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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


Corporatocracy vs. Sovereignty

May 24, 2009

3P-028 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the 28th episode of Third Paradigm. This past week, I had the pleasure of talking with David Cobb, 2004 Green Party Presidential candidate, and Kaitlyn Sopoci-Belknap, both of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County. They were in town to present a conference on how to rescue democracy and curb corporate power. I'l report back on our conversation, which continues looking into the roots of centralized power in the Constitution, and which looks forward to the solution being modeled in South American countries today.

Our sovereignty news talks about Panama and Peru, and free trade vs. indigenous communities. In Peru's last election, an official was asked if ballot materials should be in Quechua, so that the indigenous Highland communities could vote. His infamous answer, secretly recorded, was, "What! And should the llamas and vicuna vote too?" Although he certainly meant this as an insult, no animal has brought the world to the brink of destruction. Before we talk about some of the foolishness being perpetrated by apes dressed in suits, by which I mean no offense to the apes, I'd like to read a poem called An Ox Looks at Man by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, a Brazilian poet translated by Mark Strand:

An Ox Looks at Man

They are more delicate even than shrubs and they run
and run from one side to the other, always forgetting
something. Surely they lack I don't know what
basic ingredient, though they present themselves
as noble or serious, at times. Oh, terribly serious,
even tragic. Poor things, one would say that they hear
neither the song of the air nor the secrets of hay;
likewise they seem not to see what is visible
and common to each of us, in space. And they are sad,
and in the wake of sadness they come to cruelty.
All their expression lives in their eyes--and loses itself
to a simple lowering of lids, to a shadow.
And since there is little of the mountain about them --
nothing in the hair or in the terribly fragile limbs
but coldness and secrecy -- it is impossible for them
to settle themselves into forms that are calm, lasting
and necessary. They have, perhaps, a kind
of melancholy grace (one minute) and with this they allow
themselves to forget the problems and translucent
inner emptiness that make them so poor and so lacking
when it comes to uttering silly and painful sounds:
desire, love, jealousy
(what do we know?) -- sounds that scatter and fall in the field
like troubled stones and burn the herbs and the water,
and after this it is hard to keep chewing away at our truth.

~ Carlos Drummond de Andrade ~
From In Praise of Fertile Land

In solidarity with the oxen, the llamas, the vicuna, and others who prize life over profits, indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon are protesting against the contamination of their land by mining companies and demanding a repeal of the unrestricted oil exploration authorized by the Free Trade Agreement. In response, President Garcia has declared a state of emergency, suspending the rights of personal safety and freedom, the liberty of gatherings and public meetings, and freedom of transit. It also authorizes police to search homes without a warrant. However, corporations, like the Smithfield hog containment facilities where swine flu has originated, are still protected from being searched by health inspectors without notice. The protestors, whose right to exist, unlike foreign corporations, has no legal protection, have blocked main highways for two weeks, and more than 500 Ashánika Indians held back river traffic including oil company boats. For over a month, more than 15,000 Indians have protested the oil exploitation, and the move towards privatizing water now that mining has contaminated the rivers. Finally, Peru's Congress repealed two of the Free Trade development decrees over the objections of President Garcia, who said they were putting their people's necks under the guillotine of poverty. Amazon tribal leaders retracted their call for insurgency.

Their statement demanded a halt to the "devastating and irreversible environmental impact on the water and land ecosystems of Amazonia provoked by implementing free trade agreements." They added that Amazonia will be Peru's strategic resource in the 21st century because of its water, energy and biodiversity, but warned that "all this is being destroyed by subdivisions into oil and gas lots, gold mining, the massive and illegal lumber extraction, drug traffic, and other extractive industries." There are currently 80 social conflicts nationwide that are in the dialogue stage, but conversations in 88% of the conflicts began only after violent actions had erupted.

A year ago, I debated a free trade economist who called our imports to Peru a "rounding error" but supported the trade agreement nonetheless. For 15,000 Indians our rounding error is, for them, a matter of life or death. Bush Republicans pushed through the deal despite the opposition of a majority of House Democrats, which unfortunately didn't include Sam Farr. Now Obama is pursuing a similar deal with Panama, despite it being the primary conduit for Colombian and Mexican drug money, and one of the few countries that has refused to sign tax information treaties. This contradicts Obama's public declaration to end banking secrecy. Not one U.S. labor union, faith organization, family farm organization or environmental group has endorsed the Panama Free Trade Agreement. These organizations don't want to encourage American companies to cross the border for tax havens, sub-standard wages and labor laws, off-shoring loopholes and lax environmental regulations. So why does Obama?

Recently the former President of Peru, Fujimoro, was convicted of crimes against humanity and given 25 years in prison. But the US journalist, Lori Berenson, whom he falsely arrested on terrorism charges, is on the 14th year of her 20-year sentence, despite those charges being ruled illegal and overturned. She was held for years in an unheated prison at 12,000 feet altitude before being finally moved to more humane conditions. Just before Mother's Day, Lori had a baby boy with her husband, a Peruvian lawyer. But she's in need of a delicate back operation, which will be difficult in the harsh prison conditions. The website Rights Action and ask listeners to call the White House hotline and remind President Obama of Lori's situation, asking him to bring to bring her and her baby home. We'll break for a song for Lori and her new son, which is Iron & Wine with Naked As We Came. But my predictions for their future together are bright, so don't read anything dire into it. I believe her time of injustice and hardship is over, and the strength and resiliency she's built up will make her fearless and irresistible, as is also true, I believe, for Latin America itself.

[Iron and Wine – Naked As We Came]

Iron & Wine is the recording name of singer-songwriter Sam Beam, who took it from a dietary supplement called Beef Iron & Wine. Thanks to the indie show Captain Fred's World Cruise for introducing me to Iron & Wine, along with many other excellent artists.

I'd like to go now to my interview with David Cobb and Kaitlyn Sopici-Belknap of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County. We had a really wonderful conversation that David wanted to send out to his list, because it went into depth on issues he felt others would find relevant. Unfortunately, my grasp of technology lags far behind my attention to content. My producer, Skidmark Bob, applied every editing tool he could find to my overmodulated recording but concluded that playing it would be torture for listeners and Dick Cheney would be pleased. Since I made Thou Shalt Not Torture the first commandment last week, I'l have to just report on what was discussed instead.

I've been aware of Humboldt County's groundbreaking work for some time, and I plan to make a future pilgrimage up to Eureka. The weekend of August 7-9 they're offering a Deep Democracy Retreat, which would be an excellent foundation for anyone looking to organize their community to resist corporate rule. I also mentioned that this would be a closer pilgrimage than Ecuador, where Humboldt County has emulated their Constitutional Amendment recognizing the rights of nature. David emphasized how much we have to learn from our neighbors in the global South, who have 500 years of experience resisting imperial rule and are much further along than we are. What most people don't realize, he continued, is that true democracy and community sovereignty, which he appreciated as the Third Paradigm focus, is both unconstitutional and illegal.

We defined sovereignty as the question of "who rules," which is either one person or group over the rest, as in imperial sovereignty, or a commonly-held priority, such as food sovereignty, or the people's right to self-determination, as in community sovereignty. The difficulty David pointed out is that our educational propaganda has convinced us that we already have this when we don't. I brought up the recent episodes in which we've talked about the underhanded way in which the Constitution was brought about. Kaitlyn followed up, calling it a coup by the elite, and saying that the Declaration of Independence expressed the spirit of the Revolution, but the Constitution was a way of reining that independence in when it stop serving the interests of centralized wealth. The Articles of Confederation was a better document for protecting state rights and sovereignty, she thought. She said, "we've come to associate state rights with slavery and Jim Crow, but in fact, abolitionists used them to fight Federal laws requiring them to return slaves to their supposed "owners." The Constitution normalized slavery by taxing it and regulating it."

David brought up that the Articles of Confederation were based on the Iroquois Confederation. They intentionally kept national power weak to give maximum autonomy to the States, which had the power to tax, coin money, and pass laws. The Constitution enshrined the depraved institution of slavery, he said, which has been misrepresented by historians. David confirmed that slavery would have been abolished sooner, as it was in England, under the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution, which supplanted it, was drafted by a small group of men, he pointed out, many of whom were slaveowners, who weren't dispatched with the authority to rewrite the form of government. Democracy Unlimited, David continued, looks to put us back in the position of the American Revolutionaries, or the abolitionists, or trade unionists, or women's sufferagists – people who didn't tinker at the margins but cut to the heart of the issue. Do we have the right to rule ourselves? Can we trust our neighbors more than we can trust a distant and powerful government?

I cited Ian Baldwin, co-founder of Chelsea Green, a founder of the E.F. Schumacher Society, and editor of The Vermont Commons. On the e-zine Reality Sandwich, he has an article called "The Secessionist Option: Why Now?" He writes,

"When the Declaration of Independence was penned and signed by our forefathers in 1776, some 18,000 sovereign political bodies existed on earth, when almost 1 billion of us humans then lived. A mere 200 or so years later, with six almost seven times the number of human beings, that incredibly diverse panoply of sovereign bodies had been destroyed, largely by a few imperially driven nation states, and brutally crushed into less than 200 states - less than a mere dozen of which control, directly or indirectly, the lives of every human being on earth."

On that stunning note, let's break for Fleet Foxes with Mykonos:

[Fleet Foxes – Mykonos]

That was an indie Seattle band called Fleet Foxes with a track named Mykonos. I found them on under bands similar to Iron & Wine. In the interview posted there, one of them talks about finding an old cassette of Abba, which had a big influence on him. You can hear that in this song. Thank goodness they adopted the harmonies from Abba and not the lyrics.

You're listening to Third Paradigm, and I'm relating a conversation with David Cobb and Kaitlyn Sopoci-Belknap of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County. I just quoted Ian Baldwin's dramatic statistics of 18,000 sovereign states when the Declaration of Independence was penned, Kaitlyn brought this back to the economic motivation behind the Constitution. States were passing laws and creating currencies to protect their local economies. The Constitution turned the US into a free trade zone, which sabotaged local trade protection. David then talked about the purpose of free trade as the pillage and plundering of sovereign communities, undermining subsistence living and empowered people and making them dependent on economic development. Democracy Unlimited has more in common, he stated, with the campesinos of Ecuador or the uprising in Chiapas than with most movements in the US.

David talked about the greatest threat to real democracy being the illusion that we already have one. What we impose on other countries under the name of democracy is actually totalitarian rule, but we've been so indoctrinated that it's hard to say that in a way that resonates. This is why it's so important that we come together, he stressed, activists from all over California, in order to form a network and a strategy. Kaitlyn said she started from a need to protect her own community, but didn't want the same things to be done elsewhere, where they might not be as organized and wary, and so wanted to share techniques and solidarity. The August 7-9th Conference for Deep Democracy in Eureka would be a great time to do this. Their website for more information is, for Democracy Unlimited Humboldt County and the phone number is (707) 269-0984.

David also talked very passionately about the most insulting and damaging thing that the corporate propagandists have done, which is to convince us that human nature is ugly and brutish and we're in competition to dominate one another. In fact, collaboration is our birthright. The human condition is sharing and working collectively at the local level. Given the opportunity, we'd do it again. What people want is to be respected, have meaningful work, and be useful. At this point in history that opportunity may be thrust on us, because it's not just one empire falling to be replaced with another. The US empire is pernicious in that it's not just national, it's a globalized corporate model. So when this model falls, it's a unique opportunity that no other generation has been presented with. It's a time to take direction from Latin America, where they're building new institutions out of the capitalist rubble.

In closing, David and Kaitlyn encouraged listeners to keep the conversation going and take it to the next level. David gave a great endorsement of pirate radio being true community radio, taking back the airwaves and, in his words, giving a big fat middle finger to the FCC. He emphasized that this conversation, at the level it was taking place, could only happen where people were acting like sovereign citizens and communicating with each other without asking permission from the corporate gods.

In this episode, I've barely scratched the surface of the astonishing history and critical information presented in the seminar, which was sponsored by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Democracy Unlimited and POCLAD also draw on the work of Richard Grossman, who was my research source on the Constitution. I'l be including more of David and Kaitlyn's vital work in future episodes. In the meantime, check out, and it would be great to have Santa Cruz represented at their August 7-9th Eureka conference on Deep Democracy.

This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thank you to David Cobb and Kaitlyn Sopici-Belknap, and to Skidmark Bob for production and his valiant efforts at editing the interview. Any comments or suggestions can be sent to my new and working email address. Our last song is What the World Needs Now, thanks to my fellow free radio programmer, Louie LaFortune. A friend of his made this compilation CD, so I'm not sure who's performing it, but it certainly speaks for all of us, because it takes a global village to undermine an empire.

[Tom Clay (Detroit DJ) Compilation – What the World Needs Now ]

Thanks for listening.