Posts Tagged With: anti-hate

The Power of Love

Tommie Smith (Gold), Peter Norman (Silver) , John Carlos (Bronze)

“While events are happening, we cannot know whether, in time, they will turn out to be fortunate or unfortunate for us. So many situations that people had thought fortunate have, in the end, been the cause of their undoing, while trials have proved, in the long-term, to be very beneficial! So we cannot judge happiness or misfortune at the time; we have to wait before we can decide.
So, when you are faced with a situation, pleasant or painful, make a habit of telling yourself that happiness could be waiting at the end of the road. Don’t waste your time complaining or rebelling; thank heaven instead.  In saying ‘thank you’, you free energies within you that will help you to face things. Yes, that is the power of saying ‘Thank you’: it tackles the obstacle as it arises, and when sadness, anger and discouragement are beginning to distill their poisons in you, it neutralizes them. What humans need most is to love and be loved, to give love and receive love. And the truth is that they have a greater need to love than to be loved. Yes, to love, because it is their love that makes them alive and inspires them to go forward. To love is the greatest source of blessings. This is why you must never prevent your heart from loving: love all of creation, all creatures, always seeking how best to express your love.”

– Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

The picture above is probably one of the most iconic photos of the 20th century, let alone in sports or within the Olympic movement. For those of you who do not know the back story, it is a photo of two African-American 200 meter sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos and Australian sprinter Peter Norman during their awards ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics doing the Black Power salute. Smith and Carlos were active members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), an organization started by Berkeley sociology professor, Harry Edwards. 
Professor Harry Edwards, badass.

Professor Harry Edwards, badass.

 
The OPHR wanted to bring attention to the fact that quite often, the racism of American society spilled over into sports and the Olympic movement itself. When accepting their medals, both Smith and Carlos went shoe-less to bring attention to the plight and poverty of most African-Americans. All three athletes donned the badge of the OPHR but what happened next seared itself into to collective memory of the world. Smith and Carlos then did the Black Power salute, black-gloved fists raised, heads down while the American anthem played. What started off in a stadium full of cheers and jubilation suddenly went deathly quiet. Nothing like this had ever happened in Olympic history, using the medals podium as a political platform. In a year that had seen the assassination of pivotal figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and violent student protests the world over, the political fallout was immediate.

Smith and Carlos were kicked out of Mexico City but came home to a hero’s welcome among the African-American community in the US. Both received death threats for years afterwards, were professionally blacklisted, suffered terribly, Carlos’ wife committed suicide. Neither could hold down steady jobs and suffered economically and mentally for years. In time, their images became rehabilitated and both became vocal civil rights activists and remain so today.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage

Tommie Smith and John Carlos accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage

 
The story of Peter Norman is less-known but no less dramatic. This past week, a post by blogger Riccardo Gazzaniga entitled, “The White Man in that Photo “ went viral and I’d urge anyone who is interested in issues related to anti-oppression, anti-racism and being an anti-oppression ally to read it. (There’s also a 2008 documentary about Peter Norman produced by his nephew, Matt Norman called “Salute” which I’m trying to track down a copy to watch, but no such luck yet.)
From the blog post: 

Norman was a white man from Australia, a country that had strict apartheid laws, almost as strict as South Africa. There was tension and protests in the streets of Australia following heavy restrictions on non-white immigration and discriminatory laws against aboriginal people, some of which consisted of forced adoptions of native children to white families.
The two Americans had asked Norman if he believed in human rights. Norman said he did. They asked him if he believed in God, and he, who had been in the Salvation Army, said he believed strongly in God. “We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat, and he said “I’ll stand with you” – remembers John Carlos – “I expected to see fear in Norman’s eyes, but instead we saw love.”...But then Norman did something else. “I believe in what you believe. Do you have another one of those for me ?” he asked pointing to the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the others’ chests. “That way I can show my support in your cause.” Smith admitted to being astonished, ruminating: “Who is this white Australian guy? He won his silver medal, can’t he just take it and that be enough!”… Four years later at the 1972 Summer Olympics that took place in Munich, Germany, Norman wasn’t part of the Australian sprinters team, despite having run qualifying times for the 200 meters thirteen times and the 100 meters five times. Norman left competitive athletics behind after this disappointment, continuing to run at the amateur level.

Peter Norman later in life, with his 1968 Silver medal.

Peter Norman later in life, with his 1968 Silver medal.


Back in the change-resisting, whitewashed Australia he was treated like an outsider, his family outcasted, and work impossible to find. For a time he worked as a gym teacher, continuing to struggle against inequalities as a trade unionist and occasionally working in a butcher shop. An injury caused Norman to contract gangrene which led to issues with depression and alcoholism.
As John Carlos said, “If we were getting beat up, Peter was facing an entire country and suffering alone.” For years Norman had only one chance to save himself: he was invited to condemn his co-athletes, John Carlos and Tommie
Smith’s gesture in exchange for a pardon from the system that ostracized him.
A pardon that would have allowed him to find a stable job through the Australian Olympic Committee and be part of the organization of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Norman never gave in and never condemned the choice of the two Americans.

Smith, Norman and Carlos remained friends for the rest of their lives.

Smith, Norman and Carlos remained friends for the rest of their lives.


He was the greatest Australian sprinter in history and the holder of the 200 meter record, yet he wasn’t even invited to the Olympics in Sydney. …Norman died suddenly from a heart attack in 2006, without his country ever having apologized for their treatment of him….“Peter was a lone soldier. He consciously chose to be a sacrificial lamb in the name of human rights. There’s no one more than him that Australia should honor, recognize and appreciate” John Carlos said.
“He paid the price with his choice,” explained Tommie Smith, “It wasn’t just a simple gesture to help us, it was HIS fight. He was a white man, a white Australian man among two men of color, standing up in the moment of victory, all in the name of the same thing”.

There are many elements about this story which I find very compelling from a spiritual point of view. Like Aivanhov’s quote above, Smith, Carlos and Norman’s story really shows how you never really, truly know how things are going to turn out and really how if love is the motivation behind our actions, it can ultimately transform anything. That the rocks these three athletes shot into the pond that day, had ripple effects which we are still experiencing now. While all three endured suffering, economic hardship and mental anguish for decades, they refused to back down from their principles because it was the right thing to do. You just don’t see that granite-like integrity which Smith, Norman and Carlos displayed and lived through very often but more importantly, it is that very same integrity which continues to inspire us 47 years later, to keep pushing, to keep fighting for what is right because the struggle continues. The rage against the machine has not abated one bit, whether it is against race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious bigotry, poverty alleviation, environmental degradation, political occupation, or economic justice.
There’s a quote David Icke uses quite often in some of his presentations, by German Protestant pastor, Martin Niemoller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.    
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

We’re all in it together, folks. Admittedly, there are not many examples people have these days for taking that kind of a principled stand. Everyone is so damn afraid of speaking up and putting their neck out on the line since everyone is obsessed with their own self-interest and selfish comfort so nothing gets done. Even harder now, I think with market forces, globalization and crazy politicians putting the squeeze on all of us, but I’d like to think that because souls like Smith, Carlos and Norman existed, there’s nothing to say souls like that have disappeared from this Earth.

San Jose State University has a statue honoring Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Peter Norman’s second place spot remains empty. It turns out that Norman did not want his likeness included in the statue because he said he wants visitors who visit that statue to stand in his place and feel what he felt that night.

That kids, is an example of someone who only wants to share his love.

Categories: Ch-ch-ch-changes, Politico, Pop culture, Raise your EQ | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Fighting Fire with Fire will never work (but tea and sympathy might)

A few days ago I was listening to “Day 6” with Brent Bambury on CBC Radio. Brent always had, and still has, a knack for picking up unusual stories or mainstream media stories but from an unusual angle. This past weekend, he highlighted a news item which has not been picked up by the mainstream media (surprise, surprise) in light of the Woolwich incident. In case you have not heard, Britain has been rocked by anti-Muslim sentiment because of this incident where a machete-yielding hack beheaded an off-duty British soldier in the streets of London. Ultra-right wing groups like the English Defense League (EDL) have come out swinging against Islam and Muslims in general. Hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed in recent days across Britain.

There have also been unrelated attacks against nine mosques, including a fire-bombing in Grimsby

There have also been unrelated attacks against nine mosques, including a fire-bombing in Grimsby

The EDL planned mass rallies were around Britain to add fuel to the fire. To the credit of Britons, hardly anyone showed up. In fact former Queen guitarist, now environmentalist, Brian May was leading a protest the same day against the badger cull in the UK and more people showed up for that than the anti-Muslim ones. To my mind, this signals a change of priorities, even if it is a small one.

Queen guitarist Brian May led a protest of thousands.

Queen guitarist/astrophysicist/university chancellor/environmental activist and one of the coolest guys in the world, Brian May led a protest of thousands.

The news item in question which I think deserves more coverage and discussion, involves a tiny dilapidated mosque in York.

The York mosque

The York mosque

The Yorkshire EDL Scarborough Division posted a message on its Facebook page calling for supporters to gather outside the York mosque.

So what did the mosque do?
They invited the protesters to come in for tea and biscuits, which was then followed by a football/soccer match. (You can listen to whole, charming interview here.)

You cannot get more English than tea and biscuits.

You cannot get more English than tea and biscuits.

Professor Mohammed El-Gomati, a senior member of that mosque, while discussing the impending demonstrations, recalled a quote from the great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, “That if the Prophet Mohammed were presented with all the problems of the world, he would have solved them over a cup of tea.” Taking that as his cue, the mosque’s congregation decided to face the EDL protesters with the tea, biscuits and an impromptu game of football.

Local politicians and members of clergy from other religions have hailed the gesture unanimously.
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said the mosque’s response was “fantastic”. He said: “Tea, biscuits, and football are a great and typically Yorkshire combination when it comes to disarming hostile and extremist views.”
Father Tim Jones, who went to the Bull Lane mosque, which is situated in his parish, said: “I’ve always known they were intelligent and compassionate people and I think this has demonstrated the extent to which they are people of courage – certainly physical courage and also a high degree of moral courage. I think the world can learn from what happened outside that ramshackle little mosque on Sunday.” Hull Road ward councillor Neil Barnes said it had been a “proud moment for York”.
He said: “I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day that the York Mosque tackled anger and hatred with peace and warmth – and I won’t forget the sight of a Muslim offering a protester tea and biscuits with absolute sincerity.”

o-MOSQUE-YORK-EDL-TEA-570

The York mosque and congregation on tea and biscuit day.

David Icke, during his Wembley presentation last October said that violent protests usually don’t work and I agree. While I think showing up to demonstrate support for a particular stance whether it is against the Iraq war, or even last weekend’s March Against Monsanto to let politicians and policy-makers know when something isn’t cool, politicians and industrialists will unfortunately keep furthering their own interests. It not only takes an active citizenry but also a sympathetic police force and military/security apparatus to switch sides to carry out real change.

“We need what I call the Non-Comply Dance…where people dance to a different drum, dance to a different beat,…No no more do we comply out of fear of not complying with these dark suits and people, we stop complying but we stop complying with a smile on our face and a heart that’s open, not in anger, not in bitterness, but in steely “We are not having it”. So we hold our vibration and don’t get pulled into their’s …We can go on protests and hurl abuse and stuff like that through our anger, understandably so…but what does it do? What does it achieve? It just feeds the dragon, feeds the demon…so why don’t we think of another way?”

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Categories: Ch-ch-ch-changes, Politico, Raise your EQ, Think like the Illuminati, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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