Hold It All

Category: Activists

Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose

The following is from a 1983 interview with MIT professor Noam Chomsky…

Interviewer: If you were to wake up tomorrow morning, and find yourself at the State Department, not MIT, and you were Secretary, what initiative would you take?

Noam Chomsky: First of all, I’d move towards a genuine disarmament, because I think  the current technical programs that the UnitedStates is pursuing are probably a greater danger to the United States than the policies of any of its enemies. Our new nuclear systems, the MX missile and the Pershing, are probably going to drive the Russians to some kind of launch-on-warning strategy which almost guarantees the destruction of the  United States sooner or later. The first thing I’d do is abort these programs and move toward some genuine disarmament. The  I would move at once to put an end to the American policy of supporting various neo-Nazi monsters all over the world, particularly in Central America,  which is the most striking case, and in other regions. As far as the Middle East is concerned, I’d move toward the international consensus.

However, though I could add a whole range of other policies, I should add this qualification: I couldn’t do any of these things. The fact is that the constraints of parameters within which any policy-maker operates are rather narrow, and they’re set from the outside, they’re set by real interests. The real interests in society are those of the people who own it. Objective power lies elsewhere. Decision-making power does not lie in the political sphere.

Language and Politics, p. 358

The Work Goes on



In October 2003
We were in Nablus
Awarta, Ramallah

Being alert in the olive groves
Dashing across the settler-only roads
Learning a thing or two about sumud

In Louisville the minister and civil rights activist had exhorted the crowd-—
“If you see a good fight, get in it”
And so we did

Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth on Sunday 22 November: The Practice of “Disponibilidade”

I first learned this Portuguese word when Mev Puleo was working on translating her interviews with radical Brazilian Christians in the early 90s. A one-word English synonym she gave me was “availability.”  In her book  The Struggle Is One that was published in 1994, Mev defined the word this way:  “a disposition of openness in which one is accessible, available and willing to be inconvenienced by the needs or requests of another person or event.” 

Around the same time I was doing academic work on U.S. foreign policy, and wrote a letter with questions to Noam Chomsky, renowned MIT  linguist and political dissident.  Within a couple of weeks, he responded in a typed, single-spaced letter of five pages.  I later read an interview he did with David Barsamian, and learned that Chomsky typically spent twenty hours a week writing letters throughout the 1980s and 90s.

During this evening we will share reflections on the people in our lives who have embodied disponibilidade.

Join us
Sunday 22 November
We will begin sharing at 7:00 p.m. Central Time
Via Zoom
Email Markjchmiel@gmail.com for URL





Diane, Hedy, and friends, 2004


by Hedy Epstein

Throughout the 1960s, I became involved in local civil and human rights activities, as well as anti-Vietnam war protests. In the spring of 1970, it became public knowledge in the United States that, as part of this war, the U.S. Air Force had been carpet bombing Cambodia for several months.

This triggered an entire set of thoughts in my head. In opposition to the war, I had picketed, marched, sent letters and telegrams to the President and to congressional representatives, yet nothing adverse happened to me or to my family. Doing this, I had neither risked my life nor that of my family. I had put neither my life nor that of my family in jeopardy.

Then my thoughts travelled across the years and across the ocean, back to Germany. I realized then, had the German people done what I did, during the Hitler regime, they would have risked their lives and perhaps that of their family. I was fully aware that there was opposition and resistance to Hitler regime by some people and that most of these people unfortunately did not survive because of it. Then I asked myself, how can I condemn an entire people for not risking their lives, when I am not sure if I would be willing to do the same? Fortunately, I have never had to risk my own life.

With that, all the old hatred, which was a part of me for decades, disappeared and has never again raised its ugly head. I would like to believe that I am better person as a result. I know I am a happier person since I no longer hate.


Read the rest of this entry »


Andrew, on the left, with Benny

Share the Wealth with Andrew Wimmer:
Julian Assange in Conversation with John Pilger

“You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can’t lead to a good conclusion.”
–Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks


In the last several years, my friend Andrew Wimmer has paid close attention to the work of Wikileaks and the subsequent arrest of Bradley Manning as well as the threats against Julian Assange.

We invite you to join us this Sunday 13 January to view a recent interview with Julian Assange by veteran journalist John Pilger at Andrew’s home (4542 Gibson Avenue, 63110). Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m., and the interview begins at 6.40, with discussion to follow.

Please bring a friend!


Some background: Read the rest of this entry »


Thuy, Cafe Ventana


Today’s Email: “Thank you for signing up for the [New York Times] Vietnam ’67 newsletter. Over the course of the next year, we’ll examine the participation of the United States in the long war in Southeast Asia. The Vietnam ’67 newsletter will arrive in your inbox weekly.”

“Long War”

Journalist Bernard Fall writing in 1967: “It is Viet-Nam as a cultural and historic entity which is threatened with extinction. While its lovely land has been battered into a moonscape by the massive engine of modern war, its cultural identity has been assaulted by a combination of Communism in the North and superficial Americanization in the South.”


Two Teachers

For two of my teachers
I give thanks:

Cao Ngoc Phuong
Khuu Vinh Ngoc Thuy

I first read Phuong’s autobiography
Learning True Love:

How I Learned & Practiced Social Change in Vietnam
When it was published in 1993 Read the rest of this entry »

Current Reading

Read the rest of this entry »




A Singer

In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say…. I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world.
–Marvin Gaye


A Journalist

The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. –Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

She had first traveled to Vietnam in 1955, glad to see that the U.S. was making good on its aspiration to set the world right. By her second visit in 1963, she had sobered up. Seven years later, she began a stint as foreign correspondent for the New York Times, she had a hard time believing she was in the same country as before.
She had compassion and understanding for the U.S. troops, as she had for the Vietnamese being displaced, bombed, and killed by those same troops.

She knew she had privilege, of course; journalists could come and go, get the big story and give their careers a needed boost.

When she returned to the United States, she was obsessed. She admitted, “Turn the corner, people said to me in a kindly fashion. Forget the war. But I could not stop writing about it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Danielle Mackey: A Life in Journalism

In true journalist style, this share will (hopefully) be dominated by your questions. We are living in a time in which the existence of truth — and the legitimacy of professions that trade in unearthing it — is questioned from many angles, some more useful than others. The practice of journalism involves navigating that daily minefield, which can become a background soundtrack in the journalist’s mind, while still plowing ahead with the painstaking work of nailing down single facts. My practice falls within the rubrics of investigative and longform (narrative) journalism, largely about Central America and its relationship(s) with the U.S. I would be happy to talk about anything that is interesting about the backstage work of investigative and/or literary journalism, like fact-checking, reporting for narrative detail, ethical dilemmas, race and class and identity in journalism, risks and threats, layers of truth, etc — the list goes on and on. I could also share about current realities in Central America; I’ve covered a variety of topics and if you’re looking for more information about any one in particular, wonderful. You bring your questions and comments; I’ll bring answers and a listening ear.

A little about me: I’m a former SLU student of Mark’s and very much a fan of horizontal wisdom-sharing spaces like Share the Wealth. In my twelve years in El Salvador I’ve worked as a freelance journalist, teacher and professor, and NGO employee. But I’m one of those who could also be defined as my cat’s human.

Join us!
Sunday 8 November
Danielle begins sharing at 7:00 p.m. Central Standard Time
Via Zoom
Email Markjchmiel@gmail.com for URL

The Battle of the Gods

Zainab al-Ghazali, Return of the Pharaoh: Memoir in Nasir’s Prison
Translated by  Mokrane Guezzou

Our goal is reformation and not sabotage, edification not destruction. 
Zainab al-Ghazali

Nawal el-Saadawi may have met her match in Zainab al-Ghazali when it comes to vigorous struggle and determination.  I wonder what they thought of each other.

This memoir is  a harrowing read, a riveting and disturbing account of how she was arrested and tortured under the reign of Nasir.  It’s easy to compare the plight of the Muslim Brotherhood then with that of the liberation theology church of El Salvador:  The Leader is the Pharaoh and the National Security State is an idol, too.

Al-Ghazali is a faithful Muslim, committed to Da’wah and her work with Muslim Ladies Group  and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is why she is a threat to the secular-oriented nationalism of Nasir. Here’s her vision:  “Strive for the establishment of a state ruled by divine law” [Xxv]; “The supremacy of Shariah to be established” [1]  “…Islam is a complete way of life …” [41]; “‘My son, we are calling people to Allah and want Islam’s rule for this country. Don’t misunderstand, for we don’t want power for ourselves.’” [96]  “‘Islam is justice, light and mercy. In Islam there are no whips, no killings, no torture, prisons, expulsions, burying of people alive, nor tearing bodies apart. There is no displacement of children, widowing of women, pharaohs or idol-worship. In Islam, there is nothing but truth and justice, a word is confronted with a word and an argument with an argument.’” [134]

While in jail, she undergoes horrific tortures, the floggings, the water technique, the dogs.  What her captors want her to do is submit to them, be selfish, save her own skin, and forget everybody else (they plan to have men rape her, but she bites one of them). They try to instill the greatest fear in her but she has deep faith in Allah.  They ask her ridiculous questions like: ‘Why do you do all this harm to yourself?’ [72]  One captor, Shams, has as his aim: to get Muslims to abandon their religion. [87] They try to bribe her by offering her a post of high status, funds for the work and magazine. She resolutely refuses.  She’s sassy, given to mockery, fierce in her faith, as when she asks: “What about these whips, prosecuting attorney, are they from the law school curriculum?” [63] Read the rest of this entry »