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.”
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.
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.
To begin with, comrades, can you tell us about the 15th November Group and how it was formed?
“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..
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!
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.
Colonos recently referred to David Suzuki in the context of DiCaprio’s documentary about climate chaos and change, the appropriately titled “11th Hour” (link should be generated automagically below) – and doing a bit of googling for that purpose led me to some presumptuous nonsense? about Suzuki being an “ecofascist”:
“Eco fascism, can be used in two different ways:
- For specific elements of radical environmentalism which are openly affiliated with neo-fascism, or which share conceptual similarities with fascist theories. It is used critically from an external source, and somewhat less commonly used from within as a self label, to refer to various white nationalist and third positionist groups who incorporate environmentalist positions into their ideology.
- The term is also used as a political epithet by political conservatives to discredit deep ecology, mainstream environmentalism, and other left and non-left ecological positions, and less frequently by political leftists to discredit environmental movements they see as non-left such as deep ecology.”
So who do the conspiracy theorists think are behind this socalled ecofascism? None others than the very same kind of people that actual, radical environmentalists – anyone that I have ever met, and it is quite a few anyway – would call the greenwashers:
“Greenwashing is the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government, a politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy, or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy. Read the rest of this entry »
- from: anarchist.academics mailing list http://lists.mutualaid.org/mailman/listinfo/anarchist.academics "My sincere thanks to all who responded to my query. The tips that you sent were wonderful, and really quite inspiring. Below is an initial compilation, divided under the six subheadings of: "On Unions and Organizing," "On Faculty Rank," "On Bureaucracy and Governance," "On Teaching," "On Student Tuition, Fees and Support," and "General Advice." A shorter top ten list will be published in the January 2008 edition of Anthropology News. I can already imagine that it will be difficult to edit down the expanded list of strategies that are included below. The below list has no copyright or individual authorship and you should feel free to distribute it widely, to post it to wiki sites and blogs, to invite your friends and students to expand upon it, and of course to encourage your departments and colleagues to implement its contents." ------------------- Wikified here: https://www.knowledgelab.org.uk/Neoliberalization_of_University_Life Battling the Neoliberalization of University Life: A List of Strategies On Unions and Organizing: * The No. 1 way is faculty unionization. Unionize tenure-track faculty, adjunct faculty and graduate students who teach. Your efforts will not be effective if adjunct and graduate teaching staff are not organized. * Resist the destruction of solidarities (e.g. see David Harvey, The History of Neoliberalism). * Support unity. As an adjunct instructor and a graduate student, I can tell you that management is WELL AWARE of the contempt that most full-time faculty has toward us part-timers. During contract negotiations, I've also heard GA's and adjuncts undercut the contracts of the full-timers. Management disciplines full-timers with the knowledge that they can be replaced instantly by the army of the underemployed. * Invite part-time and adjunct faculty, as well as support staff and research staff, to departmental meetings. Make the minutes available to the entire community. * Join professional organizations that will lobby in opposition to the lobbyists for privatization: NEA higher education organizations, AAUP, AFT. Pay your dues or be prepared to be sold out. * Participate in faculty governance and advocate strongly for resolutions and policies that promote an academic community built on shared values and scholarship instead of a corporatized institution built on entrepreneurship and external overhead. * Form parallel autonomous institutions that meet people's needs in a collective, non-hierarchical fashion. At my old school, SUNY-Binghamton, the campus was served by an excellent bus system that was owned and run by a collective of the drivers, funded by student fees. On Faculty Rank: * Reject the implementation of "benchmarks" or any other form of "standards" for merit raises or promotions that are predicated on quantified output. Rather, draw upon such ideas as those of Ernest Boyer (Scholarship Reconsidered) [http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/10/02/wcu] * Reject merit raises all together and rather spread the total raises due the entire faculty of a department evenly to all faculty. * When 65% of the professoriate is part-time, why have tenured positions at all? * Refuse to sell ourselves as "stars" to highest bidding institutions. This reproduces the neoliberal self-made "man," reinforcing gender and class hierarchies within the academy. * Don't refer to enthusiastic younger members of faculty as "junior" scholars. It annoys them intensely and makes them feel small. * Allow complete transparency, re: salaries paid to all faculty in all departments. * Identify and monitor the behavior all 'frumps' (formerly radical upwardly mobile professors). * Use the growing 'sustainability consensus' discourse to push for a democratization of academia - as sustainability centrally implies participation. On Bureaucracy and Governance: * Expose and oppose corporate control of academia. * Resist the process of turning universities into institutions of management rather than places of "higher learning" by refusing to accept administrative positions that are newly created and not really necessary for "learning." * The university can be run by the faculty, but the faculty must organize in constant vigilance. Professors could collectively attend administration meetings and repeat the demand, week after week, to stop the metastasized growth of bureaucratic bosses. Use the saved funds to create more professor positions, course offerings, and library books, and to establish student scholarships grants. The heart of the university is here, not in creating ever more layers of office managers to govern this and that for a bottom line value that is set by the new MBA bosses. * Rip up parking lots. Implode student housing. Stop all construction projects not related to safety. Make students get gym memberships elsewhere. * Demand accountability for the university practices in hiring faculty, labor, etc. in the construction of new campuses abroad (i.e. NYU's global expansion to Abu Dhabi). * Resist the temptation to outsource to private companies, especially big non-local multinationals, tasks which the university could do by itself. On Curriculum: * Resist the neoliberal transformation of the curriculum (there is an excellent article--chapter 6--by Aihwa Ong in Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.) * Restore a system whereby intellectual inquiry is valued for its own sake, and not just seen as a means toward increasing capitalist productivity. If the government's current proposal to fund all research on the basis of "relevance" were carried out, it would be the end of virtually all Humanities research as we know it. * Resist the homogenization of university studies that is taking place all over Europe. Anthropology, in order to survive, is being asked to demonstrate demand from the job market. And its courses are oriented towards market demands. * Avoid strict degree completion deadlines. Returning students bring valuable professional experience, but they also need the time to balance professional, work and personal responsibilities. * Make research findings and publications freely and publicly accessible on the web. On Teaching: * Teach students about neoliberalization (its history, its impacts on individuals, etc.). They are the ones who can stop it. * As teachers, we have a unique opportunity to relate the material we teach to the everyday lives of our students. Hold seminars on campus on the impact of neoliberalism on campus life and learning. Use critical pedagogy - encourage critical thinking * Create a course that studies the University as an anthropological project. * Link with activists, community groups, etc., beyond the academy. Carry out critical (including participatory) research. Develop more experience based learning courses, including internships and community service learning programs. * Make the world your classroom. Teach in parks, bars, restaurants, homes, online. * Offer courses on weekends, evenings, and on-line, so that working students and students with child and eldercare responsibilities can take courses/make progress on degrees. * Encourage team-teaching. * Conduct and assess instructor evaluations in a manner that reflects that students are scholars, not consumers. * Avoid grade inflation. In a context of grade inflation, instructors that seek to honestly assess performance find themselves at a disadvantage, especially if they are adjunct staff. * Develop undergraduate programs that pay particular attention to non-anthropology majors, since they are the ones that fill your large classes. Increase the pressure for small classes for introductory courses. * Make classes last as long as they need to be. Stop with the micronization and fetishization of time. Some days I have a lot to say, some days not so much. Some days students need to practice and drill, and other times one profound sentence might do it. * Quit giving standardized tests and grades. Pass/Fail. Get rid of students who don't want to be there. Tell them to come back when they know what they are there for. If we stop treating students like cash cows, maybe they will actually appreciate learning. * Assign primary texts instead of textbooks. * Make your students do the work - have them explain concepts to each other. Have them create materials they think are useful. Grade them for effort rather than results - they are there to learn. * Spend less time preparing, and more time getting to know your students and their individual needs. On Student Tuition, Fees and Support: * Don't use standardized testing as a measure to determine student admissions or funding. * Make applying for college more affordable. Applying to graduate programs is increasingly expensive. Transcripts (often in duplicate) are required from each school. The cost of transcripts is inflated (averaging $5-$10 per order, for regular mail). Applications fees are $50-$95 per school. GRE fees increase by roughly $10 per year (and this test should be banned, anyway, since it only tests your ability to learn test-taking strategies, not true knowledge or ability to succeed in a program). * Use course packets, blackboard pdfs and next-to-last edition textbooks in introductory courses to decrease student book costs. * Fund all students who are admitted into your program equally. Since Thatcher (and Reagan), efforts to turn higher education into a vocational finishing school for industry have been much more systematic and blatant. Under this model, if you're funded you get money to live off, to pay fees, and to attend conferences etc. If you're not funded, you get nothing and you have to pay fees. So one person has masses of help, while another is hindered and must struggle. This is one of the central ideological maxims of capitalism. * Organize student mutual aid networks. * Do not permit university programs to let graduate student instructors teach without compensation, merely for the experience of it or for credit. * Do not burden Ph.D. candidates and recent Ph.D.s with the heaviest teaching loads. The abusive practice of using younger scholars as workhorses keeps a new generation from reaching its potential, in scholarship and as practioners. * Pay health care benefits and tuition fees for graduate students, if possible. General Advice: * Be a happy person. Stop with the bitterness.
There is something happening, it seems, in the U.S. People are slowly becoming aware of the severe erosion that their “great democratic country” is suffering under.
A writer called Naomi Wolf is speaking to the well-educated, yet uninformed American. She speaks about the “pattern of fascism”, or the classic signs of an “open society” being transformed into a closed or totalitarian society of which fascism is one model that the world has seen in various permutations. The actions of Stalin, Goebbels and Bush et al. are compared to one another – with a view to get the latter impeached – and to establish that there is a “blue print” for closing down society – that is, transform what Wolf considers a “free, open democratic society” into a totalitarian regime. With the blue print in hand you can see how it happens again and again.
About a month ago the global indigenous peoples’ struggle reached a milestone.
Here are some comments and resources collected and followed by a brief reflection.
First from Resistance Studies:
“The United Nations have overwhelmingly approved the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: after over a decade of negotiations, and a year of Canada trying to stall the final vote on it in the General Assembly” says Nicole Scabus, the International Advisor of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.