Activists

Why We Need to Cut Wasteful Defense Spending in the United States

It's funny the things that you remember. I can remember one time when I was a teenager watching an episode of the Montel Williams show. I don't remember the topic, but I do remember Montel criticizing the U.S. government for spending too much money on military defense and not enough on domestic needs. I remember thinking to myself, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." In the world that I knew, the idea of slashing military spending was absolutely, totally, utterly UNTHINKABLE! I personally had never met anyone who thought that way, so I assumed that anyone who would suggest such a thing had to be either a) naive; b) stupid; c) a tree-hugger; or d) unAmerican.
That was then.

I don't know if it's because I changed or because America has changed (or both), but for years it seemed like the only ones who suggested slashing military spending were groups that few Americans could identify with: like hippies, pacifists, environmental and civil rights activists, and conspiracy theorists. Today, the idea that a significant portion of the nation's economic woes is due to wasteful Pentagon spending can be found both on the left and on the right ends of the political spectrum. It can also be found in the Pentagon.

Meet "Mr. Y."

8 Inspiring Movies About Social Change

1100629-gandhifilmAh the joy of watching movies in the summer! Of course, there are a number of summer blockbusters coming out that will woo crowds to the theaters, but with the sky-high prices of theater tickets these days, nobody will fault you for wanting to stay home and kick back with a rental. If you're looking for a film that will entertain and inspire you, consider adding some of these excellent films about social change to your online queue. If you have any other films to add to this list, please contribute your favorites in the comments section below. (To read more of my film reviews, check out my monthly column in Sojourners magazine.)

Best Practices in Egypt

Here are nine "best practices" used by organizers that helped lead to a successful nonviolent campaign in Egypt:

1. Clear Goals. The organizers clearly identified their goals early on. They were posted in Tahrir Square for everyone to see. The organizers stuck to these goals, even when pressured to settle for less.

2. Broad Base. The organizers built a wide coalition across Egyptian civil society, including the whole political spectrum: Muslims and Christians; farmers, students, and labor; the poor and the wealthy.

3. Positive relations with the army. The organizers actively and strategically cultivated a positive relationship with the army. After the police withdrew, organizers brought the soldiers tea, flowers, and lots of kisses. This was based on the organizers' understanding of nonviolence, as well as their study of recent successful nonviolent revolutions, during which the army either did not intervene or actively supported the change, such as in Serbia.

4. Women. They created a safe place for women. The organizers encouraged and welcomed the participation of women and children, something that is crucial for the security of everyone. They made it clear that the sexual harassment of women was not allowed (this is something which is a big problem in Cairo), thereby making it safer for women to participate.

5. Cultural Enjoyment. They made the demonstrations fun! Inside Tahrir Square were a number of stages -- one had speakers, at another someone led chants. There were stages with musicians, singing, and comedy acts. They offered face painting and lots of art, especially cartoons for posters. Organizers created a sense of community -- of the "new Egypt" -- inside Tahrir Square.

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Friday Links Round Up: Food Prices. Aurora Borealis. Fasting and Prayer.

Food Prices. Aurora Borealis. Fasting and Prayer. Here's a little round up of links from around the web you may have missed this week:

  • Food and gas prices are rising again and anti-hunger activists are calling for financial reform.
  • Artist Theo Jansen has created skeletal creatures out of plastic pipes that are able to walk on wind and subsist on their own. Watch the footage. (It's incredible!)
  • Don't have time to watch the aurora borealis in Russia for a week? Yeah, me neither.

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