Archive for September, 2011
Part II of an Investigative Report into Tar Sands Action & the Paralysis of a Movement
Obedience – A New Requirement for the “Revolution”
We have now reached a new level of subservient conditioning in an action ironically titled Stop the Machine. If the freedom fighters from liberation armies and resistance fronts read “the rules” that the organizers have established in order to “stop the machine,” they would undoubtedly come to the conclusion that Americans are insane.
The rules put forward by the organizers of this action clearly demonstrate how the mainstream liberal movement as a whole is further embracing its false belief that they (the “leaders” of the movement) have the moral superiority and authority to impose their unnegotiable, absolute tactical doctrine on all others, framing anyone who falls out of line with the dogma as provocateurs or “haters” who wish to incite violence. Such free-thinkers will be verbally chastised, stigmatized, then isolated and marginalized to the best of the ability of those wish to cling to denying reality. To date, these simple steps have proved most effective in stifling dialogue and shutting down dissent.
Some of the actions that have been undertaken include: training “peacekeepers,” a request that participants undergo nonviolence training, employing “peace cameras” to video anyone who might initiate violence with a request that participants bring cameras too and work with police to make them aware of threats and to isolate counterprotesters if they should attend.
Other rules include turning your anger at injustice into a positive, non-violent force; no destruction or vandalism of non-sentient objects; no running or other “threatening” motions; no insulting or swearing; protecting those who “oppose or disagree with us” (i.e., police) from insult or attack; no verbal or physical assaults on those who “oppose or disagree with us” (i.e., police) “even if they assault us.”
Participants are to embrace an attitude, as conveyed through their words, symbols and actions, of openness, friendliness, and respect toward all people encountered, including police officers and military personnel. The participants agree to be obedient to the organizers of the action or, if they do not obey, they must withdraw from the action.
It is nothing less than appalling that citizens are essentially being trained to completely submit to the corporate state – even if they are beaten with weapons. The organizers have obviously embraced the Gandhian myth that all neo-pacifists wear something akin to a shield. They will need this shield in order to protect themselves from their own hypocrisy.
Who needs big brother when you have “the movement” itself protecting the corporate state that is hell-bent on eradicating us?
If it were presented as educational outreach to further ideas and crucial analysis/critiques, this campaign would be deserving of much credit (if we removed the “rules”), as it highlights critical issues such as capitalism, corporate-controlled state and other vital truths that bright green NGOs refuse to address. However, as currently presented – an action to “stop the machine” – to even imply that “the machine” could actually be stopped through the outline and extensive “rules of non-engagement” is nothing less than an irresponsible, misleading nightmare that shields the truth rather than exposing it.
Of course, this is often what happens when activists are replaced with global strategists, finance officers, marketing executives and branding agencies. For countries exploding with citizens holding business degrees and MBAs, we could not possibly be more unintelligent and out of touch with reality, even if we tried. How many species on this planet knowingly and deliberately destroy their own habitat, their own future?
The movement with the corporate greens at the forefront refuses to admit – and in many cases refuses to even acknowledge the cold hard fact – that our success in achieving truly substantive change has been essentially zero, completely impotent. And a million “likes” on Facebook won’t make this fact any less so. And as far as preventing our own mass-eradication of unparalleled proportions, the “leaders” of the movement are a trillion miles away in La-La Land and racking up the airmiles. Reality cannot and will not be altered by a belief that the white middleclass can stop the very forces oppressing us with a dazzling dress code and impeccable manners.
Further, a dogmatic refusal to see reality and failure, along with an obdurate insistence on condemnation of those who may choose to take up self-defence (thereby framing anything other than “their way” as unacceptable in the eyes of the public) does nothing but further displace ongoing violence and bone-grinding poverty onto the billions of citizens and species already marginalized and suffering. This is not to say that everyone is expected to participate in self-defence. Rather it is to say that one’s decision must be base upon real facts – not on the doctrinaire delusion that pacifism is a moral virtue.
Militarism and Fossil Fuel Subsidies – A Vicious Cycle of Addiction
Considering that militarism is likely the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, does it not make more sense for a united global campaign to divert trillions in military funds, which destroy life, to peaceful endeavors that sustain life? Funding militarism ensures we are kept dependent upon oil while continuing to inflict massive suffering and civilian casualties as imperialist states expand their occupations in the Middle East and beyond. Occupying countries in order to steal their resources, which are necessary to fuel further occupations which, in turn, require more resources, commits to a vicious cycle that serves the interests of a handful of corporations tied into the Military-Industrial Complex.
If citizens occupied the industries that supply the occupations, if we stopped this madness as a unified front, on top of eradicating energy wastage (56% of all energy is wasted in the U.S. economy alone) through extensive conservation, we would create the swiftest, most massive dent in the climate crisis possible. Further, if we transferred all fossil fuel subsidies to zero-carbon energy, the dent would be astronomical; over half a billion dollars in direct subsidies are handed over each year to the most profitable fossil fuel corporations on the planet. This does not include indirect subsidies (via externalized costs), which equate to approximately three times that of the direct subsidies. Further, a recent study suggests that indirect and direct subsidies for coal alone in the U.S. amount to a half billion dollars per annum. This equates to more than a trillion dollars per year and tens of trillions of tax dollars (in direct and indirect subsidies) over the upcoming decades gifted to the very industry ensuring our demise. Although this is fairly common knowledge with most NGOs (even the World Bank reached this logical conclusion over a decade ago in 1990), none of them campaign on this imperative. It is a sad statement that the World Bank has more effective solutions than the environmental movement who claims to represent civil society.
These strategies would also slow down the destabilization and leaking of methane hydrates – FAR MORE dangerous than the Keystone XL or anything else for that matter. Methane hydrate release is now occurring in Siberia, and in the short-term (5 to 20 years), methane is 72 to 100 times more powerful than CO2. This is the true carbon bomb that no one speaks of. This discussion has been essentially censored from the public.
“My view is that the climate has already crossed at least one tipping point, about 1975-1976, and is now at a runaway state, implying that only emergency measures have a chance of making a difference.… The costs of all of the above would require diversion of the trillions of dollars from global military expenditures to environmental mitigation.” — Andrew Glikson, Earth / Paleoclimate Scientist
We ignore the solutions at our own peril. Of course, no matter what we do, until we begin to dismantle the root causes of climate change – that of the global industrialized capitalist economic system based on consumption and growth – the planet will continue to heat up. Further, until we reach zero emissions (actually negative emissions) there will be NO LOWERING of atmospheric CO2, which is now approaching 400 ppm (parts per million). Not even a return to 390 ppm is possible until we stop burning all fossil fuels. A return to pre-industrial levels will take hundreds if not thousands of years – which again, is only possible if zero emissions are actually achieved. And this is only possible if specific tipping points are not passed. Once enough tipping points have been passed it is essentially GAME OVER. There is no going back. No second chances. This is what mainstream NGOs, even ones claiming they are the leaders in the climate movement based on climate science (350.org/1Sky), do not share with the public. Why? Because it is terrifying. We must fight to achieve the impossible.
“The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means. It is this species of man who so vehemently and militantly participated in that classically idealistic debate at the old League of Nations on the ethical differences between defensive and offensive weapons. Their fears of action drive them to refuge in an ethics so divorced from the politics of life that it can apply only to angels, not men.” — Saul Alinsky
Ideologies Have Never Won Any Revolutions
“The desire for a nonviolent and cooperative world is the healthiest of all psychological manifestations. This is the overarching principle of liberation and revolution. Undoubtedly, it seems the highest order of contradiction that, in order to achieve nonviolence, we must first break with it in overcoming its root causes. Therein lies our only hope.” — Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology
Film director Josh Fox states that “There’s only been one tool that people have turned to in desperate times to change the world: Civil disobedience.” However, the tactics being pushed by McKibben and others bear no resemblance to those used in the past by the oppressed. Ask the people of Bougainville Island how non-violent civil disobedience worked for their communities who were being exploited and sickened by the mining corporation, Rio Tinto Zinc, before, in self-defence, they rose up in arms against the poisoning of their land and people and forcibly closed down the mine – despite a military occupation and blockade.
The Papua New Guinea Army were mobilized in an attempt to strangle the citizens into submission and destroy the rebellion. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army began the fight with bows and arrows, and sticks and stones. Against a heavily armed adversary they still managed to retain control of most of their island. This is not a story of “uncivilized” citizens; this is a story of courageous people who refused to submit to oppression and exploitation – the world’s first eco-revolution. This story and its documentary could be considered – along with stories told through documentary films such as END:CIV and other courageous screenings (think John Pilger) which speak the unpopular truths – the greatest stories ever told; real life stories of a rising up of the people against all odds – by any means necessary. Such are the stories that the plutocracy and the big greens, who are dependent upon them for their very existence, hope citizens never hear about.
Such instances of people reclaiming their power and land are not televised on corporate media, not even in self-proclaimed progressive media outlets (funded by corporations via their foundations, which serve to protect their interests). Ask the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation (Ipperwash); the Mohawk community of Kanesatake (Oka); or the Six Nations of the Grand River (Caledonia). Ask them how passive resistance assisted their ongoing struggle for rights, respect and compliance with treaties and claims, including land claims. It did not. After exhausting all recourse, these First Nations communities embraced self-defense tactics. In the case of Caledonia, the resistance forced Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to implement a policy of “passive containment,” which ostensibly stopped enforcement of the rule of law in that area. (Also see “UNDER SIEGE: How the People of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Asserted Their Rights and Claims and Dealt with the Backlash.”)
“Since the crisis began, Dalton McGuinty’s government has been petrified of taking decisive action, lest the Toronto media compare his actions to those of Mike Harris’ government during the Ipperwash Crisis of 1995. At numerous points during the Caledonia standoff, the OPP has been ordered to sit on their hands despite numerous provocations by native protestors.” — National Post, 16 September 2007
Today, the Canadian federal government, army, police and security agencies are essentially panicked in what they expect will be a unified resistance of First Nations rising up across Canada to reclaim and protect their rightful territories and resources. The strategy to prevent such an uprising from succeeding is continued efforts to further destroy traditional communities: “The First Nations Chiefs and Leaders who become more known and prominent are largely the individuals who have been trained and supported by federal bureaucrats.” (Source: First Nations Under Surveillance: Harper Government Prepares for First Nations “Unrest”)
Video: Photomontage – Crise d’oka (Running time: 2:55)
[Watch the full length Canadian National Film Board documentary, Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance: http://www.nfb.ca/film/kanehsatake_270_years_of_resistance. "On a July day in 1990, a confrontation propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Quebec, into the international spotlight. Director Alanis Obomsawin spent 78 nerve-wracking days and nights filming the armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. This powerful documentary takes you right into the action of an age-old Aboriginal struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades." "The most gripping scene for me was when the Warriors were down and ready to go with the Vandoos; one of the Mothers turned a Warrior right on his heel. You could see his shoulders slump. The love of the women that love us and that we love is a powerful thing." –Arthur James]
Pacifism is a deadly position for those exploited and facing death. In the case of escalating climate change and collapsing ecosystems, those facing death are us and all living species on the planet. Forever.
Therefore, to be clear, when we speak of force, by any means necessary, we are embracing this essential and vital position, in self-defence.
One cannot participate in this system while at the same time morally judging the use of violence – if necessary – as a means to end relentless oppression, and in this case a global genocide / mass eradication of all species on the planet.
The global industrialized capitalist economic system – which most citizens of wealthy nations all happily (to one degree or another) not only condone but also support – is a system built upon and dependent upon unadulterated violence of unparalleled magnitude. Every time one fills their gas tank, they support violence. Every time one flies in an airplane, consumes animal flesh (speciesism), cracks open a can of Coke, purchases garments manufactured in China and other poverty stricken countries by exploited workers, turns on their fossil-fuel-powered heat, purchases the latest war “game” for their nine-year-old or simply pays their taxes – one participates in violence. The list goes on and on. To take the hypocritical position that non-violence is the only acceptable “moral” choice for fighting the system is only possible if one refuses to acknowledge the reality – deep denial in a most dangerous form. And it is of no surprise that such positions are primarily held by the comfortable middle class who are not subjected to severe hardships, gross injustices and bloody warfare.
Pacifism and non-violence are, and will continue to be, critical tactics of resistance. But the rejection of other tactics is detrimental to our survival.
Impartiality is not acceptable either as the question really is one of which side we will ultimately choose to stand on.
Skilled saboteurs are desperately needed. Underground movements and radicals who have the bravery to fight for humanity and for the rest of Nature, by any means necessary, deserve and require our undivided respect, gratitude and public support. Self-defense is not a crime.
During the Civil Rights Movement, organized racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan terrorized and murdered thousands of African Americans. In the face of such violence, would anyone judge the brave people who fought back to protect their families from slaughter? In such repressive violence, fighting back to protect those you love from death was, and still is, the only sensible option.
An image from the television series Deacons for Defense, about a small group of African American men in Jonesboro, Louisiana who became a popular symbol of the growing frustration with Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violent strategy and a rallying point for a militant working-class movement in the South. Lance Hill, in The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement, said of non-violent civil rights organisations, “The hard truth is that these organizations produced few victories in their local projects in the Deep South – if success is measured by the ability to force changes in local government policy and create self-governing and sustainable local organizations that could survive when the national organizations departed … the Deacons and all other blacks who resort to self-defense represent a simple answer to a simple question: what man would not defend his family and home from attack?” – Property is Theft Website
Peaceful protests – as the only tolerated vice – will not end our escalating climate genocide and environmental collapse. We must follow up protests with action that uphold Malcolm X’s phrase ‘by any means necessary’.
In the 29 August 2011 article “¡Will Miller Presente! May Day 1971 D.C. Mobilization: This is What Revolution Will Look Like,” the author states: “The May Day action plan was for affinity groups – tightly knit groups willing to take direct action together and risk arrest – to take over key locations across D.C. and shut them down. In Orin’s case, it was one of D.C.’s circle intersections. In the case of Will, it was the 14th Street Bridge. This collective direct action to shut down the city showed the country’s ‘leaders’ that the anti-war movement was escalating its tactics in response to the growing body counts in Vietnam of both U.S. Soldiers and Vietnamese people.” This represents such actions designed to obstruct the system – not comply with it. Not to be obedient and passive to those oppressing us.
It is imperative that escalating tactics be ensued following any action – especially with respect to the fact the Obama Administration announced their decision to proceed with Keystone XL immediately following the first day of the tar sands action. One would hope there are bulldozers secured and waiting.
“The concept of nonviolence is a false ideal. It presupposes the existence of compassion and a sense of justice on the part of one’s adversary. When this adversary has everything to lose and nothing to gain by exercising justice and compassion, his reaction can only be negative.”— George Jackson, Black Panther Party
From the Phil Dickens article “Why Pacifism is Morally Indefensible“:
My argument here is not that nonviolence is ineffective as a tactic. Indeed, it can yield considerable success given the right arena. It is that pacifism, as an absolute, is fundamentally immoral and unjustifiable within the context of the world we live in….
Whatever else one might say about him, Gandhi could not be accused of mincing his words or shying away from the logical conclusion of absolute pacifism. In Non-Violence in Peace and War, Gandhi offered the following advice to the British people: “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions … If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.
This is one of the comments which inspired George Orwell to declare that “pacifism is objectively pro-fascist“: “This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me.’ The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security…. I am not interested in pacifism as a “moral phenomenon.” If Mr. Savage and others imagine that one can somehow “overcome” the German army by lying on one’s back, let them go on imagining it, but let them also wonder occasionally whether this is not an illusion due to security, too much money and a simple ignorance of the way in which things actually happen. As an ex-Indian civil servant, it always makes me shout with laughter to hear, for instance, Gandhi named as an example of the success of non-violence. As long as twenty years ago it was cynically admitted in Anglo-Indian circles that Gandhi was very useful to the British government. So he will be to the Japanese if they get there. Despotic governments can stand “moral force” till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force.” …which brings us to the core point on why absolute pacifism is immoral. Unlike a pragmatic recourse to nonviolent resistance only in situations where it will be effective, it offers no recourse for the defense of innocents from injustice and brutality. And, ultimately, there is nothing heroic, even in principle, in offering yourself to the butcher’s knife.
With the Tar Sands Action campaign, spearheaded by Bill McKibben, we also witness a resurgence of religion. From the article “Religious Witness at Tar Sands Action”: “On Monday, August 29, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Sojourners has organized more than 50 prominent religious leaders from Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist, and other faiths to risk arrest at the White House. A Jewish morning prayer service in Lafayette Park will begin at 9 a.m., followed by an interfaith prayer service that will conclude with a blessing for those risking arrest. At 11 a.m. religious leaders will cross to the White House sidewalk.” Bill McKibben said, “It was hard but not impossible – and we woke up Sunday morning singing that old spiritual ‘Certainly Lord.’” Throughout history religion has been used over and over again as a tool – as a means of conditioning, control and obedience to the state. In the meantime the Catholic Church has billions invested in BPI, Philex, San Miguel and other corporations who profit from decimating the planet. Like the Big Greens, the religious organizations are also dependant and feeding upon the very system destroying us.
The Tar Sands Action campaign has no political strategy at all; no plans, no platform. Rockefellers’ McKibben is successfully hindering and delaying the formation of a strong, uncompromising and unified movement. Yet, instead of constructive criticisms and demands coming from citizens and grassroots, even the most intelligent and informed activists are lining up to receive McKibben’s blessing. One would think we’ve witnessed ‘the second coming of Christ’. Hallefuckingluiah and amen. Pass the soma. Perhaps soon we will bear witness to McKibben making an offering or a sacrifice to appease the gods (which will be just as effective).
The Role of Censorship, Which Allows Us to Deny
The role of the elitist Left in furthering and protecting the false illusion and indoctrination of pacifism (as pathology) is clearly demonstrated in headlines such as the Bill McKibben article featured in the Guardian, titled “Martin Luther King’s legacy and the power of nonviolent civil disobedience.” (Here it is critical to note that it was the Birmingham, Alabama civil rights marches, protests and direct actions that degenerated into riots; those riots represent the instrumental element behind what forced law changes at every level of government. As King later said: “The purpose of … direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”) Of course, such fodder by McKibben and others is welcome by all who are secure and comfortable, as a movement based on symbolism will ensure that the violent continuation of full repression, which is felt by others all over the world as a direct result of imperialism, colonialism and our industrialized economic system, will not be felt by our society in the immediate future. (Aside from our growing apathy, denial and sense of superiority.) The mainstream movement has a pivotal role in censoring all but the tactics they embrace, providing justification for us to do essentially nothing – at a time when we must employ all tactics to force the hand of the corporate state. No doubt they are terrified that we may have to fight our oppressors head on – as witnessed by those fighting for their very lives in different countries all over the world. (Whew! Thanks, Bill! Thanks, corporate greens!) Self-proclaimed “progressive” and “alternative” media outlets (such as Grist – whose board McKibben sits on; funded by those dependent upon the industrial machine, including Rockefeller) perpetuate and propel this meme (– nonviolence at all costs), drilling this ideological view into the mindset and conditioning of civil society.
“Ours must be a leadership democracy, administered by the ‘intelligent minority’ who know how to regiment and guide the masses. The common interests very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality.… If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.” – nephew of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, considered the father of the field of public relations
We are being psychologically conditioned to believe that if only we continue to follow the rules and behave responsibly, we need not act in defence of our collapsing ecosystems and other crises unveiling themselves in unprecedented magnitude. This is only possible by clinging to false illusions, deep denial, and an irrational belief in an economic system that is destroying our planet – upon which we all depend – before our very eyes. We have been given a choice: resist or die. Thus far, we have demonstrated that we would rather cling to our illusions, thereby choosing death.
Is this campaign – funded by the world’s plutocracy – nothing but a means to give the false illusion of democracy while successfully conditioning people to further submit to the state – which would be an extremely valuable asset to the state as our planetary multiple crises deepen and escalate? Psychology and propaganda have always been recognized by leaders and the plutocracy as crucial and imperative means of controlling the masses.
Pacifism as Pathology | Tar Sands Action Déjà vu
“I just came home from Vietnam where I spent twelve months of my life trying to pacify the population. We couldn’t do it; their resistance was amazing. And it was wrong; the process made me sick. So I came home to join the resistance in my own country, and I find you guys have pacified yourselves. That too amazes me; that too makes me sick….” — Vietnam Veteran Against the War, 1970 (quoted in Pacifism as Pathology)
Below is an excerpt from Ward Churchill’s “Pacifism as Pathology,” first published in 1986 (endnotes removed). For anyone interested in mitigating the global collapse of all ecosystems and deterring planet-wide and species-wide genocide, this is essential reading.
For anyone wishing to take a critical look at the tar sands protests by groups funded (and in some cases created) by the Rockefellers and other corporate foundations – who will stop at absolutely nothing to keep the current power structures intact – the excerpt from this essay is sure to wake one from the paralysis that is trapping and constraining movements and societies in the status quo. The parallels between Churchill’s essay and the events in Washington, D.C. that were celebrated and endorsed – while the planet rests on the precipice – are nothing less than Orwellian.
The question central to the emergence and maintenance of nonviolence as the oppositional foundation of American activism has not been a truly pacifist formulation – “How can we forge a revolutionary politics within which we can avoid inflicting violence on others?” On the contrary, a more accurate guiding question has been, “What sort of politics might I engage in which will both allow me to posture as a progressive and allow me to avoid incurring harm to myself?” Hence, the trappings of pacifism have been subverted to establish a sort of “politics of the comfort zone,” not only akin to what Bettelheim termed “the philosophy of business as usual” and devoid of perceived risk to its advocates, but minus any conceivable revolutionary impetus as well. The intended revolutionary content of true pacifist activism – the sort practiced by the Gandhian movement, the Berrigans, and Norman Morrison – is thus isolated and subsumed in the United States, even among the ranks of self-professing participants.
Such a situation must abort whatever limited utility pacifist tactics might have, absent other and concurrent forms of struggle, as a socially transformative method. Yet, the history of the American Left over the past decade shows too clearly that the more diluted the substance embodied in “pacifist practice,” the louder the insistence of its subscribers that nonviolence is the only mode of action “appropriate and acceptable within the context of North America,” and the greater the effort to ostracize, or even stifle divergent types of actions. Such strategic hegemony exerted by proponents of this truncated range of tactical options has done much to foreclose on whatever revolutionary potential may be said to exist in modern America.
Is such an assessment too harsh? One need only attend a mass demonstration (ostensibly directed against the policies of the state) in any U.S. city to discover the answer. One will find hundreds, sometimes thousands, assembled in orderly fashion, listening to selected speakers calling for an end to this or that aspect of lethal state activity, carrying signs “demanding” the same thing, welcoming singers who enunciate lyrically on the worthiness of the demonstrators’ agenda as well as the plight of the various victims they are there to “defend,” and – typically – the whole thing is quietly disbanded with exhortations to the assembled to “keep working” on the matter and to sign a petition and/or write letters to congress people requesting that they alter or abandon offending undertakings.
Throughout the whole charade it will be noticed that the state is represented by a uniformed police presence keeping a discreet distance and not interfering with the activities. And why should they? The organizers of the demonstration will have gone through “proper channels” to obtain permits from the state and instructions as to where they will be allowed to assemble, how long they will be allowed to stay, and – should a march be involved in the demonstration – along which routes they will be allowed to walk. Surrounding the larger mass of demonstrators can be seen others – the elite. Adorned with green (or white, or powder blue) armbands, their function is to ensure that demonstrators remain “responsible,” not deviating from the state-sanctioned, arm-banded plan of protest. Individuals or small groups who attempt to spin off from the main body, entering areas to which the state has denied access (or some other unapproved activity), are headed off by these arm-banded “marshals” who argue – pointing to the nearby police – that “troublemaking” will only “exacerbate an already tense situation” and “provoke violence,” thereby “alienating those we are attempting to reach.” In some ways, the voice of the “good Jews” can be heard to echo plainly over the years.
At this juncture, the confluence of interests between the state and the mass nonviolent movement could not be clearer. The role of the police, whose function is to support state policy by minimizing disruption of its procedures, should be in natural conflict with that of a movement purporting to challenge these same policies and, indeed, to transform the state itself. However, with apparent perverseness, the police find themselves serving as mere backups (or props) to self-policing (now euphemistically termed “peace-keeping” rather than the more accurate “marshaling”) efforts of the alleged opposition’s own membership. Both sides of the “contestation” concur that the smooth functioning of state processes must not be physically disturbed, at least not in any significant way. All of this is within the letter and spirit of co-optive forms of sophisticated self-preservation appearing as an integral aspect of the later phases of bourgeois democracy. It dovetails well with more shopworn methods such as the electoral process and has been used by the state as an innovative means of conducting public opinion polls, which better hide rather than eliminate controversial policies. Even the movement’s own sloganeering tends to bear this out from time to time, as when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) coined the catch-phrase of its alternative to the polling place: “Vote with your feet, vote in the street.”
Of course, any movement seeking to project a credible self-image as something other than just one more variation of accommodation to state power must ultimately establish its “militant” oppositional credentials through the media in a manner more compelling than rhetorical speechifying and the holding of impolite placards (“Fuck the War” was always a good one) at rallies. Here, the time-honored pacifist notion of “civil disobedience” is given a new twist by the adherents of nonviolence in America. Rather than pursuing Gandhi’s (or, to a much lesser extent, King’s) method of using passive bodies to literally clog the functioning of the state apparatus – regardless of the cost to those doing the clogging – the American nonviolent movement has increasingly opted for “symbolic actions.”
The centerpiece of such activity usually involves an arrest, either of a token figurehead of the movement (or a small, selected group of them) or a mass arrest of some sort. In the latter event, “arrest training” is generally provided – and lately has become “required” by movement organizers – by the same marshals who will later ensure that crowd control police units will be left with little or nothing to do. This is to ensure that “no one gets hurt” in the process of being arrested, and that the police are not inconvenienced by disorganized arrest procedures.
The event which activates the arrests is typically preplanned, well publicized in advance, and, more often than not, literally coordinated with the police – often including estimates by organizers concerning how many arrestees will likely be involved. Generally speaking, such “extreme statements” will be scheduled to coincide with larger-scale peaceful demonstrations so that a considerable audience of “committed” bystanders (and, hopefully, NBC/CBS/ABC/CNN) will be on hand to applaud the bravery and sacrifice of those arrested; most of the bystanders will, of course, have considered reasons why they themselves are unprepared to “go so far” as to be arrested. The specific sort of action designed to precipitate the arrests themselves usually involves one of the following: (a) sitting down in a restricted area and refusing to leave when ordered; (b) stepping across an imaginary line drawn on the ground by a police representative; (c) refusing to disperse at the appointed time; or (d) chaining or padlocking the doors to a public building. When things really get heavy, those seeking to be arrested may pour blood (real or ersatz) on something of “symbolic value.”
As a rule, those arrested are cooperative in the extreme, meekly allowing police to lead them to waiting vans or buses for transportation to whatever station house or temporary facility has been designated as the processing point. In especially “militant” actions, arrestees go limp, undoubtedly severely taxing the state’s repressive resources by forcing the police to carry them bodily to the vans or buses (monitored all the while by volunteer attorneys who are there to ensure that such “police brutality” as pushing, shoving, or dropping an arrestee does not occur). In either event, the arrestees sit quietly in their assigned vehicles – or sing “We Shall Overcome” and other favorites – as they are driven away for booking. The typical charges levied will be trespassing, creating a public disturbance, or being a public nuisance.
Documentary: PsyWar – Wake UP!
Chart below +++ Telling. TransCanada (and incidentally Enbridge as well) has managed solid gains in their stock prices despite the latest market volatility.July 14, 2011, Bloomberg News: “TransCanada Corp., Enbridge Inc. and the four other Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index companies that store and transport oil and gas are offering average dividend yields of 4.05%. That’s 1.48% percentage points above the full index’s rate and 1.16 points more than the payout on Canadian 10-year government bonds. The industry’s valuation has jumped to 21 times earnings and reached 22 in May, the highest since 2006.”
Tim DeChristopher, otherwise known as “Bidder 70” and any number of other marketable terms, was recently sentenced to two years in prison and required to pay a large sum in fines as retribution for his actions at an auction for 130,000 or so acres of land in Utah slated as near give-aways to oil and gas conglomerates.
Tim DeChristopher, in his own words, acknowledges quite specifically the reasons for his actions, and what he would like climate activists to do to support him and his effort that day in the auction house. It is essentially a two-word suggestion: join him.
Tim stood up that day to disrupt the system. Not to rant at it. Not to wave signs at it. Not to sing songs in front of a static building waiting for the police to politely escort him away.
Tim stood up that day to disrupt the system.
And prior to, during, and after the sentencing of Tim DeChristopher, what pitifully stands for a climate movement today did one thing in response. It commodified Tim DeChristopher, morphing him into nothing more than a cheerleader for various parades in front of the White House in DC; a fundraising campaign for those that seek to exploit the passion of those that care about the state of the world; a symbol for the cautious and weak approach to civil disobedience that always allows for a pat on the back, but never makes a dent in the system.
This is not new.
The commodification of real and actual heroes occurs on a regular basis in the environmental and civil justice movements. One can look to The Nature Conservancy, Alaska Wilderness League, Trout Unlimited, and The Wilderness Society and watch as they sketch plans to exploit Native Alaska communities (heroes) in order to produce nominal results in DC, all the while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate foundations and unknowing supporters and members.
Al Gore did it and continues to do it through the various incarnations of Re-Power America (has or had at least three other names, to date) by lifting up the home-grown hero who managed to put up a windmill in one rural backyard or another – all the while ignoring just how dirty his hands are from the sweatshops throughout Southeast Asia that have an Apple stamped on their product.
One can also look at all the fundraising and email pleas and letter writing campaigns for Bradley Manning, and how much traction those efforts have maintained. They raised money, sure. They generated letters, yes. And then what?
They moved on.
To the next protest.
The next big thing.
The coolest fad in print.
The next commodifiable hero.
Tim DeChristopher has not moved. He is still in jail.
Native Alaskans have not moved. Their way of life is still being raped and pillaged.
Bradley Manning has not moved. He is still in solitary.
Martin. Malcolm. Che.
One can not really call him DeChristopher anymore. He is McChristopher ™ – commodified for the whorish efforts – fundraising and otherwise — of the greenwashing cabal, led by 350.org, Greenpeace, Global Exchange, Progressive Democrats of America, Rainforest Action Network (RAN)…
Did they avail him a contract before placing the Ronald suit on him?
Organizations, environmental or otherwise, should have focused on the action of disruption Tim employed, and called upon their minions to repeat it in substance and form. For example, activist Keith Farnish raised this with 350.org, suggesting they simply utilize their massive resources to post and share information on upcoming lease and land auctions, encouraging their thousands of supporters to jump in. Creativity, of course, can take the activists elsewhere, and into other disruptive realms. But this simple mechanism employs what Tim bravely did, en masse.
Of course, 350.org ignores this sort of potential. As does RAN. As does Greenpeace. As does any organization mentioned above (implicitly or explicitly), and then some. They prefer sanitized ‘action’ and fundraising campaigns – emotional appeals and sign-holding over disruption of the actual system. As they operate colloquially within the system, and directly benefit from it with foundational riches galore, one should not really expect them to powerfully respond to Tim’s call.
It is simply a matter of perpetuating the self for these entities.
September and October of 2011 include plans to prop up various heroes through the mechanism of commodification for several causes, marches, protests, and vigils. Old tactics to raise money and attention will be employed on the backs of these individual acts of strength with only the occasional symbolic gesture to disrupt the system in coordinated fashion. An insignificant number of arrests will be arranged. “Success” will be re-defined and diluted again, and again, and again.
And no one will have the guts to stand up and say, “Sorry, Tim. We are too afraid, too comfortable, and too embedded to join you.”
Part one of an eight part series.
Only Death Will Save Us
“Only death will save us. Mediocrity begets mediocrity. It is tragic that the conditioning of civil society is so deep – that most everything relevant beating them on the head is received as nothing more than a cool breeze.” — Harold One Feather
What are the underlying motivations and loyalties of the social and political forces involved in the Tar Sands Action campaign, and, indeed, the bourgeois environmental movement as a whole? In our inability to avert an oncoming ecological collapse, coupled with what appears to be an insurmountable climate genocide, we must understand how the forces we seek to resist constantly absorb opposition, through compromised NGOs and other means. Never underestimate the strategies and mechanisms of the global elites for retaining their power, control, and domination of Earth and her inhabitants.
Cognitive dissonance compromises environmental activism. We must open our eyes, even if the ugliness is difficult to accept. Many seemingly credible activists who are paid to “lead” environmental organizations cannot admit to themselves that they have caved into the very systems they purport to oppose; there is no acceptable excuse for such lack of judgement and foresight – for if it is ignorance, it is willful. It is no longer singular individuals who create and shape our systems. Instead, the plutocrats construct and mould the systems and sustain illusory movements. As the majority of environmentalists and citizens who support such movements are not fully conscious of the role they play in propping up the industrial machine, this article attempts to inspire the courage to break free, re-organize, and move forward.
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” — Elwyn Brooks White
Remix version 2011:
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to enjoy the world and a desire to tear down the systemic structure that is destroying the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
Prologue — Lambs to the Slaughter
“As with any pathologically-based manifestation, hegemonic pacifism in advanced capitalist contexts proves itself supremely resistant – indeed, virtually impervious – to mere logic and moral suasion.” — Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology, 1984
Holding hands, singing songs, and forming circles has little effect beyond making individuals feel good about themselves. Of course, this is the main objective of the mainstream NGO: to appeal to one of our ugliest human traits – that of individualism, which our toxic culture celebrates. Such niceties also serve as fine fodder for media and for rounding up donations.
To have falsely promoted what was at best an educational campaign (which did not speak to the root causes of climate change) as “civil disobedience” was disingenuous, if not fraudulent. Yet, the NGOs continue to promote their publicity stunt under this guise. And it worked. Branding agencies and marketing executives will take note of this latest “success.” In truth, this (in)action merely succeeded in having seduced the public into a false belief that this system, into which violence is inherently built, can be overcome with moral suasion. At the eleventh hour, campaigning to build upon such a notion is not only incredibly deceiving – it is incredibly dangerous.
Organizations both within and outside of the nonprofit-industrial complex continue to unabashedly further the idea that passiveness, obedience and submissiveness to the corporatized state – which has made the conscious decision to allow billions to suffer and die – is the only moral choice. They insist that we must dismiss reality (that the Earth and her inhabitants are being killed all around us) while they dismiss the fact that moral suasion cannot stop this. They insist that we embrace their delusion at any cost. Tragically, such a suicidal position only serves to further weaken our own position as it strengthens the position of the corporate state tenfold. Like lambs, we are being led to the slaughter with stops all along the way for refreshments and photo ops. It’s the final step in the art of annihilation that the NGOs have adherently become so skilled at. The puppet masters are shaking in their boots, not with fear but with derisive laughter.
Those who know better, who choose to lend legitimacy to such organizations by way of supporting or promoting such grand spectacles of illusion, are in fact biting their own foot. Some of the statements heard echoing off the walls of delusion are “But where would we go?” and “Yes, I know, I agree, but it’s better than nothing.” Yet subduing and disempowering citizens is not better than nothing. And silence is complicity.
A “better than nothing” approach for a campaign such as Tar Sands Action is deeply flawed. By supporting / promoting compromised organizations and/or leaders of such compromised organizations, one provides a tract of general legitimacy for those who continue to prop up the malignant, capitalistic system and guarantee planetary demise while undermining the grassroots. Right or wrong, when we vocalize support or otherwise endorse such sanitized “actions” and the players behind them, we are seen as sanctioning them on the whole, and it makes walking the fine line of organizing an effective movement much more difficult.
Directing thousands of well-intentioned citizens to follow a false god with the last name of McKibben – whose organization (350.org/1Sky) is funded, overseen and partnered with the planet’s most powerful corporations and families – only ensures that society will be led to believe in the false illusion of “green capitalism” – what the corporate enviros have termed “climate wealth.” In McKibben’s own words: “Greed Has Helped Destroy the Planet – Maybe Now It Can Help Save It.” A vision based on rejecting ethics while further nurturing one of the worst human traits is one that any sane person working towards a just world must automatically reject. A vision based on the very same system that has now brought us to the precipice is a fool’s game, a deadly game that flies in the face of logic.
Many of the corporate greens can demonstrate strong points in regard to many issues – this is of little surprise as it is imperative for them to retain a level of credibility. Furthermore, they have millions of dollars available for specialized reports, which makes it easy. Of course, rarely will they campaign on such reports when they are released (quietly in most cases) to the public. We have to accept the fact that much of the environmental movement is now funded primarily with Rockefeller Family money (McKibben himself now states this proudly after a somewhat embarrassing incident on Climate Challenge TV) and corporate funnelled foundation money, which defines (dilutes) success in increments that, in the grand scheme of things, mean little. We can’t tolerate another 6,000 mW of coal active in FL, for example, but that is a victory to the Beyond Coal campaign because they managed to stop another 13K mW. In the next cycle, industry will again ask for 20K mW, and will get 5-8k mW. And that will be labeled another victory. At which point are these victories pyrrhic?
Eyes Wide Shut – Death by Denial
April 2011 Statement by the Indigenous Women of the Movement:
We felt that this was not an issue of semantics, that this was deliberately being taught to our peoples, our youth and our communities by the interests of government and corporations, who we began finding out more and more, were actually helping to fund well-paid activists who ran well-funded workshops, training and retreats on “non-violence” and “civil disobedience.” Some of this was traced back to funding which came from “ethical oil” strategies, and that’s when we started realizing the sickening accuracy of our premonitions…. We believe in honouring the dreams of women, in freeing ourselves from judgement and bias, decolonizing our minds and our hearts. We believe in being action-oriented, not paper-oriented. We don’t need Canada’s approval or consent, and we don’t need government or corporate funding. We have always had what we will always need: the Kaianerenkowa, the Medicine Wheel, our teachings, our clan systems, our languages, our ceremonies…. We can empower ourselves, we don’t need to wait for an NGO or a suit to tell us how to feel empowered. We aren’t the ones who need “non violence training”; the ones who need to stop using violence are the ones in power: police, government and corporations.
In the article “A Tar Sands Partnership Agreement in the Making?” social justice activist and journalist Macdonald Stainsby writes: “Many other foundations – most but not all American – now play the same game of social manipulation in the environmental field. Foundations such as Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Hewlett have not only entered into the fray in a major way, in the case of the tar sands campaigns, they have collaborated with the Pew to take social manipulation to a new level.”
What the manipulated public does not understand, is the fact that, while these environmental groups have had years to unite behind a sane, comprehensive, unified energy policy that would have included opposition to tar sands and oil shale, and other false solutions, they have done nothing to this effect.
The money powers (who fund our “movement”) have decided that clean, zero-carbon, everlasting energy will not take over from fossil fuel energy or even increase its market share (see International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2010). The money powers do this consciously, in the face of evidence that the failure to make such a transition spells the end of the world. The insane logic behind such policy is that, as fossil fuel resources run out, corporations will increase profits. The devastating consequences for the biosphere are ignored.
We are hence warned once again that the campaigns dominating our movement are nothing more than impromptu, “whatever is popular at the moment,” laissez-faire, feel-good public relations escapades. This is not a movement that has any chance of staving off guaranteed climate genocide on top of multiple global crises, all happening simultaneously.
Corporate environmentalism is merely a movement designed to make us feel good today – much like capitalism – while killing us slowly.
From climate change, to the BP oil spill, then onto the tar sands bandwagon, these symbolic campaigns are orchestrated and echoed throughout the faux environmental movement.
Is the Left Suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?
Hooray for Change!
“Somehow we need to get back the President we thought we elected in 2008. We are just now finishing up the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century. We won’t attack the President. We will only hold him to the standard he set in 2008. We have been arrested for two weeks straight, but without bitterness or hate. Only joy and resolve.” — Bill McKibben
To believe Obama or the state will be moved by moral suasion as bombs are dropped on occupied countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya while covert U.S. wars are underway in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia – murdering untold numbers of men, women and children – all in the name of resource exploitation (under the egregious auspices of democracy and liberation) is nothing more than delusion bordering on insanity.
Let’s break this down.
“Somehow we need to get back the President we thought we elected in 2008.”
First of all, the president that the people “thought” they elected in 2008 has proven himself (beyond a doubt) a mere voicebox for the plutocracy and a bona fide war criminal.
“We are just now finishing up the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century.”
Secondly, the Tar Sands Action must not be considered true civil disobedience when it was sanctioned by the state, while demonstrating to the state absolute compliance. It is only a massive withdrawal of compliance that actually has any possibility of even slight effect. Civil disobedience draws its strength from open confrontation and noncooperation – not from evasion or subterfuge. History has proven this time and time again. Demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of citizens have failed in a world of corporate-dominated government. Case in point would be the protests against the illegal invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and Britain. This was the largest global civil disobedience in our history. Citizens numbered in the millions. Yet the occupation continues to this day. As citizens, we can only retain as much power as we refuse to relinquish to the state. If one insists on calling the Tar Sands Action in Washington, D.C. a true civil disobedience, it is a sad reflection on what the meaning and intent of true civil disobedience has been reduced to.
Third, to call 1253 trained protesters (with the exception of the first day, all who were arrested over the course of the two weeks were released within an hour or two – approximately 90 people per day including the elite “leaders” and staff of a slew of mainstream NGOs) “the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century” is delusional. There have been protests against globalization in the U.S. in which citizens numbered in the thousands.
“We won’t attack the President. We will only hold him to the standard he set in 2008.”
Fourth point – citizens are extremely fortunate to have John Pilger and others who will attack the president openly, as the public needs and deserves to hear the truth. Why would any rational person hold Obama to a fantasy standard, when we know, based on his actions to date and our knowledge of corporate dominance, that Obama will never meet any standard that could stop the ongoing ecocide?
“We have been arrested for two weeks straight, but without bitterness or hate. Only joy and resolve.”
Fifth point – We should be bitter, pissed off, furious and sickened that our planet is being killed and that our children are going to not live long enough to reach old age. The myth that emotions such as bitterness, hate and anger are destructive prevents us from trusting our own intuition based on our life experiences. As we stand on the precipice, bitterness, hate and anger are all normal feelings upon coming to the full realization that the corporate state has chosen economic growth over life itself. Those who protect it are deserving of our bitterness and hatred. And if you’re not angry that our planet is being raped before our eyes – then perhaps you have forgotten what love is.
“In the run-up to the UN climate change conference in December 09, an advertising industry initiative, ‘Hopenhagen,’ was supported by Coca-Cola, DuPont and BMW, among others. Clearly, some organisations do not grasp the concept of irony. Nevertheless, more than six million people from around the world signed up. Hamilton wonders when such well-meaning individuals will begin to think ‘I have been doing the right thing for years, but the news about global warming just keeps getting worse.’ In other words, when will the dreadful reality hit home?
“…Clinging to hopefulness becomes a means of forestalling the truth. Sooner or later we must respond, and that means allowing ourselves to enter a phase of desolation and hopelessness, in short to grieve.
“…Painful though it is to do so, we come to terms with grief and loss. We mourn, we feel periods of shock and anger; slowly, we adjust. Adjustments may be unhealthy – denial, as we have seen, or apathy or nihilism. A healthy adjustment involves accepting the loss, making it part of who we are and what we will become.” — Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change
Of course McKibben (and his disciples, whom he apparently believes he speaks for) have no bitterness or hate, only joy and resolve as their greatest sacrifice (by only a handful) was 48 hours in jail while the rest paid a hundred bucks and were home in time to watch themselves on the 4 o’clock news. One can appreciate the good intentions of citizens who are no doubt desperate to somehow make a difference. Yet at the same time it must be acknowledged that we are becoming completely out of touch with reality if we choose to lend the words “sacrifice” and “courage” to educational outreach media blitz campaigns.
One must wonder if McKibben would feel such “hope” for the president if his family was murdered in one of the occupied countries Obama continues to pummel with bombs. One must wonder if McKibben would be such a kind and kindred spirit to Obama if he was on the other end of the stick of industrialized capitalism – working in a mine developing lung cancer in order to feed his children one meal a day. If the Left is buying into this charade – and it appears they are – we must the conclude that the emasculated Left is indeed suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. (Source: Wikipedia)
Video: Obama celebrates Earth Day. (Running time: 0:44)
“In concrete terms, this means … civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.” — Cornel West, Dr. King Weeps From His Grave, New York Times, 26 August 2011
It’s time we remove our comfortable cocoons of self-righteousness and moral superiority and fully recognize / acknowledge that we are all participating in a culture where violence is now inherently built into the system. Thus we all have blood on our hands and there can be no denying this fact.
The movement must choose for what type of future we wish to fight. A future of the people, by the people, for the people? Or a future of the corporations (i.e. corporations via foundations), by the corporations, for the corporations (i.e., commodification of the last remaining elements of nature; continued violence until the remaining elements of nature are destroyed, or mass extinction by way of climate genocide a.k.a. green capitalism)?
We must choose one. We cannot have both.
Choosing the first provides a future for all life our Earth graciously sustains. It will not be given. It must be taken.
Further, the future we resolve to claim must be articulated.
Meanwhile in the real world of activism (being eclipsed by the state-sanctioned Tar Sands Action and its negotiated arrests), more Amazon Rainforest activists receive death threats as assassinations escalate. Closer to home, in Messina, New York, on 11 August 2011, Larry Thompson, a Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) man was arrested. Thompson, “sick of waiting for a General Motors Superfund site cleanup that will never happen,” took a backhoe to a toxic landfill site. “Thompson drove onto the notoriously polluted mound, scooped up contaminated soil and loaded it into railroad cars that were waiting to cart away debris from the GM building that is being torn down in the wake of bankruptcy proceedings…. Larry was given this order by the Clan Mother. She directed him to do this. So he had to do it. No matter what, she is the supreme law of the land.” Of course, the criminals that poisoned the land (i.e. those responsible for the violence) continue to walk free.
A Very Civil Civil Disobedience
“I believe it’s a crime for anyone being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself.” — Malcolm X
“When, in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob, and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.” — Emma Goldman
20 August 2011: The article “A Very Civil Civil Disobedience” said it all. Anything other than submissive obedience to the police state is not to be considered “civil.” The word “civil” is loaded. How “civilized” is a society whose very existence is dependent upon the violent and relentless assault on the planet, while simultaneously exploiting the struggling classes?
Organizing citizens to get themselves peacefully arrested in order to “appeal to the better nature of Obama” are based on a delusional strategy. Appeals to Obama and other members of the ruling class serve to distract us from the unwillingness of states to change their practices without being forced to do so. Mainstream environmentalists’ calls for “rolling sit-ins” (10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. daily) and other passive tactics would be considered by many to be an insult to activists throughout the world who have fought against state and police repression with their very lives.
Who knew you would have to RSVP to the “revolution,” agree to the conditions, be trained by God himself, and that a dress code would be in effect? On 28 August 2011, a participant to the Tar Sands Action sent out a mass email to her lists. Within the communiqué she states, “The action was relatively simple, to be honest, and I don’t feel super brave for ‘risking arrest’ when it was a simple procedure and a $100 fine. (A ‘post and forfeit’ thing, similar to a traffic violation, not a misdemeanor or anything that would be likely to taint a record). It was fun to ride in the paddy wagon with 15 other awesome activists, kinda like a sauna. The cops were nice to us and some of us helped educate them on why we were there. (The organizers are encouraging everyone to cooperate and pay the fine, to seem dignified in the media, and to keep the story on the pipeline rather than on ‘us vs. them’ with the parks police. Yet they did say that, if we’re not listened to here, perhaps for a future action the strategy may be different.)”
And although the McKibben show pumps out headlines loaded with words such as “terrified”, “scared out of my mind”, “risk arrest”, and on and on, Darryl Hannah (the ultimate triumph for any campaign in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture) topped them all off, proclaiming “Sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice your freedom for a greater freedom.” These words/descriptions are so over-the-top (to be kind), they are ludicrous. Let’s be honest – most of us cannot even begin to comprehend what real sacrifice means. Here is another much more honest commentary posted on September 1, 2011:
“Getting arrested in the Tar Sands Action was fun and it felt like the right and responsible thing to do. The scariest part of it was navigating the D.C. Metro. No, that’s not exactly true. It was the anticipation of navigating the D.C. Metro that terrified me, not the actual navigation. … The female officer took my ID but stuffed my money back in my bra. Then they took my mug shot, handed me my ID and squeezed me into the paddy wagon with Kidder. It was very hot and close in there but we joked around with the cute police officers, told stories and had a pretty good time…. I was released at 12:46 p.m.” (The author notes she was arrested at 11:33 a.m.)
Question: Does this demonstration have a permit, or are we by attending breaking a regulation?
Answer: As long as you are on the sidewalk in front of the White House and keep moving you aren’t breaking any regulations. The action organizers have applied for permits to be on the sidewalk in front of the White House for the entirety of the action.
Question: What should we do if there are opponents trying to disrupt the action or people who start to act outside of the agreed Action Guidelines?
Answer: Dealing with inappropriate escalation (or confrontation from our opponents) is going to be a main duty of the support team that will be on site for every action. They’ll be ready to talk with folks who seem to be getting out of hand and to help direct energy to the more strategic, productive parts of the action.
Did Rosa Parks obtain a permit from the state before she decided she would sit at the front of the bus? Why do citizens choose to submit to an authority who that tells us / convinces us that we must seek approval to stand on a public sidewalk, a sidewalk that has been paid for by the people themselves?
State Sanctioned “Civil Disobedience” & Propaganda Wars
20 August 2011: The article “Tar-sands protesters in jail longer than expected” states:
In negotiations with the police prior to the action that began on Saturday, the police were very clear that what would happen after people were arrested was the vast majority would get what’s called “post and forfeit,” where you put up $100, get released from jail after several hours, and you don’t have to come back again. It’s basically like a traffic ticket.
The article continues:
But this is not what they did. Instead, after arresting the first day’s 70 people, they decided to hold most of them, all those not from within a 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C., in jail until a Monday afternoon arraignment. This works out to 48 or more hours in jail before being released. [Emphasis added]
We can sense that the author is appalled the police did not honor their pre-arranged deal. He appears to be outraged that middle class citizens were inconvenienced for 48 hours or more. The author continues that another “action” earlier this year ran into a similar situation where “despite many weeks of communication between the protest organizers and various state, county and local government officials, agreements to camp overnight were revoked.” Such comments reveal how state-sanctioned “civil disobedience” has become normalized. But no worries, the author plans to hope and pray that the tar sands “action” will “rise to the occasion” – whatever that means in real life.
In a true act of civil disobedience, one adopts a position of absolute non-cooperation with the state, the perpetrator of both violence and oppression. No prior negotiations. No obedience.
Adding further Orwellian bizarreness, it was announced in a media advisory issued 1st September 2011, by the Indigenous Environmental Network what would occur on the following day: “Native Americans and First Nations to be arrested at White House protesting TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.”
Recognizing that this protest involved several hundred well-intentioned individuals looking for direction and a way to make a difference, the Washington, D.C. “civil disobedience” cannot truly be considered disobedient when it has been organized with the very state they are supposedly resisting. Prior to the action, the organizers fully engaged / conversed with police in order to find out exactly what risk they would be susceptible to in undertaking such a protest in Washington, D.C. en masse. We see this over and over again. It is only once it is established that the “approved” action will be most benevolent with trivial consequences (no real risk) that the privileged classes then build upon such campaigns. The ruling class does not fear such campaigns in the least.
Yes … the state will undoubtedly be so moved by our arguments and our good behaviour that it will voluntarily, someday soon, overthrow itself and join us in a circle of sing-songs.
States only fear acts of civil disobedience and direct actions when they threaten to disrupt the system through a demonstration of overwhelming strength. They do not respond to appeals to morality or guilt. When a protest is controlled, sanctioned and supported by the state, the action will not be feared, because the state will never fear what it can control. Planting seeds of love is a beautiful thing, yet on their own, in the absence of struggle and true sacrifice, such seeds of love have never won any revolutions.
Tar Sands Action Civil Obedience Campaign
Naomi Klein under state sanctioned arrest.
Naomi Klein should be mortified at promoting and participating in such a staged event – as she knows better. In her book “No Logo: Taking Aim at Brand Bullies” (2000), Klein remarks: “Since the days when Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies infused self-conscious absurdity to their ‘happenings,’ political protest had lapsed into a ritualized affair, following a fairly unimaginative grid of repetitive chants and scripted police confrontation.”
Nine Nobel Peace Laureates including “Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama” have written to President Obama, urging him to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. A media release states that “the opposition to the pipeline has surged in recent weeks as more than 1,250 people were arrested in 14 days of sit-ins at the White House – perhaps the largest wave of civil disobedience ever for an environmental cause in the U.S…. In asking you to make this decision we recognize the thousands of Americans who risked arrest to protest in front of the White House between August 20th and September 3rd. These brave individuals have spoken movingly about experiencing the power of nonviolence in that time.”
And there is the language, the sound bites, highlighted yet again to further pacify our public as our multiple crises escalate: references to religion and the “power of non-violence” when speaking to civil disobedience and arrests. McKibben and friends had to have recognized and taken solace in the fact that the public is severely naïve to have even attempted to pass off the state-sanctioned orchestrated event as true civil disobedience.
What kind of civil disobedience is it where the police themselves carefully fold up protesters’ banners (with weapons completely exposed) and collect the protest signs prior to the arrests? It is telling that the “Park Police” were placed in charge of the daily 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. rolling sit-ins. It appears that the only exception was the initial week-end, commencing Saturday, August 20th, the first day of arrests (which included McKibben) when the D.C. police arrested the protesters and held the non-resident arrestees until Monday.
It also appears that no one other than McKibben and participants from his group ever went to jail. (A media bonanza that legitimized McKibben). All other trained arrestees for the remaining 2 weeks were police-escorted (motorcycle escorts with sirens wailing) to the Anacostia station of the Park Police where they simply paid a $100 fine. During training, the organizers instructed the participants to pay the fine rather than opt to go to jail – stating that otherwise, the police would get angry and treat subsequent arrestees less courteously. The multiple references comparing this “civil disobedience” to the sacrifice and bravery demonstrated during the civil rights movement, as well as references to Martin Luther King throughout this campaign, are abominable. In reality, in direct contrast to civil disobedience, this “action” must be considered an act of passive civil obedience.
How is it that North America has become so completely removed from reality? How is it that such weak and cowardly leadership – so out of touch with what is happening all over the world – can be considered noble, rather than what it really is – an embarrassment?
The photos below from the Tar Sands Actions Flickr account tell a story far more revealing than anything anyone can attempt to reveal in a piece of writing. The intention was to include photos of people smiling and laughing when placed under arrest. Unfortunately it is not possible, simply because there are too many that fall under this description. In fact, this action may be the happiest and most enjoyable “civil disobedience” to have ever been presented to the public. Let’s have a look:
Organized! Police set up a convenient processing station on the site.
Protesters were trained to march up to the front of the fence. The protesters lined up and were then adjusted by the organizers. Citizens were permitted to walk into the front area, however, they were not permitted to remain in this area as it was reserved for tourists and media to take photographs. The police gave three warnings for the protesters to leave or be arrested. Citizens who did not wish to be arrested left the area. It was at this point the police assisted in carefully gathering up the signs and banners and placed barricades at all sides of the arrestees (the back is a fence). Processing was done on site (see above). Then the arrestees were driven for approximately ten minutes to the Anacostia station of the Park Police where they finalized paperwork, paid a $100 fine and were released (with the exception of August 20th). The yellow tape reads ‘Police Scene – Do Not Cross’.
Confronting the state.
A policeman taking photos.
Policeman folds banner with much care.The officer, apparently under extreme duress and fear, has forgotten he has a gun on his side belt in reach of the “resistance.”
Left: A 350 supporter is arrested by the Park Police. The first people arrested, including McKibben, were turned over to the D.C. police who unexpectedly kept them 48 hours (as this is not what the organizers had negotiated in advance). Following this initial arrest it was then managed by the Park Police who were apparently very nice. They handcuffed and took the trained protesters to a tent where they were frisked. The arrestees were then brought inside the tent where their photo was taken. They were then given a number and placed on a bus or wagon. (The buses were air conditioned and the wagons were hot). Arrestees were then police escorted to a station where the Park Police removed the plastic zip handcuffs, checked ID once more, took the money, and then sent the released protestors off towards the Metro. We can only hope the approx. $130,000 raised by the police, goes to the park to assist with the trees dying from polluting ozone. We can only assume the police escort was necessary in order to prevent any real protesters from trying to beat some sense into them.
Image of Park Police.
Everyone is in great spirits including the Park Police.
Compare the Tar Sands Action to civil disobedience in other countries who are being brutally oppressed and exploited by the violent system we participate in on a daily basis. Apathy in the face of injustice is also a form of violence.
Photo above: An indigenous woman holds her child while trying to resist the advance of Amazonas state police who were expelling the woman and some 200 other members of the Landless Movement from a privately-owned tract of land on the outskirts of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, March 11, 2008. The landless peasants tried in vain to resist the eviction with bows and arrows against police using tear gas and trained dogs, and were evicted from the land. (REUTERS/Luiz Vasconcelos-A Critica/AE)
Another real act of confronting and resisting the state is the G2O protests.
Two leaders of civil disobedience in North America: Betty Krawczyk (left centre) and the late Pacheedaht warrior Harriet Nahanee/Tsibeotl (right).
The Tar Sands Action organization, initiated and led by 350/1 Sky spokesperson Bill McKibben, actually has no plan in place for when the Keystone pipeline is approved by Obama. What escalating tactics will be pursued? What does the state have to fear?
Intoxicated by the idea that Obama can be won over with moral persuasion and reject a pipeline which promises billions in projected profits, and which will enable his crumbling empire to control North America’s oil this action is merely an educational campaign to draw attention to the appalling tar sands. And this is where the problem lies. Citizens are being led to believe that pre-negotiated civil disobedience – one that assures no sacrifice or risk will be endured by citizens as long as they abide by the rules of the state – can stop the violence being waged upon our shared Earth. Not so. We know it will not. It never has, and never will. (See Pacifism and Pathology, by Ward Churchill, 2007 Version.)
We cling to our deep belief of business-as-usual. The inertia makes this easy. The gradual systemic violence upon us is a gentle, slow kill. This month feels no different than last month, therefore everything must be okay. Our intense desire for non-disruption in a life we perceive as non-violent traps us into a false belief system.