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16 April 2009

"Revolution, Local Economy and Spirituality" Social Forum Plenary Speech



I spoke at the Lower Hudson Valley Social Forum Keynote Panal on March 28th, 2009, in the White Plains High School near New York City. It was a magical moment with organizer Nada Khader, executive director of WESPAC Foundation, the leading force in Westchester County for peace and justice work for over three decades. The first two speakers were Freida Jacques of the Onondaga Nation and Monica Walker, Diversity Officer for Guilford County Schools, North Carolina and CORE trainer with The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond spoke on institutionalized racism.

The transcript of my talk:

I grew up in this country, and when I went to college I had a poster on my wall. Che Guevarra, the great revolutionary, said, "At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love." I thought, that's what I want to be. I want to be a revolutionary guided by love.

Thirty-five years ago I learned yoga and meditation as a hobby. You know, reduce stress. It transformed my life. I didn't think I could feel so much strength and so much energy and so much passion and so much compassion. It inspired me to dedicate my life to humanity, and that's what this color orange that I wear means, that my life is dedicated to humanity. Many people confuse me with my twin brother from the Congo, Dada Gunamaya, who is also a monk and also dedicated to humanity. You'll notice the resemblance [laughter].

We try to teach revolution. We live in very interesting times right now. Starting about one year ago, there's an economic meltdown, that hasn't stopped. Every two months more than a million North Americans are losing their jobs. Trillions and trillions of dollars of "wealth" are disappearing every day. Financial institutions that are "too big to fail" are requesting the government to suddenly save them. But the government's not saving small business people, or small farmers or small houseowners, they're saving the big banks.

Always the most boring part of the news has been the business news. They like it that way. They don't want you to care about the economics, they use esoteric language so you can't understand what's going on. But it affects every single one of us every day. So they're saying, a little help and it'll be business as usual.

We say no. We're not interested in business as usual. We're not interested in oppression as usual or exploitation as usual, repression as usual. No thank you. We want a fundamental transformation of our world, which is usally called revolution.

What kind of world do we want? I was in Brazil for the first, second and third world social forums. A phenomenal experience. Twenty thousand the first time, seventy thousand people the second time, over a hundred thousand the third and fourth and fifth times. I was in Caracas for th sixth one, and I've been in social forums in Finland and UK and all over the world. And every one of them have the same theme: another world is possible. Well that shared dream, that we can have a better world than we have today, we can give a better world to our kids than this horrible mess that we've got today, gives us a question as well. What kind of world do we want?

You have the right to ask us questions, I also have the right to ask you questions. So what kind of world do you want? Can I hear some responses please?

Without toxins...
Conflict-free...
Equality...
Peace-makers...
Communities...
Sharing of cultures...
Tolerance...
Human rights are guaranteed...
Multiple distribution of wealth, wealth for everybody...
Without exploitation, slavery, racism, sexism...
Where jobs are not outsourced, where everybody who wants a job has a job, a basic human right...
Where you can vote for your boss, choose your boss or be your own boss...
Human needs are primary...
Tolerance and respect...
Housing for everyone...
Stop people from teaching hatred, teach love to everybody...
Time's up, sorry.

I give talks like this in six continents of the world. Always the responses in Poland and Philippines and India and China are always the same. People want a world without injustice, poverty, hunger, sharing the world, with environmental protection for everybody. This is a basic human right. It's such a simple thing when we have the technology. You know to give everyone a house, an education, food, clothing and medical care who doesn't have it would be really expensive. It would cost about 15 percent of the annual budget for arms and military in the world. This is not rocket technology we're talking about to give everybody a house, a place to sleep at night. We can do that. The basic fundamental right that everybody needs is food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care.

So what would a local economy instead of a global economy look like? Instead of outsourcing everything, you make cooperatives. Cooperatives are are cooperatively owned. Make every region as self-reliant as possible.

Prout stands for the Progressive Utilization Theory. It's a model, it's principles that can be applied holistically by any people who like them. It's not anything to be imposed on anybody. But we desperately need alternatives. Noam Chomsky wrote the preface for my book, "After Capitalism", and he said that "Prout's cooperative model... sharing the resources of the planet for the welfare of everyone, deserves our serious consideration."

I think from kindergarten to post-graduate, in schools at every level, kids should be asked, "What kind of world do you want?" It's such a basic question, to question the world we have and to question the world we want.

I also teach yoga and meditation because I believe that through meditation, peace of mind, silence can be attained. Meditation is in every culture of the world, it doesn't cost anything to try it. You can find that inner strength, that inner peace, you can find the spiritual base that is fundamental to all of us here. We are one human family. Everybody is brothers and sisters here. We have to save the plants and animals, who are also our brothers and sisters on this planet. And we have to build a better world. We can do it, it's absolutely necessary.

One small example, in Illinois, Chuck Paprocki has three acres of land and is providing fruits and vegetables to 100 families. He's part of a task force set up a year ago to try to help family farms. But during the last year suddenly this task force, "Local Food, Farms and Jobs" (www.foodfarmsjobs.org) created a report that was published three weeks ago. It states that in the state of Illinois, $45 billion was spent on food every year, and 98 percent of that was purchasing food from out of state. Environmentally this is a disaster, food is traveling 1,500 miles on average to get to your plate. They said, if we just gave 20 percent of all the food that our schools and hospitals serve every day to locally-grown food, it would create thousands of jobs in the state, it would keep money in the state, it would make much more healthy and nutritious food for everybody. I think every state should follow this example, and now it's passing the legislation there, where Democrats and Republicans both approve it.

I think everyone should follow the example of the Obama family: plant an organic vegetable garden in your backyard or on your rooftop or on your window sill. Everybody should do that. What a wonderful example. And we can live in a more holistic, in a better and healthier way, creating in effect a true human society for the first time in history. What an incredible, beautiful world that would be.

I would like to conclude by saying that one teaching of yoga and meditation is that every one of you has a potential, physical, mental and spiritual much more than you can possibly imagine. Become that potential. Become that pioneer. Let us work together, today and for the rest of our lives, to build a better world. To make a world for our children, for humanity, for everyone. Thank you very much.