Greetings, dear ones! I send blessings to you from a wet and unseasonably mild Wales, where a few flowers are still blooming. It's a grey, rather than a white Christmas and winds make moan, but not frosty ones.
As we move toward the much-heralded 2012, I see a time of immense hope amid despair. And certainly this year has brought much cause for despair, from the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima to the famine in the horn of Africa to the ineffectual response of world leaders at the climate summit in Durban. No longer a future prediction, climate change is upon us, as inhabitants of Pakistan, Britain, Australia, Africa, Thailand and the Southern United States can attest. At the same time, hope has come to us from the youth of the world. When twenty six year old Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, he lit a flame that set the world ablaze. Syrian-American poet Mohja Kahf wrote,
We were living in the dark;
Bouazizi said enough
half-existing, and stood up--
not for Tunis or the nation
or me, or Liberation--
for himself, his human self.
In despair of a life
worthy of a human being,
Bouazizi lit a spark,
and he had some kerosene
and the spark lit a spark
and he set us all on fire.
The fire Bouazizi lit has been blazing ever since, lighting hope in many hearts. Hope arose as Tunisia deposed her dictator, Ben Ali. Hope burned still more brightly as the call to dawn prayer rose over Tahrir Square on 12th February, the first dawn after Hosni Mubarak's resignation. Hope shone in the hearts of the people of Libya, leading them too, to rise up against a dictator.
Yet hope comes to us not only from those who have been victorious, but also from those who have not yet seen the fruits of their efforts. I find immense hope in the ten months of peaceful protests in Syria. Although we are rightly outraged and horrified at the manner of their death, we cannot but be inspired by the innocent bravery of thirteen year old martyr Hamza al-Khateeb and the courage of fifteen year old Thamer al Sahri, who refused under torture to say, 'There is no god but Bashir.' To quote Mohja Kahf again, this time her unfinished poem 'My people are rising,'
My people are rising my people are rising,
with olive branches and song, they are waking;
the earth underneath their marching is shaking;
my people are rising! They are not crouched;
they are not stooping; they are not hungry for bread alone;
we don't want your bread they say, we are hungry for more.
I find hope and inspiration in thirty two year old Yemeni journalist and human rights activist activist Tawakkul Karman, who won the Nobel Peace prize for her role as 'mother of the Yemeni Revolution.' And I have gained an improbable and truly inspiring bond with a young mother in Bahrain, Zainab al Khawaja, who tweets under the name Angry Arabia. Her commitment to Gandhi's teachings on satyagraha--soul force and non-violent resistance--led her to spend five days in jail recently. Her human rights activist father, and her husband too, have been tortured in Bahraini jails for months.
Hope blazed for us in the Arab world, but like a forest fire, hope is no respecter of national boundaries. Soon tent cities were springing up across Israel, as protesters demanded social justice and a solution to the housing crisis that did not involve building settlements. In tents in Jaffa, Jews and Arabs sat together discussing their problems and sharing ideas. Meanwhile, Los Indignados in Spain laid the foundation for a global movement. And like an Olympic torch held aloft by social media and people power, hope jumped across the Atlantic.
From its beginning on 17th September, Occupy Wall Street soon spread across the US and to eighty-two countries across the world. Occupy Boulder, the last encampment left in Colorado after police action closed Occupy Denver, persists despite snow and severe cold. The youth are rising, and with them, hope for the world. Finally, hope caught fire even in Russia, with unprecedented mass protests against the rigged election.
On 15th December, imprisoned civil rights activist Mumia abu Jamal, sent a message to Occupy Wall Street.
You are the central movement of the hour. You're raising questions that are in the hearts of millions. Your motto, "We are the 99%," has been heard, heeded, and responded to by millions. You can be certain that the 1% have heard you clearest of all.
Your work, however, is just beginning. You must deepen, strengthen, and further your work until it truly reaches the 99%, almost all of us: workers, black folk, Latinos and Latinas, LGBTs, immigrants, Asians, artists, all of us, for we are integral parts of the 99%.
At this solstice season of giving gifts, the finest gift we could ever receive comes to us from the youth of the world. It is an expensive gift; one bought not with money or credit cards but with blood, with lives, with mothers' tears. And it is a gift we can repay only in kind, with our own commitment to the universal human values of dignity, freedom, and social justice.
I wish for each and every one of you a year of renewed hope, deep inspiration and lasting happiness.
With my love and blessings always,Alakananda Ma
Image via Wikipedia