by Cynthia McKinney
This is a wonderful time to witness and participate in people all over the world acting on their desire to be free. I was invited to participate in the launch of a carbon neutral publication by Global Village Partnerships, CLEAN UAE, and the people behind this publication are absolutely fantastic! It was wonderful to experience such harmony in this part of the world with the values that we share. This confirms for me, again, that there are more of “us” than there are of “them.” So, when will we start acting like the powerful majority that we are?
Following are my words as prepared for delivery last night (Feb. 3) while the political ground underneath our feet trembles, giving us an opportunity to rearrange things, fueled by people power. I hope we seize this moment everywhere there is oppression of people and insult to our planet: Beware the false prophets of which there are many! Power to the People!
I want to thank CLEAN UAE for including me, but also for selecting the Gulf Region and the United Arab Emirates in particular for its inaugural launch. I had an opportunity today to gain a keener understanding of the roots of Emirati people, thanks to Emirates NBD for allowing me to view the Pearl Museum donated to the people of this country by Sultan Al Owais. There, I saw how 80 percent of the Emirati people participated in an economy driven by the hard work of artisans, shopkeepers, technicians, workers and divers who risked their lives in search of natural pearls. A culture of hard work was born.
Thanks to the president and staff of Emirates NBD who patiently answered all of my questions, I gained a keener understanding of the roots of the Emirati people. From this singular visit, I now understand that beyond the Dubai skyline, Emiratis know full well the importance of maintaining harmony with Mother Earth. Their culture rests on their relationship with this planet – first her seas and now her land. They know, even more than many, especially from the United States, just how precious our Earth really is.
I want to thank Emirates NBD for helping me to understand who Emiratis really are and I want to thank all of you for supporting GVP Media and their CLEAN UAE publication.
Tonight, I would like to focus first on the very real possibilities for deep and transformational change that exist within all of us. Individuals in North Africa, Europe and West Asia are rewriting the history of their countries as “people power” takes center stage in resetting today’s course for human organization. And whether this is planned, orchestrated or spontaneous, the power in “people power” is undeniable.
This “people power” has always existed within us; history is written by those who recognize the power of the human dream of freedom and who set about making that dream a reality, against all odds. Individuals who even tacitly accepted the status quo for decades are now recognizing their own heroism and are acting accordingly.
This awakening has the potential to define the 21st century for us just when some of us were about to give up all hope for change.
With too much of the human family mired in poverty, hunger, physical and mental abuse, deception, hatred, lies, war, death and planetary destruction, it is clear that each one of us must muster everything inside of us and make the ultimate personal commitment to change.
If we are to realize the change of our dreams, it is clear that we must become the change we want to see.
The world around us as we know it is collapsing: from economic structures to political edifices to scientific understandings. If the people hold tight to what is, we will miss a wonderful opportunity to define what is to be.
Therefore, I consider it an honor and a privilege to be here with the visionaries of GVP media and all of you who are ready to put your brains and your brawn into the work before us of crafting a world that values human dignity and that recognizes that without a healthy planet, mankind, itself, stands at the brink.
I have prepared a brief video to share with you now. It shows both the challenges and the successes upon which we can build our solid foundation for change.
Well, there it is. James Brown is right – “We’ve got to take it higher” – and Gil Scott-Heron is right – “This ain’t life; this ain’t nothing but a movie.”
Who in this room is willing to step outside of their comfort zone in order to secure a better world for all of God’s creatures, including this planet?
Have you as of yet made your contribution to human dignity? Ecological wisdom? If not, why not? And if not, when will you take your turn?
Probably too many of us bought into a different paradigm – a paradigm that threw consumerism and the opportunity to have “mountains of things” at us. The lure was shown to us on television, in radio ads. The markers of “success” lay in consumption of things we didn’t even want or need! And in the final analysis, that “mountain of things” doesn’t even make us happy.
And in the final insult to the Earth, Nature became something to overcome, to dominate – something from which to make money.
And this was the gospel that was spread by colonialism, neo-colonialism and, now, by globalization.
Perhaps it is that the more we leave our origins, those traditional or old-fashioned values that were at once derided and become modern chic, the more distanced from nature we have become, too.
And it is far easier to get swept along with the current than to swim against the tide.
I believe I am with you today, however, only because I’ve chosen to swim against the tide.
But, sadly, there are too few of us. Seems it is far easier to forget about the human debris, the collateral damage of our delirious feeding frenzy, and the toll it takes on the earth itself.
Something, eventually, had to give. And now the Laws of Nature come back to us in full force.
And here’s the lesson we must learn: Mother Nature always wins. It’s not guaranteed that we will.
Therefore, I want to showcase the communities that have organized themselves on the state level to win: the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America, the ALBA countries of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda – as well as Kenya.
These countries have recognized that Nature’s rights are human rights, too. Or, as Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano recently wrote, “Human rights and the rights of Nature are two names of the same dignity.”
Unfortunately, the scenes of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, witnessed by the world, demonstrated what some of us had been saying for decades, and that was that economic and democratic collapse were already a reality for some communities inside the world’s sole superpower. And that, therefore, a serious redefinition had to take place of the values upon which human organization was to be based.
In January 2010, the Republic of Haiti, founded by enslaved Africans who militarily defeated Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, experienced a crippling earthquake, only the fifth recorded in that country’s history since 1751.
In April 2010, workers and residents in the Gulf of Mexico began to bear the brunt of the world’s largest accidental marine oil disaster in the history of the petroleum industry. The scope of this disaster and its impact on the food chain are only just now coming to light.
Then, in July 2010, Pakistan began to experience flooding, described by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as the worst disaster he had ever seen. Fully 20 percent of Pakistan’s total land area was underwater.
As millions in the United States, Haiti, Pakistan and elsewhere attempt to mend their lives back together, others contemplate how to satisfy mankind’s need for energy while staring depletion in the face. Nuclear energy is promoted by some until the issues of uranium supply, accidental leaks or spills, waste storage and water scarcity are mentioned.
Newer technologies heralded as “the answer” for harder-to-reach traditional energy sources, such as “fracking,” which has already contaminated drinking water in areas where it is utilized are putting either mankind or the earth or both at risk. This includes biofuels where arable land that used to be used for food production has now become more profitable in energy production. Or worse, tropical rainforests that regulate the earth’s atmosphere are now being obliterated for energy production.
Incredibly, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration and other sources, approximately 50 percent of total energy generated is wasted, and a recent Cambridge University study estimates that current technology could reduce global energy demand by up to 85 percent.
Who will pull that technology off the shelf and actually use it?
And although Passivhaus technology, which can reduce heating energy costs by as much as 90 percent, has been around for decades, there are only about a dozen buildings in the U.S. that meet that standard.
Given today’s collapsing economic environment, a green economy is a jobs economy.
Unfortunately, what often makes sense from an economic point of view, fails on the political front, especially in distorted democracies like the United States, where entrenched special interests retard progress and override the will of the people.
Meanwhile, Earth changes, such as the rapidly shifting magnetic pole, and interstellar discoveries, like recent sightings of new planets, demonstrate that we must pay more attention to the Universe, the Earth and our place or role in both.
Recent fish and bird kills of unknown origin; more extreme, less predictable weather; and implications of climate change put the frontiers of our relationship with the planet in stark relief. A North Atlantic current that flows into the Arctic Ocean is warmer than it has been in the past 2,000 years, according to a group of German scientists. And yet another report informs us that “unprecedented climate change has Earth hurtling down a path of catastrophic proportions” (Maude Barlow).
How many reports do we need in order to change ourselves and to demand change from our governments?
Unfortunately, in the midst of all of this, the world’s sole superpower spends more than 50 percent of its discretionary national receipts on weapons of mass destruction and war and cajoles other rich governments to spend inordinate amounts of their national treasure on weapons of war, death and destruction and less on diplomacy and human and Earth dignity.
And that is where our individual activism and the power of the people can redirect attention and focus to the things that are truly important today.
And just as in the Civil Rights Movement of the United States, there is a role for everyone to play.
Why is it that nearly 70 percent of the people in the U.S. are against President Obama’s wars, and yet the people seem powerless to stop them?
My response is that the American people have not yet come to understand the power that they truly possess.
Thus, the actions of the ALBA countries and Kenya become extraordinarily important in demonstrating that there is another way to organize human activity: a way such that human life and the life of and on this planet are not jeopardized.
And the events of North Africa, East Europe and West Asia show us that every one of us is capable of doing extraordinary things when we muster our individual will power and proceed.
Two years ago, I found myself in the middle of a political firestorm when, at the start of Operation Cast Lead, I decided to accompany a group of human rights activists and deliver medical supplies to the people of Gaza. The Free Gaza Movement boat I was in, the Dignity, was rammed by the Israeli military and disabled. One of the doctors onboard yelled to us all that we must prepare ourselves mentally to die. And I commenced to do just that.
I wondered how the world would view me, a divorced mother of one, who had left her son who was about to enter law school, to go off and try to save the lives of children I did not even know. And when the Israelis rammed us, it dawned on me that I didn’t even know how to swim. All of a sudden, I became so scared – I had even put my life jacket on upside down, inside out – I don’t know what I had done. The English doctor noticed and in the midst of our panic, time came to a crashing halt as he untied my life jacket, took it off me, turned it correctly, put it back on to me, retied it and said, “There now.”
I was afraid of falling into the sea. I was afraid of being crushed between our boat and the huge Israeli warship that had menaced us all night and then had finally crashed into us. I was afraid of what it would feel like to drown – and the embarrassment of being afraid of what others would say of me as a mother after I was dead.
But, somehow, in the midst of all of that, I remembered my ancestors. My ancestors who braved the slave rebellions and the Civil Rights Movement and who made the United States a better place – not a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination – but a better place for Africa’s stolen children. They, who had nothing but their unity, used that as a hammer to club the United States out of its slavery first and then out of its apartheid.
I remembered what it must have been like for my own great-grandmother who could have passed for white, but instead chose to live in the segregated South and suffer the daily indignities of what it meant to be Black in the United States during her day.
I remembered my father, who picketed his place of employment by himself because the other Blacks were too afraid to stand up for their own dignity;
I remembered Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who knew that their own government wanted them dead, but they never stopped and they never gave in.
I remembered the women, from the enslaved Sojourner Truth who plaintively asked “Ain’t I a Woman” at a Woman’s Convention where the issue was women’s right to vote. And I remembered Fannie Lou Hamer, who stood up to the president of the United States of America when the Mississippi Democratic Party refused to seat Black delegates to the Democratic Party’s national convention, when she said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
And with ancestry like that, having struggled like that, there was no way I could give in to my fears.
And then, all of a sudden, I was no longer afraid. I no longer feared the water and the thought of drowning; I no longer feared the idea of being crushed into the warship; I no longer feared what others would say about me; and, most importantly, I no longer feared dying. Because it was at that moment that I understood the real meaning of life.
And that was my point of personal transformation.
So, when I returned home, I immediately began to apply my newfound lessons to other aspects of my life.
I tried to go back to Gaza again, and was held in an Israeli prison for seven days.
I joined a group of bicyclists and rode – or, in my case, attempted to ride – across the United States from Oakland, California, to the White House to protest war.
I had already made the change from the Democratic Party to the Green Party because I am impatient for justice; I am impatient for peace; I want change and I want it now.
So, what we are seeing now on the streets of Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Albania and Yemen is what the people of Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Haiti, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Paraguay have all done before them, where the people demanded their freedom and their right of self-determination. In the ALBA countries, it came finally with as simple a tool as a free and fair vote.
On an individual level, I wanted to ride my bicycle from Abu Dhabi here to Dubai. But when I floated the idea, I was told just how dangerous that could be because, legal issues aside, United Arab Emirates has the third highest automobile crash rate in the world. Not a very safe place at all for bicycle riding!
Yet, in Bhutan, two kings, one a former king and the other the current king, have taken to bicycle riding in order to do something and not just talk about the need for changing the culture away from driving and personal cars.
The international economic architecture is in distress; the ecology of the planet is in distress and food and water and other resources that fuel human life as well as our economic activity are clearly at risk due to choices mankind has made; as the economic stresses dig deeper into the social fabric, we will find even more unrest that all the military intelligence will be powerless to solve. Therefore, we have no choice but to change direction on a massive scale now.
Mother Nature won’t wait. Either we step up to the plate and do what is necessary or mankind loses. Earth will survive with or without us.
Global Village Publications brought us together in United Arab Emirates, but the U.A.E. will not be our last stop.
We have seen what the U.A.E. is prepared to do: from hosting conferences to building solar desalination plants; from praying for rain to making rain; from innovating agriculture that maximizes water use to diversifying its economy and increasing non-oil trade; from eliminating the use of plastic bags to building Masdar City: the U.A.E. is moving in the right direction; imagine the entire country built on the foundation of Masdar, clean and green!
You have chosen to participate in this event because your companies want to do more and as individuals you are here because you want to do more.
I am happy to join with you as we embark upon a new destination: Destination Dignity.
Thank you so much for your attention tonight.
For news from, by and about Cynthia McKinney, former Georgia congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, check these websites: http://dignity.ning.com/, http://www.enduswars.org, http://www.livestream.com/dignity, http://www.twitter.com/dignityaction, http://www.myspace.com/dignityaction, http://www.myspace.com/runcynthiarun, http://www.twitter.com/cynthiamckinney, http://www.facebook.com/CynthiaMcKinney and http://www.youtube.com/runcynthiarun. Cynthia advises, “Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.”