Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Bad AirBnB experience

When I reached Oslo, I decided that I would stay a couple of extra days and booked this AirBnb on line. My booking was accepted.

Then Julie and I had this rather unusual internet conversation - summarized by the fact that she was not in the city but was contacting a roommate who would be able to get me a key.
Aside from the internet at the friend's place where I was staying West of city centre, I had no contact. I managed to persuade my friend, Marney to use her phone.

According to Julie, I could pick up the key that evening - I suggested between the hours of 7:00 and 8:00 not knowing the centre of the city very well - I thought that we were closer than we were. The Norwegian friend didn't want me to go alone so wouldn't let me leave our meal to go until we were all finished eating. It was almost 9:00 when we arrived to the address. My friend, Marney, texted the number given three times and called twice. The second call resulted in getting a message in Norwegian when she could not interpret. 

In any case, we were getting cold, we already approached by two separate men who just offered us advice in keeping warm and noted the two women at the corner in provocative poses. 

The next morning Marney had her hotel concierge dial the number given by Julie and the Norwegian message said that the phone was out of order. Her Norwegian friend, a lawyer with the Red Cross, told her that the area was the "Red Light" district.

Here is a copy of the conversation between Julie and myself:

Dale: I am already in Oslo but need to move for the last two nights of this week. I can arrive any time during the day of Wednesday. My flight out is at 10:45 on Friday
11 Dec 2017

Dale: I seem to be doing a lot of walking around the centre of Oslo - could I have specific direction to this site?

11 Dec 2017

Julie: Hello Dale, I am out travelling but you are

very welcome to stay here. My roomie could
let you in. Do you use WhatsApp?

12 Dec 2017

Dale: I would need to get in sometime tomorrow preferably in the morning. > no Julie, I don’t have What’ A App. My phone >is misbehaving so I barely have email. Dale

12 Dec 2017

Dale: I don’t have what’s app. My cell works badly as a source of email.

12 Dec 2017

Julie:  Ok no problem. I will talk to my roomie. He could give you the key tonight if you are avaiable? And you could check yourself in tomorrow

12 Dec 2017

Dale: That would be awesome as I am downtown now.

12 Dec 2017

Julie: Ok perfect. The adresse is Rxxxxxxxx, Oslo. Right next to Dxxxxxx. Please text me here or my roomie Erik at the number put into the profile xxxxxxxxxxxx when you are nearby and he will come down to meet you�

12 Dec 2017

Dale: We’ll try to get that done - I can’t use my phone which doesn’t recognize Telenor which it should but my friend can.

12 Dec 2017

Dale: Expect around 19:00 - 20:00.

12 Dec 2017

Dale (at 20:30): haven’t left dinner yet

12 Dec 2017

Julie: Are you serious? This is a home and N O T a hotel. You tell me between 19 - 20 and dont even bother sending me a message until way past arrival. How rude! You really expect people to drop everything and sit and wait hours for you while you are having dinner?

12 Dec 2017

Julie (After we tried to contact her roomie at the number given, gave up and went "home" - besides, I would not have received it because I didn't have email until I was home): Hello, It is 22.00 and I still have not heard anything from you?

12 Dec 2017

Dale: I'm very sorry but I did not have control over my travels or my dining. I don't know the city well - I was further from 28 Rachusgata than I thought. And I had to find internet to communicate with you. So, yes, it was rude.   In retrospect, I should not have offered a pick up this evening because we would not have been able to get there even directly. By the time we reached your place it was almost 21:00 and my friend (whose phone I was using) was very cold.   Is there any way this can still work out? (I am in an apartment out in the West of Oslo and can't get downtown until around 11:00 am.)

12 Dec 2017

Dale: We went to 28 Rachlusgata and texted twice and phoned once. I am back out West. 

12 Dec 2017

Julie: Hello again, sorry but I can not host you after this. I refunded you 727 NOK that you have to accept if you want them. Julie

12 Dec 2017

Dale: I don't quite understand that the reservation still seems to stand for tomorrow night? Is that the way of saying 50 percent?

12 Dec 2017

Julie: No. You got like 85% from me. Is because I couldnt cancel. I will try to call airbnb to make them fix it

12 Dec 2017

Thanks Dale

13 Dec 2017

The end result is that I found another place to bunk, am out some money and have had a bad experience with AirBnB; I have had other good experiences but my friend will probably never try.


Sunday, 29 October 2017

Book Review: Why Civil Resistance Works - Chenoweth & Stephan

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

Erica Chenoweth & Maria J. Stephan

Opening with the dramatic experience of East Timor where, under the Falintil, a guerrilla-based violent campaign against Indonesia had been waged for years without success and subsequent nonviolent campaign successfully won independence for the region, this book endeavours to analyze 232 violent and nonviolent resistance campaigns between 1900 and 2006, their successes or failures and resulting governance structures.

The conclusions? Nonviolent resistance campaigns are twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts. This is true in spite of the degree of repression, its capabilities or type of governance (democratic or autocratic). The degree of success varied:
1.     The exception: in anti-succession campaigns, no non-violent campaigns worked but it is not clear how many were tried; of the forty violent campaigns, only 4 worked.
2.    In anti-regime resistance campaigns, the use of nonviolent strategies greatly enhanced the probability of success,
3.    In campaigns with territorial objectives (anti-occupation or self-determination), nonviolent campaigns have a slight advantage,
4.    In resistance campaigns with specific human rights objectives (anti-apartheid), nonviolent resistance has the monopoly on success.

Violent guerrilla movements may provide the (usually) youthful male participants with initial personal satisfaction but they usually fail to attract wide-spread support among the very citizens that they purport to represent. Older men, women and children[1] are generally barred from direct participation; many within the age demographic are not attracted to violence, to the required training or the usually spare lifestyle. The movement tends to become dependent upon foreign support for weapons, a support that can be withdrawn at any time. It may also find itself with unsavoury “partners (the international drug trade). Members tend to be unable to participate in public discourse, being “underground”. Finally, violent campaigns are always met with violence and usually the state has greater resources than the combatants.

Violent resistance does work in 1:4 campaigns. What of the result? None of those within the study cut-off time period of five years following their success resulted in democratic regimes. The same lack of trust, fear of dissent within the ranks, military-like hierarchy and male hegemony that ensured their success ensures failure to achieve the stated goals of freedom and citizen participation.

Non-violent campaigns succeed 3:4 times. Non-violent campaigns require some of the same commitment to “lay one’s life on the line” as violent campaigns but the barriers to participation are lower on moral, physical, informational and level of commitment fronts (one can withdraw without penalty at practically any time). Higher numbers of involvement and diversity means enhanced resiliency, more tactical innovation, expanded civic disruption (raising costs to the regime of maintaining the status quo), greater opportunities for loyalty shifts among the opposition[2] and more international sympathy and support. Non-violent campaigns can make use of a multitude of civil actions from boycotts to lobbying, sit-ins, walks, and marches, limited only to the imagination of the participants.

Success depends largely upon the numbers of people converted to the cause, the patience and resilience of the participants and the timing of the campaign. While success does not require a philosophical commitment to non-violence, it does require strategic commitment and recruitment to that common principle. It succeeds as a strategy. Provocateurs must be expected; defense requires pro-active plans for dealing with them[3].

Result after the campaign? The same skills inherent in waging a nonviolent campaign tend to extend to the governments that form after it. The immediate result following a successful non-violent campaign is more likely to be more democratic and participatory than those formed following violent successful actions.

Given the greater likelihood of success with non-violent campaigns, why choose violence? My speculations are:
1.     Lack of knowledge and imagination about alternatives – education levels are lower in those who choose violence.
2.    Pressure from those who benefit from violence – corporate arms sales, leaders who stand to gain by inter-sectoral distraction from real issues.
3.    Emotional response overcomes intellectual analysis – in spite of the greater knowledge and resources of the state, violence becomes the fallback response[4]
4.    Numbers – non-violent campaigns usually need a lot of support[5] and impatience with change often doesn’t wait. Participants have initiated violence to which they adre now committed.

The kick-shins and knock-heads response to injustice, rape, and seemingly impenetrable bureaucracies probably exists in all of us (I certainly count myself as most likely to feel a violent response) but most of us through education, a sense of responsibility for our actions and vague expressions of ethics and morals around killing other humans inhibit violence.

Should we then allow ourselves to become overcome with helplessness and impotence? Let us not be drawn into a false belief that non-violence means doing nothing.[6] Studies have shown that “activists” (the people actively trying to make a difference) of any political stripe are healthier than those who accept the status quo.

This book has been a challenging read – because it is a scholarly enterprise. Still I would recommend it to anyone who has the patience. (I also recommend Gene Sharp’s exhaustive trilogy on non-violence dand “A Force More Powerful” available in video/CD and book form.) From this book, there are questions for further research especially analysis of winning strategies, whether violent or non-violent (what are the hallmarks of a successful violent campaigns? What are the best set-ups for winning a non-violent campaign?). Can the conclusions in this book find application on accomplishing systematic organizational change when dealing with international or corporate regimes?

More readers would result in more fruitful discussions…..

[1] An relatively recent exception is the recruitment of individuals to participate in suicide actions.
[2] A non-violent campaign can be considered to be “winning” when security personnel “switch sides” and refuse to level violence against protesters.
[3] Dakota Access Pipeline protests are an excellent recent example of pro-active attention to the presence of provocateurs.
[4] Many violent campaigns claim to have resorted to violence because “non-violence didn’t work”. Further analysis suggests that attempts to use non-violence were very limited (voting, a single march or sit-in, etc.) or failed to recruit sufficient support to the cause. This latter reason spells failure of either violence or non-violence.
[5] The Rosenstra├če protests are an exception where a small number of women successfully embarrassed the Nazis into releasing their Jewish husbands.
[6] Unless “doing nothing” is part of the strategy for change.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Visiting Washington, DC

Things we learned and some suggestions about the US national capital:

1. A bus tour helps to get orientated: the red bus tour was our choice because we liked the open top - it was very good, if a little grid-locked on Friday. Monday was better. There are two other touring companies; they all seem to overlap - be ready for glorification of wars and lots of statues of dead white men. Martin Luther King is given a token location - his feet are still encased in stone, unsculpted, because "his work was unfinished".  (Alert: segregation in tourism can be seen here as the whites went to Roosevelt and Moslem/black tourists could be found at MLK.)

2. The city is clean - perhaps the cleanest city that I've ever visited. There are re-cycling bins everywhere but it is not clear whether people understand the purpose of separating garbage.

3. Food is expensive. We bought groceries for our breakfasts and snacks - cheese, crackers, fruit, cereal, milk, tea and coffee. $2.90 for two quarts of milk, $1.20 for a banana - US funds. 

4. Public bus and metro service is excellent! The drivers and metro service managers were very pleasant and helpful. For seniors, $1 a ride practically anywhere; everyone else $2. If we went back, we would purchase a "smartride" card which is needed for transfers - over two hours. Eating out? Expect a minimum of $15 for a salad or a sandwich. Our best deal was the American University cafeteria where that same $15 got an all-you-can-eat buffet. The menu at the German restaurant around the corner from our Airbnb listed meals at $48.

5. Smithsonian museums and galleries are free - we went to the National Arboretum (and rose garden), the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Cathedral (not free), the National Art Gallery and especially the National Museum of African American History. (Tickets for the last one are on line about four months in advance of the visit, daily tickets go up at 6:30 am - our choice - or you can stand in line at 1:00 pm.) (It was warm outside and the air conditioning was fierce - we carried extra clothes.)

6. There are lots of demonstrations and a few vigils. We went to the demonstration for health care; an experience in sharing just a little in the US underbelly with lots and lots of police presence. We saw the vigil against torture (and Guantanamo) from the bus. Probably best to leave before arrests start unless you are rich or famous enough to get media attention.

We were blessed with fantastic weather and would easily go again!