Volatility

October 27, 2011

Just Some Rusty Barbed Wire…

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Money can legitimately be nothing but a unit of account (and there only as a transition away from debt money); anything other is a tool of domination. Our natural history proves that our natural economies are based on cooperation and community credit, not commercialization, money debt, or “barter”. I highly recommend David Graeber’s new book Debt: The First 5000 Years. I’m not kidding when I say that if you’re going to read only one new book, that’s the one. It’s a revelation.
 
So true morality, true justice, true reason, true practicality would do away with the cash economy (which is by definition a command economy, since only government command enforces the prerogatives of this cash in the first place; there’s a reason they call it “fiat” money; and all money is really fiat money or the residue thereof). It would purge the parasites now worthlessly squatting on the land and destructively hoarding the resources.
 
We have the will and ability to work, and we have the land and resources. Those are the only two components necessary for a human economy and society. But this barbed wire which has been strung between the two, through which we’re forced to squirm in order to get “employment” which “allows” us access to OUR WORK, and in our wildest dreams a tiny lump of dirt from OUR LAND AND RESOURCES in the form of “property”, is nothing but the alien imposition of criminals. The only redistribution we need is to blast away that wire.
 
 
We have the ability and will to work. We have the land and resources. So what prevents us from going about our work, cooperatively or if one prefers autonomously? What gets between us and our work?
 
At this point many among the 99 immediately throw up their hands in cynicism and despair and say, “What can we do about it?” or “Nothing can be done about it” Many even surrender to lies about how there’s some kind of progress during history, or on the contrary that the way things are now is the natural way of things. Many believe both simultaneously even though they contradict one another.
 
If this is the case (the illusion, not the truth), then perhaps it’s better to take a step back, breathe, and forget about “what is to be done” for the moment. Maybe it’s worthwhile to simply look at the situation as it is, in its most stripped-down denotative clarity. What is the situation? What’s the basic answer to the questions above? What prevents the vast majority of humanity from attaining freedom and prosperity? It’s just a handful of criminals. It’s a vicious, worthless 1%. Even if it’s not clear immediately how to do it, if we simply contemplate the basic fact it should be obvious what to do.
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October 22, 2011

The Farm Bill; Occupy the Land

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The anti-democratic “Super Committee” is about to take a whack at the Farm Bill. Quietly, this is about to be the first big assault to come out of last summer’s bipartisan deficit terrorist kabuki.
 
The farm bill is loaded with corporate welfare for big farms, has many small programs nominally dedicated to helping small farms, and contains critical conservation and nutrition programs.
 
Although there’s been big talk about cutting back on corporate welfare, by far the largest chunk of it (crop insurance) was implicitly declared untouchable from the beginning. Instead, the talk has focused on cutting back on direct payments, countercyclical payments, and the ever-popular “closing loopholes”.
 
From the point of view of most of the food movement, support for the 2002 and especially the 2008 farm bills was dedicated to the notion that it’s better to support a farm bill with many small helps for small farms even though it remained predominantly a Big Ag welfare trough.
 
The so-called “mandatory” funding (it doesn’t actually mean mandatory, yet many movement advocates insist on parroting this Orwellism) for these crumbs was never fully funded in practice, and much of what did exist was gutted early in 2011, even prior to the deficit charade.
 
So prior to the advent of the anti-democratic Super Committee, the reformist gravy-train-and-crumbs game plan was already failing. Now we’re about to see the farm bill, something normally wrangled over at great length in the public eye, subject to the Bush-Obama model of legislative “efficiency”.
 
Here’s how things work under Obama’s budget Star Chamber. The Agriculture Committee sends a letter to the Super Committee proposing its own cuts. If the SC accepts these, they go back to the full Congress for an up-or-down vote, no silly democratic debate. If the letter is never sent, $15 billion in cuts automatically go into effect. These could not touch the Conservation Reserve Program or food stamps.
 
So this past week the letter was sent, and it calls for $23 billion in cuts:
 

As we reported earlier, the Agriculture Committee leadership is proposing a net reduction of $23 billion over the next ten years from the farm bill. According to an article by David Rogers at Politico.com, the structure discussed by the leadership includes at $14 to $15 billion reduction to commodity program payments, a $6.5 billion reduction to conservation programs, and a $4 to $5 billion reduction in nutrition programs including food stamps. Those cuts would translate to a 20+, 10, and less than one percent reduction for commodities, conservation, and nutrition, respectively.

 
This is worse than the automatic version would have been, since the cuts for corporate ag are just a flesh wound while those for small farms and conservation look to be devastating. As the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition puts it:
 

This proposal would wipe out over 40 percent of the funding increases for conservation and environmental initiatives achieved in the 2002 and 2008 food and farm bills, setting the clock back and “un-greening” the farm bill. Moreover, it is unclear what the proposal would do to the fair and healthy farm and food system programs won in 2008 with your help, but in need of being renewed in the new farm bill. It could potentially wipe out all of those gains as well.

 
This, like every other action of government, is directly counter to the will of the people. A recent survey found very different priorities, if democracy could function:
 

69 percent said reducing the use of chemicals that contribute to water pollution should be a top priority of agriculture policy.

60 percent said farmers should be required to meet environmental standards such as protecting water quality or soil health as a condition of receiving subsidy payments and subsidized crop insurance. That number jumped to 65 percent in the six biggest ethanol-producing states (IA, NE, IL, MN, SD, IN).

57 percent did not agree with cutting funding for farm conservation programs, saying that these programs save money by preventing pollution.

52 percent said subsidies for crops such as corn and soybeans should top the list of programs to be cut, and 49 percent named crop insurance as the next target. Only 31 percent ranked conservation programs as top targets for cuts and just 23 percent wanted to cut food aid for low income Americans.

38 percent said protecting soil and farmland to ensure future food security should be the top priority of conservation programs, while 34 percent put protecting water quality at the top.

 
I mentioned above that the reformist gravy-train-and-crumbs game plan was already failing even prior to the advent of the anti-democratic Super Committee. It seems that we’re looking at yet another of the unanimous refutations of reformism.Yet its advocates continue to dream. I’d love to see them turn out to be right, but I fear that not only will it again be proven wrong, very soon, but once again we’ll see them refuse to learn from this proof.
 
NSAC’s call to action contains this ironic line:
 

Please act today for a chance you have only once every 5 years to reform our food and farming system and protect our natural resources.

 
The point of food sovereignty is to reform our food and farming system and protect our natural resources every day, ourselves, through our direct action on the ground. The point of democracy, as is being demonstrated by Occupy Wall Street, is to exercise democracy every day. The point of humanity is to exercise humanity every day. It’s the enemies of all democracy and humanity who want to reduce our vision of these to the wretched charade of voting every few years, or in this case of commenting on a bill every five years. The spirit of democracy demands we Occupy the Land and farm it. Latin America’s Landless Workers’ Movement has been doing inspirational work for years now. If only these Occupations, often permanent, were as well known.
 
We can only own what we farm, and we must farm what we own. When shall we the landless farmers and workers of America begin to take back our land and farm it?

October 19, 2011

Redeeming the Pavement

Filed under: Food and Farms, Land Reform, Relocalization — Russ @ 2:01 am

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Where it comes to redeeming wasted land for food production, a major issue is all the formerly fertile land now entombed in pavement. In the long run at least some of this land will have to be reclaimed.
 
This will be because of the limited opportunities for food relocalization in the first place. Especially in urban areas people will have to work with the space available. This same effect will gradually extend to suburbia as the personal car becomes untenable and infrastructure deteriorates. In the long run, while some pavement will be abandoned to the caresses of nature, some will also have to be more vigorously massaged into productivity since so much of the land in the areas where we live has been placed in this unproductive state. It won’t be tenable, physically or spiritually, to surrender so much space so close to us to idle, ugly decrepitude. This would be the Broken Windows phenomenon writ large, not at all a healthy way to embark upon a new cooperative world.
 
If this is true, and we shall have to redeem the paved land, how do we go about it? We’re in luck, since the project has already been extensively studied, and in Cuba has already been partially deployed.
 
I’ve previously told the story of how Cuba had to embark upon a crash program of post-oil agriculture following the collapse of the USSR. Their success was the result of previous research, an existing cadre of experts, and the will and hard work of the people, with a little help from the US embargo which has protected Cuba from the worst assaults of globalization.
 
One key element of urban agriculture in Cuba has been the organoponicos. These are long, narrow (commonly 30X1 meter) raised soil beds within wooden frames. (The terms also applies to a concentration of such framed beds.) Often they’re constructed directly on pavement. Their productivity has been phenomenal. Looking at it from a long-range point of view, a buildout of this kind of agriculture upon paved surfaces could be an excellent transition in areas where pavement is ubiquitous. (In the meantime, unpaved suburban land and most existing farmland, both of which are likely to have bad quality soil, could be turned over to the model based on perennial grasses and pasturage.)
 
This kind of research, far advanced in Cuba, is finally being done in the US. A project at Ohio State University has been comparing different possibilities for turning an abandoned parking lot into ground productive of food. The three methods being compared a large pots, raised beds directly on the pavement, and cutting trenches in the pavement, then raising beds from the trench. (That link is from last winter, and I have to confess an inability to find information on how the project fared in 2011. Neither the OSU websites nor an Internet search helped.)
 
The question is whether it’s best to put in the initial work of simply tearing up the pavement completely (as this organization is dedicated to doing), or whether tearing out trenches is sufficient to set the process in motion, or whether the pavement can be left to naturally crumble while new soil is built right on top of it.
 
While all the projects including Cuban deployments are small-scale so far, in the long run we’ll be doing this on more ambitious scale. So all the knowledge and practice we can assemble at the outset is valuable. From there the evolution from learning, to opportunistic doing within the existing system, to supplanting the previous doing with a new affirmative doing, will be as slow or fast, gradual or non-linear, as circumstances and political will decide.

October 15, 2011

Post-Morality, New Mores

Filed under: Freedom, Neo-feudalism, Nietzsche — Tags: — Russ @ 9:00 am

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A post in honor of Nietzsche’s birthday.
 
In Genealogy of Morals Essay II Nietzsche describes the alleged progress of primalism to achieve modern morality. He claims that humanity underwent thousands of years, often under conditions of extreme physical and spiritual cruelty, developing what he calls the morality of mores (Kaufmann’s rendering of die Sittlichkeit der Sitte; Hollingdale calls it the morality of custom), with what we now call “morality” being the culmination. This includes a capacity to incur debt, something not natural but by now branded into us.
 
David Graeber, in his seminal book Debt: The First 5000 Years, rightly places this in the category of one’s reading back bourgeois morality into prehistory, and then picturing this morality of mores period as having some implicitly “intentional” progress toward this same morality. Typical bourgeois self-servingness. I’ll add that here Nietzsche would be exhibiting the same historically fraudulent propensity he castigated in other commentators, historians and sociologists and such. I agree with Graeber that Nietzsche probably realized the mendacity of his procedure here, and that he was really presenting a more honest (i.e. brutal) depiction of bourgeois society’s own foundation story. This would fit with N’s predilection for using the enemy’s tropes against him. Thus for example he loved to use militaristic metaphors to discuss spiritual and intellectual matters in ways subversive of the statism and nationalism of the time.
 
Meanwhile we know, from the work of Graeber and other real anthropologists, that the “festival of cruelty” Nietzsche describes is actually a recent, ahistorical development. The true morality of mores had a radically different nature. It was mostly cooperative, peaceful, materially modest, focused on seeking health and happiness. This is the human path we so disastrously forsook, starting a few thousand years ago and plunging into the ultimate depths of subhumanity during the fossil fuel binge. Our human task is now to find our way back to the primal human path.
 
But now that we recognize the fraudulence of this “moral” age and all its institutions, what shall be the nature of the new morality of mores we must now enter? Will Nietzsche’s savage depictions have to come true in this transition?
 
I already offered a more optimistic commentary and aspiration in these two posts on Nietzsche’s essay. Now two years later I’m revisiting the question in greater depth, and I want to still find reasons for optimism. This will depend primarily on our democratic will and our determination to build a movement out of it. I fear that just trying to wing it won’t do. Without the built movement our likely result will be permanent enslavement or total collapse and starvation.
 
But with a movement vision based on positive democracy and relocalized organic food production, incorporating all the knowledge we’ve attained, we can steer between the twin perils of terminal debt enslavement and some kind of harsh, universally violent alternative.
 

October 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Decision Delayed

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Freedom — Tags: — Russ @ 10:57 am

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I haven’t had much time to follow this the last few days, so I don’t know yet why the assault was postponed. The “authorities” are saying it’s because the private property owner asked them to refrain. I don’t know if such a request was made.
 
The one thing clear is that over the longer run, the only thing that can keep us in a park, in the streets, in our homes, in our rights at all, is bottom-up defiance and will to fight. I’ve read several accounts of the 99 pledging this will. I don’t know how much this pledge of defiance went into the decision to postpone. Bullies, by their nature, may back down at any point if you fight back.
 
But in the long run it sure won’t come down to the alleged whim of a property owner. It’ll come down to the will of the people to directly take back the country, including the physical seizure of ground.
 
(Besides, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to grow food, assuming we want to keep eating.)

October 12, 2011

Underlying Ideology of the 99

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Rortybomb had this interesting analysis of the “Ideology of the We Are 99% Tumblr.” Konczal ran the HTML text which accompanies many of the images through a program to assemble data on age and keywords. He found two age clusters, around 20 and 27.
 
The 25 most common “words of interest” all involve the necessities of a decent life (except that several like “jobs” and “debt”, the two most common, are endemic to capitalism and other economic hierarchies). One important finding is that none of the key words are characteristically “consumerist”. This plus the overall impression of the images is that, contrary to the fears or scoffing of detractors, the 99ers are not thinking primarily in terms of being gipped consumers who just want to go back to the 1990s. They’re not thinking in terms of a more inclusive neoliberalism whose crimes would continue but merely trickle more of the loot to them, the way previous more fortunate consumers allegedly benefited. So we can take this as a piece of evidence which is promising in light of the previous discussion on this blog of consumerism as a movement
 
Instead, they’re thinking in terms of survival amid permanent dispossession. Their first concern is to be free of the oppression of unemployment and debt, which are the only modes of exploitation the decrepit system has left. So although they don’t know it yet, anything they say about jobs and debt is already tantamount to the call to abolish Wall Street and debt as such.
 
Indeed, Konczal himself acknowledges but only dimly envisions the radicality of the implicit ideology here.
 

With all due respect to DeBoer, the demands I found aren’t the ones of the go-go 90s-00s, but instead far more ancient cry, one of premodernity and antiquity.

Let’s bring up a favorite quote around here. Anthropologist David Graeber cites historian Moses Finley, who identified “the perennial revolutionary programme of antiquity, cancel debts and redistribute the land, the slogan of a peasantry, not of a working class.” And think through these cases. The overwhelming majority of these statements are actionable demands in the form of (i) free us from the bondage of these debts and (ii) give us a bare minimum to survive on in order to lead decent lives (or, in pre-Industrial terms, give us some land). In Finley’s terms, these are the demands of a peasantry, not a working class.

 
Everywhere I look I see a convergence toward what I started saying over a year ago when I first pegged us as post-workers, incipient or actual “lumpenproles”. (I’ve recently written more about this.) Our mindset, our actual circumstances, and the possible modes of resistance and revolution are all more typical of the peasantry than the classic proletariat.
 
Apparently the 99ers are still shy about demanding the land, but that will have to follow if this is to go anywhere. Meanwhile, although they’re not yet conscious of the need to self-jubilate all system debt, they’ve zeroed in on this debt as such as the existential problem which must be existentially solved.
 
Konczal wrongly sees this as some kind of diminution:
 

The people in the tumblr aren’t demanding to bring democracy into the workplace via large-scale unionization, much less shorter work days and more pay. They aren’t talking the language of mid-twentieth century liberalism, where everyone puts on blindfolds and cuts slices of pie to share. The 99% looks too beaten down to demand anything as grand as “fairness” in their distribution of the economy. There’s no calls for some sort of post-industrial personal fulfillment in their labor – very few even invoke the idea that a job should “mean something.” It’s straight out of antiquity – free us from the bondage of our debts and give us a basic ability to survive.

 
While he’s right about how the demands are far simpler than those of the Oil Age welfare state, he’s mistaken to equate simplicity with paucity. On the contrary, while one might be whimpering for debt relief today, that’s only one small step from raging for the giant leap of total jubilee tomorrow.
 
The fact is that Wall Street (including all global financialization) and kleptocracy itself comprise a Tower of Babel which can stand at all only through the ever more intense exploitation of all people. These demands many lament as so picayune are absolutely impossible for corporatism to satisfy without its own destruction. So the demand to be free of the bondage of debt is objectively the demand for complete transformation. If this movement continues along the line of its logic, it will fight as a revolutionary movement regardless of the original subjectivity of the weary post-workers who thought only in terms of  their student loans, their children, their unemployment, and their health care (to name the four big clusters of concern Konczal identifies). Indeed, the post-employment mindset in evidence here can easily become conscious as a rejection of the entire capitalist “employment” model itself.
 
It’s a testament to the irrationality, depravity, and criminality of the system that such basic concerns of humanity must be forced to become radical aspirations.
 

October 11, 2011

Corporate Tribalism Part 2: Steven Pinker and Sublimated Violence

Filed under: Corporatism, Land Reform, Relocalization — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 3:22 am

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In my first preliminary post on corporate tribalism I described how jurisprudence has tried to define corporate persons as more human than human beings. Another aspect of this anti-human inversion has been the ideological attempt to strip humanity of its naturally cooperative traits and repose these only in elite structures, while smearing humanity as being infected with what’s really the psychopathy of elites. 
 
It was Hobbes, personally traumatized by the English Civil War and wishing to justify the modern State, who gave the classical description of man’s alleged inherent depravity. Without firm, severe rule from above, we were doomed to the “state of nature” where our lives would inevitably be “nasty, brutish, and short”. Today Hobbes is the hero of numerous prominent intellectuals who crusade to represent humanity as naturally wicked, aggressive, destructive, wasteful, deceitful, manipulative, depraved. They’ve enlisted the modern sciences and social sciences, especially genetics, to support the modern neo-Hobbesianism. The direct goal is always to claim that only political elitism, only the State, can organize any kind of constructive endeavor. At least implicitly it’s always a cry of the heart for economic elitism. Only capitalism and especially corporatism can organize any kind of productive endeavor. Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Napoleon Chagnon and others have been prominent in this campaign. The goal is always the same, to render the class war and kleptocracy on a biological/racist basis, but in a pro-capitalist, pro-state way.
 
The latest, much-hyped installment is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. Here the claim is that the level of violence has declined with the rise of the modern state and capitalism. Once again the nasty, brutish primal humanity has to be tamed and put to work by the state, capital, elites. On its face this is absurd. Throughout history elites have always been vastly more violent than peoples, who have generally served as the cannon fodder (military and economic) for the predations, extractions, and wars of these elites. No matter what level of violence one discovers at any place or time, this violence will have been predominantly caused or greatly aggravated by, as anthropologist Brian Ferguson puts it, “the pursuit of practical self-interest by those who actually make the decision.”
 
But if this weren’t self-evident, no problem. Real scholars like Ferguson and David Graeber have assembled the evidence of anthropology which proves that all the tales of the natural greed and violence of humanity are a fraud. On the contrary, the evidence supports the view of people as naturally prone to cooperation. Perhaps not “noble savages”, but inherently likely to prefer cooperation, nonviolent solutions, and limits on material acquisitiveness. In particular, the evidence is that the state and monetary debt have their origins only in violence and have always comprised embodied, sublimated violence. Tribal violence as a rule involved scarcity competition, but this scarcity has seldom been natural. On the contrary, almost all scarcity competition has been over artificial scarcity. Tribes didn’t find themselves at odds over game or grazable land where there wasn’t enough to go around in an absolute sense. Rather, elites sought to monopolize the resource at the expense of both foreign tribes and their own people. These rival elite claims, not to necessity but to hoarded superfluity, have been the usual engine of violence and war. Today in capitalism we have the most complete and fully rationalized ideology and practice of artificial scarcity. This is the scarcity Pinker has dedicated his life to exalting.
 
Meanwhile the “evidence” of Pinker and company, just like that alleged for primal barter, is cherry-picked and largely fabricated. Pinker’s project is to remove all violence from its socioeconomic context. He then divides history into the period of the modern State and all other times. Violence prior to* the state is then dogmatically declared to be “natural”, “anarchic” violence. But there’s no evidence for this natural violence, and plenty for the violence organized by proto-state elites.
 
[*Pinker’s chronology is also eccentric.  His most cited example seems to be this account of public cat-burning:
 

In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, “[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized.” Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world.

 
But as many have immediately pointed out, this isn’t an example of pre-state anarchic depravity. On the contrary, 16th century France was a starting point for the modern state, which was just starting to explore its own nature with charming activities like this one.]
 
Pinker’s not here to let the evidence induce truth, but to propagate dogma:
 

The first is that Hobbes got it right. Life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short, not because of a primal thirst for blood but because of the inescapable logic of anarchy. Any beings with a modicum of self-interest may be tempted to invade their neighbors to steal their resources. The resulting fear of attack will tempt the neighbors to strike first in preemptive self-defense, which will in turn tempt the first group to strike against them preemptively, and so on. This danger can be defused by a policy of deterrence—don’t strike first, retaliate if struck—but, to guarantee its credibility, parties must avenge all insults and settle all scores, leading to cycles of bloody vendetta. These tragedies can be averted by a state with a monopoly on violence, because it can inflict disinterested penalties that eliminate the incentives for aggression, thereby defusing anxieties about preemptive attack and obviating the need to maintain a hair-trigger propensity for retaliation.

 
Like Hobbes himself, this is nothing more than myth. Hobbes never thought his “state of nature” had actually existed. On the contrary, he considered this the state of “civilized”, tamed man where not kept brutally in line. Hobbes’ view was similar to the phenomena Graeber documents on the real incidence of barter. Barter as a spot trade is not primeval, but occurs only following the collapse of a money economy. People indoctrinated in the use of money and market exchange will try to replicate their training with whatever’s at hand, however impractical the result. That’s what Hobbes thought would happen where already domesticated man ever had the reins relaxed. He then, as a device, read this special circumstance back into primal humanity. That’s how he derived the “state of nature”. So barter and the Hobbesian state of nature go together, conceptually and in practice. Somalia is a good example of this collapse of state/capitalism. But it has nothing at all to do with natural tribal life.
 
Pinker and his fellow scribblers simply ape their master Hobbes in this procedure. Nietzsche accused every kind of historian, sociologist, scholar of being prone to simply read the present back into the past. Graeber exposes how economists have propagated such a Big Lie. Here we have the “sociobiologist” version. (I did a few searches trying to find anyone else citing Graeber against Pinker but found none. I guess that’s a measure of how Graeber’s findings haven’t yet been widely comprehended.)
 
So we have the twin lies of nasty brutishness and natural scarcity, when in fact there’s only post-state brutishness and artificial scarcity. These are precisely what Pinker and company try to obscure. In the end a hack like Pinker is just plagiarizing Malthus.
 
His thesis also depends upon a monumental accounting fraud worthy of Wall Street. He whitewashes the radical escalation of tyranny and coercion under modern structures through the simple fraud of defining violence as only when a gun is fired, while excluding the infinitude of violence involved in people being driven at gunpoint. That’s the only way today’s academic liars can try to camouflage the overwhelming violence embodied in all state and capitalist structures.
 
But how can any measure of violence be legitimate which doesn’t account for every cent stolen at gunpoint, for example through wage slavery, whether the gun be physically immediate or just threatened for the time being? How can any measure of violence be valid without including on the daily ledger the entire sum of the violence involved in all enclosures and other propertarian thefts, including the ongoing modern land grabs? What other than violence keeps productive human beings off our rightful farmland, forces us to seek “employment”, to accept “unemployed” status, when the bountiful earth exists for us as it always did? Pinker’s job is to elide all this sublimated violence, defining it out of existence. Indeed in this sublimated neoliberal elitist form, what Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism”, Pinker exalts violence as the highest form of human existence. He’s the ideologue of sublimated violence.
 
Meanwhile studies also reveal how psychopaths concentrate at the higher levels of coercive hierarchy, since hierarchy is their natural habitat. Contrary to Pinker’s lies, those truly prone to Randian greed and aggression always have a much harder time in cooperative communities. (Meanwhile, contra Pinker’s lies about the greater violence of tribal peoples, what’s your chance of being assaulted and murdered today if you try to live with the same freedom the people of these tribes knew? If you find Pinker’s argument convincing, try to live without command money and in accord with natural usufruct, and see how much violence you bring down upon you. Whatever the primal assault rate, it was vastly less than the 100% guarantee of today.)
 
If there is in fact a “selfish gene” and an innate propensity to violence, it’s to be found concentrated at the higher levels of state and corporate hierarchies. And if this biological difference actually exists, it simply defines those who are aggressively subhuman, who must be regarded and dealt with as nothing but rabid dogs.
 
But ivory tower flunkeys like Pinker try to accomplish an Orwellian inversion. They want to slander the soul of humanity. They want to smear us with the filth of their corporate masters while bestowing the mantle of the “noble” elite upon these gutter gangsters. Pinker defines statism as the measure of nobility and the embodiment of our “better angels”. But this is just a gutter devil calling itself an angel. So he adds blasphemy to injury.
 
This is a (metaphorical?) theology of corporate tribalism, the sublimated satanism of the 1%. If there’s a biological/neurological abyss, it’s between the 99 and the 1. Pinker and the rest of the sociobiologist crew perform their fraudulent inversions and slanders of the 99 on behalf of the 1.
 
This is also meant to disparage the prospects of harmonious, prosperous relocalization. How can we have peace and prosperity without the Leviathan State? But the evidence proves the contrary. As human beings we’re naturally fitted to cooperate and mutually assist. We’re ready to build, live, and work in communities where we credit one another and in that way achieve the general good. Today we also possess something new, a clear democratic philosophy and knowledge, in addition to all the new agronomic knowledge we’ve gathered.
 
Having all this going for us, we need only to purge ourselves of the criminals and parasites. On that day we’ll find sufficient resources and good will to finally live fully as human beings. Dismantling all the structures of embodied violence and getting rid of the practitioners of elitist violence, we’ll finally and truly live in the post-violent world.
 

October 9, 2011

Political Free Will

Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Nietzsche, Reformism Can't Work — Tags: — Russ @ 6:00 am

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What’s real political free will? It would seem to be a necessary element for democracy, but what kind of action proves it exists at all?
 
Part of Nietzsche’s disproof of “free will” in general (for example Beyond Good and Evil section 19) was how it’s really circular logic, a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a rule you only “will” action you already (more or less unconsciously) assumed was within the bounds of possibility. That’s quite a preordained circumscription of the will, isn’t it? Yet people then triumphantly proclaim, on the basis of success, that this was “my will”.
 
Sure, it would be idiotic to leap from a tall building in order to test whether or not you would bounce when you land because your legs are springs. But Nietzsche’s point was that we impose the same psychological limits upon ourselves in the spiritual, creative, intellectual, political realms, where it’s not at all truly clear what’s really possible and what’s not. But in most cases our vaunted free will operates only within brainwashed bounds.
 
The best and most critical example today is the alleged boundary of the politically possible. The notorious Overton Window is a familiar part of this, but the same issue presses everywhere, down to the deepest psychology. The call for the Occupation wave to be collapsed to circumscribed, particulate “demands” (which are, of course, all to remain well within the bounds of reformism, kinder-gentlerism, real “compassionate conservatism”, which is what liberalism actually calls for nowadays) isn’t just coming from pro-Dem astroturfers and the corporate media. It also arises from the ingrained fetish of “what’s possible”.
 
I think a criterion going forward, a movement value, is the recognition that history proves that, in the realm of the political, our legs often are springs, if we just have the guts to test them. So this is the real measure of political free will, the ability to break free of the tendentious, arbitrary bounds of the crackpot “possible”. Instead of accepting the frame that Wall Street has to exist at all, demand an answer to Why? If the answer is that we need the banksters to provide credit, although we can add that they’re not really doing that at all, the real reply is the same question, Why do we need bank credit? For 99% of humanity’s natural history we never needed it. Why do we need it now?
 
Do this, and I think you’ll find that it ends up being turtles all the way down for system brainwashing. Every answer begs the same question, because in the end there’s no moral or rational answer to the question to which all the others boil down: Why should organized crime be allowed to exist? In the end there’s no answer to that but might makes right.
 
The measure of democratic will, political free will, is to recognize this and transcend it. We reject all brainwashing on behalf of the kleptocratic structure because we reject the structure itself. As soon as a critical mass accepts that none of this is necessary or desirable, then it’ll be kleptocracy itself which becomes impossible. Possibility, on the other hand, shall ramify as far as imagination itself.
 
 
 

October 7, 2011

One Simple Demand: Abolish Debt. Abolish Wall Street.

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In the comment thread for my last post we discussed the possibility of some educational pamphleteering at the occupations. One idea was a few bullet points summing up the facts about debt, along with a recommendation to read David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years
 
So what might those points be? Here’s a few thoughts:
 
*Are you in debt?
 
*Are you forced into debt in order to live like a human being? It hasn’t always been this way.
 
*Humanity has flourished without formalized debt for most of its history.
 
*Formalized debt has always gone hand in hand with scarcity, tyranny, slavery, and war.
 
*Formalized debt is the mode of control of despotic structures like big government and big corporations.
 
*These structures, too, have only recently come into existence, and only along with tyranny, slavery, and war. Humanity has always done better without them. [Maybe those latter two are better to leave implicit for now? Maybe it’s better to isolate the formal debt issue, leading up to saying Wall Street and financialization shouldn’t exist.]
 
*Cash money is the vehicle of formalized debt.
 
*Wall Street exists only to preside over this unnecessary and destructive debt machine. It serves no legitimate or constructive purpose.
 
*History proves that we can undertake all human endeavors more fairly and efficiently without Wall Street and its debt burdens. Humanity is cooperation.
 
*We must redeem our human economy by building alternatives to cash and debt.
 
*We shall flourish again only with the abolition of Wall Street, the domination of finance, and the tyranny of money debt.
 
So there’s One Simple Demand right there. Abolish the debt system, abolish the finance sector, abolish Wall Street.
 

October 5, 2011

September 17th, Occupy Wall Street, Levels of the Movement

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Although I haven’t been writing impressions of Occupy Wall Street and its affiliated Occupations across the land, that’s not because I haven’t been following it and thinking about it. Rather, it’s because like I said in my first post about this, whatever happens here is just the earliest of its beginning. Almost everything that’s been written so far, even the best of it, has suffered from trying to analyze the game before it’s been played. I think the best writing on this is provisional, forward-looking, speculative in the good sense of the word. I hope this and any subsequent posts of mine will meet that standard, which is the best we can do for now.
 
To start, the Assembly has far exceeded expectations both negatively in hanging on in the face of police assaults, and affirmatively in forcing its existence on the public consciousness. It has done these primarily by constituting itself as a participatory democratic assembly. It has refused the relentless attempts by the MSM and by system “activists” to co-opt it and to force agendas and modes of behavior upon it. (If anything, this assault has been even more incessant than that of the cops, if not as physically violent.)
 
The more the people get the sense that movement-building and protest are what we must be doing (as opposed to mere “voting” and lame petition-begging), the more we’ll do it, and the more skilled and confodent we’ll become at it.
 
(Meanwhile the enemy has lowered the mask a bit more. JPM responded to the Assembly by bribing the NYPD with $4.6 million. In an unusually brazen display of quid pro quo, the NYPD responded that same day by arresting hundreds of marchers after luring them onto a bridge. We can say that JPM directly purchased these arrests, while the NYPD openly revealed itself to be the gang of gutter rent-a-cops we always knew they were.)
 
From here it’ll be a war of attrition. Whether it be in the form of long physical occupations or in times of regrouping after dispersal, the democracy may have to settle in for a long vigil. This assembly hasn’t achieved the comprehensiveness of Tahrir Square to the point that they must provide their own food, water, shelter, sanitation, security. (Although on the broadest level we the people will have to provide these for ourselves or else go without.) But they just as all of us already face the challenge of generating our own morale, spirit, interest, the sense and reality of constructive, forward-surging activity.
 
The General Assembly itself can be the ground for much of this. Historically in revolutionary situations vast numbers of people threw themselves into political participation with great abandon, enthusiasm, exuberance. This surge is the revolution sowing its oats. In America and other “representative” pseudo-democracies, on the other hand, the people have a long service in phony “participation”, voting in phony elections and considering that to be doing politics. In our time we’ll have the real test of whether the system succeeded in politically castrating the “citizenry”, or whether the true democratic spirit shall rise from what was merely a long slumber, as we discover ourselves anew as true citizens.
 
Meanwhile what the Assembly’s trying to do is what we must try to do everywhere – form participatory councils. In our time the phony government is everywhere openly abdicating even its pretenses to legitimacy, gutting all services while imposing ever more new impositions, extractions, coercions, taxation. This shows the way where democratic councils, working on the ground, in the community, taking over responsibilities the government has abdicated, can actually become the legitimate government, gradually or in an acute surge. The work on the ground is the decisive deed, but can also happen in tandem with the open political protest like these Occupations, and shall probably require a final and permanent occupation at some point.
 
All this requires, as the essence of the true movement, taking the responsibility, exercising it meritoriously, evolving the consciousness that “we the people are the government”, being acclaimed as such by as critical mass of the citizenry, assuming responsibility as such, defending this rightful act of sovereignty against revanchism on the part of those who abdicated.
 
So today we have this visible political manifestation of a movement for the ages. Like any early political efflorescence, it’s bound to be naive (using that only in its denotation, not the pejorative connotation) and be prone to take refuge in reformist moods. So we’ve seen so far. The movement itself is the longer, vaster, deeper arc of the soil.
 
One pressure point has been the One Simple Demand as slogan, meme, and contested substance. Even before the action began participants rejected early attempts (by organizers) to force this to take the form of a reformist particle rather than a movement-building wave. Since then the assembled have superbly floated One Simple Demand as its own substance and its own Rohrschach. It’s clear that the Assembly is merely a physical manifestation of the vaster, one could say Platonic Form of the people’s will toward liberation and positive freedom. This is something vast beyond the capacity of the moment to easily quantify and phrase. One Simple Demand is a wave which can only momentarily (and subjectively) be collapsed to a single demand. I have One Simple Demand. This whole blog expresses it. Democracy is one word for it. Humanity is another.
 
It’s true that attempts to square the circle and give a list of Simple Demands, each being just one form of the Platonic One, have tended toward reformism. This is understandable especially since, in one of the encouraging signs, it seems that many of the demonstrators are completely new to activism. I’ve long forecast that the real movement activists will be disproportionately people who were never attracted to system politics, including its approved “dissent” brands. Such people will be less corrupted and corruptible. The real energy and willingness to conceive great ideas and fight for them comes mostly from those who are relatively new to political engagement, perhaps who were roused by the events of 2008, or who had their one and only bad experience voting for Obama and will never fall for such lies again. By contrast, pre-existing “progressives” are washed up. Even the Bailout, the austerity onslaught, and Obama’s absolute betrayal of them on every issue (not to mention his open contempt for them) haven’t shaken their faith in liberal elitism itself. We see how beholden they remain to the ideas and tactics which have already failed.
 
It’ll become clear to the new wave of activists, soon enough, that to render the ideal Form real, our real Demand (of ourselves, not as a craven “petition”) must be to sweep away all terminally criminal structures and build truly democratic ones.
 
This is already clear as intuition in the Assembly’s so far clean sweep of compromised tropes and rhetoric. No more clutter, we face a stark demarcation: It’s 99% vs. 1%. We’re the 99ers against a handful of criminals. That’s it, that’s all. I don’t think we even need conventional class war terms and rhetoric anymore. What’s the point of it, when by now we’re all the 99? ( That’s part of what I was getting at with my We’re All Lumpenproles Now and Corporate Tribalism ideas. I’ll be writing more about those, incorporating new insights from David Graeber’s book.)
 
The democratic reclamation shall be ongoing and serve as a catalyst for a permanent democratic renaissance. In America the system’s abdication is clear, but people’s minds remain in shadow. But there’s a great evolution proceeding, as all across the land we’re spontaneously taking on democratic responsibilities for ourselves, for our families, for our communities. We’re once again growing our own food, learning to craft our own manufactures, and to organize these actions among ourselves. This is the relocalization movement. So far there’s not as much of an explicit political consciousness suffusing it. Then we have the first sprouts of direct political challenge in the form of Occupy Wall Street and allied Occupations. (I say these are the first because they reject system co-optation. No doubt this shall remain the real qualification for some time yet, until we finally sweep away all corporate liberal treachery.) We face the challenge of how to unify such political reclamations with the underlying and overarching democratic movement.
 
Imagine if this form of the movement could become a going concern, even force some system retrenchment. That would open up more space for the structural democratic/relocalization movement in general. So, for example, how to bring food freedom issues front and center in this/any General Assembly? That leads to another question I’ve only written down but not researched and thought out, how to coordinate the food movement with general strikes? There must already exist precedents, but I haven’t yet researched how they did it in, e.g., 1905 Petersburg or 1919 Seattle, and then how to deduce from there what we can do today. So far the Wall Street Occupation is, I assume, buying abundant food with cash. But obviously we have to plan for actions without cash and/or pre-abundant food.
 
So there I’m closing with questions, which is mostly what we have so far. We’ll mostly be answering them in real time, through actions.
 
In my earlier post I wrote:
 

However this attempt works out, it’s already within the motion of a wave rather than a particle which can be isolated and defeated. The basic call to regroup and reassemble after every dispersal applies not just on the physical Wall Street starting on Saturday, but to the entire movement, worldwide over great vistas of place and time. They can club us here, they can disperse us there, but we’ll continue to regather in ever greater numbers over ever greater ranges and actions.

While there’s currently a more notorious September milestone, it’s possible that tomorrow will be the beginning of a new September with a new, positive day of democracy to obliterate the cult of the exploited dead. Wall Street has occupied America long enough.

 
I said that the day before 9/17. I still think it’s a good idea. From here on let’s make September 17th one of our Democracy Days.
 
It’s time to broadcast the message that the people must rise and take their freedom, prosperity, and democracy in their own hands. We are going to, here’s why we’re going to, we have no choice but to do so anyway, so let’s figure out how to do it in the course of doing it.
 
A prophecy isn’t supposed to be just passively “correct”. It’s supposed to be active toward fulfillment, as much as possible self-fulfilling. Occupy Wall Street continues from a prophecy and adds its own tones to the jam. This is living prophecy, already partially coming true, and soon to become truth itself.
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