Another World Is Possible

Discredited “elites” dither and blather at COP 23 while nearby, activists take direct action against the largest open pit lignite coal mine in Europe. Relayed from their website:

THE FOREST     The Hambacher Forest is counted among one of the last remaining mixed forests with their unique ecosystems in Central Europe. Of its original 5,500 hectares, less than one tenth remains today. The Hambacher Forest was once called a ‘citizens’ forest’. Its history goes back several thousands of years – to the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. With its diversity of flora and fauna, the forest offers a habitat to a multitude of species including tawny owls, bats and dormice. In the remaining parts of the forest you will find Hornbeam and English oak that are over 300 years old. Many migratory bird species use the forest as a resting place on their journeys.

DEFORESTATION     The energy company RWE (back then Rheinbraun) bought the forest  from the surrounding parishes in 1978. Since then the forest is being cleared to make space for lignite extraction. Less than one tenth of the once 5,500 hectare forest remains today. Whereas deforestation is only permitted between October and March, RWE has been clearing forest illegally outside of this period in the past years. If the mine continues as planned the remaining forest will be destroyed within the next three years.

RESISTANCE     And this is where economic, political, and the interests of companies meet with resistance. Some people remain in the houses that RWE wants to bulldoze. Others occupy trees and plant vegetables in the soil designated as overburden. During nightly strolls, signage disappears and machines are freed of their electronics. Resistance has a decade-long history and includes projects against forced resettlement, surface damage and fine dust pollution. People interested in their environment and activists are standing up against the destruction with art exhibitions and bike demonstrations, orchard and meadow occupations and blockades of coal trains. This lead to a wave of repression against international activists. From searches to taking of DNA and imprisonment. Resistance continues regardless.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Now comes a voice from the forest, relayed from Amy Goodman and Democracy Now, a voice that embodies the urgency, courage and resolve that has been largely absent among those engaged in the “official” conference:

RWE is a multi-international company, producing energy from lignite mining, traditionally, but they also have stone coal that they export from, for example, Colombia or China, where it also causes enormous damage also to indigenous people. They also have nuclear power plants. And now they have part of the company that does renewable energies, since it’s where they can make money from now. And the whole thing just works out for them, because they don’t have to pay the costs, but—the costs of the environmental destruction happening because of lignite mining.

They say what they do is legal and what—because it’s like legalized by democracy, so they say what they do is right and what we do here is illegal. And so, they asked the police to evict us, what they have done in the past. But for us, that’s a strong sign that the problem is the system we live in. So, if it’s legal for a company to destruct our whole planet, that means that it’s time to also resist against state power.

I wouldn’t say I’m afraid, because I’m here to fight. So, from the first day I came here, I knew that police can enter all the time. So, it gives me motivation to go on.

Regarding the proximity to COP:

That’s really a sign about how absurd it is that we believe that the people who were actually part of the people who caused this disaster, which is global warming, that we trust in them solving it, even though they are profiting from how the situation is right now, and that, actually, just some kilometers away from there, there’s the biggest CO2 source of all Europe. And yeah, for me, it seems really [hypocritical]. They’re sitting there and talking about global warming and climate justice, because—yeah, it really shows me that it’s time that we take responsibility for our own lives and that we change something and that we create a world which gives us the power to act, instead of hoping that other people will solve problems.

I also don’t believe in technical solutions. I think, like, there is a lot of hope in technical solutions, and it can really help us, but we will not stop destroying this planet if we don’t overcome capitalism and domination. And yeah, it’s definitely no—not a good idea to replace lignite mining with nuclear power. Both cause enormous damage. And for me, it’s one struggle that’s really important for me. I’m not just fighting against lignite mining, but I’m fighting against exploitation in general, and that means fighting against capitalism, and that means fighting against domination. And that’s why I see this as one struggle.

˜˜˜˜˜


A Different Beast Entirely

As promised in an earlier post, we open our ears to the voice of civil rights attorney Michelle Alexander in an excerpt from her devastatingly accurate account of our system of mass incarceration, The New Jim Crow. Images are from the website of the Equal Justice Initiative.

 

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Our question: do we have the courage to face the implications of Alexander’s brilliant stripping away of the disguise?

Below, a link to a video from the Equal Justice Initiative, tracing the passage from slavery to mass incarceration.

˜˜˜˜˜


Tiny House Warriors

According to a recent report by the UN, the gap between government pledges and carbon emission realities remains potentially catastrophic for coastal cities and communities. Current pledges made by governments and private corporations will increase temperatures by three degrees centigrade by the end of this century, well in excess of the stated two degree limit, as negotiated during the much ballyhooed COP 21.

As we stated at that time, the struggle against burning fossil fuels into oblivion will not be successfully advanced by fatuous elites at feel-good events such as the forthcoming COP 23; only direct action at the local level, such as the long struggle at Standing Rock, will create the necessary changes in behavior and global awareness.

This week, we serve as relay for a statement by the Secwepemc people announcing their action to block the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, a statement that conveys far more power and meaning than anything that will emerge from the assembled gas bags in Bonn:

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

For a Greenpeace video profile of the Tiny House Warriors, click below:

˜˜˜˜˜

 


Malignant Normality

In an essay published in the Spring 2017 issue of Dissent, Robert Jay Lifton reminds us that the same ethical distortions that he discerned among physicians in Nazi Germany may occur among other groups of professionals at any time. Excerpts below, with a few malignantly normal charts from Stanley Milgram’s Obedience To Authority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

We are reminded also of a passage (slightly edited by DP for continuity) from a letter written in 1964 by Hannah Arendt to Gerhard Scholem:

You are quite right, I changed my mind and do no longer speak of “radical evil.” It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never “radical,” that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is “thought-defying,” as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its “banality.” Only the good has depth that can be radical.

˜˜˜˜˜


Christianity, Race, Incarceration

Now comes Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies Matthew Potts, with lucid comments regarding the Carceral State, made in advance of a conference held at Harvard Divinity School. The charts derive from research compiled by the Prison Policy Initiative.

˜˜˜˜˜

See also an excellent essay  by Marie Gottschalk in The Atlantic Monthly; and Michelle Alexander’s recently published The New Jim Crow, which we will be reading closely for a future DP.


Reverence and Awe

This morning, the entire editorial staff of DP spent a productive hour closely observing a quartet of male turkeys making their way through nearby meadows and woodlands: vigilant, alert, very much in touch with each other and with the landscape. We were unable to suppress the recognition that within a few weeks at least half if not all of these sentient and social toms will likely be “harvested” by humans to participate through their death in yet another one of our fantasy histories: Thanksgiving Day.

In the bigger picture, the human species continues its mad descent into the unfathomable depths of what Robert Jay Lifton calls “malignant normality”, a concept we will explore in detail in a future DP. For balance and sanity regarding the whole of life on earth, we have been re-reading Mark Bekoff’s indispensable The Animal Manifesto, with an opening passage excerpted below.

Images: a trio of watercolors from the studio of Rebecca Clark, whose art so gracefully and powerfully embodies reverence and awe for the natural world, a wisdom that we must all embrace if we are to have any chance of breaking the death spiral, of which the psychopathology of contemporary American politics is but one of many alarming symptoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Resonant with Bekoff’s manifesto, please also consider a keynote address from this year’s Animal Rights conference, as delivered by Lauren Gazzola:

LG

˜˜˜˜˜

And finally, a few more words from Thomas Berry, from his magnificent The Dream of the Earth:

“Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human. It is to transcend not only national limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter into the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value.”


Piles of Nothing

This week, we turn to the luminous Masha Gessen as she penetrates the dark, murky language of the autocrat in an essay published last May in the New York Review of Books, an analysis that becomes ever more timely with each passing month. As an example of Donald Trump’s talent for reducing language into piles of nothing, Gessen cites a passage from an interview in which he assesses his first hundred days in office:

Number one, there’s great responsibility. When it came time to, as an example, send out the fifty-nine missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria. I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like, seventy-nine [sic] missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area—you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away—and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet …. every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. [unintelligible] … This is involving death and life and so many things. … So it’s far more responsibility. [unintelligible] ….The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency. This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world.

Then, her analysis:

mg1

wip2

mg2

wip1

mg3

wip3

Variations on an Orwellian theme were added by DP.

˜˜˜˜˜


Nothing But Eyes To Weep

In a previous post, we touched on the work of Giorgio Agamben regarding the “state of exception”, and the concept of “bare life” as it applied to extra-judicial detention at Guantanamo Bay. In her recently published One Long Night, Andrea Pitzer explores the legal and historical roots of concentration camps, among them the American Civil War’s Lieber Code of Conduct and Sherman’s scorched earth March to the Sea.

Excerpts from her introduction below, with images added by DP.

SAVANNAH

COLUMBIA

NAGASAKI

˜˜˜˜˜


How To Read Two Donalds

Now comes a timely and powerful exhibition at Schindler House , How to Read El Pato Pascual: Disney’s Latin America and Latin America’s Disney. From the exhibition’s website:

The exhibition’s curators, filmmaker/writer Jesse Lerner and artist Rubén Ortiz-Torres, thoroughly examined Disney’s long engagement with Latin American culture, from Donald Duck’s first featured role in the 1937 Mexican-themed short Don Donald to the company’s 2013 attempt to trademark the Day of the Dead. Lerner and Ortiz-Torres’s research further drew from a pivotal trip Walt Disney took with his team to South America in 1941. Along with a group of fifteen animators, musicians, and screenwriters, Disney flew to over five South American countries as part of a U.S. government-directed effort to promote the “Good Neighbor” policy during the Second World War. In addition to the celebrated film The Three Caballeros, this trip produced the feature Saludos Amigos; a “making of” documentary titled South of the Border with Disney; and propaganda films such as The Grain that Built a Hemisphere. 

The infamous 1971 Chilean book by scholars Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, Para leer al Pato Donald (How to Read Donald Duck), was brought to Ortiz-Torres’s attention while studying with artist Michael Asher at the Disney-funded CalArts in the 1990s. The book (formerly banned in Chile and threatened by legal action in the U.S.) provides a structural analysis denouncing the ways in which Disney comic books were used as vehicles to justify and promote U.S. policies and cultural imperialism.

Arief Dorfman expands on the history of his essay (and its suppression both in Chile and in the US) in a recent essay on Truthout, excerpted below.

˜˜˜˜˜


Lost In Space

During a time of year when we crave the solitude of the deep forest, we revisit a few paragraphs of an essay by William Deresiewicz, dating from 2009. The image is from the solitary studio of Michel Nedjar.

˜˜˜˜˜