In 1993, Wired magazine published an article that was banned by the government of Singapore, as the article might have predicted. “Disneyland with the Death Penalty” by novelist William Gibson, went after Singapore with biting wit, describing its prevailing philosophy as “be happy or I’ll kill you.” https://www.wired.com/1993/04/gibson-2/
Last Friday, in a small town in rural Louisiana, the state’s 16th Judicial District Court rescheduled a preliminary hearing to address procedural matters in a lawsuit described in nine double-spaced pages.
Ho hum, not usually the beginning of a great story, right?
When I was in Athens working in the refugee community in 2016, I had lunch one day with a wise young man. We talked about the work we were doing and I disclosed that I cried a lot, even though being around vulnerable people had never made me cry before. He replied “Well then, maybe you have crossed over from charity to solidarity.”
Since then, I have thought a lot about the difference between charity and solidarity.
With all of the problems in the world and all of my opinions, if I am going to complain about something, it should be about Something Big, right? No. Other people are doing that exceptionally well and I am trying to avoid giving myself ulcers. So here’s a kvetch about something small and a little bit important.
I recently read an article by American journalist, Chris Hedges, which proposed that “societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self.” https://riseuptimes.org/2018/12/30/american-anomie-by-chris-hedges/
This simple idea reminded me of the many times friends and family have asked me to describe my “volunteer work” with the refugees in Greece or the Caravan in Mexico. I never have a good answer. I say the people I met were kind and grateful in spite of their physical and emotional challenges. I say they were running from persecution created by the neo-liberal world order and forever wars, that some of them played cards on a blanket under a tree.
My (Spanish-speaking, angelic) San Francisco friend, Diane and I are in Tijuana to help support the 7,000 Caravan members who are on the Mexican side of the border waiting for a chance to apply for asylum in the US. Since first meeting up with the Caravan five weeks ago near the Guatemalan border, we observe that some things have changed and some have not. The bad news first….
More caminantes arrived in Irapuato on Saturday morning, 1200 of them, mostly Hondurans. Many arrived in shorts, without jackets or blankets or socks. Sneezing and coughing, eyes glazed over. One man had bare feet. The temperatures at night have fallen to the low 40s.
It’s become more difficult to predict the path of the Caravan since it left Mexico City. News reports are unreliable, plans change and there are break-off groups. I went to Irapuato on Saturday after hearing various reports — The migrants were headed there. The migrants were not headed there. The migrants were headed there but only in small numbers.