Billy Bragg at NSWTF

Billy Bragg stopped by my work today to speak to our monthly council; I recorded some audio and video of him. He gave a very compelling speech about the importance of education in his life and for society. He also noted the importance of respect and civility online. You can listen to this and him singing a couple songs for us in the player below.

Passive Voice, Active Voice

I’m considering my voice—not my physical voice, but my ability to speak out to others and what means I have at hand to do so. I am, by nature, a quiet person and usually reluctant to speak or intervene. This might not readily change; I don’t think I’ll ever be the ‘in your face’ contender out on the frontline. But I do need to understand the bounds and abilities of my voice and use it wisely.
Last week I read several news articles relating to weapons, war, video games (playing at war) and the general glorification of violence as a social norm. I think we need to pause for consideration when a new battle simulation video game garners nearly $800 million in its first two days of sale in a time when there is such a need for the ending of wars and fostering peace. I know video games are the easy end of the spectrum to speak about, ‘oh, you know what happens when kids play those violent video games’. I’m not sure I do; but, regardless of what the games in themselves encourage in people’s minds, I do know that ‘actual war’ is increasingly engaged through the medium of a computer screen rather than in person. There are still troops on the ground facing real risk; but the movement is toward a sterile press the button and the figures on the screen are dead warfare. One of the other articles I read last week was about a new cruise missile in the US that can be launched from the States and basically target anything in the world within an hour. Soon, like an online multiplayer game, our wars may be fought by telecommuters at home in their socks.

Which brings me back to voice; I am, at this very moment, sitting at home in my socks. What havoc for peace might I bring from here? What is the balance of what I can and can’t do with these tools at hand? I don’t want that to sound like dithering as I am actually aware of what can be accomplished. It’s more a question of what is the next action and then the next. I know that, in the face of these conflicts we hear about abroad (and at home), that one voice may seem moot. But this is no reason or excuse not to speak (that’s been said over and again—one voice does make a difference when raised up in a chorus of others). I stood and spoke at Meeting on Sunday saying, It is neither weapons nor the glorification of violence that are evil’s most potent tools; war is best served by the apathy of those who do nothing to speak against it. That is the crux of it, if nothing else it is put upon me to speak what I may in the way open to me.

I interviewed John Michaelis, the editor of Quaker Voice on Wednesday at the Devonshire Street Meeting House here in Surry Hills. Quaker Voice will be (it’s still in the works) an online forum for ‘Quakers and likeminded people’ around the world to speak out and discern social issues where they are. It will be a conversation where that first person voice of real people on the ground is shared with others of concern (rather the opposite of digitally mediated warfare). I’ve just edited the interview with John and you can listen here:

Quaker Voice Devonshire Street Interview by quietamerican

Leah Samuelson Interview

Here is a twenty minute interview with mural artist Leah Samuelson from last Spring’s BuildaBridge Institute. We spoke about her teaching methodology and how she approaches a community about the process of mural making. Her work has brought her to ‘visionaries, personnel of biblical training institutions, schools, correctional facilities, slums, and palaces.’

McIntosh at the Big Tent Festival

This is a lecture presented to a packed out audience (at the Big Tent Festival) by Alastair McIntosh on his new book Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition. It’s published by Birlinn Press and can be ordered from their website or Amazon. I’m reading the book right now and will comment after finishing it; Alastair introduces the book and provides some context for the writing of it. It’s worth listening all the way through the end questions; his last comment is simultaneously inspirational and haunting.
Listen to the MP3 here—it’s about 40MB but should open in your browser.

Sorry for the slightly dodgy audio quality; I was tied into a PA system and the line feed was a bit overmodulated at times.

Several months ago, Alastair presented a similar lecture at the Centre for Human Ecology AGM; I recorded it and you can listen to the MP3 here.

Hell and High Water

I attended the Annual General Meeting of The Centre for Human Ecology in Edinburgh last night. Prior to the AGM, Alastair McIntosh spoke on his forthcoming book Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition (due out in May from Birlinn Press).
Alastair’s critique of the human condition in this book pulls us out of the technical realm of “fixing” the environment and into a larger discussion of the moral, social, and spiritual causes of our situation. From the publisher:

Climate change is the greatest challenge that the world has ever faced. In this groundbreaking new book, Alastair McIntosh summarises the science of what is happening to the planet – both globally and using Scotland as a local case study. He moves on, controversially, to suggest that politics alone is not enough to tackle the scale and depth of the problem. At root is our addictive consumer mentality. Wants have replaced needs and consumption drives our very identity. In a fascinating journey through early texts that speak to climate change – including the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, Plato’s myth of Atlantis, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth—McIntosh reveals the psychohistory of modern consumerism. He shows how we have fallen prey to a numbing culture of violence and the motivational manipulation of marketing. To start to resolve what has become of the human condition we must get more real in facing up to despair and death. Only then will we discover the spiritual meaning of these our troubled times. Only then can magic, new meaning, and all that gives life, start to mend a broken world.

I recorded his talk and the Q&A following (right before he starts speaking in the recording, he removes his jacket and jumper. The venue for the AGM was The Melting Pot in Edinburgh):

click here for the .mp3 podcast

Update: Okay, somebody has already asked—a few minutes into the lecture, Alastair uncorks something and pours a glass. Just to clarify, this is a glass of WATER not a glass of WHISKY!

Note that, after this cover was designed, Alastair considered the ultimate message and aim of the book. The word Hope was then added to the title—as hope is one of humankind’s most enduring and energetic abilities.