Archive for September, 2009

I didn't go to Pittsburgh. I planned on it. I trained to be a medic and made arrangement to use my new skills on the frontlines of the battlefield. But I didn't go. I began evaluating the situation in terms of means and ends. I have anxiety issues that effect my physical health. During past actions, I have become aware of how much my physical symptoms are intensified by the craziness of the streets. I had also just gotten back to Chicago where I had just a few days to see my friends and housemates for the last time this year before I would need to get on the road to Pittsburgh. As I talked to people about it and worked through my thoughts, I decided not to go. Was I selling out? Was a few more days with my friends worth forfeiting a chance to stop capitalism? Stop capitalism? If only! I made my decision not to go after thinking about what the goals of the demo really were. It seems that there were none other than disrupting the G20 meetings, but no such organizing was put into actualized disruption, unless an unpermitted march outside the gates, far from the meetings themselves was meant to disrupt anything. The Crimethinc poster to advertise the march speaks volumes as to the goals of the anarchist mass mobilizations these days: "Resistance is the Solution."

Can there be any larger goals than this? Is a small riot, destroying some storefronts, and getting on the BBC an accomplishment in the goal to end capitalism? Though the resistance at the G20 had low numbers, it definitely had strong players. I was glad to see the fight the black bloc put up, and I'm sure it was super fun and liberatory, but the question that we have to keep asking is, "What are we trying to accomplish?"

I don't mean to sound like I am putting down all the hard work that went into this mobilization. I was a part of the organizing for the Coal Conference resistance that happened in Pittsburgh days before the G20. A lot of people put a lot of time into organizing and it's another beautiful example of what anarchist community can accomplish. The question just keeps coming up… to what end?

Recently a really challenging article was posted on AnarchistNews.org. The article ends with this proposition:

"The anarchist groups are full of good people, committed, and
hopefully those who will help contribute to positive social changes in
our lifetimes. It is for you, the committed anarchists, that I write
this. I want you to take my words seriously, because we have a lot of
work to do, and most of it is not going to get done in the streets.
It's going to get done on the doorsteps, the libraries, the churches,
the labor halls, the schools, the military bases, the parks, the
prisons, the abortion clinics, the neighborhood associations, the PTAs.
And whatever it is, it's not going to be called Anarchism and it's not
going to look like what you think it's going to look like. It's going
to be new, fresh, original, organic, unique, and real. And it's going
to be a combination of all of our society's best politics, ideas,
experiences, and sincerity. And we are going to help make it happen.

Let's take anarchism out of the streets for a while and put it back in the communities where it was born."

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CARING ABOUT HEALTH IS RADICAL: a manifesto for change
The history of modern medicine is ugly. It's as bloody as the religious wars, yet the colonizers who forwarded progress and science at the expense of women (literally), are deemed modern saviors still to this day. It's sick and twisted, and as Obama and the liberals fight over how to best uphold this system of death, we radicals have to stand up and say that enough is enough. Industrial medicine is a joke. We wouldn't need to find a cure for cancer if we had the moral strength not to create it in the first place. We have always known how to heal and care for ourselves as a species. Centuries of existence has allowed us to forge a symbiotic relationship between us and plants, knowing how to let the earth heal us. This accumulated knowledge was passed down through the ages… until power hungry men decided that such folklore was not consistent with the then current (and by todays scientific standards, completely wrongheaded) empirical research of the time. Medicalism was violently stolen from lay women healers and was forced to exist only in a professional context, and only men of a wealthy status were allowed to study this now specialized art form. Knowledge of healing was taken out of the hands of the people and put into the hands of professionals, and anyone who challenged this new paradigm of progress was hung, burned, or tortured. This is not a system that any thinking person with any amount of moral integrity can support. SMASH THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM… REVOLUTION NOT REFORM!
Health and Vitality was at one time free knowledge, passed down through the generations, particularly from mothers to daughters. The medicines of our healing grew everywhere around us, and the knowledge of their properties and uses were as widespread and common as the plants themselves. Yet as industrial civilization pillaged and privatized the land (5% of forests remain standing since the European's arrival in N. America, and now most of it is private property) our knowledge and our medicine disappeared.
The thing to focus on here is not the health care crisis, but the health crisis, in the United States. Our disconnect from the land, our severe lack of nutrition, our fast-paced society that leaves no room for mindful living- these are the issues to focus on. There is a reason Americans have terrible health, and that industrial societies score so high on the charts of 'early death' and 'poor health'. Pollution abounds, regulatory agencies set up to stop pollution fail, children die. This is the story of american life. Work, industry, economy- all these things pull us out of our connection with the land and with each other and necessitate our reliance on a system that pushes and pulls us so hard and so fast that we need constant shots of coffee to feel like we can function "normally." Primitive societies valued leisure time; we take pride in our work ethic. The backwards logic being that if we work hard we can support our family, though we are working so much that we never see the family. So we send our children to day care, and then to school, and so just like their health, we put their entire upbringing in the hands of professionals.
We have lived within this system for a long time, and just as it's hard to break out of the capitalist mindset, it's hard to break out of the modern medical mindset. There are certain things that I would certainly go to the doctor for. I will say that up front. But we have to understand that people lived without doctors for all of history, and all of pre-history, prior to a couple hundred years ago. If I break my arm, I am thankful that someone went to school and studied anatomy and can successfully re-align the bone… and I would certainly go to a doctor for that. But that doctor has knowledge that we all should have, and all did have years ago. Why don't any of us except doctors and wilderness medics know how to splint an arm? It's an example of something that was common knowledge, and is not anymore.
Okay so a broken arm is one thing, but what if I need surgery?
So you are walking down the street and your arm starts to get a terrible pain and numbness, you think about how your family has a history of heart attacks, but you think nothing of it since your chest doesn't hurt. You light up a cigarette and continue walking, just thinking about the meatloaf your wife has prepared that will be waiting for you when you arrive home from your long day in the factory. But as you walk, you get really short of breathe and then it hits… you realize you are having a heart attack. You call the men in red and they come pick you up in their rescue wagon and take you to a hospital. The doctor says you need surgery right away. You know you can't afford it, so you die.
In this sad little parable, who is to blame? The first culprit seems to be the health care industry right? Dude can't afford treatment, probably doesn't have insurance, and so he can't get help. I am not denying for a second that the insurance companies are absolutely responsible for this man's death, but could there be something deeper going on as well? It's obvious from the little factoids inserted in the story that this guy's heart attack was most likely caused by environmental and hereditary factors. Both of which are increased by the general stress of modern life. Hereditary factors most likely have their roots in environmental factors in most cases. As trite and over-simplified as it sounds, industrial civilization is the main culprit here.
But is goes even deeper than that. There is ample research to show that pre-civilized societies and pre-industrial societies suffered exponentially less health problems than we do, but they still have a lower life expectancy. This mostly has to do with 'advances' in sanitation, and nothing to do with modern medicine, but the fact still remains. Science has provided us the keys to a longer life. The fountain of youth has been tapped by the advances of scientific research. If my lung fails, I will simply get a new one. If my heart fails, some youngster will get killed by a car and I can have hers. (It's not joke, most organ transplants are products of teenage car crashes. A sick trade-off of industrial technology.) But the point here is that we are afraid of death. We will go to all lengths and jump an infinite number of moral hurdles to live a few more years. Perhaps in losing our connection with earth medicine, we have forgotten about the cycle of life.
I have no intention of making light of a heavy matter, but all this information is meant to call to question our reliance on the unnatural process and undeniable sickness of
industrial medicine. The current debate in our country is focusing on the wrong thing entirely, as it has a habit of doing. Just as western medicine tends to treat the symptoms and not the problems, this debate is falling under the same spell. A radical approach to health care would look at the origins of the problems. Revolution, not reform!

THE ALTERNATIVE

Stop industrial society, and replace the knowledge of lay medical wisdom that was stolen. I am aware that this sounds absurd. But to recognize the origins of the problems we face and think that change can come without addressing those problems is much more absurd. Industrial society makes us sick. We need to bring it to a halt. There are no programs or plans of action to carry out this mighty task. If enough people had the clarity to recognize the destructiveness of industry and the integrity to separate themselves from it, society as a whole would begin to follow suite. Yet historically, changes don't happen that way. Usually a small group of fringe dwellers prophetically raise a fuss about a crisis, are then marginalized only seeing small victories in their cause. Small victories are the goal. You and I can challenge the system by taking our health care into our own hands, becoming knowledgeable about the foods we eat, the herbs that grow in our area, and the ways of preparing our own medicines at home. Revolution does not need to mean mass change, but small changes spouting up in communities all around America and beyond. We need to create a culture that cares about health, about food, and about the environment… and one that is brimming to the top with the age old wisdom of healing and vitality.


This Day in History

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

Newly declassified memos reveal President Richard Nixon discussed with
Brazil’s president a cooperative effort to overthrow the governments of
Salvador Allende of Chile and Fidel Castro of Cuba. At a meeting in the
Oval Office on Dec. 9, 1971, Nixon said he was willing to offer Brazil
the assistance, monetary or otherwise, it might need to rid South
America of leftist governments. Nixon said the U.S. and Brazil “must
try and prevent new Allendes and Castros and try where possible to
reverse these trends.” Twenty months later on Sept. 11, 1973 Allende was
overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.

Years later, disillusioned radicals from the middle east hijacked planes and flew them into the towers of the WTO on Sept. 11, 2001. Their militancy against the imperialism of the U.S. was seen as uncalled for, as if the U.S. had done nothing of the same. They are called terrorists as the U.S. led militant, overthrow of the Allende 30 years prior was forged as 'necessary' to rid the world of contradicting political opinions. 

Roland Micklem is one of the many activist camped out in the hills of West Virginia working to stop Mountain Top Removal through the organization Climate Ground Zero. I got to know him pretty well while I was down there. Roland is an 81 year old activist from upstate New York. The only way to describe him is by saying that he is a person of conviction, a hard worker, and at times, quite a stubborn soul. He will not give up in his attempt to halt climate change. On September 9,  Roland and 3 others locked themselves together to block the road that leads to the headquarters of the leading MTR mining company, Massey Energy. The following is an open-letter that Roland wrote explaining what drew this life-long activist to embrace civil disobedience in his elder years.  

OL#2    8 Sept. ‘09

Open Letter to Area Christians

By the time this letter is published, I will be in jail.

Tomorrow morning I and 3 fellow activists will chain ourselves together and block entry to a road leading to the headquarters of the Massey Coal Company a few miles from the West Virginia state capital in Charleston.  This part on an ongoing campaign to stop the practice of mountaintop removal (MTR), which is resulting in the obliteration of entire mountain ranges in order to access a few seams of coal. Massey is the dominant coal interest in the region, and is responsible for almost all of the MTR operations.

MTR is the single most egregious environmental crime of this or any other century.  Not only are the mountaintops themselves destroyed, but the down slope streams are filled with rubble and the health of inhabitants of the mountainside hollows is seriously compromised by the inhalation of silica dust and by impurities in the drinking water.  Throughout Appalachia, a land mass the size of the state of Delaware has gone the way of mountaintop removal. Reclamation efforts have by large been ineffective, and studies indicate that restoration of these mountains to their to original states is next to impossible.

Despite it’s unpopularity with most West Virginians, the practice continues, due to  the influence of mining interests on legislative policy at all levels of government, and  the complicated patterns of land ownership of the mountain tops themselves.

I am acting in solidarity with comrades who, unlike me, are not professed Christians, but believe as do I in the sanctity of the mountains, and indeed of all that God has created.

But in this letter, I can only speak for myself.  As a Christian and an environmentalists, Creation care for me is both a spiritual and a secular mandate. The illegal action in which I will be involved tomorrow is the culmination of over thirty years of activism within the framework of the laws of the land.  As a writer for two weekly newspapers, the author of innumerable op-ed letters to regional  news publications  in upstate New York, I have expended much printers ink on such environmental issues as sustainable life styles, anti pollution policy, recycling, and most important: climate change.  I’ve communicated fairly regularly with my elected representatives, participated in local  town hall meetings on matters dealing with local environmental policy.  As far as my individual life style is concerned, I’ve striven to minimize my carbon footprint.  I use a bicycle as my chief means of transport as I don’t own a car, As a near 100% vegan, I try to avoid the industrial food chain, and am conservative in my domestic energy consumption.

But the weak  response of the power structure as compared to the  urgency of enacting effective climate control policy has forced me to reevaluate my own priorities and to realize the need to escalate the level of my involvement.  And perceiving that  MTR is the banner issue in the struggle to promote awareness of the climate crisis, I decided to come to West Virginia and join CLIMATE GROUND ZERO’S campaign of  non-violent, direct action to bring an end to MTR.

And here in West Virginia on the eve of this action, I look around me, and despite spoilage by the restless energy of humanity, I see the hand of the Creator at work in every tree, in every rock, in the multiplicity of living things with which he has populated the earth, and particular in the majesty of the mountains.  And from the book of Genesis (2:1-2) I read a most relevant passage: “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” One does not have to be  biblical scholar or a rocket scientist to pick up on the idea that if God thinks that  “it” is good, “it” meaning, of course, all of Creation, then His followers—namely us—must do what we can to protect and preserve it.

The Scriptures, in fact, are replete with passages which either directly or indirectly exhort humankind to care for Creation. 
When we are told to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” we do not pollute our neighbors environment or undermine his/her life support systems.

There is ample precedent in both the history of the nation and the history of Christianity of individuals who suffered incarceration for their beliefs and their efforts to bear witness to their convictions.  St. Paul in the course of his ministry to the peoples in and around the Holy Lands, spent a total of seven years in prison.  Both Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King were in and out of prison throughout their activist careers. Henry David thoreau was jailed because of his refusal to pay tax to support the war with Mexico they  While I do not have the effrontery to even remotely compare myself to these towering figures, it is in their spirit and tradition that I will act as I will tomorrow.

No substantial gain in our efforts to continually evolve into a more humane and caring society has been made without the willingness of individuals—with non violence as both a creed and a strategy–to step outside the framework of law and tradition in order to correct wrongs when conventional measures had failed. The abolition of slavery, the enactment of civil rights legislation, the right of women to vote, the termination of the Vietnam war could not have come about the help of the same kind of non violent, direct action that we are using here to stop mountaintop removal.

And as a Christian as well as one who basically respects the laws of the land, I see the growth and maturing of Our Faith to be in direct proportion of our readiness to stand for truth and to embrace causes, however unpopular, that will contribute to our moral progress as the dominant species on the planet—and perhaps the only one with a soul.



I just added a new page to the blog with links to all of Richard Heinbergs best articles. You'll find it in the lower right hand corner of the blog, under Articles, etc. Richard is a historian and author who has written extensively on pre-historical myths and cultures, focusing the consistent theme within them all that some catastrophic event brought humanity down the slippery road from a pre-civilization paradisal state to the State of a hellish modern civilization. His recent writings have been much more focused on alternative energies and the ecological crisis. I fear he has lost his radical anti-civ touch in his new books, but who knows what he is thinking these days. Regardless, I find myself constantly searching out his early work and being drawn to the ideas he proposes. 

The most recent "older" article I read was equally as fascinating as the ones I have read previously. It speaks of the same idea but puts it more eloquently than I have before heard. Here is a long excerpt from the article entitled Back to Paradise.



The paradise myth tells us that we humans are not inherently or innately as destructive as we are in the context of civilisation. If today we are warlike and ecocidal, these are acquired tendencies that can also be un-acquired. In other times and places, people have been far more gentle, and have lived in far greater harmony with one another and with nature. In this regard, the paradisal worldview is starkly at odds with the Hobbesian notion that human beings in their “natural” state are violent and selfish, and that civilisation serves to moderate our deep-seated brutish inclinations.

Discussions about human nature inevitably turn on evidence drawn from studies of apes, who are genetically our closest relatives. Revelations about the territoriality and irascibility of chimpanzees have tended to favour the Hobbesian, as opposed to the paradisalist, view. Thus it was refreshing to see an article in the New York Times of April 22, 1997, by Natalie Angier, titled, “Bonobo Society: Amicable, Amorous.” The article is essentially a preview of a new book – Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape, by primatologist Frans de Waal of Emory University.

Bonobos – sometimes called pygmy chimpanzees – are more graceful and slender than their cousins, with smaller heads, longer legs, straighter backs, and more human-like posture. But their most glaring departure from chimps is in the area of social behaviour. According to the Times article, “Bonobos are much less aggressive and hot-tempered than are chimpanzees, and are not nearly as prone to physical violence. They are less obsessed with power and status… and more consumed with Eros…. Infanticide has never been seen among Bonobos.”

Among bonobos (quoting the Times again), “the female… is the dominant sex, though the dominance is so mild and unobnoxious that some researchers view bonobo society as a matter of ‘codominance,’ or equality between the sexes.”

Why are the bonobos so peaceful? It may be because, as de Waal writes, “The chimpanzee resolves sexual issues with power; the bonobo resolves power issues with sex.” The Times writer notes that “Bonobos lubricate the gears of social harmony with sex, in all possible permutations and combinations: males with females, males with males, females with females, and even infants with adults. The sexual acts include intercourse, genital-to-genital rubbing, oral sex, mutual masturbation and even a practice that people once thought they had a patent on: French kissing.”

“Bonobos use sex to appease, to bond, to make up after a fight, to ease tensions, to cement alliances.” 

Dr. de Waal questions the prevalent view that, since chimpanzees are genetically our closest animal relatives, and since chimps appear to be driven by “aggression, hierarchical machinations, hunting, warfare and male dominance,” therefore these charact
eristics may to some degree be “hardwired” into humans as well. He reminds us that bonobos are as genetically close to us as chimpanzees are, sharing 98 percent of humans’ DNA. “There’s more flexibility in our lineage than we thought” , according to de Waal…


At lectures and in discussions I still often encounter the idea that it’s psychologically, politically, or philosophically wrongheaded to look back to an imaginary time in the past when life was somehow better; that if we are to imagine any paradise at all, we should locate it in the future, not the past. However, it occurs to me that this way of thinking is very much conditioned by modernism. The delegitimisation of the paradise myth was essential to the purposes of industrial civilisation, which substituted for the universal, ancient belief in a lost Golden Age the idea of brutish origins and continual progress. Among traditional peoples, the paradise myth appears to implant a feeling of security and stability; it is perhaps the cultural equivalent of the memory of loving parents and a happy childhood. The evolution-from-barbarism myth, on the other hand, imparts a sense of primal insecurity, which well serves the purposes of a civilisation that must continually disrupt existing social bonds in order to rebuild society in a way that serves the interests of a wealthy elite.

The worldwide myths of cosmic catastrophe remind us that we are wounded creatures who are dependent upon systems far larger than any we can control. We live by the grace of the gods of nature and cosmos, and we would do well to serve them by protecting and healing, wherever possible, the web of life.

Richard Heinberg Articles

Posted: September 2, 2009 in Uncategorized

(Part 1: Backround-the Time of Plato to 1980)

(Part 2: Developments from 1980 to the Present)

Schooling: LIberation or Mind Control?