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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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Past Shows


Josephus of the Multi-Colored Turncoat

February 8, 2009

3P-013 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the thirteenth episode of Third Paradigm. We'll begin with an idea to make money off our illegal immigrants instead of spending millions rounding them up. Then we'll send a Valentine note to Firestone Cares from Tereza Cares. Firestone Cares is the public relations arm of Japanese-owned Bridgestone/Firestone. During the recent Superbowl, they sponsored the halftime show. This multimillion-dollar extravaganza was in turn sponsored by Liberian rubber tappers who make $3.35 a day tapping 700 trees. For the first time, these workers have a union, but activists say Firestone hasn't kept its promises. And Firestone says they're discouraged that some people just don't appreciate all that they've done. So we'll send a little token of our esteem.

We'll end with a recap of my experience at the Michael Parenti speaking event this week. This includes my title story on Josephus and the Multi-colored Turncoat. But first we'll start with a poem by Mary Oliver that continues my crusade for the custodial staff. It's called Singapore:


In Singapore, in the airport,
A darkness was ripped from my eyes.
In the women's restroom, one compartment stood open.
A woman knelt there, washing something
in the white bowl.

Disgust argued in my stomach
and I felt, in my pocket, for my ticket.

A poem should always have birds in it.
Kingfishers, say, with their bold eyes and gaudy wings.
Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees.
A waterfall, or if that's not possible, a fountain
rising and falling.
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.

When the woman turned I could not answer her face.
Her beauty and her embarrassment struggled together, and
neither could win.
She smiled and I smiled. What kind of nonsense is this?
Everybody needs a job.

Yes, a person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
But first we must watch her as she stares down at her labor,
which is dull enough.
She is washing the tops of the airport ashtrays, as big as
hubcaps, with a blue rag.
Her small hands turn the metal, scrubbing and rinsing.
She does not work slowly, nor quickly, like a river.
Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird.

I don't doubt for a moment that she loves her life.
And I want to rise up from the crust and the slop
and fly down to the river.
This probably won't happen.
But maybe it will.
If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?

Of course, it isn't.
Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only
the light that can shine out of a life. I mean
the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth,
The way her smile was only for my sake; I mean
the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds

~ Mary Oliver ~
From House of Light

If the beautiful face above the porcelain bowl had been in the US, she might have been one of the 96,000 people rounded up by Immigration raids over the last five years at a taxpayer cost of $625 million. These raids, called by cute names like Operation Return to Sender, were mandated by Congress that their arrests include at least 75% criminal suspects with deportation orders. But in 2006, an internal memo upped the quota of total arrests and abolished the criterion. So they went after easier targets - namely workers and parents. The percent with criminal charges dropped to nine. Now, these are 91% model non-citizens.

I know families here where the 19-yr-old daughter was left with younger siblings and the housecleaning business. As responsible as my daughters are, I can't imagine them doing the same. So I have an alternative proposal on how to apply that $625 million over the next five years. Let's hire them to teach our kids to take over when all the illegal immigrants leave. While our kids trash the house, their kids are cleaning them for other people. While ours want money to buy things, theirs make money to pay the bills. While ours snap at their siblings, theirs are cooking, helping with homework, nursing through illnesses. While ours can't take care of themselves, theirs are providing elder care to the homebound and daycare to toddlers and infants.

I know parents who are spending fortunes sending their kids to wilderness boot camps where their survival depends on learning responsibility. How different is this from being an illegal immigrant? I'll bet immigrants would take on our wayward kids for less than the camps charge, especially if they don't speak English and don't have to listen to them whine. Hell, we could probably make back that $625 million from frustrated parents whose kids have no concept of reciprocity. We'll buy some farms miles away from civilization and let them live in the real world where you only get what you produce.

By the time they come back, the rest of us will be in the same boat anyway, between the dropping value of the dollar and growing solidarity in Latin American. Sooner rather than later, Mexico will kick out parasitic US corporations and claim back its hard-working citizens. At that point, we'll have the only kids on the block who know how to slaughter a chicken and pound maize. Viva la revolucion!

A place still reeling from violent devolution is Liberia. By the time you hear this on Monday, the judges at the Hague may have returned their verdict on Charles Taylor, who recruited child soldiers into his brutal rebel force. The website posts the transcripts daily. I only read the last witness who was a father whose house was burned by the rebels. He managed to put it out, but they came back the next day and burned it again. This time they cut off his left hand with a machete, at which his son cried. The rebels threatened to do the same to the son if he didn't stop, but the father said he'd rather they cut off his other hand. And so they did.

[Forced to Flee – Liberia's Child Soldiers]

In this traumatized and truncated Liberia, the Firestone rubber plantation positions itself as a haven of stability. It has 7000 workers if you don't count the 16,000 children. However, each rubber tapper has a quota of 700 trees per day, with half tapped twice, or their wages of $3.35 are cut in half. This is impossible for one person to do alone, and so their children work before the foremen wake up. Firestone opposes child labor by threatening to fire the parents, but to truly end it they have to change the quota system. This has been the chief demand of FAWUL, the first democratically - elected union in their 80 - year history. But a year later, Firestone still hasn't changed.

[United Steel Workers – Liberia - A New Day]

When advocates used the high-profile Superbowl to ask why, we received an email back from the PR department called "Firestone Cares." It stated their steadfast commitment to the people of Liberia after the civil war. They point to their reopened hospital and 1300 rebuilt homes. They've started an in-plantation shuttle, and built a multi-million dollar water treatment facility. Wastewater from rubber production no longer flows into the Farmington River, but moves into wetlands for natural, biological treatment. They are disheartened that some people ignore the improvements they've made, and urge everyone to visit before they judge.

When a member of the Stop Firestone coalition did visit, her first action was to vomit from the stench. But there are better reasons to vomit, like uninvestigated allegations that Firestone used their shipping channel to bring in the weapons. Why did Firestone harbor Charles Taylor on the plantation? Why did they hire Adolphus Dolo as their head of security? In '96 Adolphus Dolo used the diplomatically-immune Mamba Point to rain rocket-fired grenades on Monrovia, and to loot humanitarian agencies, including the theft of 489 UN vehicles and cassocks and communion wine from the archbishop. The only untouched compounds were the US embassy and the Mamba Hotel. Like Nero, Dolo dined while Monrovia burned. In a horrific scene, the author ventured onto Michelin Street, where he saw the burnt bodies of those killed by forcing their heads through flaming automotive tires. Don't tell me Firestone Cares, or about your commitment to the Liberian people. Don't make me vomit.

This week, my middle daughter, Olivia, had an assignment to ask me for two life lessons. My first was "If at first you don't succeed, aim higher." My second was "Sometimes the person you least expect turns out to be the most significant." This was my experience at the Michael Parenti fundraiser, sponsored by Free Radio Samta Cruz. Michael's writing has made a big impact on me, and so, for the last four weeks I've been coordinating a fundraising dinner along with his speaking event. I hoped this would give people, including myself, more chance to talk with him. At the event, I was to introduce him, and so read three books and some articles to prepare my speech.

Among these books, I was especially intrigued by The Assassination of Julius Caesar, which gives a people's history of the first century BC. My own research has been on the other first century, AD or Common Era, as it's now known to scholars. To put it in bluntly, I think that the Bible is a two-part propaganda piece, crafted after the empire's reconquest of Jerusalem in 76. I think that every story in it, including the life of Jesus, is allegory and not history, made up by the Jews who collaborated in the re-enslavement of their own people. To whitewash their roles as traitors, I think they took popular accounts of the revolution's heroes, well-known at the time, and changed the names to deify the guilty.

Chief among the inventors of this twisted mythology was Josephus, adopted son of Caesar – which makes him a son of God on his father's side. Curiously, Josephus' father, Mattias, was born during the census that the Bible uses to date the birth of Jesus. The first recorded gospel is also Matthew or Mattias. Mattias' father was Josephus or Joseph. Like other wealthy Hebrews, they may have traveled to Egypt to avoid the census tax. Genealogies don't record the names of women, but Josephus traces his priestly lineage through his mother. The name Miriamne was common among this high-born tetrarchy. The name Mary, however, was Roman slang for a rebellious woman, along with its derivatives – Martha and Molly, which is still used in the term "gun moll." This makes sense when you look at "mar" as the Latin word for sea. No sea-faring people would call the sea obedient. But Mattias' mother, although a "Mary," as an unwitting member of the Hebrew revolution, was obedient to Rome and therefore virginal in not consorting with the insurgents.

The story of Jesus instructing teachers at the temple is straight out of Josephus' own autobiography. Josephus spent four years in the desert as a youth, studying the three schools of Hebrew thought – the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. The Fourth Philosophy, however, was developed by Judas Sicariot, which means assassin. He was named for the public knifings of traitors and collaborators that his sect practiced. Josephus saw this school as the devil's workshop. Although they defended the right of armed insurgency against the oppressor, they intermarried and lived peacefully with other Hebrew sects like the Samaritans, and with Canaanites, such as the Edomites and Sodomites. In solidarity with the Idumeans and Egyptians, they fought for their freedom along with other colonized peoples.

Josephus turned against the revolution after he was captured. But how did he, as a member of the upper class, became a resistance leader in the first place? If they were killing collaborators, it seems like the family of Josephus would be high on the list. What kind of man was his father, Mattias? Perhaps his father was like Julius Caesar in Parenti's history, someone who used his privilege to stand up for the rights of all. Maybe, although he was high-born, he ended up being crucified under Pontius Pilate as a rebel, either mistakenly or as a lesson to other sympathetic elites. Either action would have be in character for Pilate, who was so infamous for executions without trial that he was recalled by Rome. But if Mattias, hypothetically, was taken down from a peasant's cross, he would have been buried in the crypt of his wealthy forefathers, Joseph Arimatthea – ari, like bar, meaning "son of" and Matthea and Josephus being the alternating names of his patriarchal lineage.

Of course, the devil's in the details and I wouldn't expect Parenti to just take my word for it. So where do you start to turn upside-down everything we think about the Bible? Since Parenti had studied Greek, I sent him my paper analyzing the Greek word "lestes," which means rebel in Josephus but is translated as robber in the New Testament, i.e. the den of thieves, arrested in the night like a common thief, and, of course, the good thief and the bad thief. Using this corrected translation of robber as rebel, I show that Jesus denies three times that he's one of the insurgents. Even on the cross, the "good thief," a.k.a. the repentant revolutionary, says "Leave this guy alone. We deserve what we got, but he's innocent – he was never one of us." So what is Jesus innocent of, according to the good thief? Well, revolution against the empire. And how does Jesus respond? Does he say, "No one deserves to be tortured," or "All people deserve to be free?" There's no reason for him to be coy – what more are the Romans going to do to him? But no, his answer is, "Thanks, buddy. You'll be with me tonight in the kingdom of heaven. I appreciate you clearing my name." This is not the statement of a people's Messiah. This is the statement of an imperialist.

In the lead-up to meeting Parenti, I exchanged emails with him about logistics. In the midst of these, I dropped a few lines about my research and attached the paper. The night of the dinner, I bided my time.

Many people wanted to talk with him, including a 93-yr-old woman seated next to him so she could hear. But when I found an appropriate lull, I asked him what he thought about my ideas. "We're not going to talk about it," he said. "It's a ridiculous theory. What, you think there was some kind of conspiracy? People see conspiracies everywhere. You'd need a mountain of evidence to prove it. And even if it were true, what does it matter?" He hadn't read the paper, and after a few feeble responses on my part, it was obvious that it was going nowhere.

When I got to the event, somewhat deflated, I was reading over my intro when the daughter of the 93-yr-old came up to me. "My mother says you're brilliant," she said. "She told me that every time Parenti dismissed you, you came back with more research and facts. 'I think that woman knew more about it than he did,' she said." I told her that her mother had made my night, and enabled me to get up and give my intro without a qualm.

So sometimes the person you least expect turns out to be the one you need, and sometimes the person who's hard of hearing is the one who really listens. This song, Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional, goes out to my new friend Bert and her daughter Phyllis. I hope that at 93 I'm still eating Sri Lankan food with gusto and am receptive to new ideas that overturn everything I thought I knew.

This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thanks to Skidmark Bob for production and editing.

[Dashboard Confessional – Vindicated]

Thank you for listening.