Anarchism

Against the grain: Crops, Towns, Government by James C. Scott

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This is a post with a bunch of quotes and an introduction to an informative book review.

First of all it is time recycle an old school statement:

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” – William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

There is a world out there for us to see. Not made of the stuff they told you in school. (By the way, did you see the new film by Erwin Wagenhofer called Alphabet? It’s tagline goes: “98% of all children come into this world highly gifted. After school it is only 2%”.)

Indeed, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught”, as that Wilde Oscar said. Recently an EU Parliament Report told us that “Europe Has 880,000 Slave Laborers” – they didnt say that in school, in fact they always said that we were the great liberators of the slaves. But there is more to it than that :”including 270,000 victims of sexual exploitation”.

Once the fog they filled our heads with has cleared, we see that we’re in a haze.

“The fact is that slaving was at the very centre of state-making. It is impossible to exaggerate the massive effects of this human commodity on stateless societies. Wars between states became a kind of booty capitalism, where the major prize was human traffic. The slave trade then completely transformed the non-state ‘tribal zone’. Some groups specialised in slave-raiding, mounting expeditions against weaker and more isolated groups and then selling them to intermediaries or directly at slave markets”.

Consider these words…

“Before, say, 1500, most populations had a sporting chance of remaining out of the clutches of states and empires, which were still relatively weak and, given low rates of urbanisation and forest clearance, still had access to foraged foods. On this account, our world of grains and states is a mere blink of the eye (0.25 per cent), in the historical adventure of our species.” (James C. Scott, 2013)

The work of James Scott is some of the finest that the academy has to offer. That doesn’t say a lot, of course, but it is certainly worth a read. His books are all interesting, even if some basic ideas are recycled, as is common in (academic) writing. Here is a selection:

  • Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play. Princeton University Press, 2012 ISBN 0-691-15529-1
  • The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. Yale University Press, 2009 ISBN 0-300-15228-0
  • Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press, 1998 ISBN 0-300-07016-0
  • Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Yale University Press, 1990 ISBN 0-300-04705-3
  • Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Yale University Press, 1985 ISBN 0-300-03336-2
  • The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. Yale University Press, 1979 ISBN 0-300-01862-2

It is a review of a book by someone called Jared Semiprecious or something like that. Apparently not really that interesting in the end, but the review has some golden nuggets:

Crops, Towns, Government

James C. Scott

The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond
Penguin, 498 pp, £28.99, September,

It’s a good bet a culture is in trouble when its best-known intellectuals start ransacking the cultural inventory of its ancestors and its contemporary inferiors for tips on how to live. The malaise is all the more remarkable when the culture in question is the modern American variant of Enlightenment rationalism and progress, a creed not known for self-doubt or failures of nerve. The deeper the trouble, the more we are seen to have lost our way, the further we must go spatially and temporally to find the cultural models that will help us. In the stronger versions of this quest, there is either a place – a Shangri-la – or a time, a Golden Age, that promises to reset our compass to true north. Anthropology and history implicitly promise to provide such models. Anthropology can show us radically different and satisfying forms of human affiliation and co-operation that do not depend on the nuclear family or inherited wealth. History can show that the social and political arrangements we take for granted are the contingent result of a unique historical conjuncture.

It might also be worth taking a look at Richard Manning’s ““Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization”. “The End of Capitalism”, who says that “A new world is on its way. We are building it, one day at a time”, says this about Dick Mannings musings:

“The book begins by exploring the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, in many ways superior to our own even at the height of industrial capitalism. Hunter-gatherers, it turns out, ate a wider variety of tasty foods, worked far less, and lived much more sensually and connected than “civilized” humans. About 10,000 years ago, certain groups of humans traded all this in for security, namely the ability to stay in one spot and harvest grain to be stored for future food.

What this crop manipulation produced, however, was the first wealth inequality known to the species, as leaders left working the fields to their followers. In time, these stationary and hierarchical societies expanded and conquered/killed their hunter-gatherer neighbors. Soon enough crops like wheat, corn, and rice spread across the globe through violence and disease.”

COP15: Release Tadzio Mueller and the other climate prisoners!

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To:  The Danish Parliament

Sign petition @http://www.petitiononline.com/Tadzio/petition.html

See also: http://indymedia.dk/

Over the past week, tens of thousands of people from across the planet have taken to the streets of Copenhagen demanding real and just solutions to climate change. But on the streets, as well as inside the UN Climate Change Conference, delegates and ‘outsiders’ alike are doubting that the conference will reach a deal that isn’t a disaster for most of the world.

Inside the Bella Centre, where the UN delegates are meeting, numerous critical voices have been marginalised through technical and procedural manoeuvres. Others, like Friends of the Earth International, have had their accreditation revoked. Outside, the policing of protest has been consistently draconian and occasionally brutal.

On Saturday 12 December, almost 1,000 participants in a ‘Climate March’ through Copenhagen were arrested. On Monday 14 December, hundreds more were arrested at a party in the city’s Christiania district following a public meeting, addressed by Canadian journalist Naomi Klein and others. On Tuesday 15 December, Tadzio Mueller, a spokesperson for Climate Justice Action, was arrested by undercover police officers following a press conference at the Bella Centre.

This morning, on Wednesday 16 December, Tadzio appeared before a judge on a number of charges relating to his public support for today’s Reclaim Power demonstration. The declared aim of Reclaim Power – also supported by social movements, many conference delegates and other civil society actors – is to hold a People’s Assembly at the Bella Centre, to discuss real solutions to climate change. At this morning’s court hearing the judge decided to hold Tadzio for a further three days, after which he will reappear in court. There are reports that the hearing was closed to the public.

Meanwhile, hundreds more protesters have been arrested today and there have been numerous reports of police brutality and the extensive use of batons, pepper spray and tear gas. We have also heard of further arrests of individual activists by undercover police officers.

We, the undersigned, not only lend our support to those in Copenhagen seeking to push for real and just solutions to climate change, but also demand the following:
• The immediate release of Tadzio Mueller and all other climate prisoners;
• A halt to the criminalisation and intimidation of activists, including the pre-emptive detaining of protesters in Copenhagen;
• The immediate re-instatement of accreditation withdrawn from NGOs and other critical voices at the Climate Summit

(This Open Letter was drafted by the editors of Turbulence: Ideas for Movement, of which Tadzio Mueller is an editor.)

Initial Signatories (name and affiliation):
• Ben Trott (Turbulence editor)
• David Harvie (Turbulence editor, University of Leicester)
• Michal Osterweil (Turbulence editor, US based lecturer, UNC Chapel Hill)
• Keir Milburn (Turbulence editor)
• Rodrigo Nunes (Turbulence editor)
• Kay Summer (Turbulence editor)
• Naomi Klein
• Katja Kipping (Member of the German Bundestag)
• Ulla Jelpke (Spokeswoman for internal affairs of the faction DIE LINKE in the Bundestag)
• Alexis Passadakis (Member of the Coordination Committee of Attac Germany)
• Dr. Simon Lewis (University of Leeds and UN accredited science advisor in COP15)
• Emma Dowling (Lecturer, University of London)
• Ingo Stützle (editor, ak – analyse & kritik)
• Zoe Young (writer and film maker)
• Friends of the Earth International

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

In a permanent state of exception the Earth is to be a garden as a rule

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Assuming that there is a global crisis – financial, climate change and starvation – and assuming that something could be done about it – what would it be? The initial reaction has been to push for more of the same – more debts to be created in order to keep economic power in the same hands. Maybe a few policy changes to avoid too extreme corruption and self-aggrandisement, removal of some draconian measures, but that’s about it. Spend more, that is way to go. It sounds so simple and in a sense it is: wiping the rich people’s slates clean so that they can lend more money for the poor to spend. If it makes you think of spiralling further down into an abyss we’re on the same wave length.

In order, then, to get the American people to spend more money that they don’t have - the total outstanding credit card debt carried by Americans reached a record $951 billion in 2008, constituting a next level in the financial collapse of a system based on ever-increasing debt – president Obama is suggesting “a $410bn (£290bn) spending bill due to be voted on this week“. Part of this bill seeks to lift some of the extreme anti-Cuban legislation that was introduced during the administration of Bush the Second.

There is no doubt about it, Obama – the man in the White House – gives good speeches, but even an old World Banker takes note of the fact that Obama’s grand plan to save the world and “the hardest working people on Earth” (he says it as if it a good thing??) from their predicaments is insubstantial (These videos gives you an insight from the inside – if you really want to know about all the little sheenanigans of a failed system or just want to see the Emperor of the Free World sit before you in his shiny new clothes. Characteristic of times of crisis he looks and sounds like a rhetorical stooge with a nationalistic appeal “the greatest force of progress and prosperity [and climate change?!]“)

Anyway, the Cuban news is a tangent that invites viewing the world from a Latin American perspective.

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The revolutionary struggle and social reform in Ecuador: an anarchist perspective

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This a reposting of an interview with a comrade from the Grupo Anarco-Comunista “15 de Noviembre” (originally in Castellano)

The following interview was made in July and August 2008 with a member of the “15th November” Anarchist Communist Group, a recently-formed libertarian group in Ecuador, which among other things publishes the magazine “Chasqui Anarquista” with other anarchists, of which two issues have so far come out. In this interview, we tried to find out a little about the origins of the libertarian movement in Ecuador and understand how anarchist communists feel about the social reforms being carried out by Rafael Correa’s government.

The revolutionary struggle and social reform in Ecuador:
An interview with a comrade from the Grupo Anarco-Comunista “15 de Noviembre”

To begin with, comrades, can you tell us about the 15th November Group and how it was formed?

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Can ayahuasca heal the crisis of capitalism?

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Ayahuasca is going global“, said a prominent psychedelic researcher recently, and it is also going mainstream as part of journeying across the planet. In the Californian TV series “Weeds” the leading act, Marie-Louise Parker’s character, Nancy Botwin, drinks ayahuasca under rather suspect circumstances with the leader of a drug-, guns- and human- trafficking Mexican mafia, who is also the mayor of Tijuana for added comic value. The ceremony is led by a young shaman who is told by the spirit of the medicinal brew not to give it to Nancy; she is not ready for it, so to speak, but he uses the words “I should not give it to her” and the gangster boss says “that’s alright, I’ll give it to her then”. Not off to a good start, but then again what do those shamans know about what a mobster’s girlfriend needs?

Watch the ayahuasca sequence here:

There are various issues at play here. Firstly, the most obvious one of the slightly forced drinking where the strong male insists that the little girl drinks despite warnings by the learned practitioner. That, however, is not so bad, – perhaps he knew better..

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Why I am not an activist, or how magic presents itself as the only viable solution.

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A good friend just sent me a link to a very interesting read. It sums up quite a few things on my own mind and puts into perspective what I perceive to be crucial issues for the reactionary Left in general and activists in particular. A kind of anarchist magic – and that is probably the only viable solution for substantial change in the world we live in.

It is published in Red Room with the title “GETTING BEYOND THE NARRATIVES: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ACTIVIST COMMUNITY” and was originally just a commentary written to two friends, but it is a lot more than that – which is why it is circulating in cyberspace and why I have chosen to reproduce it here: it deserves wide attention!

A very good read. Enjoy!

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GETTING BEYOND THE NARRATIVES: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ACTIVIST COMMUNITY
August 22, 2005

This essay began life as an open letter to two activist friends discussing a book edited by David Solnit, “Globalize Liberation” (SF: City Lights Book, 2004). It ended up in circulation among the activist community in the US, and was published several times on the internet. I have left it in its original form, as I think this adds more than it subtracts. — JMG

James asked me for my thoughts on “Globalize Liberation,” and I hope neither of you will mind a lengthy, even labored, response. The book is extremely thought-provoking in its strengths and weaknesses alike, and it’s given me an opportunity to rethink many of the assumptions I’ve had about social change and the potential shape of the future. Since I come to these issues from a somewhat unusual perspective — the perspective of a practicing mage and initiate of several magical orders — I recognize that the ideas “Globalize Liberation” evoked in me are perhaps a little different from those common in the progressive community. Thus I’ve chosen to explain those ideas here at some length.

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