Anti-capitalism

Sorry, Owen Jones, but your British history is not mine (or anyone else’s)

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Owen Jones is a political activist, an atheist and a secularist. That’s a kind of people who traditionally receive a lot of training – should we say programming? – in set thought from an early age from various institutional power settings, such as school, college, university, party, NGO and other parts of the establishment.

It’s a very frustrating environment – the activist scene – and a field of ossification. New ideas, approaches and, democracy forbid, free thought is not allowed.

Owen Jones writes in The Guardian that “Sorry, David Cameron, but your British history is not mine“, but Owen Jones has got the wrong end of (at least) one stick: the Magna Carta. Now, the Magna Carta is commonly thought of across the intellectual and leftist spectra of thought as a declaration of rights of barons et al. to do whatever they please and with time it came to be seen as nothing other than the beginning of what is nowadays called industrial capitalism. And only that.

Cameron probably sees it like that, since he wants it pushed into the minds of children in “his” realm. And Owen Jones sees it like that, he rhetorically provokes his readers, repeating a dogma he once heard in a meeting or read in an liberal, academic book, perhaps: the Magna Carta is the beginning of evil, the work of exploitative nobles. What a shame and what admission of ignorance: Owen Jones and David Cameron do indeed share views on British history: they both have false assumptions of the Magna Carta and mislead people with their rhetoric.

Why are they wrong? Simple: Charter of the Forest (Thanks Peter Linebaugh!). Further information available? Yes, of course….

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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.”

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Philosophy, Politics and Historical Problems of Volunteering

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This is a general and quick post in response to Frequently Asked Questions about the problems of choosing where to invest one’s time and labour when volunteering in foreign places with good intent. It started as a reply to a comment – part of a long thread about a conservation project in the Amazon – then expanded slightly to become this first draft of a short reply to questions concerning volunteering.

Where and what is good agency put into which structures? It is an endless journey through the soul and the corridors of political thinking, philosophical reflection, historical recognition and ethical considerations – and it is also that first single step of your journey. It begins in the mind, unfolds in the imagination and will have a material impact on the place you go to.

Over the years we have spend a lot of time and energy helping people finding their ways in Ecuador and Peru, we have spend a lot of time suggesting projects, providing contacts and so on. However, in the end, people mostly go and do their own thing anyway. However, if you have only 4-6 months time and want to connect sooner, and should you really want to do something in or around Tena, Napo, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, or in San Francisco in Peru, and if working on a small scale and community level with people outside of NGO structures, doing down-to-the-ground, bottom-up work, with lovely families, if that is your thing, then do get in touch.

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The Last Frontiers of a Killing Economy: Capitalist Democracy’s Sad Finale

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Another press release:

RIGHTS: U.N. Condemns Land Grabs in Native Territories, By Haider Rizvi.

http://sec.11alive.com/quote/04T44x81tc86J
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49986

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14, 2010 (IPS) – Millions of people around the world who belong to indigenous communities continue to face discrimination and abuse at the hands of authorities and private business concerns, says a new U.N. report released here Thursday.

It is happening not only in the developing parts of the world but also in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which champion the causes of human rights and democracy, the report says.

Despite all the “positive developments” in international human rights setting in recent years, the study’s findings suggest that indigenous peoples remain vulnerable to state-sponsored violence and brutality, which is often aimed at confiscating their lands.

“This carbon market insanity privatises the air and sells it to climate criminals like Shell so they can continue to pollute and destroy the climate and our future, rather than reducing their emissions at source…”

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Carbon Trading is Making a Killing and Destroying the Environment

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Press Release: Carbon Markets Violate Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Threaten Cultural Survival

“Indigenous Peoples are being forced to sign over their territories for REDD to the Gangsters of the Century, carbon traders, who are invading the world’s remaining forests that exist thanks to the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples,” denounced Marlon Santi, President of the CONAIE, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, one of the most powerful native organizations in the world. “Our forests are spaces for life not carbon markets.”

Indigenous leader kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to surrender carbon rights for REDD in Papua New Guinea

New York, USA — As carbon traders hawk permits to pollute at the Second Annual Carbon Trading Summit, Indigenous Peoples denounced that selling the sky not only corrupts the sacred but also destroys the climate, violates human rights and threatens cultural survival.

“Carbon trading and carbon offsets are a crime against humanity and Creation,” said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network. “The sky is sacred. This carbon market insanity privatizes the air and sells it to climate criminals like Shell so they can continue to pollute and destroy the climate and our future, rather than reducing their emissions at source.”

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Fascistic Danish Police Force Threatens to Shoot Activists!

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The policing of COP15 has been totalitarian and democratic rights routinely suspended: no one is considered innocent until proven guilty, but simply arrested “preventatively”. Close to two thousand – 968 in one swoop – were  arrested without committing any offence and been left to sit for hours in a freezing cold street, in their own piss and shit, with plastic strips around their bleeding wrists. Some, including delegates, have been severely beaten.

There have been riots in the animal cage prisons (illegal according to Amnesty) and some spokespeople have been arrested and will be charged with – so far all taking place behind closed doors! –  the intentions to be violent against the police and for the intentions to incite riots. In part based on phone tapping of interviews with journalists and  alleged illegal tapping of Greenpeace. This is what democracy looks like! The police has since admitted that they “only performed two illegal acts of surveillance of phones, nothing more” and Johan Martini Reimann, Director of Copenhagen Police, in order to calm the waters with an unwitting irony, ensures the public that “they have not operated in a manner differently from normal“. Nice to know that the Danish Police routine breaks the law – and as usual revealing to hear what total disregard for the rule of law that this institution has!

In other words, the rule of law no longer rules (did it ever?) the little rotten Duck Pond. There has been world wide reporting of the fascistic policing measures (see for instance: “Copenhagen: the sound of silence: Denmark’s reputation is being destroyed by police action outside the summit and the gagging of NGOs and poor nations inside“), which, of course, does not really surprise those familiar with the Danish police force and political system. Chavez has interestingly stated that Denmark is more repressive than Venezuela.

In connection with a funny, rather innocent, yet cheeky and coordinated Greenpeace action last night in front of and inside the Danish Parliament – Christiansborg – the Chief Inspector of Copenhagen Police, Per Larsen (currently accused of covering up a terrorist act for political gain) , now severely threaten people. First he states that such an action is “as stupid as anything can be. When you do that kind of thing, you are going to pay for it. And that bill is being prepared now“:

»Det er så dumt, som noget kan være. Når man laver den slags, så kommer man til at betale for det. Og den regning er ved at blive udstedt nu«, siger chefpolitiinspektør Per Larsen fra Københavns Politi.

That’s not enough for Per Larsen, however, who also threatens to shoot activists. He says that “the risk is present if anyone feels threatened. When you do such a thing you expose yourself to risks”:

»Den risiko er også til stede, hvis nogen havde følt sig truet. Når man gør den slags, så udgør man da en risiko for sig selv«, siger Per Larsen.

As we have seen throughout COP15 the Danish police do whatever they can, whatever the want, with whatever means necessary to repress protests and to intimidate and scare people from participating in saving the world from corrupt politicians and greeedy corporate pigs, but this is the first time that they directly threaten to shoot people. (Of course they have infamously shot at protesters in Copenhagen before – in 1993 when 113 rounds were fired at an anti-EU demonstration. Denmark just is like that!)

Obviously poor little Per Larsen is upset that the Greenpeace activists took the piss out of him and his imbecile force and now he wants revenge and speaks like a little boy who has had his toy taken away.

While activists climbed lamp posts etc. in front of the parliament building, three others, dressed in appropriate galla fashion entered the fine dinner where the Danish Queen were receiving the “leaders” of states for some pompous food and drink. The exact same style of action was carried out a week earlier in Brussels. EDIT: The four Greenpeace activists have still not been released, causing the Spanish state to “help” one of them, namely the Spanish head of Greenpeace, Juan Lopéz de Uralde.

All bets are off now, all targets – by any means necessary – are legitimate, it seems.

Johan Martini Reimann, politidirektør, Københavns Politi

»Der er ikke andre tilfælde i nogle andre sager om anholdelser af klimaaktivister, hvor aflytninger er underkendt«, siger Carsten