It's been over a week since I uploaded this to the Pan Left video blog, but I forgot to mention it here. It's an interview between my alter ego and me, another humorous Esteban Caliente piece that I started at the G8 in Germany back in June and never finished editing. So I decided to complete it on the last couple days of 2007. It's a bit of retrospection and introspection, a look back at a week of marches and rallies and yelling and chanting, and questioning of progressive activist tactics and strategies as well as my own place in them.
it's downloadable too.
Chris Hedges plugs war tax resistance in a comment in The Nation, December 10 issue.
A country that exists in a state of permanent war cannot exist as a democracy. Our long row of candles is being snuffed out. We may soon be in darkness. Any resistance, however symbolic, is essential. There are ways to resist without being jailed. If you owe money on your federal tax return, refuse to pay some or all of it...
For him, a war with Iran is the breaking point that will push him into that tactic. Unfortunately he fails to mention that others have been doing it since Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Vietnam... or World War 2.
What are the ethics of doing versus not-doing? Of quitting versus "staying the course"? If you got a group of people into something, or helped get them into it, and they may or may not be worse off because of it, but you want out, are you justified in counting yourself out? Or do you have an obligation to finish what you started, no matter what? And what if others are telling you to quit? What is the moral calculus for deciding when, for each individual, they say, "I will not be a party to this," as opposed to, "I will try to help salvage this mess," or somewhere in-between?
There's a project called Oil 21, "Perspectives on Intellectual Property," started by the cool folks at Bootlab in Berlin. The name come from a quote by some bigshot at Getty Images in which he claimed that IP is the oil of the 21st century.
This is perhaps an unsurprising statement (the Getty family made their money from oil, afterall), but it's a really stupid metaphor, and I'll tell you why: Oil is the Oil of the 21st century. I'm positive that at least until 2040 or so petroleum will continue to be something that shapes the world, informs geopolitics, and causes conflict around the globe more than any other resource, with the possible exception of water.
I guess I'm glad someone still cares a lot about fighting the good fight over in IP land, that virtual world where songs and books and images are drops of vital water in some virtual desert.
But I've really moved on. Most of the masses in the rich world don't care and it's irrelevant - youth steal music and movies and no one can ever stop them. Most of the rest of the world is too busy fighting for water and a place to live and food to eat. Occasionally in that world someone earns enough to buy that food by stacking some pirated DVDs on a blanket in the street and selling them for 50 cents a pop. That will never be stopped.
So, it's a niche issue for rich academics and artists. I'm done. I'm more interested in, for instance, the drops of water that might sustain the real thirst of people in other, more visceral deserts.
A largely excellent essay by David Graeber appeared on Infoshop.org the other day. It's called "REVOLUTION IN REVERSE (OR, ON THE CONFLICT BETWEEN POLITICAL ONTOLOGIES OF VIOLENCE AND POLITICAL ONTOLOGIES OF THE IMAGINATION)" It's really worth reading, if you can pick through the typos and missing words and other copy-editing gaffs (or maybe it was never copy-edited past the rough draft? It's really quite astounding how such an academic piece of writing could have so many such errors. hmm).
The piece is mostly about the difference between those who use force and those who use imagination, to get what they want from other people. Imagination, in this case, includes communicating with other people and trying to understand them, which violence never requires, except to some extent, as Graeber points out, when the sides are relatively evenly matched.
He uses this comparison to look at how recent developments in progressive activism have proceeded. One point he makes during this is what an influence feminist thought has had on the 'movement'. Feminism is more than just demanding that women are "equal" in some abstract way, but is also about learning things from how women and other opressed groups look at things.
For much of human history, what has been taken as politics has consisted essentially of a series of dramatic performances carried out upon theatrical stages. One of the great gifts of feminism to political thought has been to continually remind us of the people is in fact making and preparing and cleaning those stages, and even more, maintaining the invisible structures that make them possible
Douglas Rushkoff writes for the new issue of Arthur an excellent, pointed, yet concise piece about what's wrong with 9/11 conspiracy theories and theorists. Here's the main nugget of wisdom, though there are many others:
By looking under the rug for what isn't even there, we neglect the horror show that is in plain view. In the process, we make it even easier for the criminals running our government to perpetuate their illegal, unethical and un-American activities.
This recent article in the New Yorker about troop withdrawal from Iraq and realistic planning underscores and articulates something that I've always known as a feeling since the very first shouts of "support the troops! bring them home!": things are complicated. In Iraq, really really complicated. And simply pulling out all our forces as fast as possible sounds great but it would be disaster, and it would be cruel and horrible to the Iraqis, and to all the Middle East.
And Bush really fucked things up. And it's so so sad, that the hubris and arrogance and politicking and petty greed and ignorance has resulted in something like a million dead Iraqis (so far) and has fucked up the country and maybe the whole region for decades. Decades. Just because some dumbshit from texas and his cronies thought they were playing some little game that would maybe increase their stock portfolios. Fucking lying dipshit idiots.
But this article makes it clear that there's no going back, and there's no just throwing up our hands and saying "oops! Gosh those Republicans sure were bad. Well, ok, we're going home now, bye." Stupid W got us into this, but there ain't no getting out without admitting he fucked up, and doing the responsible thing to at least minimize further catastrophe.
Today 50,000 people from all over the country are in Jena, Louisiana to demand justice for the 6 kids being persecuted by the racist district attorney there. If you haven't been following the situation have a look into it. Houston Indymedia has a feature on it.
Around here in Tucson it's lucky if anyone has even heard about it, much less getting involved, even the activist types I know. It's kind of amazing, but I guess most people I know are already so busy with whatever issues they already work on so hard all the time, mostly border stuff or enviro stuff.
A few of us were thinking of going to Jena but, well, it just wasn't going to work. I can't afford stuff like that these days. But I got a t-shirt...
In the spirit of my cynical previous blog post today, despite the good cause, I can't help doing the math: 50,000 people from all over, most of whom probably flew to Alexandria or New Orleans and then bussed or taxied, and got hotel rooms, and ate at restaurants, etc etc.... I bet at least a million dollars was spent collectively by all these committed activists.
Things are already looking up, one kid's conviction was overturned because an appeals court said he shouldn't have been tried as an adult... Maybe this is the best way to spend a million dollars, but maybe not. Think of everything for this cause that could have been done with a million dollars... even better lawyers? Billboards all over Jena? maybe stun guns or self-defense classes for all the african-americans in Jena? bribes? hitmen to take out the DA? I dunno, but all those things would also probably spew less carbon into the atmosphere too. I dunno. I dunno.
I just found out about "October Rebellion," a week of protests in DC against the IMF and World Bank. The cause is great but wow, what a waste. When are people going to get past marches and rallies? You'd think that after literally millions of people around the world on one day in 2003 marched against the impending war in Iraq and made no difference at all that people would start to re-evaluate this tactic on a large scale. But it doesn't seem like it's sunk in.
Imagine what we could do if all the effort and time and money and calories went into other things, instead of being put into organizing all the marching and standing around chanting and waving signs, all the greenhouse gases spewed into the air by all those jet-setting activists flying to the mass mobilizations, all the jail support for the ones that get arrested, all the trials and lawsuits and medical bills for the ones that get charged and beat up and gassed, etc etc....
Don't people get that these protests are basically the equivalent of whining to the government, asking them to fix things? Don't people get that the government never will really fix things? The Zapatistas learned that. Like them, let's just dive in and do the work to make the new world we want and stop wasting our time asking power to do it for us.
(As you can perhaps tell, I'm feeling a bit cynical lately, but not cynical enough to invalidate my point above, I feel.)
Wow. Bob Ostertag notes in his blog an MSNBC story about China and reincarnation:
China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation."
It's hilarious but it's also serious, as Bob discusses in his post...