“Somewhere Else When the Trigger Is Pulled”: Orwell and War

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits. … Continue reading “Somewhere Else When the Trigger Is Pulled”: Orwell and War

Recognizing Humanity: Orwell and the Consistent Life Ethic

We’re 70 years from the publication of one of the 20th century’s most influential books: Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell’s 1949 novel about future life under a dramatically repressive regime has shaped political debate and popular culture for decades. The novel’s anniversary will doubtless prompt further reflections. I reflect on Orwell’s concern for defending human dignity against … Continue reading Recognizing Humanity: Orwell and the Consistent Life Ethic

Nuclear Disarmament as a Social Justice Issue

Activists seeking to end or radically reduce nuclear weapons’ threat may find it difficult to get public attention. Despite the high stakes involved—the lives of millions and even humanity’s survival—the nuclear threat frequently seems distant and abstract. The danger is future and hypothetical, in contrast to current, actual situations of people dying or suffering from … Continue reading Nuclear Disarmament as a Social Justice Issue

Political Action’s Opportunities and Dangers: Some Lessons from Bayard Rustin

Social movements learn from one another: strategies and tactics that work on behalf of one cause may also work for another. Learning from other activists requires discernment, though: times and circumstances differ, so what worked for one movement at one historical point may require adaptation and selectivity to be effective for a different movement. The … Continue reading Political Action’s Opportunities and Dangers: Some Lessons from Bayard Rustin

Human Rights and the Right to Life: Reconsidering Conventional Human Rights Activism

Respecting people’s human rights should go hand in hand with upholding the consistent life ethic. The concept of “human rights” broadly means those conditions that people can legitimately claim as necessary to living a decent human life. Life itself is one of these conditions, and many human rights documents recognize a right to life. The Universal … Continue reading Human Rights and the Right to Life: Reconsidering Conventional Human Rights Activism

The Wages of War, Part 2: How Forced Sterilization Came to Japan

World War II’s devastation of Japan, and the politics of the post-war American occupation, led to the Japanese Diet [parliament] passing the Eugenic Protection Law 70 years ago, in 1948. The law legalized abortion in Japan, with millions of Japanese children being killed in the womb over subsequent decades.[1] The law also legalized a non-lethal but still … Continue reading The Wages of War, Part 2: How Forced Sterilization Came to Japan

Tyranny Made Vivid: The Enduring Power of Nineteen Eighty-Four

A famous artistic denunciation of tyranny, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, is now almost 70 years old. Completed by Orwell in late 1948 and published the following June, the influence of Orwell’s novel over the following decades has been tremendous. Probably far more people are familiar with the fictional dramatically repressive, one-party state of Oceania than with … Continue reading Tyranny Made Vivid: The Enduring Power of Nineteen Eighty-Four

The Wages of War: How Abortion Came to Japan

“I hate Japs. I’m telling you men that if I met a pregnant Japanese woman, I’d kick her in the belly.” — Remark attributed to Admiral William Halsey, commander of US naval forces in the South Pacific during the Second World War[1] “Tsubachan, I’m sorry I couldn’t give birth to you. I would have loved … Continue reading The Wages of War: How Abortion Came to Japan

Extermination by Hunger: Red Famine’s Story of Lethal Injustice

Joseph Stalin took a fateful trip to Siberia in January, 1928. Stalin, soon to become the Soviet Union’s supreme leader, traveled to the country’s outskirts to identify the causes of poor agricultural production and food shortages. He concluded that Soviet farming was too small-scale: most peasants tended small farms that were not economically efficient, while … Continue reading Extermination by Hunger: Red Famine’s Story of Lethal Injustice

Three Reasons for Opposing the US Bombing of Syria

The United States’ intervention in the Syrian civil war took a new turn on April 7, when American ships launched a missile strike on the Syrian government’s Al Shayrat air base. This attack on Bashar al-Assad’s regime marked a shift in US policy—previous American military actions in Syria over roughly the past two-and-a-half years had … Continue reading Three Reasons for Opposing the US Bombing of Syria