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Tagged ‘Symbolism‘

The Climate Movement Needs to Stop ‘Winning’

Counterpunch

November 24, 2013

by Maya Lemon

As a child my favorite chore was hand-pumping water from the thirty-foot well on our family homestead. The pump was shiny black and the water ice-cold. Then my father was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer linked to chemicals used in oil and gas production. It’s been nine years since I drank that water.

I am from an impacted community in East Texas, home to oil and gas industry, on the southern route of the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. My involvement in the climate movement is motivated by the reality my community faces.

Nacogdoches, Texas lies along the southern path of KXL and cannot escape tar sands. From Cushing, Oklahoma down to Beaumont, Texas pipe is buried in the ground and scheduled to go online by the end of the year. We are waiting for the shoe to drop, for tar sands oil to flow through the pipe, for the bend of welded metal to respond to the heat and corrosion of bitumen. We are waiting for an event over which we have little control, despite its potentially disastrous impact on our lives.

Within this experience lies the insight I have to offer the climate movement. My experience is limited by the fact I am a young, white woman from an unconditionally supportive family. Incomplete as it is, however, my perspective is the best thing I can offer. And so, I ask that the climate movement stops talking about “winning.”

Greenwashing from Coast to Coast

Greenwashing from Coast to Coast

Portland

Exxon After Arkansas

Counterpunch

by SASHA ROSS

If you live in Oregon, you are familiar with the spectacle of greenwashing at the highest levels of political theater. As Portland gears up to host the UN’s World Environment Day, the international attention almost obscures the plans for multiple freeway expansions, a Nestle water bottling plant, huge timber sales (whispers of biofuel replants), a dodgy LNG pipeline, and the terrible specter of coal exports. The ringleaders of the circus are the political elites.

New Age Ghost Dance

New Age Ghost Dance

Intercontinental Cry

Dance on Black Piano

Painting by Juarez Machado

Intercontinental Cry

By

Apr 6, 2013

It’s interesting that the New Agers who extoll energy conservation and green energy are oblivious to the amount of energy they waste on moral theatrics like social forums, marches and protests. It’s analogous to the desperately romantic efforts of the Plains Indians, expressed through such mediums as the Ghost Dance, when their world was collapsing around them. While the Indians recovered and became eminently pragmatic, the New Agers seem trapped in a magical thinking mode, where they believe passion and purity can overcome the perversion of expediency.

EDITORIAL | The Nature of Campaigns

tcktcktck350

Above image from the 2009 TckTckTck campaign featuring partner 350.org. 

Jim Hogan, co-founder of desmogblog.com, as well as founder of the corporate communications agency ‘Hogan’, writes about the multi-million dollar worldwide campaign here. In 2013, as ecological collapse continues to accelerate, the world’s people have little to no understanding of the extensive damage this campaign actually did as the non-profit industrial complex grossly undermined the strongest positions put forward to the United Nations by the world’s smallest states. One could compare it to hammering nails in a coffin. [” The objective was to make it become a movement that consumers, advertisers and the media would use and exploit.” | Source ]You can read about it here: The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard | Truth, Lies, Racism & Omnicide.

 

Intercontinental Cry

By Jay Taber

Mar 19, 2013

There is nothing wrong per se with campaigns, as they are part of how we manage multiple aspects of a movement over time. If we are intelligent in our analysis, campaigns are holistic and sequential, prioritizing those aspects essential to those that follow. Sometimes an unexpected window of opportunity enables us to advance on one campaign while others are backburnered.

Sierra Club, NRDC & Big Greens Thank Obama for Granting Drilling Permits to Almost all the Oil Resources in Alaska’s Reserve

“It’s like saying, without any irony: “Thank you so much for putting poison in my living room, kitchen and bathroom, but sparing my bedroom so my family can still cling to our ‘habitat’ that is ‘conserved’!  Thank you for being so considerate!  We’ll be sure to tell everyone to elect you again!”.  Never mind the contamination to air, headwater, groundwater, rain, the fragmentation of habitat, damage to biodiversity, and the threat of spills in these extremely sensitive ecosystems! – Scientist Maggie Zhou

 

October 30, 2012

Under the Obama administration, for the first time in history, production permits were issued to oil and gas corporations for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, both onshore and offshore.

Of little surprise, Sierra Club [link], NRDC [link] and other “big greens” are asking American citizens to thank Obama for striking “a needed balance between responsible development and conservation of special areas within the Reserve.” [Direct quote taken from Sierra Club’s “Personalize Your Message” as found on their website, captured in screenshot below]

The Obama administration’s own press release states:

“The approximately 11.8 million acres that would be available for leasing under the preferred alternative – which makes the vast majority of projected oil resources in the NPR-A available for leasing – are estimated to hold approximately 549 million barrels of discovered and undiscovered economically recoverable oil and approximately 8.7 trillion cubic feet of discovered and undiscovered economically recoverable natural gas.” [Emphasis added]

So thank you Obama for eagerly bringing the total destruction of our planet’s climate and ecosystems.  And thank you, professional “environmentalist” sycophants, for, as always, not demanding what is actually necessary. We certainly do not expect these corporate cockroaches under the guise of environmental NGOs to crawl out of their funders’ deep pockets.

Of course this is nothing new. We have witnessed such faux “victories” before. Yet most remain unaware that many of the big greens behind The Tar Sands Action campaign (including RAN, Greenpeace, and the David Suzuki Foundation) are the same organizations that sold out the Boreal Forest in 2008 and 2010. (View this sublime 1 minute video with Greenpeace below or here.)

Most recently we have the “Defend our Coast” campaign (led by Greenpeace, Council of Canadians and 350.org) claiming thatTogether we will stop the expansion of tar sands tankers and pipelines to the West Coast.” [Emphasis added – note the language. There is no plan to shut down the tar sands but only to stop the expansion.]

Council of Canadians, working hand in hand with 350.org on this pipeline campaign makes their cautious position clear stating:

“Our campaign is an extension of our ongoing Energy and Climate Justice work. We continue to call on governments to ensure Canadians’ energy security and work to transition off fossil fuels, including the unsustainable development of the tar sands. Limiting additional pipeline capacity will force a slowdown of the current relentless pace of tar sands development. We approach the climate change crisis from a justice perspective, seeking to address its root causes, which include unsustainable production, consumption and trade that are driven by corporate-led globalization. Real solutions to the climate crisis must be based on democratic accountability, ecological sustainability and social justice.” [Emphasis added]

One who has little understanding of the non-profit industrial complex may find it ironic that as far back as 2009 when both climatologist James Hansen and Dr Rajendra Pachauri, former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) United Nations called for the shutting down of the tar sands. Yet, as the climate crisis has accelerated at a pace that paints the grimmest scenario possible, instead of demanding what is necessary, almost 4 years after the bold statements by both Hansen & Pachauri, largely conservative individuals by most anyone’s standards, the so-called “leaders” of the climate movement “demand” stopping the expansion of/limiting additional capacity of tar sands tankers and pipelines and the stopping of KXL. The Keystone pipeline, by the way, was 2/3rds complete and in operation before the “KXL” campaign even began.

The shock and surprise routine on the pandering to corporate interests by NGOs is getting stale. It is easy to publicly voice one’s disdain of Obama, Romney, the Democrats and Republicans along with all of the different people (Euro-American’s leading the charge) and corporations/industries that are destroying the Earth. Yet the liberal left continues to be silent on the NGOs at the forefront of a dead movement who lead the sheep to the slaughter.

Also dull is the the self absolution that is doled out by the liberal left: “If Obama or Amerikkka would just invest in green energy. If we would just spend more money on green technology.” The liberal left continues to immerse themselves in fantasy. Lying to themselves and each other, when the truth is that there is no renewable energy source that will allow the west to live at the level that we are living today. Further, there is no renewable energy source that is not so carbon intensive in manufacturing that it will not affect the environment and climate. That’s it. End of story. The same person who is shocked at Obama’s decision is the same person who gets up in the morning and subconsciously goes about their daily lives absolved of any person of guilt for any carbon emissions because it is the “corporations that are all the problem”… yes, they are the problem… but the Western man is also.” – Forrest Palmer, WKOG

Showdown at the Durban Disaster: Challenging the ‘Big Green’ Patriarchy

Global Justice Ecology Project | December 16, 2011

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Dedicated to Judi Bari, Emma Goldman, my mother and all of the other strong women who inspire me

An action loses all of its teeth when it is orchestrated with the approval of the authorities. It becomes strictly theater for the benefit of the media. With no intent or ability to truly challenge power.

I hate actions like that.

 GJEP’s Anne Petermann (left) and GEAR’s Keith Brunner (both sitting) before being arrested and ejected from the UN climate conference. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

And so it happened that I wound up getting ejected from one such action after challenging its top-down, male domination. I helped stage an unsanctioned ‘sit-in’ at the action with a dozen or so others who were tired of being told what to do by the authoritarian male leadership of the “big green’ action organizers–Greenpeace and 350.org.

I had no intention of being arrested that day. I came to the action at the UN Climate Convention center in Durban, South Africa on a whim, hearing about it from one of GJEP’s youth delegates who sent a text saying to show up outside of the Sweet Thorne room at 2:45.

So GJEP co-Director Orin Langelle and I went there together, cameras at the ready.

We arrived to a room filled with cameras. Still cameras, television cameras, flip cameras–whatever was planned had been well publicized. That was my first clue as to the action’s true nature. Real direct actions designed to break the rules and challenge power are generally not broadly announced. It’s hard to pull off a surprise action with dozens of reporters and photographers milling around.

 Media feeding frenzy at the action. Photo: Petermann/GJEP

After ten or so minutes, a powerful young voice yelled “mic check!” and the action began. A young man from 350.org was giving a call and response “mic check” message and initiating chants like “we stand with Africa,” “We want a real deal,” and “Listen to the people, not the polluters.” Many of the youth participants wore “I [heart] KP” t-shirts–following the messaging strategy of the ‘big greens,’ who were bound and determined to salvage something of the Kyoto Protocol global warming agreement, regardless of whether or not it would help stop climate catastrophe.

The messaging and choreography of the action were tightly controlled for the first hour or so by the male leadership. The growing mass of youth activists and media moved slowly down the cramped corridor toward the main plenary room and straight into a phalanx of UN security who stood as a human blockade, hands tightly gripped into the belts of the officers on either side. I found myself wedged between the group and the guards.

Pink badges (parties) and orange badges (media) were allowed through the barricade, but yellow badges (NGOs) were strictly forbidden–unless one happened to be one of the ‘big green’ male leadership. They miraculously found themselves at various times on either side of the barricade. The Greenpeace banners, I might add, were also displayed on the non-blockaded side of security, providing a perfect visual image for the media: Greenpeace banners in front of the UN Security, who were in front of the mass of youth. This was another indication that the “action” was not what it appeared to be. No, the rising up of impassioned youth taking over the hallway of the climate convention to demand just and effective action on climate change was just a carefully calculated ‘big green’ photo op.

There was wild applause when Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace (at that moment on the protester side of the security barricade) introduced the Party delegate from The Maldives–one of the small island nations threatened with drowning under rising sea levels. He addressed the crowd with an impassioned plea for help. Later, the official delegate from Egypt was introduced and, with a great big grin, gave his own mic check about the power youth in his country had had in making great change. He was clearly thrilled to be there in that throbbing mass of youthful exuberance.

Youth confront security during the protest. Photo: Petermann/GJEP

But as with many actions that bring together such a diversity of people (youth being a very politically broad constituency), at a certain point the action diverged from the script. The tightly controlled messaging of the pre-arranged mic checks, began to metamorphose as youth began to embody the spirit of the occupy movement, from which the “mic check” had been borrowed. New people began calling mic check and giving their own messages. Unsanctioned messages such as “World Bank out of climate finance,” “no REDD,” “no carbon markets” and “occupy the COP” began to emerge as repeated themes. At first, the action’s youth leaders tried to counter-mic check and smother these unauthorized messages, but eventually they were overwhelmed.

After a few hours of this, with no sign of the energy waning, the “big green” male leadership huddled with security to figure out what to do with this anarchistic mass. Kumi, or it might have been Will Bates from 350.org, explained to the group that they had talked it over with UN security and arranged for the group to be allowed to leave the building and continue the protest just outside, where people could yell and protest as long as they wished.

This is a typical de-escalation tactic. A group is led out of the space where it is effectively disrupting business as usual to a space where it can easily be ignored in exchange for not being arrested. In my experience, this is a disempowering scenario where energy rapidly fizzles, and people leave feeling deflated.

I feared that this group of youth, many of whom were taking action for the first or second time in their lives, and on an issue that was literally about taking back control over their very future, would leave feeling disempowered. I could feel the frustration deep in my belly. We need to be building a powerful movement for climate justice, not using young people as pawns in some twisted messaging game.

There was clear dissention within the protest. People could feel the power of being in that hallway and were uneasy with the option of leaving. Finally I offered my own ‘mic check.’ “While we are inside,” I explained, “the delegates can hear us. If we go outside, we will lose our voice.”

But the ‘big green’ patriarchy refused to cede control of the action to the youth. They ratcheted up the pressure. ”If you choose to stay,” Kumi warned, “you will lose your access badge and your ability to come back into this climate COP and any future climate COPs.” Knowing this to be patently untrue, I cut him off. “That’s not true! I was de-badged last year and here I am today!” This took Kumi completely by surprise–that someone was challenging his authority (he was clearly not used to that)–and he mumbled in reply, “well, that’s what I was told by security.”

Crowd scene in the hallway. Photo: Langelle

Will Bates, who was on the “safe” side of the security line, explained that UN security was giving the group “a few minutes to think about what you want to do.” While the group pondered, Will reminded the group that anyone who refused to leave would lose their badge and their access to the COP. “That’s not letting us make up our minds!” yelled a young woman.

I felt compelled to give the group some support. I mic checked again, “there is nothing to fear/ about losing your badge,” I explained, adding, “Being debadged/ is a badge of honor.”

After the question was posed about how many people planned to stay, and dozens of hands shot up, the pressure was laid on thicker. This time the ‘big green’ patriarchy warned that if we refused to leave, not only would we be debadged, UN security would escort us off the premises and we would be handed over to South African police and charged with trespass.

At that a young South African man stood up and defiantly raised his voice. “I am South African. This is my country. If you want to arrest anyone for trespass, you will start with me!” he said gesturing at his chest. Then he said, “I want to sing Shosholoza!”

Shosholoza is a traditional South African Folk song that was sung in a call and response style by migrant workers that worked in the South African mines.

The group joined the young South African man in singing Shosholoza and soon the entire hallway was resounding with the powerful South African workers’ anthem.

Once consensus was clearly established to do an occupation and anyone that did not want to lose his or her badge had left, Kumi piped up again. “Okay. I have spoken with security and this what we are going to do. Then he magically walked through UN security blockade. “We will remove our badge (he demonstrated this with a grand sweeping gesture pulling the badge and lanyard over his head) and hand it over to security as we walk out of the building. We do not want any confrontation.”

That really made me mad. The top down, male-dominated nature of the action and the coercion being employed to force the youth activists to blindly obey UN security was too much. I’d been pushed around by too many authoritarian males in my life to let this one slide, so I mic checked again. “We just decided/ that we want to stay/ to make our voices heard/ and now we are being told/ how to leave!” “I will not hand my badge to security. I am going to sit right here and security can take it.”

And I sat down cross-legged on the floor, cursing my luck for choosing to wear a skirt that day. Gradually, about a dozen other people–mostly youth–sat down with me, including Keith and Lindsey–two of our Global Justice Ecology Project youth contingent.

But still the male leadership wouldn’t let it go. I’ve never seen activists so eager to do security’s work for them. “Okay,” Kumi said, “but when security taps you on the shoulder, you have to get up and leave with them. We are going to be peaceful, we don’t want any confrontation.” Sorry, but in my experience, civil disobedience and non-compliance are peaceful acts. And I find it impossible to imagine that meaningful change will be achieved without confrontation.

At some point from the floor, I decided I should explain to the crowd who I was. I mic checked. “I come from the United States/ which has historically been/ one of the greatest obstacles/ to addressing climate change. I am sitting down/ in the great tradition/ of civil disobedience/ that gave women the right to vote/ won civil rights/ and helped stop the Vietnam War.”

 Karuna Rana (left), sits in at the action. Photo: Langelle

About that time, a young woman named Karuna Rana, from the small island of Mauritius, off the southeast coast of Africa, sat down in front of me and spoke up. “I am the only young person here from Mauritius. These climate COPs have been going for seventeen years! And what have they accomplished? Nothing! My island is literally drowning and so I am sitting down to take action–for my people and for my island. Something must be done.” Her voice, from such a small person, was powerful indeed. An hour or two later, while standing in the chilly rain at the Speakers’ Corner across the street after we’d been ejected from the COP, she told me that it was my action that had inspired her to sit down. “You inspired me by standing up to the people that wanted us to leave.” I told her that her bravery had similarly inspired me.

Kumi led a group of protesters down the hall, handing his badge to UN security. Those of us who remained sitting on the floor were next approached by security. One by one, people were tapped on the shoulder and stood up to walk out and be debadged. Keith, who was sitting next to me said, “Are you going to walk out?” “No.”

Security tapped us and said, “C’mon, you have to leave.” “No.” Keith and I linked arms.

Then the security forcibly removed all of the media that remained. I watched Orin, who was taking photos of the event, as well as Amy Goodman and the crew of Democracy Now! be forced up the stairs and out of view. As they were removed, Amy yelled, “What’s your name?!” “Anne Petermann. I am the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.”

I was familiar with the unpleasant behavior of UN security from previous experiences, and so I was somewhat unnerved when security removed the media. Earlier in the week a UN security officer had shoved Orin’s big Nikon into his face when he was photographing the officer ejecting one of the speakers from our GJEP press conference who was dressed as a clown. Silly wigs are grounds for arrest at the UN.

One of the reasons that media have become targets of police and military violence all over the world is because they document the behavior of the authorities, and sometimes, depending on their intentions, the authorities don’t want their behavior documented. Not knowing what UN security had in store for us, I decided I should let the remaining people in the hall–who could no longer see Keith and I since we were sitting and completely surrounded by security–know what was happening. I explained at the top of my voice that that the media had been forced to leave, and encouraged anyone with a camera to come and take photos. The photos on this blog post by Ben Powless of Indigenous Environmental Network are some of the only ones I know of that document our arrests.

Keith Brunner is hauled away by UN security during the sit-in outside of the plenary at the UN Climate Convention. Photo: Ben Powless/ IEN

They took Keith first, hauling him away with officers grabbing him by his legs and under his arms and rushing him into the plenary hall–which, we found out, had been earlier emptied of all of the UN delegates so the racket outside would not disturb them. I was then loaded into a wheelchair by two female security guards. A male guard grabbed my badge and roughly yanked it, tearing it free from the lanyard, “I’ll take that,” he sneered. I was then unceremoniously wheeled through the empty plenary, past the security fence and into the blocked off street, where I was handed over to South African police.

“They’re all yours,” said the UN security who then left. The South African police discussed what to do with us. “What did they do?” asked one. “They sat down.” “Sat down?” “Yes, sat down. They are environmentalists or something.” “Let’s just take them out of here.” So I was loaded into the police van, where Keith sat waiting, and we were driven around the corner, past the conference center and to the “Speakers’ Corner” across the street, where the outside “Occupy COP 17” activists had been having daily general assemblies during the two weeks of the climate conference. “Hey, that’s cool,” said Keith. “We got a free ride to the Speakers’ Corner.”

I was told later that Kumi was the first arrested and had been led out of the building in plastic handcuffs, offering a beautiful Greenpeace photo op for the media. I rolled my eyes. “You’ve GOT to be kidding me. They used HANDcuffs??? Gimme a break.” More theater. Greenpeace is nothing if not good at working the media with theatrical drama such as pre-orchestrated arrests. Kumi may not have wanted to lose his badge, but he made the most of it. At the Speakers’ Corner following our arrests, the media flocked to him while I stood on the sidelines. The articles about the protest in many of the papers the next day featured Kumi speaking at the protest, Greenpeace banners prominent. The fact that it was a COP 17 occupation that he had repeatedly attempted to squelch somehow did not make it into the news.

I lost a lot of respect for Greenpeace that day.

But many of the youth also saw how it went down. I was thanked by several participants in the protest for standing up to the ‘big green’ male leadership and defending the right to occupy the space. I, myself was deeply grateful for the opportunity to do something that felt actually meaningful in that lifeless convention center where the most powerful countries of the world played deadly games with the future.

http://climate-connections.org/2011/12/16/showdown-at-the-durban-disaster-challenging-the-big-green-patriarchy/

Tar Sands Action & the Paralysis of a Movement | Part I

Tar Sands Action & the Paralysis of a Movement

Part one of an eight part series.

Published September 15, 2011by Political Context: http://bit.ly/oxDG33 and Canadians for Action on Climate Change: http://bit.ly/nyA0kB

by Cory Morningstar

Only Death Will Save Us

“Only death will save us. Mediocrity begets mediocrity. It is tragic that the conditioning of civil society is so deep – that most everything relevant beating them on the head is received as nothing more than a cool breeze.” — Harold One Feather

What are the underlying motivations and loyalties of the social and political forces involved in the Tar Sands Action campaign, and, indeed, the bourgeois environmental movement as a whole? In our inability to avert an oncoming ecological collapse, coupled with what appears to be an insurmountable climate genocide, we must understand how the forces we seek to resist constantly absorb opposition, through compromised NGOs and other means. Never underestimate the strategies and mechanisms of the global elites for retaining their power, control, and domination of Earth and her inhabitants.

Cognitive dissonance compromises environmental activism. We must open our eyes, even if the ugliness is difficult to accept. Many seemingly credible activists who are paid to “lead” environmental organizations cannot admit to themselves that they have caved into the very systems they purport to oppose; there is no acceptable excuse for such lack of judgement and foresight – for if it is ignorance, it is willful. It is no longer singular individuals who create and shape our systems. Instead, the plutocrats construct and mould the systems and sustain illusory movements. As the majority of environmentalists and citizens who support such movements are not fully conscious of the role they play in propping up the industrial machine, this article attempts to inspire the courage to break free, re-organize, and move forward.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” — Elwyn Brooks White

Remix version 2011:

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to enjoy the world and a desire to tear down the systemic structure that is destroying the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

Prologue — Lambs to the Slaughter

“As with any pathologically-based manifestation, hegemonic pacifism in advanced capitalist contexts proves itself supremely resistant – indeed, virtually impervious – to mere logic and moral suasion.” — Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology, 1984

Holding hands, singing songs, and forming circles has little effect beyond making individuals feel good about themselves. Of course, this is the main objective of the mainstream NGO: to appeal to one of our ugliest human traits – that of individualism, which our toxic culture celebrates. Such niceties also serve as fine fodder for media and for rounding up donations.

To have falsely promoted what was at best an educational campaign (which did not speak to the root causes of climate change) as “civil disobedience” was disingenuous, if not fraudulent. Yet, the NGOs continue to promote their publicity stunt under this guise. And it worked. Branding agencies and marketing executives will take note of this latest “success.” In truth, this (in)action merely succeeded in having seduced the public into a false belief that this system, into which violence is inherently built, can be overcome with moral suasion. At the eleventh hour, campaigning to build upon such a notion is not only incredibly deceiving – it is incredibly dangerous.

Organizations both within and outside of the nonprofit-industrial complex continue to unabashedly further the idea that passiveness, obedience and submissiveness to the corporatized state – which has made the conscious decision to allow billions to suffer and die – is the only moral choice. They insist that we must dismiss reality (that the Earth and her inhabitants are being killed all around us) while they dismiss the fact that moral suasion cannot stop this. They insist that we embrace their delusion at any cost. Tragically, such a suicidal position only serves to further weaken our own position as it strengthens the position of the corporate state tenfold. Like lambs, we are being led to the slaughter with stops all along the way for refreshments and photo ops. It’s the final step in the art of annihilation that the NGOs have adherently become so skilled at. The puppet masters are shaking in their boots, not with fear but with derisive laughter.

Those who know better, who choose to lend legitimacy to such organizations by way of supporting or promoting such grand spectacles of illusion, are in fact biting their own foot. Some of the statements heard echoing off the walls of delusion are “But where would we go?” and “Yes, I know, I agree, but it’s better than nothing.” Yet subduing and disempowering citizens is not better than nothing. And silence is complicity.

A “better than nothing” approach for a campaign such as Tar Sands Action is deeply flawed. By supporting / promoting compromised organizations and/or leaders of such compromised organizations, one provides a tract of general legitimacy for those who continue to prop up the malignant, capitalistic system and guarantee planetary demise while undermining the grassroots. Right or wrong, when we vocalize support or otherwise endorse such sanitized “actions” and the players behind them, we are seen as sanctioning them on the whole, and it makes walking the fine line of organizing an effective movement much more difficult.

Directing thousands of well-intentioned citizens to follow a false god with the last name of McKibben – whose organization (350.org/1Sky) is funded, overseen and partnered with the planet’s most powerful corporations and families – only ensures that society will be led to believe in the false illusion of “green capitalism” – what the corporate enviros have termed “climate wealth.” In McKibben’s own words: “Greed Has Helped Destroy the Planet – Maybe Now It Can Help Save It.” A vision based on rejecting ethics while further nurturing one of the worst human traits is one that any sane person working towards a just world must automatically reject. A vision based on the very same system that has now brought us to the precipice is a fool’s game, a deadly game that flies in the face of logic.

Many of the corporate greens can demonstrate strong points in regard to many issues – this is of little surprise as it is imperative for them to retain a level of credibility. Furthermore, they have millions of dollars available for specialized reports, which makes it easy. Of course, rarely will they campaign on such reports when they are released (quietly in most cases) to the public. We have to accept the fact that much of the environmental movement is now funded primarily with Rockefeller Family money (McKibben himself now states this proudly after a somewhat embarrassing incident on Climate Challenge TV) and corporate funnelled foundation money, which defines (dilutes) success in increments that, in the grand scheme of things, mean little. We can’t tolerate another 6,000 mW of coal active in FL, for example, but that is a victory to the Beyond Coal campaign because they managed to stop another 13K mW. In the next cycle, industry will again ask for 20K mW, and will get 5-8k mW. And that will be labeled another victory. At which point are these victories pyrrhic?

Eyes Wide Shut – Death by Denial

April 2011 Statement by the Indigenous Women of the Movement:

We felt that this was not an issue of semantics, that this was deliberately being taught to our peoples, our youth and our communities by the interests of government and corporations, who we began finding out more and more, were actually helping to fund well-paid activists who ran well-funded workshops, training and retreats on “non-violence” and “civil disobedience.” Some of this was traced back to funding which came from “ethical oil” strategies, and that’s when we started realizing the sickening accuracy of our premonitions…. We believe in honouring the dreams of women, in freeing ourselves from judgement and bias, decolonizing our minds and our hearts. We believe in being action-oriented, not paper-oriented. We don’t need Canada’s approval or consent, and we don’t need government or corporate funding. We have always had what we will always need: the Kaianerenkowa, the Medicine Wheel, our teachings, our clan systems, our languages, our ceremonies…. We can empower ourselves, we don’t need to wait for an NGO or a suit to tell us how to feel empowered. We aren’t the ones who need “non violence training”; the ones who need to stop using violence are the ones in power: police, government and corporations.

In the article “A Tar Sands Partnership Agreement in the Making?” social justice activist and journalist Macdonald Stainsby writes: “Many other foundations – most but not all American – now play the same game of social manipulation in the environmental field. Foundations such as Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Hewlett have not only entered into the fray in a major way, in the case of the tar sands campaigns, they have collaborated with the Pew to take social manipulation to a new level.”

What the manipulated public does not understand, is the fact that, while these environmental groups have had years to unite behind a sane, comprehensive, unified energy policy that would have included opposition to tar sands and oil shale, and other false solutions, they have done nothing to this effect.

The money powers (who fund our “movement”) have decided that clean, zero-carbon, everlasting energy will not take over from fossil fuel energy or even increase its market share (see International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2010). The money powers do this consciously, in the face of evidence that the failure to make such a transition spells the end of the world. The insane logic behind such policy is that, as fossil fuel resources run out, corporations will increase profits. The devastating consequences for the biosphere are ignored.

We are hence warned once again that the campaigns dominating our movement are nothing more than impromptu, “whatever is popular at the moment,” laissez-faire, feel-good public relations escapades. This is not a movement that has any chance of staving off guaranteed climate genocide on top of multiple global crises, all happening simultaneously.

Corporate environmentalism is merely a movement designed to make us feel good today – much like capitalism – while killing us slowly.

From climate change, to the BP oil spill, then onto the tar sands bandwagon, these symbolic campaigns are orchestrated and echoed throughout the faux environmental movement.

Is the Left Suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?

 

Hooray for Change!

“Somehow we need to get back the President we thought we elected in 2008. We are just now finishing up the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century. We won’t attack the President. We will only hold him to the standard he set in 2008. We have been arrested for two weeks straight, but without bitterness or hate. Only joy and resolve.” — Bill McKibben

To believe Obama or the state will be moved by moral suasion as bombs are dropped on occupied countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya while covert U.S. wars are underway in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia – murdering untold numbers of men, women and children – all in the name of resource exploitation (under the egregious auspices of democracy and liberation) is nothing more than delusion bordering on insanity.

Let’s break this down.

“Somehow we need to get back the President we thought we elected in 2008.”

First of all, the president that the people “thought” they elected in 2008 has proven himself (beyond a doubt) a mere voicebox for the plutocracy and a bona fide war criminal.

“We are just now finishing up the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century.”

Secondly, the Tar Sands Action must not be considered true civil disobedience when it was sanctioned by the state, while demonstrating to the state absolute compliance. It is only a massive withdrawal of compliance that actually has any possibility of even slight effect. Civil disobedience draws its strength from open confrontation and noncooperation – not from evasion or subterfuge. History has proven this time and time again. Demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of citizens have failed in a world of corporate-dominated government. Case in point would be the protests against the illegal invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and Britain. This was the largest global civil disobedience in our history. Citizens numbered in the millions. Yet the occupation continues to this day. As citizens, we can only retain as much power as we refuse to relinquish to the state. If one insists on calling the Tar Sands Action in Washington, D.C. a true civil disobedience, it is a sad reflection on what the meaning and intent of true civil disobedience has been reduced to.

Third, to call 1253 trained protesters (with the exception of the first day, all who were arrested over the course of the two weeks were released within an hour or two – approximately 90 people per day including the elite “leaders” and staff of a slew of mainstream NGOs) “the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century” is delusional. There have been protests against globalization in the U.S. in which citizens numbered in the thousands.

“We won’t attack the President. We will only hold him to the standard he set in 2008.”

Fourth point – citizens are extremely fortunate to have John Pilger and others who will attack the president openly, as the public needs and deserves to hear the truth. Why would any rational person hold Obama to a fantasy standard, when we know, based on his actions to date and our knowledge of corporate dominance, that Obama will never meet any standard that could stop the ongoing ecocide?

“We have been arrested for two weeks straight, but without bitterness or hate. Only joy and resolve.”

Fifth point – We should be bitter, pissed off, furious and sickened that our planet is being killed and that our children are going to not live long enough to reach old age. The myth that emotions such as bitterness, hate and anger are destructive prevents us from trusting our own intuition based on our life experiences. As we stand on the precipice, bitterness, hate and anger are all normal feelings upon coming to the full realization that the corporate state has chosen economic growth over life itself. Those who protect it are deserving of our bitterness and hatred. And if you’re not angry that our planet is being raped before our eyes – then perhaps you have forgotten what love is.

“In the run-up to the UN climate change conference in December 09, an advertising industry initiative, ‘Hopenhagen,’ was supported by Coca-Cola, DuPont and BMW, among others. Clearly, some organisations do not grasp the concept of irony. Nevertheless, more than six million people from around the world signed up. Hamilton wonders when such well-meaning individuals will begin to think ‘I have been doing the right thing for years, but the news about global warming just keeps getting worse.’ In other words, when will the dreadful reality hit home?

 

“…Clinging to hopefulness becomes a means of forestalling the truth. Sooner or later we must respond, and that means allowing ourselves to enter a phase of desolation and hopelessness, in short to grieve.

 

“…Painful though it is to do so, we come to terms with grief and loss. We mourn, we feel periods of shock and anger; slowly, we adjust. Adjustments may be unhealthy – denial, as we have seen, or apathy or nihilism. A healthy adjustment involves accepting the loss, making it part of who we are and what we will become.” — Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change

Of course McKibben (and his disciples, whom he apparently believes he speaks for) have no bitterness or hate, only joy and resolve as their greatest sacrifice (by only a handful) was 48 hours in jail while the rest paid a hundred bucks and were home in time to watch themselves on the 4 o’clock news. One can appreciate the good intentions of citizens who are no doubt desperate to somehow make a difference. Yet at the same time it must be acknowledged that we are becoming completely out of touch with reality if we choose to lend the words “sacrifice” and “courage” to educational outreach media blitz campaigns.

One must wonder if McKibben would feel such “hope” for the president if his family was murdered in one of the occupied countries Obama continues to pummel with bombs. One must wonder if McKibben would be such a kind and kindred spirit to Obama if he was on the other end of the stick of industrialized capitalism – working in a mine developing lung cancer in order to feed his children one meal a day. If the Left is buying into this charade – and it appears they are – we must the conclude that the emasculated Left is indeed suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. (Source: Wikipedia)

Video: Obama celebrates Earth Day. (Running time: 0:44)

The Choice

“In concrete terms, this means … civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.” — Cornel West, Dr. King Weeps From His Grave, New York Times, 26 August 2011

It’s time we remove our comfortable cocoons of self-righteousness and moral superiority and fully recognize / acknowledge that we are all participating in a culture where violence is now inherently built into the system. Thus we all have blood on our hands and there can be no denying this fact.

The movement must choose for what type of future we wish to fight. A future of the people, by the people, for the people? Or a future of the corporations (i.e. corporations via foundations), by the corporations, for the corporations (i.e., commodification of the last remaining elements of nature; continued violence until the remaining elements of nature are destroyed, or mass extinction by way of climate genocide a.k.a. green capitalism)?

We must choose one. We cannot have both.

Choosing the first provides a future for all life our Earth graciously sustains. It will not be given. It must be taken.

Further, the future we resolve to claim must be articulated.

Meanwhile in the real world of activism (being eclipsed by the state-sanctioned Tar Sands Action and its negotiated arrests), more Amazon Rainforest activists receive death threats as assassinations escalate. Closer to home, in Messina, New York, on 11 August 2011, Larry Thompson, a Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) man was arrested. Thompson, “sick of waiting for a General Motors Superfund site cleanup that will never happen,” took a backhoe to a toxic landfill site. “Thompson drove onto the notoriously polluted mound, scooped up contaminated soil and loaded it into railroad cars that were waiting to cart away debris from the GM building that is being torn down in the wake of bankruptcy proceedings…. Larry was given this order by the Clan Mother. She directed him to do this. So he had to do it. No matter what, she is the supreme law of the land.” Of course, the criminals that poisoned the land (i.e. those responsible for the violence) continue to walk free.

A Very Civil Civil Disobedience

“I believe it’s a crime for anyone being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself.” — Malcolm X

“When, in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob, and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.” — Emma Goldman

20 August 2011: The article “A Very Civil Civil Disobedience” said it all. Anything other than submissive obedience to the police state is not to be considered “civil.” The word “civil” is loaded. How “civilized” is a society whose very existence is dependent upon the violent and relentless assault on the planet, while simultaneously exploiting the struggling classes?

Organizing citizens to get themselves peacefully arrested in order to “appeal to the better nature of Obama” are based on a delusional strategy. Appeals to Obama and other members of the ruling class serve to distract us from the unwillingness of states to change their practices without being forced to do so. Mainstream environmentalists’ calls for “rolling sit-ins” (10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. daily) and other passive tactics would be considered by many to be an insult to activists throughout the world who have fought against state and police repression with their very lives.

Who knew you would have to RSVP to the “revolution,” agree to the conditions, be trained by God himself, and that a dress code would be in effect? On 28 August 2011, a participant to the Tar Sands Action sent out a mass email to her lists. Within the communiqué she states, “The action was relatively simple, to be honest, and I don’t feel super brave for ‘risking arrest’ when it was a simple procedure and a $100 fine. (A ‘post and forfeit’ thing, similar to a traffic violation, not a misdemeanor or anything that would be likely to taint a record). It was fun to ride in the paddy wagon with 15 other awesome activists, kinda like a sauna. The cops were nice to us and some of us helped educate them on why we were there. (The organizers are encouraging everyone to cooperate and pay the fine, to seem dignified in the media, and to keep the story on the pipeline rather than on ‘us vs. them’ with the parks police. Yet they did say that, if we’re not listened to here, perhaps for a future action the strategy may be different.)”

And although the McKibben show pumps out headlines loaded with words such as “terrified”, “scared out of my mind”, “risk arrest”, and on and on, Darryl Hannah (the ultimate triumph for any campaign in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture) topped them all off, proclaiming “Sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice your freedom for a greater freedom.”?These words/descriptions are so over-the-top (to be kind), they are ludicrous. Let’s be honest – most of us cannot even begin to comprehend what real sacrifice means. Here is another much more honest commentary posted on September 1, 2011:

“Getting arrested in the Tar Sands Action was fun and it felt like the right and responsible thing to do. The scariest part of it was navigating the D.C. Metro. No, that’s not exactly true. It was the anticipation of navigating the D.C. Metro that terrified me, not the actual navigation. … The female officer took my ID but stuffed my money back in my bra. Then they took my mug shot, handed me my ID and squeezed me into the paddy wagon with Kidder. It was very hot and close in there but we joked around with the cute police officers, told stories and had a pretty good time…. I was released at 12:46 p.m.” (The author notes she was arrested at 11:33 a.m.)

From the Tar Sands Action website:

Question: Does this demonstration have a permit, or are we by attending breaking a regulation?

Answer: As long as you are on the sidewalk in front of the White House and keep moving you aren’t breaking any regulations. The action organizers have applied for permits to be on the sidewalk in front of the White House for the entirety of the action.

Question: What should we do if there are opponents trying to disrupt the action or people who start to act outside of the agreed Action Guidelines?

Answer: Dealing with inappropriate escalation (or confrontation from our opponents) is going to be a main duty of the support team that will be on site for every action. They’ll be ready to talk with folks who seem to be getting out of hand and to help direct energy to the more strategic, productive parts of the action.

Did Rosa Parks obtain a permit from the state before she decided she would sit at the front of the bus? Why do citizens choose to submit to an authority who that tells us / convinces us that we must seek approval to stand on a public sidewalk, a sidewalk that has been paid for by the people themselves?

State Sanctioned “Civil Disobedience” & Propaganda Wars

20 August 2011: The article “Tar-sands protesters in jail longer than expected” states:

In negotiations with the police prior to the action that began on Saturday, the police were very clear that what would happen after people were arrested was the vast majority would get what’s called “post and forfeit,” where you put up $100, get released from jail after several hours, and you don’t have to come back again. It’s basically like a traffic ticket.

The article continues:

But this is not what they did. Instead, after arresting the first day’s 70 people, they decided to hold most of them, all those not from within a 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C., in jail until a Monday afternoon arraignment. This works out to 48 or more hours in jail before being released. [Emphasis added]

We can sense that the author is appalled the police did not honor their pre-arranged deal. He appears to be outraged that middle class citizens were inconvenienced for 48 hours or more. The author continues that another “action” earlier this year ran into a similar situation where “despite many weeks of communication between the protest organizers and various state, county and local government officials, agreements to camp overnight were revoked.” Such comments reveal how state-sanctioned “civil disobedience” has become normalized. But no worries, the author plans to hope and pray that the tar sands “action” will “rise to the occasion” – whatever that means in real life.

In a true act of civil disobedience, one adopts a position of absolute non-cooperation with the state, the perpetrator of both violence and oppression. No prior negotiations. No obedience.

Adding further Orwellian bizarreness, it was announced in a media advisory issued 1st September 2011, by the Indigenous Environmental Network what would occur on the following day: “Native Americans and First Nations to be arrested at White House protesting TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Recognizing that this protest involved several hundred well-intentioned individuals looking for direction and a way to make a difference, the Washington, D.C. “civil disobedience” cannot truly be considered disobedient when it has been organized with the very state they are supposedly resisting. Prior to the action, the organizers fully engaged / conversed with police in order to find out exactly what risk they would be susceptible to in undertaking such a protest in Washington, D.C. en masse. We see this over and over again. It is only once it is established that the “approved” action will be most benevolent with trivial consequences (no real risk) that the privileged classes then build upon such campaigns. The ruling class does not fear such campaigns in the least.

Yes … the state will undoubtedly be so moved by our arguments and our good behaviour that it will voluntarily, someday soon, overthrow itself and join us in a circle of sing-songs.

States only fear acts of civil disobedience and direct actions when they threaten to disrupt the system through a demonstration of overwhelming strength. They do not respond to appeals to morality or guilt. When a protest is controlled, sanctioned and supported by the state, the action will not be feared, because the state will never fear what it can control. Planting seeds of love is a beautiful thing, yet on their own, in the absence of struggle and true sacrifice, such seeds of love have never won any revolutions.

Tar Sands Action Civil Obedience Campaign

Naomi Klein under state sanctioned arrest.

Naomi Klein should be mortified at promoting and participating in such a staged event – as she knows better. In her book “No Logo: Taking Aim at Brand Bullies” (2000), Klein remarks: “Since the days when Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies infused self-conscious absurdity to their ‘happenings,’ political protest had lapsed into a ritualized affair, following a fairly unimaginative grid of repetitive chants and scripted police confrontation.”

Nine Nobel Peace Laureates including “Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama” have written to President Obama, urging him to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. A media release states that “the opposition to the pipeline has surged in recent weeks as more than 1,250 people were arrested in 14 days of sit-ins at the White House – perhaps the largest wave of civil disobedience ever for an environmental cause in the U.S…. In asking you to make this decision we recognize the thousands of Americans who risked arrest to protest in front of the White House between August 20th and September 3rd. These brave individuals have spoken movingly about experiencing the power of nonviolence in that time.”

And there is the language, the sound bites, highlighted yet again to further pacify our public as our multiple crises escalate: references to religion and the “power of non-violence” when speaking to civil disobedience and arrests. McKibben and friends had to have recognized and taken solace in the fact that the public is severely naïve to have even attempted to pass off the state-sanctioned orchestrated event as true civil disobedience.

What kind of civil disobedience is it where the police themselves carefully fold up protesters’ banners (with weapons completely exposed) and collect the protest signs prior to the arrests? It is telling that the “Park Police” were placed in charge of the daily 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. rolling sit-ins. It appears that the only exception was the initial week-end, commencing Saturday, August 20th, the first day of arrests (which included McKibben) when the D.C. police arrested the protesters and held the non-resident arrestees until Monday.

It also appears that no one other than McKibben and participants from his group ever went to jail. (A media bonanza that legitimized McKibben). All other trained arrestees for the remaining 2 weeks were police-escorted (motorcycle escorts with sirens wailing) to the Anacostia station of the Park Police where they simply paid a $100 fine. During training, the organizers instructed the participants to pay the fine rather than opt to go to jail – stating that otherwise, the police would get angry and treat subsequent arrestees less courteously. The multiple references comparing this “civil disobedience” to the sacrifice and bravery demonstrated during the civil rights movement, as well as references to Martin Luther King throughout this campaign, are abominable. In reality, in direct contrast to civil disobedience, this “action” must be considered an act of passive civil obedience.

How is it that North America has become so completely removed from reality? How is it that such weak and cowardly leadership – so out of touch with what is happening all over the world – can be considered noble, rather than what it really is – an embarrassment?

The photos below from the Tar Sands Actions Flickr account tell a story far more revealing than anything anyone can attempt to reveal in a piece of writing. The intention was to include photos of people smiling and laughing when placed under arrest. Unfortunately it is not possible, simply because there are too many that fall under this description. In fact, this action may be the happiest and most enjoyable “civil disobedience” to have ever been presented to the public. Let’s have a look:

Organized! Police set up a convenient processing station on the site.

Protesters were trained to march up to the front of the fence. The protesters lined up and were then adjusted by the organizers. Citizens were permitted to walk into the front area, however, they were not permitted to remain in this area as it was reserved for tourists and media to take photographs. The police gave three warnings for the protesters to leave or be arrested. Citizens who did not wish to be arrested left the area. It was at this point the police assisted in carefully gathering up the signs and banners and placed barricades at all sides of the arrestees (the back is a fence). Processing was done on site (see above). Then the arrestees were driven for approximately ten minutes to the Anacostia station of the Park Police where they finalized paperwork, paid a $100 fine and were released (with the exception of August 20th). The yellow tape reads ‘Police Scene – Do Not Cross’.

Confronting the state.

A policeman taking photos.

Policeman folds banner with much care.The officer, apparently under extreme duress and fear, has forgotten he has a gun on his side belt in reach of the “resistance.”

A 350 supporter is arrested by the Park Police. The first people arrested, including McKibben, were turned over to the D.C. police who unexpectedly kept them 48 hours (as this is not what the organizers had negotiated in advance). Following this initial arrest it was then managed by the Park Police who were apparently very nice. They handcuffed and took the trained protesters to a tent where they were frisked. The arrestees were then brought inside the tent where their photo was taken. They were then given a number and placed on a bus or wagon. (The buses were air conditioned and the wagons were hot). Arrestees were then police escorted to a station where the Park Police removed the plastic zip handcuffs, checked ID once more, took the money, and then sent the released protestors off towards the Metro. We can only hope the approx. $130,000 raised by the police, goes to the park to assist with the trees dying from polluting ozone. We can only assume the police escort was necessary in order to prevent any real protesters from trying to beat some sense into them.

Image of Park Police.

Everyone is in great spirits including the Park Police.

Compare the Tar Sands Action to civil disobedience in other countries who are being brutally oppressed and exploited by the violent system we participate in on a daily basis. Apathy in the face of injustice is also a form of violence.

Photo above: An indigenous woman holds her child while trying to resist the advance of Amazonas state police who were expelling the woman and some 200 other members of the Landless Movement from a privately-owned tract of land on the outskirts of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, March 11, 2008. The landless peasants tried in vain to resist the eviction with bows and arrows against police using tear gas and trained dogs, and were evicted from the land. (REUTERS/Luiz Vasconcelos-A Critica/AE)

Another real act of confronting and resisting the state is the G2O protests.

 

Two leaders of civil disobedience in North America: Betty Krawczyk and the late Pacheedaht warrior Harriet Nahanee/Tsibeotl (above).

Indoctrination

The Tar Sands Action organization, initiated and led by 350/1 Sky spokesperson Bill McKibben, actually has no plan in place for when the Keystone pipeline is approved by Obama. What escalating tactics will be pursued? What does the state have to fear?

Intoxicated by the idea that Obama can be won over with moral persuasion and reject a pipeline which promises billions in projected profits, and which will enable his crumbling empire to control North America’s oil this action is merely an educational campaign to draw attention to the appalling tar sands. And this is where the problem lies. Citizens are being led to believe that pre-negotiated civil disobedience – one that assures no sacrifice or risk will be endured by citizens as long as they abide by the rules of the state – can stop the violence being waged upon our shared Earth. Not so. We know it will not. It never has, and never will. (See Pacifism and Pathology, by Ward Churchill, 2007 Version.)

We cling to our deep belief of business-as-usual. The inertia makes this easy. The gradual systemic violence upon us is a gentle, slow kill. This month feels no different than last month, therefore everything must be okay. Our intense desire for non-disruption in a life we perceive as non-violent traps us into a false belief system.

The Commodification of Tim DeChristopher

The Commodification of Tim DeChristopher

The Commodification of Tim DeChristopher

by Gregory Vickrey

Tim DeChristopher, otherwise known as “Bidder 70” and any number of other marketable terms, was recently sentenced to two years in prison and required to pay a large sum in fines as retribution for his actions at an auction for 130,000 or so acres of land in Utah slated as near give-aways to oil and gas conglomerates.

Tim DeChristopher, in his own words, acknowledges quite specifically the reasons for his actions, and what he would like climate activists to do to support him and his effort that day in the auction house. It is essentially a two-word suggestion: join him.

Tim stood up that day to disrupt the system. Not to rant at it. Not to wave signs at it. Not to sing songs in front of a static building waiting for the police to politely escort him away.

Tim stood up that day to disrupt the system.

And prior to, during, and after the sentencing of Tim DeChristopher, what pitifully stands for a climate movement today did one thing in response. It commodified Tim DeChristopher, morphing him into nothing more than a cheerleader for various parades in front of the White House in DC; a fundraising campaign for those that seek to exploit the passion of those that care about the state of the world; a symbol for the cautious and weak approach to civil disobedience that always allows for a pat on the back, but never makes a dent in the system.

This is not new.

The commodification of real and actual heroes occurs on a regular basis in the environmental and civil justice movements. One can look to The Nature Conservancy, Alaska Wilderness League, Trout Unlimited, and The Wilderness Society and watch as they sketch plans to exploit Native Alaska communities (heroes) in order to produce nominal results in DC, all the while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate foundations and unknowing supporters and members.

Al Gore did it and continues to do it through the various incarnations of Re-Power America (has or had at least three other names, to date) by lifting up the home-grown hero who managed to put up a windmill in one rural backyard or another – all the while ignoring just how dirty his hands are from the sweatshops throughout Southeast Asia that have an Apple stamped on their product.

One can also look at all the fundraising and email pleas and letter writing campaigns for Bradley Manning, and how much traction those efforts have maintained. They raised money, sure. They generated letters, yes. And then what?

They moved on.

To the next protest.

The next big thing.

The coolest fad in print.

The next commodifiable hero.

Tim DeChristopher has not moved. He is still in jail.

Native Alaskans have not moved. Their way of life is still being raped and pillaged.

Bradley Manning has not moved. He is still in solitary.

Martin. Malcolm. Che.

Tim.

One can not really call him DeChristopher anymore. He is McChristopher ™ – commodified for the whorish efforts – fundraising and otherwise — of the greenwashing cabal, led by 350.org, Greenpeace, Global Exchange, Progressive Democrats of America, Rainforest Action Network (RAN)…

Tim.

Did they avail him a contract before placing the Ronald suit on him?

Tim.

Organizations, environmental or otherwise, should have focused on the action of disruption Tim employed, and called upon their minions to repeat it in substance and form. For example, activist Keith Farnish raised this with 350.org, suggesting they simply utilize their massive resources to post and share information on upcoming lease and land auctions, encouraging their thousands of supporters to jump in. Creativity, of course, can take the activists elsewhere, and into other disruptive realms. But this simple mechanism employs what Tim bravely did, en masse.

Of course, 350.org ignores this sort of potential. As does RAN. As does Greenpeace. As does any organization mentioned above (implicitly or explicitly), and then some. They prefer sanitized ‘action’ and fundraising campaigns – emotional appeals and sign-holding over disruption of the actual system. As they operate colloquially within the system, and directly benefit from it with foundational riches galore, one should not really expect them to powerfully respond to Tim’s call.

It is simply a matter of perpetuating the self for these entities.

September and October of 2011 include plans to prop up various heroes through the mechanism of commodification for several causes, marches, protests, and vigils. Old tactics to raise money and attention will be employed on the backs of these individual acts of strength with only the occasional symbolic gesture to disrupt the system in coordinated fashion. An insignificant number of arrests will be arranged. “Success” will be re-defined and diluted again, and again, and again.

And no one will have the guts to stand up and say, “Sorry, Tim. We are too afraid, too comfortable, and too embedded to join you.”

Sorry, Tim.

Gregory Vickrey is a consultant in the nonprofit and political arenas and may be reached at gregory.

350.org/1Sky:The Thinking Person’s Nightmare

SNICKERSNEE

350.org/1Sky:The Thinking Person’s Nightmare

April 11, 2011

by Lorna Salzman

Two items appeared on my screen a few days ago. The first announced the merger of 350.org and 1 Sky, two mass movement organizations claiming to be dedicated to stopping climate change. The first was founded by writer Bill McKibben. The second was long an affiliate of the first so an official merger is no surprise, nor is their Rockefeller funding. Nor is it a surprise that this merger won’t make any significant difference to resolution of the climate change issue. 350.org already unveiled its philosophical alliance with big business, overtly admitting what it had already done: abandoned grassroots resistance in order to curry favor with corporate money and power. Rest in peace, 350.org; we never believed in you anyway.

While 1Sky has taken some official positions on what needs to be done, 350.org never did. My open letter to McKibben in the May 3rd issue of The Nation last year laid out what I and other rather more militant activists decried: the refusal of the organization to articulate specific policies, taxes, incentives, and legislation to bring about their objective of reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations back down to 350 parts per million (they are now about 390 and growing). Of course one does not get corporate or foundation grants by espousing climate change solutions that rock the boat, hence the unfocused generalizations and political side-stepping characteristic of 350.org from the beginning.

For a short period McKibben and I exchanged emails, until he cut me off, with him defending the raising of public consciousness as the primary goal and dismissing the notion of political action and lobbying as essentially useless. Though McKibben is far from being a leftist, this position – throwing weight behind mass organizing, demonstrations and direct action – has long been an article of faith on the left. This is what suppressed the birth of an American Green Party for seventeen years and can be found routinely in leftist journals. It is the very old "movement vs. party" argument that the US Green Party underwent in the 1980s and which persists today on the left. Who comprises this movement and who makes policies are unanswered questions as are the definition of democracy, legitimacy and internal accountability. These fundamentals are very likely to be stumbling blocks to the mass movement envisioned by 350.org, if it ever can get off its duff and actually propose policies for the public to support. Meanwhile, they are on extended sabbatical from the fight.

Which brings me to the second related point: the accession of leftist journalist Naomi Klein to the board of 1 Sky. Her announcement of this explicitly rejects appeals to "the elites", that is, in Congress, in favor of mass organizing. So the leftist article of faith has now been officially incorporated into the pro-business doctrine of the new entity comprised of 350.org and 1 Sky. Some of her pronouncements are little more than rhetoric: attacking "stalling tactics like action plans that get serious only in 2020"…the losing strategy of "lobbying elites behind closed doors", followed by a determination to "build the kind of mass movement that politicians cannot afford to ignore". Unfortunately it is their electoral constituency that they cannot afford to ignore, but Klein and 350.org are pretending otherwise. A million-person march on Washington to demand a reduction down to 350.org translates into exactly nada unless those million people confront their elected officials in ways they cannot ignore. This is not now in the cards at 350.org‘s table, and even less so with corporate partners holding the aces.

Left unsaid here is a back story about the whole Democratic Party and its supposed liberal wing who supported ineffective and ill-advised energy legislation and the large, wealthy Washington-based groups who have pushed the grassroots groups out of the nest, monopolize foundation grants, and transfix the mass media into thinking they speak for the whole movement, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, who long ago abandoned their base constituency in order to curry favor with the elites Klein refers to. The other back story has been that the smaller and poorer groups have been crowded out but put up little resistance anyway. This became clear in the battle over cap and trade, where the Democrats seduced or bludgeoned many liberals into thinking this supremely capitalist tool had anything to do with reducing CO2 emissions. The opponents of cap and trade dithered too long and too late, as did McKibben himself, in exposing the real function and intent of cap and trade, which was to allow indefinite burning of coal so as to hamper energy efficiency, slow up a transition to renewables and make profits for brokers in the process.

How has it come about that the very thing that has allowed socially reactionary groups in this country to achieve notoriety has been adopted by groups purporting to oppose everything these retrogressive movements stand for? How has it become not only acceptable but praiseworthy to celebrate citizen apathy and civil disengagement from the political process? How has leftist cynicism been able to implant itself on middle of the road progressive movements, to the point where they can shamelessly boast about the inutility of involvement in politics and the reform of civil society institutions? And how can someone like Klein deplore the "deeply anti-democratic influence " of major polluters, while in effect telling the rest of us that we should abandon all avenues offering democratic participation and influence in favor of street theater and rallies?

There’s nothing like rejection of something you never tried.

Were these attitudes prevalent in the 1970s, it is likely that no environmental movement would have arisen. If one truly believes that governmental corruption is all-powerful to the point where one throws up one’s hands, only two stark choices remain: a stoic resignation to the forces of evil; or bomb throwing. Thus, 350.org/1Sky has literally gone on indefinite moral and intellectual vacation, where it will meet and commiserate with those on the left who can now say: See, we told you so; there is nothing else to do but rant and take to the streets. Thus, they are effectively shutting out the vast majority of people who long for strong principled leadership to push for political and electoral change.

The greens and left in this country have abandoned the climate change issue, not only for the above reasons but also because they have some peculiar and unsubstantiated notions about building coalitions of disparate interest groups to address comprehensive economic and political change. In this venture they will also meet head-on with other brick walls. But that’s another story for another time.

This just in:

Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben have just come out swinging and punching, calling for an invigorated mass movement of "bodies, passion, creativity"…..but to do what? They still won’t say.

What does this reluctance to announce an agenda mean? Does it mean they have none? Does it mean they are still figuring it out? Does it mean that they think that people shouting "stop global warming" is all we need? Or does it mean, as some of us think, that they are afraid to take strong positions commensurate with the threat out of fear of alienating their funders and the elites and the mass media?

Are they afraid to stand in front of us and say that we have to drastically and speedily reduce energy consumption across the board by raising prices through carbon taxes and an end to subsidies? Are they afraid to lead the mass movement they claim they have activated because they realize that reduced energy use on the scale required will profoundly affect the economy, changing the scale and purpose of production, jobs and consumption? In other words, are they afraid to look the capitalist growth society in the face, to say what they know full well must be done, and to do what is needed? Give us a clue, folks.

at 3:49 AM

http://neoenigma.blogspot.com/2011/04/snickersnee_11.html

Switch Your Lights ON for Earth Hour!

Once upon a time there was just greenwash: corporations and governments went to great lengths to convince a concerned public that they were doing everything they could to help the natural environment return to its former glory. All the time they were filling their bank accounts and pumping up their career prospects. You could be green and profitable and no one would suspect the former was nothing but a lie.

Then the non-profits got involved and things started to become complicated. Partnerships were drawn up between the biggest “environmental” NGOs and the most destructive corporations on Earth, all for a tiny sliver of the corporate pie, and a large wad of environmental fuzziness. The corporations looked good; the NGOs got their funding; the planet continued to fry and die.

And then it went even further. Greenwash became partnership became parody as the NGOs fully embraced both the corporate world and the trivial activities they put forward as symbols of their committment to a better world. And a better world it would be: if all you cared about was making money, that is.

Earth Hour 2011 is nearly upon us, and it stands as the ultimate parody of this great coming together of all that is evil in the world of greenwashing. I don’t use the term “evil” lightly. A person cannot be evil; an action can. Earth Hour is evil because it not only allows corporations, politicians, urban sprawls and industrial monoliths to look good in the eyes of a naive public, it actively attacks genuine attempts to try and undermine the very things that feed off Earth Day. An ordinary person in the thrall of industrial civilization cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of a thousand buildings simultaneously switching off their lights in the name of planet Earth; how can something as mundane as building non-dependent communities compete with such glamour.

How can supergluing the valves on the Las Vegas fountains compete with the casinos on the strip switching off their lights for an hour?

How can setting up a community barter scheme compete with Canary Wharf in London switching off its lights for an hour?

How can creating food self-sufficiency compete with Sears in Canada switching off or dimming its lights for an hour?

How can groups of people finding that time spent embracing their local environment rather than jetting across the world compete with Skycity in New Zealand switching off its lights for an hour?

Well, exactly. It’s bullshit, all of it!

And that is why, for Earth Hour 2011, at 8.30pm on Saturday 26th March, if you are doing nothing more important then switch all your lights on. Every single one.

You might have to fight with that part of you that says, “This is wasteful!” but you need to fight it. That one hour spent consciously doing the exact opposite of what the industrial system would like you to think is the right thing to do is what will help cut that link between the machine and your own individual humanity.

Earth Hour is Evil.

SWITCH ON YOUR LIGHTS ON MARCH 26TH.

http://thesietch.org/mysietch/keith/2011/03/24/switch-your-lights-on-for-earth-hour/