Thursday, March 25, 2010


Can one refer to an Islamic civilization or a Western civilization? According to some definitions you can, implying a high level of homogeneity. Societies are often defined as having 'low' or 'high' levels of civilization.
And, how would one define ‘a high level of culture’ or, what would be a ‘low level’ ?Or, would you agree with another definition which equates civilization with modernity?
Who is called 'civilized' ? This introduces value judgments bound by political motivations and ideology. For example, the Romans said that the Gauls were barbaric. In fact, historians have discovered the Gauls had advanced cultures. Why then did the Romans call them barbaric and justified their conquest in order to ‘civilize’ them? Because, archeologists now say, the Gauls had hundreds of gold mines, and the Romans wanted the gold for themselves.

Remember the categories, class/ethnicity/gender. It makes the notion of a homogeneous society problematic . For example, most Americans consider their society ‘civilized’ in the sense that there is democracy (political rights) and running water, electricity and food (economic rights) available to all. I live 100 miles from the Navajo Nation, a huge area that encompasses bits of Arizona and New Mexico, but not a nation by any means. It receives charity from the US government and isn’t allowed to raise taxes. 50% of the ‘rez’ (local word for the reservation) live without electricity, they are still burning coal! The water is often polluted from uranium mines. There are no hospitals. Native Americans have the lowest life expectancy than any US demographic.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Airport Scanners and Passive Resistance

Mahatma Gandhi wrote this in his famous "Indian Home Rule" (1909):
"If the Government were to ask us to go about without any clothing, should we do so? If I were a passive resister, I would say to them that I would have nothing to do with their law. But we have so forgotten ourselves and become so compliant that we do not mind any degrading law."

There is no question that airport scanners that undress us and our children, are degrading instruments. Scanners are also carcinogenic. I was pleased that two women refused to go through the scanners at a UK airport yesterday, March 2 2010, and forfeited their tickets.

The chances of being hijacked or being blown up by a terrorist in an airplane are something like a million to one. We are much more likely to be killed in a car accident, or by cancers, and other leading causes of death in the West.

I advocate passive resistance by refusing to fly from airports that degrade my humanity and invade my privacy and that of vulnerable children. If this means no airplane travel, so be it. Our bodies belong to us -- this is a fundamental right called 'habeas corpus'.