Achieving Freedom and Democracy for West Papua

Morning Star flag

Inhabited for some 45,000 years, West Papua became part of the Dutch East Indies in the 17th century. After the second world war, the Netherlands eventually recognised Indonesian claims for independence, excluding Dutch New Guinea. In the latter a national parliament was elected in 1961. Indonesia, under Sukarno, engaged in military interventions in the region without success. But the possibility of a conflict lead to a UN agreement transferring authority to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) and then to Indonesia in 1963.

In 1969, the United Nations supervised an "Act of Free Choice", where Indonesian military appointed elders agreed to be part of Indonesia. Released documents show that the decision of the hand-picked individuals to integrate with Indonesia was anything but an act of free choice. (c.f., http://web.archive.org/web/20110106101458/http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/N...)

Interview with Cham Shareef, in Damascus.

combined Syrian flag

Welcome to the Isocracy Network Cham Shareef, and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you describe to our readers who you are, and you became involved in the campaign against the al-Assad Ba'athist regime? How do you - and for that matter, other Syrians - survive in what is obviously very difficult circumstances?

Thank you for your interest to know what I think or what I want to say. I am grateful to learn that someone somewhere cares about my opinion.

For years my friends hated to talk with me around political issues or about the government. They always said that I am a talkative man and were worried that one day I would disappear.

I always knew that somebody listened to me, but the most thing I understood was; there was always a fight between me and those visitors holding in their hand a book to write about me, what I was doing, what I was thinking - everything they could learn about me in order to send me behind the sun. They could also threaten me and take money from me as a bribe. Those "intelligent" always treat us as we were the enemy, and we were under suspicion or accusation of something we might not know about ourselves.

They used to put their nose in everything or anything you might do for work or in your life. In simple words, in Syria with this regime the truth is their enemy. You can't talk about anyone in the government, not even about the smallest one there.

Isocracy Submission to the UN on Responsibility to Protect

UN Keeper in Sudan - Image from the UN
Please find attached the response of the Isocracy Network, Inc. based on the request for inputs for the 2013 Report of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect.

We understand that submissions were due on 19 April 2013, but have been informed that there has been an extension.

The Isocracy Network, Inc. is primarily an organisation of political and economic ideas. Nevertheless, the issues raised by the legal norms encapsulated as the responsibility to protect are of particular importance to us, thus our contribution. Due to our limited involvement in international preventative activity our contribution is limited to the first three and question eight.

Freedom of Speech and the Right to Remain Silent

the right not to remain silent
Just the fact that the New South Wales Parliament considered revoking the right of its citizens to remain silent when being questioned by police is mind boggling enough in itself. That this bill actually passed, and was paid for with the standard thirty pieces of silver that is the due of those who betray the people that they are supposed to be representing, is unbelievable. Regardless of the motivation there can never be sufficient reason to compel anyone to be a witness against themselves and by undermining this fundamental human right the NSW Liberal Party have revealed their truest intentions. If ever there was a time when we should be using our much vaunted freedom of speech to speak out against abuses of our freedom then this de-evolutionary step towards autocratic tyranny is one.

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

Thomas Jefferson, Preamble to a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, Fall 1788

"Islamofascism": A Real Term for a Real Problem

Flag of Majlis

Excuses for the abuse of universal rights are never acceptable, even if the abuses are carried out by religious or ethnic groups which they themselves can be subject to discrimination. It is ridiculous to describe a person as bigoted, or even more inaccurately and unscientifically as "racist", when the gross abuses of human rights committed under the name of Islam are noted, or when theocratic organisations of the same ilk are described as "Islamofascist". The use of the term may be abused by religious bigots of other denominations. It may be abused by warmongers who desire access to a country's resources that are under the control of an Islamic dictatorship, or by bigots who assign all Muslims under the banner [1]. But this does not address the main points of similarity where it does exist, such as those once illustrated by Christopher Hitchens [2]; a glorification of death and murder, a hostility to modernity and nostalgia for a medieval past, anti-Jewish paranoia, commitment to sexual and gender repression, and opposition to artistic expression. In short, a rejection of individual rights and civil liberties. It is no accident that such organisations and regimes are collectivist and organised through an elite vanguard.

Chávez in Retrospect

Chavez march in Timor Leste
Less than two years ago, the Isocracy Network published a brief piece on the Venezuelan elections and the major economic and political changes that had occurred in that country in the preceding decade [1]. Standing outside of the hyperbolic opposition of the (usually) U.S. right-wing who condemned the Chávez government, sometimes for an apparent lack of democracy but mostly for its socialism, and the similarly the Chavistas of the left who could see in no (or at best) very little wrong with his rule. In contrast to these positions, the Isocracy Network article noted the real reductions in poverty, establishment of co-operatives, land reform, health care and education, employment, and improvements in real GDP. These were largely built on oil wealth, operating on a sound principle that natural resource wealth belongs to the people in common, and achieved more with elections that were mostly free, albeit insufficiently fair. Now that Chávez has died, like so many others it is necessary to engage in a retrospective.

The Contribution of Unitarian-Universalists to Isocracy

Unitarian-Universalist chalice

Initially I felt some unease when approached to present today's address on 'isocracy'. I do not particularly care for presentations here which are solely dedicated to political issues that do not refer to our liberal religious tradition, least of all by members of the church. If I want strictly social and political discussion there are these organisations called "political parties" where one's contributions are far more useful and effective. But then I was reminded of my very first encounter with Unitarian-Universalism, over twenty years ago through reading a book entitled "Legitimation Crisis" by Jürgen Habermas. This short, dense, carefully researched book of extraordinary scope was first published in 1973 is arguably the most important contributions to social theory in the last fifty years. The author, an extremely well-known as a "public intellectual" in Europe and in the academic world, is the main contemporary representative of a school of thought known as critical theory a body of intellectuals initially centered around the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research in Germany in the 1920s.

Voluntaryism: Exploitation Pretending to Be Anarchism

Voluntaryist logo
'Voluntaryism' is a new word for 'anarchism' being used by pro-capitalist, right-wing "libertarians" who tired of defending their views on the wage system and absentee land ownership from criticism by actual anarchists. Yes, 'actual anarchists'; anarchists are historically and ideologically anti-capitalist. Anarchism is the belief in the creation of human societies where all individuals are free to reach their greatest possible potential absent coercion, not a clean slate where individuals can position themselves above others in society and use that position to extract wealth from their labor.

In contrast, voluntaryists like to reduce all matters of moral action down to the voluntary consent of individuals while completely ignoring presupposed environmental variables which they sneak in the backdoor. For instance, one can easily say that I "voluntarily" pay rent to live in this apartment. And indeed, I of my own will cash my check and deposit the money into the landlord’s account on a monthly basis. Indeed, I signed the contract agreeing to pay this amount monthly. What voluntaryists ignore however, is that I by my very nature do not have a choice in whether I occupy space on the planet, or whether the "right" to occupy that specific space has been claimed by someone else. They ignore the consequences of not paying rent, homelessness, while claiming that the payment of rent represents a voluntary agreement. The threat of homelessness in this case could be easily equated to the threat of an armed robbers gun. Sure it can be said one voluntarily gives up their valuables to the robber if we choose to ignore the coercive variable which compel them to do so, their own necessity. It could just as easily be said that a 19th century English peasant voluntarily accepted monarchy by bowing to royalty if we ignore the law commanding them to do so.

Are Wars Inevitable?

"We've always had wars. Humans are a warring species. Without an army to defend us, someone will always try to conquer us."

These assumptions have become axioms of our culture. They generate despair but also a certain comfort because they relieve us of the responsibility to change.

Some politicians and pundits declare that human nature makes peace impossible, that war is built into our genes. They point to research by evolutionary biologists that indicates our closest genetic relatives, the chimpanzees, make war. Therefore war must be part of our heredity.

Peace with Justice in Syria

The reaction of progressive activists to the bombing of Gaza by Israel, such as the events of this week (Operation Pillar of Defense) or more extensively to Operation Cast Lead, is immediate and justifiable. How passionate we were, and rightly so, when Israel engaged in its onslaught against Gaza in Operation Cast Lead just a few years ago. But today in Syria the regime has killed more than ten times as many civilians and the only protests we see are those carried out by a handful of Syrian expatriates. Robert Fisk wryly remarks "we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the West and its Israeli allies; but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs". [1] Fisk is equally wise in suggesting that for those who engage in an amoral calculus, that this is a proxy war on Iran.

It is nevertheless perplexing to witness the lack of concern; Jonathan Freedland wonders about this strange pariochial internationalism [2], however in the comments that follow that something can be discerned. There are fears that the Syrian opposition is largely controlled by foreign Islamist forces, and that they are no friends of the liberal and democratic Arab Spring of the successful revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. On a related matters, there are those who argue that the the Syrian opposition has been as guilty, at least, at human rights abuses in the civil war. Others are concerned with the potential of international intervention and liberal imperialism, especially after the events of Libya. These are reasonable claims for concern. On a politically amoral level, there are those progressives who do not speak out because of the geopolitical implications, or even because they have sympathy with the Baathist regime and its ideology. Unsurprisingly, because these positions are the most distant from the internationalist libertarian socialist perspective of isocracy they can be dealt with first.

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