Interview with Peter Linebaugh, Professor of History at the University of Toledo and author of “The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All” recorded March 14, 2009.
Today the world’s media carry the story of the Peruvian Congress having suspended the destructive decrees that caused a non-violent, yet forceful uprising by indigenous peoples organising to defend the Amazon from the oil and gas industry. It is not a victory – merely one less defeat! The forest continues to be destroyed. Drilling, pumping, spilling roads building and Christian conquest of hearts, souls and minds through concerted violence, repression, manipulation, false promises (“Jesus will buy you a fridge and a car”) and disrespect for the inhabitants of what was once the world’s largest (rain) forest, but which is now better described as a region threatened by destruction, deforestation, desertification, in brief, death. However, at least, for now the attempt to accelerate further the destruction has been pushed back, but not stopped. The struggle continues…..
Congress temporarily suspended two decrees issued by President Alan García that had helped set off recent protests by indigenous groups fearful of large oil and logging investments in the Peruvian Amazon. The decrees would open vast jungle areas to investment and allow companies to bypass indigenous communities to get permits for projects. The protests resulted in repression by security forces and apparent reprisals by Indians last week that left dozens dead.
See also: Top name brands implicated in Amazon destruction, New Greenpeace report shows how the cattle industry in Brazil is feeding demand for raw resources and “Slaughtering the Amazon”
The recent, very violent policing of protests against the G20 meeting in London has become a matter of concern. The story that the authorities tell is one of disobedient police officers. The story, with a bit of imagination, could be understood as if, perhaps, there aren’t just a few bad apples in the barrel, some individuals: maybe there is a disease inside the institution, indeed it is “very worrying“:
“Some officers now appeared prepared to flout recent orders from senior commanders to display their numbers, Huhne said, with another officer photographed at the protest staged by Tamils in Parliament Square with his numbers disguised. “What we appear to have is repeated cases of police officers ignoring the direct orders of their police supervisors and this is very worrying.
“There’s only one motive for a police officer disguising his identity and that’s because he thinks he’s going to be doing something reprehensible.”
Senior Metropolitan police officers held a series of crisis meetings throughout last week and sources said Sir Paul Stephenson, the new commissioner, was determined to get a grip. One Met source said he was ready to “kick some ass” among senior officers. The IPCC has received more than 185 complaints about the G20 protests, of which 44 are not eligible for consideration, including complaints from people who saw footage on TV. Around 90 complaints about use of force included witness accounts as well as those from alleged victims.”
It is obviously wishful thinking that the current concern will translate into institutional reforms on a large scale. Most likely it will subside into a few firings, extended suspensions (paid holidays) and early retirements with golden handshakes. The police as an institution is intricately connected to the economy and representative democracy, representing industrial, private interests, as such it is a force of violence that is mobilised when the masses threaten the elite. The police are the arms of the agents of waste.
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.
Colonos is involved in preparing a concept paper, which will be presented at the “Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change” at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage, Alaska (USA), 20-24 April 2009. It concerns the categorisation and organisation of contents well as a licensing framework for a web portal providing access to climate change adaptation strategies and tactics based on indigenous knowledge practices and captured in the spirit of the practitioners, whether in moving pictures, still, song or poetry. Not an easy conceptual task on a rather politically volatile and culturally sensitive terrain. However, we thought (something like) “better us than someone with less of a strong political analysis and feeling of solidarity and spirit of rebellion” (just to blow our own horn, perhaps?!).
One of the central challenges is spelled out in this quote from the Introduction to a Special Issue of Futures: Futures of Indigenous Knowledges. Volume 41, Issue 1, Pages 1-66 (February 2009):
“[T]he future for [Indigenous Knowledges] IKs lies in the creation of a knowledge space for assembling diverse knowledges. The critical strategic capacity to allow the comparative evaluation and growth of diverse knowledge traditions with differing epistemologies and ontologies, with differing ways of understanding and framing the world, may be humanity’s last hope for a future. .. But … is it possible for IKs to be moved from their site of cultural production, enter the knowledge economy and become part of the global knowledge commons without losing their cultural specificity, without being homogenised and submerged in one globalised system?” (Turnbull 2009)
We can reveal that the concept paper recommends the Transmission Metadata Standard, links to IFIWatch.TV, and draws upon the experiences of the Free Culture movement, more specifically the Free Software movement’s strategies and tactics for the reform of copyright. More on that later…
Meanwhile, here is the invitation to the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change:
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.
Indigenous Peoples representatives and organizations held a protest at the May 2 2008 conclusion of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York.
A grassroots summit.
On November 16, indigenous, mestizo and African-Ecuadorian community leaders, farmers, environmentalists, activists, and individuals affected or concerned about the environmental situation in Ecuador gathered at the Catholic University in Quito for the First Summit of Communities Criminalized for Defending Nature.
Over recent years, violent confrontations, repression and human rights violations have increasingly characterised environmental conflicts in all parts of the country. The summit was organised by a variety of social movements in order to publicly highlight political, juridical, and extra-judicial persecutions and abuses of social and environmental activists.
Testimonies of persons jailed, criminalised, shot and stories of those assassinated were shared and collected and the social, political and economic reasons and consequences of the persecutions analysed. The global nature of repression against movements opposed to environmentally and socially damaging projects was emphasised, and the summit declared solidarity and support for all social and environmental grassroots movements worldwide.
The summit participants later marched to hand members of the National Constitutional Assembly a petition for amnesty for the over 200 community leaders currently imprisoned for the execution of their right to protest and to live in a healthy environment. The petition also demanded an end to the ceaseless violations of human rights and community rights to ancestral land generated by mining, oil exploitation, logging, hydroelectrical power stations, and shrimp farming.
(Freely translated and abridged from Javier Mazeres’ article of the same title, published in the newsletter of the Catalonian Association Ali Supay – www.alisupay.org)