Archive for ‘November, 2009’
“It may be demanded…Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion? But…sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents…. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.”
– John Mason, who led Puritan soldiers in a massacre of a Pequot village in 1633.
William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth, wrote: “Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire…horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.”
If we’re going to celebrate today, let’s celebrate the spirit of resistance.
“In our family stories we have stories of what happened to our people. I have a grandma. Her name was Dora Hi White Man. She survived the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. As a little child, four, five, or six years old, I remember my grandma Dora. So I’m very fortunate to know a survivor of the 1890 massacre. And today you might think 1890 was long, long, long ago. But it’s just recent, because I knew my grandma and my grandma ran from that massacre.
“I live in Oglala. When Wounded Knee 1973 was going on I was a little girl. I looked that way and the whole sky was pink (from the flares being shot up by the government). To me Wounded Knee was just right over the hill there. I was like, Oh right on! Cool! Keep on doing that, man! I was really happy. Little did I know that my nation was trying to make war with one of the big power nations of the world. I was just proud of them. And ever since Wounded Knee I’ve always been real happy to be an Indian and I’m proud of the fact that you mess with us, we’ll mess right back.”
– Arlette Loud Hawk, Lakota, resident of Pine Ridge Indian reservation
quoted in Revolutionary Worker, 1/16/2000
I’ve started posting over on Ted Rall’s blog (rall.com). A couple of people there, in response to my repost of “Capitalists Can Never Stop Killing the Planet,” have asked what I think we should do. I get asked that sometimes, so here are some ideas right off the top of my head:
1) As individuals, figure out how to use our talents, positions and resources in the most effective ways possible to expose the system’s oppressive nature, and physically undermine its ability to function. Strengthen, encourage and support those who want to defend the planet; ridicule, discredit and weaken those who want to destroy it.
2) Form affinity groups and connections with trusted friends to do the above more effectively and on a larger scale.
3) Network with allies and other groups, unite with them as broadly as possible, and find ways of stirring up large-scale disruptions and social disorder to weaken governments’ (plural) ability to rule.
4) Debate and discuss on all levels of society (small to large scale), to develop the principles, theory and strategy we need to form a cohesive movement to defeat those in power, dismantle this system and re-organize human activity to be socially just and sustainable.
How’s that for a start? The hard part isn’t to figure out what to do. The question is, are we willing to do the necessary work?
Thanks to Derrick Jensen for sending me this inspiring quote:
“I think a real writer simply has to think in other terms. Not, ‘Will I get in this magazine? Will I get this NEA grant next year?’ but whether or not this work is something he would do if a gun was held to his head and somebody was going to pull the trigger as soon as the last word of the last paragraph of the last page was finished. Now if you can write out of the sense that you’re going to die as soon as the work is done, then you will write with urgency, honesty, courage, and without flinching at all, as if this were the last testament in language, the last utterance you could ever make to anybody. If a work is written like that, then I want to read it. If somebody’s writing out of that sense, then I’ll say, ‘This is serious. This person is not fooling around. This work is not a means to some other end, the work is not just intended for some silly superficial goal, this work is the writer saying something because he or she feels that if it isn’t said, it will never be said.’
“Those are the writers I want to read. And there are not many twentieth century writers like that.”
–Charles Johnson, in an interview by Nicholas O’Connell, from At the Field’s End, p. 262, Madrona Publishers, Seattle, 1987.
Editor & Publisher has an article about some people protesting an offensive cartoon. That’s great — I love protests against offensive things.
But this sentence gave me the chills:
“Newsday issued a statement saying,’we expect the cartoons we publish, many of which are nationally syndicated, to amuse, stir and entertain, but never to offend’.”
Wow. What an extraordinary, horrifying statement. I loathe the cartoon, but that’s not the point — this statement makes it clear that the trend toward blandifying papers has not only not slowed, but that editors freely admit that they’re okay with it. They’re afraid of their readers and afraid of editorializing. This fear of offending anyone is stultifying and so dangerous. Does anyone still think we live in a free society?
I think that as the economic, environmental and other crises increasingly worsen, Americans will become more polarized (that’s already happening) and will demand sharper opinions in all areas of the culture. We see the success of those who start to speak out more openly on tv and online. I hope newspaper editors start to understand this emerging trend and figure out that their readers want controversy and strong opinions, not bland meaninglessness.
The whole *purpose* of editorial cartoons is to enlighten, expose, inspire and offend! NOT to “amuse and entertain.” Those are secondary. As Mike Lester (a cartoonist who often seriously offends me) correctly stated, non-offensive cartoons “are called greeting cards.”
In a discussion group I participate in, someone asserted that capital, as a unified entity, could act to save itself by reducing its damage to the environment, even if it had to sacrifice significant profit to do so. I’m sure that for many people, this belief underlies their hopes for progress at the Copenhagen talks. But these talks are now falling apart before they even happen, which was inevitable given the fundamental nature of global capitalism.
I’m revising some of my comments to the group for re-posting here:
Because of the globalization of production and consumption, the intertwining of complex financial markets, and because capitalists employ mechanisms (like the UN or World Bank) for uniting for particular cooperative purposes, they can seem essentially multinational in character. But the ruling class is not in fact globally unified and can not act as such, even in this final stage of the imperialist era. They are still separate blocs rooted in nations, competing over resources and markets. China vs. India vs. U.S…. these are still real rivalries. Capitalists still require their national governments and armies to defend their interests as they persist in trying to expand their global reach.
One might argue that national governments act as international representatives to facilitate relationships between blocs of capital that are more cooperative than competitive. But let’s see what happens when the value of China’s investments in US treasuries dissolves when the dollar collapses. Let’s see what happens when China builds a dam that blocks a major river from reaching India. Or how the current struggle over Central Asia’s oil plays out. On an individual level, the national character of capital blocs becomes obvious during the simple act of attempting to buy or use foreign currency.
Any talk by governments, individually or collectively, of managing the environmental crisis is either 1) lies to pacify the people and divert the energy of more potentially radical environmental movements or 2) schemes for making more profit while actually making the crisis worse (carbon offsets, for example, actually increase carbon emissions).
Those in power can and do collectively make minor specific adjustments in policy, and trumpet these as evidence that they really won’t destroy the planet, or at least will try very very hard not to. But these are meaningless — it’s the trend overall that matters. Who cares about adjustments when they’re still killing everyone? They congratulate themselves for these plans and schemes and agreements, while their rate of destruction actually accelerates.
Those who run this system are not stupid. They know that their system is unsustainable and will result in omnicide, and in their own demise. Yet they will fight over the last bit of profit from the last bit of earth, until it’s too late to save anything. They have little control over this — the economic mechanism that brought them into existence and keeps them in existence *as capitalists* makes it impossible to stop, as impossible as it would be for me to tie a knot in a rainbow.
The ruling class can not decide to stop competing and give up capitalism deliberately in favor of a sustainable global new order. Francis Fukuyama argued in “The End of History” that that had happened in an economic/political sense after the fall of the Soviet Union — he turned out to be wrong. New blocs of capital coalesce, strengthen and face off once again.
Capitalism has an inherent law of expansion that can not be reformed, even by itself, even to save itself. It is only when capitalism is in crisis, like crisis of overproduction, that contractions must happen, but these are only times of regrouping to expand even further still. Capitalism, if not overthrown, will end up destroying itself along with us. It can not do otherwise. It’s not because capitalists are bad people, it’s because of mechanisms in the system (that are still described best by marxists) of competition and the constantly falling rate of profit. Though there is also a mechanism leading toward increased monopolies, competition remains primary — there can never be a situation where one corporation swallows all the rest into one overarching global über-bloc of capital.
Governments can, though, sacrifice some capitalists to save the system, as happened with the New Deal, and has happened in the recent financial crisis too. But this is to preserve a system with competition at the core, and they will always protect the interests of “their” blocs of capital first. The best that capitalists can hope for is to get as much as they can while they can get it. They can’t make the system stop even if individuals among them might wish to; the only way for it to stop is for those with opposing interests (that’s us) to stop them.
It might seem counter-inituitive that some members of the ruling class like Al Gore are helping to expose that the planet is in trouble. But the ruling class needs spokespeople to convincingly address the concerns of the people, or they risk social disorder. These spokespeople may even personally care very deeply about reforms. Unfortunately they are incapable of calling the system that causes all this into question, so their net effect is negative.
All these recent exposure movies like “Inconvenient Truth,” “Food Inc.,” “Capitalism: A Love Story” do not really challenge the system’s fundamental nature, or exploitation as a way of life. They serve (whether intentionally or not) as ways of making people think their issues are being addressed while bringing them back into the fold. They soothe and divert percolating discontent before it has a chance to break the surface as open rebellion. The election of Obama was used for this too — it drew millions of disillusioned people back into the system’s political orbit, changed them from outsiders into participants and defenders. NGOs do this, all reformers do this, even if their intentions are good.
There are always contending ideas within the ruling class about how best to preserve and expand their rule. They’re not one united monolith. They have differences about how it’s best to rule and protect their capital. Some of them think it’s best to try to minimize the damage, prevent social disorder, make reforms; while others are more in favor of raw exploitation and the iron fist. These opinions contend, and sometimes reforms are made when the ruling class as a whole finds them necessary for the continuation of their ability to exploit. But their fundamental activity is the exploitation, not the reforms. It always will be, as long as they hold power.
For those upset by the failure of the Copehagen talks, they were doomed from the start. Even if agreements had been reached, the nations involved would have been incapable of going against their own nature. Agreements would have been unavoidably broken, limits regretfully breached.
Our future should not be thrown away on impossible wishes and hopes. For us, there’s no dodging responsibility — we must stop omnicide ourselves, by overthrowing those in power and dismantling their system.
It’s official — Bunnista’s new fifth column of humans group to save the planet will be called RAGE: Resistance Against Global Ecocide. Watch for Bunnista to announce this in the cartoon to be posted on 11/30 (on comics.com), and 12/1 (here).
Here’s my announcement:
Bunnista has received more than 150 entries for his Save-Our-Acronym contest! It’s going to be so hard to decide — there are so many fabulous ones. Thanks to all who entered!! The winning one has to be witty, catchy, powerful in both name and acronym, simple and easy to remember, and politically perfect (balancing maximum inclusiveness with the appropriate amount of militancy).
You have through Saturday to give your opinion about the following list, and/or submit your own ideas! You can comment here or send them to email@example.com.
Here are some at the top of his list right now:
Radicals Against Industrial Destruction (RAID)
Dedicated Individuals Smashing Machines And Nations To Liberate Earth (DISMANTLE)
Really Angry Group of Earthlings (RAGE)
Lead Environmental Action Force (LEAF)
Force for the Response to Environmental Emergencies (FREE)
Wildlife Task Force (WTF)
The Earth’s Radical Revolutionary Army (TERRA)
Retaliation Against Global Ecocide (RAGE)
* * *
Here are some that he probably won’t pick, but are just awesomely cute and thus must be mentioned:
Leninist Anarcho-Proletariats for Imposing a Non-civilized
Fungi, Lagomorphs And Mammals with Explosives (FLAME)
Rebellion Against Brainless Bipeds Infecting Terra (RABBIT)
Coalition of Human Anti-Capitalists Helping Animals Conquer Hominid Abuse (CHA-CHA CHA)
There’s an anthology published by Last Hours (UK) called “Excessive Force,” with comics against police brutality. They included a bunch of “Minimum Security” strips, the sequence when Nikko tries to ask a congressperson a question, and then gets beat up by cops, and saved by Javier.
The summary and purchasing info are here: http://www.lasthours.org.uk/excessive-force/