Pedagogy of the Plants

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War veterans, socialists, Buddhists, Catholic nuns and priests, communists, chefs, puppeteers, Quakers, anarchists, teachers and children converge in solidarity each November for a solemn vigil at the gates of Fort Benning.

Each year the Puppetistas testify for memory and creative resistance.  The occupation of public space through puppetry arts has been around since the mid 1600s.  Here is an excerpt of an article on the history of subversive puppetry by Kerry Mogg:

Puppetry’s subversive political role effectively began in revolutionary 17th century England with the most famous puppet character of them all, Punch. Punch was a popular figure in a country reeling from tremendous social upheavals.

In 1643, the English authorities ordered the theatres closed due to their fear of the spread of revolutionary propaganda. England was about to be plunged into the middle of a civil war, and radical elements such as Winstanley’s Diggers and Albeizer Coppe’s Ranters were already active.

The country was in the midst of a brutal transition to industrial capitalism, which would destroy the commons and in the process, the peasant’s livelihoods. Puppetry was seen as a way of getting around the theatre ban and accusations from both clergy and out-of-work actors, raised concerns about the medium’s “corruption” of audiences. Perhaps they were right: Punch certainly was a corrupter.

This hunchback, with his large, hooked nose and insanely boorish manners, was a hero of the lower-classes. Punch broke the most sacrosanct laws imaginable in a time when conformity was imposed in every sphere of life, particularly entertainment. He mocked the law, God’s and king’s, and, by avoiding hanging, managed to trick even Death. As George Speight tells us in Punch and Judy: a History, Punch was a subversive jester, “the simpleton who could answer back to Bishop and King, the fool with the license to poke fun at anyone.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

SOA Watch

On March 7th, 2011, WikiLeaks released two cables from the U.S. embassy in Costa Rica “that offer insight into the U.S. pressure tactics to keep the SOA/ WHINSEC in business” (SOA Watch).

The cables are no longer available to the public, however, a concise summary of of the leaked information is available here.

Written by Cameron Brooks

November 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm

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