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Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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President Obama, Listen to Your Mother!

Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008

3P-002 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Please join me Thursdays at 10 and Sundays at 2 for Third Paradigm, a twice-weekly think-tank about how to take back control of our cities, farmland and water; of money, production and trade; of media, education and culture, of religion and even of an out-of-control Biblical God. Thursdays, we focus on economics and community sovereignty, and the Sunday edition puts religion in bed with politics. I'm your host, Tereza Coraggio, rousing the rabble with Free Radio Santa Cruz, 101.1.

[Snow Patrol – Take Back the City]

Welcome to Third Paradigm. That was "Take Back the City" from the indie-band Snow Patrol. Lead vocalist Gary Lightbody reports that this song broke from his usual theme of romantic disaster. A native of Northern Ireland, he conceived of this as a love song for Belfast but ended up writing it in Berlin. Both cities contributed to the grit and rawness of the lyrics. What makes it particularly apt as the theme for Third Paradigm is the sense of personal responsibility in the line "Take back the city for yourself tonight, I'll take back the city for me." If we are going to redeem our cities, and the countryside in between where the food is grown, it won't happen by holding someone else responsible, even if they are.

Today is Thursday, and the day of giving thanks for our food. But the global food system has never been so broken. We'll look at the heartbreaking statistics, and the even more disheartening projections. But we'll also look at the success in food sovereignty movements that the "twin tsunamis" of the economic and food crises have inadvertently cleared the way for. Meanwhile, here in the States, the banks, auto industry, and stimulus packages are circling like sharks to get their bite of the wounded US Treasury before it sinks for good. From the grassroots, however, the new President-elect has become everyone's favorite pen-pal, with a wall of letters from within the US and a flurry of earnest posts from around the world. And so, I've added my own two-bits as a housewife, called "Obama, Listen to Your Mother! Everything I Know About Governing, I Learned from Raising Kids." We'll guess how Obama's mother might deal with institutions that have gotten too big for their britches. Is it politically incorrect to spank a bank? But before those urgent questions, a Thanksgiving Grace by Raphael Jesus Gonzalez:



Thanks & blessings be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want - for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.

~ Rafael Jesus Gonzalez ~
rafaelgonzalez.fig (17K)
From In Praise of Fertile Land, edited by Claudia Mauro

My own Thanksgiving celebration has taken a different turn from the sociable gathering of extended family around a heavily-laden table. Several years ago, I realized that I had the nature of a closet monk with a visceral craving for solitude. Maybe this should have occurred to me before I had three kids, all of whom were pretty young at the time. In response, my husband gave me the nicest of gifts – time alone. Each Thanksgiving, he takes the family to Los Angeles to visit his sister without me. Although I wish I could clone myself and be in both places at once, my writing sabbaticals at home have become precious to me. Each Thanksgiving I spend in my clean and empty house, I'm filled with gratitude. I'm thankful to him and to my daughters for letting me go (or stay, as the case may be), to my sister-in-law Joan who, as a fellow mom, never makes me feel guilty, and to her extensive Colombian in-laws for giving my family the boisterous, social, more-is-merrier holiday that they crave.

This break from the norm, however, has made me more connected to global food conditions around this time of year, and more reflective about the subtext of divinely-sanctioned entitlement that underlies our rituals and traditions. In this sense, it's probably better for everyone that I'm sequestered and quarantined. These insights of mine can spoil the mood faster than a flatulent uncle. But because it's still early in the day, before we've put on our faux-Pilgrim roles, I'll read the poem I wrote on Thanksgiving Eve in the year 2005.

I Will Not Thank God

Thanksgiving Eve, 2005

I will not thank God for my food
on a day when children starve.

What kind of God would I thank?
A God who gives to some
and keeps from others?
A God who grants wishes
and denies need?
A God who lavishes some
at others' expense?

To thank God is to choose
not to see the farm worker,
the agribusiness factory,
the machine that set the pace
rather than easing the work.
It's as if it all appeared by magic,
untouched by human hands.

To the woman in the hairnet,
her fingers arthritic in the cold
processing plant, I give my thanks.

To the young boy mechanically
slaughtering turkeys, numb to his
heartless task, I give my thanks.

To the frugal men in the field, risking
all to send money home to their wives
and hungry children, I give my thanks.

There but for the grace of God go I.

What the heck does that mean?
If God's grace strips the fruit of
another's labor for my bounty,
God is a creep.

I'll thank God when He shows
some human decency, or
when we humans show
some moral honesty.

~ Tereza Coraggio ~

* * * * * * *

[Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – Falling Slowly]

That was Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from the soundtrack of Once, which is a wonderful indie-film if you haven't seen it - refreshing for the non-sappy story it tells of a friendship that doesn't become a romance, intertwined with some of the most emotionally-stirring music and evocative lyrics I've heard.

Well, it's Thanksgiving Day, 2008, and we're in a global food crisis on a scale which is unprecedented in history and hopefully, will be the turning point in the apex of hunger. But it looks to get worse before it gets better. From this month's FoodFirst! Backgrounder, "The UN World Food Program predicts a jump in the number of hungry people in the world from 860 million to more than one billion people – one of every six people in the world. Retail prices of food in the U.S. increased four percent last year, driven by a combination of speculation, high oil prices, agrofuel consumption, a weak dollar, climatic events, and historically low grain reserves. The USDA projects that price increases will total another three to four percent in 2008; the steepest increase in 17 years. The 35 million food-insecure people in the U.S. who are most affected by the food price crisis may be joined by 50 million others living at or near the poverty level." To put this in context, however, the price of rice, which is the staple food of 3 billion people or half of the world's population, rose 50% in just two weeks in April. The food crisis is coming home to roost, but only after the dragon has ravaged and scorched the rest of the world.

Yesterday, Alternative Radio broadcast David Barsamian's interview of Raj Patel, former Director of FoodFirst! and author of Stuffed and Starved. He stated that everything he knows about food he's learned from Via Campesina, the international coalition of 150 million peasant farmers, rural women, and indigenous communities around the world. Well, everything that I know about Via Campesina, I've learned from FoodFirst! and Grassroots International, another great organization that's just published a downloadable curriculum on Food Sovereignty (or view our pdf version). In short, food sovereignty is the right to feed yourself and your family, through access to the land and the country's obligation to prioritize food over profits in the use of the land's resources.

In October, Via Campesina held their 5th conference in Maputo, Mozambique. The Declaration that resulted begins: "We are men and women of the earth, we are those who produce food for the world. We have the right to continue being peasants and family farmers, and to shoulder the responsibility of continuing to feed our peoples. We care for seeds, which are life, and for us the act of producing food is an act of love. Humanity depends on us, and we refuse to disappear."

The women also gathered in their third conference, and produced a Declaration whose tone is decidedly both warm and tough: "We find ourselves surrounded by the happiness of sharing, the affection of our compañeras, the richness of our diverse cultures and the beauty of the women of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. We are women with a history and common struggles for life, land and territory, food sovereignty, justice and dignity: we are women who share knowledge and experiences, convinced that ideas, like seeds, grow and reproduce when they are exchanged. We are women who have struggled against violence across history, fighters who continue to defend our territories and cultures from pillage, devastation and death perpetrated by those who have imposed their power since the time of colonialism, and today continue trying to colonize not only our territories but also our minds and our lives."

Finally, the youth held their second-ever conference and wrote a Declaration that begins like poetry, which is the part I'll read, but also ends with a detailed action plan:

The countryside is our life
The earth feeds us
The rivers run in our blood
We are the youth of the Via Campesina
Today we declare the beginning of a new world
We come from the four corners of the world
To stand together in the spirit of resistance
To work together to create hope
To talk together about our struggles
To learn from each others' work
To be inspired by each others' songs, music and stories
To build solidarity between our movements
To unite as a strong force for social change.

From here we go forward to the four corners of the world.
We carry with us a spirit of revolution,
The conviction that another world is possible,
And the dedication to fight for our way of life.
We will fight until we win, until youth all over the world
Are able to live in the countryside, as campesinos,
with peace and prosperity.

When the state tries to repress us, we will
unite in solidarity and continue the struggle.
When a compañera falls, we will pick her up.
When it gets cold, we will embrace each other
so that the fire of our struggle will warm our hearts.
And each day we will place our bodies, our minds
and our hearts on the line and fight for life,
and fight for La Via Campesina.

As a mother of teenage daughters, I can't help but notice that they've worked romance into the revolution, and so we'll play David Rovics' "Behind the Barricades" and return with my letter to Obama.

[David Rovics – Behind the Barricades]

For the final segment of our Thanksgiving show, everyone seems to be writing letters to Obama. Julie Mertus, author of Bait and Switch: Human Rights and US Foreign Policy, outlines four steps for him to repair our tattered reputation. Rosa Anaya, daughter of assassinated Salvadoran human rights lawyer Herbert Anaya Sanabria, reminds Obama that there are 35 sovereign countries in the Americas and almost 200 in the world. To be a good US president, he must not try to be President of the World. The Indigenous Councils of Columbia write, "By transforming life into merchandise, by making sacred the accumulation of wealth, by enshrining greed, we believe our societies have entered a crisis, including the economic crisis currently faced by your country." They ask that together, we create the conditions for a new history. Alice Walker cautions him to relax and enjoy his family, and remember that he didn't create this mess, while Garrison Keillor says not to play golf or get a dog. So now I'll add my two-cents.

Dear President-to-be Obama,

The only authority I have to tell you what to do is from being a mother. But, as you know from having had one and being married to one, it teaches you a thing or two. I'd like to impart six of the lessons I've learned that I think might be of help to you.

Lesson One – Sometimes Everyone Needs a Time Out

Thanks to you, for a brief moment in time, the US has a clean slate. The rest of the world is watching and waiting, but we have a temporary reprieve. I'd like you to give the US a one-year time-out to reflect on our actions, work through our differences, and come up with a plan to be better. Let 2009 be a year of staying in our corner – no new wars, no new debts, and no new trade agreements. Give us a year to catch our breath, and stop fighting fires or setting new ones. Our task during this time will be to come up with a 20/20 vision – how we, as cities, counties and states, propose to get our communities out of our portion of, say, the national debt or global warming, or the consumer society or unemployment. Little things like that.

Lesson Two – Smaller is Better in Taking Responsibility

I know that it goes against the grain in empire-building, but if you want to foster responsibility and cooperation, it's better to try a whole bunch of little solutions to bite-size portions of the problem than go for a grand scheme. Never eat anything bigger than your own head, my mother used to say.

Lesson Three - Guilt Makes Kids Behave Badly

I know you've seen this too. When one of your girls gets hurt and the other clearly had nothing to do with it, the natural reaction is compassion. When the other one might have had something to do with it, the first thing you hear is "It's not my fault. She started it!" Insult gets added to injury in the rush to defend themselves, and the cycle continues. That's why we need to extend our temporary reprieve.

Lesson Four– Feeling Better and Making It Better Don't Happen in that Order

Understanding the relationship between how we're treating others and how they're treating us is going to make us feel bad. This may not seem fair when we're already down and out with the economy, but it's necessary. Who stops doing bad things while it still feels good? You can't make kids feel better about themselves in order to make them do better. You can only give them a chance to make things better and feeling better will come.

Lesson Five – You Can't Control Your Kids

You go into parenting thinking that you can control your kids. But sooner or later, you figure out that they're the only ones who can control themselves. If you're lucky, you figure this out sooner, because sooner is better when it comes to failing. Maybe we've missed this boat, but it's not too late.

Lesson Six – You Can and Must Control the Money

Economy comes from the Greek word economia, which means the management of the household. The money that goes anywhere comes from you, and the behavior you reward is the behavior that you'll see. If any military office or foreign government tortures or terrorizes, suspend their allowance, also known as military aid. Stop taxing earned income at a higher rate than speculation. Let raising kids be a write-off, not corporate offices and perks.

If you or anyone else would like to respond, my email address is here. This has been Third Paradigm, thank you for listening.