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Welcome to the MC Xander website. These blogs/writings/word streams I feel could be an important way for us to share ideas, and discuss themes that my music explores and that you guys I know are open to. One of the reasons that I do music, which is of course such an extroverted thing to do (especially for a mostly introverted person like me!) is that I want to connect with people on the same wavelength, kindrid spirits. I want to help strengthen a global community that is committed to the things that matter, the development of our personal and collective ideals and the creative expression of what we hold important. Certainlly, I get alot of people wanting to share there views on reality, I suppose I’m thinking this could be a good place to do so.
It's 9/11 - I'm watching a clip of Barack Obama on the BBC website warning people travelling to New York and Washington to 'be watchful' amid fears of an al-Qa'ida attack to coincide with the 10th anniversary of one of the most important days in American history. Why then, while the streets of New York are rammed with armed police, and flashing blue illuminates every block within a 2 mile radius of the so-called ground zero, am I boarding a plane from Heathrow to New York's JFK airport?
Well, here's why... Coinciding with the anniversary of that numerical spectre, I was one of hundreds of delegates to attend the annual Global Interdependence Day celebration, which is in a different city every year, but due to the gravity of history, a conference hall in Manhattan is this year's venue. It is a timely and symbolic place to continue some important conversations about who we are, how our actions effect others and how we can better live as a global community.
I first encountered The Global Interdependence Day Movement in Berlin a couple of years back, where I played them a couple of tunes, sat and listened to the lectures, participated in some of the debates, reflected and was genuinely, and passionately inspired by what they are trying to do. They are a network of individuals who care deeply about how humans can live in a more peaceful world, and are committed to action that might push us further towards a global recognition of unity. This year, speakers included Carol Gilligan (one of my favourite psychologists), Cornell West (Amazing philosopher who was also Councillor West in the Matrix - also co-wrote with Ken Wilber a commentary to the Matrix), and founder, Benjamin Barber. The premise behind the interdependence day (I-day) movement is that when separate groups of us think of each other as fundamentally and existentially divorced, we are much more likely to destroy one-another. What it seems to boil down to, is an issue of identity. If we could develop from an ethnocentric identity (me, my family, my tribe etc) to a global-centric identity (the world, all sentient beings), the theory goes that we stand a much greater chance of not wiping each other off the planet. Similarly, it is becoming increasingly clear that complex global problems call for systemic global solutions. Unless we can act as a functioning collective in matters of world importance, it is a bit like a three-legged race: except its actually a 193-legged race, and instead of a finishing line clearly marked in front of us, it is disputed even which direction we are supposed to be going in. Something like climate change, to name but one example, is simply not going to go away unless we start making decisions as one united, albeit diverse global community.
The movement charts its history to the aftermath of 9/11, where the Bush administration, influenced by neo-con policies of 'divide and rule', launched their woefully conceived 'war on terror'. At the same time, a small but committed group of writers, academics and activists began to consider deeply the alternatives to what they saw as the disastrous failings of US foreign policy. The events of 9/11 made America feel vulnerable, unsafe and insecure. For the first time since Pearl Harbour, they had received an attack on their soil, in their very heartland. The buildings in the 'shining city' were burning. How could this world super-power interpret an event of this magnitude and be reconciled with this monstrous demonstration of their frailty?
As humans, despite best laid plans, we are sometimes thrown into adversity that forces a response from us. Sometimes when something hateful comes to knock on our door, we react with more hate. Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth, there is always the promise of somehow beating hate into submission. And perhaps hate does retreat away for a time, but as history tells us, it will inexorably be back to haunt us. In reacting with vengeance, our actions obscure the antecedents and complex history behind an apparently 'unprovoked' attack. I am not about to start charting the devastating consequences of US and UK foreign policy on the geo-political and ideological climate of the middle east (watch Adam Curtis's The Power of Nightmares if you are under any illusions about the relationship between fanatic Jihadism and the Neo-Cons), but the fact of the matter is that while the mainstream 9/11 discourse focuses on America as Victim of Extremism, a more enlightened approach might see America as Global Interdependent Actor - embedded in the consequences of its actions. No longer can America be under the illusion that its war in the middle east is enacted 'out there', that the effects of its divisive foreign policy are felt far from its shores, that casualties are limited to 'unpersons' who look strange and speak different languages. Suddenly a clear and brutal connection was presented to us in the form of 9/11 - between 'us' and those sun-bleached far-off lands. In some ways they are not so far-off. Benjamin Barber calls 9/11 a missed opportunity: instead of using the terrorist attacks to consider more fully our engagement with the world, we used it to further cement the crude Hollywood-style polarisation between us ('the good guys'), and them ('the bad guys'). Not knowing exactly who the 'bad guys' were, the language used in retaliation was staggeringly oblique; we were to declare war on 'terror'. Not even considering the abysmal reality of that war, how was this very idea, to wage war on a concept, ever even remotely possible?
Any teacher knows that if you single out a naughty kid, and spend your energy trying to fight him or her into submission, you often make the problem worse. The good students, getting bored of this frustrating power struggle, and not receiving any energy from the teacher themselves, might even join in the mischief. The teacher, exasperated, uses more and more threats, shouting, but by now the whole atmosphere of the class is not one of learning, but conflict. America's engagement with the middle east is much the same. Instead of building bridges and understanding it uses drone attacks and ballistic missiles to attack a concept: that of terror itself. It builds walls and divisions in the hope of isolating a few trouble makers - with the hope that they will be too powerless to fight back. But as both wars in the middle east have demonstrated, it is remarkably difficult to attack an enemy that barely exists. Perhaps there is a hope that as the fight goes on, with the incursions creating a growing stream of young radicalised men ready to take up arms, it will be easier to find targets?
Not all atrocities need be countered with more violence. Sometimes, after terrible events, it is love and compassion that pierce through the veil of suffering. We only need to look to Norway's response following the recent shootings: 150,000 people on the streets of Oslo holding roses; one of the most potent symbols of love. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, instead of using the language of vengeance, called for tolerance, unity and love; despite the temptation towards hurting those that have hurt us, he was flatly refusing to let violence erode the fabric of compassion. This to me is not mere rhetoric. We know what collective kindness feels like. The palpable feeling of hundreds of thousands of people coming together over love is electric. It feels expansive and beautiful, it fosters a recognition that even as humans of every imaginable race or creed, we share a common ground. We all suffer, we all want to be safe and well. We all want to be happy. Barber, and many other speakers at the conference spoke of the need to instead invest in techniques of reconciliation, education, science, development, if we are to replace the eye-for-eye reaction which gets us nowhere. By fostering the conditions for interdependence, not just in the middle east, we are in effect giving faith to the idea that when humans identify with each other better, we don't want to harm each other. Interdependence will win in the end. One only needs to look at the connectionism and grass-roots power of the Arab Spring to see just how strong networks of common cause, against all odds, can oust more traditionally centralised power structures.
There were plenty more topics at this conference that I might write about later: climate change, religion, policies on domestic ethnic minorities, but I haven't even said anything yet about the gig! after all, I was supposed to be there to make music :) It was an incredible show, created by OneTaste called 'It starts with us' , which deals in a musical and artistic way with the idea that for true globalcentricity to emerge, we have to begin with our own person, we have to transcend selfishness ourself before there can be any talk of global interdependence... It starts with us. It combined snippets of the amazing film 'What About Me?' by the creators of One Giant Leap with music, spoken word and dance. The venue was the amazing 3 Legged Dog in Manhattan, only doors away from ground zero.
Hopefully I will post a link to that performance soon.
The I-Day movement are a growing force in global change, go and look at their website and see the sorts of things they do. http://www.civworld.org/web/home.html
As Margaret Mead famously said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."