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Greta Thunberg, Green Barbarism and #ClimateStrike

By Azhar Moideen

Greta Thunberg,
Image Courtesy : Twitter/@GretaThunberg

 

Every few years, in a crisis situation, a child captures the attention of the world and plays a huge role in convincing nay-sayers, silencing critics and seemingly ties the hands of the global ruling establishment into taking swift action. It happened in Afghanistan more than once, in Iraq and recently in Syria.

Now it has happened all over the world thanks to the passionate and compelling Greta Thunberg. In a world devoid of real adult heroes, children become unlikely superheroes to look up to. In just about a year after Thunberg began striking school to protest, alone, outside the Swedish Parliament, she has appeared on the cover of Time, featured in a Vice documentary, addressed climate and political conferences including the World Economic Forum and the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit, published a collection of her speeches (under the Penguin catalogue), won praise from world leaders, influenced the European Union’s budget and she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. All this, for spearheading a global climate strike, which included protests in India.

‘India’s Greta Thunberg’: Seven-year-old Licypriya Kangujam from Manipur

In most respects, mobilising millions of people the world over, including trade union representatives, for what became the largest climate protest ever, is no mean feat. However, if the past be our guide, the working class should be cautious while extending support. Instead of being carried away by the number of people mobilised and the positive media coverage Thunberg got, the Third World needs to ask whether the movement has their best interest in mind. After all, even Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was used by Western imperialist interests and discarded when she spoke against them.

Alongside the meteoric rise of Thunberg, last year bears witness to dubious new environmental NGOs such as Extinction Rebellion and We Mean Business. Over the same period, ideas like the Green New Deal also captured new ground. Investigative reportage (such as by Cory Morningstar) exposes the non-profit-industrial complex that boosts and benefits from the popular surge of interest that ‘influencers’ gain.

The coterie managing Thunberg’s media appearances include the world’s biggest philanthropic foundations, whose contributions to the climate debate have essentially weakened plans to mitigate the effects of climate change. Their interests controlled the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement, which treats worst-case scenarios as an acceptable 50:50 chance. Dire warnings of negotiators from developing countries were conveniently forgotten.

These handful of philanthrocapitalists, despite contributing 0.1% to climate finance, have significantly influenced the climate debate: developing and promoting voluntary, market-based and bottom-up approaches can only be deemed a failure. They have erased the radical nature of grassroots environmental movements and propped up capitalist-friendly solutions such as carbon-trading instead. They call for “net-zero” emissions by pushing technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage, which have delivered poor results so far and only offset fossil fuel emission—or burn even more fossil fuel through Enhanced Oil Recovery.

If this is not enough, they now plan to implement “negative emissions” technologies such as the unproven BECCS, which, apart from uncertain benefits and large known nitrous oxide emissions, also requires vast tracts of land, fertilizer production and freshwater consumption. One scenario, for example, would require land three times the size of India. Such requirements have already led to large-scale land grab. Researchers are already talking of a new type of appropriation of nature called ‘green grabbing’. No wonder, the likes of Extinction Rebellion pit themselves against established climate activist groups.

The Green New Deal is another new buzzword, advertised through glitzy ad campaigns and supermodels. It is well known that funding NGOs such as Extinction Rebellion helps corporates mobilise people into backing a consensus created by them. Political leaders such as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States (US), whose plans amount to Climate Imperialism, will end up forcing debt onto poor countries to purchase US-manufactured climate tech.

These “clean” technologies demand large amounts of minerals, which are currently being mined from Third World countries in unsafe environmentally-hazardous conditions. This is social engineering under the guise of action against climate change. And Greta Thunberg is their figurehead.

Thunberg famously was invited to make a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos and what she said was replete with the talking points and keywords these organisations use. She later appeared on a video sponsored by the WEF, along with David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, who frequently espouse neo-Malthusian ideas such as blaming over-population for climate change—a debunked racist myth being revived in climate-mitigating talks. They also raise fears over migrants and climate refugees, which later popped up in banners during the Climate Strike. All this, when the average American’s annual carbon footprint is around 2,000 times that of a Chad resident, and the average Briton’s carbon dioxide footprint in a day matches that of a Kenyan in an year.

The WEF, composed of big capitalist firms from all over the world, recently announced a Strategic Partnership Framework with the UN—a move roundly criticised for weakening of the role of nations in global decision-making. Apart from the Paris Agreement, they have dipped their toes into collaborations with Bill Gates’ Mission Innovation to develop instruments for public-private investment in clean energy.

Their promotion of “nature-based” climate solutions got a big boost when Thunberg and George Monbiot ran a campaign endorsing it. The list of “allies” they mention include the main promoters of the UN’s REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme as a carbon-trading mechanism, including The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, and Nature4Climate.

The businesses which are planning to use these solutions to drive indigenous communities from their sources of livelihood and mint a seven-fold return on an annual investment of US$320 billion include Unilever, whose CEO is on the record that such climate action is the only way to grow the economy. No wonder, Shell has announced $300 million for it while burning fossil fuels. And the UN quietly complies.

Gone are the days when equity and common but differentiated responsibilities were integral to climate negotiations. Thunberg advocates that elected representatives “listen to the scientists”, but the background paper of the UN Climate Action Summit, United in Science, prepared by a “scientific advisory committee” abandoned any references to equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, thus placing the major burden of future mitigation on India and other developing countries.

The Climate Strike that led up to the Summit backed the call to declare a Climate Emergency, a move that could pave the way for governments to dig into public money to support green big business under the pretence of taking urgent action. Urgency has replaced equity as a basic element of climate action, poorer nations be damned.

It should not surprise that in all these plans, there is no talk about anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, the bedrock of the radical environmental movement. No understanding that the exploitation of labour and nature go hand in hand. No mention that the US military is the biggest institutional polluter, producing more greenhouse gas emissions than most countries on the planet. No denunciation of war, an inevitable corollary of Imperialism, as a significant cause of environmental damage. No account for the colonization of the atmospheric space that is needed for the use of fossil fuels for the development of the global South. No acknowledgement that the effects of climate change exacerbates already existing global inequality, and environmentalism itself delivers enhanced revenue streams for corporations under this system. No space for indigenous people who fought for the cause, nor people’s agreements on climate change (which they led) that recognised that what was needed was the end of capitalism.

Capitalism is “in danger of falling apart” and the bourgeoisie are here to save it. This is environmental activism brought to you by the captains of the industry. The ‘NGO-ization of resistance’ ensures that there is a manufactured consent for the ruling class agenda – the ‘unlocking’ of public money to finance huge capital investments. Class consciousness has been erased and the oppressed are made to identify with the oppressor. It is no different in India.

The people organising the protests claim most Indians lack awareness about the issue and that the only ones conscious are the middle and upper class elites. They hide the fact that the poor, organised by progressive and democratic mass movements, are fighting for some measures required for mitigation—provision of public transport, prioritising basic needs over luxuries, and radical redistribution of wealth. They forget that adivasis are at the forefront of the fight against capitalism and its destruction of the environment.

Thunberg was one of the favourites to win the Nobel Peace Prize this year. It did not happen. But there will be more of her and #ClimateStrike in the near future. “We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change,” says she, but what we see is capitalist “solutions” that demand our acquiescence. The rhetoric of the Left, of women’s empowerment, poverty-reduction, fighting inequality, rights of the disabled, and so on will all be used.

The  should not be distracted—it will not be long before imperialist attacks are sold under the name of the environment and, closer to home, authoritarianism is greenwashed. It is either Socialism or Climate Barbarism.

 

[Azhar Moideen is doing his Masters in Humanities at IIT Madras.]

To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough

To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough

Greanville Post

October 16, 2019

“To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough”

By Rainer Shea

 

 

As I’ve watched young people around the world take part in the climate actions of the last month, I’ve gotten the sense that I’m watching a spectacle which has been orchestrated to create the illusion that we’re still in an earlier, more stable time for the planet’s climate. Legitimate as the passion and commitment of this generation of teen climate activists is, their efforts are being packaged by the political and media establishment in a way that encourages denial about our true situation. These ruling institutions neither want us to recognize the real solutions to the crisis, nor do they want us to see the irrecoverable and massive damage that’s already been done to the climate. We’re told that if we restructure capitalism with the help of the “green” corporations and NGOs that are backing Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, a catastrophic outcome can be prevented. Supposedly radical politicians like Bernie Sanders promise that by making an appeal for corporations to partially reduce emissions within a capitalist framework, we can save the world. People want to believe the claims of these “green” capitalists because they want to believe that our living arrangements won’t fundamentally need to change in order for humanity to survive.

 

Sustainable Brands website, August 30, 2019 [Source] [Extinction Rebellion website]

These sources of false hope let Western capitalist society continue to ignore the primary role that imperialism and militarism have in the climate crisis, to view the capitalist governments as legitimate, and to not try to break away from the philosophy of capitalism and endless growth. The lifestyle tweaks that we’re told will save the planet—eating less meat, carpooling, flicking off the light when you leave the room—won’t be able to solve the problem even if society were to largely adopt them. The climate solutions that the capitalists present to us are designed to make us feel better while we keep letting the system move us closer to apocalypse.

To survive, we must recognize two truths about this crisis: that it’s no longer possible to avert a substantial catastrophe, and that global capitalism must be toppled in order for the human race to have a future. Once we understand the former fact, it becomes easy to accept the latter.

When you examine the state of the world, it’s not hard to see that something needs to drastically change. Extreme inequality amid neoliberal policies and rampant corporate power has made the Western countries in many ways part of the so-called Third World. As American power declines, the imperialist wars are continuing and tensions between the most powerful countries are escalating. Another global recession looms at the same time as a stable and comfortable life has become impossible even for most Americans to attain. Refugees are fleeing the worst dangers in their home countries, and are being met with inhumane treatment by the reactionary governments of the core imperialist nations. All of these capitalist crises are intertwined with the climate collapse that’s threatening the foundations of civilization.

The goals of the Paris climate agreement, which require reducing emissions by around 45 percent before 2030 so as to avoid a 1.5 degree Celsius warming, most definitely aren’t going to be met. Global greenhouse gas emissions hit a record high in 2018, indicating that we’ll be at 1.5 by 2030. The climate feedback loop will quickly turn this into 2 degrees in the following years, which will turn into somewhere between 3 and 5 degrees by 2100. It’s estimated that with just 2 degrees of warming, sea level rise will engulf 280 million people, earthquakes will kill 17 million, and over 200 million will die from droughts and famine.

Just ten years from now, this transition will be far enough along that the basic structures of capitalist society will no longer be stable. In June, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights issued a report which said that more than 120 million people could be forced into poverty by 2030 due to the destroyed property and resource scarcity that climate change-related disasters will cause. In response, more social services will be cut, society will become more militarized, and more immigrants will be deported, imprisoned, or left to die in disease-riddled concentration camps.

Such cruelties against the victims of climate change are realistic, and are all already being carried out because in a world that’s falling to pieces, the feeling of desperation drives a survival instinct that makes people devalue the lives of their fellow human beings. Capitalism, with its fixation on competition, is a key driver behind this impulse to exclude and eliminate the immigrants who seek to share in the West’s relative stability. This is why Philip Alston, the author of the U.N.’s June report, said that barring radical systemic change, “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

As the warming continues, increasing food and water scarcity, flooding, deadly heat waves, epidemics, and inequality will set off wars and civil unrest. Where stable states still exist, the prevailing paradigm will range from heightened government vigilance to outright martial law. Otherwise, borders will become less clearly defined and the existing governments will lose their power, making for a global version of the Middle East in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Syria. The vacuum will be filled with militant groups. In the Arab world these new monopolies on violence have been ISIS and Al Qaeda, and in North America they could easily become white supremacist paramilitaries.

None of this can be prevented by voting for Democrats, or changing one’s personal lifestyle, or participating in climate demonstrations that are sanctioned by the corporatocracy. The momentum of the climate’s destabilization is unstoppable, and the fascistic political forces that have emerged amid the crisis aren’t going away. However, my message with this essay isn’t to become apathetic in the face of what’s happening to us, but to embrace a worldview of realism that allows us to actually combat the problem.

We in the Western world must take guidance from the colonized people who are struggling for their liberation from imperial control and the capitalist carbon economy. Our goal should be not to reform capitalism, but to overthrow the capitalist centers of government and replace them with ecosocialist power structures. This is what the Chavistas are trying to do in Venezuela, which is moving towards an ecosocialist revolution where the country weans itself off from dependence on oil markets. Bolivia, whose socialist president Evo Morales has given the environment legal protections that are equivalent to human rights, provides further inspiration for the new systems that we’re capable of building.


The path to taking over the power of the state and seizing the means of production, as the socialists in these countries are trying to do, requires building mass movements that aren’t co-opted by the influence of the capitalist class. Our objectives need to be unambiguous: an end to capitalism and an end to all forms of imperialism, which entails decolonization.

The people of Venezuela and Bolivia are lucky to have been able to use electoral means to install a government that attempts to pursue these goals. In the U.S., where electoral politics are rigged against third parties and a deadly police state has been created, freedom will only be gained by working to usurp the authority of the capitalist state. India’s Maoist gurriellas (or the Naxalites) are doing this by taking territory away from their region’s government, as are Mexico’s communist Zapatistas. These groups are building strongholds for the larger movements to take down capitalism, which gain greater potential for victory the more that capitalism’s crises escalate; capitalist regimes that are under threat of being overthrown can already be found in Haiti and Honduras, whose U.S.-backed governments may well soon be ousted through sustained proletarian rebellions.

To replicate these liberation movements worldwide, we must stop denying the extremity of the crisis and fight capitalism with the knowledge that we’re fighting for our survival. To commit to their battle against India’s corporate-controlled government, the Naxalites have had to experience the desperation of living in a severely impoverished underclass that’s increasingly suffering from water shortages amid the climate crisis. We Westerners can’t be kept complacent by the fact that our conditions are marginally better than theirs.

In the coming years, we’re not going to be living out a scenario where capitalism changes itself into something sustainable. We’re counting down to the collapse of civilization’s current configuration and, in my view, all that can save us now is the construction of a new ecosocialist civilization in its place.

 

[Rainer Shea uses the written word to deconstruct establishment propaganda and to promote meaningful political action. His articles can also be found at Revolution Dispatch]

Wind Energy Development, Conflict & Resistance

Wind Energy Development, Conflict & Resistance

Colloquium

September 20, 2019

Featuring Alexander Dunlap, interviewed by Professor Mariel Aguilar-Støen

 

MAS: Could you start by telling us a little bit about you?

AD: Ouuuhhh… I am a dirty skateboarder turned academic who now has a post-doctoral position at the Centre for Development and the Envrionment, University of Oslo. I am proudly a part of the Rural Transformations group, which you lead.

MAS: I found something you wrote in the book I would like you to explain. It is this adaptation of Michel Foucault, where you say: “How do you expect over a thousand wind turbines-operating, planned and placed in the lands of Mexico-to have survived, and to have established and actually maintained permanent power generation in the coastal Istmo? (p. 21).” How does this tie into what the book’s about?

AD: So, yes, this is a play on Foucault’s words when he was giving a lecture on colonial conquest, meanwhile really raising the question: How does a lesser number of people — a minority invader population — take over, settle and control another land and people? And this book really is asking the same question: How do a bunch of certain elite or business actors move into a territory, build this infrastructure and begin accumulating energy when there is a well-known and strong opposition towards these projects — at least near the Lagoon. This book really examines how the projects come to exist, how they continue to exist and generate power in a context where they are popularly opposed. It is really trying to look at the way how development projects — even if they are unpopular — can enter a region and begin to control the territory, make the population acquiesce to the project and start controlling land, but also harnessing the vitality of wind resources in that area. So, it is really looking at how megaprojects enter a region, but also the dynamics that begin to form. This includes the divisive tactics employed by companies that makes it more difficult for people to organize themselves to resist these projects adequately.

“My fieldwork would have been considered risky if I proposed what happened with an ethical review.”

MAS: It is also interesting that you start your book with a critique of anthropology and that you mention ethics in relationship to anthropological research. Can you explain what you mean by this?

AD: Yeah… I guess the short answer is that in many ways I am embarrassed to be an anthropologist. The legacy and history of anthropological research is extremely negative by my account. Despite all the “nuance” and “reflexivity” in the discipline, structurally speaking I do not think much has changed in terms of the purposes of knowledge generation, the institutional control and privatization of that knowledge and the subjectivities-or the implicit socially accepted types of biases-that underline research design. Of course, there are exceptions, but radical critique regarding the statist forms of organization and the development of industrial infrastructures are not questioned to the degree that they should be. Modernist infrastructure and computational technologies still condition and dominate our academic lives, which is increasingly normalized and integrated into universities with little opposition. But also, a lot of the knowledge being generated — while there might be liberatory intentions for a lot of the researchers — I think a lot of the banal knowledge being collected and organized can benefit many different extractive companies, marketing agencies and repressive forces. Not to forget turning villagers into poster children in power point presentations. In the book, there is a subsection, responding to discussions in anthropological ethics, called “For Anthropologists Against Anthropology.” The purpose is to really stress that, as anthropologists, we should be extremely critical of our discipline, but also ask ourselves why we are even researchers in the first place and what type of knowledge we want to generate. Because, as it says in the book, knowledge is a double-edged sword and it will often cut both ways. It is important to think critically in how one organizes their research.

A lot of this is a response to the norms in anthropology, because I ended up embedding in a policia comunitaria (Communitarian Police) who were more-or-less a lightly armed group of fishermen and farmers with slingshots, machetes and their hunting rifles. They organized themselves to keep out the wind companies and the politicians that they saw as grabbing their land and destroying their livelihoods and culture. My fieldwork would have been considered risky if I proposed what happened with an ethical review committee at most institutions, but I did not know I was going to fall into the situation this way, even if it makes sense given how the research started, which is narrated in the beginning of the book. At the end of the day, it is all fun and games for anthropologists to go work for the military and police; it’s okay for anthropologists to go work for marketing agencies; it’s okay for anthropologists to go work for resource extraction companies, which is surprisingly more common than I expected as the research presented in the book shows. But when it comes to anthropologists actually embedding and conducting observant participation in environmental struggles to try and get a better idea of what is going on at the frontiers of the green economy, where people are trying to protect their land and sea, then these things are often frowned upon.

MAS: I believe that goes beyond anthropology and anthropologists. As you present in your book, you mention the case where some geographers organized mapping indigenous communities to provide information to the Mexican state and paid by the US military, so perhaps it is an interesting reflection that goes beyond anthropology?

AD: Yeah, most certainly. It raises the wider question that we have to ask: What is the purpose of the university? What is the purpose of research? A lot of people might think it is to make the world a better and happier place, but these broad words have different meanings that can be used in different ways. For me this means that the soil quality is being enriched, there are higher qualities of food, higher qualities of water, air and social relationships. In actuality, this “better,” or worse “improvement” is usually designed around spreading market-oriented perspectives and values systems or affirming institutions that prioritize their own existence over the issues they claim to be concerned with or working to fix. The support offered by state institutions and corporations for example are often token and serve branding or the purpose of market expansion. I think it is imperative that research is organized to address — in very honest ways — how “we,” industrial humans, can have better relationships with our environments. How we can create environments that nurture and support life: the trees, the cats, the animals, the water, the air and everything around us. Governments, universities and people need to really start reconciling… I guess we can say, “climate debt.” I do not really like that terminology, but the widespread ecological catastrophe that has been spread by industrial development and capitalism. We really have to switch our priorities: our research priorities, our institutional priorities and our own lives in how we can make them better, but also address socio-ecological crises.

Photo by John Cameron

“You need special types of coal to even smelt the metal for wind turbines.”

MAS: Your book reads as a critique of the green economy, and you put forward this notion of “Fossil Fuel+” . In my head I started associating it with REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), REDD+ and then REDD++, which is an indication of REDD saving the forest with money which was renegotiated, and then renegotiated and renegotiated…. Is something similar happening with wind energy or “green” energy?

AD: Well, yeah. There are two topics there. First, I think it is an understatement to say that this book is a critique against the green economy — it most certainly is. Maybe it is even hostile towards it, instead of offering the care necessary for critique. Second, this comparison with REDD+ and Fossil Fuel+ are very different, even if they are both trying to communicate something regarding the environment. REDD+ is trying to implement a program that can control land and (indigenous) populations in each context slightly differently, but for the most part it is a land control and market based strategy designed to commodify the environment and prepare habitats for carbon banks and things like this. Fossil Fuel+, on the other hand, was a term designed for my climate justice friends and other people involved in mainstream environmental activism who believe in this dichotomy between fossil fuels and renewable energy. That dichotomy is false. It is a marketed one. It is one that is very surreptitious and manipulative. Because the fact is, every single aspect of renewable energy development, whether wind or other programs — and of course I am referring to industrial and utility-scale — is based on hydrocarbon extraction and various industrial technologies.

You need special types of coal to even smelt the metal for wind turbine towers or other steel infrastructures. You need to make the machines, that run on gasoline, that then do the mining. You need the factory to make those machines that do the mining, you need the transportation of these infrastructures, the processing facilities — every single aspect, I cannot stress enough — requires large-scale hydrocarbon and mineral extraction and processing. This distinction is misleading and it is a huge and undeniable weakness of environmental movements. It is paving the way for the new trap of “climate infrastructure” and other green economic schemes related to the inaccurate and reductive quantifications of carbon accounting that REDD+ and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) are dependent on and are metrics responsible for spreading conflict and ecological degradation, of which my book is another resource documenting this in detail. So, the term Fossil Fuel+ is a way to say: “Hey, we really need to break this dichotomy if we are going to be honest about the situation facing the planet,” because we are just drinking a repugnant old wine re-marketed in new bottles with green labels.

Photo by Vitor Pinto

MAS: Don’t you think there is some type of disconnect between the laywoman and all this knowledge you are talking about? I see a lot of people with the best intentions — even climate engaged academics — buying their Tesla, putting solar panels on their houses or moving towards other “greener” and “cleaner” energies. Do you think your book could contribute to raising awareness as to how everything is interconnected?

AD: Yeah, the book is very specific case study that gets into three different phases of wind energy development revealing the different types of hopes people had and its impacts. I think the way large wind energy projects even gain some type of legitimacy in Oaxaca was through this kind of marketing of “green,” that it is sustainable and you will be “doing good.” This really opened people up to the idea. Second, people thought that not only it was good, but that they would be able to make money in the northern part of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Therefore, this “green” marketing, state and elite support that organized and managed it — reflecting back on that Foucault adaption — allowed the companies to gain a foothold in the region.

This is precisely the issue when we talk about Tesla in Norway as well, where they cannot stop subsidizing and importing them from California. And people buy what is sold, what is marketed. We live in a situation where consumer consent is structured and manufactured. The subjectivities of people — their dispositions and desires — are already accounted for and manipulated in a certain way, maybe with the help of marketing anthropologists and sociologists. Tesla are great for the consumer to minimize their paying money at the gas pump, but from an ethnographically grounded supply chain and life-cycle perspective they are a nightmare. How are they getting the energy to charge the car; the minerals for the batteries, the mineral processing and manufacturing facilities, the various transportation of components and so on. People are not thinking — or feeling for that matter — they are buying what they are sold. It is disconcerting because, other than an ambiguous rhetoric, there is not a single thing about the green economy that actually suggests it wants to repair and restore the ecological degradation and serious ecocidal harm that has been created by industrial society. People in Oslo still love McDonalds, Starbucks’ are popping up like mushrooms and I did not expect that before I moved here. People buy what they are sold and what is available, thus bearing serious responsibility on these businesses and the state institutions that structured human habitation this way.

So, instead of doing the right thing in the face of ecological and climate catastrophe, the state and its business associates are just intensifying and doubling down on this capitalist path of mass blind production and consumption. At face value it is making it less destructive, but if you look past the veil down the supply chain you will find extractive violence is just being exported to rural areas where black, brown and, most of all, materially poor communities face natural resource extraction and have less protections and opportunities than countries like Norway. Political and extractive violence are spreading at increasing rates in general and green technologies. If they are not already central players, they will be in a matter of years.

MAS: I think you do a very good job in your book of not only presenting all the “shades of grey” in terms of resistance, but also recognizing the people who want these projects to happen. Can you explain a bit more about that?

AD: Yeah, yeah. I do not think there is a more interesting topic — I guess I have thought this for a long time — than the idea of manufacturing desire. I guess you can link it to earlier stuff with Thorstein Veblen’s “emulation,” Edward Bernays’s “engineering consent,” Gills Deleuze, and Félix Guattari’s “desiring-machines” or Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s “manufacturing consent.” Ultimately, a lot of people want to emulate and become what they are seeing on television. They want to be rich, they want to have the American Dream. Thinking of Arturo Escobar, the dream of development or, at the very least, surviving any way they can in a capitalist system. People want to believe that the green economy is going to work, people want to believe that wind turbines (and their supply chains) are not that “bad,” but the fact is that on so many levels: resource extraction and processing; land contracting: environmental impacts: energy use; and decommissioning these infrastructures are causing immense social dissatisfaction and ecological degradation. So yeah, there are definitely politicians and elites who are benefiting from this, and people allured by the marketed benefits. Even people who have collaborated with these wind projects have seen what they have done to the area. I remember speaking with a landowner who cared deeply for the mountain lions that would come onto his ranch. He observed the way the wind turbines have affected their relationship with the mountain lions, with their habitats and travel patterns were completely altered and the area became inhospitable for them. While this person had benefited from the projects, putting two of his sons through college, he also saw how nonhuman populations were affected and at least on some level regretted this to a point of tears in an intense conversation. This is a specific instance that is not mentioned in the book, but it was a very meaningful conversation. There are various shades of grey. There are plenty of people, however, that just want money and take what is offered, even if it disadvantages entire areas in the mid-to-long run. That said, in places like Oaxaca there are a lot more people who still have a connection with the land, sea and do not want to have this level of economic integration and dependence, but it is imposed on them in various ways.

“Wind turbines are just the latest structure to slowly try to break indigenous cultures to the imperatives of the state and capitalist development.”

MAS: You also draw a line from colonialism. From colonialism to wind energy development or “green” colonialism. Can you explain how you conceptualize this idea?

AD: I guess this leads into one of the more inflammatory aspects of the book. I knew the situation was not ideal before I went there, but I found myself in far more violent and conflictual situations than I expected. Talking with research participants, words and phrases like “genocide”, “they are killing all of us”, “this is ethnocide” and “this is ecocide” kept coming up. By the end of the project the words kept coming up in interview transcripts and I said: “Wow… What am I going to do with this?”

I really tried to honor this contention and embarked on a review of genocide studies to see how this was represented in the academic literature. It turns out that there is a long history of this in the “post-liberal” reading of genocide, which is closer to Ralph Lemkin’s definition of the term. Preventing semi-subsistence groups with distinct land-based cultures the means of subsistence-preventing them from accessing the land or sea-very much falls in line with the long-term and slower forms that hollows out the feelings and traditions of indigenous populations, all the while forcing them by various means into different types of jobs or ways of living. So yes, there is a lot to say that what is going on in the Isthmus and elsewhere in Latin America is a continuation of the colonial project, and that wind turbines are the latest intervention that are slowly hollowing out and pushing towards cultural extinction of Ikoot and Zapotec populations. Obviously, people are resisting in whatever ways they can, slowing down and subverting this trajectory mapped out for them, but this is a long struggle that indigenous people have been engaged in, since Spanish colonialism. Then it is more complicated than this, the Zapotecs were a colonizing imperial force in the Isthmus before the Spaniards. The point is, wind turbines are just the latest structure — among others — that are slowly trying to break indigenous cultures to the imperatives of the state and capitalist development.

MAS: From what you write in the book and many chapters, there are a lot of things that are familiar or well known about extractive industries, let’s say mining or oil companies — even palm oil. There are patterns that are recurring across all these different types of extractive industries. This has been discussed in different places all over Latin America, but what about other contexts? I am thinking specifically about violence, the way people are repressed and silenced. School kids on climate strike in France who were beaten by the police or the case of a Sámi reindeer herder who was forced to kill his animals. Of course, you cannot compare or say that the violence is the same, but there is some form of violence in forcing someone to kill half of their animals. Do you think there is a common thread in what we are seeing in all these different parts of the world?

AD: Yeah, yeah, of course. And what you asked before about global solidarity, it is a reaction to state control and further marketization of life. It is usually the exact same type of projects, but they are shaped by different cultural specificities and socio-historical processes that make the current political contexts. People across the world are dealing with the same impositions. Some acts of violence are more politically feasible than others in certain contexts. Whether it is wind energy development in the Isthmus with different “soft” and “hard” forms of coercion deployed to pacify the population or in the Hambach forest in Germany-which has a lower intensity of violence-but the same dynamic is in place with tons of surveillance, beatings and people being sprayed with water hoses in freezing temperatures.

Photo by Warren Sammut

Or as you mention here in Norway, there are also attacks on indigenous territories with wind energy development here, with land grabbing that is displacing reindeer migration and habitation patterns, which our colleague Susanne Norman is investigating. Now as you mention, the call for culling reindeer based on claims of a certain biological carrying capacity, which was imposed on the Sámi. A cull that is now being compared to the extermination of buffalo during the plain wars in the US, which exemplifies this idea of the genocide-ecocide nexus. It’s the same game of state control and divide and conquer in the name of economic development and market expansion, which recklessly disregards existing lifeways, other ways to live with ecosystems or, as they say in the post-development school, “alternatives to development”. Can the state support reindeer herding and culture as opposed to other forms of development? It’s the same game in different contexts. One is more bureaucratic and dispenses a type of epistemic violence like in Norway, another is a more overt political violence as in the Americas, yet there is a whole assemblage that makes this violence and the ecological catastrophe possible.

“People do not necessarily know what carbon accounting is being used to justify.”

MAS: Towards the end of the book, you quote Ivan Illich, referring to the crisis of imagination. I think this is an interesting point to consider, especially for environmental activists and all the people concerned about the climate catastrophe that we are experiencing. Do you have any thoughts about that?

AD: Yeah. I do not think there is a more important thing than to get creative with your political actions, or life for that matter. Get creative, do things differently — create new and different types of situations in which to stop these projects or to live a better way within your everyday life. We have to be more than this predictable civil disobedience movement that is organizing a data collection dream for authorities. As much as I appreciate it in some ways, a lot of it has been turned into corporate activism that is conditioning environmental movements. There is a lot of big money trying to “roll-out” these kinds of green economic structures that people are not prepared to understand what they imply in practice, because people do not necessarily know the flaws or reductionism of carbon accounting. People do not necessarily know what carbon accounting is being used to justify. Therefore, the flowery and fiery environmental rhetoric from “youth leaders” sounds good, but they are not questioning the market-based mechanism and private sector profiteering that is implied with the internationally agreed upon climate change mitigation strategy. People are not aware of payment for ecosystem services (PES) and the environmental relationship it promotes, not to mention the land grabs-fast and slow-that are being executed under the banners of these programs. And the PES product diversifies with increasing complications, which keeps academics busy and in a job. The green economy requires an immense amount of bureaucratic and financial knowledge, becoming an academic specialty on its own. Understanding what is being “rolled-out” as a “solution” to mitigating ecological catastrophe is a job in itself. Really, it is just the repackaging of the same capitalist program, but now it is “green” with new technologies and justifications.

Photo by Harrison Moore

So when you hear Greta Thunberg and others dispensing great words — and they are great — if you actually look at the people behind her or the different UN programs that are being “rolled out,” then it is clear we are witnessing nothing more than the renewal of capitalist expansion. Consequently, green capitalist trap doors are being constructed everywhere — “climate infrastructure” — for people who genuinely want to see the restoration of ecological destruction and climatic patterns. Hopefully, this book is clear in demonstrating that what is the so-called “solution” is really not the solution it is sold to be, at least in the area of wind energy development. This extends very well, as you know very well from your over a decade of work, to conservation. There have been ideas of convivial conservation and things like this reacting against these market-based programs. I guess now, as much as ever, it is important to imagine alternative futures-to do different things, to press the boundaries of how one thinks about subversion and resistance against destructive developments in the hopes to create spaces where people, animals, trees and everyone can co-exist without destroying each other and the planet. Supporting each other, instead of separated and alienated from each other. So maybe now we can start living better lives and not worry about rising water, erratic weather patterns, food shortages or the rapid spread of forest fires or our shitty jobs.

MAS: Thank you. What is your next project? What are you working on and how do you intend on using this idea of fossil fuel+ to expand your research?

AD: Right now, I am looking at the formation of transnational energy super-grid between North Africa and the EU. I am examining this specifically through a ZAD in southern France that is resisting the construction of a mega-transformer on farmland grabbed through bureaucratic means. This energy transformer locally will lead to the rapid increase of wind and solar projects that have been colonizing the Aveyron region-even if the region is near energy self-sufficient through hydrological resources. The people are trying to resist ecological destruction for mass consumption-the expansion of green capitalism. They do not want wind turbines in this area if it continues alongside the expansion of nuclear and hydrocarbon consumption and development. Therefore, they are saying the energy transition is a joke and they do not want to see their countryside colonized like the Isthmus in Oaxaca, even if it is already heading in that direction. The equally interesting part is that this transformer is part of a forming energy corridor bringing energy from North Africa to meet renewable energy benchmarks set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. There are other conflicts or land grabs taking place in other indigenous territories in North Africa and arising from environmental and climate change policy. So I will be examining what energy infrastructure and renewable energy systems are creating across continents. This is what I’ve got ahead of me, and it looks tough.

MAS: Okay, thanks for sharing and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

[Alexander Dunlap holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His PhD thesis examined the socio-ecological impact of wind energy development on Indigenous people in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Alexander’s work has critically examined police-military transformations, market-based conservation, wind energy development and extractive projects more generally with coal mining in Germany and copper mining in Peru. Current research investigates the formation of transnational-super grids and the connections between conventional and renewable extraction industries.]

In Defense of Cory Morningstar’s Manufacturing for Consent Series

In Defense of Cory Morningstar’s Manufacturing for Consent Series

September 20, 2019

By Hiroyuki Hamada

 

 

 

Good investigative journalism doesn’t only reveal hidden mechanisms of our time; it also exposes those who refuse to confront the mechanisms. Remember when the late Bruce Dixon courageously and cogently called Bernie Sanders “a sheep dog candidate”? Remember when Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley and others truly stood with Syrian people in opposing the western intervention? I do. Those who could not face the reality came up with all sorts of profanities and ill conceived theories to demonize the messengers.

Cory Morningstar has been a dedicated environmental activist with a sound track record, who has closely worked with various NGOs. She is a mother. She is an avid gardener. She is an honest person with empathy, passion, love for people, love for our fellow creatures and love for nature. Her human character and sense of justice has culminated in her keen insights, observations and analyses. Her writings have inspired many of us to see the depth and scope of capitalist institutions as part of the social dynamics affecting our consciousness. Her meticulous pursuit of facts in illustrating mechanisms of our world evokes a sense of awe. She is a respected colleague in our struggle toward a better tomorrow.

While her latest series, The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent: The Political Economy of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex Volume I and Volume II, has been wildly praised as a ground-breaking milestone in depicting the vast mechanism of exploitation and subjugation involving the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, it has been also maliciously misrepresented.

One of the very common, yet blatantly erroneous criticisms, centers around the series’ focus on the young activist Greta Thunberg. Why do they attack the author as a child abuser? The series does not attack the 16-yearold activist at all. It points out those organizations and individuals which closely surround her in forming a momentum for their agenda. It delineates how the mobilization fits within the larger framework of corporate “environmentalism”, colonialism, global capitalism and imperialism. The trickery of the accusation that the work attacks a child and smears the youth-led activism follows the same pattern of lies and deceptions unfolding against serious journalism for some time. It reflects how the establishment successfully dominates our minds as it dominates the hierarchy of money and violence. The ruling class actually abuses children by making them pawns for lucrative business projects—such as carbon capture and storage, “renewable energy” schemes, carbon trading and so on (the series discusses why they do not work extensively). They trick the innocent youth into digging their own graves while making profits out of it. Remember people called you racist, when you pointed out President Obama’s drone killings? Remember people called you misogynist when you criticized Secretary Clinton’s colonial policies? Those who did didn’t mind brown people blown into pieces, and didn’t mind the colonial oppression of women in colonized lands. The capitalist hierarchy structurally forces us to embrace the values, norms and beliefs of the ruling class, as it trains people to climb the social ladder as expected. The momentum to accuse Morningstar’s work as a child abuse stems from the same psychological projection of accusers’ own complicity in consecrating a teenager as an invincible saint of their movement.

Then there is the most typical argument to condone obvious institutional tendencies of inhumanity: “things aren’t always black and white”. Of course there are good environmentalists doing good work as well. We have gone through this in so many incarnations. When we point out police brutality, we hear “not all police officers are bad”. When we point out obvious racism among us: “not all white people are racist”. Those are certainly true. But could we also say “not all slave masters were evil”, “not all Kings and queens were evil”, “not all colonizers were evil”, and so on? Well, sure. But does that mean we can bring back slavery, feudalism or colonialism? No. Refusal to talk about the systematic inhumanity inflicted by the system tolerates the status quo as acceptable.

And please do stop with the “but the movement gives us hope” nonsense. What happened when we were sold “hope”, “change” and “forward”, and received colonial wars, big bank bailouts, global surveillance and loss of legal protections during the Obama presidency? We got Donald Trump. When the system squeezes already oppressed people while shuttering their hope and making them embrace fear, people try their best to hold onto whatever they have. They embrace an illusion of salvation in authoritarian lies and hatred against “others”. It is extremely important that we strive to discuss such a mechanism among us instead of jumping into the same momentum. We must discuss the true hope of building a momentum moving beyond the lies and deceptions coming out of the destructive hierarchy.

Morningstar states in The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent: The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex Volume II Act IV:

“Consider that collectively, the populace appears to believe that not only is it possible to colonize another planet, but that we will do so in the not-so-distant future. This is incredible considering the massive odds of and colossal barriers to such an endeavour succeeding. Thus, it is alarming, that this same populace appears not to believe it is not possible to create new societies where necessity is detached from want (superfluous consumer goods). This begs the question – have we been fully conditioned to believe only those that represent hegemonic interests? It is a sound question considering the billionaires of the world are currently petrified of the capitalist system collapsing – while those oppressed by the capitalist system believe it cannot be dismantled. Yet we can dismantle institutions. We can dismantle the capitalist economic system devouring what remains of the natural world – but not if we identify with our oppressors and the very system that enslaves us. It is our natural world and her living natural communities that sustain us. Not industrial civilization – not technology.”

Hopelessness and cynicism do creep up to justify the status quo. But we also must recognize that such a position does away with putting our efforts toward standing with the truly oppressed ones.

Morningstar’s series meticulously documents how powerful global organizations seek ways to cultivate a consensus for their trajectory. And it carefully states, with facts, why the trajectory does not lead to achieving their promises—preventing climate change and other environmental calamities. The illustrated mechanism has been revealed over and over through their past crimes—the co-ordinated actions of industries, bankers, politicians, NGOs, UN, global financial institutions and media have culminated into colonial wars, cover-ups of nuclear disasters, regime change, and other corporate, colonial and imperial policies. There is nothing speculative, coincidental or conspiratorial about the series. It is based on careful research, honesty, courage to face the real issue and true love for humanity. It is again curiously indicative that those who engage in a conspiracy to mobilize the people according to their agendas accuse those who see through the attempt as “conspiracy theorist”. The use of the derogatory term invented by the US intelligence agency to label dissidents as tin-hat wearing nuts jobs hardly proves their legitimacy.

Moreover, I must say that it is extremely odd and disingenuous that the series has been portrayed as a refusal to take any action, instead insisting on ideological purity. Such an attack has been coming from those who have been pointing out the same moneyed network in forwarding corporatism, colonialism and militarism by manipulating popular opinions. What is the difference between opposing destructive colonial wars and opposing colonization of nature/co-optation of activism? More specifically, what prompts some of them to say “what is your solution?”, “we can’t wait for capitalism to be overthrown to solve climate change” and so on. The obvious falsehood of such an angle is the stark absence of solutions within their own “green momentum”. Morningstar’s research does not talk about the necessity of establishing a communist statehood or overthrowing capitalism in order to solve the impending crisis. It simply states facts in a cohesive manner. Consequently, it certainly indicates the systematic structural issues presented by the hierarchy of money and violence. The research clearly names individuals and organizations that are involved in mobilizing the population in installing government policies that are lucrative to the associated corporations and beneficial to the imperial framework. Capitalist hegemony does present itself as a source of predicaments of our time. But is that new to us?

Needless to say, for those of us who believe in the Marxist perspective, the solution amounts to a structural transformation of our society into one that doesn’t monopolize the means of production for the ruling class.  Economic activities must be subservient to harmonious existence of the people, environment and other species. And our social interactions must be under a control of such aims, instead of financial and social power of the ruling class. But make no mistake that that is simply an ultimate direction. Just as we voice our objections against any form of inhumanity regardless of our systematic problem, when we see certain environmental policies being subservient to the corporate agenda, likely to result in worsened conditions for the people, we discuss them. There shouldn’t be anything different about pointing out the US military aggression and the fallacy of US environmental policies, especially when they are forwarded by the same western establishment. When we find the carbon capture schemes to be disingenuous, for example, we simply point it out. We demand an answer to why corporate “solutions” are upheld as people’s “solutions”. And people who buy into false narratives should be noted as not credible leaders in people’s movement. So the question “what is your solution?” really should be directed at those who subscribe to those erroneous “solutions.” They need to be asked how those solutions would be a worthy cause at the first place, and why cogent criticisms against implementations of destructive schemes cannot be embraced because “we can’t wait for a socialist revolution”.

What people desperately need today is good investigative reports like those presented by Cory Morningstar, along with our educational efforts to reveal the mechanisms of our time. We must learn how the unprecedented wealth accumulation among the very few ends up protected by layers and layers of moneyed social institutions co-ordinating to perpetuate the system, while progressively oppressive financial pressure and state violence against already oppressed people keep herding people into the capitalist framework. When we face the sad reality of people embracing policies that allow the powerful minorities to exploit and subjugate them over and over, what we need is not a popular mobilization guided by vague slogans easily subsumed by the imperial framework. Such a method would lead to draconian enforcement of corporate “solutions” according to their definition of “problems”. It is a recipe for bringing about a fascist order. What we need is openness and willingness to learn how we are domesticated by the authoritarian framework so that the actions are guided by the interests of the people in forming a society that allows true liberation of the people in a mutually respectful and harmonious manner.

Please do read The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent: The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex Volume I and II. It gives us an excellent starting point in learning how to build a better tomorrow for all of us.

 

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. Exhibiting widely in gallery and non-commercial settings alike, Hamada has been the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, twice received New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships in sculpture, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Alongside his career as an artist, his writing can be found at various outlets online.]

 

Green-smearing from Nicaragua to Bolivia

Tortilla con Sal

September 4, 2019

“Green-smearing from Nicaragua to Bolivia”

By Stephen Sefton

 

 

On one level the intensifying deceit of Western media foreign affairs coverage corresponds to the increasing desperation of Western elites confronting their failing global power and influence. But it also signals yet another crisis of capitalist economic growth. After 1945, North America and Western Europe based their genocidal imperialism on a social compact promising prosperity to their peoples at home in exchange for their collusion in imperialist military aggression and neocolonial crimes overseas. That system operated successfully based on the fundamental neocolonial fiction that Western governments and societies promote freedom, justice and democracy around the world, while doing the very opposite.

Now, stagnation and recession in the U.S. and its allied countries demand new dimensions to the endless psychological warfare necessary to sustain the basic neocolonial fiction. Psychological warfare in North America and Europe works to create enduring false beliefs generating, over time, permanent false memories, all serving the purposes of Western elite perception management. That is why the authorities in Sweden, Britain and the U.S. elites have been so vengeful and vindictive towards Julian Assange, among innumerable other less high profile victims. Anyone who effectively exposes the big neocolonial lie is met with the sadistic vindictive revenge of the elites they defied.

A fundamental dimension of contemporary psychological warfare has been dual-purpose corporate co-option of non-governmental organizations. In that psy-warfare dimension, NGOs serve both as disinformation partners with Western news media and too as false interlocutors in international forums and institutions, where they attack governments challenging the U.S. elites and their allies. They actively subvert governments inside countries challenging the West, for example, in Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. But they also pervert due process in institutions like the UN, posing as civil society but in fact serving Western elite corporate imperatives, for example in international human rights and environmental mechanisms and forums.

Among these NGOs figure high profile human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and Avaaz along with environmental organizations from 350.org and the World Resource Institute to Global Witness and Greenpeace. An increasing interrelationship has developed between corporate NGO funding and the exploitation of people’s general willingness to volunteer for and support apparently good causes. Symbolic of this is the way World Economic Forum attendees like Kumi Naidoo move readily between top management from one NGO to another, in Naidoo’s case from Greenpeace to Amnesty International. From Libya and Syria to Venezuela and Nicaragua, Amnesty International has played a key role using false reports to demonize governments resisting the U.S. and its allies.

As Cory Morningstar has pointed out, Greenpeace is a key player in promoting the corporate driven New Deal for Nature aimed at financializing what remains of the natural world, especially its biodiversity, as a way of engineering a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Western corporate greed underlies the identical patterns of news media and NGO misrepresentation and outright deceit supporting regime change offensives against Libya and Syria, or Venezuela and Nicaragua. Right now, that very same pattern of media and NGO manipulation is clearly at work preparing for an intervention to prevent Evo Morales being re-elected as President of Bolivia.

Bruno Sgarzini and Wyatt Reed have noted how Western media and NGOs have falsely attacked Evo Morales blaming him for not controlling the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon. This is exactly what happened in Nicaragua immediately prior to the coup attempt in 2018 when the Nicaraguan authorities were fighting a fire in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. That episode softened up Nicaraguan public opinion and set in motion social media networks involving thousands of youth activists trained for that purpose beforehand over several years with U.S. and also European government funding. In mid-April 2018, barely a week after the Indio Maiz fire was extinguished; those networks launched a social media blitzkrieg of lies and inventions marking the start of the actual coup attempt. A practically identical process is well under way now in Bolivia, which holds presidential elections next October 20th.

The timing of the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon is extremely propitious from the perspective of the U.S. authorities and their allies. It takes almost two months for the effects to wear off of the initial psy-warfare bitzkrieg of the kind waged against Nicaragua in 2018 and against Brazil’s Worker’s Party as part of Jair Bolsonaro’s successful 2018 election campaign that same year. Bolivia will almost certainly experience the same kind of psy-warfare assault via social media prior to the October elections. The campaign will be timed to optimize the effect of mass false accusations of government wrongdoing and corruption along with false media and NGO claims of security force repression. Opposition activists are likely to exploit peaceful demonstrations on indigenous peoples and environmental issues so as to commit murderous provocations, just as they did in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

All of these tactics are likely be deployed against Bolivia so as to destroy the current prestige and high levels of support for President Evo Morales. In Bolivia, as in Nicaragua and Venezuela, the governing progressive political movement enjoys around 35-40% core electoral support, the right wing opposition have around 25-30% with 30-40% of voters uncommitted. The Western elites know they need to motivate something over half of those uncommitted voters against Evo Morales so as to get the right wing government they so desperately need in Bolivia to try and make good the unmitigated debacle of Mauricio Macri’s right wing government in Argentina.

The intensity of any Western media and NGO campaign against Morales is likely to reach similar levels as their cynical campaigns of lies and defamation against Venezuela and Nicaragua. Should that offensive go ahead, as seems probable, the difference will be that this time Evo Morales and his team are alert and unlikely to be taken by surprise as the Nicaraguan authorities were by the vicious, sudden attack against them in April 2018. A likely variation in Bolivia’s case will be a higher profile of environmentalist NGOs working in tandem with their human rights counterparts feeding misrepresentations and downright lies into Western news media. For the U.S. and European Union elites the regional geopolitical stakes are high enough to make an attack on Bolivia imperative.

 

[Stephen Sefton is a member of the Tortilla con Sal collective based in Nicaragua]

In Thrall to Regression

July 20, 2019

By John Steppling

In Thrall to Regression

 

Gabrielle de Montmollin , photography.

 

“The rose is without why; she blossoms because she blossoms. She pays no attention to herself, does not ask if anyone sees her.”
Angelus Silesius

“I never had a memory for myself, but always for others.”
Masha Ivashintsova

“What you didn’t see, don’t say…having seen keep quiet.”
Solon (Apophthegmata)

“The capitalistic order produces modes of human relations even in their unconscious representations…”
Felix Guattari (in conversation)

 

There is a collective regression to contemporary thinking. Or maybe it is the loss of thinking itself. But overlaying this can be seen a collection of resentments and fears, of desires and identifications with power and aggression. And some of this is being played out in the climate discourse. I continue to refer to Cory Morningstar’s work (Wrong Kind of Green http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/ ) where capitalism and class hierarchies are subsumed in a broader generalized (and confused) identification with, on the surface, action against global warming but also, on another perhaps deeper level, with Capital itself. With the ruling class and with authority.

Dagmar Herzog has written several excellent books that serve to both recapture the radical roots of psychoanalysis and to trace the pernicious effects of social and political and sexual conservatism in the U.S. that neutralised the radical nature of early Freudianism. And her work in very pertinent in light of the current mass capitulation to Capitalism (and aggression particularly) in contemporary anti-thinking.

Robert Gotzfried, photography (from his series on bowling alleys in southern Germany).

“Meanwhile companies have to change their business models at least every decade to keep up with a world in which the prices are stagnant or falling and new challengers can pop up to take advantage of cheap financing.{ }Shvets said: “In a world of private sector dominance, clear (and relatively predictable) private sector signals and information gaps, there are significant trading opportunities. This is not the world we inhabit.”
Ben Moshinsky (Greenwich Time, Feb 25th, 2018, Capitalism is Dead)

The global environmental crisis, while real is also being politicized because it offers just what Moshinsky above is referring to. It is the ticket out of stagnation and a way to supplement war as the only means to destroy surplus labor and surplus capital. The point here is that climate projects offer huge benefits for investors and the leaders of western business.

And what is taking place in another register is a populace who no longer think with any degree of autonomy and who, more to the point, identify with Capital — and certainly this is true of liberals in America, but also much of the new faux left.

Richard Lloyd Lewis, photography.

One of Herzog’s best chapters in Cold War Freud is on the legacies of Nazism. And it is hugely useful to the discussions of contemporary American culture. Her observations on the sudden and unexpected popularity that greeted zoologist Konrad Lorenz’ book On Aggression (the English translation of the German title..which read literally as The So Called Evil; The Natural History of Aggression) are to the point here. The book came out in English in 1966, in German, the original, in 1963) . It is interesting that Paul Erhlich’s The Population Bomb came out in 1968, and both books became University campus standards and both were immensely popular with the general public. This marked a sharp course correction for the sixties.

“Both in the Anglo-American and in the West German context, Lorenz’s book on aggression would often be read in conjunction with two further books exploring the animal origins of human behavior published a few years later: the American playwright (and student of behavioral science) Robert Ardrey’s The Territorial Imperative (1966) and the British zoologist Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape (1967). One strand of public fascination with these texts clearly had to do with a wave of interest in biological as opposed to sociological explanations of human nature – and not least with a desire to re-secure traditional notions of gender in an era of rapidly changing social roles for men and women. However, there was something distinctively post-Nazi German about the glowing appreciation and fervor with which Lorenz’s specific contribution to the wider project of analogizing from animals to humans was embraced.”

Dagmar Herzog (Cold War Freud)

Esther Bubley, photography, U.S. High School 1945.

The idea of aggression as a force for good has its obvious appeal to a warlike Nation such as the U.S., but the more unfortunate influence that came out of Lorenz’ book (and Morris’ especially) was a simplified and simplistic blueprint for history and society. Aggression then, took its place alongside greed (Ayn Rand and The Virtue of Selfishness 1964) and, yes, selfishness as pseudo scientific theories of human behavior. And this pop faux science text of Lorenz was to establish a certain best sellers litany of hugely influential books that rationalized what were actually the deforming principles of Capitalism — and all of them can trace their logic back to racist and Christian beliefs in white supremacy. This is the reading list of eugenicists and military leaders, of political speech writers and global bureaucrats. Lorenz book can be seen as the great grandfather to Jared Diamond and David Graeber, or Malcolm Gladwell, or Pinker or Stephen Jay Gould. I even like some of the stuff Graeber has written, he can be genuinely amusing. But then I suspect Goebbels could be amusing, too.

The point is that Lorenz book was a watershed in pseudo academics. He was the first real lit phenom for non fiction. Desmond Morris was close behind. And both books carried with them a creepy whiff of eugenics and Nazism. You can draw a straight line from Konrad Lorenz to TED talks.

István Sándorfi

Herzog quotes Max Horkheimer (from Lessons of Fascism)…“it is no longer the son’s fear of the father that is the typical psychological fact but the father’s secret fear of the son.” This comment came in the context of re-thinking the centrality of Freud’s Oedipus conflict.Herzog later quotes psychoanalyst Paul Parin“Psychoanalysis is not possible without an attack on the status quo; the critique of society is intrinsic to it.” (Psyche 1990) Parin in another essay noted that the story of the history of psychoanalysis is also the story of its deterioration. The radical thrust of the original Vienna circle around Freud (Otto Fenichel in particular) has very consciously been erased.And I will note, in semi anecdotal fashion, that while Horkheimer was right, and many post Freudian agree, there are two statistics regarding fathers …well three actually….that I find fascinating. I wrote a boxing show for HBO (never produced) and during my research I visited a lot of fight clubs and went to a lot of fights. The Nevada medical examiner was next me front row at a Vegas fight and recently a fighter had died in England. I forget who. But the Doc told me…there have been thirteen ring deaths in Nevada since they began keeping records. And in each case the fighter who died was managed by his father, who in each case was his cornerman. Second …a highly disproportionate number of convicted killers in American prisons are “juniors” (meaning they are named after their father). And third, Richard Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb) noted that among the scientists at Berkeley, recruited for the Manhatten Project, a disproportionate number were fatherless.

Arcangelo Ianelli

Rhodes also wrote…“found that scientists think about problems in much the same way artists do. Scientists and artists proved less similar in personality than in cognition, but both groups were similarly different from businessmen.” But then this was still mid century. And on through the early years of NASA, science was still different. And to notice this difference is important, I think.

And there is a kind of triangulation, or Euclidean graph of some sort embedded in 20th century thinking and its relationship to violence and aggression. From Nazi death camps to Hiroshima to Korea to Vietnam, and then later the U.S. anti communist violence in Central America and U.S./NATO aggressions across the Arab world. And as Capital imploded — culminating, in a fashion, in 2008, the ruling elite of international finance were rethinking their earlier strategies. And throughout this short 21st century the role of screen dominated life in the West looms. All of these points could be catalogued in sub groupings; stuff like the fall of the USSR, the dismantling of Yugoslavia (which was, of course, a U.S. and NATO crime) and the escalating recolonizing of Africa. Across this is a populace viewed as mostly disposable. And a populace, and this means the shrinking deracinated bourgeosie, too, that are in flight from reality. The climate crises (imagine scare quotes) has come to the rescue as an emotional and psychological refuge. Advertised as the place of “too late” — an impossible mental country that is built on institutional science. On the IDEA of credibility that white institutional science carries with it. A myth that arose in its current incarnation after WW2.

Ryann Ford, photography (Clines Corners, NM).

Now, this is to be seen quite separately from the real issues of global warming and more acutely, pollution and over fishing and big agriculture etc. No, this is a land where science, a kind of carefully constructed narrative about greenhouse gases and melting ice caps and thawing permafrost. In fact the issues are nearly infinite. And they are there, as both a kind of mental escape story and as a means to obscure the real dangers and problems — most of which have been around for forty, fifty, or eighty years.The belief in science is not irrational. But there is a constructed picture of second science (per Adorno’s second nature) that one sees most obviously in Hollywood film and TV. Medical shows in which doctors seem to know all specialties and every diagnostic theory ever written, and from memory. Espionage where technology surveils remote Hotels in Burundi or Genoa, where facial recognition works flawlessly and in nano-seconds. Science, technology, and a belief in an idealized future converge in a fantasy that has supplanted reality. In social media one frequently reads angry debates between non scientists who regurgitate statistics and data as if they were themselves graduates of MIT. None of them are but they are deeply invested emotionally in this slowly coalescing narrative of ‘end times’.

So prolonged and ubiquitous are these entertainments that they have come to feel real. And certainly are emotionally real to a majority of people in the West. It is a strategy (of government) that works at chipping away the confidence of the population, the citizenry, to limit hope and optimism, but just not completely.

Ahmad Zakii Anwar

“Ends are ‘deployed.’ This is particularly evident in the popular press, where apocalyptic scenarios are used as a commonplace trope. The end – even if it refers to the last day of a department store sale – is a kind of publicity stunt, an effective means of emotionally intensifying an issue to push special aims and interests. To proclaim an apocalyptic, catastrophic end is to invoke a ‘shock horror’ calamity that will somehow overwhelm and foreclose aspects of our future. In other words, endings are political. They are phenomena of popular discourse and powerful interests.”
Paul Corcoran (Awaiting Apocalypse)

I wrote before about Zombie films and post apocalyptic Hollywood product — both TV and film. The salient point about both these overlapping genres is that they are reconstruction narratives.

“When habitations have been destroyed, people will spontaneously move toward major or safe buildings, such as churches, schools, and hospitals. They will seek one another, forming small groups, of family, friends, or even strangers. These groups are often only temporary but may bring intense involvement. Group identification contributes to the ‘honeymoon’ euphoria and ‘therapeutic community’ effects of this post disaster period.”
Paul Corcoran (ibid)

Ivo Saliger (favorite Nazi Party painter).

The appeal of things being “too late” or “we are doomed” is that it grants one the space to relax. You don’t have your kids tuition for next year? No problem, we are all going to be dying of thirst and eating corpses. Now that may be superficial, but it is also in a simple sense true. The long arc of erosion in western bourgeois entitlements is not hard to track. After 2008 I think the state gave up trying to convince people, any people, about an American Dream. Picket fence houses cost millions of dollars and tens of thousands sit empty across the U.S. Permission to give up is, obviously, attractive psychologically for many on the left. And I continue to see this in communists I know, socialists of all stripes, or and so called progressive liberals. But the white American liberal is entrenched in a belief in the status quo. He still wants to save it, because his real estate office is just now showing a profit, or his new line of men’s underwear is breaking even and he hopes the summer line of speedos can get him out into the black. Or the new personal trainer service has finally got some B list clients. He has submitted to the narrative but aligns with the capitalist solutions.

Frenchman Flat, Nevada, April 1955. Observers for 22 ton kiloton nuclear detonation.

The superficial nihilism of climate warnings is beginning to resemble tabloid stories about Area 51 or the like. A genuine and sincere concern is automatically trivialized. And perhaps surprisingly these trivializations also carry embedded within them qualities of antisemitism and Orientalism. For all reflex dissent is directed toward fascist identification. And this in turn might profitably been viewed in terms of the growing fascist symbology and image increasingly employed in mainstream marketing. There are curious overlaps in all this, I think. Michael Barkun wrote his book A Culture of Conspiracy, about how UFO and alien conspiracies often employ antisemitic tropes.

“Although belief in a New World Order conspiracy assumes the existence of a master plot responsible for many aspects of the world’s evil, conspiracists differ in the arrangement of the conspiratorial hierarchy { }… such superconspiracies tend to be structured in the form of plots nested within plots, each layer more evil,powerful,and inclusive than those beneath. Hence the architects of conspiracy scenarios are free to place Jews at any of a number of points in the hierarchy—at the pinnacle, in a subordinate position, or as victims completely outside the domain of evil. { } Anti-Semitism appears in several forms. Sometimes traditional antiJewish stereotypes are projected onto a world of alien races, so that some extraterrestrials function as surrogate Jews; that is, they receive the physical and behavioral characteristics imputed to Jews in traditional anti-Semitism. This refracted racism can occur even in writers who view Jews themselves as innocent victims.”

There are echoes of Orientalist racism in the UFO abductee narratives. Aliens replace Native American tribes and the frontier is no longer the Western U.S. but some fantasy space locale or hollow earth or whatever. The narrative architecture remains the same.

Candido Portinari

And the need for sexual decontamination remains. Genuine environmental problems, and they are enormous, are re-directed toward that which is click bait and titillating, or, which pander to the new dream of end times. The current rise of fascist sensibility and values is reflected in not just the racism and Islamaphobia that is present in mainstream media (more on that below) but in the curious relationship between a new Puritanism and an embrace of the pornographic.

“Das Schwarze Korps, in short, expressly disavowed exactly the activities in which it was engaged. It did just that which it said it was not doing. Incitement and disavowal were inseparable. { } What is clear is that Der Sturmer’s recurrent detailed descriptions of sexual outrages gave readers crucial moral permission to hate without guilt (since Jews were continually described as aggressing on Germans) even as the ubiquitous declaration that Nazism was battling filth provided a ready excuse to display naked women and keep people’s attention fixed on sex. This manipulation of the discourses of sexual morality was particularly evident at those moments when the regime managed to have things both ways at once: to present itself as the guardian of good taste and pristine morals and to titillate and pander to the pleasures of looking.”
Dagmar Herzog (Sex After Fascism)

Western society today has it both ways all the time. An endless concern for “triggers” at University level courses (truly astounding) and the 24/7 stream of erotic titillation. Nearly every single advertisement is at some level selling the product with sex. At the same time, literally, bad words {sic} are censored out of television. Much of this overlaps with a new (relatively) war on children. Children in the West are quickly (at least poor kids) returning to the state of the early industrial revolution in England.

Moataz Nasr

Now, it is interesting to examine how national identities are fashioned by class elitism, but how they also take on their own curious life and mythology. How in a superficial sort of way the scapegoating mechanism is provided by Nationalistic pride and patriotism. Mexico is the shadow land to the white U.S.A. Austria serves in a way as Germany’s inferior little cousin, Paraguay is Brazil’s Mexico, and Poland is both red headed step child to Germany AND Russia and more recently the Czech Republic. But even Poland has a Mexico in Ukraine. None of these examples are parallel and if you take England and Ireland you see the lack of parallelism. And yet, the very idea of a nation, the very ur-logic of statehood, of citizenship, is entwined with a need for inferiors to abuse and ridicule. The reality is, of course, that Paraguay is among the happiest and most congenial of countries on earth, and Mexico, notwithstanding the abuses suffered at the hands of its northern neighbors, remains a culturally advanced country with a long history of great architects and painters. The stereotyping of nationalism is intwined with resentment and projection. What one individually cannot accomplish is projected toward the inferior other (nation).

Adolf Wissel (Among Hitler’s favorite painters).

The new fascism is also playing upon a kind of incorporation of kitsch multiculturalism and identity politics. One of the characteristics of the realist art loved by Hitler and the Nazis is the blankness of the expressions. The entire representation of the human resembled autism. (see, again, The Skin Ego by Didier Anzieu). There is both a volkish teutonic idealised Aryan form, but one that is without personality. Nobody in Nazi art is ever really *looking* at anything — or rather no women are, and only a few men. That quality has resurfaced in contemporary marketing. And in Hollywood. As a footnote to the approved art of the Nazi Party, one gets the sense that when Heidegger wrote so endlessly about those humble leather shoes of the humble farmer or woodsman, he was writing about the shoes he saw in all those paintings of Wissel and Sepp Hilz, not any shoes he ever saw anywhere in rural Germany. They always did give off a slight oder of kitsch.

The role of power and authority is masked by concentrated capital. And increasingly the modern institution is even more impersonal than ever before. In fact often one cannot reach a single human being that works in any capacity for big institutions.

“In an age in which capitalism is apparently consolidating its global dominance..the concept of reification has largely been replaced in social theory by concepts such as ‘globalization’ and ‘reflexive modernization’- ideas which carry all the trappings thatLukács associates with bourgeois thought: inevitability and inexorability. “
Timothy Bewes (Reification, Anxiety of Late Capitalism)

Bo Bartlett

Lukács is very pertinent to this moment of Capital’s opportunistic cooption of environmentalism.

“Reflexive modernization thus, in a certain sense, presents the reconciliation of subject and object sought by Lukács, but in reverse; rather than the proletariat awakening to its objective historical role, uniting political subjectivity and objective history in the moment of revolution, reflexive modernization accredits the objective world with autonomy and agency -‘subjectivity’. “
Timothy Bewes (ibid)

This is a little like the thrust of much of the new extinction discourse, which samples freely from new age rhetoric. The earth is now personalized. Not just made subjective or metaphorical (though it are often both of those) but customized and individually tailored. One chooses the earth one wants and needs.

“We have already described the characteristic features of this situation several times: man in capitalist society confronts a reality ‘made’ by himself (as a class) which appears to him to be a natural phenomenon alien to himself; he is wholly at the mercy of its ‘laws’, his activity is confined to the exploitation of the inexorable fulfilment of certain individual laws for his own (egoistic) interests. But even while ‘acting’ he remains, in the nature of the case, the object and not the subject of events. The field of his activity thus becomes wholly internalised: it consists on the one hand of the awareness of the laws which he uses and, on the other, of his awareness of his inner reactions to the course taken by events.
This situation generates very important and unavoidable problem-complexes and conceptual ambivalences which are decisive for the way in which bourgeois man understands himself in his relation to the world. Thus the word ‘nature’ becomes highly ambiguous. We have already drawn attention to the idea, formulated most lucidly by Kant but essentially unchanged since Kepler and Galileo, of nature as the “aggregate of systems of the laws” governing what happens. Parallel to this conception whose development out of the economic structures of capitalism has been shown repeatedly, there is another conception of nature, a value concept, wholly different from the first one and embracing a wholly different cluster of meanings.”

Georg Lukács (The Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought)

Albert Bierstadt

Bewes tries to make the point that the concept of reification is itself reified. The truth is actually that the concept that claims the concept of reification is reified, is what is reified. And this is not an endless stream — I think that is where it stops. Sleight of hand theoretical dealing from the bottom of the deck has a pretty limited shelf life, as it were.

Benjamin, all the way back in Origins of German Tragic Drama, emphasized that different forms of cultural expression arise in different eras in order to express the predominant myth of the time. Gillian Rose observed:

” The myth comprises the history of the significance which the society of the time has given to nature, and, as a myth, presents that significance as eternal. Benjamin calls this Naturgeschichte (the history of nature).” { The Melancholy Science}. Now Adorno in his earlier writings sought to adjust Lukács idea of nature — meaning that nature was not anything physical but rather the myth, the historical given as it is presented to that era. This is again what Adorno came to call ‘second nature’. The conventions of nature, the fossilised and rigid mythology is presented AS nature. And therein lies the transmission of a mental deadness. Benjamin saw the turgid melodrama of trauerspeil as a vision of fallen nature (and fallen man). Adorno, as Rose points out, saw all history as the story of nature’s fall. Second nature is always melancholy, then. Now without getting into this too deeply here, the germane point is that nature is never free from an inherited mythology. Real actual physical nature is always mythological.

Liang Ban

And for Adorno, all that is mythological is illusion. And here one returns to reification. All of culture reflects how society sees itself (that’s the simple definition). Commodities are part of culture and never more so than today. In fact everything is commodified. The subject is commodified and it is perhaps that final step into self objectification, or self reification, that has precipitated the current developing cult of non thinking. And cross cutting this is just how removed one might want to view the fascist militarism that invades screen life ever more acutely.

As an anecdote, I saw the other day on twitter someone post a map of some global warming, the arctic I believe, in deep purples and red to signify extreme heat and warning. The person posting this wrote that seeing this map made him ‘literally nauseous’. I think it is worth pondering this a moment. This was not a photo of dead children in Gaza or Afghanistan or Iraq. It was not children held in U.S. custody at the border nor was it a graphic description of mass rape by the Cedras junta in Haiti. No, it was a red and purple coloured map. And the personalized pseudo confessional tone of the declaration speaks to the new pop confession — meant to both self chastise somehow, but more, to self congratulate. Was this person made sick by military atrocities or scenes of torture? I doubt it. Where once the final bastion of moral outrage was the child molester, that reservoir of charged moral energy has migrated to climate discourse. But then this is the coalescing of a new second nature — the conventions of climate *end times*. Ok, back to a brief few notes on reification and natural history.

Adorno in letters to Krenk, wrote…

“the causes of human suffering are … glossed over not denounced in the lament over reification.”

Howard Russell Butler

This is very telling, really. Adorno was never happy with reification per se, as a concept. And he chatised Benjamin for his use of it, too. But he went ahead and wrote extensively about it anyway…because, I think, he knew it cannot be escaped. And Adorno in an early essay, The Idea of Natural History, was coming to grips with a coming exterminationist sensibility embedded in capitalism and instrumental logic.“Heidegger’s philosophy was the philosophical form of mythic terror taken by the disaster of the 1930s. “
Robert Hullot-Kentor (Things Beyond Resemblance)

This is excruciatingly relevant to the contemporary terror of Capital, the rise of genuine fascistic principles. And the climate question is directly representiative of this trend. Allow me two longer quotes here, spliced together, from Hullot-Kentor’s introductory essay on The Idea of Natural History.

“The historical voyage itself has become a natural event. External mimicry of the natural force of the cyclops becomes internal self-identical mimesis, ultimately the order of the ratio, which is itself a structure of the selfsacrifice of particularity to universality. Thus, in its conscious control of nature, the self has triumphed by becoming opaque to its selfreproduction as second nature. { } The rigidified self, structured by internalized sacrifice, pays for its survival by forgetting that it has renounced itself in the process. The nemesis of the ruse of the dialectic of enlightenment is that the control gained over the other amounts to the forfeiture of true self-control.”

Yuken Teruya

In Heidegger there are various strategies employed by neologisms that are trotted out to provide faux depth (and here Freud would enter the question, again, actually). This kitsch mythos is reproduced today by a kind of visual neologism evident in advertising. But the point is that the hollowing out of thought has corresponded with a hollowing out of experience and a hollowing out of the self.

“From the formalism of mythic names and ordinances, which would rule men and history as does nature,there emerges nominalism—or the prototype of bourgeois thinking.”
Adorno & Horkheimer (Dialectic of Enlightenment)

As Hullot-Kentor notes of Odysseus, the flight from mythic nature only reproduces it. The contemporary fetish of pseudo scientific jargon is the continuing attempt to make culture (and history) into nature. There is this anxiety attached to the personalized version of Nature. Not only is Nature personalized but the subject position is personalized, customized and presented as history. History has become second nature. And the transformation of history into Nature was also evident in both Benjamin and Lukács.

Bruno V. Roels, photography.

And this history is today more withered and forgotten — the amnesia of contemporary processes of thought runs throughout contemporary political theatre and throughout the climate discourse. With no longer a memory of nature there is no longer a critique of illusion. We live in the domain of illusion and second nature. Meaning is only the appearance of meaning. And because of the truncated and hollow subjective there is the resort to emotional magnification.

“This is apparent in the phenomenon of the semblance of second nature, which is a semblance because it is the mere appearance of meaning. Although it is historically produced, this semblance appears mythical: that is, as archaic, as emphatically expressive, as an engulfing whirlpool.”
Robert Hullot-Kentor (ibid)

The real primary thrust of Adorno’s theory of art has to do with reification. The critique of reification by way of reification, as Hullot-Kentor put it. But the point here is that contemporary discourse has lost the capacity to differentiate semblance and we arrive at a new, or third nature. As obtuse as this may seem it is the kernel of the problem of today’s public conversation. And contemporary consciousness is literally the consciousness of the screen. Third nature is the blank implied infinity of the screen, where the discussion takes one to the insights of Jonathan Beller (in an earlier post). Image condenses history as slavery and domination, racism and colonial logic.

Lukács

Jonathan Bewes quotes Godard from 2 or 3 Things I know About Her…made in 1966.“Something can make me cry . . . but the reason for those tears is not directly connected with the actual tears that trickle down my cheeks. . . . Everything I do can be described but not necessarily the reasons for which I do it.”

The anthropomorphic notion of Earth is there to feel nauseous about. There are bright colours on a map. And behind every claim on the emotional disfigurement of contemporary consciousness are institutions of power. It is nearly impossible to find science free of U.S. government mediation.

“Anxiety is so prevalent in late capitalist society that it has become a defining quality of that society. Not only is reification inseparable from the anxiety towards it; anxiety is always anxiety about reification.”
Jonathan Bewes (ibid)

And this finally leads one to look at the dream of end-times.

The empty debate on the spectacle — that is, on the activities of the world’s owners — is thus organized by the spectacle itself: everything is said about the extensive means at its disposal, to ensure that nothing is said about their extensive deployment. Rather than talk of the spectacle, people often prefer to use the term ‘media.’ And by this they mean to describe a mere instrument, a kind of public service which with impartial professionalism’ would facilitate the new wealth of mass communication through mass media a form of communication which has at last attained a unilateral purity, whereby decisions already taken are presented for passive admiration. For what is communicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.”
Guy Debord (Comments on Society of the Spectacle)

Masha Ivashintosva, photography (Statue of Seneca).

Marx noted that the commodity “reflects back to human beings the social characteristics of their own labor as objective characteristics of the products of labor themselves, as social natural-qualities of these things.”

” While Marx’s analysis of commodity fetishism was indispensable to his conceptualization of social relations, Benjamin is also keen to stress exploitation and the conditions in which labouring occurs. The fashion industry provides, for Benjamin, a ‘dialectical image’ of the deadly social relations of production, illustrating both the reifying effects of the exchange mechanism and the brutal physical conditions that attend work. In Marx’s account, the textile industry is central to the formation of the factory system of exploitation. It was in the cotton mills that women and children were employed en masse, cheaply, and mechanically spinning materials harvested by growing numbers of slaves, born to work and worked to death, in the US slave states. Das Kapital supplies a materialist core for Benjamin’s idea of the fashionable body as, symbolically and concretely, intimate with death. Marx details how ‘the murderous, meaningless caprices of fashion’ are linked to the anarchy of production, where demand cannot be predicted and where gluts lead to starvation. The connections between products and death alert Benjamin to the fact that everything consumed has been produced under conditions that occasioned suffering.”
Esther Leslie (Overpowering Conformism)

Kitty Kraus

Suffering congeals under the rule of progress. It becomes the appearance of history, and of nature both. The commodity form always has implied its fetish character and cannot hide its murderous assault on life. The owners of the world decide what to feel compassion about. Not people, not dead children or torture victims but *earth* itself, an earth that is personal and magical and alive — a Disney cartoon world in which people rarely impinge. It is the regressive return of animism in a sense, which was once eradicated in the project of disenchantment. But returns today as its own inversion. Positivism and instrumental reason have progressed and left magic behind, except when it is an instrumental magic. And anyway, its not really animism — for such is not possible in the realm of hollowed out damaged cognition. The emotional inflation is a reaction to the anxiety of reification itself. There is a silent mental panic that feeds a deep crippling anxiety and that anxiety is expressed in moralistic condemnations, in shaming and stigmatizing. And social media is the perfect digital stocks or pillory.The violence of Capital, the destruction of the environment, this has all been occurring for a couple hundred years. As Hullot-Kentor put it in his introduction to a volume on Adorno (Things Beyond Resemblance)…’history stands in thrall to regression’. And this because history is stained indelibly with violence and domination. For Americans Nature is claimed and owned — and regression is what is seen in the anti Utopian ethos of the new green capitalist environmentalism. Anti Utopian because the dream of the hollowed mind is one of damage control. And class reflex seems natural itself — let the owners of the earth deal with managing the clean up. Or…let the ruling class and their machinery, both literal and figurative, execute the global triage that is advertised as the ONLY way forward. Forward but back.

“The stubborn belief in progress and trust in a mass base is founded on social democracy’s fetishization of quantitative accumulation in all its forms. This connection between the stubborn belief in progress and faith in a mass base is further identified with the political will for ‘servile inclusion in an uncontrollable apparatus’.”
Esther Leslie (ibid)

Robby Muller, photography. (Poloroids from Paris Texas set).

 

[John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. Plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. Taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. A collection of plays, Sea of Cortez & Other Plays was published in 1999, and his book on aesthetics, Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest was published by Mimesis International in 2016.]

 

Green Autarky: Self Sufficiency Against the Growth Based Model of Industrial Capitalism

Nullus Locus Sine Genio – No place without spirit

July 30, 2019

By Robin Monotti Graziadei

Green Autarky: Self Sufficiency Against the Growth Based Model of Industrial Capitalism

 

Pier Paolo Pasolini: “Intelligence will never have much value in the collective judgment of this public’s opinion.”

Those who want “growth” in that sense are those who produce; that is the industrialists. And, as “growth” in Italy is this growth, they are more exactly those industrialists who produce superfluous goods. Technology (applied science) has created the possibility of a practically unlimited industrialization, of a solidly transnational character. The consumers of superfluous goods, on their part, irrationally and unknowingly agree in wanting “growth” (this growth). For them it means social advancement and liberation, with a consequent repudiation of the cultural values that had provided them with the models of being the “poor”, the “workers”, the “savers”, the “soldiers”, the “believers”. The “masses” are therefore for “growth”: but they live this ideology only existentially, and existentially they carry the new values of consumerism. This does not deny that their choice is decisive, triumphalist and adamant. – Pier Paolo Pasolini “Growth and Progress” (1973)

The model which environmental or ecological awareness places under threat is the “growth” based model of industry based capitalism.

It is the “growth” based model of industrial capitalism which is the main driving force behind the production of superfluous goods.

It is the industrial production of superfluous goods which is the main driving force behind today’s dominant ideology of mass consumerism.

The environmental problem this raises is that there are not enough resources, not enough nature to pursue a growth based industrial model of capitalism and save the planet’s ecology at the same time, given that industrial capitalism comes intrinsic and intertwined with the mass production of superfluous goods and the ideology of mass consumerism.

It is clear that in order to save the planet it is the industry based model of economic growth that needs to go.

Industrialists and financiers are very aware of this, and are once again turning the problem on its head.

They have turned ecological concern of the masses into a marketing campaign for industrially produced renewable energy.

This is because they are trying to save their own profits, not the planet.

They are trying to save the “growth” based model of industrial capitalism, not the ecology.

Any form of energy, also renewable energy, that is deployed on an industrial scale in order to supply a “growth” based model of industrial capitalism will ultimately destroy the ecology of the planet.

Therefore they are putting a human face on industrial renewable energy in order to save the growth based model of capitalism which provides them huge profits.

They are up to their old tricks, and need to be exposed for the frauds they are and have always been.

The new human face of “Green” renewable industrial energy is also a fraud if its not divested from a growth based model of industrial capitalism and also is a declared anti-war of aggression position at the same time: corporate neocolonialist wars for resources are the direct result of unfettered growth based capitalism, as the supply chains of renewable energy on an industrial scale means many more wars in mineral rich regions such as Congo, and other regions of Africa.

It is the growth based model of capitalism it feeds which is the problem of industrial production, regardless of the colour of its energy.

Therefore growth based capitalism and industrial production are two sides of the same coin: you can’t separate one from the other.

The entire first world society that has already experienced a growth based economy needs to be the first to transition towards a de-growth economy, an economy of self sufficiency where you eat and consume what you really need. This needs to happen outside the logic of consumerism promoted by industrial capitalism. Growth based industry seeks economic profits globally and it is this model which ultimately depletes the planet environmentally at a global scale and economically only enriches industrialists and their shareholders while impoverishing everyone else.

It does not matter if the new face of industry is now “Green” energy: It is still a massive fraud if it does not promote a de-growth model which moves away from industrial production for profit to production for self sufficiency (to survive on at a local scale not to sell on a global scale). That is why self sufficiency is also a key concept of the de-growth model.

 

[Robin Monotti Graziadei is an Italian architect and film producer based in London. He is the managing partner of Robin Monotti Architects, a firm that he founded in 2007. In 2010, Monotti won the RIBA and Royal Parks Foundation’s International Drinking Fountain Design Competition with his Watering Holes fountain design. In 2016 Robin co-founded the film production company Luminous Arts Productions. You can follow him on twitter.]

WATCH: The Battle Against Climate Change by Paul Kingsnorth

WATCH: The Battle Against Climate Change by Paul Kingsnorth

Originally broadcasted by VPRO in 2018. © VPRO Backlight December 2018

Video Published April 26, 2019

 

 

Humanity has lost the battle against climate change. That is what Paul Kingsnorth thinks. The former environmental activist believes that we can´t stop climate change anymore. How should we live on knowing that climate change is a fact that can´t be denied anymore? A documentary that gives thinker and writer Paul Kingsnorth the time to explain how humanity still can be hopeful although the battle against climate change in his eyes has been lost.

Former environmental activist and writer Paul Kingsnorth has withdrawn to Ireland on a unspoilt part of the earth. You could say that he lives now at the end of the world. A portrait of an end-time thinker who nevertheless does not give up hope and continues to believe in the power of nature.

Thinker and writer Paul Kingsnorth stood early on the barricades as a conservationist. He resisted the insatiable hunger of the globalized world for more land, resources and things in England and on the other side of the world in Papa New Guinea. Kingsnorth was one of the leaders of the environmental movement and reached a large international audience with its passionate speeches. But at some point, he came to terms that he had to revisit his belief that humanity could save the world.

In his bundled essays “Confessions of a recovering environmentalist” (2017) he describes how some weak-kneed accountants of this world hollowed out the green movement from the inside and exchanged the barricades for ties and conference tables. Limiting CO2 emissions became the new gospel because it was measurable and countable. But according to Kingsnorth, that is an illusion. He thinks that in his victory rush, the green movement of today exchanges the remaining wild nature for a wind or solar panel farm. The battle is lost.

Kingsnorth withdrew with his family to the Irish countryside to live self-sufficient. He founded the “Dark Mountain Project” in which writers, poets and artists are looking for a different view of the end of the world, based on the connection between man and nature. He exchanged his clenched fist and protesting voice for an inner, literary search for the question of what makes us human and what our place is on this magical planet.

[Running time: 49:32]

Original titel: De aarde draait door

 

 

 

 

WATCH: Selling Extinction

WATCH: Selling Extinction

Prolekult Films

Published April 26, 2019

“Selling Extinction is a short introduction to the capitalist notion of a “Green New Deal”, the NGOs that support it and the recent Extinction Rebellion protests in London.” [Running time: 23:43]

 

[Prolekult is a Marxist film, writing and culture platform based in Birmingham, England. The project is presently run by James Bell (writing and narration) and Alex Bushell (editing and filming). The purpose of the project is to provide high-quality film content looking at world politics, culture and economics from a Marxist perspective. You can support them on Patreon and follow them on Twitter.]

WATCH: Quiet Storm – Technology & Social Control

WATCH: Quiet Storm – Technology & Social Control

sub.Media

Published April 2, 2019

 

“We’re on the brink of a new era. In the coming years and decades, rapid advances in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, data analysis, nanotech, quantum computing, bio-engineering and 3D-printing promise to drastically restructure our societies – much as the steam-powered engine and personal computer did during earlier phases of capitalist development. Coming waves of automation are expected to eliminate the majority of current job categories, raising the spectre of widespread unemployment and the potential for newer, more sophisticated forms of economic servitude and social control. These transformations will take place under the watchful eyes of a high-tech surveillance state, aided by a new generation of AI-driven facial recognition software, and the further proliferation of networked ‘smart’ devices that record nearly everything we say or do.

Many of the technologies of tomorrow are being designed today in the universities and corporate R&D labs of Shenzen, Singapore and Silicon Valley, by scientists and engineers working at the behest of military contractors and multi-billion dollar tech companies. Claims that ‘technology is neutral’ ring hollow in a world dominated by powerful states and capitalist social relations. It’s clear to anyone keeping score that those who control and shape technological development and mass production are best situated to reap the benefits. But at the end of the day, capital and the state don’t hold a monopoly on innovation. There are many anarchists also working on building new technologies to help thwart our enemies and unlock new paths of resistance. And despite what you may have heard, the master’s tools can be used to dismantle the master’s home – provided the person swinging the hammer knows where to aim.” [Source: sub.Media] [Running time: 33:26]