04/13/17Words As Weapons“Cautiously Pessimistic” Thoughts from South Korea by Chris Tharp
Words As Weapons

CAUTIOUSLY PESSIMISTIC
(by Chris Tharp)

When I moved to South Korea in 2004, I was fully aware that this particular rocky outcropping of Asia was a dangerous place to call home. Sure, on the surface, day-to-day, this country is one of the safest places I could possibly be, but I knew well that the war—which never technically ended—could blast back up at any moment. Still, it had been fifty years of relative peace since that meat grinder of a conflict, so I was willing to roll the dice.

Since that time there have been numerous rumblings and outright incidents that have pushed things to the edge. There have been exchanges of live fire across the DMZ; in 2008 a South Korean tourist was shot and killed by a Northern soldier after she wandered into a “restricted area” at a mountain resort just over the border; in 2010, a North Korean sub sank the Southern naval vessel “Cheonan,” killing 46 sailors; later that year the North launched an artillery attack on the South’s Yeonpyeong Island, killing four, with the South returning fire and taking out a few North Korean soldiers of their own.

On all of these occasions things came perilously close to truly kicking off, but each time things simmered down and things went back to business as usual. I suspect that, here in the South at least, there is just too much to lose. This is a rich country where a lot of people are gorging on the fruits of prosperity. Who wants to risk it all over a few face-losing incidents? It’s just the price of doing business.

Each time things boil up here I am faced with the same questions from folks back home. They ask me if I’m worried. I tell them that I’m “cautiously pessimistic,” but not overly concerned. They wonder about the locals, how the actual South Koreans I know feel about things. I tell them that over the decades most people have inured themselves to the bellicosity of the North, that despite some shocking flare-ups, people tend to carry on as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. And even if they are panicking inside, they tend not to show it. When asking my wife about the situation just yesterday, she shrugged, sighed and said, “What can I do about it? I’ll just live my life.”

A few days ago I awoke to the news that President Donald Trump has ordered an “armada” (his word) of U.S. warships, including the carrier USS Carl Vinson, to turn around and head straight for the waters off of Korea. This comes on the eve of what most think will be North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. This comes just days after a US missile attack on Syria that seemingly reversed every policy pronouncement he had made regarding that country. This comes on the heels of several of his disturbingly hawkish tweets such as this:

“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

How does he plan, exactly, to “solve the problem?”

This is what has me more concerned than I ever have been in a decade plus of living here. Donald Trump, the lightweight–the complete rube unschooled in even the junior high basics of East Asia policy and history—is making wild threats and pronouncements, backed up with the most formidable arsenal on the planet. Trump is sloppily dog paddling in waters well over his head, and is endangering the lives of all of us who live here on the peninsula. The situation in Korea is a swimming pool filled with gasoline, and he’s a drunken frat boy fucking around with a lit Roman candle.

The only good news out of this bowl of bees is that there are signs that Trump may actually have started to listen to Xi Jinping of China, who sadly seems to be on the only adult in the room. In a recent meeting, Xi had to patiently explain to Trump the history of China and Korea, how China can’t just snap its fingers and make North Korea do its bidding, how it’s a complicated situation. This seemed to open Trump’s dull toad eyes, at least for the time being.

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. … But it’s not what you would think.”

Can we breathe a sigh of relief? Perhaps. I have no illusions about North Korea. They are a criminal regime and among the worst human rights abusers on the planet, but any kind of unilateral attack by the United States will only result in catastrophic bloodshed here in Korea and perhaps beyond. Containment is the only way, and working with China is the best way to achieve this. Their patience with their “ally” in the North wore thin a long time ago. If North Korea tests another nuclear device it will only serve to drive the Chinese away.

Still, I don’t trust a US president who is so obviously unprepared for the job. I just don’t think the guy gets the real world implications of his actions, or more likely, in his gold-plated narcissistic world, he just doesn’t care.

As for me, this is my home. This is my life. I would hate to see it reduced to radioactive ruin because a mentally unbalanced man-child woke up in a pissy mood and decided to attack. And I’m not talking about Kim Jong-eun.

(Follow Chris on Facebook)

03/13/17Words As WeaponsMy mind is my worst dumb enemy…
Words As Weapons

The definition of irony and a perfect example of how our brains can be our worst enemies…

 
Last night in Calgary I spoke at The Good Life Bike Shop about how we get into our heads about a certain self identity (usually in hardcore/punk its something having to do with anger/rage/etc and how those qualities are essential to our character, or about something disconnected from reality). I tried to make the point that we’d do better to tap into our vulnerability, because thats a far more common and deeper thread between people. I talked about how the ripple affect of being vulnerable can reach far further than our rage. 
 
I thought my spoken set was all over the place. A disjointed and scattered mess. I didn’t connect nearly as much as I should to the space we were in. (The Good Life Community Bicycle Shop is a nonprofit education and resource centre founded on the values of: mutual aid, equality, inclusion, anti-oppression, and connection to and care for the environment. We use bicycles as a vehicle to empowering individuals and communities in becoming increasingly resourceful, resilient, responsible, and caring.)  I shared a story here and one there with a tie in through them all, but it was far from clear and concise.  I usually like to have a solid and clear takeaway message that could be easily distilled in one sentence or less.  And a set length on a tour like this when I am not headlining, of about thirty minutes max. I spoke for nearly 45 minutes last night.  Afterwards, I spent the entire night in my head about it, deconstructing it, trying to figure out how I could have made it better, frustrated with myself about not being more clear for the audience so that they had the takeaway I had hoped for. Wishing I had tied it all in more to what the collective who hosted us had as their core values. It could have been better. I thought and thought and twisted it around for hours in my mind.
 
I just got a message from someone at the show which said “Last night was was my friends first show and he said he was anxious at first but after hearing you speak, he understood and respected the scene more then he ever had before.”
 
And I spent the night tearing myself apart for what I didn’t do, rather than thinking about the potential ripple effect – as was my core message – about what I actually might have done with what I did say.  We cut ourselves down way too often like complete idiots. 

Humans are ridiculous and I am at the top of the list.  

Thanks for the reality check, Calgary.  I will see you again sometime soon.

03/09/17Words As WeaponsInternational Women’s Day
Words As Weapons

I spent my International Women’s Day speaking at two shows in Fargo North Dakota about the most important woman in my life: my mom.

I told the story of how my parents met as a result of my mother being a renegade as a teenager and breaking rules at a dance. And then years later, when she was disrespected by a principal while working as a schoolteacher, she decided to get pregnant, quit her job, and have a child instead of continuing to work for an oppressive school administration. Cue little Greg being conceived and brought into this world in an act of defiance against authority.

My mom is a woman of strength, creativity, empathy and courage. She has always been an example for me of what is possible when you combine heart, voice, and passion. She inspires people in all walks of her life, me especially.

When I think of International Women’s Day, I think of powerful leaders, inspired mothers, devoted daughters, dear friends, sensitive healers, allied comrades and clear visionaries.

My mom is all those things and more, and tonight I send love to her from across the country in Fargo ND.

03/04/17Words As WeaponsWhether ten people or a thousand
Words As Weapons

It’s hardcore. And this means that you turn it on and give it everything you’ve got, whether you’re playing or speaking to ten people or a thousand. And so often the nights with ten people yield some of the strongest connections and lasting friendships in the long run. People want connection. They want meaning. That’s why they are here. And they can smell from a mile away the bullshit of someone just going through the motions.

If, and it’s the huge if, regardless of the number of people in the room, you’ve played it like it was the last show of your life, then the night is going to resonate no matter what.

Being on tour with bands that just get it feels like we’re a collective force of passion and intensity which is unbreakable. Tonight was Franklin Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis. Maybe fifteen people at the show. In a huge empty space. And it was perfect. This was a night that’s echoing for me all the way into the morning now.

It’s hardcore. And when it’s right, whether ten people or a thousand, it feels like the world is ours. It shakes us down to our bones.

(Great Reversals onstage here killing it, followed by my spoken word set, followed by my dear friends Steven Muczynski, Mike Moynihan, and their immense band Hollow Earth to close out the night)

 

03/01/17Words As WeaponsSpoken word tour with Hollow Earth!
Words As Weapons

Tour starts tomorrow in Chicago!  I will be doing the first two weeks of this tour, up until the Seattle show, with the exception of Kelowna (which I am working on rescheduling for myself for April or May) and Vancouver (same deal there).  I had to fly away from tour due to a commercial speaking engagement coming up for me.

STOKED to see friends!

 

 

Words As WeaponsEvery Human Has Rights shirt now available
Words As Weapons

A benefit shirt has been posted for One Hundred For Haiti which speaks to the ideas in this blog…

Available now: a benefit shirt for One Hundred For Haiti and our friends the Hardcore Help Foundation (HHF) in Europe.  The result of a brainstorm between Rico of the HHF and me one day at Ieperfest in Belgium while we were sitting around talking about how we could collaborate.

“EVERY HUMAN HAS RIGHTS” printed on 100% cotton, fair trade shirts.

17 euros plus shipping and available from the Hardcore Help Foundation online store.  And USA friends have no fear: shipping rates from Europe are far less than when we ship stuff TO Europe from here…so please order with wild abandon and be stylish as well as helpful for the work we do.

01/31/17Words As WeaponsOur “mountainish inhumanity”…
Words As Weapons

Amidst the shock doctrine surrounding us and the confusion of this first Trump week which has us all understandably scrambling, I am committing to making time for educating myself and looking back on history to see how our features and traits have descended through time. These features and traits are the tendencies which are being used and manipulated to have us respond the way we currently are. What is our humanity. What does it mean. What negativity in each of us has prevailed over time. Where does our fear originate and why. What is it in ourselves and others that causes us to act the way we do.

Five hundred years ago, in May of 1517, an anti-immigrant riot broke out in London. The general population had been swept up into a crazed frenzy out of fear of losing jobs and social status to foreigners.

That tells us something about us: that five hundred years worth of time has passed yet society creates similar conditions. It tells us about our willingness as people to pinpoint an enemy. And about our psychology as we deal with that enemy. This isn’t restricted to the Trump followers. It’s within all of us: the tendency to define a threatening other and declare them the reason for our ills. This comes out of fear of losing our significance and needing an enemy. We would be wise to explore this in each of ourselves as we berate the fascist Trump and his handlers Steve Bannon because it could be tomorrow that we ourselves are triggered to respond in the same way that the crazed anti-immigrant contingency is currently praising Trump for the idiotic concept of protecting us by closing our borders. We need to continually fight and yet continually reflect at the same time.

I’m reading Shakespeare’s account of Thomas More standing and delivering his impassioned speech to the angry London mob in 1517. He pleads with them to consider their “mountainish inhumanity”.

Listening in on history we see how little has changed over five hundred years. This above all else this morning concerns me.

“Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.”

– The Book of Sir Thomas More, Act 2, Scene 4

01/26/17Words As WeaponsHow Trump Will Trick the World
Words As Weapons

Trump’s idiotic doublespeak on ABC tonight about how Mexico will be paying for the wall can be translated this way:

He will be taking money which would have been used in aid packages from the USA to Mexico to build the wall. Then, without any money changing hands he will be able to say that Mexico “paid” for the wall. Problem solved.

For the record, every person I met or talked to in Mexico over the last couple weeks thinks Trump is a fool. They hate his wall. They hate him. They have no interest in paying for the wall. They are human beings. They are not worker slaves the way NAFTA defined them twenty years ago. They are people with dignity.

Best quote of the last couple weeks, and I heard variations on this repeatedly from different people in different cities across Mexico:

“You can build walls. We can build tunnels.”

01/25/17Words As WeaponsIn less than a week…
Words As Weapons

In less than a week…

— Dangerous and unpopular pipelines of questionable economic value to the US become a priority. Coincidentally, Trump has a financial interest in these projects.

— An executive order to begin rolling back the ACA, which will negatively affect the markets and leave millions unable to get health insurance.

— The abject dismissal of the largest public protest in American history.

— Confirmation that Trump will never release his taxes, despite repeated promises to do so. Although 65% of Americans want his taxes released and 200+K have signed a White House petition, the administration claims that people just don’t care.

— The first volley in an assault on women’s reproductive rights and women’s health in this country and abroad.

— Outright and obvious lies from the press secretary about crowd size to protect Trump’s fragile ego during perhaps the most embarrassing, “Baghdad Bob” style press conferences in modern American history.

— The notion of “alternative facts” is promoted by the highest levels of our government.

— A hiring freeze for federal workers (except the military!) based on the demonstrable lie that the government has seen a dramatic expansion in recent years.

— A federally funded investigation into the baseless claim that there were more than 3 million illegal votes cast against him, all to protect his fragile ego. (But not a word about Russian interference in the election, which our intelligence agencies have agreed upon.)

— Bans against communicating with and sharing scientific data with the public for agencies concerned with the environment and climate change.

— Continued threats against the Constitutionally guaranteed free press.

(written by David M. Russell)

– In addition: begins motion on building a wall against Mexico, taking funds from aid to Mexico to cover the idea that “mexico will pay for the wall”. Their aid package will be decreased so it will seem like they paid for it.  This, while homelessness is on the rise and the infrastructure of the USA (bridges and roads) needs support and immediate attention. What a waste of resources.

01/02/17Words As WeaponsMexico Greg Bennick / Rene Espinoza 2017 “Counterintelligence: Spoken Word / Listening Tour”
Words As Weapons

GREG BENNICK / RENE ESPINOZA
COUNTERINTELLIGENCE SPOKEN WORD / LISTENING TOUR of MEXICO 2017
www.wordsasweapons.com
https://www.facebook.com/fuerzabooking

Like the rest of the world, I was shocked at the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. Trump promotes racism through his anti-immigration policies and his promise to build a wall “and make Mexico pay for it” (regardless of whether or not he ever follows through with that plan). Racism and xenophobia are only two of multiple aspects of Trump which are threatening to human rights.

Trump being elected has empowered white supremacism in the USA. This means gun wielding border patrol patriots who will now feel even more protected as they shoot first and ask questions later. Trump is surrounding himself with people in his political cabinet who will help him achieve a goal of a stronger white America.

My idea was this:

• Since intelligence in a post-truth world is invalidated by emotional reaction to nonsensical misdirections: Trump’s tweets and so on, the more we react, we embolden the enemy. Burning an American flag for example provides propaganda tools for the opposition to use against us. We need to be thinking clearly, locally, immediately, openly, and calmly about strategy, and not reacting. The intelligence we need is counter to that information which is presented to us, not in line with it. We must burn our own course through this new era of thoughtless propagandizing.

• The idea: I would come to Mexico for the two weeks prior to the election (the 7th or 8th of January through the 21st which is the day after the inauguration)

• I would do a spoken word tour of Mexico (hardcore / punk shows, community centers, any gathering place) and spend 20-30 minutes each night speaking and sharing perspectives, then one hour each night LISTENING. Rene Espinoza of Fuerza Booking who would be promoting the tour would be with me helping to translate, compiling notes with me, and offering critical perspectives as a Mexican currently living in Mexico. We would be listening to local people describe their perspectives on Trump, on racism, on immigration, on NAFTA, on the economic conditions in Mexico….and what can be done about all of this.

• At the end of the tour, Rene and I would compile notes from each night and put it all together – in English and in Spanish – an action guide which would tell everyone in ALL of the cities, the ideas of all the other cities and share thoughts on what people are feeling and how they are thinking of reacting to this new political era.

We asked promoters across Mexico: is this tour a good idea, would it be useful or helpful, and do you want to participate? Everyone said “YES”.

These are the tour dates, and for more information contact Rene Espinoza at Fuerza Booking Mexico https://www.facebook.com/fuerzabooking

January 8th Tijuana w/Rats in the wall @ Bad Brew Bar
January 9th Hermosillo @ MiniBona/january 10th Culiacan @ Cafe Marimba
January 11th Durango @ mr ink /january 12th San Luis Potosi @Politica en el Bar
January 13th Guanajuato @ Bar Fly
January 14th Ciudad de Mexico @ Foro Bang Bang w/Xibalba
January 15th Guadalajara @ Foro Independencia w/Xibalba
January 16th Queretaro @ Cafe Grease Burger w/We believe
January 18th Gomez Palacio @ Secundaria Tecnica Maria del Refugio Zerchute de Padilla
January 19th Monterrey
January 20th Ciudad de Mexico @ Foro Alicia w/Madball

– – – – – – – – – –

Como el resto del mundo, estaba impactado por la reciente elección de Donald Trump a la presidencia de Los Estados Unidos. Trump promueve mediante sus políticas anti migratorias y con su promesa de “construir una barda y hacer que México pague por ella” ( se esto real o no) RACISMO.

El racismo y xenofobia son tan solo dos areas los cuales Trump promueve, violando de esta forma los derechos humanos.

Trump al ser elegido le ha dado poder a grupos que promueven la supremacist de la raza “blanca” en los Estados Unidos. Esto significa que los patriotas protectores de la fronteras ahora se sentirán con mayor derecho disparar primero y luego hacer preguntas. Trump esta rodeándose de personas en su gabinete que lo ayudaran su meta de construir América blanca.

Mi idea es la siguiente:

– desde que la inteligencia en el post-verdad a sido invalidada por reacciones emocionales a argumentos sin sentido tales como lo son lo siguiente: Trump con sus tweets busca generar reacciones de nuestra parte, entre más caso hagamos a este tipo de situación más poder estamos otorgando poder al enemigo. La quema de banderas por ejemplo provee herramientas a quienes nos oponemos para utilizarlas en nuestra contra.Debemos de pensar de manera inteligente con claridad, localmente, de forma inmediata, abierta y con tranquilidad sobre las estrategias que utilizaremos para contra restar los efectos generados por esta elección. La inteligencia que necesitamos deberá de ser contra restante a lo que se nos presenta y de ninguna manera debemos alinearnos a esta misma. Debemos de forjar nuestro propio curso de acción en esta era propaganda sin sustancia.

– La idea es la siguiente: visitar México durante las dos semanas previas a la toma de la presidencia ( 8 -21 de Enero)

– Llevaré acabo una gira de la platicas ( dentro de la escena Hardcore/punk, centros comunitarios, y cualquier otro tipo de puntos de reunión) y pasar entre 20-30 minutos cada noche conversando y compartiendo puntos de vista con los asistentes a las pláticas y escuchar a estos mismos. Rene Espinoza de Fuerza Booking estará promoviendo la gira ayudará traduciendo, compilando notas conmigo, y ofreciendo puntos de vista críticos como un mexicano que reside actualmente en este país. Escucharemos los puntos de vista de las personas de cada ciudad sobre Trump, con un enfoque en el racismo, políticas migratorias, el TLC, las condiciones económicas del país y lo que se puede hacer respecto a esto.

– Al final de la gira, Rene y yo compilaremos las notas que tuvimos después de cada fecha en las distintas ciudades, desarrollando una guía de acción la cual le comunicará al resto de las ciudades del país, las perspectivas e ideas sobre lo que las personas opinan y como se está reaccionando en esta nueva era política.

– Comentamos a varios promotores sobre la idea de realizar esta gira si sería útil y podría ayudar en algo, y si les gustaría ser partícipes estos nos dijeron que SI.

Estas son las fechas para la gira para mayores informes contacta a René en el siguiente sitio web:

www.facebook.com/fuerzabooking

January 8th Tijuana w/Rats in the wall @ Bad Brew Bar
January 9th Hermosillo @ MiniBona/january 10th Culiacan @ Cafe Marimba
January 11th Durango @ mr ink /january 12th San Luis Potosi @Politica en el Bar
January 13th Guanajuato @ Bar Fly
January 14th Ciudad de Mexico @ Foro Bang Bang w/Xibalba
January 15th Guadalajara @ Foro Independencia w/Xibalba
January 16th Queretaro @ Cafe Grease Burger w/We believe
January 18th Gomez Palacio @ Secundaria Tecnica Maria del Refugio Zerchute de Padilla
January 19th Monterrey
January 20th Ciudad de Mexico @ Foro Alicia w/Madball

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