"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Activism’

“The State Knows The Tinder Is There”: The Sparks Of Revolution

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

https://i0.wp.com/www.truth-out.org/images/images_2013_09/2013.9.30.Hedges.Main.jpgOldspeak: “The most important dilemma facing us is not ideological. It is logistical. The security and surveillance state has made its highest priority the breaking of any infrastructure that might spark widespread revolt. The state knows the tinder is there. It knows that the continued unraveling of the economy and the effects of climate change make popular unrest inevitable. It knows that as underemployment and unemployment doom at least a quarter of the U.S. population, perhaps more, to perpetual poverty, and as unemployment benefits are scaled back, as schools close, as the middle class withers away, as pension funds are looted by hedge fund thieves, and as the government continues to let the fossil fuel industry ravage the planet, the future will increasingly be one of open conflict. This battle against the corporate state, right now, is primarily about infrastructure. We need an infrastructure to build revolt. The corporate state is determined to deny us one…

The state has, at the same time, heavily infiltrated movements in order to discredit, isolate and push out their most competent leaders. It has used its vast surveillance capacities to monitor all forms of electronic communications, as well as personal relationships between activists, giving the state the ability to paralyze planned actions before they can begin. It has mounted a public relations campaign to demonize anyone who resists, branding environmental activists as “ecoterrorists,” charging activists under draconian terrorism laws, hunting down whistle-blowers such as Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden who shine a light on the inner secrets of power and condemning them as traitors and threats to national security…

Occupy articulated the concerns of the majority of citizens. Most of the citizenry detests Wall Street and big banks. It does not want more wars. It needs jobs. It is disgusted with the subservience of elected officials to corporate power. It wants universal health care. It worries that if the fossil fuel industry is not stopped, there will be no future for our children. And the state is using all its power to stymie any movement that expresses these concerns. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show Homeland Security, the FBI, the Federal Protective Service, the Park Service and most likely the NSA and the CIA (the latter two have refused to respond to FOIA requests) worked with police across the country to infiltrate and destroy the encampments. There were 7,765 arrests of people in the movement. Occupy, at its peak, had about 350,000 people—or about 0.1 percent of the U.S. population.”  -Chris Hedges

History teaches that we have the power to transform the nation, We put forward a strategic framework that would allow people to work together in a common direction to end the rule of money. We need to be a nationally networked movement of many local, regional and issue-focused groups so we can unite into one mass movement. Research shows that nonviolent mass movements win. Fringe movements fail. By ‘mass’ we mean with an objective that is supported by a large majority and 1 percent to 5 percent of the population actively working for transformation. Look how afraid the power structure was of a mere 1/10th of 1 percent of the population…. What happens when the movement grows to 1 percent—not a far reach—or the 5 percent that some research shows is the tipping point where no government, dictatorship or democracy can withstand the pressure from below?” -Kevin Zeese

“While the distractions abound and conditions worsen, the people’s discontent grows… Wal-Mart workers protest. Fast food workers protest. College students protest. Academics protest. Federal workers protest. Parents protestVeterans protest. Prisoners protest. Youth Protest. undocumented protest. Teachers protest. What happens indeed when these movements coalesce and reach the tipping point where the disenfranchised, struggling, downtrodden & fleeced masses can stand no more? Like Mario Savio said: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” A reckoning is fast approaching when we’ll have to face some unpleasant truths. Will be a sight to see… -OSJ

By Chris Hedges @ Truthout:

I am reading and rereading the debates among some of the great radical thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries about the mechanisms of social change. These debates were not academic. They were frantic searches for the triggers of revolt.

Vladimir Lenin placed his faith in a violent uprising, a professional, disciplined revolutionary vanguard freed from moral constraints and, like Karl Marx, in the inevitable emergence of the worker’s state. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon insisted that gradual change would be accomplished as enlightened workers took over production and educated and converted the rest of the proletariat. Mikhail Bakunin predicted the catastrophic breakdown of the capitalist order, something we are likely to witness in our lifetimes, and new autonomous worker federations rising up out of the chaos. Pyotr Kropotkin, like Proudhon, believed in an evolutionary process that would hammer out the new society. Emma Goldman, along with Kropotkin, came to be very wary of both the efficacy of violence and the revolutionary potential of the masses. “The mass,” Goldman wrote bitterly toward the end of her life in echoing Marx, “clings to its masters, loves the whip, and is the first to cry Crucify!”

The revolutionists of history counted on a mobilized base of enlightened industrial workers. The building blocks of revolt, they believed, relied on the tool of the general strike, the ability of workers to cripple the mechanisms of production. Strikes could be sustained with the support of political parties, strike funds and union halls. Workers without these support mechanisms had to replicate the infrastructure of parties and unions if they wanted to put prolonged pressure on the bosses and the state. But now, with the decimation of the U.S. manufacturing base, along with the dismantling of our unions and opposition parties, we will have to search for different instruments of rebellion.

We must develop a revolutionary theory that is not reliant on the industrial or agrarian muscle of workers. Most manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and, of those that remain, few are unionized. Our family farms have been destroyed by agro-businesses. Monsanto and its Faustian counterparts on Wall Street rule. They are steadily poisoning our lives and rendering us powerless. The corporate leviathan, which is global, is freed from the constraints of a single nation-state or government. Corporations are beyond regulation or control. Politicians are too anemic, or more often too corrupt, to stand in the way of the accelerating corporate destruction. This makes our struggle different from revolutionary struggles in industrial societies in the past. Our revolt will look more like what erupted in the less industrialized Slavic republics, Russia, Spain and China and uprisings led by a disenfranchised rural and urban working class and peasantry in the liberation movements that swept through Africa and Latin America. The dispossessed working poor, along with unemployed college graduates and students, unemployed journalists, artists, lawyers and teachers, will form our movement. This is why the fight for a higher minimum wage is crucial to uniting service workers with the alienated college-educated sons and daughters of the old middle class. Bakunin, unlike Marx, considered déclassé intellectuals essential for successful revolt.

It is not the poor who make revolutions. It is those who conclude that they will not be able, as they once expected, to rise economically and socially. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast food workers. It is grasped by the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt. These two groups, once united, will be our primary engines of revolt. Much of the urban poor has been crippled and in many cases broken by a rewriting of laws, especially drug laws, that has permitted courts, probation officers, parole boards and police to randomly seize poor people of color, especially African-American men, without just cause and lock them in cages for years. In many of our most impoverished urban centers—our internal colonies, as Malcolm X called them—mobilization, at least at first, will be difficult. The urban poor are already in chains. These chains are being readied for the rest of us. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread,” W.E.B. Du Bois commented acidly.

Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan examined 100 years of violent and nonviolent resistance movements in their book “Why Civil Resistance Works.” They concluded that nonviolent movements succeed twice as often as violent uprisings. Violent movements work primarily in civil wars or in ending foreign occupations, they found. Nonviolent movements that succeed appeal to those within the power structure, especially the police and civil servants, who are cognizant of the corruption and decadence of the power elite and are willing to abandon them.

“History teaches that we have the power to transform the nation,” Kevin Zeese said when I interviewed him. Zeese, who with Dr. Margaret Flowers founded PopularResistance.org and helped plan the occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., continued: “We put forward a strategic framework that would allow people to work together in a common direction to end the rule of money. We need to be a nationally networked movement of many local, regional and issue-focused groups so we can unite into one mass movement. Research shows that nonviolent mass movements win. Fringe movements fail. By ‘mass’ we mean with an objective that is supported by a large majority and 1 percent to 5 percent of the population actively working for transformation.”

Zeese said this mass resistance must work on two tracks. It must attempt to stop the machine while at the same time building alternative structures of economic democracy and participatory democratic institutions. It is vital, he said, to sever ourselves from the corporate economy. Money, he said, has to be raised for grass-roots movements since most foundations that give grants are linked to the Democratic Party. Radical student and environmental groups especially need funds to build national networks, as does the public banking initiative. This initiative is essential to the movement. It will never find support among legislative bodies, for public banks would free people from the tyranny of commercial banks and Wall Street.

The most important dilemma facing us is not ideological. It is logistical. The security and surveillance state has made its highest priority the breaking of any infrastructure that might spark widespread revolt. The state knows the tinder is there. It knows that the continued unraveling of the economy and the effects of climate change make popular unrest inevitable. It knows that as underemployment and unemployment doom at least a quarter of the U.S. population, perhaps more, to perpetual poverty, and as unemployment benefits are scaled back, as schools close, as the middle class withers away, as pension funds are looted by hedge fund thieves, and as the government continues to let the fossil fuel industry ravage the planet, the future will increasingly be one of open conflict. This battle against the corporate state, right now, is primarily about infrastructure. We need an infrastructure to build revolt. The corporate state is determined to deny us one.

The corporate state, unnerved by the Occupy movement, has moved to close any public space to movements that might reignite encampments. For example, New York City police arrested members of Veterans for Peace on Oct. 7, 2012, when they stayed beyond the 10 p.m. official closing time at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The police, who in some cases apologized to the veterans as they handcuffed them, were open about the motive of authorities: Officers told those being taken to jail they should blame the Occupy movement for the arrests.

The state has, at the same time, heavily infiltrated movements in order to discredit, isolate and push out their most competent leaders. It has used its vast surveillance capacities to monitor all forms of electronic communications, as well as personal relationships between activists, giving the state the ability to paralyze planned actions before they can begin. It has mounted a public relations campaign to demonize anyone who resists, branding environmental activists as “ecoterrorists,” charging activists under draconian terrorism laws, hunting down whistle-blowers such as Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden who shine a light on the inner secrets of power and condemning them as traitors and threats to national security. The state has attempted—and in this effort some in the Black Bloc proved unwittingly useful—to paint the movement as violent and directionless.

Occupy articulated the concerns of the majority of citizens. Most of the citizenry detests Wall Street and big banks. It does not want more wars. It needs jobs. It is disgusted with the subservience of elected officials to corporate power. It wants universal health care. It worries that if the fossil fuel industry is not stopped, there will be no future for our children. And the state is using all its power to stymie any movement that expresses these concerns. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show Homeland Security, the FBI, the Federal Protective Service, the Park Service and most likely the NSA and the CIA (the latter two have refused to respond to FOIA requests) worked with police across the country to infiltrate and destroy the encampments. There were 7,765 arrests of people in the movement. Occupy, at its peak, had about 350,000 people—or about 0.1 percent of the U.S. population.

“Look how afraid the power structure was of a mere 1/10th of 1 percent of the population,” Zeese said. “What happens when the movement grows to 1 percent—not a far reach—or the 5 percent that some research shows is the tipping point where no government, dictatorship or democracy can withstand the pressure from below?”

The state cannot allow workers at Wal-Mart, or any other nonunionized service center, to have access to an infrastructure or resources that might permit prolonged strikes and boycotts. And the movement now is about nuts and bolts. It is about food trucks, medical tents, communications vans and musicians and artists willing to articulate and sustain the struggle. We will have to build what unions and radical parties supplied in the past.

The state, in its internal projections, has a vision of the future that is as dystopian as mine. But the state, to protect itself, lies. Politicians, corporations, the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and our ridiculous television pundits speak as if we can continue to build a society based on limitless growth, profligate consumption and fossil fuel. They feed the collective mania for hope at the expense of truth. Their public vision is self-delusional, a form of collective psychosis. The corporate state, meanwhile, is preparing privately for the world it knows is actually coming. It is cementing into place a police state, one that includes the complete evisceration of our most basic civil liberties and the militarization of the internal security apparatus, as well as wholesale surveillance of the citizenry.

The most pressing issue facing us right now is the most prosaic. Protesters attempting to block the Keystone XL pipeline can endure only for so long if they have nothing to eat but stale bagels. They need adequate food. They need a system of communication to get their message out to alternative media that will amplify it. They need rudimentary medical care. All of these elements were vital to the Occupy movement. And these elements, when they came together, allowed the building of a movement that threatened the elite. The encampments also carried within them internal sources of disintegration. Many did not adequately control some groups. Many were hijacked or burdened by those who drained the political work of the movement. Many found that consensus, which worked well in small groups, created paralysis in groups of several hundred or a few thousand. And many failed to anticipate the numbing exhaustion that crushed activists. But these encampments did provide what was most crucial to the movement, something unions or the old Communist Party once provided to militants in the past. They provided the logistics to sustain resistance. And the destruction of the encampments, more than anything else, was a move by the state to deny to us the infrastructure needed to resist.

Infrastructure alone, however, will not be enough.  The resistance needs a vibrant cultural component. It was the spirituals that nourished the souls of African-Americans during the nightmare of slavery. It was the blues that spoke to the reality of black people during the era of Jim Crow. It was the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca that sustained the republicans fighting the fascists in Spain. Music, dance, drama, art, song, painting were the fire and drive of resistance movements. The rebel units in El Salvador when I covered the war there always traveled with musicians and theater troupes. Art, as Emma Goldman pointed out, has the power to make ideas felt. Goldman noted that when Andrew Undershaft, a character in George Bernard Shaw’s play “Major Barbara,” said poverty is “[t]he worst of crimes” and “All the other crimes are virtues beside it,” his impassioned declaration elucidated the cruelty of class warfare more effectively than Shaw’s socialist tracts. The degradation of education into vocational training for the corporate state, the ending of state subsidies for the arts and journalism, the hijacking of these disciplines by corporate sponsors, severs the population from understanding, self-actualization and transcendence. In aesthetic terms the corporate state seeks to crush beauty, truth and imagination. This is a war waged by all totalitarian systems.

Culture, real culture, is radical and transformative. It is capable of expressing what lies deep within us. It gives words to our reality. It makes us feel as well as see. It allows us to empathize with those who are different or oppressed. It reveals what is happening around us. It honors mystery. “The role of the artist, then, precisely, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through the vast forest,” James Baldwin wrote, “so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”

Artists, like rebels, are dangerous. They speak a truth that totalitarian systems do not want spoken. “Red Rosa now has vanished too. …” Bertolt Brecht wrote after Luxemburg was murdered. “She told the poor what life is about, And so the rich have rubbed her out.” Without artists such as musician Ry Cooder and playwrights Howard Brenton and Tarell Alvin McCraney we will not succeed. If we are to face what lies ahead, we will not only have to organize and feed ourselves, we will have to begin to feel deeply, to face unpleasant truths, to recover empathy and to live passionately. Then we can fight.

Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. 
 

 

Time To Get Apocalyptic: Why Radical Is The New Normal

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

A protest in support of Tim DeChristopher, Bidder 70, in February, 2011.

Oldspeak: “When people believe injustice is necessary to maintain their material comfort, some accept those conditions without complaint.” –Robert Jensen. This for me is the crux of the problem facing our civilization. Our ecocidal and reality-detached attachment to maintaining material comfort at all costs.  It is just as Professor Jensen said: “The task for those with critical sensibilities is not just to resist oppressive social norms and illegitimate authority… to speak a simple truth that almost no one wants to acknowledge: The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end.” How do people with critical sensibilities get those engaging the dysfunctional denial; pill popping, conspicuous consumption & positivity peddling that our dominant culture is enveloping us in to deal with the reality that bigger is not  better. That greed is not good. That ever “MORE” is not sustainable.  To recognize and accept as reality that “we now live in a time of permanent contraction—there will be less, not more, of everything.” To reject the existing systems of power predicated on extraction, growth, profit, & externalizing, and consider sustainable, inclusive, and collaborative, mutually beneficial systems. Agitate. Resist. Engage. Question. Confront. Speak truth to power and anyone you encounter every chance you get. It will be hard. You’ll probably lose some friends and acquaintances over it. We’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated to obey, to accept injustice and illegitimate authority. We’ve been led to believe that our technology is and will make everything better. Explode the official myths with reality based critical thought. The more and more people do this, the less power we give to dominant cultures and their attendant institutions. The more and more people “unplug” the weaker these unsustainable systems become. Your actions will inspire others to lift the world that has been pulled over their eyes to blind them from the truth. Be water, my friends.”

By Robert Jensen @ YES! Magazine:

Feeling anxious about life in a broken-down society on a stressed-out planet? That’s hardly surprising: Life as we know it is almost over. While the dominant culture encourages dysfunctional denial—pop a pill, go shopping, find your bliss—there’s a more sensible approach: Accept the anxiety, embrace the deeper anguish—and then get apocalyptic.

We are staring down multiple cascading ecological crises, struggling with political and economic institutions that are unable even to acknowledge, let alone cope with, the threats to the human family and the larger living world. We are intensifying an assault on the ecosystems in which we live, undermining the ability of that living world to sustain a large-scale human presence into the future. When all the world darkens, looking on the bright side is not a virtue but a sign of irrationality.

In these circumstances, anxiety is rational and anguish is healthy, signs not of weakness but of courage. A deep grief over what we are losing—and have already lost, perhaps never to be recovered—is appropriate. Instead of repressing these emotions we can confront them, not as isolated individuals but collectively, not only for our own mental health but to increase the effectiveness of our organizing for the social justice and ecological sustainability still within our grasp. Once we’ve sorted through those reactions, we can get apocalyptic and get down to our real work.

Perhaps that sounds odd, since we are routinely advised to overcome our fears and not give in to despair. Endorsing apocalypticism seems even stranger, given associations with “end-timer” religious reactionaries and “doomer” secular survivalists. People with critical sensibilities, those concerned about justice and sustainability, think of ourselves as realistic and less likely to fall for either theological or science-fiction fantasies.

Many associate “apocalypse” with the rapture-ranting that grows out of some interpretations of the Christian Book of Revelation (aka, the Apocalypse of John), but it’s helpful to remember that the word’s original meaning is not “end of the world.” “Revelation” from Latin and “apocalypse” from Greek both mean a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden, a coming to clarity. Speaking apocalyptically, in this sense, can deepen our understanding of the crises and help us see through the many illusions that powerful people and institutions create.

But there is an ending we have to confront. Once we’ve honestly faced the crises, then we can deal with what is ending—not all the world, but the systems that currently structure our lives. Life as we know it is, indeed, coming to an end.

Let’s start with the illusions: Some stories we have told ourselves—claims by white people, men, or U.S. citizens that domination is natural and appropriate—are relatively easy to debunk (though many cling to them). Other delusional assertions—such as the claim that capitalism is compatible with basic moral principles, meaningful democracy, and ecological sustainability—require more effort to take apart (perhaps because there seems to be no alternative).

But toughest to dislodge may be the central illusion of the industrial world’s extractive economy: that we can maintain indefinitely a large-scale human presence on the earth at something like current First-World levels of consumption. The task for those with critical sensibilities is not just to resist oppressive social norms and illegitimate authority, but to speak a simple truth that almost no one wants to acknowledge: The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end. We can’t predict with precision how resource competition and ecological degradation will play out in the coming decades, but it is ecocidal to treat the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump.

We cannot know for sure what time the party will end, but the party’s over.

Does that seem histrionic? Excessively alarmist? Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live—groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species, and reduction of biodiversity—and ask a simple question: Where are we heading?

Remember also that we live in an oil-based world that is rapidly depleting the cheap and easily accessible oil, which means we face a major reconfiguration of the infrastructure that undergirds daily life. Meanwhile, the desperation to avoid that reconfiguration has brought us to the era of “extreme energy,” using ever more dangerous and destructive technologies (hydrofracturing, deep-water drilling, mountaintop coal removal, tar sands extraction).

Oh, did I forget to mention the undeniable trajectory of global warming/climate change/climate disruption?

Scientists these days are talking about tipping points and planetary boundaries, about how human activity is pushing Earth beyond its limits. Recently 22 top scientists warned that humans likely are forcing a planetary-scale critical transition “with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience,” which means that “the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations.”

That conclusion is the product of science and common sense, not supernatural beliefs or conspiracy theories. The political/social implications are clear: There are no solutions to our problems if we insist on maintaining the high-energy/high-technology existence lived in much of the industrialized world (and desired by many currently excluded from it). Many tough-minded folk who are willing to challenge other oppressive systems hold on tightly to this lifestyle. The critic Fredric Jameson has written, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” but that’s only part of the problem—for some, it may be easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of air conditioning. We do live in end-times, of a sort. Not the end of the world—the planet will carry on with or without us—but the end of the human systems that structure our politics, economics, and social life. “Apocalypse” need not involve heavenly rescue fantasies or tough-guy survival talk; to get apocalyptic means seeing clearly and recommitting to core values.

First, we must affirm the value of our work for justice and sustainability, even though there is no guarantee we can change the disastrous course of contemporary society. We take on projects that we know may fail because it’s the right thing to do, and by doing so we create new possibilities for ourselves and the world. Just as we all know that someday we will die and yet still get out of bed every day, an honest account of planetary reality need not paralyze us.

Then let’s abandon worn-out clichés such as, “The American people will do the right thing if they know the truth,” or “Past social movements prove the impossible can happen.”

There is no evidence that awareness of injustice will automatically lead U.S. citizens, or anyone else, to correct it. When people believe injustice is necessary to maintain their material comfort, some accept those conditions without complaint.

Social movements around race, gender, and sexuality have been successful in changing oppressive laws and practices, and to a lesser degree in shifting deeply held beliefs. But the movements we most often celebrate, such as the post-World War II civil rights struggle, operated in a culture that assumed continuing economic expansion. We now live in a time of permanent contraction—there will be less, not more, of everything. Pressuring a dominant group to surrender some privileges when there is an expectation of endless bounty is a very different project than when there is intensified competition for resources. That doesn’t mean nothing can be done to advance justice and sustainability, only that we should not be glib about the inevitability of it.

Here’s another cliché to jettison: Necessity is the mother of invention. During the industrial era, humans exploiting new supplies of concentrated energy have generated unprecedented technological innovation in a brief time. But there is no guarantee that there are technological fixes to all our problems; we live in a system that has physical limits, and the evidence suggests we are close to those limits. Technological fundamentalism—the quasi-religious belief that the use of advanced technology is always appropriate, and that any problems caused by the unintended consequences can be remedied by more technology—is as empty a promise as other fundamentalisms.

If all this seems like more than one can bear, it’s because it is. We are facing new, more expansive challenges. Never in human history have potential catastrophes been so global; never have social and ecological crises of this scale threatened at the same time; never have we had so much information about the threats we must come to terms with.

It’s easy to cover up our inability to face this by projecting it onto others. When someone tells me “I agree with your assessment, but people can’t handle it,” I assume what that person really means is, “I can’t handle it.” But handling it is, in the end, the only sensible choice.

Mainstream politicians will continue to protect existing systems of power, corporate executives will continue to maximize profit without concern, and the majority of people will continue to avoid these questions. It’s the job of people with critical sensibilities—those who consistently speak out for justice and sustainability, even when it’s difficult—not to back away just because the world has grown more ominous.

Adopting this apocalyptic framework doesn’t mean separating from mainstream society or giving up ongoing projects that seek a more just world within existing systems. I am a professor at a university that does not share my values or analysis, yet I continue to teach. In my community, I am part of a group that helps people create worker-cooperatives that will operate within a capitalist system that I believe to be a dead end. I belong to a congregation that struggles to radicalize Christianity while remaining part of a cautious, often cowardly, denomination.

I am apocalyptic, but I’m not interested in empty rhetoric drawn from past revolutionary moments. Yes, we need a revolution—many revolutions—but a strategy is not yet clear. So, as we work patiently on reformist projects, we can continue to offer a radical analysis and experiment with new ways of working together. While engaged in education and community organizing with modest immediate goals, we can contribute to the strengthening of networks and institutions that can be the base for the more radical change we need. In these spaces today we can articulate, and live, the values of solidarity and equity that are always essential.

To adopt an apocalyptic worldview is not to abandon hope but to affirm life. As James Baldwin put it decades ago, we must remember “that life is the only touchstone and that life is dangerous, and that without the joyful acceptance of this danger, there can never be any safety for anyone, ever, anywhere.” By avoiding the stark reality of our moment in history we don’t make ourselves safe, we undermine the potential of struggles for justice and sustainability.

As Baldwin put it so poignantly in that same 1962 essay, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

It’s time to get apocalyptic, or get out of the way.

Robert Jensen

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue (City Lights, 2013); All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film “Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing” (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. An extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff is online here

Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online here.

All DAY! ALL WEEK!: Occupy Wall Street Is Back

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm

OccupyOldspeak:Nothing else in the world… not all the armies… is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” –Victor Hugo.

 

By Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

Occupy Wall Street and the 99% are preparing to rise back up – evolved, re-energized and looking forward to “starting some trouble” to celebrate where it all began. 

Monday, September 17, now dubbed #S17, marks the one-year anniversary of the protest and occupation in New York City – an event that captured the world’s attention and ignited protests, occupations and grassroots community organizing around the globe.

To celebrate and continue challenging the corporate elite, activists in New York City are preparing for three days of teach-ins and direct actions in the heart of the Wall Street financial district, where it all began.

In New York, a weekend of gatherings and free educational events will culminate in a day of action on #S17. Organizers are calling for massive civil disobedience, mobile intersection takeovers and an evening gathering at Liberty Plaza, aka Zuccotti Park, where the original Occupy Wall Street camp was held for two months last year.

Solidarity actions and celebrations also are planned in cities across the country. Activists can use this Wiki to post or find events and network at www.InterOccupy.net.

New York police also are preparing for #S17 and have erected giant concrete walls around Zuccotti park, according to reports from activists.

It remains to be seen if #S17 participants will attempt to establish another campout-style occupation. After confronting police and city officials across the country, activists within the Occupy movement say they are ready to tactically evolve beyond the campout spectacle. In fact, much the movement already has.

“The actual camping was as [a] spectacle to get people who were interested in anti-capitalist action to come together,” said Joan Donovan, an InterOccupy.net and Occupy Los Angeles organizer. Donovan was preparing to travel to New York City for #S17 when Truthout spoke with her on Thursday.

The national network of Occupy campouts established in late 2011 and the spring of 2012 became a media spectacle as well, especially when police at occupations in New York, Oakland and Berkeley started cracking skulls and spraying tear gas in response to protests.

As winter and frustrated police forces closed in, the camps began to disappear, and so did much of the mainstream media coverage.

But the end of the camps did not mark the end of the movement. Local and national networks formed in camps across the country, and Occupy soon gave birth to campaigns addressing a range of pressing issues, such as fighting to save families from foreclosure evictions, challenging the indefinite detention clause in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and, most recently, taking on the infamous genetically engineered seed purveyor Monsanto.

The Occupy meme also influenced movements addressing age-old struggles. Occupy the Hood, for example, established a national network of activists fighting to improve the quality of life for disenfranchised people of color.

“I didn’t see the end of the occupation as the end of what this movement is about; I mean, this movement has generated all sorts of different kinds of protests,” said Donovan, who pointed out that Occupiers in Los Angeles were just recently camped out on a family’s front lawn to protect them from a foreclosure eviction.

The Canadian magazine Adbusters, which heavily backed the original Wall Street occupation, recently addressed the evolving nature of Occupy on its web site:

To put it in a nutshell: the Zuccotti encampment model might have passed its heyday, but the spirit of Occupy is still very much alive … evolving and inspiring, expanding our understanding of the possible, exploding our political imagination.

For Donovan, who is excited about “starting some trouble” in New York City this weekend, the past year has been a great one for direct action.

“This idea that everyone has to converge in [Washington] DC or wherever in order to have a protest is starting to wane away a little bit and people are starting to realize that if you can start enough commotion in many cities at the same time … you can be just as effective and not waste resources or the energy of activists,” Donovan said.

1st Amendment Rights To Petition & Assemble To Be Suspended: U.S. Congress Passes ‘Trespass Bill’ Making Protest Illegal

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Oldspeak:” Last Monday, The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of ‘The Federal Restricted Buildings And Grounds Improvement Act of 2011’. The bill will allow the government to bring charges against Americans exercising their rights as protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America. So not only can you be subjected to the indignity of being labeled a low-level terrorist for daring to petition your government for grievances, but protest itself, and other ‘disruptive activity’ in the presence or vicinity of government officials, buildings, & ‘official functions’ is being deemed illegal. “Criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights” –United States Representative Justin Amash.Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.

By RT News:

Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.

The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.

Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.

Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, a Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying to get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.

The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”

It’s not just the president who would be spared from protesters, either.

Covered under the bill is any person protected by the Secret Service. Although such protection isn’t extended to just everybody, making it a federal offense to even accidentally disrupt an event attended by a person with such status essentially crushes whatever currently remains of the right to assemble and peacefully protest.

Hours after the act passed, presidential candidate Rick Santorum was granted Secret Service protection. For the American protester, this indeed means that glitter-bombing the former Pennsylvania senator is officially a very big no-no, but it doesn’t stop with just him. Santorum’s coverage under the Secret Service began on Tuesday, but fellow GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has already been receiving such security. A campaign aide who asked not to be identified confirmed last week to CBS News that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has sought Secret Service protection as well. Even former contender Herman Cain received the armed protection treatment when he was still in the running for the Republican Party nod.

In the text of the act, the law is allowed to be used against anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so, but those grounds are considered any area where someone — rather it’s President Obama, Senator Santorum or Governor Romney — will be temporarily visiting, whether or not the public is even made aware. Entering such a facility is thus outlawed, as is disrupting the orderly conduct of “official functions,” engaging in disorderly conduct “within such proximity to” the event or acting violent to anyone, anywhere near the premises. Under that verbiage, that means a peaceful protest outside a candidate’s concession speech would be a federal offense, but those occurrences covered as special event of national significance don’t just stop there, either. And neither does the list of covered persons that receive protection.

Outside of the current presidential race, the Secret Service is responsible for guarding an array of politicians, even those from outside America. George W Bush is granted protection until ten years after his administration ended, or 2019, and every living president before him is eligible for life-time, federally funded coverage. Visiting heads of state are extended an offer too, and the events sanctioned as those of national significance — a decision that is left up to the US Department of Homeland Security — extends to more than the obvious. While presidential inaugurations and meeting of foreign dignitaries are awarded the title, nearly three dozen events in all have been considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE) since the term was created under President Clinton. Among past events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list are Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, most State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

With Secret Service protection awarded to visiting dignitaries, this also means, for instance, that the federal government could consider a demonstration against any foreign president on American soil as a violation of federal law, as long as it could be considered disruptive to whatever function is occurring.

When thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Chicago this spring for the 2012 G8 and NATO summits, they will also be approaching the grounds of a National Special Security Event. That means disruptive activity, to whichever court has to consider it, will be a federal offense under the act.

And don’t forget if you intend on fighting such charges, you might not be able to rely on evidence of your own. In the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, under current law, brings criminals charges. Don’t fret. It’s not like the country will really try to enforce it — right?

On the bright side, does this mean that the law could apply to law enforcement officers reprimanded for using excessive force on protesters at political events? Probably. Of course, some fear that the act is being created just to keep those demonstrations from ever occurring, and given the vague language on par with the loose definition of a “terrorist” under the NDAA, if passed this act is expected to do a lot more harm to the First Amendment than good.

United States Representative Justin Amash (MI-03) was one of only three lawmakers to vote against the act when it appeared in the House late Monday. Explaining his take on the act through his official Facebook account on Tuesday, Rep. Amash writes, “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.”

“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights,” adds the representative.

Now that the act has overwhelmingly made it through the House, the next set of hands to sift through its pages could very well be President Barack Obama; the US Senate had already passed the bill back on February 6. Less than two months ago, the president approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, essentially suspending habeas corpus from American citizens. Could the next order out of the Executive Branch be revoking some of the Bill of Rights? Only if you consider the part about being able to assemble a staple of the First Amendment, really. Don’t worry, though. Obama was, after all, a constitutional law professor. When he signed the NDAA on December 31, he accompanied his signature with a signing statement that let Americans know that, just because he authorized the indefinite detention of Americans didn’t mean he thought it was right.

Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.

Arrested For Meditating? Why It’s Radical To Stay Nonviolent In The Face Of State-Sponsored Brutality

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Oldspeak:”Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps. It is time for the spiritual people to get active and the activist people to get spiritual so that we can have total revolution of the human spirit.  We need to combine this inner revolution with the outer revolution to have the total revolution of the spirit. Then you can build the alternatives to a collapsing system built on structural violence –Pancho Ramos-Stierle

By Sarah van Gelder @ YES! Magazine:

Occupy Oakland has been at the forefront of some of Occupy’s most visible actions—a massive general strike on November 2, a shutdown of the Port of Oakland, and attempts to occupy vacant buildings. And it’s become known for the brutality of police actions, especially the case of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was hit by a tear-gas canister fired by police and suffered a severe head injury.

It has also been the center of much controversy over tactics—especially the tactics of the Black Bloc. These tactics are turning the San Francisco Bay area public against the Occupy movement, according to a report in the East Bay Express. Anonymous recently accused Black Bloc members of being misguided, harmful, and perhaps agent provocateurs, and threatened those involved in vandalism in a video posted on YouTube: “Consider this an act of diplomacy before we start doxing your asses all over the Internet and paying special attention to personally ruining your lives.”

We turned to Pancho Ramos Stierle for some insights into the question of Occupy tactics. Pancho was arrested Nov. 14 2011, during the police raid on Occupy Oakland, while meditating. Pancho came to the United States from Mexico to study astrophysics in the Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley, but left the program out of opposition to the university’s research related to nuclear weapons development.

We talked to him about police violence in Oakland, his own arrest, deportations, and, especially, his insights into the controversies over tactics in the Occupy movement.

Sarah van Gelder: Could you tell the story of what happened the night that the Oakland site was raided by the police and you were arrested?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Since the Occupy movement started, we’ve been seeing the Oakland police escalating their violence.

The first raid happened early in the morning, and the city of Oakland spent $2 million on rubber bullets, tear gas, and helicopters to repress people who were peacefully gathering. In the same two days not one or two but five elementary schools were closed. Today, you can see an elementary school that has been converted into a police station here in Oakland.

I’m telling you this to set the tone for what happened the day we were arrested.

We knew the city of Oakland was bringing police from all around and they were staying in the Coliseum, which is one mile from here.

So we said, okay, if they want to escalate their violence, how do we escalate our nonviolence? On the night before the raid, we heard the helicopters and the hundreds of police that were descending on the Oakland downtown. So at 3:30 a.m., we bicycled to the Ogawa-Grant Plaza. We wanted to set a tone of positive energy and also to claim the space.

We’d been meditating and doing yoga in public parks for the last eight months because we want to let people know that these spaces are our spaces. We want to bring calmness and a different energy.

So if you have the riot police coming with tear gas and pepper spray and all their weapons, we have a more powerful weapon, courage and stillness—it’s kindness, it’s compassion, it’s generosity, it’s the small things, but when you add them up that makes a pretty strong army.

So we sat in receptive silence from 3:30 a.m. to the time when we were arrested around 6 a.m.

Sarah van Gelder: So what happened during the actual arrest?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: On Mondays we practice silence, and the police officer who arrested us thought that we were deaf because we were not speaking. So he got a notebook and a pen. It was very considerate of him, and I could feel his energy shift a little, and so when he gave me the notebook I wrote, “On Mondays, I practice silence, but I would like you to hear that I love you.”

When he read that, he had this big smile and looked me in the eye and he said, “Thank you. But, well, if you don’t move, you’re going to be arrested. Are you moving or not?”

So I wrote back, “I am meditating.” He said, “OK, arrest them one by one.”

That was one of my favorite moments from the whole ordeal.

Sarah van Gelder: Who else was sitting with you?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: My housemate Adelaja. We are also now on a mission to bring together people with different skin colors. He’s a six foot five beautiful brother with black skin, and I have brown skin, and we have another brother here with white skin, so we’re trying to be together.

Sarah van Gelder: Tell me about your experience in prison. Were you able to keep your nonviolent witness going while you were behind bars?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Before being in jail, it was hard for me to understand what Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi meant when they said that prisons are the temples of freedom. It’s clear that they can do many things to your body and try to oppress you and use psychological violence. But there’s something so strong inside each of us, the human spirit, that they can not reach. They can put you in shackles and cold cement cells, and feed you horrible food, and put you in solitary confinement, but there’s no way that they can reach the human spirit.

That was powerful—to find once again that that part is sacred. I think that was the only thing that kept me sane and healthy in that very dehumanizing environment.

That’s what I would like to share with people—that it is time for the spiritual people to get active and the activist people to get spiritual so that we can have total revolution of the human spirit. Because we have the idea that the self-indulgent people are just meditating—they are going to caves and meditation centers while all this madness is happening, or you have people at these meditation center that are asking how can you bring peace and calm and harmony to the world if you do not have that in your heart?

I think that we need both now, and that we need to combine this inner revolution with the outer revolution to have the total revolution of the spirit.

Then you can build the alternatives to a collapsing system built on structural violence.

I believe that nine out of ten actions must be creating the community that we want to live in—we’re talking about permaculture, independent media, restorative justice, gift economies, free currencies, and preventive medicine. By doing all that, we make ourselves stronger.

If you are creating true alternatives to the collapsing, rotten system then you will naturally come into conflict with the power structure. Then the political action becomes necessary. So I think one out of ten actions should be obstructive—that is boycotts and protests and marches and nonviolent civil disobedience.

But when we cultivate inner awareness, it’s easy to see that what we need to do is spend most of our time creating the communities that we want to live in.

Sarah van Gelder: Can you give me an example of how that plays out in movements for change?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Gandhi showed us that the spinning wheel—part of the constructive program—was the center of the movement for the independence of the part of the planet we call India.

At the time, the part of the planet we call India was selling cotton to the part of the planet we call England and buying back clothes. Gandhi figured out that if they started making their own clothes, then they could become self reliant, autonomous, and every single person could get plugged into this—women, men, elderly people, young people—social status really doesn’t matter. So that created the foundation of a national movement.

And once they had the alternative, they had bonfires with British clothing, and he said every person needs to spend at least one hour a day in the chain of creating your own clothing.

Well now, a hundred years later, many of us believe that Gandhi’s spinning wheel of the 21st century is healthy and local food. Many of us believe healthy and local food is the foundation of social justice, and anyone can get plugged in, from compost to planting, watering the crops to going to the farmers market to cooking healthy food or just eating it or washing dishes anyone can spend an hour a day— men, women, doesn’t matter social strata can get plugged into this chain.

Once we have that constructive program, when we’re solid in that, we can confront the pollution- and violence-based system more effectively. But we also need an inner “spinning wheel,” so we must spend a couple of hours each day in receptive silence—any silent spiritual practice that brings awareness and equanimity to our hearts and minds—and put the inner revolution and the outer revolution together. Then we will be more than ready to make a bonfire out of passports, visas, and the devastating genetically modified Monsanto seeds.

Sarah van Gelder: What do you say to Occupiers trying to negotiate differences in views about nonviolence?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Stop negotiating and start embodying the principles you believe in.

Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps—for example, facilitating the growth of the communities we want to live in or realizing that the most efficient tools against a system based on greed, fear, hurry, and violence, are generosity, courage, slowing-down, and loving-kindness.

When the puzzle gets complicated, I always remember: our means are our ends in the making.

To all occupiers and fellow satyagrahis I say: Liberate ourselves from the shackles of wage slavery. Liberate our minds and hearts from the oppression of colonialism. Let’s occupy our beings with courage and loving-kindness.

Sarah van Gelder: What should people know about Occupy Oakland, which has been confronted with some of the most police violence in the U.S., but has also had groups engage in property damage?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: “Occupy Oakland” has been happening for many decades.

Most of the people with black and brown skin have been surviving the historical pain of racism and oppression for generations. When you have “food deserts”—perhaps a better description is “food apartheids”—and “liquor store forests” in Oakland, what can we expect? When police kill young fathers with impunity—like Oscar Grant—and harass hard-working, honest people—like migrants; when gangsters terrorize the community with shootings; when the corporate media broadcasts fear as much as they can; when the city of Oakland converts an elementary school into a police station, is there a clearer picture that this system is flawed?

Violence is only a manifestation of a deep conflict. Violence is an expression of pain. It is a monologue offered by gangs, including the police—the most organized gang defending the interests of a few.

The Native American peoples have been saying for centuries, “Beware what’s happening to us because it could happen to you.” Well, now people of black, brown, and white skin are experiencing it. It is the 99 percent.

The tear gas canister that fractured the skull of brother Scott Olsen—an Iraq veteran with white skin—wasn’t a random shot by a police officer targeting the body of the 24-year-old defiant veteran. It was a choice made by the state to impose, with violence, submission on movements that resist their decisions. A choice to threaten all of those who want to resist arrangements that suppress issues like meaningful livelihood, public health, security, housing, and public learning.

In these so called “democracies” of today, state sovereignty takes the police form. There are police operations against all kind of “enemies.” In these operations, not only the social movements are criminalized, but also whole categories of citizens, entire communities, and even ethnic groups.

The ultimate healing will come when we all stop cooperating with the rotten system and when we start understanding that we are the 99 percent facilitating the healing of the 100 percent, one heart at a time.

If we disobey with compassion and love in our hearts and minds, if we spend 90 percent of our energy creating the alternatives of a just, free, and liberated world, we will discover the joy to rebel against an imposed fear. We will be free from modern poverty and its two kinds of slaves: the intoxicated—the prisoners to the addiction of consumption, and those who aspire to get intoxicated—the prisoners of envy. It will be clear that our misery isn’t caused by the siblings in corporations or most of the police officers or the army, but by our obedience to a flawed rule.

We ourselves must be strengthened and changed, for we have to experience an inner independence even before the corporations, police states, and governments grant the outward one.

Sarah van Gelder: What comes next for you? You’ve been arrested and the fact that you are in the United States without documents has become very public. What will you do now?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. We as citizens of the world don’t need silly papers and visas and passports—these are things that are totally new in the human consciousness. We paint imaginary lines in the dirt, and we need to erase those soon. So it really doesn’t matter if I am here or if I am in the part of the planet we call Mexico. We really need to step up as citizens of the world.

For example, right here in California the University of California is still involved in the development of nuclear weapons. So as citizens of the world we need to do everything within our reach to stop that madness.

You can not deport the Milky Way from the sky; you cannot deport the Sun. If they send me to another part of this planet, great! I’ll keep working. What’s going to happen if I’m in Oaxaca or Chiapas or somewhere else in the part of the planet we call Mexico, I have no idea, sister, but I know that I’m going to keep trying to bring this message that the Earth is but one country and all living beings its citizens.

When I was in the detention center, there were 42 people in a very tiny space — like two people per square meter. And I met this man, this dad who has been working for 15 years in construction in Oakland, and he has a nine year-old and a five year-old, and he was going to be deported because he didn’t have documents. So when you look into the eyes of that brother or talk to his children, there’s no way that you cannot do something.

Sarah van Gelder: I was at your arraignment hearing in Oakland and I saw so many people there who loved you so much.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: I’m happy you were able to witness—and you know what this is, sister Sarah? We are the early adopters of a revolution of values, and we are the evidence that the totalitarianism of corporate capitalism—the machine that has devastated the planet and human beings—we are the demonstration that system doesn’t work and that we need a new system.

Our movement is trying to give birth and move from scarcity to abundance, from transaction to trust, from consumption to contribution, from isolation to community, from perfection to wholeness, from terror to fearlessness, from violence to courage and respect and love, and this is the key.

The emergence of the new paradigm and our victory is not putting people in power but power in people.

Sarah van Gelder is Executive Editor of YES! Magazine where you can read her blog.

© 2012 YES! Magazine All rights reserved.

The Crucifixion Of Jesus: Killing A Radical

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Oldspeak: ‘It is unfortunate that the radical Jesus, the political dissident who took aim at injustice and oppression, has been largely forgotten today, replaced by a congenial, smiling Jesus trotted out for religious holidays but otherwise rendered mute when it comes to matters of war, power and politics….Unlike the modern church that drowns in materialism and supports the military empire, Jesus advocated love, peace and harmony. As it did in his day, this message undermines the ruling establishment. Unfortunately, it is rare for the church today to challenge the status quo, a failing that Martin Luther King Jr. recognized in his famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” when he castigated the modern-day church for being “so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are’ –John W. Whitehead


By John W. Whitehead @ The Huffington Post:

“[Jesus] was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history. The Sermon on the Mount is way ahead of its time. His ‘turn the other cheek’ anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years. It was not for nothing that I wrote an article called ‘Atheists for Jesus’ (and was delighted to be presented with a T-shirt bearing the legend).” –Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

For those who profess to be Christians, the week leading up to Easter is the most sacred time of the year, commemorating as it does the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet while Jesus is a revered religious figure, he was also, as atheist Richard Dawkins recognizes, a radical in his own right whose life and teachings changed the course of history.

Too often today radicalism is equated with terrorism, extremism and other violent acts of resistance. Yet true radicalism, the kind embodied by such revolutionary figures as Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, actually involves speaking truth to power through peaceful, nonviolent means. Separated by time and distance, Christ, King and Gandhi were viewed as dangerous by their respective governments because they challenged the oppressive status quo of their day.

Jesus, in particular, undermined the political and religious establishment of his day through his teachings. For example, when Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers,” exhorting his followers to turn the other cheek and give freely, he was telling us that active peacemaking is the way to end war. Indeed, if everything Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount is true — a message that King, to his peril, adopted in protest of the Vietnam War — there’d be no need for wars, war budgets or military industrial complexes. Imagine that.

Unfortunately, as the gruesome torture and crucifixion of Jesus make clear, there is always a price to pay for standing up to one’s oppressors. While the New Testament Gospels are the primary source for accounts of Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and death, his ordeal at the hands of Roman soldiers has been the topic of scholarly research for years. Indeed, as Time magazine reports, the latest topic of academic scrutiny involves claims by an Israeli television journalist that he may have uncovered the crucifixion nails used on Jesus — “smallish iron spikes with the tips hammered to one side.”

Certainly, the torture Jesus endured was agonizing. Yet, what was it about him that caused the Romans to view him as enough of a threat to make an example of him and have him crucified?

In the time of Jesus, religious preachers and self-proclaimed prophets were not summarily arrested and executed. Nor were nonviolent protesters. Indeed, the high priests and Roman governors in Jerusalem would normally allow a protest, particularly a small-scale one, to run its course. However, government authorities were quick to dispose of leaders and movements that even appeared to threaten the Roman Empire.

The charges leveled against Jesus — that he was a threat to the stability of the nation, opposed paying Roman taxes and claimed to be the rightful King as Messiah of Israel (the gravest charge, for which Jesus was ultimately crucified, as inscribed on the cross: “The King of the Jews”) — were purely political, not religious. To the Romans, any one of these charges was enough to merit death by crucifixion. Crucifixion itself, usually reserved for slaves, non-Romans, radicals, revolutionaries and the worst criminals, was not only a common method for execution by Romans but was also the most feared.

The Gospels recount how, after Jesus’ arrest, temple guards brought him to the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas, who declared him guilty of blasphemy. He was then ushered before the Sanhedrin, a Jewish council, which sought permission from the Romans to execute him. Whether an actual “trial” took place before Jesus was handed over to the Romans is uncertain. But more than likely, as he was moved from place to place, he was spat upon and beaten.

It is telling that the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who alone had the authority to execute Jesus, focused on his political identity:“Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11). This seems to be primarily what mattered to Pilate, whose job it was to uphold the religious, as well as the temporal, power of the deified Caesars.

Jesus does not deny the allegation which, if true, will lead to his death. He answers: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).

In other words, Jesus told Pilate — the one person who held Jesus’ life in his hands — to stick it. The cruel torture and killing of Jesus were certain to follow after that. The fact that Jesus was killed for claiming to be king of the Jews was not an afterthought pinned on the cross above his head. The Roman soldiers commissioned to prepare him for execution knew this was the issue. That is why they gave him the burlesque of coronation, clothing him in royal purple with a mock crown and scepter. Then they abased themselves and called out, “Hail, king of the Jews!” (John 19:3). Afterward, they beat Jesus.

The mob must have played a key role in Jesus’ condemnation, although there is little extensive historical evidence to support the scene played out in films and movies in which Pontius Pilate asks the crowd to choose between Barabbas the robber and Jesus. Most likely, the pressure to appease the masses would have forced the Romans to act. As author A.N. Wilson writes, “If the crowds could be pacified by the release of Barabbas, they could perhaps be cowed into submission by a cruel public display of what happens to Jews who use words like ‘kingdom’ … to the Roman governor.” Surrendering to the people’s will, Pilate granted an execution by crucifixion.

Matthew 27:26 indicates that Jesus was severely whipped in accordance with a Roman requirement that there be a scourging before each execution (except for those involving women, Roman senators or soldiers). A Roman flagrum, a leather whip consisting of three thongs, each ending with two lead balls designed to tear flesh, was the weapon of choice for inflicting scourgings. The Romans may have even used a similar instrument, a flagellum, in which small rocks or bone fragments were also attached on the end of the thongs. This instrument was typically used to tenderize a piece of meat.

Mayo Clinic scholars note that repeated floggings to the upper and lower back with iron balls that cut deeply into his flesh would have caused Jesus to nearly go into shock from blood loss:

“As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.”

In addition to the scourging, Jesus was also crowned with thorns. Scholars have observed that the thorns digging into his scalp probably severely irritated major nerves in his head, causing increasing and excruciating pain for hours.

Medical experts speculate that the iron spikes used to nail Jesus to the cross measured from 5 to 7 inches long (the size of railroad spikes). The spikes were driven through his wrists (between the radius and the ulna and the carpals in his forearms), not his palms, and between the second and third metatarsal bones of his feet in order to support his body weight. Though the spikes were not nailed through major blood vessels, they were designed to sever major nerves, rupturing other veins and creating great pain. Added to this, hanging on the cross would have made it agonizingly difficult to breathe.

Doctors generally conclude that a combination of factors contributed to Jesus’ death on the cross: He had already lost an incredible amount of blood. He was exhausted from the beatings and from carrying his cross. Because he could only attempt to breathe by pushing his body upward with his knees and legs (often, Roman soldiers would break their victims’ legs with clubs), death by asphyxiation was inevitable. However, their most critical observation is that Jesus was already dead when Roman soldiers thrust the spear into his side.

Within a religious context, Jesus’ death was a sacrificial act of atonement for the sins of the world. In a historical context, his crucifixion sent a chilling warning to all those who would challenge the power of the Roman Empire. As Mark Lewis Taylor, the Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, observed in an interview with OldSpeak,

“The cross within Roman politics and culture was a marker of shame, of being a criminal. If you were put to the cross, you were marked as shameful, as criminal, but especially as subversive. And there were thousands of people put to the cross. The cross was actually positioned at many crossroads, and, as New Testament scholar Paula Fredricksen has reminded us, it served as kind of a public service announcement that said, ‘Act like this person did, and this is how you will end up.'”

Unlike the modern church that drowns in materialism and supports the military empire, Jesus advocated love, peace and harmony. As it did in his day, this message undermines the ruling establishment. Unfortunately, it is rare for the church today to challenge the status quo, a failing that Martin Luther King Jr. recognized in his famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” when he castigated the modern-day church for being “so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”

Written on April 16, 1963, while King was serving a jail sentence for participating in civil rights demonstrations, the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was a response to eight prominent white Alabama clergymen who had called on African-Americans to cease their civil disobedience and let the courts handle the problem of desegregation. King’s words reminded Americans that the early church — the church established by Jesus’ followers — would never have been content to remain silent while injustice and persecution ruled the land:

There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators” … They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

It is unfortunate that the radical Jesus, the political dissident who took aim at injustice and oppression, has been largely forgotten today, replaced by a congenial, smiling Jesus trotted out for religious holidays but otherwise rendered mute when it comes to matters of war, power and politics.

“Christianity today often resembles an egg into which someone has poked a hole and sucked out all its contents,” writes Richard Smoley in Forbidden Faith (2006), “and then taken the shell, encrusted it with gold and jewels, and set it up as an object of veneration. In many ways, it remains a beautiful shell, but more and more people are finding that it no longer offers any nourishment. If they complain, they’re usually told that they just need to have more faith — which is of course no answer at all.”

Yet for those who truly study the life and teachings of Jesus, the resounding theme is one of outright resistance to war, materialism and empire. As Mark Lewis Taylor notes, “The power of Jesus is one that enables us to critique the nation and the empire. Unfortunately, that gospel is being sacrificed and squandered by Christians who have cozied up to power and wealth.” Ultimately, this is the contradiction that must be resolved if the radical Jesus — the one who stood up to the Roman Empire and was crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be — is to be remembered.

Follow John W. Whitehead on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rutherford_inst

“The Answers Are Coming From The Bottom”: Legendary Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs On The US Social Forum

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2010 at 9:48 am

Boggs calls Detroit a "symbol of a new kind of society, of people who grow their own food, of people who try and help each other.

Oldspeak: “If there is hope, it lies in the Proles.”

From Amy Goodman & Anjali Kamat @ Democracy Now:

Amy Goodman: We’re on the road in Detroit on the opening day of the US Social Forum. Thousands of people are here for one of the largest gatherings of grassroots activists and community organizers in the country. The event this week marks the second time the Social Forum has been held in the United States. The first one was three years ago in Atlanta.

Detroit is a city with one of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country. But to many longtime Detroit-based activists, the city today is not just a picture of devastation and ruin. To them, Detroit is a city of hope, a place that seeks to nurture sustainability and community building.

Democracy Now!‘s Anjali Kamat and I spoke to the legendary Detroit-based radical organizer and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs. Born to Chinese immigrant parents in 1915, Grace Lee Boggs has been involved with the civil rights, Black Power, labor, environmental justice, and feminist movements for over the past seven decades. Along with her late husband Jimmy Boggs, Grace has been at the forefront of efforts to rebuild urban communities. In 1992, she co-founded the Detroit Summer youth program to renew her city. Grace Lee Boggs turns ninety-five this week and is speaking at a number of events at the Social Forum, including a public conversation with Immanuel Wallerstein.

On Monday night, we visited Grace Lee Boggs at her home in Detroit on the east side, where she has lived for over fifty years. The city is considering declaring her home to be a historical landmark because it has served as an incubator for countless social justice organizations. We asked Grace Lee Boggs to talk about the importance of the US Social Forum coming to Detroit.

Grace Lee Boggs: You know, the World Social Forums began after the Battle of Seattle in 1999. And the slogan, “Another World Is Possible,” emerged out of a completely new mentality, when people recognized that essentially those in control are dysfunctional and that the old social democracy dependence on those in power to give you things, that period is over.

And I think it’s really wonderful that the Social Forum decided to come to Detroit, because Detroit, which was once the symbol of miracles of industrialization and then became the symbol of the devastation of deindustrialization, is now the symbol of a new kind of society, of people who grow their own food, of people who try and help each other, to how we begin to think, not so much of getting jobs and advancing our own fortunes, but how we depend on each other. I mean, it’s another world that we’re creating here in Detroit. And we had to. I mean, we didn’t do so because we are better people than anybody else, but when you look out and all you see is vacant lots, when all you see is devastation, when all you see–do you look at it as a curse, or do you look at it as a possibility, as having potential? And we here in Detroit had to begin doing that for our own humanity.

Anjali Kamat: So what do you think the rest of the United States can learn from Detroit?

Boggs: Well, I’m hoping they will learn, and I spoke to two young groups today, one of them from California and another one from Ithaca, New York. Downtown they had come in vans for the Social Forum. I hope they understand from Detroit that all of us, each of us, can become a cultural creative. That’s what’s taking place. We are creating a new culture. And we’re not doing it because we are such wonderful people. We’re doing it because we had to, I mean, not only to survive materially, but to survive as human beings. We couldn’t give up. And that’s why I think–that’s what I hope people will learn, because the United States is going through some difficult times, and unless we understand that, and that that is what it means to evolve, not–to see what is negative as a potential positive.

Goodman: Grace Lee Boggs, we’re here with you in Detroit at the time of the US Social Forum–Detroit, the center of the fossil fuel economy–at a time where, in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s experiencing the worst environmental catastrophe in US history, the BP oil geyser. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are continuing. How do you put these together? And what needs to be done about them?

Boggs: Well, I think we have to see this as an opportunity and not just as a danger. I mean, it’s difficult to do that and look at the catastrophe in the Gulf and to look at what’s happening in Afghanistan and not think that the world has come to an end. But it’s a fantastic opportunity to–you see this T-shirt? It says, “Revolution is evolution.” It’s this fantastic opportunity to advance our humanity, to become more creative, to know that there are other ways to live and the way that we have lived has been at the expense of so much, so many other people and so many of the earth, and that we don’t have to live that way, that that only was only 300 years, that before that, people thought that the earth was more important than land and that work was more important than a job. This capitalist society has not lasted forever; it’s only a few hundred years old.

Goodman: Your assessment of how President Obama is dealing with these issues? Exacerbating them or solving them?

Boggs: Well, I think that anyone who attempts a top-down solution can’t succeed. And I don’t think that, from the very beginning, he was so close to the grassroots. I think that he had–I think he–I don’t know. I remember asking Bill Ayers once, who knew Obama in Chicago, “How would you characterize him?” He says, “He’s a very ambitious person. He believes in advancing and climbing the ladder.” A lot of people believe that, that when you climb the ladder, and you end in the White House, and you have the Pentagon, and you don’t–and you rehire Bob Gates and Lawrence Summers. It’s very sad. It’s very sad. But I think it’s very helpful to understand that, you know, when–I’m going to be talking to Wallerstein. Wallerstein understands how the feudal lords could not run European society, how the serfs were running into the cities, how disease was spreading, and they became dysfunctional. And I think we see the dysfunction in the White House. We see the dysfunction at the top level. We see how they propose top-down solutions for education, for example: testing, more testing, more standardized testing, punishment. The answers can’t come from the top. And that’s why Detroit’s so important, why the Social Forum is so important. The answers are coming more from the bottom.