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Stateside: Something Beginning With "Ch"

Stateside with Rosalea

Something Beginning With "Ch"

It's Friday morning here, and I have the day off work because of a holiday honoring Cesar Chavez. He's a Mexican American who established the National Farmworkers Association in Delano, California, in 1962 - an organisation that gained international fame in the second half of the sixties as the United Farm Workers. Together with a union of Filipino workers, it campaigned for the right to organise migrant farm labour.

In 1975, with the help of a sympathetic liberal governor, Chavez won passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act granting the state's farmworkers the organizing rights denied them under federal law. According to the 'Oxford Companion to United States History', UFW's tools were strikes, boycotts, mass marches, fasts and nonviolent civil disobedience. Those tools are still in use today - most pointedly in opposition to the labour practices used in Florida by a fast food chain called Taco Bell. (See for more information.)

If you go to that website, don't be puzzled by the logo that has a chihuahua instead of a cigarette inside the red circle with a diagonal across it - the little dog was for many years Taco Bell's advertising gimmick. It was from this successful campaign, no doubt, that Telecom NZ got the idea of using Spot, the Jack Russell terrier, in its ads.

Speaking of Telecom, I used to work for them at the weekends, at their call centre in Lower Hutt. I also used to work at Avalon television studios in Lower Hutt, and this morning's news of the bombing of Baghdad got me to wondering, if Lower Hutt was being bombed, whether I would have gone to work at those two places. I'm not quite sure how bombing television stations and telecoms centres has helped Operation Iraqi Fiefdom, but I guess the top brass know what they're doing. Or do they?

Or are the right-wing talkshow hosts here correct about the news reporting in this war - that it is all done by "quislings"? I've lost count of the times I've heard the phrase "greater than expected" in respect of the opposition that is being experienced in Iraq. Excuse me? We pay HOW many billions of our tax dollars to the military and intelligence agencies, and they seriously thought the troops of nations that, only a decade ago, had killed Iraqi sons and daughters, grandparents and children, were going to be met with little resistance if not actually welcomed with open arms?

Do you know who I'd like to hear from? I'd like to hear from the Spanish military. They're part of the coalition, but the only reports I've ever heard here are from the US and (via BBC news on the internet) the Brits. Spain understands Arab thinking first-hand, because in the 11th century it was the centre of a thriving Arab-Christian-Jewish milieu that made the emergence of the European Renaissance possible. In particular, the Spanish understand seiges.

In the news this morning it was reported that now the coalition is going to lay seige to Baghdad, instead of laying waste to it. Good luck. I suggest you cut the crap and get Gary Kasparov on the case. More than one city and region in medieval Spain was won or lost by seige, but it was usually those under seige who won. In a couple of cases the outcome was decided by a game of chess.

Which seems like a more honorable way to lose than to be continually sending not-old-enough-to-vote Marines to secure supply lines that pass over bridges across the Euphrates, as is now being done in the south of Iraq. The Marines themselves describe their deployment as "being targets at a turkey shoot". Perhaps "chute" would be a better spelling, since that is what the bridges effectively are.

At my graphic design history class mid-week we were shown the first war photograph. It was of the valley in which the charge of the Light Brigade took place, in 1854 during the Crimean War. Capturing an image at that time, of course, demanded a scene that was static so the photograph is of an unprepossessing cutting through rock with dozens and dozens of cannon balls lying around on the ground. Half of the 600 soldiers who were sent into this turkey shoot were killed.

You can hear Alfred Lord Tennyson read his 1855 poem about it (recorded by Edison in 1890) at


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