This Issue: Faith, Hope, and Persistence

When we look at what is happening in our world, it can be difficult to believe that there are grounds for hope, let alone faith. And yet we – we humans – continue to live and act in ways that testify to our hopes, and to our faith in the possibility of a better future. We plant gardens and trees, we have children, and we resist injustice and act to protect the planet we share.

Hope is something quite different from optimism. Optimism – and pessimism – assess the likelihood of something happening. But being optimistic or pessimistic is irrelevant to standing up for justice and defending the earth. For most of us at least, our moral principles aren’t based on a calculation of the odds. And in fact most acts of resistance, and most movements for justice, arise in the face of what are often overwhelming odds. They are the powerless challenging those with entrenched power. It is only by acting that people who feel powerless come to feel that they do have power. And when we act, that which seemed impossible to achieve starts to become possible, because enough people believe it is possible and are working together to make it so.

Hope is about possibility, not certainty. Even when we know that we are rowing against the tide, as we often are, we know that the future is not preordained. We know the future is shaped by human actions, and so we act. And we hope that our actions will help to steer the future in the direction we want to go in.

When we act collectively, we are also expressing our faith in other people, and in ourselves. Not blind faith – we know our own contradictions and faults, and we know all too well the immorality and cruelty that humans, or at least some humans, are capable of. But we also know, from our own life experience, that part of the common heritage of humanity are impulses to create community, to share, to love one another, to treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated. And the fact that these capacities exist is a basis for faith in people, including ourselves, and in our ability to change and to rise to our potential to be who we are capable of being. By working to change the world, we change ourselves.

One of the most moving and inspiring human capacities, and one that comes out so strongly when we act together to fight for justice, is our persistence, even in the face of overwhelming odds. This issue of Other Voices shares a number of such stories. In Oaxaca, a multi-ethnic network of towns fights a tenacious ongoing battle to protect their water against corporate takeovers. Mineworkers in South Africa spend nine days underground, on strike, until mine owners agree to act on sexual harassment in the mine. In Nashville, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up to arrest an immigrant father and son sitting in a van in their own driveway, neighbours spontaneously come out, spread the word to others, and surround the van to prevent the arrest, remaining on the scene until the ICE agents finally leave. Shadidul Alam emerges from jail, having been imprisoned for criticising the government, and defiantly continues his work. Suzanne Berliner Weiss, a Jewish child born in Nazi-occupied France, loses her parents, is cared for by loving caring strangers, and emerges as a adult who devotes her life to working with other for social justice.

When people are moved to act, when they have faith in the people who are acting with them, and when they have hope in at least the possibility of success, then they – we – can be astonishingly persistent. And so we carry on.

– Ulli Diemer

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Topic of the week


As long as there has been injustice, people have resisted injustice, individually and collectively. The Resistance page in the Connexions Subject Index brings together a broad, almost-random collection of articles, books and films about resistance in many different places, in the present and the past. Explore stories of resistance here

Connexions Topic of the Week is Resistance
Oaxaca Indigenous Rights

On the coast of Oaxaca, Afro and Indigenous Tribes Fight for Water Autonomy

In southern Mexico, a multi-ethnic network of towns has halted the construction of a mega-dam. Now they are organizing to manage their own natural resources and revitalize their culture as native water protectors. Read more

Keywords: Water RightsOaxaca

Free Speech in Prison

Dearest Arundhati Roy: Shahidul Alam reflects on his time in prison

Shahidul Alam is a Bangladeshi photographer who was charged with criticising his country on Facebook and spent more than 100 days behind bars. Freed from prison, he replied to the Indian novelist who wrote to him in jail. He tells her “The case still hangs over my head and the threat of bail being withdrawn is the threat they hope will silence my tongue, my pen and my camera. But the ink in our pens still runs. The keyboards still clatter.” Read more

Keywords: BangladeshPolitical Prisoners


NUMSA strike against sexual harassment is a 'powerful moment in labour history'

What does it require to get management to take a sexual harassment complaint seriously? If the recent National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) strike is anything to go by, it takes about 290 striking workers remaining underground without food and clean water for nine days. Workers at the Lanxess chrome mine staged an underground strike demanding that management immediately suspend and discipline an alleged perpetrator of sexual harassment. It took nine days for the company to agree and for union members to return to work. Read more

Keywords: Sexual Harassment in the WorkplaceWomen/Work

Love one another.

Marx on Children (and on Forgiving Christianity)

Karl Marx sometimes took his children to attend church services, purely to enjoy the music. When they asked him what the music was about, he explained that it had to do with a poor carpenter killed by rich men. According to his daughter Eleanor, Karl Marx often said, “Despite everything, we can forgive Christianity much, because it has taught us to love children.” What did he mean by that? Gary Leupp offers his thoughts. Read more

Keywords: ChildrenChristianity

Julian Assange

Speak up for Assange: International journalists’ statement in defence of Julian Assange

Julian Assange, founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, is currently detained in Belmarsh high-security prison in the United Kingdom and faces extradition to the United States and criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act. He risks up to 175 years imprisonment for his part in making public the leak of US military documents from Afghanistan and Iraq, and a trove of US State Department cables. The ‘War Diaries’ provided evidence that the US Government misled the public about activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and committed war crimes. WikiLeaks partnered with a wide range of media organizations worldwide that republished the War Diaries and embassy cables. The legal action underway against Mr Assange sets an extremely dangerous precedent for journalists, media organizations and the freedom of the press.

Journalists and journalistic organizations around the globe are expressing their grave concern for Mr Assange’s wellbeing, about his continued detention and about the draconian espionage charges. Read more

Keywords: WhistleblowersWikileaks

system change not climate change

Website of the Week

System Change not Climate Change

SCNCC describes itself as “a network of North American ecosocialists and fellow travellers united in the belief that capitalism is driving climate change and that a radical international grassroots movement can stop it. Green capitalism is a dead end. So are liberal parties like the US Democrats and Canadian Liberals and the corporate-friendly approach of most Green NGOs. SCNCC believes the climate justice movement will unite with the labour movement, First Nations/indigenous and other struggles for liberation to create an alternative to the upside down world shaped by fossil fuels and corporate power. Another world is possible, but we need more ecosocialists to make it happen.” Find them here

Keywords: Climate JusticeEcosocialism

Book of the Week

Holocaust to Resistance: My Journey

By Suzanne Berliner Weiss

A memoir by Suzanne Berliner Weiss. Born to Jewish parents in Paris in 1941, Suzanne was hidden from the Nazis on a farm in rural France. Alone after the war, she lived in progressive-run orphanages, where she gained a belief in peace and brotherhood. Adoption by a New York family led to a tumultuous youth haunted by domestic conflict, fear of nuclear war and anti-communist repression, consignment to a detention home and magical steps toward relinking with her origins in Europe, as well as a life-long involvement in radical politics in the United States and Canada. Suzanne tells how the ties of friendship, solidarity and resistance that saved her as a child speak to the needs of our planet today. Read more

Keywords: Holocaust SurvivorsResistance

George Carlin

Video of the Week

George Carlin on how and why the media divide us

George Carlin gives a succinct explanation of how and why the media distract us from who has the money and who holds the power. Watch here

Keywords: Divide and ConquerMedia Analysis & Criticism


Lessons of Nashville: The working class and the defense of immigrants

Residents of the working-class Hermitage neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee, defended an immigrant father and his son, after agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought to detain the father for deportation. The father and son refused to leave their van, parked in their own driveway, after the ICE agents accosted them. When neighbours became aware of what was happening, they spread the word, and people turned out to support them. For four hours, the father and his son remained in their van, sheltered by their neighbours who at times locked arms in a human chain to prevent the ICE agents from approaching. Eventually the agents left empty-handed. Read more

Keywords: Class SolidaritySolidarity

People’s History

The Anti Nazi League and its lessons for today

An interview with Paul Holborow, who was organising secretary of the Anti Nazi League in Britain in 1977-1980, and is today an activist in Stand Up to Racism. The Anti-Nazi league of the late 1970s was a mass movement whose experience has relevance today with the growth of the far right internationally. Read more

Keywords: Anti-Fascism The Right

From the Archives

Mapping Colonial Frontier Massacres in Australia

From the moment the British invaded Australia in 1788 they encountered active resistance from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owners and custodians of the lands. In the frontier wars which continued until the 1960s massacres became a defining strategy to eradicate that resistance. As a result thousands of Aboriginal men, women and children were killed. This site presents a map, timelines, and information about massacres in Australia from 1794, when the first massacre was recorded, until 1930. View the map here

Keywords: AustraliaMassacres

Seeds of Fire

December 20, 1956
Montgomery bus boycott ends in victory
The Montgomery bus boycott lasted from December 5, 1955 -- the Monday after Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person, until December 20, 1956, when it ended in victory. The bus boycott resounded far beyond the desegregation of public buses. It stimulated activism and participation from the South in the national Civil Rights Movement.

December 25, 1831
The Christmas Rebellion in Jamaica
Some 60,000 slaves rise in revolt against slaveowners and the British colonial authorities.

December 25, 1914
The Christmas Truce
On Christmas Day, in the first year of World War I, German, British and French soldiers disobey their superiors and fraternize with “the enemy” along two-thirds of the Western Front. German troops hold Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs, “Merry Christmas.” “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Thousands of troops stream across the no-man’s land strewn with rotting corpses. Soldiers embrace men they had been trying to kill a few short hours before. The event terrified the military high command on both sides. It represented their ultimate nightmare: soldiers refusing to kill each other.

December 29, 1890
Massacre at Wounded Knee
U.S. troops surround and start firing on a Lakota encampment, killing somewhere between 150 and 300 men, women, and children. Twenty of the soldiers who took part in the massacre were awarded military medals of honour, and the colonel in charge was promoted to major-general.

Another world is not only possible...

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Copyright Connexions 2019. Contents are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License. This means you are welcome to share and republish the contents of this newsletter as long as you credit Connexions, and as long as you don’t charge for the content.

This issue was edited by Ulli Diemer.


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