Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Getting Free:" the response

I finished reading James Herod's Getting Free today. (See yesterday's entry) It's good as far as it goes.

There's one glaring omission: it says nothing about place.

Getting Free is an exclusively urban, human-centered anarchist strategy. Yes, we must displace capitalism and replace it with anarchism. Yes, we must organize locally to provide viable alternatives to the oppressive central state. It is the basis of organization that is lacking in this work.

Herod dances around a hole in the living room floor big enough to drive a Volkswagen bus through. He rejects all historical attempts to organize anarchistically, to oppose the state and to provide social alternatives, while continuing to pretend that humans organize themselves through logical, rational thought rather than genetically evolved responses to their environment. He doesn't understand how human society works (in fact, he rejects all division of social science, including anthropology) as well as historical accounts of how pre-state societies organized and maintained themselves.

This is a major failing of socialist and anarchist thought. For some reason, socialists (if I may lump anarchists in this overbroad grouping) do not understand and rarely consider humans as part of the biological mix, as functioning species in the overall ecosystem web.

Today, facing the twin specters of climate change and peak oil, we must consider how humans will return to living in place, or die out altogether. It's obvious that capitalism cannot prevail in this energy and climate reality. No economy based on unlimited growth can persist in a world of finite resources.

Furthermore, humans "traditionally," biologically and evolutionarily organize themselves naturally in bioregions, that is within meaningful geographical, geological and biological units that are self-evident to those who live intimately within them. 'Twas ever thus. This is the template on which human social organization has been formed historically, until the advent of "cheap" energy in the form of fossil fuels, that allowed humans to ignore, temporarily, this essential connection between animals, including humans, and place.

Therefore, any proposed human social organization must include, as the basic starting point, the bioregion in which the humans live, and the on-going relationships among the humans, the place and the plants and animals with which we co-inhabit in the bioregion. Bioregion is the basis for human freedom, democracy and anarchy, just as it is for all living things.

In the next few weeks, I'll be working on bringing these principles of living in place together with the principles of anarchist social organization, to craft a vision of a possible direction into the dim mists of the future.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Getting Free"

I'm reading a book, by James Herod, called Getting Free: Creating an Association of Democratic Autonomous Neighborhoods. You can read it, and others online, download a .pdf copy or send the author some money and get a real copy.

Getting Free is an excellent expostulation of the principles of local anarchist organization via neighborhood assemblies and associations of assemblies, as I have explained here and elsewhere and which I proposed in a run for Borough Assembly in Fairbanks, Alaska, and promoted in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Herod has very clearly outlined the principles of such anti-capitalist organization, and steps to get from here to there. I have yet to read the other works on his web site, but they look to offer equal promise. I'm a little bit concerned, as the copyright date on the web site is 2007 and he hasn't answered my email query. Time will tell.

Be that as it may... I'm a bit older now than when I ran for Borough Assembly and perhaps a bit.. well, older will have to do. I'm not sure if I'm wiser or just more cynical.

I've come to the realization, through life experience, gentle prodding by wiser comrades and lucky slaps up side the head, that most people in this world just don't want to take more control over their own lives. To use a Rule of Thumb devised by my wife Jean and I, about 10% of the people in our world are concerned with the world around them and care to do much of anything about it. The 10% rule seems to apply whether it's attendance at our Homeowner's Association, our Live Oak Neighbors gatherings or support for preservation of our local greenbelt.

This is not to say that it cannot be otherwise. There is no "Human Nature" carved in stone, hanging over each and every one of our heads, forcing us to be this way. Individuals in this society are this way because this is how they are taught to be. (Notice how I say "they." For some reason, Jean and I escaped this conditioning. I suspect there are a few others... 10% I might guess.)

It is a chicken and egg thing, though. Our society is formed by the way we are, which teaches children how to be human beings in our society. It seems like an inescapable spiral.

However, our society didn't get this way overnight, and it cannot change to another form overnight. It takes time, perseverance, vision and dedication. This is where we come in.

Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Ram Dass told us, "Be here now." Castaneda described the life of the impeccable warrior. It's all the same thing. We each change the world we live in now, so that our life is moving toward a desired state. We remove ourselves from capitalist employment. We engage in and support neighborhood cooperatives, neighborhood assemblies, democratic decision-making. We withdraw our energy and cooperation from oppressive, capitalist institutions.

We work to build a better world here and now, not at some distant place and time. Our actions do not depend on the actions of others.

We have a finite number of decisions to make in the remainder of our lives. We live to make each decision count.

In times of great change, those who stay the same are left behind.

Firing the Nanny

Here's a fellow contemplating moving to the uS from Canada. He's understandably nervous about living in the Police State, with considerable justification.

We uS frogs have been boiled slowly by the militarized constabulary. We've slowly been acculturated to the security apparatus, first at airports, then, increasingly, everywhere else. Homeland Security has inserted its tentacles everywhere, into every orifice that might conceivably harbor subversive thought and action.

This is not to say that we do not appreciate and value our local police, even though they are increasingly falling under the thrall of the Homeland Security beast. Our local police are still our neighbors, friends and relatives. They still share our streets and sidewalks, shop in our stores, gather for our cultural events. Here in Santa Cruz, the chief spokesman for the police department, Zack Friend, (no kidding... really!) performs in a monthly stand-up comedy show.

The Police State does not arise from within, it is imposed from without, in the form of federal money dangled in front of local police departments starving for money to run their departments. With the money comes training, and with training comes indoctrination. So the Police State grows.

Somewhere along the line, we gave up the idea of local control, of local decision-making, of taking responsibility for our own communities, our own neighborhoods, our own lives. We've turned our lives over to the Central Nannies, in the form of City, County, State and federal government bureaucracies, giving them the power to make decisions for us, giving up our power to control our own lives as fully involved, democratic decision-makers.

The answer, of course, is to organize locally in neighborhood assemblies to determine for ourselves our neighborhood problems and what we want to do about them. Some people call it anarchy, I call it democracy.

I don't know if it's possible to organize ourselves in such a form, now that everyone is used to being cared for by the state. It seems we've lost the ability to take care of ourselves, or at least the will to make the effort.

But then, how will we know unless we try?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What will you do when they declare martial law?

The stage is set, the props are in place, the actors are on their marks, all that remains is to open the curtains.

Look at the program: Barak O'Bama, the Muslim Irishman, looks good to beat Ms. Clinton to the podium at the Democratic Convention. John McCain, the right-wing Republican caricature, scowls in grandfatherly fashion as he mumbles his lines, dropping a fact here, a lie there around his wing-tip shoes.

Could the lines be drawn any more distinctly? It's the white, privileged high roller status quo, military-industrial corporate cabal against ... everyone else!

What will Rummy and Rove do when Obama rolls out the landslide victory? How will the military-industrial complex react when Obamaites start talking peace? What will happen when "The People" march into Washington, DC and take over?

I doubt they'll be satisfied with stealing all the "O"s from the White House keyboards.

Think of the convenient excuse another attack on the United States would present to the Current Occupant and the Occupiers:

"Now is not the time to show weakness by changing the administration of this great nation. We must postpone the election for the duration of the emergency."

"We must pull our troops from foreign shores to protect the Homeland."

"The 'Freedom Drones' flying over your cities are for your own protection, their fully armed missiles a mere courtesy detail."

"Papers, pliss?"

Move along; these aren't the droids you're looking for.

In this Atlantic Free Press article, Tom Engelhardt reveals the extent to which the united States military is resorting to targeted drones and remotely launched cruise missiles to attempt to assassinate what are considered to be al-Qua'ida leaders, in remote villages around the world. This is not just in Iraq, having recently been attempted in Somalia, where a Tomahawk cruise missile blew up a small house, killing 4 to 6 (reports vary) innocent women and children. The intended victim was not in the area.

Imagine launching a $1.5 million dollar piece of technocracy from a bazillion dollar warship standing miles off shore, its crew honed to fine readiness, backed up by 300 million "Support the Troops" banners flying safely back in the Homeland. The missile streaks across the water, recognizes the shoreline, follows its internally programmed map inside its glittering rare metal innards and smashes into a single crude mud hut in the middle of the African desert, where its detonates its highly tuned package of explosives, scattering heads and limbs of women and children across the dry, sandy soil outside what once was their home.

This is the face of American power in these modern times, Uncle Sam cowering in a small, dimly lit room, observing the mayhem and horror through a glowing phosphor screen, destroying the lives of innocent civilians across the globe to make the world safe for American hypocrisy.

This is the face of American imperialism: the overwhelming power of indiscriminate killing, the targeted civilians, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, the denial of basic rights to food, water and shelter. This is how we smash our chosen enemies, how we prop up our economy by inventing wars for our military-industrial establishment to play in, to build untold technocratic marvels to send overseas and blow up in the beds and on the dinner tables of unsuspecting mothers, grandfathers, and more than any other, the children who will never have a chance to know a normal childhood.

This is bad enough, this cowardly long-distance destruction in the name of an economic philosophy: corporate capitalism, military Keynesianism, call it whatever fits your viewpoint. It is the propping up of a "way of life" for the residents of a favored country at the expense of the lives and welfare of millions of those unfortunates in the gun sights. It is the abdication of democratic institutions in favor of petty greed, and the puerile lust for power at home.

In the united States, the mayhem is largely ignored. 99 44/100% of the people go about their daily lives completely unaware of the death and destruction visited in their name on children and families just like theirs. Nor is there any connection in their minds between the cheap oil, the fancy electronic gadgetry, the shiny new car, the fine clothes, the warm, creamy latté, the ubiquitous cell phone and the lives of billions of people around the world whose miserable existence makes such luxury possible. The awareness that does exists consists mainly of smug complacency that our "Defense" Department is doing a fine job protecting us from the barbarians who blew up the World Trade Center.

It's good to remember that the industrial-military complex is always looking for new markets to test and deploy its glittering array of weapons systems. And one should recall that Homeland Security here at home is always looking for justifications to increase its influence (and budget) through domestic surveillance and the fostering of armed and dangerous constabularies. Pilotless drones are already being used to observe gatherings of unruly and unpredictable civilians. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, increasingly networked in seething tentacles linked by face recognition and Bugsplat software, all funneled through febrile wires and cables into the dark inner workings of Homeland Security, working safely miles below ground in undisclosed locations.

When will we witness our first crack house taken out by an armed Predator drone? A gang gathering broken up by a remotely controlled robot? And when will we have our first collateral damage as the technology of violent remote oppression comes fully home to roost?

The definitions of "yours" and "mine" are thin, transparent and separated by a tissue thickness of distinction. It will take only a slight breeze in the political winds to turn the sights from "them" to "us."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The immorality of the state

I've been listening to the broadcasts of the "Winter Soldier" hearings, on Democracy Now from Pacifica Radio. It's absolutely gut-wrenching stuff. I remember driving across the country, listening to the first Winter Soldier, broadcast live on Pacifica stations. I switched from one to the next and sped through the zones where I couldn't hear it, as much as one can speed in a 1964 Volkswagen bus.

I think of the immorality of sending young men to a desert thousands of miles away from their homes, where they are encouraged, nay, ordered, to commit the most horrendous atrocities against innocent human beings.

If they just killed people, it would be bad enough. These young men... yes, and some women... are taught to denigrate other humans, to consider them as less than human, to hate them and to take pleasure in hurting, maiming, torturing and cruelly killing them in unspeakable ways.

It's not their fault. Yes, they participated willingly, if any impressionable youth propagandized into joining the military can be said to have done anything willingly. They were thrust not of heir own volition into an alien landscape where people were trying to kill them, with reason, of course. Steeped in a culture of violence and exhorted by their leaders to acts of horrible violence, it's no wonder that they shoot, stab, blow up and bomb their helpless victims, then live with their acts the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile, the perpetrators of these international crimes rest at their ease in obscene comfort and safety thousands of miles away, watching the scene on CNN and Fox Network, smoking their Cuban cigars and sipping on a fine single-malt whiskey. They don't see the blood on their hands, nor do they take credit for the lives of thousands of young men and women permanently scarred and distorted.

If there were any justice in the world Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman and John McCain would be stripped naked and staked out on a street in Baghdad for the locals to have their way with them. It wouldn't make any difference in the long run, but some folks would sleep better at night.

In the broader view, it is not just cruel, amoral people such as Bush, Cheney and all the others who create such carnage. On their own, they would only be petty tyrants, neighborhood thugs, confidence tricksters and carnival hucksters, easily dealt with by an armed and aroused vigilante society.

Given access to the reins of the state, however, their immorality takes on global proportions, where they can ratchet up their murder, rape and pillage to epic proportions, relegating Genghis Kahn, Ivan the Terrible and the Celtic hordes to mere amateur status, neighborhood bullies, local ruffians. Adolph Hitler had nothing on Dick Cheney when it comes to roughing up the neighbors.

The most frustrating part of it all is that we citizens can do nothing to rein in the excesses of state power. The political process is controlled and pre-ordained. Elections consist of "which corrupt politician would you prefer to guide the imperialist ship of state?"

The answer is "None of the above." The only rational response to a corrupt state is non-cooperation. This does not mean no political involvement at all. It means concentration on local politics and local decision making, where we live, were our decisions have immediate results, immediate consequences and where those we vote for have immediate responsibility to the electorate.

All together now... face Washington, D.C., place your right hand over your heart and repeat ofter me:


Sunday, March 02, 2008

This is Democracy?

Clinton, McCain, Obama... White woman; white man; sort of black guy.

If this were a contest for most photogenic politician, one might say we have a choice.

If this is a contest for leader of the united States, we've slipped into totalitarianism.

How is it that the political spectrum represented in these candidates goes from Far Right to Slightly Right of Middle?

All the candidates support uS imperial expansion in the Middle East and the invasion of Iraq (aka, "Support the Troops"). All the candidates support a constantly expanding capitalist economy. All the candidates support economic centralization, privatization, and Federal Reserve hegemony. All support a "health care system" based on bloated health insurance corporations.

None of the candidates acknowledge Peak Oil and its inevitable consequences for local economies. None of the candidates acknowledge the causes and effects of climate change and the impact it will have on human societies. None of the candidates have any rational environmental understanding or proposals for the future.

In short, Clinton, McCain and Obama are the perfect candidates for 2008, as they closely mirror the ignorance, apathy and lack of political sophistication of the American electorate.

Where is the candidate representing a steady-state economy, informing the public about the ultimate failure of capitalism? Where is the candidate representing simple, non-consumerist living? Where is the candidate representing a rational world-view devoid of religious mythology? Where are the anti-war, anti-imperialism, pro-peace candidates? Where are the vegetarian, single-payer medical care, protect critical habitat, animal rights candidates?

Where are the choices?

There are none.

This is a totalitarian election in a totalitarian state. Voters have a clear choice between moderate, right-wing Republicans and middle of road, centrists Democrats. The electorate is offered the choice between the status-quo and intensification of the status-quo.

The road goes ever onward, with nary a turn nor intersection in sight. The bridge over the chasm is out and the driver has ripped up all the warning signs. As we "tip over" the edge, it will be a fast and exhilarating ride down, until the inevitable hard stop at the bottom.

Do we have a choice? Not unless we wrest the steering wheel away from the driver and apply the brakes...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Loyalty to What?

Here's a California story that made Commondreams:Quaker Teacher Fired For Changing Loyalty Oath

Now I'm glad I never found a job at the University , or Cabrillo College. It seems that anyone who works even marginally for the state, even as a contractor, must sign a loyalty oath to the united States and the State of California.

This is a Homeland Security requirement, no doubt, meaningless as it is. It serves only to put employees on notice that they are being watched and their loyalty is constantly being judged by the watchers, who, of course, are above suspicion.

Loyalty oaths were employed extensively during World War II and the Cold War in the United States, when they were publicly demanded of those accused of Communist Party membership. It was a public display of the power of the state, much as "confessions" and recantations were used during the Inquisition. Loyalty oaths gives the State an appearance of power over the lives of individuals.

It is only when individuals refuse to cooperate with the trappings of power that the illusion is shattered. The Quaker woman in the story above refused to comply and was summarily fired. She, of course, is just fine, having strong convictions and confidence in her own self-worth. It is the University and the State that loses in this transaction, demonstrating their illegitimacy and compromising their ability to attract and keep quality employees.