

I believe the child will be far better equipped to face the world if he understands how the world operates right from the beginning. He can easily learn what it means to make decisions and to experience the consequences of his decisions.

This means, too, that he should be helped to understand that you have your property, also. Show him which areas are off limits to him or require permission before he can use them. Even the dining table he eats on will belong to someone; part of his arrangement with the owner can include table privileges.

Obviously, a two-year-old child won’t have an explicit understanding of these matters. But there are two ways that he can understand them at the earliest possible age. One is that he can learn by example if the entire family operates in this way.

The second way is by never being taught otherwise. For some reason, many parents seem to think it important to change systems at some point in a child’s age. They first teach him he has no authority over his life, and then try later to instill a sense of responsibility in him. In the same way, they first want him to believe that Santa Claus loves and rewards him and then later want him to understand that it’s the parents who love him. I think it would make a considerable difference if the child were never taught anything that you intend to reverse later.

It’s important that each of the three of you be a separate human being with his own life, his own interests, and his own property. None of you is living for the benefit of the others; rather, each should be there because he wants to be. And each will want to be there if it’s a setting where he can live a meaningful life of his own choosing.

It obviously isn’t necessary that each member of the family own his own washing machine, stove, and living-room furniture; nor is it necessary for permission to be requested every time a non-owner wants to use something. Various things can be made available to other members of the household on a till further notice basis. But the ultimate ownership should never be in doubt.

If these principles don’t seem attractive to you, it may be because you’ve never been married. You may never have seen the hundreds of insignificant joint decisions that preoccupy most married people.

I’ve never known a family who used these principles who didn’t find them a great relief and advantage over normal ways of handling such matters.

A Sovereign Child

If you want your child to understand that he lives in a world in which his future will be of his own making, encourage that by letting him deal directly with the world as much as possible. Let him experience the consequences of his own actions.

Naturally, you don’t intend to let him discover first hand a very dangerous consequence of something he wants to do. But it’s important to deciade in advance where you will draw the line. How far will you let him go in making his own decisions? Don’t leave it to decide each time the matter arises. Have a clearly defined policy in advance that will prevent inconsistencies.

Be available to let him know your opinions—without implying that your opinions are binding on him. Let him think of you as a wiser, more experienced person—but not as a moral authority who stands in the way of his living his own life.

Be a source of information and opinion concerning the consequences of acts. Let him learn that the nature of the world he lives in (not the attitudes of people bigger and smarter than he is) sets the limits on what he can and cannot do in the world.

If you recognize him as an individual who is allowed to learn for himself, a genuine friendship can develop between you. He’ll be willing to talk to you about his ideas, plans, and problems—because he won’t have to fear the moral retribution that most parents inflict when they disagree with their children’s ideas and actions.

Parents who fear letting their children make decisions fail to realize that their children do make decisions on their own. You can’t possibly control all your child’s actions. So the best security you can have comes from two conditions: (1) allowing the child to learn as early as possible that his actions have consequences to him; and (2) developing a friendship that will make it possible for him to come to you when he needs help.

If either of these conditions is missing, you shouldn’t be surprised if you find out about crises only after they’ve happened. A child who knows that acts have consequences and who knows that he has a wise friend will be more likely to consult his friend before risking something dangerous.

Love and understanding are important to a child. And you’ll show your love more by respecting his individuality and appreciating him for what he is, not for what you force him to be.

— Harry Browne (1973), How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, pp. 240–243

Refuge of Oppression #2

Here’s a recent correspondence from a friend of human greatness, apparently in response to my celebrations of Tyrannicide Day on the Ides of March. Here’s what he has to say on behalf of the man who publicly boasted of killing or enslaving one third of the population of Gaul:

From: Paul
Date: 9 April 2007 4:44 AM
Subject: How dare you…

(((This message was submitted by Paul [e-mail address redacted] using the online contact form)))

Just who do you think you are, berating such a man as Caesar? Caesar was a man greater than any of us could ever hope to be, and the anniversary of his murder is a date to be mourned, not celebrated. Of course, most people are so blinded by Shakespeare’s interpretation of Caesar that they can’t even see his greatness. Caesar fought for Rome, and only for Rome; he was kind to those that surrendered, forceful to those that resisted, and vengeful to those that betrayed. What do you expect? Do you expect anyone to simply sit back at swallow betrayal after betrayal with no retaliation? Do you expect anyone of that time to allow Rome’s enemies to threaten Rome and her protected peoples? Do you expect anyone to stand quietly while he is stripped of the power he earned? Pompey and the Senate, despite Caesar’s numerous efforts for peace, forced his hand by not allowing him, a man who had done so much for Rome, to even return to the city. I would have done no differently, and anyone who would has no self-respect and is a doormat. Caesar, in all his greatness, fit neither of these criteria and fought to defend his rights and to secure that which was due him.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I suppose I’ll mention that the Crimean War was a defensive war on Russia’s part; Britain and France landed their troops on the Crimean Peninsula, Russian territory, and Alexander simply tried to fend them off. Czar Alexander may not have been the greatest leader, but don’t bust him on the Crimean War.

—Paul

I would like to say that I am very sorry to the absolutist emperors and military dictators-for-life of the world for any unfair berating that I may have directed against them in the course of my infamous scribbling against my betters. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I am blinded against the greatness of those who so clearly excel at slaughtering, terrorizing, and dominating their fellow human beings.

Paul asked several questions in the course of his message. The answers to them, as I see it, are, in order: abdication, it depends on what you mean, yes, and I most certainly do.

Further reading:

¡Sí se puede! The CIW wins a groundbreaking wages and conditions agreement with McDonald’s

Victory to the Farm-Workers!

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has scored another major victory in their ongoing campaign to improve wages and conditions for Florida tomato-pickers.

McDonald’s USA, the largest fast-food burger business in the nation, Monday reached agreement with a Florida farmworkers organization to pay about 75 percent more for the tomatoes it buys from state farms.

According to McDonald’s and the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, which waged a two-year campaign for the increase, laborers who now receive 40 to 45 cents for a 32-pound bucket of tomatoes will earn about 72 to 77 cents for that measure, a 1 cent per pound increase.

The company said the hike would not cause it to raise its prices at the counter.

The workers coalition said the agreement would affect between 1,000 to 1,500 workers who labor for several Florida tomato growers. It is the second major victory for the farmworkers - similar to a pact reached in 2005 with Yum! Brands, the owner of Taco Bell and other fast food chains. That agreement, according to the coalition, affected about 1,000 workers

This is a very good day for us, Julia Perkins, a spokeswoman for the coalition, said Monday. What it represents is a glimmer of hope that things can change across the country, with Burger King, Wal-Mart and Subway too.

Those chains also are large buyers of tomatoes, and the coalition is pressing them to raise payments to tomato pickers. The farmworker organization announced that the next company it will target for higher wages for pickers is the arch rival of McDonald’s, Miami-based Burger King.

Lucas Benitez, leader of the farmworkers coalition, was participating in a protest caravan heading for the corporate headquarters of McDonald’s in Oak Brook, Ill., near Chicago, to stage demonstrations when the agreement was reached. He said he would continue the caravan.

When we get up there to Chicago we will announce the good news of the agreement with McDonald’s, he said.

Farmworkers are some of the lowest paid workers in the country. According to Perkins, before the Taco Bell agreement, wages for tomato pickers had hardly moved in 25 years.

Taco Bell, which resisted the coalition demands for about four years, was the object of a nationwide boycott until it reached its agreement. During the boycott, several universities ordered Taco Bell franchises on their campuses to close their doors.

No boycott had been called yet against McDonald’s. Perkins said the campaign had included some picketing outside McDonald’s franchises, a letter-writing effort and meetings on university campuses and at churches. But she made it clear that the campaign had been heading toward a possible boycott.

Yes, it was looking like the campaign was going to get more aggressive, she said.

Perkins said the details of the agreement had not been completed, but she expected it to work much like the Taco Bell pact. She said that Taco Bell pays the extra penny per pound directly to the workers, who receive a separate, second check — a bonus check — for those Taco Bell tomatoes.

She said the increase did not represent a 75 percent increase in total wages for pickers because many of the tomatoes they pick are destined for other buyers who have not agreed to the increase.

But it can make a difference of 15, 30 or even 100 dollars per week for some workers depending on how many of the tomatoes are heading for McDonald’s, she said.

Benitez said the McDonald’s pact, like the Taco Bell agreement, will ensure that all workers picking McDonald’s tomatoes also will have their human rights and civil rights respected and that a system for protesting workplace violations will be instituted between the coalition and McDonald’s.

Benitez identified three growers the pact would affect: Six L’s of Immokalee and Pacific Tomato and Taylor & Fulton, both of Palmetto.

— John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post (2007-04-10): McDonald’s agrees to increase pay for workers who harvest its tomatoes

The CIW isn’t done yet. Taco Bell held out for four years of a long and bitter struggle; the CIW won with McDonald’s after two years of low-intensity pressure that was about to be stepped up into a major campaign. They have already begun to organize their next campaign — to bring Burger King into a similar agreement — and every victory that they win will make the next one faster and easier than the last.

While establishmentarian unions in the AFL-CIO and Change to Win [sic] are fighting (punch-drunk) for their very survival, and begging the political class for yet more government protections, the CIW has won agreements with two of the biggest corporations in their industry — first Yum Brands (owners of Taco Bell) and now McDonald’s — with no government privileges to wield and with members speaking several different languages, organizing across barriers of culture and nationality, amongst workers who are constantly moving and who are amongst the poorest and most exploited workers in the United States. But they’ve won precisely because they aren’t restrained by the smothering patronage of government-approved labor relations: without government recognition, there are no government strings attached, and that has allowed the CIW to make use of fight-to-win tactics — such as secondary boycotts — that are simply illegal for NLRB-recognized unions to use. This win is, in other words, another inspiring example of the real power of wildcat unionism and creative extremism.

Fellow workers, you have both my congratulations and my thanks. Yes, we can do it—ourselves. And we will.

Further reading:

Over My Shoulder #33: from the introduction to Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from the introduction to the Incite! anthology, Color of Violence (2006).

The Color of Violence: Introduction

Many years ago when I was a student in San Diego, I was driving down the freeway with a friend when we encountered a Black woman wandering along the shoulder. Her story was extremely disturbing. Despite her uncontrollable weeping, we were able to surmise that she had been raped and dumped along the side of the road. After a while, she was able to wave down a police car, thinking that they would help her. However, when the white policeman picked her up, he did not comfort her, but rather seized upon the opportunity to rape her once again.

Angela Davis’s story illustrates the manner in which women of color experience violence perpetrated both by individuals and by the state. Since the first domestic violence shelter in the United States opened in 1974, and the first rape crisis center opened in 1972, the mainstream antiviolence movement has been critical in breaking the silence around violence against women, and in providing essential services to survivors of sexual/domestic violence. Initially, the antiviolence movement prioritized a response to male violence based on grassroots political mobilization. However, as the antiviolence movement has gained greater prominence, domestic violence and rape crisis centers have also become increasingly professionalized, and as a result are often reluctant to address sexual and domestic violence within the larger context of institutionalized violence.

In addition, rape crisis centers and shelters increasingly rely on state and federal sources for their funding. Consequently, their approaches towards eradicating violence focus on working with the state rather than working against state violence. For example, mainstream antiviolence advocates often demand longer prison sentences for batterers and sex offenders as a frontline approach to stopping violence against women. However, the criminal justice system has always been brutally oppressive towards communities of color, including women of color, as the above story illustrates. Thus, this strategy employed to stop violence has had the effect of increasing violence against women of color perpetrated by the state.

Unfortunately, the strategy often engaged by communities of color to address state violence is advocating that women keep silent about sexual and domestic violence to maintain a united front against racism. Racial justice organizing has generally focused on racism as it primarily affects men, and has often ignored the gendered forms of racism that women of color face. An example includes the omission of racism in reproductive health policies (such as sterilization abuse) in the 2001 United Nation World Conference Against Racism. Those forms of racism that disproportionately impact women of color become termed simply women’s issues rather than simultaneously racial justice issues.

There are many organizations that address violence directed at communities (e.g., police brutality, racism, economic exploitation, colonialism, and so on). There are also many organizations that address violence within communities (e.g. sexual/domestic violence). But there are very few organizations that address violence on both fronts simultaneously. The challenge women of color face in combating personal and state violence is to develop strategies for ending violence that do assure safety for survivors of sexual/domestic violence and do not strengthen our oppressive criminal justice apparatus. Our approaches must always challenge the violence perpetrated through multinational capitalism and the state.

It was frustration with the failures on the part of racial justice and antiviolence organizations to effectively address violence against women of color that led women of color to organize The Color of Violence: Violence Against Women of Color conference held at the University of California-Santa Cruz on April 28-29, 2000. The primary goals of this conference were to develop analyses and strategies around ending violence against women of color in all its forms, including attacks on immigrants’ rights and Indian treaty rights, the proliferation of prisons, militarism, attacks on the reproductive rights of women of color, medical experimentation on communities of color, homophobia/heterosexism and hate crimes against lesbians of color, economic neo-colonialism, and institutional racism; and to encourage the antiviolence movement to reinsert political organizing into its response to violence.

— Andrea Smith, Beth Richie, Julia Sudbury, and Janelle White (with the assistance of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence collective members, The Color of Violence: Introduction, in Color of Violence: the Incite! Anthology, pp. 1-2.

Further reading:

State violence against Zimbabwean trade unionists

Here’s a notice I received a couple days ago from Amnesty International about a pair of fellow workers recently forced to go into hiding in Zimbabwe out of fear of violence at the hands of the police and the government intelligence agency:

Trade unionists Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni have gone into hiding, after threatening phone calls from the police, who want them to come in for questioning about illegal trade union activities. Edward Dzeka was arrested by the police in September and reportedly tortured. Amnesty International believes he and Joyce Muwoni would be at grave risk of torture if arrested.

Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni are local organizers for the General Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) in the farming town of Chegutu. Edward Dzeka is also the district chairperson of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). They went into hiding on 3 April after receiving threatening telephone calls from people who said they were officers of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Central Intelligence Organization (CIO). The ZRP and CIO officers reportedly accused the trade unionists of organizing workers in Chegutu town and on the surrounding farms to take part in the national job stay away’ demonstration organized by the ZCTU on 3-4 April. ZRP and CIO officers called at the GAPWUZ offices on 4 April asking where the two trade unionists were, and later went to look for Edward Dzeka at his home in Chegutu.

Some of the ZRP and CIO officers allegedly threatening Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni are known to the trade unionists. They are believed to be targeting trade union leaders following the national job stay away demonstration.

Edward Dzeka had been arrested with 10 other trade unionists on 13 September 2006 for organizing peaceful protests for the ZCTU. The 11 trade unionists were reportedly tortured by ZRP officers at Chegutu police station. They have been charged under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and freed on bail.

Amnesty International understands that Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni are being threatened solely for exercising their rights to freedom of association and assembly by organizing a peaceful demonstration as part of their work for GAPWUZ and the ZCTU. The rights to freedom of association and assembly are guaranteed under Section 21 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution, Articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a state party.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Trade unionists in Zimbabwe operate in the face of severe repression. They cannot freely organize peaceful protests and risk being arrested and tortured by the ZRP and CIO.

On 13 March ZCTU officers Gilbert Marembo and Michael Kandukuti were assaulted by ZRP officers who had arrived at the ZCTU offices with a search warrant allowing them to seize all subversive material found on the premises. The officers were from the Law and Order Section of the Criminal Investigations department based at Harare Central police station. The assault was witnessed by lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Police later seized fliers on the planned job stay away demonstrations.

On 13 September 2006 in Harare, ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo, Secretary General Wellington Chibebe and First Vice-President Lucia Matibenga were arrested while attempting to engage in peaceful protest about deteriorating social and economic conditions in Zimbabwe. Other ZCTU members were arrested in Harare, Beitbridge, Bulawayo, Mutare and other urban centers. The day before the protests, in an apparent pre-emptive action, police also arrested a number of ZCTU leaders at their homes and offices in Rusape, Gweru, Chinhoyi and Kariba. (See UA 247/06, 14 September 2006, AFR 46/017/2006.)

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

  • calling on the police and CIO to guarantee the safety of Edward Dzeka, Joyce Muwoni and other trade unionists in Chegutu who are being threatened;
  • urging the police and CIO to immediately investigate the threats reportedly made to the trade unionists by ZRP officers, and bring those responsible to justice;
  • urging the police and the CIO to respect trade unionists’ rights to freedom of association and assembly, guaranteed under Section 21 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a state party;
  • reminding the police and the CIO that torture is prohibited under international law, as well as under Section 15 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, and that those accused of torture will be held accountable.

APPEALS TO:

Provincial Commanding Officer Mashonaland West Province
Zimbabwe Republic Police
P O Box 292,
Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe
Fax: 011 263 6725370
Salutation: Dear Provincial Commanding Officer

Zimbabwe Police Commissioner
Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri
Zimbabwe Republic Police
Police Headquarters
PO Box 8807
Causeway
Harare, Zimbabwe
Fax: 011 263 4 253 212
Salutation: Dear Commissioner

COPIES TO:

General Agriculture and Plantations Workers’ Union
PO Box 1952
Harare, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
P.O. Box 3549
Harare, Zimbabwe

Ambassador Dr. Machivenyika T. Mapuranga
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe
1608 New Hampshire Ave. NW
Washington DC 20009
Fax: 1 202 483 9326
Email: info@zimbabwe-embassy.us
Via website: http://www.zimbabwe-embassy.us/contact.html

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after 17 May 2007.

Here’s the letter that I sent to the local police commander, with copies forwarded to the commissioner, the Zimbabwean Embassy, and to GAPWUZ and ZCTU.

Provincial Commanding Officer Mashonaland West Province
Zimbabwe Republic Police
P O Box 292,
Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe

Dear Provincial Commanding Officer:

I am writing to you today as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, living and working in the United States. I am worried because I heard today that two of my fellow workers, Edward Dzeka and Joyce Muwoni, have gone into hiding after receiving threatening phone calls from people claiming to be officers of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Central Intelligence Organization. These calls reportedly threatened Dzeka and Muwoni in retaliation for organizing workers in Chegutu and on the surrounding farms. It is my understanding that Dzeka and Muwoni are being targeted and threatened by local authorities solely for organizing a peaceful demonstration as part of their work for the General Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

Dzeka and Muwoni’s peaceful organizing work is an exercise of their inalienable human right to freedom of aassociation and freedom of political assembly, as recognized and protected under Section 21 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, as well as articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I urge you to protect the rights of my fellow workers in Zimbabwe—and to live up to Zimbabwe’s constitutional and international treaty obligations—by guaranteeing the safety of Edward Dzeka, Joyce Muwoni, and any other trade unionists in Chegutu subject to similar threats. I also urge the police and CIO to immediately investigate the reports of threats made against trade unionists by ZRP and CIO officers, and bring to justice any officers responsible for making these threats against peaceful union organizers.

My fellow unionists and I are following situation in Zimbabwe with grave concern, sir. They and I would appreciate a reply from you as soon as possible. In view of the above information, we urge you to investigate this situation and act as quickly as possible to assure the safety of trade unionists from threats or violence. Thank you for looking in advance for your time and, I hope, your prompt action in this urgent matter.

Sincerely,
Charles W. Johnson
Member, Industrial Workers of the World IU 640

You can help by writing your own appeal in support of Dzeka and Muwoni. If it helps, you should feel free to rip off my own letter as shamelessly as you like.