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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


Don't Make Me Hit You: The Rationalization of Violence

August 10, 2009

3P-038 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the 38th episode of Third Paradigm, entitled Don't Make Me Hit You: The Rationalization of Violence. This title was prompted by Hilary Clinton's response that Mel Zelaya was "acting irresponsibly" by trying to return to Honduras as its rightful President. Pro-coup Cardinal Rodriguez urged Zelaya to remain outside the country, warning that a return could unleash a bloodbath in the country." He told Zelaya to think about his actions "because afterward it will be too late." Peter Kent, the Canadian Foreign Minister, has called Zelaya's attempts to re-enter the country "unhelpful." He criticizes Zelaya for staying on the Nicaragua border where his supporters have stopped the flow of Honduran sweatshop goods to the Canadian company Gilden. But he praises the mining company Goldcorp for acting responsibly. Does he mean by putting mine workers on buses to pro-coup rallies, promising to pay them overtime when they make up the work?

Are Zelaya's actions unhelpful to the people or to the corporations like Fruit of the Loom, Russell, Hanes, Gap, Gildan, Adidas, and Nike, who manufacture in Honduras where Zelaya increased the minimum wage by 60%. Dole and Chiquita complained that it would cut into profits – costing 20 cents more for a crate of pineapple and 10 cents more for a crate of bananas, to be exact. This means that banana workers now get a quarter a crate rather than 15 cents. Chiquita has been instrumental to three coups in other countries, and pled guilty to financing a known terrorist organization. But Chiquita's CEO, Charles Lindner, was a big donor to Bill Clinton , who repaid the favor with military backing for a Honduran government that proliferated right-wing death squads.

In blaming the victim, Mel Zelaya, for any violence perpetrated by the coup government, is Hilary following in Bill's banana-lined footsteps? We might remind her that it's a slippery slope. I'd like to take a moment to reverse the situation. Let's say that Hilary had won instead of Obama and turned out to be more progressive than anyone had foreseen. Let's say she substituted fair trade for free trade, revoked corporate immunity, and called for a referendum on single-payer healthcare. On the morning of the vote, Special Forces broke down the White House door, beat up Bill and Chelsea, and kidnapped Hilary. They put her on a plane still in her pj's and sent her to Canada. In the meantime, Congress named Sarah Palin as President, who instituted a state of emergency with curfews, night raids on homes, and no more than three people allowed to gather except at pro-Palin rallies.

But despite Palin's threats to arrest her and the possibility that she may be killed, let's say Hilary was determined to return. When she tried to fly in, Palin closed Dulles and ordered thousands of sharpshooters to train their guns on the crowds. She arrested, disappeared, or tortured thousands of Clinton supporters. She shut down all the unbiased news outlets, not that anyone would notice. Then let's say that China, using their financial influence, told Clinton that if she wanted to return, she needed to negotiate with Palin's coup government. Would she accept this as just?

Would Clinton go from President to ex-pat without a whimper? And what about us? Would we let Sarah Palin turn the US into a police state without a fight? Sadly, I believe we would as long as we could keep our most fundamental American entitlement – the right to be consumers. Give us the Honduran sweatshop sneakers and clothes, Honduran-mined gold, our Chiquita bananas and Dole pineapples. Keep our TV's on and you can take our freedoms - we were barely using them anyway.

In this episode, we'll talk about armed vs. nonviolent resistance. A note left in my herb box at home wrote that morality is relative. I assume that it was left in response to the sign on my house saying Torture is Wrong. And we'll ask the Big Question that military recruiters seem to dodge – if morality is relative, is it a who or a what that makes the difference between right and wrong? Is it right if we do it and wrong if they do, or does it depend on the circumstances?

But first, we'll read excerpts from a poem, which is not an easy one to read, by Demetrice Anntia Worley , called Feminicide/Fimicidio. It begins with this quote from Amnesty International. Since 1992 over 5000 women and girls have been disappeared from around Ciudad, Juarez, with 475 confirmed dead. Let's hope Demetrice will soon be reading this poem in Ciudad Juarez, as a memorial to the mothers, sisters, and daughters from this terrible time in the past.


  1. On this eve of the dead, I cry out loud, "por favor Virgen de Guadalupe, don't forsake me," before I open the door, before I see la policí a flat black eyes, before his mouth opens to tell me, my Solana is dead.
    Our women and girls are vanishing from Ciudad Juárez. Mi casa. All he brings is a box with two leg bones; "Proof," he says. Ha!  I've seen death; I know bones. I cross myself, speak a mamá 's clear truth:

       "On Solana's First Holy Communion,
       She broke her right leg in two places.
       These bones, two left leg bones, are not Solana's."

  2. "These bones, two left leg bones, are not Solana's." mama says, before closing the door.  She passes my bedroom.  I am here, but we did not have my party, mi quinceñeara. I'm fifteen today, a woman.                 
    Alva, mi amiga, heard yesterday that a girl from Colonia Paz, never came home from her job. Twice a day, I pray, Virgen de Guadalupe save me from factory work in Ciudad Juá rez;
    Two weeks in this silent room, watching Pretty Boy, parakeet of mi hermana, pace his perch.  The last three days his water cup has remained full. Today, I found him on the cage floor. Today, I stopped waiting for Solana.
  3. Today, I stopped waiting for Solana to appear at the bus stop de la maquila. For two weeks, I've waited for her smile. At our work stations, las chicas and I whisper the names of la muerta between thin lips. We sew capris, daily quotas for a big store across la frontera. We asked the Bosses for parking lot lights, guard posts. They gave us whistles, self-defense talks. We asked la policí a to protect us; they do not listen. El Diablo and las policí as, one and the same.
    Las chicas work in silence. We need our jobs.  We have familias. The Bosses say, "Women can be replaced."
  4. Bosses Say, Women Can Be Replaced — AP Wire. NAFTA's enactment has allowed foreign-owned factories to cash in on low-cost labor, easy access to U.S. markets. But at maquiladoras, assembly plants, women bank no bargains; their week lasts sixty to seventy hours; wages $5.75 a day [milk costs $2.50 a gallon]; pregnant women are denied jobs or fired; workers are attacked for drawing attention to callous working conditions. After shift changes gates are locked, and workers turned away if three minutes late. Forced to return home alone, often in the dark.
  5. I return home, alone, to darkness and silence, after reconstructing remains of Jurárez's unidentified dead women. Every night my home, like the white, sterile Chihuahua State Forensic morgue, fills with bodies, parts: acid etched skin; breasts, slashed, stabbed, gnawed; raped vaginas; heads leaking from gun shot wounds. These girls have long hair, brown complexions. They are young.  Someone's child. My child. She lived for seventeen years in this house. If Paloma's case isn't solved, I'll join other mothers, plant pink/ black crosses outside state police offices. Our united voices speak louder than one tongue.
  6. United voices speak louder than one tongue; we paint black and pink crosses, march the streets saying names of three hundred and twenty daughters and mothers raped, mutilated — "Laura Ramos Monarrez, Lourdes Lucero Campos, Sagrario Gonzalez Flores, Paloma Villa Rodriguez, Guadalupe Estrada Salas, Solana Sanchez Cruz . . ." our hijas y hermanas. Las policí as say prostitutes, fugitives: we know the secret pile of bones; missing files; a woman's body clothed in another woman's dress; evidencia destruida— five hundred kilos of clothing burned last week.
  7. I boxed a hundred pounds of clothing today; cleared closets of capris, tee-shirts; threw away Halloween bag of Brach's candy corn; a label funeral for Made in Mexico.
    My protest, against NAFTA, the Mexican Government, the Juá rez police, makes me a world citizen;
    On this eve of the dead, I cry out, loud.

That was a somewhat edited version of Demetrice Anntia Worley's winning poem in the Split This Rock contest sponsored by Foreign Policy in Focus. FPIF believes that art is a powerful tool for transformation. I've noticed that Reality Sandwich, another web-based change agent, also has a strong emphasis on art. They may be on to something, as Sting and Peter Gabriel would agree, now able to sing about Pinochet in the country he once terrorized.

Since last year's Fourth of July, I've had a banner next to my front door that says, "Torture is Wrong." Last week, when I went to water my basil, I found a small handwritten note that said, "Morality is relative." So I wanted to ask the question, is morality relative even when it comes to torture, as my herb-box philosopher suggests?

For something to be relative means it differs in relationship to something else. To be relative in a vacuum is to be ambiguous, like the US definition of a foreign terrorist organization. Their only requirement is that it has to be foreign, so that what applies to them can't be applied to us. Terrorism, they say, can't be defined. But we know it when we see it, and they name a list of insurgent groups in colonized countries. If relativity doesn't mean okay when we do it and wrong when you do, it has to be defined by the circumstances. So, my neighborhood moralist, under what circumstances could we torture you, or your loved ones and children? What if your torture would save the lives of thousands of people? Again, if we don't define people who count as only Americans, this could apply to government officials, investment brokers, tax haven administrators, or killer drone designers, just to name a few. If each of these jobs ran the risk of being tortured by the people they impacted, I bet that the perks would have to be pretty good to be worth it.
The Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture
protest at the White House, October 2007 source

However, I stand by my banner. Torture is wrong, always. Terrorism is wrong, always. Unlike the US code, I believe terrorism can be defined. It's inflicting violence on innocent targets, usually in ways that maximize suffering. What about the suffering and deaths caused by passive, legal, institutionalized violence in occupied countries - the systematic monopoly of land, the poisoning and depletion of water, the diversion of public funds, or forced labor for corporate profit? To go back 2000 years to the zealots, they believed that it was more wrong to allow slavery than it was to kill. They were known as sicarii, which means assassin. The sica was a short dagger. During religious festivals, they'd blend in until they spotted the traitor – one of the patriarchal elite who was an informant to the Romans. Using the crush of the crowd, they'd surround the snitch and then strike, melting back into the throng before the body hit the ground.

Were these targeted assassinations wrong? What the zealots didn't practice was indiscriminate violence. They were specific, in the no-fuss style of military executions. Was it terrorism? Yes, in the sense of striking fear in any Jew who betrayed them to the Romans. But not in the sense of random violence. Torture didn't seem to be their style either, even when the tables were turned and they were the armed majority. Traitors were dispatched quickly. The Q'uran says that there are times when it's necessary to kill, but it's always wrong to torture, harm the innocent, or cause death by fire. This is why the vast majority of Muslims condemned the actions of al-Queda. In the Muslim code, killing is relative but torture and terrorism are absolute. But the Ten Commandments say Thou shalt not kill. They don't condemn the torture or terrorism that were widely practiced by the Roman Empire. Why would they condemn acts of self-defense but not the most horrific abuse of power that can be imagined? Torture should be the first prohibition of any moral code. Torture is always wrong. To underscore this point, here's David Ippolito, a.k.a. that guitar man from Central Park:

[David Ippolito – The Torture Song]

That was David Ippolito with Torture is Wrong or We Can Do Better Than That. We can do better than torturing 12-year-old boys, taxi drivers, humanitarians like Moazzam Begg, or even armed insurgents. Is someone a terrorist in their own country if they fight against an occupying power? We can do better than operating sweatshops where girls are disappeared by the thugs that our retail dollars pay. We can do better than condemn a military coup while our tax money trains and arms them, hiring slick strategists and media advisors. So why do our young people do unthinkable things, with the best of intentions? I blame the college system that gives kids the choices of McDonald's, student debt, or the military.

Our oldest daughter is a High School senior and the sharks are circling. In the mail she gets brochures saying, "Get your eco-gear and become an environmental guardian." It shows long-haired kids in jeans picking up trash and planting trees. What's it for? The National Guard. They're using the noble and self-sacrificing ideals of students who want to help preserve the planet to trick them into joining the National Guard.

An army recruiter called our house the other day. I talked to him for 20 minutes. I said that I didn't have a problem with killing per se, but once you join the army, you can no longer decide for yourself what's worth killing for – which is certainly the most important decision anyone could ever make. How can he ask 17-yr-olds to hand over their conscience? They're asking the wrong question. Conscientious objectors have to prove that they believe killing is wrong in all circumstances, even in self-defense or in defense of someone else. The assumption it makes is that if killing can be moral, then it must be moral when we do it and immoral when they do it to us. The real question isn't whether killing is right or wrong, but under what circumstances. What is it relative to?

I asked him why we called it the Department of Defense when there hadn't been an attack on US soil since 1812. He brought up, of course, 9/11, which I pointed out was a bunch of rogues, not another country. I decided not to get into controlled demolitions and how he should be targeting Bilderberg instead of Afghanistan. If we were defending the helpless, I said, why did human rights abuses go up with the amount of military aid we give a country? Shouldn't neutral UN forces keep the peace?

He resurrected WWII, that old standby, and whether we should've stayed out of that one. I said that I wondered. If the US were to maximize economic pressure on Honduras, for instance, I was sure that we could end the coup tomorrow. Would the same have been true for WWII? I don't know. But if we used our money consistently, it's possible that violence would never be needed.

This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thanks to Skidmark Bob for production, music, and editing. We go out with the English version of the Sting song, They Dance Alone, in the hopes that they don't really dance alone.

[Sting – They Dance Alone]

Thanks for listening.