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January 24, 2015

Bulletin 199: Back from Vienna and speaking tour; new approach to bulletins

  1. Back from Vienna and speaking tour
  2. Thank you for your support in December’s fundraising drive
  3. A new approach to these bulletins

Dear friends and colleagues –

  1. Back from Vienna and speaking tour

It has been a little over a month since Bulletin 198, written from Darmstadt in the days following the important Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons and the excellent ICAN civil society forum which preceded it.

I’m sorry for this long lag.  Except for a quiet retreat during Christmas and New Year’s, we have been very much at work and in fairly constant communication with activists, officialdom, and journalistshere in the U.S. and in Europe.  We completed our talks in Germany and the U.K. and returned to the U.S. about two weeks ago.

With the Vienna conferences right before the holidays, it was not the greatest time for meetings.  Nonetheless we led twelve public and private meetings in seven cities in mid-December and early January, from public lectures to briefings for parliamentarians and research institutes, and we met with many friends and allies.  It was quite a valuable trip and we have returned refreshed and inspired.

Apart from lodging in Vienna, the Study Group paid nothing for this trip.  Home stays with colleagues were hugely important and we are very grateful to our generous hosts.

We spoke on a variety of nuclear weapons topics, depending on the audience, most frequently on U.S. weapons modernization, the U.S. political situation and prospects for disarmament, normal accidents (in Darmstadt University’s “Technology and Tragedy” lecture series), and the future of the U.S. warhead weapons complex.  To parliamentarians, activists, and to the huge ICAN crowd we argued for independence from U.S. policies, whether expressed officially or as filtered through arms control NGOs.  To set Madeleine Albright’s statement on its head, those who are working for peace and disarmament in international settings should, for the time being, consider the U.S. quite dispensable.

It is an extraordinarily dangerous time, but for that reason a creative time as well.  Here in the U.S., the ongoing gradual collapse of our productive economy – an open-ended process greatly underestimated in mainstream discourse – just by itself merits complete suspension of “business as usual” in favor of a firm, nonviolent militancy that demands concrete results from government, at every level.  It is no exaggeration at all, just the plain truth, to say that our children’s lives are at stake.

Beyond this, the complete failure across our society to accurately appreciate, let alone address, the dual climate and energy emergencies, which are already ramifying in what could soon become uncontrollable ways, comprises another set of potent reasons to rise up.

All these challenges call out to us, but what is our response?  Again and again we are called upon to get behind mild so-called reforms that – even under the most optimistic assumptions – aren’t reforms at all.  Mostly, these strategies are failing even by their own lights.

What Martin Luther King called “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” now comes in wide range of attractive flavors.  If we want our children and grandchildren to live decent lives, or even to live at all, we are going to have act clearly and successfully – now – to make that possible.  We urge you to reach out to your friends and earnestly conspire to make that possible.

As I believe the sage who left Walden Pond would now agree, it’s the res publica, not the res privata, that’s in real danger now.  Our nuclear families require that we give attention, not just to them, but to our primordial family.  We have to shift our attention from the private household to the larger oikos, away from conventional careers and the further feathering of private nests.  All these will come down in the gathering storm anyway when the rotten tree breaks, as it most assuredly will.

All true joy untainted by denial and despair, all true life-giving eros, all true prayer and meditation, all true science even, lies now in active and courageous solidarity with our wider human and animal family.

There is certainly no joy in the narrow, cold cage of greed and debt into which our youth as a rule are being led, in the miseducation to which we generally subject them in our colleges.  If youth aren’t working for their own survival and the means to provide for that, which for the most part means preventing organized greed and violence from destroying the world, they are wasting their time.  Parents and teachers should make this crystal clear.  We should all be showing the way, validating their anger and giving them hope and skills.  We have already given them everything else we could find in Pandora’s Box and used up most of the planet’s natural resources.

  1. Thank you for your support in December’s fundraising drive

To all those who responded in this December’s fundraising drive – thank you.  We are trying very hard to make every dollar count.

If you want to help directly, please contact us and let’s see what fits.  The best way is to arrange to drop by our Albuquerque office if you can, but there are options in other places also.  For most people, various enjoyable forms of outreach and organizing will be the most productive and useful things to do, preceded by a bit of learning.  No matter how many hours we work, we just can’t reach out enough.

There are fantastic opportunities just sitting there.  Why?  Because we are on the right side of history and history is moving, and because we and others have already opened quite a few doors.  Nothing but concerted, reliable efforts will suffice, however.

And beware: no matter many times we say it, it can still come as a shock when folks personally encounter and grapple with the reality of U.S. nuclear politics – especially here in New Mexico, which is, far more than any other U.S. state, “behind the nuclear curtain.”  We identify with our oppressors.  Mainstream civil society tends to fawn on the labs, despite their demonstrable association with the state’s economic and social maladies, or else is complacent, confused, dependent, or frightened.  Most would-be activists find they must confront various comforting and often deeply-held myths, many of which have been ingrained by the ever-more-superficial, advertising-oriented nonprofit industry.  Overall, the hour is later than we have been led to think – the historical shift we are already in more profound than any of us would prefer.

  1. A new and simpler approach to these bulletins

Henceforth we’ll make these bulletins as simple as possible, mostly just providing links to our work and that of others which you can follow if you wish.  We will use our blog much more.  We don’t want to inundate you.  We will also publish elsewhere, and again, send you links.

When these bulletins began 14 years ago before 9/11/01, Citizens United, and so much else, political conditions in the U.S. and New Mexico were very different than today.  People were more active.

Among other changes, the U.S. peace and security foundation community executed a far-reaching plan to centralize control of nonprofits, using control over agenda-setting foundation grants to move to the right.

As one long-time insider recently remarked, this new top-down approach basically “destroyed the U.S. disarmament movement.”  In fact this was just what we warned would happen in a letter to one of its authors at the time.

These conscious strategic changes, in combination with the other changes in society and politics we all have experienced and know about, have dramatically changed what “works” for us politically.  We are now deeply into Sheldon Wolin’s “inverted totalitarianism,” a premise which too few of us have deeply examined.  Too many people here and abroad think of the U.S. as a democracy, one in which well-intentioned and informed people can engage in civil society and academic debate to foster necessary reforms.

The triumph of the propaganda state – more prominent in 2014 than we have ever seen – means that the common ground from which issues can be discussed and acted upon has shrunk.  We just can’t overcome this information gap with Bulletins.  On many of the underlying issues, there is brilliant writing and analysis available, but it is not – yet – creating a community from which concerted political action can come.  In New Mexico, we see political engagement shrinking.

We want to get more useful information to you, faster, but it won’t come in such a tailored fashion as before.  There are too many other invitations and things to write.  So look for a new face with Bulletin 200, and you might want to subscribe to Forget the Rest.

Best wishes for 2015,

Greg, Trish, and the Study Group


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