January 16, 2012

MLK Day: Vote For The 99%


I’m still enjoying my working vacation from regular posting, but since it’s MLK Day I thought I’d link my post from a year ago, One Big Birmingham Jail, for anyone who didn’t see it or has forgotten it.
Rereading it a year later, I think it holds up well and makes the right argument. I’ll recommend one section as especially topical. King gave as one of his criteria justifying direct action that the people attempted in good faith to negotiate and met a brick wall.

Not that we the people owe it to those who are in principle our public servants to negotiate with them, but nevertheless we have done so ad nauseum. What more profound negotiation can there be than the 2008 election where the people definitively voted for “change”, wrongly thinking there was a candidate who stood for change, because he systematically lied to that effect…

And what about the negotiation over the TARP? The people raged against it. In some congressional offices the calls and messages were over a thousand to one against. Nowhere was there anything but a huge majority against the Bailout. (That McCain didn’t roll the dice and oppose the TARP, run against the TARP, try to turn his fortunes around by turning the election into a referendum on the TARP, proves not only his political incompetence, but also the fact that we have nothing but sham “elections” which offer no meaningful choice at all.) We can multiply the examples – the health racket bailout, the war, Big Ag subsidies, almost any instance of corporate welfare.

No, we’ve done all we can to negotiate. The fact is, representative democracy itself, the periodic elections, were supposed to constitute such negotiations. But we see that this was always a sham. The opposite party never did anything but lie to the people, and never felt the slightest obligation to live up to his promises after the election. Indeed, many ideologues of pseudo-democracy (if not the practicing liar politicians themselves) have explicitly argued that the “representative” has no obligation to his constituents at all after the election is over, but is free to “vote his conscience”, conscience here being a euphemism for corrupt personal interest.

Reasonable people have to concede that the “negotiation” failed. We can never have a responsible, responsive, legitimate government in the form of representative democracy. It’s a structural fraud.

Since the kleptocracy will devote the year to astroturfing the people into this anti-political farce of an election, our goal has to be to get people to repudiate everything having to do with this phony anti-politics and turn instead to the real politics of direct action and movement-building on a self-management basis. The Occupy movement is the street vanguard, while the food/relocalization movement is the primary long run battleground and most fertile soil for the real democratic movement roots.
But when anyone tells you to “vote”, they’re telling you to continue to negotiate with those whose bad faith has been proven beyond any doubt at all. They’re calling for continued negotiation with proven terrorists. They’re calling for appeasement.
Don’t listen to the Neville Chamberlains and pro-fascist Fifth Columnists of our day. Reject the election. Vote For The 99%. That means vote with your feet (away from the ballot box), with your wallet (Move Your Money, and purge as many rents from your life as possible), with your mind, with your soul.

January 10, 2012

Raw Milk, Decriminalization/Legalization, Public/Private, Property


After a year’s journey through the New Jersey legislative process including a 71 to 6 passage in the Assembly last spring, the raw milk partial decriminalization bill was allowed to die on the vine at the end of the Senate’s session this week. Big Dairy was putting pressure on key senators throughout the process. It looks like their failsafe all along was to prevent a Senate vote, and that they succeeded in this. Now the process needs to start all over again.
I doubt I need to tell the readers of this blog how this is a perfect example of the futility of “working within the system” and expecting “reform”. If I were still inclined to let myself get angry about stuff like this, I’d want to use a copy of the senate register to crack the skull of the next person I see lecturing us about “voting” and “getting the law changed”. It’s long been impossible to be aware of current events and not see how this is a kleptocracy where the only system action will be to further gut what’s left of society and further entrench organized crime. Just look at the work of the NJ senate here as a typical example, and you’ll see how there were plenty of bills passed, all of them worthless, most of them destructive.
Sure enough, there was plenty of time for votes on gutting water protections, urban school privatization, and extending legalized gambling. With “privatization” and “legalization” we see two typical elements of corporatism.
I wouldn’t mind seeing gambling decriminalized, but I don’t want it legalized as a state-sanctioned numbers racket or betting parlor. In this form gambling is a far worse scourge on the community than if it were merely neutral from the point of view of the law. Worst is how the ubiquity of gambling propaganda helps entrench the something-for-nothing desperation of the culture. Legalized gambling is the biggest part of what the finance sector does. Derivatives, securitization, credit default swaps, currency and commodity speculation are all such back-alley bets enshrined as state-enforced and media-exalted “contracts”. A sincere and non-cowardly reformist would demand nothing less than one big bucket law to de-legalize these, outlaw them in the technical sense of placing them outside the law. Without government thug backing for these phony contracts, the finance tyranny would collapse immediately. That’s just one way in which the banksters would cease to exist without massive government interference in the market.
The fact is that you can’t legalize unnatural things according to some ivory tower ideal and then expect their artificial reality to conform to the fictive notion. I’ve written before about how property is a good example of this legalization scam. True believers in property rights like Hernando de Soto expect the state to enshrine and enforce this fiction, and are then dismayed to see the concept and practice deployed in typical Might Makes Right fashion. But it should be obvious that property, just like representation, law, and rights themselves where these are developed, elaborated, administered, and enforced by a centralized system dominated by obscenely concentrated wealth, will exist in all these ways only as a weapon on behalf of the 1%. It cannot exist otherwise. If something doesn’t exist in nature, and is fabricated by an aggressive interest system, then it will never exist other than as the weapon of that interest. Nothing outside nature “is”. Everything is always on a vector. To expect these fictive legalizations to exist on anything but a class war vector is delusional.
Meanwhile, if the 99% abolishes the system as such, all these vectors disappear, as well as the fraudulent rationales for the fictions.
That’s a good example of how the decriminalization vs. legalization distinction is usually intertwined with the scam distinction of “public vs. private”. In a corporatist system (and all large structures inherently tend toward corporatism), there is no such distinction in substance. Government and private rackets comprise one whole, with the former serving as thug and bagman to the latter. The ornamental fictions “public” and “private” are merely a typical pretext for empty divisive propaganda, to artificially divide people into corporate tribes and set them against one another.
Meanwhile “privatize” doesn’t mean what the English language might cause you to think. It doesn’t mean the private sector takes on the costs, risks, responsibilities, and rewards. No, the risks and responsibilities remain with the taxpayer. The costs are covered by corporate welfare. The only thing that changes is that a private corporation now gets to steal directly from the government system, while this incorrigibly criminal system becomes even more corrupt.
To take the example of the schools, you either maintain the system schools or you don’t, but the alleged public-private distinction is a scam. I want community schooling and support home schooling. I’d like to see the abolition of the system schools. But the worst of all worlds is to maintain the system schools but “privatize” them. This maintains and aggravates everything that’s bad about them, while adding new racketeering pathologies and cons. (I saw that the Republican thug Santorum was involved in a typically sordid “charter school” rip-off. As usual, none of these thieves is going to prison, because such crimes are the proper use of privatization, not at all an “abuse” the way liberals would claim.)

January 1, 2012

What Is Organic? (Part 1)


For food or anything else to be organic is for it to exist and evolve in harmony with the rest of nature and human history. Our natural history, in its culinary aspect, can be called grass farming. We worked hard to maintain the savannah as the best habitat for our food and for our safety.
Over thousands of years we were forced by elites into the strait jacket of agriculture based on annual grasses with giant seed pods: wheat, corn, rice. Although agriculture had many potential forms, on account of the malevolence of the hierarchies in control it became politically and socially destructive and environmentally unsustainable.
The idea of organic food production was originally a call to restore agriculture to its rightful context amid the flows and relationships of nature. By the mid-20th century agriculture was already largely converted to monocultures fed by synthetic fertilizer. Mechanization took over. Traditional practices of crop rotation and cover cropping were being driven out. The results were apparent in soil destruction. Air and water pollution were already visible. Industrial agriculture looked unrivaled and unstoppable.
The organic idea was a resurgence of the beleaguered traditional practices. Bolstered by new agronomic knowledge, pioneers like Albert Howard and J.I. Rodale called for an agriculture which would work in synch and mutual reinforcement with nature rather than in belligerent defiance of it, and in the process produce more than the destructive industrial practice.
This was the classical organic idea. It’s necessarily one part of a natural whole, and is inextricable from relocalization. This is because natural, sustainable food distribution is limited by perishability and energy efficiency. That’s why, except for a few imperishable basics as well as a few luxuries, food markets have historically been local/regional. Food commodification has never been possible except through massive subsidized energy, robbery including externalized costs, and many other forms of corporate welfare. I emphasize energy here since I’m discussing the most basic inherent limits of organic food production and distribution. By organic I mean the true, holistic organic. (Just as for terms like natural or sustainable I use their common sense English language definitions.)
By definition (the real definition, not the official credential, which is a pale shadow of the substance) organic must use as little input substitution (for example, fossil-based synthetic fertilizer for natural nitrogen-fixation; oil-based pesticides and herbicides for natural pest-fighters and pest resistance) and industrially transported inputs and outputs as possible (an “organic” strawberry from Chile on a US supermarket shelf is a contradiction in terms). Organic and relocalization must go together, if we’re to meaningfully conceive and seek either.
This is why it’s incoherent to try to separate organic from localism and even try to play them off against one another. Organic as a set of practices can be meaningful and benevolent only within its rightful context, the sum of natural interrelations – including those of a non-corporatized, non-propertarian economy, the real “free market” – which it’s meant to epitomize.
Organic, just like any other commons, cannot meaningfully exist amid a hostile capitalist environment. You can’t plunk it down amid the corporate food system and expect it to “be”. It has to be actively moving on an anti-corporate, relocalist, democratic vector.
This is a key part of the food movement’s political character. Organic and relocalization are vectors toward true democracy. Any diversion of either, any wanting organic to sit passively and stagnate, letting itself be corporatized, industrialized, even forming alliances with CAFOs and the GMO rackets, is to seek destruction of it. This is one of the basic flaws of the official USDA organic credential. Even if this credential weren’t weak and continually subverted (but it is), in itself it would still relegate the organic practice to the same sterility as processed food in general. One rips whole food from its natural context, dismantles it to its bigger constituent parts (remember “parts is parts”?), then mixes and matches and reassembles them in synthetic combinations. It’s the “food” of no context, natural or human. “The NPK mentality”, as Howard called it (referring to the three main soil nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, each removed from its context and then synthetically glued into combinations with the others) envisions soil and agriculture, and human society itself, as machines. This is scientistic reductionism. Chemistry supplants biology, and the tail wags the dog.
The same goes for the political context. Organic originally had a broad and deep social connotation. The health of the soil is a barometer and direct determinant of the health of society and democracy. As Howard put it, “Artificial manures lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial food, artificial animals and finally to artificial men and women.” To destroy the soil by subjecting it to the endless shock treatment of artificial fertilizer and pesticide to produce endless unevolving generations of zombie monocrops is to destroy the nation, polity, and spirit. Environmental domination always indicates and helps enforce social domination.
Corporatized “organic” agriculture, industrial organic as Pollan calls it, is just another form of this reductionist, synthetic, out of context mentality.
That’s why it’s both unhistorical and philosophically wrong to see organic in a hermetic, instrumental way, as a one-size-fits-all spare part one can plug in anywhere (for example within corporate capitalism), rather than as an implicitly vast, profoundly intertwined social concept, or to see organic food other than within this context.
Meanwhile “industrial organic”, organic production and distribution which is part of commodification and globalization, is a contradiction in terms because it flouts every principle of nature. It’s “holistic” only within the temporary aberration of corporate agriculture dependent on the corporate state and cheap, plentiful fossil fuel. It’s the instrumental holism of an insane and ephemeral context. This is why organic credentialism is insufficient at best, and often a sham. We see where it leads – globalized, corporatized “organic”; “co-existence” with GMOs; predation on workers.
Organic food won’t feed our bodies or our souls unless it expresses the entire organic holism, which means the restoration of food to its rightful, historical, natural and human context. In part two I’ll expand upon this and extend it to other examples.
Part 2 here.