Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Matter of Trust

Culture is a complex entity of political, economic and spiritual dimensions. The language, beliefs and values of a culture find expression in such things as music, song and dance, as well as in arts and crafts, fashion and style. As cultural properties, these attributes join governance and religion in distinguishing one particular culture from another. In the case of indigenous cultures, traditional food and medicine are included in the list of properties, all of which combined are celebrated in Fourth World media, literature and philosophy.

In the United States, the trust responsibility between the state and the tribal nations is defined as the obligation of the US Government to preserve, protect and guarantee the property of American Indians. Environmental protection and restoration are part of that obligation, as is self-governance and religious freedom. Respecting tribal laws, rules and regulations on Indian lands is also part of honoring the trust responsibility.

Beyond the borders of reservations, though, tribal properties such as sacred sites, fish and wildlife also come under the obligation of trust responsibility. Allowing the desecration of holy areas, or the extinction of species, is a breach of this trust. Likewise the intrusion of US agencies on Indian territory for purposes of property confiscation or taxation.

Under international human rights law, these properties are sacrosanct, and states that fail to protect them transgress established norms by which states and nations are obligated to relate. Neglecting these obligations of trust and mutual respect is what leads to most of the conflicts in the world.

As a reluctant supporter of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the United States nevertheless has obligated itself to not only protect tribal properties, but to implement the principles of this international accord. As such, the US Government habit of allowing the desecration and confiscation of some tribal properties by corporations, and colluding with them in the theft of many others, must come to an end. Put simply, it's a matter of trust.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Act Intelligently

Reading articles on militant direct action at Wrong Kind of Green and anarchism at Green is the New Red, I am concerned about the attraction of vigilantism to frustrated activists that leads them to commit felonies. There are good reasons for not condoning these acts, even when righteously motivated, not the least of which is doing hard time. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the effect on social movements of vigilantism and terrorism, which might not be adequately considered by those contemplating these militant direct actions.
While perspective and judgement are understandably not fully developed in young activists, their energy and enthusiasm, devotion and commitment is an asset social movements can ill afford to squander. Martyring political prisoners who committed acts of terrorism in South Africa or Northern Ireland as part of organized social movements with a political agenda of establishing democratic good governance is one thing; martyring rudderless young people is another.
Will Potter at Green is the New Red rightly condemns the FBI witch hunts against anarchists, but anarchists who see themselves as unconstrained by societal norms bring some of this on themselves. Compare the American anarchists’ culture of vigilantism with the Greek anarchists culture of defending democracy, and you can see what I mean. When American anarchists can start speaking in churches and schools about their values in a way that resonates with civil and human rights, then they will have the moral authority to enter the much needed political discussions. Until then, they will remain bogeymen used by the Department of Justice to suspend civil liberties and repress free speech.
While I discussed resistance warfare in my essay The Power of Moral Sanction, I did not get into the subject of terrorism. My friend Paul de Armond did, though, in his essay Terrorists and Terrorism Experts. Paul has considerable experience in dealing with right-wing terrorists in the United States, so it’s a subject he knows something about.
When DAN organized direct action during the 1999 Seattle WTO protests in the form of civil disobedience, the protest and demonstration against globalization entered the consciousness of billions worldwide. Likewise the 1994 Zapatista social netwar in Mexico. One can follow the development of this consciousness to #Occupy and the Indignados and the student strikes in Europe and Quebec.
I do not think WKOG or Green is the New Red are promoting terrorism. Wrong Kind of Green and its featured speaker Steve Best are both making valuable contributions to the understanding of activism, liberation movements and the social context within which they operate. Something Paul and I have attempted to do through Public Good Project.
WKOG’s estimate of the situation is informative, and my remarks are intended to address the self-isolating culture of vigilantism some self-identified anarchists have adopted–”fetishizing violence” as Dr. Best described it. Terrorism is a tactical tool,  not a way of life.

I agree with Best’s analysis of confrontation as a means of mobilizing resistance. I myself have used this to good effect in community organizing, which is very hard work. If she were still alive, I would say ask Judi Bari.

The type of discussion WKOG and Dr. Best are making possible through journalism and public speaking is a vital one; I would only note that recruiting, socializing and nurturing activists sympathetic to our goals, but constrained by pacifist faiths like Quakerism, is something we need to take into consideration. When I faced down armed militias threatening environmental and human rights activists in the 1990s, the people who showed up to support me were Quakers and Catholic Workers. A lesson about “liberation theology” I’ll always remember.

As Best stated, act intelligently.

Power to the peaceful!

Friday, November 09, 2012

First Frost

First frost--eagle junior, wigeon and loon.


Contempt: a Hollywood benefit for political prisoners railroaded by the U.S. Attorney in Seattle.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Beyond All Reason

Chaos isn't a result of freedom, it's a consequence of control. When people are free to create and cooperate, a natural and benign order obtains. It's only when those who fear freedom as a threat to their privileges or control of others obstruct our capacity to create and cooperate that chaos ensues.

The inclination of humanity toward empathy and generosity, however, is not a narrative the privileged and their institutions promote. They, rather, invest heavily in indoctrinating others with a message of fear, counseling compliance, not compassion.

As Rebecca Solnit remarks in this 2009 Bombsite interview, the usual pessimistic view of human nature serves the status quo of authoritarianism, state violence, and fear incredibly well, but that what actually happens in disasters demonstrates everything an anarchist ever wanted to believe about the triumph of civil society and the failure of institutional authority.

Elite panic during natural disasters, projected in the media as social disaster, turns out to be a fabrication that Solnit attributes to elite fear of monsters of their own making. Given the elites are often venal and selfish people, it is not difficult to understand the projection of their psychoses on society as a whole. The fact they are wrong doesn't deter them from violently opposing collective efforts aimed at recovery and restoration. Collectivity in providing human needs then becomes a threat to their sense of control.

The choice between charity and solidarity, Solnit says, pits paternal authorities against mutual aid. Finding fulfillment as citizens helping others is something some elites find so anathema to their psyches that they routinely mobilize armed force to prevent it's spread among communities struck by natural disasters. The beauty and love of collectivity in public and political life scares them beyond all reason.