Saturday, January 30, 2010

Whale Wars

Recently I came across an intriguing documentary series called Whale Wars. At the time I was trying to find a good show for my kids to watch, and since Zeke likes whales (excuse me, humpback whales) I thought this looked like a good one. I was surprised then to see preview scenes from the show which looked much more like modern day pirate ships in battle, than a documentary about whales. Indeed I quickly figured out the premise of the show. The show follows a non-profit environmental direct-action group called Sea Shepherd. On the show they are engaging in direct action activism against Japanese whalers in the Antarctic. The Sea Shepherds intentions are to stop what they call illegal whaling activities. To do this they use whatever non-violent tactic they can to physically stop the whalers from killing whales, hoping to cut into their profits enough to cause them to abandon whaling.

First of all, I highly recommend everyone to watch this series, its amazing. Even if you don't agree with what Sea Shepherd is doing, its an enthralling saga. It has forced me to reflect upon my stance on two issues: Environmentalism and Direct-Action activism. First, environmentalism.

There are probably lots of different definitions of the word, but what I mean by enviromentalism, is the general idea that we ought to protect the environment from harm. That includes plants, animals, soil, rivers, humans, etc. It is looking out for the health of the planet, human, non-human, living, non-living. Everything.

The reason to protect all of these things from harm is from my perspective, simple; God created the eco-system to be a perfectly balanced system which sustain all life on earth. For example, to destroy an entire species of animals is to destroy the balance in the eco-system that God created. Which is to destroy that which God called, "Good." Indeed what we have found in studying the environment is that the Eco-system is heavily vested in the preservation of plant and animal species diversity. And to sustain that, we must have quality air, water, and earth.

The problem lies in humanities insatiable desire to plunder the earth for whatever reason. This problem has been around for thousands of years, but it has been taken to a whole new catastrophic level with the introduction of the industrial revolution. With the use of fuel burning machines and technology, we can now plunder the earth at an unprecedented rate. This is a major problem for us humans. We are completely, 100% reliant on a healthy Eco-system. If the environment is destroyed, so is humanity. If the environment is unhealthy, so is humanity. Thus environmentalism is finally concerned with human life, and healthy human life at that.

My conclusion: Since God created the environment to sustain life on earth and commanded us to care for it, and because human life is 100% reliant on a health eco-system, I must protect it from harm. I guess I am an environmentalist of sorts.

Now as for Direct-action activism. This is a new idea to me. My understanding of direct-action activism is that it originates with the "monkey wrenchers." These were people who intentionally tried to sabotage their employers by disabling equipment used to make products, and thus cutting into their profit. The goal was to make the profit driven owner of the business to realize that his workers were not going to stand for unfair wages and treatment. This is different and distinct from protesting or other forms of activism which simply strongly request employers to do the right thing.

In the case of the Sea Shepherd campaigns against the Japanese whalers, this means trying to disable their boats by getting ropes caught in their propellers, throwing stink bombs onto their decks to make uncomfortable working conditions, and possibly tainting the whale meat so it can't be sold for food. All their tactics are non-violent and every effort is made to ensure that nobody is ever injured in these campaigns.

It should be stated that whaling has been outlawed. The only exception to this law is that whales can be killed for research. And as a part of that law, when whales are killed for research, the researchers are not allowed to waste any part of the whale. So they sell the meat on the open market in Japan. After studying it more in depth it becomes quite apparent that these Japanese whalers are not concerned about research, as they say, but are in it for the multi-million dollar pay off. After all, is it even possible that in order to research whales, the Japanese must kill 1,000 whales every year, which is their self-inflicted quota?

It should also be stated that Sea Shepherd sails under a U.N. charter which allows for non-government organizations to enforce law on the open sea when no government entity is enforcing the law. The problem is that no one can decide who is right. The whalers and Sea Shepherd are therefore left to fight it out in the Antarctic. Hence, 'Whale Wars.'

But aside from the question of who is right in the situation, I have to ask whether I agree with direct action activism or not. I am on the fence. It certainly seems like at the very least, Sea Shepherd have (A) saved whales and (B) raised awareness of whats going on in the Antarctic. They have certainly caused me to think about how I need to be treating the earth. So it seems successful. I will also say that I find myself in strong support of Sea Shepherd. That's not to say that all environmentalists are. For instance, Green Peace is an outspoken critic of Sea Shepherd. They are in favor of indirect forms of activism, like protesting and raising awareness through taking pictures. Perhaps all forms of activism should be encouraged except that which does harm to humans, plants or animals. They are complimentary.

So there you have it, check out Whale Wars and let me know what you think.

Peace on Earth,

More on Anarchy

After my last post on the subject of anarchy a good friend of mine who has never considered himself to be an anarchist has been asking me a lot of questions and has helped me to articulate my thoughts on anarchy. I would love to share more about what many call, "Christian Anarchy."

Let me make clear, that this is not some 'baptized' form of anarchy, like you might think of 'christian t-shirts' or 'christian wrestling.' No, this is more like a theology, ideology and most important, a way of life. Christian Anarchist are not attempting to take a purely secular idea and try to fit Jesus into it or vice versa. Anarchism is simply a good description of the teachings of Christ. Much like you would say 'love' is a good description of Jesus' teachings.

Teachings like, "love your enemies," "do good to those who harm you," "when someone asks you to go one mile, go two," "do not resist an evil doer," "give to those who ask of you," etc etc. In fact, i would challenge anyone to find a teaching of Jesus that is not in line with Anarchism. They don't exist. Anarchism, or the idea of not ruling over others, is a good description of Jesus' teaching.

A large part of Christian Anarchism is the idea that there is to be no authority, save the authority of God. He is the creator and origin of life, He is good and pure, He transcends time and space, and greatest of all, He is love and thus He is the only One worthy and capable of authority. He is The Authority. (I imagine the word authority comes from the same root word as author. this would mean something like, the author of a book has authority over the book, and thus the author of life, has authority over life. hmmm)

The interesting thing about God is that his use of authority is anything but what we have come to understand authority as. His 'rule' is far different than what we think of 'rule'. He is the King who intentionally places himself at our level. He works within our framework, he works within our systems. He relates personally to humanity. He has even demonstrated that he is willing to be swayed by human requests.

He is the God who came to earth and cared nothing for and even resisted the idea of ruling over humanity. Instead he chose to serve humanity as if he were a servant. Who is this God? I can hear myself asking the same questions the disciples were asking. "If this man is who he says he is, clearly he would be the best man for the job of King. Lets militarily place him in authority." But for whatever reason, he says 'no.' Whatever 'authority' and 'rule' mean to Him, its much different than our conceptions.

(For a good read on this idea of hierarchy in the trinity and with humanity, check out The Shack. It gives an amazing argument for anarchical relationships and describes well how we are caught in a hierarchical mindset, which finds it extremely difficult to imagine relationship without hierarchy. But the fact is, truly loving relationship by necessity must be without hierarchy.)

Anarchism for followers of Jesus means relating to one another in a non-coercive manner. In a loving manner. And our source of authority, is Yahweh, The Living God, the Creator of the universe who was revealed in Jesus the Messiah. Furthermore, since control of our behavior is not external, it must come from within. It is a fruit of the Spirit: self-control. Even God who is The Authority, will not force us to do anything, but calls us to live righteously, in love. He commands, but does not force, good behavior.

Likewise, let us call ourselves and others to a life of sacrificial love, but may we never force others into it. It wouldn't work even if we tried. May we remain Anarchists.

Baruck Attah Adonai Eloheinu melek Ha olam.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe.

May The Lord have mercy on us all,