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a Meditation on the Nature of Evil


Taking a walk on a snowy white Christmas morning, kicking up powdery snow and watching it settle on the white surface, seeing your shadow and footsteps moving on the face of the earth in the traditional season of peace and good will. Wondering about the inner journey to realize the meaning and finite trajectory of our life. Realizing it’s an essential part of being human, this yearning and spiritual hunger for meaning. This soul, God, psyche or whatever it is.

But some People manage to avoid it. The Boy Emperor George W. Bush says he isn’t paid to “nuance.” His job militarizing the petroleum economy and the political ecology of terrorism is too important for him to indulge in any serious self-reflection. Dubya shows no signs whatsoever of ever pursuing an actual thought outside the narrow confines of Karl Rove’s power points, or beyond anything Dick Cheney tells him he should do. The dynamics around Bush’s drive for World War IV with the Axis of Evil echo World War I, where the leadership of the imperial European powers slaughtered millions in the name of “democracy,” “the war to end all wars,” and Belgian sovereignty. Bush is deprived of the essential human need for authentic spiritual understanding. Nothing else corresponds to the psychic evidence of Bush’s born again “dry drunk” mental and verbal gaffes, combined with his bellicosity and clumsiness in foreign affairs, his utter ignorance of history (inability to comprehend People’s history), and meanness in his economic policy. Bush is evidence of what happens to a person deprived of self-knowledge. In his terms, he becomes a tool of “evil.”

Meditating on the nature of evil, as illustrated by Bush’s atomic/petroleum empire and the next big war with Iraq, it’s easier than ever to see the power connections between corporate globalization, institutionalized racism, and beggaring workers; between the war on terror consuming resources, ethnically cleansing politics, and killing Third World Peoples living in strategic regions; and between Bush and evil. Virtually everything Bush’s officials say in public is a blatant psychic projection of their own infantile desires: US weapons of mass destruction, lies, terrorism and domination. They all flow from Washington, DC, the power center of the corporate global empire. The intellectual, moral, and physical resources of bin Laden’s rancid and murderous fundamentalism flow from fundamentalists in Virginia and throughout the US, massively perverting Thomas Jefferson’s ideals. The Mobilization for Global Justice stands in the noble shoes of the American revolutionaries, abolitionists, populists, labor, civil rights, feminist, peace, environment, GLBT, handicap and other social movements holding out alternatives to horrible policies. Education is almost always a crucial part of the answer to the question of what must be done. But education about, by and for what?

One of the strengths of the Mobilization for Global Justice has been its idea of “convergence” between movements, issues, communities, and Peoples. This continuing international grassroots “movement of movements,” growing out of the protests and advocacy against corporate globalization and corporate-managed “free trade” policies, had its spectacular coming out party in the streets of Seattle in November 1999. It has largely succeeded in changing the subject of public discussions from “free trade” to global justice. But its roots and branches go much deeper and spread much wider than that. And they are still growing. In January 2003 many of them will convene in Porto Alegre, Brazil for the third annual World Social Forum (WSF), an inspiring new institutional expression of international grassroots democracy in the 21st century. If progressive Democrats who were humiliated by their leadership’s spineless performance in the 2002 midterm congressional elections can grasp the importance of Global Justice as a message, and find ways to help the international social movements run with it, this movement has the potential to change the balance of power in America and the world.

The slogan of “Teamsters to Turtles” doesn’t even begin to capture the historic grandeur of this convergence. It brings together union rights with environmental justice; opposition to sweatshops with support for international law as a guarantor of basic minimum environmental and labor standards; a spectacular array of activist organizations and movements throughout the Global South, with Washington, DC-based groups such as Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and the AFL-CIO. Since September 11 it has reached out to other important US allies, like the living wage movement, the police accountability movement, and the peace movement. Mainstream corporate critics want to see only confusion. But the truth and the historic significance of convergence, which the corporate media “spins” as mixed messages, operates on multiple levels of politics, psychology, and culture. The Mobilization for Global Justice is today blazing the trail forward toward justice, human freedom, and democracy. Engaging the broadest possible range of People in this urgent conversation about power, resources, race, class, equity, survival, and hope must be a high priority for anyone concerned about finding a way out of the mess that corporate and US military and economic power have made of the world today.

Where power is so spectacularly unbalanced, public education must be a prime objective. We may not be able to change the systematic conditions of structural injustice, institutionalized racism, and undemocratic decision making that plague our world in the short run. But by taking responsibility for creating and expanding this historic multi-level dialog, we can mobilize many, many People and raise the costs of the US corporate empire. We can aspire to even further changing the subject of public discussions from “free trade” to global justice. We can change the world, if we dare to dream.

TOM STEPHENS is a lawyer in Detroit, Michigan. He can be reached at lebensbaum4@earthlink.


Tom Stephens is a coordinator of the communications working group of Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM).  Their web site is at:

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