Month: November 2008
This brief reflection on the nature of property was spawned by a misleading statement about the political persuasion of Lawrence Lessig et al. by http://techliberation.com.
If, as it is claimed “they set the intellectual agenda for the Left on information technology policy“, then there is no left.
Lessig et al. are liberals and right of centre in any sensible political analysis. Last time I checked one of the main points of leftist politics was a critique of the ownership of the means of production in the tangible realm and a clear rejection of the predominance of exclusive private property in that context.
Lessig, however, has stated repeatedly that he sees no problem with the conventional liberal understanding of exclusive private property as the best way to organise the tangible realm. This position of his has been brought out in debate with the far right people – or property fundamentalists (like Epstein) – who believe that exclusive private property should also rule in the intangible realm.
Benkler remains “suspicious” of accounts that use the term property, which is not quite the same as accepting exclusive private property in the tangible realm, but it is a clear rejection of property as a protocol for social organisation of the intangible realm.
They essentially reject “property in general” on the basis of a very “particular form of property”, namely exclusive, private property (in the tangible realm) with a collocation of exclusionary and exchange rights. That is a pretty much the same as saying that I am suspicious of Italy, because I once had a bad experience in Rome airport, while in transfer. You cannot simply reject something in general on the basis of a very particular instance. One piece of software might be bad, like Windows, but could I sensibly reject a GNU/Linux system on that basis (without sounding like I had no clue)?
This is a letter from some of the people that Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s neo-capitalist, authoritarian president, calls “infantile” and “romantic”, probably because they didn’t go to the fancy white man’s schools that the fine president attended to learn that most anti-human of trades called economics, which is some sort of brain washing thing where you are taught that the human being is an entirely self-interested, rational agent who just wants to go shopping and doesn’t care for her community.
The letter is from the Waorani women who are getting systematically killed by the oil industry, which is enjoying strong protection from the Ecuadorian state, led by Correa:
“Manuela Omari Ima, who is the new chairperson of Waorani women’s organization, Amwae, has first hand experience in the devastating consequences of oil exploration. “The indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon have been decimated in just a few decades,” she says. “The Waorani people alone numbered around 16,000 at the end of the 1960s, when the oil exploration began. Today, there are no more than about a thousand of us left… I don’t know how much longer we can survive under the current conditions. Perhaps the industry will out-live us – judging by how it has wiped out other tribal peoples in the Amazon. Maybe the earth will have nothing left to give when the companies leave.”
Altogether, an estimated 90% of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon region of Ecuador have been wiped out over the past few decades, according to the FDA. Contamination from the oil industry, forced relocations, militarized violence and civilization-borne diseases are the critical factors behind the process of extinction.”
Letter of WAORANI women to the Government of Ecuador
Lago Agrio, 6th of November 2008
We, as women, made this document in paper and in your language. We cannot speak to you because we live far away and because you don’t understand our language.
Look at this paper Mr. President, it contains our words, the words of the Waorani women.
We want to live in a large territory, our culture is based on a large territory, it is ours, not because the State decided so, but because God gave it to us, therefore we talk of our land, our children, our language. As our ancestors told us: without land, we cannot live.
This is a very nice and informative piece of writing. Not in need of an ideology or a reference to the right -ism, the message is ever so stronger. Colonos do, however, have a few reservations, but let’s save them for later and for now just enjoy Graeber’s musings on our current predicaments:
We seem to have reached an impasse. Capitalism as we know it appears to be coming apart. But as financial institutions stagger and crumble, there is no obvious alternative. Organized resistance appears scattered and incoherent; the global justice movement a shadow of its former self. There is good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism will no longer exist: for the simple reason that it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet. Faced with the prospect, the knee-jerk reaction—even of “progressives”—is, often, fear, to cling to capitalism because they simply can’t imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.
The first question we should be asking is: How did this happen? Is it normal for human beings to be unable to imagine what a better world would even be like?
The United Nations have released a report on the phenomenon dubbed as the Asian Brown Cloud, which is a thick soup of human waste engulfing Asia, and which has been widely reported:
“A dirty brown haze sometimes more than a mile thick is darkening skies not only over vast areas of Asia, but also in the Middle East, southern Africa and the Amazon Basin, changing weather patterns around the world and threatening health and food supplies, the U.N. reported Thursday.
The huge smog-like plumes, caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and firewood, are known as “atmospheric brown clouds.”
When mixed with emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for warming the earth’s atmosphere like a greenhouse, they are the newest threat to the global environment, according to a report commissioned by the U.N. Environment Program.”
“One of the most serious problems highlighted in the report is the documented retreat of the Hind Kush-Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers, which provide the head-waters for most Asian rivers, and thus have serious implications for the water and food security of Asia”
This taken together with the alarming development all over the world, but particularly with regards to tropical glaciers in South America, mainly Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, it is looking more and more like game over soon. There really isn’t much time left. The Asian Brown cloud, first reported on in 2002 has now grown to a full scale threat of immanent disaster. Water is running out, the Himalayan glaciers whose decay are accelerated by the Asian Brown Cloud feed around 2 billion people with water to drink and to grow crops. Now go figure…
Obama bin Ltd., the Great Hope for Change in the central White House of Global Capitalism, Control Ltd., has chosen his right hand: Mr. Rahm Emanuel will be Chief of Staff, the job which some analysts call one of the most influential or powerful positions in any U.S. Administration.
So who is he? Well, Rahm (רם), means “high” or “lofty” in Hebrew, while his last name, Emanuel (עמנואל), means “God is with us.” – so he is high on God?
“In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently
supportive of Israel. “We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror,” Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush. The letter said that Israel’s policy of
assassinating Palestinian political leaders “was clearly justified as an application of Israel’s right to self-defense” (“Pelosi supports Israel’s attacks on Hamas group,” San Francisco Chronicle, 14 June 2003).”
In an ABC News hosted blog we find this description of “Emanuel’s father as “a gun runner for the Irgun, the Zionist, pre-Israel Zionist, militia that carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Palestinian civilians, including the bombing of the King David Hotel. Of course, Rahm Emanuel himself is not responsible for any of that, but his record is sometimes far to the right of President Bush when it comes to supporting Israel.””
Over the last few years Ecuador has been undergoing a series of transformations that misleadingly have been labelled as (neo-)socialism with an environmental sensibility. The main architect behind the project, which is really nothing other than industrialist, progressivist routines of old, is called Rafael Correa.
Slick, charismatic and essentially an authoritarian opportunist, yet European and U.S. journalists have either hailed him as a poster boy for 21st Century Socialism or warned against him for that very reason.
Nothing could be further from the truth (if it really is out there).
At best he is a social-democrat whore to heavy industry who calls environmentalists and indigenous peoples things like “extremists”, “romantic”, and “infantile” and strikes down upon their popular protests with military might in the best of capitalist manners:
“The people mobilized in Dayuma and were repressed. There was a mobilization in Cuenca against mining projects and the president got on the radio and said, ‘If twenty of these crazy ecologists are protesting, I’ll call 20,000, or 200,000, residents to confront them.’ What is this? What sort of regime is this? This is socialism of the 21st century?”
I shall not dwell much further on this issue of misleading labels – it is an obvious opportunism in itself and should serve as a warning against the writings of people like Greg Palast, who obviously forgot to investigate during his journalistic, jet set, in-out visit to Ecuador last Christmas (and who has seemingly also removed critical comments from the original article!).
The nature of Correa’s political project goes against the nature of the environment: one of his key projects, the Latin American integration project, IIRSA, will essentially destroy what is left of the Amazon. This has been addressed again and again by colonos with reference to the Manta-Manaus corridor and can easily be found by clicking around in this blog a bit or simply by googling IIRSA.
Correa’s political, rhetorical moves, however, are so smart that many people (unfamiliar with radical, grass-roots analyses) believe him and thus embrace his government and projects, but it is time to wake up for people outside of Ecuador to the realities that anyone working on grass-roots levels have known all along: there is nothing environmentally friendly about Ecuador’s new constitution, neither about its current government! Rather, Ecuador’s president – in himself – constitutes a severe threat to the Amazon!
“Another clear example is ITT. The Taegheri and Taromenane peoples [in voluntary isolation] live in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini area. This is the Huaorani people’s territory. Ecuador’s indigenous people, in accord with international agreements and the 1998 constitution, asked for this area to be protected. The President, who is very intelligent, said, “Great. Let’s leave the oil underground and see how many countries will supplement the $500 million a year we would lose.” He knew that this would be very difficult to accomplish.”
Essentially we’ve here been summing up on what we have been reporting on for more than two years now, and in the same breath also been introducing an interview with Monica Chuji – a Kichwa activist and politician – that is best read in its entirety with no further ado:
Whither Ecuador? An Interview with Indigenous Activist and Politician Monica Chuji
Written by Daniel Denvir for UpsideDownWorld
Thursday, 06 November 2008
Monica Chuji is an indigenous Kichwa activist from the Ecuadorian Amazon. She served as an Assembly Member from President Rafael Correa’s Alianza País party in the National Constituent Assembly, drafting Ecuador’s new constitution. Prior to Chuji’s election to the Assembly, she was Correa’s Secretary of Communication and spokeswoman. In September, she broke with Correa and left Alianza País, the culmination of months of increasing conflict between the President and Ecuador’s social and indigenous movements.