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The Cost of Being An Activist

I am very proud to live in Santa Cruz County (in the borderlands of southern Arizona), which has a good number of activists for a variety of worthy causes. I also honor the activists in neighboring Pima County, and, in fact, worldwide who are working towards making our world more sustainable for all peoples, which would include taking care of the earth’s ecosystems as well as the many different human societies.

I recall years ago, around 2014, the then Mayor of Nogales, Arizona taking a valiant stance for prayer before the council meetings, in spite of some contesting his insistence that the city leaders needed the guidance of a higher divine presence. Prayer in public places was a nationwide issue that went all the way to The Supreme Court.

Photo by Global Change MediaIt takes both courage and humility for any local government leader to stand up for the right of city or county officials to pray for some assistance higher than just themselves in meeting the many challenges of their local government. Even more ideal is when the various belief systems of the local area can be represented in these prayers. No one has to personally participate in the prayer who chooses not to, but I think providing the opportunity for those who want to appeal to a Higher Source is wise, for many reasons.

I enjoy living in Santa Cruz County because I appreciate the family-oriented Hispanic people who live on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border in this region and who are especially impacted by many political, economic, and environmental policies and practices that are currently being implemented in this country. It makes me a better activist, wanting to help defend their human rights and address environmental issues that affect the quality of their lives.

I first became an activist at 24 years old, when, as an employee of a steel company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was sent by the Steelworkers Union to meet the then-campaigning and soon-to-be Governor Shapp. I found out right away that outside of my local neighborhood, there were actually people who didn’t like the fact that I went to support Governor Shapp as a representative of the union. I didn’t lose any friends in the immediate poor neighborhood where I lived, but I did lose so-called friends in the suburbs.

My father was a union representative for Jones and Laughlin Steel, and I used to hear him rant and rave about those other, wealthier folks who had issues with the unions. “Management” offered him positions for many years, but he always turned them down because he said he wanted to work for the people in “labor”. His influence guided my life.

BORDER ISSUES

Photo by Global Change MediaWe change agents of Global Community Communications Alliance (Global Community) have been active for many years in bringing about compassionate, fair, and effective solutions to the many, complex border issues, which are only increasing due to the influx of refugees fleeing from violence, corruption, poverty, and the impacts of climate change in their regions. For about twenty-five years we have hosted various speakers presenting these concerns, as well as other important issues, at events that were held, while in Sedona at Future Studios and Avalon Gardens, and now in southern Arizona on the campus of The University of Ascension Science and The Physics of Rebellion (The University)—Avalon Organic Gardens and EcoVillage, as well as at the Sea of Glass Center for the Arts in Tucson, Arizona.

I remember, when in my thirties, as a human-rights minister in Tucson, Arizona I used to go to several prisons in Mexico as a volunteer chaplain, crossing the border, along with thousands of others on a daily basis, who shopped in Nogales, Sonora. It was a bustling, colorful, cross-cultural environment then, with ease of travel across the border that separated our two countries. I had friends on both sides of the border, and we enjoyed visiting each other’s homes.

I still can’t get used to being asked by a check-point Border Patrol official if I am an American citizen. Though I am a citizen of the U.S. and understand the reasons behind the question, I feel like I’m also a citizen of the world. Borders, walls, check-points, etc. emphasize to me our separateness rather than our commonality as human beings created by one Creator. Many years ago I came up with the saying: “One God, one planetary family”.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Many years ago, a friend in Sedona, Arizona asked me, “If you’re going to fight against another major bridge going in over Red Rock Crossing, are you willing to go all the way?” I soon discovered what he meant. Within a very short time, after joining forces with other local citizens, I became one of the spokespersons representing several groups who united to fight against the plan to build a large bridge over Oak Creek in the Sedona area, which would then open the way for more development (and ensuing traffic) in a lightly-populated region that was not intrusive of the pristine surrounding Forest Service land.

One of the main proponents for that project was the publisher of the weekly local newspaper of the time, which began a smear campaign against me and those in the spiritual, educational organization and community I co-founded, Global Community Communications Alliance (Global Community). I and those associated with me became front-page headlines for about three weeks, and, as usually is the tactic when wanting to discredit an individual or organization, disgruntled apostates’ opinions were included, which were presented as “facts”, but were far from the actual truth.

It always amazes me the lengths certain individual and corporate entities will take in using the media to demonize and discredit those who are seen as a threat to their worldview and agenda. Misrepresentation of individuals and special-interest groups has been going on for centuries and continues to this day. It is especially apparent in the mud-slinging that goes on in local and national politics, and environmentalists have always been maligned by powerful corporate and political interests, whose agenda is to always make more profit, regardless of the costs to humans and the natural environmental.

There is an overall general network, with offshoot “specialized” smaller networks that include individuals and groups of certain political, economic, and religious ideologies who are united with many media sources, including newspapers and radio and television stations that use the strategy of discrediting any individual or group of activists who do not agree with their political, religious, and economic agendas. With Internet usage, this type of so-called journalism, which most often is “fake news”, is spread even more quickly and widely.

Photo by Global Change MediaThis collective network includes certain corporate powers that are threatened by any group that encourages minimal consumerism, which we in Global Community advocate and practice in our campus EcoVillage model of sustainable living, which includes: shopping at thrift stores and fair-trade companies, sharing many of our possessions, growing most of our own food, carpooling, and living in many other ways that promote wise use of our natural resources. This kind of living really threatens the message from corporate America and certain political interests to consume, consume, and consume, always wanting more and more.

As a result, for many years I and other members of the religious order of Global Community have experienced publicity that involves yellow journalism filled with misrepresentation and falsehood. The same small group of disgruntled ex-community members (apostates), bitter ex-spouses, fearful non-community family members, and so on are often quoted to support the premise that we are a “cult,” which has many negative connotations that stir up fear, misunderstanding, disrespect, ridicule, and even hatred towards the members of the community, and especially me.

As is so often the case with people united for a common purpose, some members who leave a church or a group they were once part of call that group or church a cult, while joining another group or church around the corner. This is how it has been throughout history with apostates. The term apostasy is taken from a Greek term that means revolt, with the definition of an apostate being: one who defects from a previous loyalty, whether it be philosophical, political, social, or religious. In relation to religion, apostate is also considered to be a derivative of apostle, of which the true meaning is: one who walks with God in the highest manner and follows His will. In this context, apostates are defined as those who have renounced their commitment to a faith and/or spiritual group. Thus apostates are the opposite of an apostle, though they often claim to still be walking in God’s will. Hmmm…figure that one out!

We of Global Community are just one of countless groups who are victimized by the collective network (I referred to previously), who work closely with each other to discredit, misrepresent, and demonize true activists, if an activist’s (or activist group’s) voice becomes powerful enough to attract their attention. The religionist Jesus was an activist, and the religious and political authorities of His day feared and hated Him because His spiritual teachings contradicted some of that generation’s accepted religious, political, and social ideologies, which were based on lust for power, greed, and self-aggrandizement that caused human suffering and injustice.

AGRICULTURAL ISSUES

In Sedona we of Global Community Communications Alliance (Global Community) started and cultivated our first organic garden, with prime topsoil we had created. For more than fifteen years an organic garden of vegetables and fruit trees flourished in a desert of clay-like dirt and rock. We continuously learned about and then practiced growing food sustainably, eventually evolving into implementing the principles of regenerative permaculture.

Photo by Global Change MediaWhen we moved to Tumacácori, Arizona on a much larger piece of land, our agricultural endeavors expanded to not only having gardens and orchards but pastures of alfalfa, grasses, and grains that host animal-rotation grazing for our variety of animals. Our construction crew of Earth Harmony Builders continue to experiment with various “green” building techniques, resulting in an interesting array of rounded and squared structures built of adobe, straw bale, earth bags, and so on at Avalon Organic Gardens and EcoVillage, which is the campus for The University of Ascension Science and The Physics of Rebellion (The University). The University offers courses that combine the divine, universal laws of morality and ethics in the world’s religions, philosophies, literature, art, cultures, and even in economics and politics. Additionally, ascension science is studied, which brings spiritual principles into all sciences, including sacred architecture and agriculture. Thus, the gardens and architecture of the EcoVillage become part of the learning environment for The University.

I teach that sustainability is first a consciousness, which is the main theme in a book I wrote, called Living Through The Tribulation — How To Survive By Starting Subcultures. I believe we need to get back to family values and small community gardens—whether in urban neighborhoods or in rural small towns—rather than eating foods produced by industrial agriculture, which are full of toxic chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides. I encourage people to buy locally as much as possible, supporting their local farmers and businesses, and protecting their children’s health from food that is shipped sometimes thousands of miles to their tables.

I came up with the concept of Food For Ascension, which included for a couple of years a Café of that name in Tucson, Arizona. We of Global Community practice Food For Ascension in our gardening and in our preparation and eating of food. All is organically grown, whether coming from our own gardens and pastures or from another local source. We only do business with those who are ethical in creating their product, which includes being environmentally conscious and using fair-trade practices. The University offers a variety of educational programs about growing, preparing, and preserving healthy food.

WATER ISSUES

Global Community Communications Alliance (The Community) has two representatives who have served for many years on the Board of the Friends of the Santa Cruz River (FOSCR), a well-established local organization that looks out for the welfare of the Santa Cruz River waters and surrounding riparian area. They both have written several articles for various publications focusing especially on water issues around the world. Not only our oceans are being destroyed, but many of our fresh-water sources are also now destroyed by mining, fracking, and other industrial practices. Just about all fresh-water sources in this country have been contaminated in some way, and only in a few areas that have mountain springs and snow melt are not contaminated.

Corporate entities are buying up the water rights around the world, which is another way of controlling the people. I have taught for years that the Third World War could very easily be started over water issues. In the Middle East, Israel has made sure they control most water rights in the Jordan River and other water sources. There are other attempts by corporations to actually take over private wells in order to profit from charging customers for water use, and this is happening right here in Arizona.

Many countries of the former Soviet Union are warring with each other now over fresh water, as well as in the Middle East and Africa. Millions of people in these regions lack enough water for their basic needs, and much of what they do have is contaminated, thanks to corporate foreign oil and mineral industries. The same tragedy is happening in the Amazon with the lumber industry and other mineral-mining companies, with activists speaking out against this misuse being arrested or “disappeared”.

Irresponsible, unsustainable industrial use destroys not only the lakes and rivers, but also the underground aquifers—all in the name of profit. Those benevolent organizations that fight against these corporate atrocities are also misrepresented by certain media sources and at times attacked by government authorities at all levels, who have sold out—not that all government officials are in cahoots with corporations, but many are.

In another local situation in Sedona, a group of people and I went against a major developer and, after many months of organized “battle”, we were actually successful in stopping him and his company’s shareholders from building a gated development of at least a hundred homes, which would have encroached upon the quality of Oak Creek’s pure spring water as well as destroying much of the greenbelt of riparian trees, which they already had started cutting down, dumping unnecessary waste into the creek in the process. On their side, the individuals, who had interest and stock in this project, joined the network (referred to earlier) in attempting to stop all of us by minimizing our concerns, even ridiculing some of them, as well as maligning some of the individuals and organizations involved.

SPIRITUAL ACTIVIST

My name—Gabriel of Urantia/TaliasVan—represents a new paradigm in spiritual concepts, of which I am a teacher. My work (The Cosmic Family volumes) also deals with the continuation of The URANTIA Book, so I am a pioneer in the spiritual arena as well, rocking the boat of many more-fundamentalist religionists. Martin Luther certainly had his problems when he posted his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg Church. He is known as “God’s volcano,” and his revolutionary teachings certainly brought a fire to all of Europe, starting what has become known as The Reformation.

Many reformists before and after him also caused many spiritual renaissances by teaching spiritual concepts they believed they were hearing directly from God. Some of these men were John Calvin, John Wesley, Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine, and many more. Whether all these reformers’ teachings are right or wrong, it does not change the fact that they made a dent in Christian church history—Protestant and Catholic.

In 1997, the status-quo television media came after me and those in Global Community Communications Alliance (The Community) big time, under the disguise of wanting to do a story about alternative spiritual groups and what they had to offer the world. They shot many aspects of the community for three days, including doing short interviews with several community members. They even interviewed the other founder and me for 3 ½ hours. When we saw the final one-hour show (minus commercial time), we could not believe what had been left out and how they had cut and edited, presenting bits and pieces that did not represent the truth of what I or the rest of the individuals in the community were about. Obviously there was very little in their audio and visual footage of us that they could use to present their intended negative slant, since the show had only about 5 minutes of clipped quotes from 65 hours of their footage.

That particular show relayed nothing positive or really truthful, nor was there anything of the interview with me that reflected what I had really tried to communicate, even showing me giving answers to other questions with their cut-and-paste techniques, which made my answers look ridiculous. I cannot begin to share with you the effect and the damage that show had to my life, the lives of my family, and the lives of all the 120 community members and their families.

Individuals came up to me in public at restaurants and threatened my life and wanted to start fights, sometimes in front of my children (who were at that time 12 years old and younger). My life was threatened numerous times through e-mail and other ways. Each time a newspaper or other media source gives a negative slant about me and Global Community, using the “cult” card, the death threats continue, and we all have to deal with the backlash of psychological distress.

There are thousands of activists who suffer from these types of unethical journalists who feed off of the “fake news” that has already been put “out there”, building their stories upon the foundations of falsehoods already in the public domain. They should be ashamed of themselves. I believe that eventually the wrongdoers will be held accountable before their Creator, and those activists around the world, throughout time, who have fought the good fight to bring some kind of progress, goodness, and rightful change, will be vindicated.

SOCIAL ISSUES

As a young human-rights minister in my early thirties on 4th Avenue in Tucson, I started a homeless ministry and was also a volunteer chaplain for the Pima County Sherriff’s Department. I also participated in other prison ministries, including in Mexico. Working with the homeless and the poor is not a very respected ministry, in comparison to being a pastor of a well-established church. I received a lot of resistance from certain church-going people as well as a few neighbors for my ministry in that area, where there were already many people struggling to exist and stay in their modest homes.

Trying to help the poor and disenfranchised is not popular with many, even with those of the middle class. Years after my Tucson ministry, when I and others helped a woman in a Sedona middle-class neighborhood continue her home childcare services for poor families by supporting her attempts to get licensed with the city, some neighbors protested. I received letters from “upstanding citizens” telling me to back off. I also had in that neighborhood a transition home, which housed some hard-working individuals who had been homeless but no longer were. Of course I received many letters from other “upstanding citizens” to keep my homeless ministry out of their neighborhood, though these people now lived in a clean, orderly home and lived quiet peaceful lives. This is one of the reasons why the homeless have to live on the streets, for those who would like to provide a living situation for them run up against strong resistance from the not-in-my-back-yard proponents.

I think it is criminal when any media source decides to put a particular slant on an individual or group of people, no matter what evidence is discovered that would change that slant into a more balanced and fair perspective. What my change-agent associates and I have mostly experienced with the status-quo media—which is tied into the more mainstream mentality that supports the existing corporate-led policies and practices—is that the actual good we are doing in the many service programs that I have co-founded—like the Personality Integration Rehabilitation Program for teens, young adults, and even not so young adults—are either ignored, minimized, or even discredited. My work with the homeless for more than forty years is not really considered because the purpose of these types of media coverage is to leave a negative and discrediting impression, and they even resort to slander to get their point across.

Because Global Community Communications Alliance (The Community) has been in existence for more than thirty years and we who are part of it have proven who we are by the fruits of our labor, we do now have more truthful representation from alternative media sources that are not plugged into the network of status-quo values and solutions.

Photo by Global Change MediaUnfortunately, there are still those individuals with personal vendettas against me or someone else in our community who join the well-oiled network of individuals and media sources, who use each other to do what harm they can with their misrepresentation and falsehoods. Even though this is psychologically painful for the beautiful people who are attempting to apply divine administration principles taught in The University of Ascension Science and The Physics of Rebellion (The University), their faith and devotion to serving humankind keeps them moving forward in their own expressions of activism, regardless of the costs.

Father Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip were Catholic priests who were true activists and paid the price, as did so many others like Father Oscar Romero of San Salvador. These great souls also had followers and associates who suffered by the hands of those less-scrupulous. All throughout history, true harbingers of change have been persecuted in some manner by the status quo, including Francis of Assisi. He wasn’t loved so much by the rich because he walked away from the wealth of his parents and served the poor, and the rich of Europe did not like him for his example.

Symbolically speaking, the Way of the Cross is not felt unless a person is willing to pick up the cross (the burden of loving service) and carry it, taking it to the top, willing to be crucified like our Lord. So when my friend asked me that question those many years ago in Sedona, “Are you willing to go all the way?”, my answer then and has always been, “Yes”. I realize that others may not have that fortitude; however, if they can take just little steps forward in their activism to do something, evil would be lessened.

Unfortunately there is much corruption in government and other institutions of our country, even in areas like education, health care, social care, and religion. All too often the abuse of women and children is allowed where it could be stopped. All too often children are malnourished and neglected. Human trafficking is rampant, as is alcohol and drug abuse in our high schools and colleges.

Too many of our youth, including college students, suffer from being spoiled and are brought up in affluence (the “haves”). Others who have grown up in poverty (the “have nots”) suffer from a sense of disenfranchisment. Both groups suffer the disease of materialism that results in boredom, apathy, restlessness, anger, and a lack of respect for others. If you ever drive down 4th Avenue in Tucson on a Friday or Saturday night, you will see both the “haves” and the “have nots”, college students and nonstudents, wandering the street in search of something to fill their hunger for “more”. It makes you wonder if sending your sons and daughters to college is the answer for their success and ultimate happiness.

So where do we go from here? I think that all activists need friends and supporters. Citizens, who do not consider themselves activists but realize they benefit from individuals who are willing to put themselves on the front line, should defend those “front-liners”—those who protest on the streets, who write articles and books and make films about the many social and environmental problems.

You yourself don’t have to stand on a soap box or picket. All you need to do is open your mouth to your friends around the dinner table or over a cup of coffee, supporting those who do the picketing and soap boxing. And if you really want to help, write a letter to your local editor, supporting those activists.