Volatility

August 10, 2011

Urban Uprising (London) and Implications for the New Movement Morality

Filed under: American Revolution, Civil Disobedience, Internet Democracy — Tags: , — Russ @ 1:46 am

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One of the most interesting things about the London unrest, and of similar outbreaks in the past, is the way people loot corporate retailers in direct imitation of those corporations themselves, turning the exploiters’ own looting practices against them. I welcome every sign that the people are learning to give back to the system as they’ve received from it. This is the attitude we need to cultivate toward the real Work to Rule tactics and overall mindset.
 
While I’m not kidding myself that these demonstrations are on the whole politically conscious or guided by a strategy, they still evince a fierce energy ready to reject meek compliance with the system and lash out in some direction. (There’s also evidence that even “rioters” like these are mastering the techniques of the tactical use of communications media like Blackberries and Twitter to coordinate actions and fight the police in classic asymmetrical style. Pretty soon we’ll have a full-blown tactical doctrine for this stuff. Maybe someone’s already written it.) The will to renounce the system-imposed identity, to embrace something new (but the new something still being indeterminate), the readiness and ability to fight, the rage, the numbers – these are all a latent force, up for grabs.
 
The imitation of capitalism in the happy willingness to loot* foreshadows the bigger question of the willingness to imitate the system on the part of those called by many names in many national economies, the lumpenproles of Marxism. We can look with expectation to their frequent willingness to attack the system (during the first stage of the Egyptian Revolution shantytown dwellers attacked police stations in some smaller cities), doing so primarily based on a mirroring of the system’s own aggressive materialism. But at the same time we must beware of their propensity to let themselves be astroturfed by the system itself as mercenaries and thugs. So we face the question which has loomed for us at least since the mid 19th century. As Fanon put it, if the revolution doesn’t organize the lumpenproletariat, the counter-revolution will.
 
[*While in a perfect world an urban uprising would refrain from looting its own neighborhoods but systematically range into the commercial and residential neighborhoods of the enemy, the crowds seldom achieve that level of coordination at first. The opportunities immediately available for the people rising up include looting corporate stores, thereby striking a blow against globalism and at the same time acquiring often useful material things they couldn’t otherwise afford, but to which they have a perfect right given how these goods are the embodied form of their stolen labor and destroyed jobs. In that case, looting those stores is a moral and rational act. We could wish they’d refrain from attacking their own local businesses, but this isn’t always honored. That’s part of the imitation of the indiscriminate destruction of capitalism.]
 
Part of this goal is the new morality we need to build among the oppressed, which by now includes not just impoverished urban dwellers but all the non-rich, all of whom are on a direct downward vector to serfdom, no matter what their material status today. (As I wrote before, we’re all lumpenproles now.) This nothing but the same old Golden Rule morality among ourselves, Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, but with the added emphasis on community and democracy, for by now we know it to be a law of history that if we don’t hang together we’ll all hang separately. So the community-building and positive democratic morality is not only affirmatively a wonderful thing. It’s a self-defense imperative. (One of the purposes of my posts on co-production and time banking is to go toward building the ideas and forms of this new morality.) 
 
This leads to the corollary, Do unto others as they’ve always done to you. This must dictate all our relations with the system, which in principle we must renounce completely with loathing and contempt. This must dictate our relations with government, capitalism, corporation, employer, property. (In all these I’m talking about the big, powerful manifestations. Small manifestations of these should be seen as conscripted and exhorted to identify not with the elites, who are the enemy of the small businessman just as much as of the worker, but with the people. But if in his conduct a small actor or local politician proves his pro-elite malevolence, he should be regarded and treated accordingly.)
 
This will include mustering our own resolve, relentlessness, indefatigability, to match those of the system and its cadres. Since we’re driven by an ideal and by physical necessity, our will to fight should be more than a match for those who are actuated by purely mercenary concerns. (It’ll also mean that the erstwhile “rioters” we can bring to our side as true activists will be worth far more to us than those the enemy is able to astroturf as thugs will be worth to them.)
 
It’s important to start getting the ideas out there, fastest with the mostest. Here the perfect, as in waiting to perfect doctrine and strategy, will be the enemy of the good if the quest for such unachievable perfection turns into an excuse to procrastinate. We don’t need to struggle endlessly to achieve this. We only need to attain critical mass to achieve a tipping point at which point the movement ideal starts to exponentially propagate itself. This mass may be as low as 10% of the population.
 
There will certainly be vast convulsions in the mass psychic energy, and the forms this will take, the conscious ideas people will formulate, will depend completely on what ideas are available, what ideas are speaking to the suffering and fear and rage they feel. These go far beyond the inner cities. The arc of their explosion is longer among the incipient ex-middle class lumpenproles, but shall be the decisive detonation. This is where we must make the great push, where democracy will prevail or wither, where feudalism shall be resurrected or remain a corpse, where humanity shall triumph or perish.
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47 Comments

  1. “As you do unto others, so you do unto yourself.” I prefer this version of the golden rule to the one you quote, Russ. To treat others as they treat you is to risk becoming that which you seek to destroy, as in “Heart of Darkness”. It is not destruction we seek, since the system is self-destructive at its core and does not need our help, but transcendence to something better. That violence is a part of this is sad (to my mind anyway), because violence begets it. The system is violent, produces violence, rape, pillage. It produces the character of the eruption its greed and selfishness guarantee. The violence is an inevitable and regrettable part of the process we must transcend if we are not to doom ourselves to a bitter death spiral, to a Hobbesian Warre.

    I grew up in London and know its working class quite well. From the age of seven I lived in two worlds: my mother’s poor, single-mum struggle to raise three boys in crime-ridden state schools and communities; and my father’s partnership with a wealthy heiress whose friends were the landed gentry. My family’s deeper history is professional middle class. So I have feet in all doors, as it were. My impression is that all classes are materialistic and opportunistic since the system is, and yet each produces noble exceptions to this. How influential those exceptions become depends on external circumstances. Right now, from my distance from them, I would say the ‘riots’ are part rage, part greed, with a small hint of nascent revolution. That the rage and greed are justified or logical is beside the point. I cannot know from here, but I suspect a uniting vision to turn this into something with transformational momentum is missing. The media control the story, repeat the mantras, show the rioters’ worst aspect. My in-laws and all their friends are already disgusted. They are all in their 60s and 70s, old dogs who cannot learn new tricks. Much of society is that way and I for one cannot hate them for it. We are all products of our environment.

    What I want to know is what story in what form can appeal to the greatest number of people, rich and poor, old and young alike. I’m too old to fight on the streets and have zero (active) experience in that department (I’ve seen riots at first hand though never participated), so I have to put my shoulder to the wheel in other ways. And I’m still working on them. What I’ve learned is telling a new story to people still enmeshed in the old is one hell of a challenge. You almost have to reinvent the language and syntax, which makes you sound even more lunatic in their ears.

    All that said I take your point about the 10% critical mass. Revolutions necessarily start small and surprise the settled, start messily from some perhaps unrelated spark and grow in cohesion with time. I certainly have no clue as to what sorts of ideas and messages are being exchanged on all those Blackberries and mobile phones. Perhaps my recollections are out-of-date. I hope so.

    Comment by Toby — August 10, 2011 @ 2:40 am

    • Toby, your phrasing of the golden rule seems to me to mean the same thing. Acting to build your community is a way to build yourself, and your future is intimately bound up with your community’s future. As for the negative corollary, defending yourself vs. those who would destroy your community and enslave you and those you love is accomplishing the same goal. In both cases, the anarchist mesh of the selfless and the egoistic is seamless. These act synergistically. In both cases, the ultimate goal is the construction of the democratic community.

      I think there’s a consensus that the uprising is a combo of proximate social rage and egoism, with some element of a more coherent class war consciousness, although how much of this is there is hard to measure so far. For now probably not much, just as there isn’t much yet among any demographic which should logically be developing this consciousness, that is everyone but the elites. That’s what we need to help change. The change of mind and heart will have to arise out of its own soil, but we can help speed it along and sharpen its focus.

      I agree that we don’t seek destruction but rather transcendence. But as you recognize, the self-destructive system will seek to destroy everything and everyone else with it, so to some extent we’re bound to be confounded in the destructiveness, and if we’re not to be so confounded purely as passive victims, we’ll need to take our fate into our own hands, including in destructive ways. How much this will be necessary will depend on how well we organize and execute our relocalization strategy, and how much the criminals are able to inflict destructiveness upon us, forcing us to respond in kind.

      But in most of my thoughts, and I hope this is true of my writing as well, I focus on the affirmative, and only derivatively on the negative. At least, that’s what I’ve been trying to do since I completed my analysis of the kleptocracy this past spring.

      That focus on the affirmative must become the guiding spirit of the democratic movement. Only that can infuse the fight with a spirit worthy of humanity and incarnating the aspirations of the ideals of positive democracy itself, which is nothing more or less than a lived affirmation.

      Meanwhile, we’ll try to minimize the negations to whatever is absolutely necessary, according to what humanity’s enemies force upon us. Unfortunately for the economic and political wastelands of London and elsewhere, it’s hard for people trapped there to see anything but the negation which has been imposed upon them and which makes their reaction the main focus of their thought and action. There again, we have the task of offering something higher to think and do and be.

      Comment by Russ — August 10, 2011 @ 3:24 am

  2. Good points, Toby.
    Yesterday I talked to a British friend on the telephone, a 65 year old woman who lived an alternative lifestyle for years, hunting, trapping, and who is an unrecognized intellectual. She is hostile to the riots, like your friends, and sees in them manifestations of GREED AND VICTIMIZATION.
    I don’t think that you can do much with the victimization mantra, because while fueling people’s resentment, it certainly takes away their energy to construct something POSITIVE, and BELIEVE IN SOMETHING. It tends to turn them into whiners.
    The people rioting believe in NOTHING, I fear. Nothing but “getting STUFF”. This attitude inspires contempt. In me, too.
    I have basically lost a lot of respect for “the poor” since they started losing respect.. FOR THEMSELVES. All too logical.
    Sigh. Back to Tocqueville who PREDICTED that egalitarianism would evolve into, on the one hand, THE SILENT SULLEN MASSES waiting to erupt, and on the other, rigid, authoritarian governments.
    Just for info, I COULD consider myself a victim of the capitalist system… no recognition of my talents, or abilities, humiliation, etc, unemployed, unemployable.
    But you won’t find me looting those retailers on the streets.
    Why ? Because the STUFF they are currently selling is CRAP and not worthy of my interest.
    And because I wouldn’t deign to STOOP to loot those retailers. Among other reasons…
    Those people rioting on the streets are THE MASSES. Because rioting turns you into a particle of the mass, while momentarily obliterating your “individuality”.
    It would be interesting to start attacking the CONCEPT of the mass.
    It is DEGRADING. For everybody involved.
    No comments on the “serfdom” question. I’ve given up.

    Comment by Debra — August 10, 2011 @ 3:25 am

    • Well la de da.

      (And how charming that you recognize yourself as a victim of capitalism but still identify with it.)

      Just for the hell of it, since I was meaning to ask this question of someone with your attitude: While it would be wonderful if the poor had a fully developed philosophy and strategy right now, the fact is they don’t have that yet. So for now, what exactly should they be doing, right now at this moment?

      We know what your answer is – they should lay down and die. (And I doubt you really want them to “construct something POSITIVE” either.)

      One thing they’re learning is to fully reciprocate the contempt coming from the likes of you. At least in that direction it’s justified, while coming from you it’s an elemental cruelty which adds insult to the injury you’ve already done them in stealing all you have from them.

      Comment by Russ — August 10, 2011 @ 3:34 am

      • Funnily enough, I get along quite well with Toby, and we share lots of attitudes and ideas.
        You empathize with Toby, and attack me.
        I seriously doubt that you could have a serious conversation with the people rioting in the streets WHILE THEY’RE RIOTING IN THE STREETS, which means while they are identified as, and with “the masses”.
        You would be mowed down faster than you could say “hello”, and treated with the same contempt that you reserve for me.
        Because many of the people that you are so determined to organize are incapable of listening to you at all at this time.
        What do you plan on doing, or saying to them ?
        I don’t have the answers on this one. That is why I tend to eschew all form of PUBLIC POLITICAL action in favor of private, personal action.
        In the long run we are all going to die, you know.
        But WE DO HAVE A CHOICE. We can consider ourselves to be victims of a horrible capitalist conspiracy, the helpless schmucks of “the elite”, or we can try to find VALUE and CONTENTMENT with what we HAVE too.
        The consumer society has been breeding its own destruction for quite some time now.
        And the people rioting in the streets are as much A PRODUCT of that system, and its ideology, as a form of reaction against it.
        Gotta take that into account too.

        Comment by Debra — August 10, 2011 @ 8:04 am

      • The measure of the value of values includes being willing to fight for them where they’re under assault. I can’t imagine who could actually have values yet remain “content” while those values were being destroyed.

        I empathize those who empathize with all who suffer, including those who may be driven by desperation to a disorganized mode of struggle. (Not that I’m saying I think the end result of this uprising will be that it was counterproductive. It’s too early to tell, and there’s plenty of possible upside – experience of the fact that it’s possible to physically fight the police and win; the tactical practice at using communications media to move intelligently around the streets; forcing the knowledge of their suffering upon whatever vestiges of conscience are left among the not-yet-liquidated class; making the elites feel fear.) I attack those who attack those who suffer and fight back.

        Comment by Russ — August 10, 2011 @ 9:03 am

      • Russ, I enjoy your blog and like a lot of your ideas even if US based thy apply equally to the UK.

        BUT THIS is the “strategy” or the riots:

        Rough Transcript of a BBC interview with two 17 year old girls who said they had taken part in the violence in Croydon last night. They spoke to a BBC reporter as they sat drinking wine they had looted from a local shop.

        “Everyone was just on a kinda riot, just going mad, chucking things, chucking bottles.”
        “Breaking into stuff, breaking into shops. It was maddening”
        “It wuz good though.”
        “It wuz good fun!.. Yeah”
        “Course it is!”
        “Like it’s the government’s fault.”
        “Yeah”
        “I dunno”
        “Like Conservatives.”
        “Yeah! Whoever, who it is”
        “I dunno”
        “Like showing the police we can do what we want.”
        “Yes that’s what it’s all about. Showing the police we can do what we want. And now we have.”
        “It’s against people who’ve got businesses. And that’s why all this has happened, because of rich people. So we’re showing rich people we can do what we want.”

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14458424

        I don’t need to say anything else…

        Comment by Timbo614 — August 10, 2011 @ 9:24 am

      • Hi Timbo,

        That sounds like the right intuition, even if it’s not been thought out on a conscious level. They’re certainly closer to the right track than our “progressives”, let alone anyone from the political class, and their attitude shows more potential for growth than the typical pseudo-middle-class* attitude.

        *I’m trying to come up with a term than connotes, “still middle class, but being liquidated, headed downward, not to be middle class for much longer.”

        Comment by Russ — August 10, 2011 @ 10:54 am

      • That conversation sounds about as politically aware as impoverished 17 year old kids are likely to be in just about any Western society. They’ve correctly identified the state (and don’t particularly care about specific political parties, to their credit) and the rentier class as their enemies, and want to demonstrate their agency in the face of active repression by both. Given that this has been going on for less than a week, I’d say that’s a pretty fully-formed political basis for their actions, unless we’re just supposed to guffaw at some poor kids for being relatively inarticulate?

        Comment by paper mac — August 10, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    • Debra,

      Your comment demonstrates that you, too, are part of the MASSES. Of course, everything comes down to who gets to draw the line between the MASSES and whatever you think you are, but the fact is that as long as humans continue with the fallacy of dividing themselves into Us and Them and then wiping out the Them. When it’s just Us, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that some of Us are really Them.

      We shouldn’t feel contempt for the rioters, nor should we feel pity for them. Their actions are deplorable on their face, as is all violence, but the fact is that today’s violence is primarily financial. Who needs to invade a country when you can just lend it money at usurous rates and own the country when it defaults?

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 10, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  3. (This isn’t directly on topic, though not at all unrelated. Since Naked Capitalism’s comment submission is screwed up again and refuses to post this comment – I tried four times – I’ll post it here. It’s a reply to a nonsense post about how we’re not being taxed to fund bailouts.)

    We hear it time and time again: EU taxpayers are paying for the bailouts in the European periphery. The problem with this statement? As popular as it may be in the media right now, it’s not quite true – at least, it’s not true if you take a proper macroeconomic perspective on the crisis rather than looking at it through the crass lens of nationalism.

    Garbage. At least, unless you take the “proper” elitist perspective, rather than the crass lens of the public interest.

    The facts are:

    1. Under kleptocracy, all taxation on the non-rich is regressive and a total loss to us. Worse – the wealth so redistributed from us to the criminals is then used against us.

    2. While these ponzis don’t directly need taxation to fund themselves, they do need it to generate the simulacrum of having a real economic basis. The MMTers are the only statists honest enough to admit that taxation is and should be only a measure of social domination.

    3. So if taxation on those who actually work could be eradicated, this would strip the financialized zombie of its crutches, and it would come crashing down. Everyone would recognize that governments and central banks have zero economic basis at all. The Bailout would be impossible to maintain.

    4. So therefore we are indeed being taxed to fund the Bailout, and all corporate welfare.

    And those are the only things we’re being taxed for. The things we actually want and need and use we could far more effectively provide for ourselves in the abscence of governments, corporations, and wealth concentrations.

    Until we can do this we may as well chalk the EU project up as an abject failure.

    It is an abject failure. Oh, I forgot, that’s just looking through the crass lens of humanity and democracy. From the proper kleptocratic perspective, it’s been succeeding and must continue to succeed, ever more viciously.

    Comment by Russ — August 10, 2011 @ 9:06 am

    • One thing that grates on me and which I haven’t really been able to find a satisfactory rebuttal is the fact that half of Americans pay no income taxes and that the rich shouldn’t be asked to pay more until everyone “pays there share.”

      The ideological lines are so blurred, so obfuscated with Elite propaganda that people simply don’t have the ability to rationalize their own interests.

      These London riots are a manifestation of a social nihilism that is consequence of living in this echo-chamber techno-dystopia. These kids looting stores in London want shiny new sneakers and Sony PSPs because they have nothing else to aspire towards. The State tells them to get rich, get stuff, get luxury and they’ll BE happy. But, as we know, it’s all bullshit.

      They are taking what they NEED to FEEL fulfilled, happy, valuable, ALIVE. The pain of staring at the television all day, commercial after commercial telling you about things you’re SUPPOSED to have if you’re success, and not having it. And no ability to really get it…

      I sympathize with the rioters because the rage is a rage of emptiness, of a deep pitted false desire planted by the State that must be fed or completely deprogrammed, lest it eat you from the inside-out. It is eating Western Civilization from the inside out and leaving an empty husk of pseudo-intellectualism and economic rationalization of the planet’s complete decimation.

      The rioters have no intellectual allies, it seems. The well-to-do are well-enough-to-do that there eggs are in the basket of the State and not going anywhere. These rioters negate their grievances by raging. To hell with the fact that these grievances have been well known by society for some time.

      Merchants turned the tide of several Arab uprisings. They’re doing it again in Syria. The business class is lost after the State can no longer keep order enough to do business. Then the State’s legitimacy to do anything, but most crucially to tax, collapses.

      The British State appears to be in no danger of collapse. In fact, it seems to have been preparing for this moment, consciously with CCTV and militarization of police and subconsciously with the demonization and mockery of “chavs”, for many years. Only a collapse of the State’s ability to provide the essential services of legitimate government (defense, ultimately) could open it up to direct assault of it’s claimed legitimacy.

      It seems like that the first state to experience a collapse of the state will be Spain and promptly and more violently, Greece. The English just aren’t there yet. Across the Eurozone, the Halves are ideologically pacified; the identification with the State is still a self-identity.

      Comment by Ross — August 10, 2011 @ 10:06 am

      • The emptiness and despair they must feel is harrowing, and the worst part is having no sense of there being a future at all. This feeling is spreading, and indeed seems common throughout the ruins of society, albeit in less immediately urgent forms than in these physical ruins.

        The system has done all it can to impose this feeling of helplessness, uselessness, and paralyzed desperation, calculating that the people will never find a way out of it. However, this is also the system’s great weakness. Historically, tyrannies were most successful where they generated some substitute for real society, something to synthesize the sense of integration and belonging. Classical fascism, for example, was quite successful at this.

        But neoliberalism has ruthlessly sought to dissolve all non-kleptocratic structures and to totally atomize the individual. The bet is that this individual will remain passively alone and terrorized. But the record of history is that he won’t. Our nature is to be social and cooperative. Nature abhors a vacuum. So the record predicts that we shall evolve a counter-movement out of ourselves and will take action out of sheer biological self-defense. The political, spiritual, cultural aspects will arise out of this natural imperative.

        So that’s what I see us as trying to do, be vectors of nature’s will.

        Comment by Russ — August 10, 2011 @ 10:55 am

    • Pilkington is one of the worst writers and poorest thinkers over at NC. I don’t know why Yves gives the guy so much airplay.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 10, 2011 @ 10:26 am

      • I don’t know. It can’t be because she thinks he’s a more “practical” exponent of MMT than some of the others. On the contrary, most of his posts are misdirectional. Actually, this one was refreshingly direct in its lies.

        Comment by Russ — August 10, 2011 @ 10:57 am

  4. I take comfort in the fact that Nietzsche’s thought has been so overwhelmingly misunderstood too. And Rousseau’s. And Adam Smith’s too.
    Whenever ONE attempts to flesh out what one sees, and escape the black and white labeling, one gets… LABELED.
    “The masses” is the opposing counterpart to the atomized individual. What Freud referred to as that oceanic feeling of swimming in the absence of individual isolation/identity. That moment when the tension of that atomized solitude is swallowed up in oceanic belonging TO THE MASS. MINDLESS RELIEF.
    “The masses” is an unfortunate part of the “democratic” experience.
    What was the “individual” called under the monarchical system ? A SUBJECT.
    Neat word. A subject has a personalized identity that is a relation to others.
    But our atomized individuals are isolated consumers, with exclusive relation to what is being bought, for example.
    The violence is happening IN THE BIG CITIES too. The places where the crowds collect, where, when you walk down the street, you don’t bother saying hello to all the nameless faces you see. Indeed, if you did, people would think you were a weirdo.
    I talked to one of my British friends on the phone an hour ago. She has no sympathy for the rioters. (AS SOMEONE WHO HAS FELT THE DEAD PAIN OF HAVING NOTHING TO LIVE FOR, even while having a silver spoon in my mouth, I DO HAVE SOME SYMPATHY FOR THE RIOTERS. A little teeny bit. But my friend, not at all. She is ten years older than I. And the IDEA of looting stores, when she has an 18 year old niece in Britain who is out of a job, but still busy looking AND IS NOT LOOTING, well, that is anathema to her, AND I DEFINITELY UNDERSTAND HER POINT OF VIEW.
    What I believe in ? Martin Luther King’s way of doing things.
    After all… I AM living in the country that gave US the French Revolution.
    Think about that last word. Just what does it mean ?
    COMING FULL CIRCLE.
    France may no longer have a King, but NOW we have a SYSTEM in which rigid, caste based hierarchy is EVEN STRONGER than under the monarchy, while calling itself something else.
    If you want to drag out the hypocrisy word, maybe, but many people continue to FIRMLY BELIEVE that French society has gone beyond what some people like to call serfdom.
    I say… wishful thinking there…
    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Inertia is strong.
    That is why VIOLENCE will only reinforce what “we” are supposed to be fighting. It truly makes it stronger.
    Very logical, in a way. But in a linguistic logic.

    Comment by Debra — August 10, 2011 @ 11:36 am

    • “The masses” is a phenomenon of, you know, mass civilization? Representative pseudo-democracy (the form you keep trying to confound with the decentralized participatory democracy I advocate, even though you know perfectly well the two have nothing in common) is only one among many forms of this mass. That’s part of why the real political spectrum runs: democracy to elitism. Mass society is elitist society. It can hardly be any different. And you’ve consistently supported this massivism, even as you want to hold aloof as some kind of Uber-individual.

      Nietzsche, to help you along with your reading, rejected all forms of mass civilization. But he was truly apolitical, at least subjectively, although in my posts I’ve deduced some political conclusions from him.

      she has an 18 year old niece in Britain who is out of a job, but still busy looking AND IS NOT LOOTING

      And what is this mother doing to teach her daughter that along with looking for a job, she should be looking for a world where there’s no such thing as “jobs”, only participatory democratic work? If she’s not doing that, she’s a liar when she claims to care about her daughter’s future. If she’s only taught her to meekly submit, to not even envision the way things can be completely different and so much better, she’s done far more damage than any physical looter can.

      Comment by Russ — August 10, 2011 @ 11:51 am

  5. Something tells me that…. YOU DON’T HAVE CHILDREN, like lots of well meaning, but preachy people in the U.S. at this time.
    Or maybe… you don’t have adolescent children or older.
    I’m not sure I believe in decentralized participatory democracy ALTHOUGH I KNOW PERFECTLY WELL WHAT IT IS, and although I tend to reject any other form of social “contract” at this time. (I too, am a product of “the system”.)
    It’s something along the lines of not wanting to feel the bit, you know ??
    Like, wanting to be over six billion ORANG OTANGS when we started out as chimps ?
    I’m tired of defending who I am.
    I grew up in a doctor’s family.
    My mother prided herself on being able to have a conversation with just about anybody, from any social class, and she did.
    And her DAUGHTER can have a conversation with JUST ABOUT ANYBODY, and LEARN SOMETHING INTERESTING FROM JUST ABOUT ANYBODY, and have a good time doing it. With RESPECT. From both sides, mine and the other.
    But I’m not sure I could GET ANY RESPECT OR GIVE ANY RESPECT to those looters, even though I am interested in trying to understand why they are doing what they are doing. (That’s more than some people will say…)
    In the good old days, when prison was NOT FOR MONEY, some of those kids could have cooled off a little bit for a while, got an education, and learned to CONTROL THAT TESTOSTERONE that makes young women, old men, and children afraid, and gets society very very touchy. You know, like putting it into SERVICE, of some cause, or behind some leader.
    Now, keeping people penned up like wild animals will not do any good. (If you listened to some of the French psychoanalysts talking about trying to deal with some of these kids, you would be VERY VERY AFRAID.)
    We need to believe in something AND SOMEONE.
    Don’t forget how Nietzsche ended up. Some people might say that his condition was the aftermath of syphilis, BUT THEN WE DON’T REALLY KNOW…
    It COULD be melancholic MARASMA. I know something about that…. it is NO FUN.
    If we were sitting in some nice, cute café in France, we could have a nice conversation about all this, WITH FEELING, and probably enjoy each other, and realize HOW MUCH WE HAVE IN COMMON.
    But, it’s just DRY AND DUSTY IDEAS over the Internet, with no discernable FEELING.
    Too bad. Internet is definitely not going to save the world. It may even contribute significantly to MAKING THINGS WORSE.
    One of these days I will get around to saying just WHY populism is such a problem in our society at this time…
    I’m tired of being labeled an “elite too. Having the word slung at me, as though it were mud, and I was filth.
    I would be an elite IF I said that NOBODY under any circumstances could ever do/be/say the things that I do/am/say.
    But that is far from being the case.
    The ones who consistently accuse me ?
    They don’t have any perspective on voluntary servitude.
    No use trying to convince the non believers. They will have to learn.. THE HARD WAY. Maybe by running smack into some of those looters in action ??

    Comment by Debra — August 10, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

    • But, it’s just DRY AND DUSTY IDEAS over the Internet, with no discernable FEELING.

      If that’s a literary criticism of this blog, then all I can say is I’ll try to do better.

      Internet is definitely not going to save the world.

      No one here thinks it will by itself. I think it’ll help.

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/online-organizing/

      I’m tired of being labeled an “elite too.

      But it was you who labeled yourself an “elite” of sorts way back when, and objected to anti-elitism. And your attitude doesn’t seem to have changed. Your aloof individualism (but you seek out discussions like this on the Internet, go figure…Nietzsche certainly would not have) isn’t going to work, because unless you’re rich enough, your kind isn’t going to be spared.

      Where do you intend to go with it, for example physically once literally every square foot is on a constantly running meter?

      Comment by Russ — August 11, 2011 @ 5:01 am

  6. On topic from Jesse: http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2011/08/lessons-forgotten.html

    Lessons Forgotten

    I do not and can not condone violence, ever, except in the most dire and extreme circumstances in defense of home and family. The resort to violence in the case of a powerful oppressor is to give them what they desire, the intention of their provocations: the excuse to repression, murder, and genocide.

    But non-violence, as Gandhi so eloquently observed, is the weapon of the strong, of the clear-headed, of the disciplined and devoted, and of the exceptionally brave whose courage is deeply grounded in something other than themselves. Without exceptional leadership, it rarely occurs naturally.

    “There is no bravery greater than a resolute refusal to bend the knee to an earthly power, no matter how great, and that without bitterness of spirit, and in the fullness of faith that the spirit alone lives, nothing else does.”
    So as a response to prolonged injustice, violence often occurs, sparking mindlessly. To try and understand it, where its roots lie, is not to condone it, but to determine what it is and why it might be happening. This is the path to a lasting remedy.

    Is this some excess of youth fueled by drink and wild spirits, as in the aftermath of a sporting event, or is it something more profound than the wildness of men in groups?

    There is little doubt in my mind about the nature of what we are seeing today. I forecast the progress of these events years ago, as far back as 2002.

    I am appalled to see that things are following that course. I even forecast the burning of cities in Britain. People at the time were incredulous at this. And yet here we are.

    When you suppress discussion and choice, and abuse reason and justice over a period of years, you will ultimately bring forth the madness. And those who would use such a crisis, who imagine that it will serve their purpose, they will find that the will to power serves none but itself.

    “Our government teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy…If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”

    Louis D. Brandeis

    “Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter, by peaceful or revolutionary means, into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.”

    Frederic Bastiat

    “And remember, where you have the concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.”

    Lord Acton

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

    John F. Kennedy

    When the governance of a society refuses to listen to the calls for justice and reform over a long period of time, when it acts to ignore, co-opt, diffuse, and then suppress the voice of the reformers, when it uses the law as a means of legal plunder, that government and society will eventually answer not to reasoned dissent, not to principled calls for reforms, but to the rage of the mob.

    And then that society may call for the strong man to come forward and bring these unruly other ones to heel, operating on his own and beyond the law, using whatever means he wishes, even to suspending of the law for the sake of expediency, and ultimately engaging in crimes against humanity for the sake of justice.

    And that is always a Faustian bargain, a path of self-destruction. But in a people gripped by frustration, anger and fear, it is a powerful temptation.

    Violence and expediency invites dark powers to rise and insinuate themselves among you. And then begins the downfall, and almost inevitable descent into a hell on earth.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 10, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

    • I think Jesse’s post is a devastating rebuttal to people like you, Debra.

      You say above that the rioters believe in nothing. Nothing but getting stuff. Well, whose fault is that?

      I’d argue that it is the fault of people like you who push the false indivual v. collective dialectic. Human beings are inherently both individuals and part of a collective, but when you shape a population to turn its back on the very concept of society and focus all their energy inward on themselves, what you get is what you see in England.

      Neoliberals like Hayek pushed that false dialectic precisely to make individuals more pliant, more tractable, to accept the limited choices they are given as if it were liberty. The whole point was to turn society in a collection of consumers rather than a collective of citizens, which collective would actually be able to defend itself against the predations of the most loathsome among us. And then you get angry when these consumers, now lacking the capacity to consume as they were trained to do, rise up mindlessly when they realize they’re in a cage not of their own devising? Really? Neoliberalism is reaping what it sowed.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 10, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

      • Jesus, Tao, all I can say is that you seem to be reading things into me that I don’t believe in.
        What do you mean when you say… “people LIKE YOU ” ??
        What is that supposed to mean ?
        Are you sure that you have been reading my exchanges here CAREFULLY, or have you already made your mind up who I am, and slotted me into a little box ??
        I agree with almost everything in the quotes that are stuck above. Where do YOU stand on them ? Russ, on the other hand DOES NOT AGREE. Because HE thinks that the violence unleashed can be harnessed for positive effects. To me, that is delusional thinking.
        The bottom line is that IF you believe in the individual/subject, YOU CAN NOT EXCUSE what is going on in the rioting.
        Being “the mass” is not the same thing as being a part of a collective. Because “the mass” mentality obliterates THE SUBJECT, by blurring individual men and women’s identities, and charging THE MASS with rage and the desire to punish, for example.
        Who knows who those kids ? people ? are INDIVIDUALLY, if you start talking to them, outside of the heat ?
        But put them ALL TOGETHER, and dark things start happening.
        Being part of a collective, a group, entails retaining the capacity to be a “subject” WHILE AT THE SAME TIME participating in a group effort.
        I think that what we are seeing is the PARTICULAR hell that our grandfathers got a taste of during WW2, the one that we now self righteously point fingers at, incredulous at the idea that people did not know which way was up or down at the time.
        And now that WE are faced with the same loss of perspective, WE are in the same boat, basically.
        But with 0 humility or capacity to recognize it.
        In my opinion, the EVIL of our times is compounded by industrialization and its mentality. And the fact that our techniques and technology have MULTIPLIED our capacity to work evil amongst ourselves…
        And I do not accept that, to my mind, FALSE distinction between liberal and neoliberal. Because LIBERALIZATION itself brings us to where we are now. Endgame of a philosophy/ideology.
        In the end, it all boils down to HOW YOU DEFINE LIBERTY.
        Some of those kids say that liberty means the right to take whatever they want, whenever they want it.
        That is THEIR definition of freedom, which entails NO LIMITS, and no obligations.
        That is a very radical definition of liberty isn’t it ? Not one that I particularly like, at any rate.
        But it is an idea of liberty that I have heard in France, too.
        One of the MAJOR PROBLEMS is that most of the kids are learning next to nothing about WHAT THE LAW IS FOR, AND WHY IT EXISTS.
        They are receiving no education on these subjects. So why should they know ?
        THEIR ELDERS ARE OFTEN TOO BUSY WORKING FOR MONEY TO EVEN BOTHER ABOUT EDUCATING THEM…
        A lot of them, at least.
        I suggest you get your hands on some of Ivan Illich’s books, to get a complex point of view on LIBERALIZATION, where it comes from, where it is going. Particularly his later work.

        Comment by Debra — August 10, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

      • What do you mean when you say… “people LIKE YOU ” ??

        It’s a label, Debra. You like labels. You even insist on them.

        What is that supposed to mean ?

        Well, Debra, the fact that you don’t know what you are like speaks volumes.

        Are you sure that you have been reading my exchanges here CAREFULLY, or have you already made your mind up who I am, and slotted me into a little box ??

        You are the one who insists on slotting yourself into a little box. There is black and white, right and wrong, the MASSES and DEBRA, who is smarter, better, more rational, more wonderful than those dreadful masses.

        I agree with almost everything in the quotes that are stuck above.

        I really don’t think you do. I don’t think you know your own mind as you are too busy assigning labels.

        The bottom line is that IF you believe in the individual/subject, YOU CAN NOT EXCUSE what is going on in the rioting.

        You assume that I am here to judge what these people have done as either right or wrong, but I am not here to do that.

        Being “the mass” is not the same thing as being a part of a collective. Because “the mass” mentality obliterates THE SUBJECT, by blurring individual men and women’s identities, and charging THE MASS with rage and the desire to punish, for example.

        How did “the mass” come to be? Did it manifest itself out of nothingness, a vacuum? How did these subjects, these individuals, allow themselves to be swept into a mindless mass? Does that always happen when you get a bunch of people together in one place?

        The fact is, Debra, that your original comment was judging the individuals who rioted as individuals in an absolute sense. You charged them with believing in nothing without qualification. You did not say they were part of “A MASS,” you said the are “THE MASSES.” You thus showed your contempt for them and your own sense of self-superiority, which was not flattering at all. You seem angry that the stupid, unworthy masses aren’t just accepting the violence done to them by a kleptocratic system, a violence that you do not recognize as such because your belief system does not allow you to do so. In many ways, people like you visit more violence upon the world than rioters ever can.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 10, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

      • Tao, Debra is quite clearly not a “neoliberal”. Debra is, as we all should be, sui generis.

        I’ve bailed out of participating in this site (big sigh of relief, no doubt, from its owner) precisely because of the ridiculous labeling and threats of ideological purges worthy of a Stalinist.

        Comment by Lidia — August 10, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

      • I’ve bailed out of participating in this site (big sigh of relief, no doubt, from its owner) precisely because of the ridiculous labeling and threats of ideological purges worthy of a Stalinist.

        Oh, puh-lease! Confronting somebody for their arrogance is not being ideological, nor is it a “purge.” Debra’s rants on this comments thread are mutually inconsistent and incoherent (and laced with random SHOUTS equivalent to the internet version of Tourettes).

        Please tell me, Lidia, which is it “the MASSES” or “a MASS”? Compare the two comments and tell me that they are internally consistent. They smack of cognitive dissonance.

        And while you’re at it, Lidia, where have I applied an identifiable ideological litmus test with respect to Debra? What the hell is my ideology? She insisted on applying labels to people she knows nothing about, essentially treating them as less than human because, you know, they’re part of THE MASSES, implying that she isn’t, that she’s above them. It’s that kind of rationalist arrogance that always leads to things like Stalinist purges. Once you divide humanity into us v. them, you’ve started on the path to Hell. NOTE: I have not divided humanity into groups, I’ve merely accepted Debra’s self-segregation after she insisted on it.

        What kills me is how many people who would be considered complete losers in my social strata have the audacity to insist on judging those they view as beneath them, thus validating the judgment of those above them. When does that stop, Lidia, when we’re down to one human being in the world?

        I would have had zero criticism of Debra if she confined her contempt to the actions of the rioters and did not extend it to the rioters themselves. While human actions are worthy of contempt, no human being is. Everybody who you have ever hated in your life undoubtedly has somebody who loved them and thought they were the best person in the world. Even Adolph Hitler had Eva Braun.

        I fully understand and appreciate the empathy that compelled you to defend Debra here, but the fact is that you’re letting your emotion get the best of you. Debra is not like you. She is deliberately provocative. You never were, at least as I recall. Be that as it may, the fact that I disagree with Debra’s actions on this thread does not change the fact that, overall and on balance, I personally like hearing what Debra has to say. Her perspective is her own, and I like free thinkers, even arrogant ones.

        Tao, Debra is quite clearly not a “neoliberal”.

        I never said she was. However, the conceptions of the individual/collectivist dialectic and liberty she communicates are centerpieces of neoliberal thought and action.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 11, 2011 @ 1:00 am

      • Thanks for assembling those quotes, Tao. Contrary to Debra’s contention, I agree with almost everything in there. (Not, of course, with the pernicious equation of “anarchy” with violent chaos.)

        On this blog I’ve never called for insurrection as a premeditated tactic because I don’t think it can work. We’re not going to “overthrow” the system. But I’ll certainly take spontaneous outbreaks as they come, and look for ways they can be turned into lasting activism. Debra wants to rule that out a priori as “delusional”, but on the contrary it’s simple common sense.

        Lidia, believe it or not it’s not a “relief” that you stopped participating here, since except for one glaring exception your contributions were excellent. As for that exception, it wasn’t me who was labeling but you who kept insisting on fighting over an empty definition of a term which has no basis in reality, even after I repeatedly tried to withdraw from the exchange. (And by the way, since then we’ve gotten more evidence on what a fraud that “march” is that you were making such a big deal about. My intuition was right. Would you like to make a bet on who will get more respect, these who have risen up in London or those fastidiously compliant and polite demonstrators?

        Here’s the most pertinent quote on this subject from the uprising:

        In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:
        Yes, said the young man. You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?

        Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.

        Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.

        http://amleft.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive.html#1466406610346707782 )

        Debra says:

        Because HE thinks that the violence unleashed can be harnessed for positive effects. To me, that is delusional thinking.

        I won’t bother citing the evidence from prior revolutions including the American that “street violence” can play a progressive role, since I know you believe all revolutions have been bad things with bad outcomes.

        But thanks for giving me the opportunity to recommend Pauline Maier’s From Resistance to Revolution as a good analysis of the place of “rioting” and similar phenomena in the American movement.

        Comment by Russ — August 11, 2011 @ 5:23 am

      • And I do not accept that, to my mind, FALSE distinction between liberal and neoliberal. Because LIBERALIZATION itself brings us to where we are now. Endgame of a philosophy/ideology.

        Debra, a basic premise of this blog is that neoliberalism was inherent in old-style liberalism, so I’m not sure with whom you think you’re arguing. (Actually, Lidia might stop agreeing and start arguing with you there.)

        Liberalism supports capitalism, everything that’s happening to today is intrinsic and essential to capitalism (not an “abuse”, not “capitalism run wild”, but simply capitalism doing what it does), therefore everything happening today was implied in the original liberalism. That’s our syllogism. (Of course it’s equally true of conservatism, but no one tries to deny that. Another reason I despise liberals so much – they’re by far the worse hypocrites and liars.)

        Some of those kids say that liberty means the right to take whatever they want, whenever they want it.
        That is THEIR definition of freedom, which entails NO LIMITS, and no obligations.

        Now we see your own kick-down class hatred, since this is exactly wrong. It’s the elites who preach this definition of “liberty”. Anyone among the poor who thinks that way simply learned it from the top down.

        The only difference is that the elites believe in “the right to take whatever they want, whenever they want it” where one has enough money. But that doesn’t make any sense. If you assert the prerogative of Might Makes Right, then you have to accept that Might Makes Right, any kind of might. You can’t say, “I want Might Makes Right, but only one particular kind of might!”

        Comment by Russ — August 11, 2011 @ 7:08 am

  7. I respect Debbie and have had many fruitful conversations with her, and a few frustrating ones too. She is no neoliberal in my opinion. She is, however, very provocative in her style of argument, and idiosyncratic to the point of oddity, but patient adjustment to her style is worth the effort. (Sorry to talk about you so directly, Debbie, but I think you’ll understand.)

    That said, in this debate, I side with Russ (on the whole), even though Debbie’s points need to be acknowledged from the point of view of cross-cultural and cross-class communication difficulties. We are all products of our environment, rich and poor alike, shaped by our education, our families, etc. Speaking effectively and respectfully to people from wildly different backgrounds is not easy, it takes patience, practice and skill. The quoted excerpt above can be interpreted as a poorly-educated expression of a rejection of a criminal system, but it can also be seen as ignorance firing the exciting and adrenalin-fueled participation in looting as simple (though destructive) fun. I suspect both interpretations, though somewhat contradictory, are true, or have truth in them. Either way, it’s about interpretation across some cultural gap, and that’s not easy.

    I think one of the major challenges going forward, as I expressed above, is the development and dissemination of a viable, radical story for a very new way of allowing society to self-organize. The debate here among people who are interested in that end and should be united shows just how much of a challenge building a new consensus will be. Bickering and petty anger help none of us. If we allow our pride and egos to get in the way of open and constructive dialog we are headed for a Hobbesian Warre. If we don’t want rampant and formless Warre we must learn how to speak to each other in as fruitful a way as possible. The system is the enemy. Love the sinner, hate the sin. And isn’t that just about the hardest admonition to live up to!

    As an admission, my first reaction to the quoted interview above was one of patrician disdain. It comes from my past. Russ’s interpretation, then paper mac’s have altered my reading of the girls’ conversation. This merely to say that the system is in us, not only around us. But, because the system is criminal and violence, its demise will include and generate more criminality and violence. I see no way around that, nor can the better system that interest me be brought about without a fight.

    On language generally, Charles Eisenstein wrote a very interesting paper that backs up Russ’s and paper mac’s position:

    http://coyoteprime-runningcauseicantfly.blogspot.com/2011/04/charles-eisenstein-ubiquitous-network.html

    Comment by Toby — August 11, 2011 @ 12:40 am

    • Very well said.

      I think one of the major challenges going forward, as I expressed above, is the development and dissemination of a viable, radical story for a very new way of allowing society to self-organize.

      Where Russ and I tend to diverge is in viewing the challenge as a war, with the elites on one side, and everybody else on the other. The difficulty is in identifying where the elites end and everybody else begins.

      To me, people are people, and they are all the same. To the extent there is a war, it is entirely internal and it is waged over humanity’s predisposition to create the illusion of polar opposites to fabricate certainty and expedite decision-making. Both the masses and the elites do this.

      We’re all irrational and stupid. The true lesson of Gandhi and MLK is that non-violence, when followed through, ultimately lays bare that irrationality and stupidity, while violent resistance only confirms it.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 11, 2011 @ 1:14 am

    • I think you’ve got it right, Toby. (And you’re right about the difficulty of understanding everything Debra says, and that she sometimes makes good points. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s all that hard to understand me, yet she frequently at least pretends to do so. You saw above how I called her out on her obfuscation of the term “democracy” and she then backpedaled. But that kind of “mistake” is typical with her.)

      The quoted excerpt above can be interpreted as a poorly-educated expression of a rejection of a criminal system, but it can also be seen as ignorance firing the exciting and adrenalin-fueled participation in looting as simple (though destructive) fun. I suspect both interpretations, though somewhat contradictory, are true, or have truth in them. Either way, it’s about interpretation across some cultural gap, and that’s not easy.

      I don’t find those contradictory. They, if not complements, at least easily co-exist. You’re certainly right about the frequent difficulties in interpretation.

      I think one of the major challenges going forward, as I expressed above, is the development and dissemination of a viable, radical story for a very new way of allowing society to self-organize. The debate here among people who are interested in that end and should be united shows just how much of a challenge building a new consensus will be. Bickering and petty anger help none of us.

      Very true.

      Tao:

      The true lesson of Gandhi and MLK is that non-violence, when followed through, ultimately lays bare that irrationality and stupidity, while violent resistance only confirms it.

      I’m counting on that as well. Relocalization, overall and in all its particular actions, is non-violent as a simple description, and can be transformed to conscious non-violent direct action wherever it’s targeted for repression. Gandhi’s Salt March is a precise parallel for things like defying Food Control laws.

      As for those who lash out violently, back I was an environmentalist I developed a position on that which I’ve never had to change: I want people to organize and be activists in a disciplined way. To lash out in undisciplined fashion is generally a waste of passion and effort. But where someone, out of desperation over the system’s crimes and a sense of hopelessness (inculcated by the system itself) that any constructive action can ever avail, lashes out violently, I’m not going to blame the victim at all. I blame the criminals themselves, 100%. All destruction which results from their crimes, including destruction wrought by those who oppose them, is morally theirs. The most I’d mentally criticize the victims for is their inability to see a better way, and I’d try to show them that better way rather than harp on verbally criticizing them.

      Comment by Russ — August 11, 2011 @ 5:41 am

  8. Hello everyone! I must say I have to say what a pleasure it is to engage in a level of dialog not too often found.

    That being said I thought I would become a part of it! Oh and I do think the internet can be a great resource during this time when the small groups of concerned citizens who have the awareness and courage to engage reality directly are dispersed around the globe. Let us be thankful that we have found each other, at the very least.

    As for the riots seemingly aligned with the bad ‘economic’ indicators, all I would want to add to what has been revealed is that I think we all know how the pressure built up in the abstraction of our complex game of accumulation society can trickle down from the aloof or predatory individuals in positions of power through the chains of commands to eventually facilitate the unskillful shitting on employees and others without the ‘untouchable’ status. I don’t doubt that this contributes to the stress points in the psyche of our fellow beings, and consequently to their active rebellion.

    Further, on this discussion regarding what we should understand by these young women participating in riots, well, have you ever heard that anything follows from a contradiction? No doubt these women are misguided, but they have done something that may lead to more… commendable actions should they take this moment and reflect on the foundations on which they base their lives. I hope this experience teaches them about the power contained in their every act and to how it can always contain compliance or rebellion.

    While I must say that I think getting the ideas right is and remains of the utmost importance, and that at times that cannot be rushed. Discussions like these and ones I suspect we are all having with the people we encounter in life are important as well. They help serve the dual purpose of agitating our ideas and allowing them to take a more perfect form, sort of like a mental work out! Though I also thank you Russ for the warning about procrastination. I would just add that at this time, it may be dangerous to suggest to people to just push ideas out there, especially if they are not fully understood by the conveyor, as they may just end up as tools for tyranny. Let us seek always to know reality directly and to speak with as much truth as we can, and sometimes I think that means being humble with our capacity to understand some of the momentous forces that are currently at play.

    But then again, that is why we need to honour great teachers, so… heres to all of you!

    Comment by Strieb Roman — August 11, 2011 @ 5:00 am

    • Thanks, Streib. (And speaking of participation, you joined our as-yet-unnamed SMF forum but haven’t come back to post anything. Well, paper mac and I have been delinquent as well, and Lidia seems to have bailed from there as well after some excellent ideas. But we really could turn that forum into something constructive. It’s more interactive and democratic than the blogger-comment thread format, no matter how democratic the blogger wants it to be.)

      Though I also thank you Russ for the warning about procrastination. I would just add that at this time, it may be dangerous to suggest to people to just push ideas out there, especially if they are not fully understood by the conveyor, as they may just end up as tools for tyranny.

      I think our ideas are ready for prime time. And there will never be a time where the enemy isn’t consciously trying to hijack those ideas, while others (conveyors and hearers) misunderstand them. Wanting this problem to go away is an example of procrastination. The best we can do is develop standards for combatting distortion and misunderstanding. That forum could be a good place to assemble all the slanders and misunderstandings we see and develop standard responses to them. My correction of Debra above on her confounding of pseudo-democracy and true democracy under the single term “democracy” is a good example. (Years ago I myself was mired in that misunderstanding, and as a result I rejected “democracy” as such, because I assumed the representative fraud was all there was.)

      Comment by Russ — August 11, 2011 @ 5:54 am

      • Haha Russ,

        I meant ‘our’ as in all of us have ideas that we are working through, whereas you mean ‘our’ as in we all share that same end point and that we are there. While I don’t disagree that there is a final cause that we are all moving towards and that in general the ideas you outline are quite noble and eloquent descriptions of what I perceive to be true, I suspect that the most proper logical conclusions to this discussion are yet to be arrived at. That being said I understand the strength of your idealogical position and have much respect for it, I am just articulating that I for one do not feel like I am ready to start presenting my personal understanding just yet – that isn’t to say that the day is not soon.

        Comment by Strieb Roman — August 11, 2011 @ 9:45 am

      • I didn’t mean everyone reading here agrees on everything. I saw your site and know that there are perhaps significant differences. No, I meant something closer to what you’re saying.

        Though I’ll venture most of us agree on the basics of what we’re fighting, and the specific example I gave of something we can do ought to be agreeable to the consensus.

        Comment by Russ — August 11, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  9. David Harvey weighs in: http://www.counterpunch.org/harvey08122011.html

    Feral Capitalism Hits the Streets
    By DAVID HARVEY

    “Nihilistic and feral teenagers” the Daily Mail called them: the crazy youths from all walks of life who raced around the streets mindlessly and desperately hurling bricks, stones and bottles at the cops while looting here and setting bonfires there, leading the authorities on a merry chase of catch-as-catch-can as they tweeted their way from one strategic target to another.

    The word “feral” pulled me up short. It reminded me of how the communards in Paris in 1871 were depicted as wild animals, as hyenas, that deserved to be (and often were) summarily executed in the name of the sanctity of private property, morality, religion, and the family. But then the word conjured up another association: Tony Blair attacking the “feral media,” having for so long been comfortably lodged in the left pocket of Rupert Murdoch only later to be substituted as Murdoch reached into his right pocket to pluck out David Cameron.

    There will of course be the usual hysterical debate between those prone to view the riots as a matter of pure, unbridled and inexcusable criminality, and those anxious to contextualize events against a background of bad policing; continuing racism and unjustified persecution of youths and minorities; mass unemployment of the young; burgeoning social deprivation; and a mindless politics of austerity that has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with the perpetuation and consolidation of personal wealth and power. Some may even get around to condemning the meaningless and alienating qualities of so many jobs and so much of daily life in the midst of immense but unevenly distributed potentiality for human flourishing.

    If we are lucky, we will have commissions and reports to say all over again what was said of Brixton and Toxteth in the Thatcher years. I say ‘lucky’ because the feral instincts of the current Prime Minister seem more attuned to turn on the water cannons, to call in the tear gas brigade and use the rubber bullets while pontificating unctuously about the loss of moral compass, the decline of civility and the sad deterioration of family values and discipline among errant youths.

    But the problem is that we live in a society where capitalism itself has become rampantly feral. Feral politicians cheat on their expenses, feral bankers plunder the public purse for all its worth, CEOs, hedge fund operators and private equity geniuses loot the world of wealth, telephone and credit card companies load mysterious charges on everyone’s bills, shopkeepers price gouge, and, at the drop of a hat swindlers and scam artists get to practice three-card monte right up into the highest echelons of the corporate and political world.

    A political economy of mass dispossession, of predatory practices to the point of daylight robbery, particularly of the poor and the vulnerable, the unsophisticated and the legally unprotected, has become the order of the day. Does anyone believe it is possible to find an honest capitalist, an honest banker, an honest politician, an honest shopkeeper or an honest police commisioner any more? Yes, they do exist. But only as a minority that everyone else regards as stupid. Get smart. Get Easy Profits. Defraud and steal! The odds of getting caught are low. And in any case there are plenty of ways to shield personal wealth from the costs of corporate malfeasance.

    What I say may sound shocking. Most of us don’t see it because we don’t want to. Certainly no politician dare say it and the press would only print it to heap scorn upon the sayer. But my guess is that every street rioter knows exactly what I mean. They are only doing what everyone else is doing, though in a different way – more blatently and visibly in the streets. Thatcherism unchained the feral instincts of capitalism (the “animal spirits” of the entreprenuer they coyly named it) and nothing has transpired to curb them since. Slash and burn is now openly the motto of the ruling classes pretty much everywhere.

    This is the new normal in which we live. This is what the next grand commission of enquiry should address. Everyone, not just the rioters, should be held to account. Feral capitalism should be put on trial for crimes against humanity as well as for crimes against nature.

    Sadly, this is what these mindless rioters cannot see or demand. Everything conspires to prevent us from seeing and demanding it also. This is why political power so hastily dons the robes of superior morality and unctuous reason so that no one might see it as so nakedly corrupt and stupidly irrational.

    But there are various glimmers of hope and Light around the world. The indignados movements in Spain and Greece, the revolutionary impulses in Latin America, the peasant movements in Asia, are all beginning to see through the vast scam that a predatory and feral global capitalism has unleashed upon the world. What will it take for the rest of us to see and act upon it? How can we begin all over again? What direction should we take? The answers are not easy. But one thing we do know for certain: we can only get to the right answers by asking the right questions.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 11, 2011 @ 11:17 pm

    • Thanks for these, Tao. I haven’t read much of David Harvey’s stuff, but his analysis is usually pretty good in the shorter articles I’ve read and the couple of his talks I’ve listened to were good as well.

      Comment by paper mac — August 12, 2011 @ 1:24 am

    • Yet Harvey won’t say that capitalism is feral at its heart, or that hierarchical social organization at least implies feral competition over (notionally perceived) scarce and ‘idle’ resources turned into artificially scarce goods and services, primarily to feed the ‘elites’ via exploitation of the ‘meek.’ That he suspects his tame assessment of events will shock most people shows only how far the mainstream has to move to begin to see what is afoot. What shocks me still (though really it shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself) is how ‘shocking’ and offensive most people find his line of thought. For example, the very first comment on the Guardian article you also reference, with close to 800 “recommends” (when I looked yesterday), berates soft liberal policing and ill-disciplined schooling. In the poster’s opinion we can’t be too hard on the scum of the earth. Whip them all, and hang them if that doesn’t work!

      Is nature “red in tooth and claw”? Should our society be a jungle in which only the ‘fittest’ survive? What place cooperation, empathy, interdependence, etc.? If we have a social organization built atop and out of presumptions of scarcity and hierarchy (divine right by another name), how can any other outcome be possible? What should we rationally expect of this system other than oppression, rampage, pillage, war, criminality, and corruption when the system itself presupposes greed, selfishness, war and battle as the fundamental qualities of life? Until we respond organizationally and intelligently to a reality we are beginning to see as abundant and cooperative, we will continue to destroy ourselves because of our ignorance and fear.

      Comment by Toby — August 12, 2011 @ 1:31 am

      • Toby, it looks like you and I are on a similar wavelength, as my latest post discusses this.

        I agree about Harvey’s MSM tone, especially his absurd and contemptible false equivalence of the “hysterical” rhetoric on both “extremes”. He implicitly calls his own argument hysterical, since there’s no difference between it and the argument he attributes to unnamed extremists in the “hysteria” paragraph. Perhaps by those who are “anxious” he’s referring to progressives, although to what can we attribute his own whitewashing of capitalism other than anxiety that he’ll be too “shocking” to Counterpunch readers if he says the truth, that capitalism as such is a feral excrescence within civilization, cannibalizing it? Or is saying that just being hysterical?

        (I hope that’s not nitpicking on my part. I think any version of the rhetoric, “this is an abusive version of the otherwise intrinsically sound and beneficial capitalism” is pernicious and has to be fought. That’s always intended to seek the goal of at least worthless reformism, and often the mythical “pure” capitalism.

        What good is it to imply that capitalism should/can be reformed?)

        Comment by Russ — August 12, 2011 @ 4:39 am

      • Hmm- I don’t think Harvey can reasonably be described as a capitalist reformist, being probably the most prominent Marxist political economist in England. He may be a statist (not clear to me, don’t know him well enough), but he’s definitely not an apologist for the system we have. As far as the “hysterical” remark- I read that as the eye-rolling of an old man about the tone of a debate that’s been had a dozen times in his day, since he clearly comes down on the side of the second group.

        Comment by paper mac — August 12, 2011 @ 11:07 am

      • Russ: “especially his absurd and contemptible false equivalence of the “hysterical” rhetoric on both “extremes”.”

        Just to confirm paper mac’s reading: Sarcasm is a splendid thing, if applied judiciously. For proof, please note the way he ends that paragraph: “Some may even get around to condemning the meaningless and alienating qualities of so many jobs and so much of daily life in the midst of immense but unevenly distributed potentiality for human flourishing.”
        That is, he is pointing out that all of the “analysis” done is little more than, as Yves likes to put it, “twaddle”.

        Comment by Foppe — August 12, 2011 @ 11:17 am

      • Toby: “Yet Harvey won’t say that capitalism is feral at its heart.”

        May I assume that you’re unfamiliar with Harvey’s work, Toby? Because if that is the case, you should really look up his work.. The Enigma of Capital is quite a good start. For a hint, see this lecture (there is a q/a session with the audience in part 2) http://davidharvey.org/2011/05/%E2%80%AAvideo-emancipation-from-what-and-from-whom%E2%80%AC/

        Comment by Foppe — August 12, 2011 @ 11:22 am

      • Thanks, guys. I am familiar with Harvey, and maybe you’re right that it was supposed to be irony (although we should know by now that this kind of irony doesn’t work very well on the Internet; just like I learned years ago that you can’t ask rhetorical questions online without someone taking it at face value and earnestly answering the question, or calling you a jackass for asking such a dumb question).

        Nevertheless, all semblances of false equivalence are unhelpful, to say the least.

        But you’re right that on the whole the piece comes to the right conclusion.

        BTW, just being a Marxist doesn’t put one on the right side of things. All the orthodox, i.e. Stalinist, Marxists sided with the fascists against the anarchists in Spain and elsewhere, and to this day they’re prone to “popular frontism” the moment they get confused or scared. Thus the CPUSA last year calling upon US “communists” to Vote Democratic!

        Comment by Russ — August 12, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    • Thanks Tao. I saw that piece yesterday. Capitalism is inherently feral (like I said in the OP, there’s nothing “abusive” about today’s capitalism as opposed to some “better” variety which has existed or can exist in practice; at best, reformism temporarily worked under favorable political and oil conditions).

      But we see how its worst crime, which is saying alot, is to render it harder and harder for human beings to function in a cooperative, social way, to render them feral by design.

      Comment by Russ — August 12, 2011 @ 4:21 am

  10. So does Seumas Milne (whoever he is): http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/10/riots-reflect-society-run-greed-looting

    These riots reflect a society run on greed and lootingDavid Cameron has to maintain that the unrest has no cause except criminality – or he and his friends might be held responsible

    Seumas Milne guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 10 August 2011 22.39 BST

    It is essential for those in power in Britain that the riots now sweeping the country can have no cause beyond feral wickedness. This is nothing but “criminality, pure and simple”, David Cameron declared after cutting short his holiday in Tuscany. The London mayor and fellow former Bullingdon Club member Boris Johnson, heckled by hostile Londoners in Clapham Junction, warned that rioters must stop hearing “economic and sociological justifications” (though who was offering them he never explained) for what they were doing.

    Now is not the time for police to use water cannon and baton rounds, writes Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers When his predecessor Ken Livingstone linked the riots to the impact of public spending cuts, it was almost as if he’d torched a building himself. The Daily Mail thundered that blaming cuts was “immoral and cynical”, echoed by a string of armchair riot control enthusiasts. There was nothing to explain, they’ve insisted, and the only response should be plastic bullets, water cannon and troops on the streets.

    We’ll hear a lot more of that when parliament meets – and it’s not hard to see why. If these riots have no social or political causes, then clearly no one in authority can be held responsible. What’s more, with many people terrified by the mayhem and angry at the failure of the police to halt its spread, it offers the government a chance to get back on the front foot and regain its seriously damaged credibility as a force for social order.

    But it’s also a nonsensical position. If this week’s eruption is an expression of pure criminality and has nothing to do with police harassment or youth unemployment or rampant inequality or deepening economic crisis, why is it happening now and not a decade ago? The criminal classes, as the Victorians branded those at the margins of society, are always with us, after all. And if it has no connection with Britain’s savage social divide and ghettoes of deprivation, why did it kick off in Haringey and not Henley?

    To accuse those who make those obvious links of being apologists or “making excuses” for attacks on firefighters or robbing small shopkeepers is equally fatuous. To refuse to recognise the causes of the unrest is to make it more likely to recur – and ministers themselves certainly won’t be making that mistake behind closed doors if they care about their own political futures.

    It was the same when riots erupted in London and Liverpool 30 years ago, also triggered by confrontation between the police and black community, when another Conservative government was driving through cuts during a recession. The people of Brixton and Toxteth were denounced as criminals and thugs, but within weeks Michael Heseltine was writing a private memo to the cabinet, beginning with “it took a riot”, and setting out the urgent necessity to take action over urban deprivation.

    This time, the multi-ethnic unrest has spread far further and faster. It’s been less politicised and there’s been far more looting, to the point where in many areas grabbing “free stuff” has been the main action. But there’s no mystery as to where the upheaval came from. It was triggered by the police killing a young black man in a country where black people are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than their white counterparts. The riot that exploded in Tottenham in response at the weekend took place in an area with the highest unemployment in London, whose youth clubs have been closed to meet a 75% cut in its youth services budget.

    It then erupted across what is now by some measures the most unequal city in the developed world, where the wealth of the richest 10% has risen to 273 times that of the poorest, drawing in young people who have had their educational maintenance allowance axed just as official youth unemployment has reached a record high and university places are being cut back under the weight of a tripling of tuition fees.

    Now the unrest has gone nationwide. But it’s not as if rioting was unexpected when the government embarked on its reckless programme to shrink the state. Last autumn the Police Superintendents’ Association warned of the dangers of slashing police numbers at a time when they were likely to be needed to deal with “social tensions” or “widespread disorder”. Less than a fortnight ago, Tottenham youths told the Guardian they expected a riot.

    Politicians and media talking heads counter that none of that has anything to do with sociopathic teenagers smashing shop windows to walk off with plasma TVs and trainers. But where exactly did the rioters get the idea that there is no higher value than acquiring individual wealth, or that branded goods are the route to identity and self-respect?

    While bankers have publicly looted the country’s wealth and got away with it, it’s not hard to see why those who are locked out of the gravy train might think they were entitled to help themselves to a mobile phone. Some of the rioters make the connection explicitly. “The politicians say that we loot and rob, they are the original gangsters,” one told a reporter. Another explained to the BBC: “We’re showing the rich people we can do what we want.”

    Most have no stake in a society which has shut them out or an economic model which has now run into the sand. It’s already become clear that divided Britain is in no state to absorb the austerity now being administered because three decades of neoliberal capitalism have already shattered so many social bonds of work and community.

    What we’re now seeing across the cities of England is the reflection of a society run on greed – and a poisonous failure of politics and social solidarity. There is now a danger that rioting might feed into ethnic conflict. Meanwhile, the latest phase of the economic crisis lurching back and forth between the United States and Europe risks tipping austerity Britain into slump or prolonged stagnation. We’re starting to see the devastating costs of refusing to change course.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — August 11, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

    • It’s clear to see how the gangster system has been reduced to pure (and stupid) might makes right. It’s unable to even pretend there’s any rationale for itself or for any of its actions. It’s reduced to denying that cause and effect exists anywhere in our entire experience, from where wealth comes from and how civilization exists in the first place, to what’s bound to happen (forced to happen) when a handful of history’s most vile, vicious criminal filth steal all this wealth from those who produced it, and trash civilization itself along the way for nothing but the gutter nihilism of it.

      They know they’re the real looters, the real criminals. All their sputtering and spewing is a textbook case of taking your own precise attributes and ascribing them to your enemy. It’s part of the way they try to live with the enormity of their crimes and the horrors they’ve wrought, including upon themselves.

      I said somewhere in this thread that one of the benefits of the uprising is to make the elites and their flunkeys feel real fear for once. That’s a benefit because it accelerates their mental deterioration. We see how utterly stupid they already, unable to any longer even be subtle about their robberies. Would they be able to continue to physically exist without the protection of their thugs? But how long can such a thin thug line hold up? No ideal, no spirit, no mind (and soon not enough fossil fuels) bolsters any of this. It really is, not the “end of history”, as one of their academic flunkeys wrote, but the end of a particularly disgusting stage of history.

      Comment by Russ — August 12, 2011 @ 4:22 am

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