Shades of Kent State?

Coast to coast, the Occupy movement is shaking things up, demanding engagement and accountability from those in power.

A contingent of Occupy Wall Streeters arrived in Washington DC today, with plans to set up a “temporary occupation” in front of Capitol Hill and “discuss the failure of the U.S. Government to be accountable to its people.”

In California, a huge General Assembly at UC Davis–the site of the criminal attack on students by a police officer–has called for a general strike on all of the University of California campuses in order to “reclaim the UC” from its corporate Board of Regents.

According to the strike motion:

“The continued destruction of higher education in California, and the repressive forms of police violence that sustain it, cannot be viewed apart from larger economic and political systems that concentrate wealth and political power in the hands of the few.

“Since the university has long served as one of the few means of social mobility and for the proliferation of knowledge critical to and outside of existing structures of power, the vital role it plays as one of the few truly public resources is beyond question.”

Interestingly, a prominent tenured UC Davis professor, Cynthia Carter Ching, has chosen to stand with the students against the administration, blaming “the people running this campus” for thinking of students as “data points and dollar signs, rather than as whole human beings.”  Had the administrators seen the students as human beings, she says, they would never “have called in armed riot police to deal with a peaceful protest, tents or no tents.”

Professor Ching also blames the faculty of UC Davis for being “too busy” with teaching and research to pay much attention to how the university as a whole was being run.

“You know, it wasn’t malicious,” she says. “We thought it would be fine, better even. We’d handle the teaching and the research, and we’d have administrators in charge of administrative things. But it’s not fine. It’s so completely not fine. There’s a sickening sort of clarity that comes from seeing, on the chemically burned faces of our students, how obviously it’s not fine.

“So, to all of you, my students, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t protect you. And I’m sorry we left the wrong people in charge.

“And to my colleagues, I ask you, no, I implore you, to join with me in rolling up our sleeves, gritting our teeth, and getting back to the business of running this place the way it ought to be run. Because while our students have been bravely chanting for a while now that it’s their university (and they’re right), it’s also ours. It’s our university. And as such, let’s make sure that the inhuman brutality that occurred on this campus last Friday can never happen again. Not to our students. And not at our university.”

It should surprise no one that the students in the UC system are unwilling to entrust their welfare to the “busy busy” faculty or the stone-faced administrators.

And it’s not just the University of California.  There were arrests at Baruch College in New York today, and an open letter from a Yale philosophy professor has gone viral on the Web, with over 1,200 faculty signatories calling on university and college presidents to enforce “campus safe zones” for student protest.

It seems to me that the spirits of the four students killed by police at the Kent State protests a generation ago, back in 1970, are hovering over us these days.

Could it happen again?

Yes, in a heartbeat.  If anything police training has only gotten tougher in the new millennium, with less and less tolerance for any public “disorder.”

Those of us who work with college students know that if they have gone out into the quads and commons to protest, it is because there are very serious issues afoot that must be addressed now.

Generally speaking, college students would much rather be focusing on either their studies or their parties.

If they are participating in general assemblies and sit-ins, it is because the system in which they were raised, and in which they expected to find comfortable berths, has been shredded to the point where they can clearly see the gaping holes in the framework.

No longer can students expect to find jobs that will help them dutifully pay off their exorbitant student loans.  Can we blame them for glaring balefully at the administrators and politicians running the show, and asking angrily, “So what is it all for?”

The sad truth is that California now spends more on its prisons than on its universities, despite the fact that crime rates have fallen steadily since the 1990s.

As Juan Cole puts it in his excellent Truthdig column today,”the defunding of higher education in favor of an enormous gulag dovetails with a rise in the paramilitary repression of the population as one of America’s premier industries.

“Not only are UC Davis students being hit with massive tuition increases to pay for the penitentiaries and their policing, they are also being treated like unruly inmates by a militarizing police force.”

This is not the America we want to be, or to become.  It is time to stand with the Occupy movement and demand the demilitarization of our society, and the redirecting of resources towards education, innovation, creativity and social well-being.

The students are leading the way.  We older folk, who bear the responsibility for the current national and international crisis, must break the dark spell of conformity and accompany  them.  Now.

Violence against peaceful protesters–a federal crime?

So far I have not been able to get past the still image of the latest shocking example of police violence inflicted on unresisting young people.

I don’t need to watch the students begin to writhe and cry out in pain, I don’t have to hear the gasps of the onlookers or the shouts of the cops as the situation shifts suddenly from quiet resistance to chaotic disarray.  My imagination can set it all in motion, without the aid of video.

But the video was shot, and is now making its viral way around the Web, just like those shocking images, from not very long ago, of the abused prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

There too, what was striking was the imbalance of power–the heavily armed and aggressively clothed military police, against unarmed, and, in the case of Abu Ghraib, naked civilians, whose only crime, in most cases, was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At both UC Davis and Abu Ghraib, the victims may have lacked firepower, but they have something even more potent on their side: the moral outrage of the onlookers.  Once those moments of violation are caught on film and sent out into cyberspace, it doesn’t take long for public opinion to rise up against such an obvious abuse of power.

I am always curious, in a morbid sort of way, about the mentality of the perpetrators of this kind of violence.  Are they the grown-up version of the 7th grade bully, who takes pleasure in making other kids squirm?  Has their capacity for empathy been dulled or extinguished?  Are they simply sick, psychopathic sadists?

If any of these are the case, how could we have entrusted the crucial job of maintaining social order–otherwise known as policing–to such people?

The same old boys’ club that protected Jerry Sandusky and the Catholic priest pedophiles all those years is a strong force in the military and the police forces.  But at some point an individual will push things too far, and the club will no longer be able to protect him.  Thus Charles Graner, the mastermind behind the Abu Ghraib abuses, was eventually thrown in prison himself, and the officer who took it upon himself to casually pepper-spray those innocent UC Davis students has been suspended.

Nobody in the U.S. wants to see an eruption here of the kind of civil violence that overtook Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and so many other countries where civilians have been pitted against police or soldiers deployed by government officials who cared more about their own power than about the rights of their citizens.

Here in the U.S., we simply want to be able to exercise our constitutional right to peaceably gather in public places to express our political views.

Any city, state or federal government official who inflicts violence on such a peaceful gathering is guilty not only of a serious human rights violation, but also of violating the U.S. Constitution.

Last time I looked, this was a federal crime.

Dispatch from Washington DC: On History and the Human Spirit

In Washington DC this weekend, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the majesty and wealth of the buildings and institutions spread out grandly in the heart of the city.

The many museums of the Smithsonian, all of which are free, boast what must be the best-displayed, best-run, most impressive set of collections to be found in such concentrations anywhere.  They are a reminder of what American wealth and ingenuity can accomplish, when tax dollars are put to good use!

But there is a darker side on display in the museums too, which links back to the political establishment and the way the reality of this country has never quite lived up to our ideals.

At the Museum of Natural History there is a remarkable exhibit, funded by David Koch no less, on the origins of the human species.  The scale of human evolution is made quite clear: our ancestry reaches back millions of years, but homo sapiens as we know ourselves today is a young species, a mere footnote to the huge sweep of terrestrial mammalian existence.

In that very short period of time, we have managed to wipe out millions of other species, many of them also present the museum in stuffed form, or as skeletons, or—in the case of the butterfly and insect exhibit—as specimens locked behind glass.

Most of that destruction occurred since the 1950s, when the American corporate capitalist assault began in earnest, with chemical warfare-style agriculture, the razing of the forests, the strip mines, and the suburban sprawl.

The Museum of American History tells more of this sad story, albeit inadvertently, in an unspoken subtext.  The transportation exhibit is the biggest and best I’ve ever seen, but makes no mention of how the invention of the combustion engine paved the way for human destruction of wildlife and wild lands on a vast and unprecedented scale.

The huge exhibit on the military history of the United States, from the American Revolution to Afghanistan, brilliantly illustrates the military development of the country, from our start as “rebels” fighting against heavy taxation by the King, through the trench warfare of World War I, the ignoble nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to Vietnam and beyond.

The exhibits are lavish and beautifully curated, but the untold story is the staggering waste of human life, treasure and creativity, drawn to the service of Thanatos, Freud’s famous “death instinct.”

The American Indian Museum, built like a sandstone mesa with its prow defiantly facing the U.S. Capitol, reminds us that the human spirit has many facets, and it’s hard to keep Eros down.

From the ashes of near annihilation by savage Euramerican military forces, as well as the ravages of disease and cultural tyranny, the native tribes of North America built this beautiful museum as a testament to the resilience and creativity of their peoples, as well as their South American brethren, who are also represented at the museum.

This is no monument to vanished cultures, but rather a tribute to peoples who have survived, proud and independent and eager to tell their stories and preserve their cultures for the future.

In Washington DC I found much to be proud of, and also many reminders of the shamefulness of our history over the past 235 years of our official existence as a nation.

Time is a funny thing—it certainly seems like history has been speeding up in the past 50 years, as our technological innovations continue to connect, concentrate and expand our collective knowledge base at an exponential rate.

What happens between now and November 2012, the next Presidential election, could have the power to radically change the course of history yet again.  The key seems to lie in those restive crowds turning out in ever larger droves under the Occupy banners.

Will we be creative and innovative enough as a people to reinvent ourselves as a nation truly dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—not just for the 1%, and not just for human beings, but for all the magnificent living beings, flora and fauna, with whom we have shared this planet since we all first emerged out of the frozen wastelands of the Holocene thousands of years ago?

On Black Friday, a New Target: Occupy the Malls!

What’s so effective about the Occupy movement is how it makes creative use of public space to get its message across.

For instance, the terrific techno-graffitti unleashed last night in New York, where protesters projected their message on to the Verizon Building without leaving a trace.

I have a idea for continuing this strategy, but with a new target: the great American MALL.

As you know, it’s just one week until Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when all good patriotic Americans are supposed to line up at the big box stores at dawn, credit cards in hand, ready to start the mad Christmas shopping rush.

This year it seems that the whole capitalist enterprise that fueled those crazy Christmas shopping binges has started to crack and sway.

I dimly remember why Christmas is associated with gift-giving–it had something to do with the Three Wise Men bearing gifts to the baby Jesus, right?  But this American tradition of giving mountains of gifts to one another, competing with each other to buy the biggest, shiniest, best gift of all–that has nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas.

Myself, I prefer to celebrate the winter Solstice in this season, the day when the deepening darkness turns the corner of the equinox and we begin the long slow return to light and warmth.

I propose that this Black Friday, Americans should link arms with our family and friends and Occupy the malls of America.  Instead of driving ourselves ever deeper into debt with those credit cards, we should protest the corporate policies of outsourcing that have made it so unusual to see American-made products for sale in American stores.

If we want to put America back to work, we are going to have to reinvent the whole economic model of globalization. It had a nice ring to it, back in the 1980s and 90s when it was being implemented, but it has turned out to be a catastrophic failure on more levels than I can count.

What’s needed now is a re-locallization: a return to locally based economies, all over the world.  Let the Chinese manufacture goods for themselves while we get American factories humming again.

But this time, let those factories be worker-owned cooperatives rather than top-down corporations–just like Gore-Tex or Clif Bar or Eileen Fisher, all big brands that are actually owned by their employees.

Let’s gather in malls and shopping centers all across the U.S. on Black Friday and use the Thanksgiving holiday to push the corporations represented there to do what’s right for America.

When they start listening to us, we’ll all be giving thanks.

Month Three of Occupy Begins: From Class Warfare to Civil War?

Yesterday, the day of the big Occupy protests in New York, I sat in a train most of the day, on the way to Washington D.C.

I’m here for the African Studies Association annual conference, but of course I’m going to head over to the National Mall too, and see what’s cooking with Occupy DC.

The dramatic and powerful protests in New York yesterday, captured magnificently in this NY Times slide show, can’t help but energize the movement around the country, and indeed the world.


I am struck again by how diverse this movement is–the people in these photos are old and young, of every ethnicity, most looking solidly middle-class.  There is really very little of the “anarchist hippie fringe” that Americans tend to associate with protests, at least since the 1960s.

It must be hard for the cops, who are so solidly middle-class themselves, to have to play the bad guys day after day. They must know that their salaries have been shrinking against the cost of living just like everyone else’s, while the Bloombergs and the Buffets and all those Washington politicians have been getting fabulously wealthy.

Economically speaking, the cops are squarely within the 99% and should not be the enemies of the Occupy movement.  But it’s very rarely been the case that police or soldiers break with their indoctrination in submission to authority, and side with the insurgents.

I pause as I type that word–insurgent–because it’s most often used to describe people in other countries who oppose the status quo, and turn to violent means to achieve their goals.  It’s one of those words– “rebels” is another–that treads carefully between the poles of “freedom fighter” (a good thing) and “terrorist” (obviously bad).

The Occupy movement bills itself as a determinedly non-violent movement.  All the violence that has occurred so far has been provoked or perpetrated by the police.

Dorli Rainey, 84, led away from the Occupy Seattle protest after being pepper-sprayed in the face by police on Nov. 15

But for the first time, yesterday, I found myself thinking about the possibility of civil war breaking out again in this country.

 Maybe it’s because of the refusal of anyone in Washington to take the protests seriously, starting with the President.

No one wants violence in this country. We are a nation of shoppers, not fighters.

The Occupy movement has been galvanized mostly by young people whose expectations of joining the ranks of contented shopper-workers, like their parents and grandparents before them, have been frustrated by the economic downturn and the substitution of debt bondage for living wages.

These are very real concerns that are not going to go away because winter is coming.  What we’re seeing here is, as others have noted, class warfare.  Just like in the 1930s, when workers stood firm in picket lines despite the factory owners’ efforts to break them, these protesters are motivated by the absolute knowledge that the current system is unjust and insupportable.

If politicians from Bloomberg to Obama continue to ignore the idealism and the frustration represented by the nascent Occupy movement, it will only continue to grow in numbers and conviction.

Yes, the rich appear to have all the power in this country neatly sewed up.  But never doubt the power of the people to break down barricades and triumph when they know that Justice is on their side.

It’s happened before in this country.  It could very well happen again.

Bloomberg the Grinch vs. Occupy: This movement is not going away

The question in the air this morning is obvious: what comes next for the Occupy movement now that the tents and tarps in Liberty Park have been trashed by the NYPD?

The New York Times is giving way more coverage to the eviction than it ever did to the occupation, proving once again whose side those folks are on.

This protest movement is not going to go away.  It’s not going to go into hibernation for the winter.

City officials who see the movement as an expensive civil nuisance will learn the hard way that their heavy-fisted efforts at intimidation are going to backfire.

If anything, such tactics only strengthen the resistance of the core groups on the street, and draw the attention of the virtual spectators in cyberspace, who may now become more engaged.

Whither the Occupation now?  Occupy Wall Street said last night that the protesters have “the feeling of a movement that is rising, building, and making headway.”

Their statement is worth “reblogging” in full:

“They showed us their power. And we’re showing them ours.

“We are here because we believe a better world is possible. We are willing to endure mistreatment, if by doing so we can help re-enfranchise the 99% and reclaim our democracy from the stranglehold of Wall Street and the top one percent.

“We will push back against billionaire Michael Bloomberg and any politician who wantonly tramples on proud American freedoms: freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the freedom of Americans to peaceably assemble and petition for change.

“We will overcome the obstacles placed before us. We will not be deterred. We will persevere. Our message is resonating across America, and our cause is shared by millions around the world. We are the 99%, and we want to live in a world that is for all of us — not just for those who have amassed great wealth and power.

“You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”

Hmm, that does not sound like the voice of a group ready to pack it up and go home.  Those are stirring words and sentiments, in the tradition of our most heroic American freedom fighters, from Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King.

If you can’t beat them, Bloomberg and Co., you might just have to figure out how to join them.  And I don’t mean infiltrate or co-opt.  I mean open your hearts and hear the justice in their ideals and goals.

Like the Grinch who Stole Christmas, the hearts of the 1% are several sizes too small.  They would find the world to be a much warmer, happier place, if they would allow themselves to feel again.

You can’t evict an idea whose time has come

My title comes from the Occupy Wall Street website, posted on a gray, gloomy morning after the police eviction of protesters in Liberty Park.

Occupations are going on in cities and towns in all 50 states now.  What the mayors and police chiefs of these locales need to understand is that the more they try to contain and stamp out this protest movement, the faster it will spread.

Beatings, gassings, intimidation, arrests, evictions…history has shown time and again that the human spirit refuses to be quenched by such brutality, especially when we face the firing squad together.

Occupy is a “leaderless movement”; it’s multigenerational and cuts across many social differences that have previously been used by the status quo to divide us.

United by a fierce and ardent hope that refuses to be extinguished, the Occupy protests all across America call on each of us to stand up in support of a new American dream.

In this new vision, our government representatives will put the well-being of the majority ahead of any narrowly defined special interests.

This means that the health of our citizens will come before the profits of industries like agriculture and energy. It means that the health of our global environment will be more important than corporate competition for resource extraction.

It means that the social safety net will be expanded and strengthened, not allowed to fray or be deliberately shredded.

It means that American public education will once again rise like a beacon throughout the world, giving all children, regardless of their social background, the knowledge, tools and creativity to move boldly and joyfully into the 21st century.

It means that our democracy will once again be broadly participatory.  We are done with politicians who are slaves to their corporate owners.

And no, we will not accept higher taxes on the working families who can least afford to bear the brunt of holding our creaky and corrupt system together.

We want a new system, with a radical reorganization of priorities.  Let our foreign policy be run by diplomats, not by bombers and drones.  Let an age of international cooperation in the service of urgent global needs begin.

Working together across borders, we can solve the world’s problems and move forward into a new era of sustainable, widespread prosperity.

Truly the Occupy protesters have it right.  You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.

Watch out, Grey Lady! We’re watching you….

Maybe I should just do the right thing and swear off reading The New York Times. 

I’ve been reading The Times more or less every day since the time I could read–going on forty years now, give or take.

Never have I felt less confident that I can rely on the editors there for solid, unbiased information.  Never has it been more obvious to me that The Times represents the viewpoint of the 1%.  The liberal 1%, perhaps, but the 1% after all.

Why am I ranting about this today?  I just got around to reading a piece from the Sunday Magazine section, “It’s Not Just About the Millionaires,” in which author Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s Planet Money show, argues that to solve our financial crisis in this country, “we have to go to where the money is — the middle class.”

Davidson constructs a cockamamie story about how it makes more financial sense to raise taxes on the middle class–families earning less than $68,000 a year–as well as close “despised loopholes (or beloved incentives)” for these middle class folks (we’re talking about the mortgage interest deduction, for example) than to raise taxes and close loopholes for corporations and those making more than $1 million a year.

Excuse me?

Has Mr. Davidson and his family ever tried to live on $68,000 a year?

As someone who is struggling as a single mom in this tax bracket right now myself–in a home that is now worth less than its mortgage–I can say with personal conviction that raising my taxes would have a huge impact on my life.  For most people in my position, it would mean the difference between starting a life of permanent credit card debt bondage, or staying very precariously in the black.

But that’s not all.  Mr. Davidson proposes that the middle class should also “give up some benefits (Social Security, Medicare).”

So not only are you proposing to raise my taxes, Mr. Planet Money, you’re also going to shrink the paltry benefits I may receive when I’m old and worn out and expecting at least some support from the society to which I’ve given all the best years of my life?

What’s wrong with this picture?

In Mr. Davidson’s scenario, a middle-class worker like me works hard every day, both in the public arena and at home (and remember, no benefits accrue for the years and years of unpaid home labor I’ve put in since I married and had children), and because of a downturn that I had nothing to do with, I am now going to be squeezed harder through taxes, and then hung out to dry in my old age with reduced Social Security and Medicare benefits.

This kind of attitude is EXACTLY what the Occupy America movements are protesting.

Hell no, we are not going to take this kind of B.S. anymore.

If you want to raise taxes, Mr. Planet Money, it will have to be on the wealthy and the corporations who are making out like bandits while the rest of us tighten our belts and do the best we can.

If that’s not enough money to make our national ends meet, then how about reducing the military budget?  How about reducing the billions we spent on the nuclear arms program?  How about directing more taxpayer funds into programs that actually benefit taxpayers?

I am beyond frustrated with the one-sided reporting of The New York Times.

I know statistics can be manipulated to support any side of an argument.  But I expect the most respected source of news on the planet to do a better job at being truly even-handed.  Sure, give Mr. Davidson and his monied folks some space.  But his should not be the only voice we hear.

Fortunately, in the internet age, there are plenty of alternatives to The New York Times.  

Watch out, Grey Lady, or even longterm devoted readers like me may be simply switching the channel.

Resisting the Energy Vultures

Today’s New York Times Sunday Review piece by White House correspondent Mark Landler, “A New Era of Gunboat Diplomacy,” gives disturbing insight into the mindset not only of the men and women who preside over national foreign policies, but also into the media lapdogs who cover them.

Landler reports that China and the U.S., along with practically every other country in possession of a serviceable Navy fleet, are entering into “a new type of maritime conflict — one that is playing out from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean, where fuel-hungry economic powers, newly accessible undersea energy riches and even changes in the earth’s climate are conspiring to create a 21st-century contest for the seas.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of Landler’s sources, explains blandly that “This hunt for resources is going to consume large bodies of water around the world for at least the next couple of decades.”

Clinton has got the right metaphor there.  What Landler describes all too flippantly as “a watery Great Game” could well indeed “consume large bodies of water around the world.”

What neither Clinton nor anyone else interviewed for Landler’s article bring up is the cardinal question:  When the game is over, what will be left of the living beings that used to populate those waters in unimaginably vast numbers?

Landler describes the navies and drill ships of countries from China and the U.S. to Turkey and Israel jockeying for control of huge troves of oil and natural gas deposits that have been discovered beneath the sea.

Of especial interest to these circling energy vultures are the deposits beneath the Arctic ice.  Landler reports that “melting ice has opened up the fabled Northwest Passage,” making resource extraction in the Arctic more viable than before.

This offhand and veiled reference to climate change provides a window into the sociopathic mindsets of the men who rule the Energy Kingdoms.  The cowboys of global fossil fuel extraction are essentially warlords, relying on the national armies of their nominal countries of origin to clear the way of opposition to their reckless drilling.

From their warped point of view, global warming can be seen as a bonus.

If the Arctic ice melts, so much the better–it’ll make it easier to get those billions of barrels of oil out of the sea and into the global market.

No matter that deep sea drilling has been proven to be highly risky and lethal to the environment.  Hello, does anyone remember BP in the Gulf of Mexico?

Imagine a spill like that going on in frigid northern waters.

Imagine billions of barrels worth of oil or gas gushing into the Arctic Ocean, to be picked up by the currents and spread all over the world.

Imagine the destruction of marine wildlife, and indeed the entire marine food chain, that this would entail.

NY Times reporter Landler doesn’t waste time contemplating such grim scenarios.  The focus of his article is “gunboat diplomacy,” a glamorous new competition among national navies to dominate the oceans, seen strictly in utilitarian terms.  His only mention of fish, or indeed any maritime creature, is a brief aside that icebreakers are being sent into the Arctic circle by countries like China and Korea, “to explore weather patterns and fish migration.”

Landler’s article, which is billed as “news analysis,” reveals the extent to which the chillingly disturbing values of the Energy Kings have permeated not only the governments who are supposed to be regulating their industry and safeguarding the natural world, but also the media “watchdogs,” who are obviously sitting cozily in the laps of Big Oil.

Questions of environmental sustainability and health are simply outside the picture for these folks.  It’s not relevant to them whether or not the polar bears survive.  They don’t care about the coral reefs, or the plankton.  They don’t care about whales.  Their only concern is the bottom line.

What is the most effective opposition to such monomania?

Trying to think of persuasive strategies gives me a touch of hysteria.  We could appeal to their love of seafood!  Wouldn’t they miss their caviar and oysters?

They will figure out how to grow these in tanks.

We could appeal to them as property owners: what’s going to happen to their beachfront homes, not to mention their office towers in coastal cities around the world, when the waters begin to rise?

They will have armies of lawyers figuring out ways to make the taxpayers bear the burden of their lost properties.

We could appeal to their brand image.  Does Exxon-Mobil really want to go down in history as the biggest perpetrator of maritime omnicide in world history?

They will throw this back at us, and rightly so: they were just doing their job of giving the consumer what she wants, a steady supply of affordable energy.

It’s true that we all share the blame for this tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes. It’s also true that we have the power to stop it.

How? We need to demand that the rights of the denizens of the natural world be respected.  A new Declaration of the Rights of Nature has been written–it needs to be circulated, popularized and upheld.

We need to insist that our politicians report to the people, the taxpayers, not to the corporations. Yes, people want energy; we want cars, we want electricity.  But we want to direct our tax dollars into R&D of renewable sources of energy–solar, geothermal, wind–not into dangerous oil and gas extraction or nuclear fission, and not into dirty coal mining either.

We need to call the mainstream media on its dereliction of duty when it presents one-sided reports like Landler’s industry white paper today.

Extracting those billions of barrels of oil buried below the earth’s surface miles beneath the sea would not just be a death sentence for marine life.  It would drive the nails on the human coffin as well, along with all the other species on this planet who will not be able to adapt to the erratic climate extremes of floods, droughts and storms that will inevitably ramp up once the planet heats beyond the point of no return.

Under these circumstances, if the governments won’t listen, radical action may prove a necessity.  The French Resistance to the Nazis were considered criminals in their own time and place, but look like heroes to us today, with the power of hindsight.

We are in the midst of a new, much larger Holocaust now, one that threatens not just one group of people, but all of us, and our natural world as well.

Each of us has a choice to make.  You can go along with the crowd, watching impassively as the train leaves the station for the gas chambers, or you can dare to raise your voice in opposition, and maybe even to throw a wrench in the gears of power.

Each of us is going to die sooner or later.  Wouldn’t you rather die knowing you had done your utmost to make a difference, to safeguard the world for your children and all life on this planet?

What do Derrick Jensen and George Washington Have in Common?

Derrick Jensen was speaking to the Occupy Oakland and San Francisco folks today, and I had hoped to catch the livestream, but ended up missing it.  I did find, however, a video from about a month ago, when Jensen spoke to Occupy DC via Skype.

True to form, Jensen told the crowd that when people ask him whether he’s calling for the overthrow of the U.S. Government, ie, real revolution, he answers that “this question comes far too late.

“For the government was long since overthrown.  And those who overthrew it are known as Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Halliburton, Monsanto, ADM, WalMart, Massey, Goldman Sachs, Citibank.

“They are the real governors, and the United States Government is a wholly owned subsidiary brought to you by McDonalds, Pfizer and Lockheed Martin.

“So then you can ask, am I advocating the overthrow of the corporations?  Am I advocating the overthrow of the corporate state?

“To which I will say hell yes!”

For someone like me who came of age in the 1970s and 80s, it’s very hard to imagine a world without corporations.  How would we get our stuff?  What would I type on if there was no Apple?  How would we communicate without Google, Facebook or WordPress, not to mention Twitter?

And of course, how would any of these products see the light of day without the industrial supply lines that go from oil extraction to factory production to tanker ships to retail store?

Well, somehow for the vast majority of human history, your ancestors and mine managed to live and procreate and die just fine without any corporate help or interference.

I’m no Luddite: I love my computer, car, cell phone and dishwasher just as much as the next American.

But somewhere along the way to the bank, we ceded far too much power to these corporations. Derrick Jensen has it right when he says that “a government worth a good goddamn” should answer to human beings, not corporations.

And not just to human beings, but to all of the beings on our planet who are fading away day by day–at the rate of 200 extinctions a day, as Jensen never tires of reminding us.

Will we join the polar bears and the wolves and the rhinos in fading away quietly into the night when our time comes, as it surely will if we do nothing to stop the steamroll of oil-driven climate change?

Or will we stand up now and demand that our government obey its mandate to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, recognizing that what is good for the people is what is good for the earth as an ecological system?

Jensen closed his talk in DC on a positive and galvanizing note:

“When the government becomes destructive of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.  It is long past time we made full use of our rights.”

Just like our colonial-era forebears, we have the right to throw off the yoke of oppressive government to found a better system.

The Occupy movements are the advance guard of what needs to be a massive campaign of civil disobedience and relentless pressure on the government to listen to us, the people–not them, the corporations.

We celebrate those rabble-rousers, Washington and Jefferson, as national heroes.  Let’s get behind today’s rabble-rousers and turn the corner into a new era.  It can’t happen too soon.

%d bloggers like this: