"If there is one thing I know,
it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked
and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal
time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies:
privatizing education and social security, slashing public services,
getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the
economic crisis, this is happening the world over. And there
is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s
a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking
to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say 'No. We will not pay
for your crisis.'"
The greatest purveyor of violence in
the world today [is] my own government. ... [F]or the sake of the
hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1975 the elite Trilateral Commission issued a report entitled,
"The Crisis of Democracy." It held that an "excess
of democracy" was disrupting the smooth functioning of government
and undermining its authority. The report asserted this crisis
was caused by previously marginalized members of society organizing
to demand that their needs and interests be addressed. Clearly
an intolerable situation in the eyes of the Commission. In the
ruling class version of democracy, the general public is to be
passive and obedient and must be excluded from meaningful political
involvement. Its role is to do nothing more than cast a vote on
election day for one of the officially approved candidates of our
two party system and then go home having fulfilled its duty.
In this elite view there is no public interest, only a fragmented
electorate comprised of so called "special interests"
such as racial and ethnic minorities, women, workers, students,
farmers, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and increasingly
the middle class. In other words--all of us except the very wealthy.
In the trenchant words of the Occupy Movement, it's the 99% versus
the 1% whose wealth and power enables it to identify the nation's
interest with its own; and to date the 1% is winning. In this
perverted arrangement where the "national interest"
is identified with the interests of the giant corporations and
huge financial institutions, corporate profit masquerading as
the national interest will always trump the common good.
The real crisis of democracy is not an excess of democracy but
the lack of real democratic participation. The choice before us
is either a genuine democracy or a government that is simply the
handmaiden of the super rich, the corporations and financial institutions--a
condition better understood as the authoritarian rule of a plutocracy.
If we ever needed further proof of this, the 2010 Supreme Court
decision, Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, should
make this abundantly clear. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court ruled
the speech of corporations must be treated the same as that of
human beings, thereby empowering corporations and billionaires
to fund superpacs which are allowed to spend unlimited money in
support of a candidate as long as they don't coordinate that expenditure
with the candidate (a slippery condition that is unenforceable)
and as long as they disclose where the money comes from.
In the current federal election, the voice of the little guy
is further drowned out by what has come to be called "dark
money." These are so-called "social welfare" non-profits
such as Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS, two Republican
organizations, as well as trade associations like the Chamber
of Commerce, organized respectively as 501 (c)4s and 501
(c)6s under the U.S. tax code. This designation allows them to
spend unlimited money in elections without disclosing their donors
so long as they don't explicitly call for the election or defeat
of a particular candidate. However, this murky distinction does
allow them to run ads which do raise issues clearly designed to
support or defeat a particular candidate.
Big money has even managed to subvert the initiative process
which was originally designed to enhance democracy by allowing
voters to propose legislation through ballot initiatives. But
here again the corrosive effect of big money usually wins the
day by using the power of that money to pass or defeat legislation
deemed to be in the interests of big business and the wealthy
elite. There can be no doubt that here in America we have the
best democracy money can buy.
The current Supreme Court is comprised of five activist conservative
justices who are decidedly pro big business and anti-labor. On
June 25 of this year, this right-wing Court, in another 5
to 4 ruling, summarily struck down a 1912 Montana law which barred
direct corporate contributions to political parties and candidates,
a law which had been enacted because of a history of electoral
interference on the part of the state's copper kings. Then on
June 21 of this year in KNOX v SEIU, the Court took a crippling
swipe at labor when it ruled that unions had to get "opt-in"
permission from non-members, who are covered under union-negotiated
contracts, before it could use their dues for political purposes.
Yet there is no requirement under the law for corporations to
get "opt-in" permission from shareholders in order to
use company resources for political purposes. No level playing
field here. Clearly the rulings of this right-wing Court are a
roadblock to any semblance of economic justice without which there
can be no real democracy.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties are the instruments
of an elite ruling class which maintains control through the illusion
of choice since each party is but a separate wing of the same
party of wealth and privllege. Despite their differences, they
share a common allegiance to the capitalist system and U.S. imperialism.
They play different roles, yet function together to ensure that
whoever the voters choose, the outcome will never challenge U.S.
military hegemony and the capitalist system of putting corporate
profits above the common good.
Capital maintains its rule through a clever combination of deception,
accommodation, and when necessary, violence. The role of the Republicans
is to be the unembarrassed and unmitigated friend of Big
Business. To the working class and the poor, the Republicans are
seen as the greater of two evils. Within this good cop bad cop
arrangement, the role of the Democrats is to be the lesser
of two evils. Their job is to deliver just enough crumbs and benefits
to blue collar workers, the poor, and middle class to keep them
playing within this rigged electoral game.
To be fair, what may seem like crumbs in the big picture can
be a matter of survival for those struggling to get by. Nonetheless,
should the collusion of this bipartisan charade fail, both parties
hope voters will become so disillusioned that they drop out of
the electoral system without ever challenging it by building a
mass movement rooted in independent politics. This duplicity and
the rigged nature of our electoral system has caused the Democratic
Party to become the graveyard of the very social movements necessary
to reinvigorate our democracy. If the Democrats were truly committed
to social change, they would work to expand the electorate by
bringing in new voters from among the disaffected and marginalized
of our society, but having nothing of substance to offer they
make no such efforts. Hence the embarrassingly low voter turn
out in this country.
We are living in a time when there is a fundamental struggle
going on as to what kind of country we and our children are going
to inhabit. On the one hand there are those who believe there
is something we can all recognize as the common good. These are
basic things that make for a viable and sustainable economy, a healthy
environment, and a healthy population. These are things such as
clean air, clean water, public education, public parks, roads,
bridges and infrastructure, and a universal, comprehensive health
care system to name just a few of the most obvious ones. These
are the functions of government and they require taxes. Taxes
then are simply the dues one pays for living in a just and functioning
society that provides an abundance of opportunity and recognizes
there is a public good and a commons from which everyone benefits.
On the other hand, we have the ideology of the ruling elite
that denies there is such a thing as the commons or the public
interest and that treats all such matters as commodities to be
delivered by corporations whose primary goal is corporate
profit, not the welfare of its workers or those to whom it sells
its goods and services. This pernicious ideology is turning our
country into a market society in which we know the price of everything,
but have lost a sense of the value of anything be it clean air,
clean water, the arts, education, leisure, happiness, or family
This privatization movement is an explicit attempt to turn over
to corporations public resources, services and functions, which
for centuries were operated by government. Privatization is the
means by which corporations take over and run for profit what
the public sector of the economy has traditionally done for the
welfare of the population as a whole. Even prisons have become
a source of corporate profit as more and more of them are being
privatized. This privatization movement seeks to limit and defund
government and ultimately control any aspect of the public sector
that stands in the way of corporate profits. It is eviscerating
public control and accountability of crucial govern-mental functions
such as public health and safety, education, environmental protection,
and the public broadcast airways, the latter of which is vital
if we are to be informed citizens in a functioning democracy.
The mantra of these corporate privatizers is to let the market
decide everything and have less government. Of course they don't
really want less government but rather a government that works
for the interests of corporations, not the interests of the people
and the common good. The difference between the values of corporate
privatizers and the values of those of us committed to the common
good is perhaps the great divide of our time. If we lose this
battle, we are putting our democracy up for sale and endangering
the very environment that sustains us all. The ruling elite equates
democracy with nothing less than unfettered, unregulated capitalism
and equates freedom with corporate license to make ever greater
profits, regardless of the social costs to our communities, our
health, and our environment.
We will not have real democracy in this country until we take
big money out of politics and that means overturning Citizens
United and instituting federally funded elections. We must end
forever the idea that money is the equivalent of speech and
that corporations have the same rights that were given to natural
persons by the Constitution of the United States. We must also
end the revolving door which shuffles former industry lobbyists
into government positions and returns those same legislators and
government regulators into the industries over which they previously
If we are to have a real democracy, we must overturn restrictive
ballot access laws and have viable third parties that represent
the broad spectrum of issues and solutions that people care about.
We need instant run off voting and proportional representation
like so many of the Western democracies of the world. We must
have substantive presidential debates open to third party candidates,
not the charade we have now which is sponsored by the corporate
funded presidential commission entirely controlled by the Democratic
and Republican parties. The function of these sham debates is
to limit discussion to those issues which do not threaten the
capitalist structure of domination and privilege or the U.S. empire,
with its more than 900 military bases in at least 120 countries.
If we are to have a real democracy, we need a media whose job
is to create an informed electorate and that requires real
investigative reporting and challenging the lies and deceptions
of those running for public office. We must reclaim the public
airways so that they serve the public interest rather than the
financial interests of corporate America. The major media must
be required to provide free air time to all ballot qualified candidates
so we can have a robust airing of diverse political views.
If we are to have real democracy, we must eliminate the arcane
Electoral College where someone can become president by winning
a majority of the Electoral College votes even though they have
not won a majority of the popular vote. We must totally reform
our electoral system and insure that every citizen has the right
to vote and every vote is counted on voting machines that have
verifiable paper trails. To insure that end we must criminalize
the efforts of those engaged in voter suppression-- today's equivalent
of yesterday's abhorrent Jim Crow laws.
On that day we will have honored the heroic struggles of those
who faced fire hoses and police dogs and were jailed and even
murdered to secure the sacred right to vote. On that day our vote
will be meaningful and on that day America can proudly proclaim
that at long last we are indeed a democracy.
David Glick is a poet, psychotherapist and a member of the
Marin Peace and Justice Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, and
Health Care for All--California
John Michael Greer
critiquing Globalize Liberation
[The following critique full of provocative ideas for the
environmental community is a personal letter printed with the
author's permission to circulate it widely. But to identify the
people and context:
The author is John Michael Greer, who explains quite a lot
about himself in the letter. We've also put a bio at the end of
The recipients are Patrick Reinsborough and James John Bell,
members of the smartMeme collaborative, the activist-oriented
message-and-media consultants. For more about smartMeme go tohttp://smartmeme.org/
Greer is critiquing a book edited by David Solnit, "Globalize
Liberation" (SF: City Lights Book, 2004). He focuses on Patrick's
chapter, "Decolonizing the Revolutionary Imagination: Values
Crisis, the Politics of Reality, and Why There's Going to Be a
Common-Sense Revolution in This Generation." You can read
that chapter on the Rachel site at http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=508.
Peter Montague is also publishing the chapter in several parts
The letter is perfectly understandable without reading either
the chapter or the book, but it also frames a way to read or reread
both. Enjoy! Discuss!]
John Michael Greer writes:
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.
James, we've talked extensively about magic, but I don't know
how much of that you've shared with Patrick. For that reason,
not to mention the off chance you might pass this around to others,
I should probably take a moment to explain what I mean by magic
and why it's relevant to social change at all. Dion Fortune (Violet
Firth Evans), one of the most important magical theorists of the
twentieth century, defined magic as "the art and science
of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will."
While magic as I understand it is more a craft than an art or
a science, the basic principle holds. The medium of magic is consciousness
-- one's own consciousness, that of other people, and (more controversially,
at least within the worldview of modern industrial culture) that
of other-than-human entities of various kinds. The tools of magic
are will, imagination, and the innate structures of consciousness
itself, constellated through formal patterns of symbol and ritual.
The goals of magic are defined by the individual magician.
The relevance of all this to social change and society in general
was pointed out powerfully by the late Ioan Culianu, one of the
few significant modern scholars of magic who was also a competent
mage. In his groundbreaking "Eros and Magic in the Renaissance"
(1984) Culianu argued that modern advertising is a form of magic,
and proposed that modern consumer societies can be seen as "magician
states" in which social control is primarily maintained not
by violence but by manipulation through magically charged images.
It's a crucial insight; when people treat, say, fizzy brown sugar
water as a source of their identity and human value, their resemblance
to fairy-tale characters under an enchantment isn't accidental.
They're quite literally caught up in a spell.
Those who aren't used to magic may find it easier to think of
spells as stories. Quite a lot of magic, in fact, can be understood
as storytelling. The mage uses symbol and ritual to tell a story,
and makes it so spellbinding that the listeners come to believe
that it's real -- and then make it real by their actions. Magical
combat is a struggle between storytellers, in which each mage
tries to define a common reality in terms of the story that best
serves his or her purposes. The struggle between the global corporate
system and the activist community, to build on Culianu's insights,
can be seen as a
conflict of magicians telling opposing stories.
One obvious danger in magical combat is that of falling under
the spell of the other mage's story -- but there's also the subtler
danger of falling under the spell of one's own story, losing track
of the fact that it's a story rather than the raw undefined reality
of human experience out of which stories are assembled. When that
happens, the self-enchanted mage may not be able to let go of
the story, even when it's no longer relevant and another story
would be more useful. As the old tale of the Sorcerer's Apprentice
points out, if you lose control of the magical forces you summon,
you're in trouble. Something of this sort seems to have happened
in large parts of the progressive community.
Reading "Globalize Liberation" highlighted for me three
stories, or spells, in which many of today's progressives seem
to be caught. Let's call them the spell of reification, the spell
of corporate triumphalism, and the spell of rescue. (This last
has another name that's more revealing, but I'll save that for
a bit; I'm sure you know that mages don't bandy about true names
too freely.) I'd like to talk about those spells first, and then
go on to talk about the more hopeful side of the book: some of
the ways in which today's progressive community has begun to master
its own magical powers and, with them, the future of the world.
I. The Spell of Reification
To my mind, one of the most striking essays in "Globalize
Liberation" is Van Jones' piece "Behind Enemy Lines:
Inside the World Economic Forum" (pp.87-96). It's especially
valuable because it brings core assumptions of the progressive
community up against the very different world of industrial society's
Jones was astonished to find that the vast corporate structures
against which he and many other progressives had been campaigning
so hard -- the WTO, the World Bank, and so on -- were treated,
by the people who run them, as mere tools to be used or tossed
aside at will. The elite see themselves personally as the holders
of power, and institutions as their means and modes of power.
The activists outside the police barricades, by contrast, see
the institutions themselves as the problem. The scene from "The
Wizard of Oz" comes forcefully to mind; Dorothy and her friends
try to figure out some way to deal with the terrifying apparition
of Oz, the Great and Powerful, but never notice the little man
behind the curtain.
This is only one form of a pervasive problem in today's progressive
politics: the way that identification so often transforms itself
into reification. In magical tradition, names are a source of
power, since to name something is to give it a context and meaning
of the mage's choosing. In struggles for social change, it's therefore
crucial to name what one is fighting; that's identification. But
to go beyond this, to forget that every name is an abstraction
imposed on a complex reality, and to treat the name as though
it's an independent reality lurching around all by itself causing
problems -- that's reification, and it's fatal.
The economic elite Jones encountered at the World Economic Forum
use reification as a form of protective camouflage. The WTO and
its like distract protest from the people and interests who shape,
operate, and profit from them. The elites could discard any of
them in a heartbeat without bringing the world one step closer
to progressive goals. But this isn't the only form of reification
that gets in the way of effective social change.
Starhawk's essay "A Feminist View of Global Justice"
(pp. 45-50) shows another kind of reification at work. Starhawk's
a capable mage, and her essay is a good example of name magic.
Responding to claims that the world's problems are caused by corporations
pursuing their own good under the banner of neoliberal ideology,
she argues that corporations and neoliberalism alike are simply
forms of patriarchy. By this act of renaming she subordinates
anticorporate language and analyses to the feminist philosophy
she's defended so ably in her many books.
But what is this thing called "patriarchy"? As feminist
philosophers have rightly pointed out, there's nothing in American
society or culture that isn't part of the system of privilege
subordinating women to men. It's useful to glance a few pages
ahead to Betita Martinez' article on racism, which argues that
the system of white supremacy (the name she places on racism,
in another act of name magic) similarly embraces every institution
in American society. If every part of American society is part
of the system of patriarchy, and every part of American society
is likewise part of the system of white supremacy, are the two
systems actually different?
I'd point out that human relations and exchanges in American
society (and indeed most others) suffer from systematic inequalities
along lines drawn by gender, color, age, ethnicity, social status,
sexual orientation, body weight, physical appearance, and many
other factors. None of these divisions exist outside the whole
system of privilege. It can be good strategy to use labels such
as "patriarchy" to focus attention on some particular
group suffering under the system, but it's crucial not to fall
into the same mistake as those who protest the WTO, and forget
that patriarchy is simply one mode of privilege, a manifestation
rather than a cause.
Failure to realize this burdened an earlier generation of activists
with bitter, divisive, and utterly futile quarrels between men
of color and white women as to whether racism or sexism was the
"real problem," when the real problem is a system of
privilege that treats gender and color, among many other things,
as grounds for unequal treatment. But reifying privilege as something
separate from society as a whole doesn't advance understanding
either. The word "privilege" is merely a way of describing
systematic patterns of inequality in the fabric of human relations
and exchanges; it doesn't exist outside that fabric, and it can
only be changed by changing the fabric thread by thread, weaving
it into new patterns of equality and mutual respect.
Of course systematic oppression of women on account of their
gender is a reality, and something that any progressive movement
worth the name needs to confront. In that Starhawk's essay focuses
attention on this, it's performing a valuable service. But it's
crucial to remember that many women also suffer oppression and
injustice for reasons unrelated to their gender -- reasons such
as color, ethnic background, and body weight -- and that women
can also be privileged by social divisions, and inflict oppression
and injustice on others. Using a label such as "patriarchy"
for the whole problem obscures these issues and, as I'll show
a little further on, closes off potential avenues for effective
action. Beyond this, insisting that one particular mode of privilege
is more important than others is itself a claim of privilege,
and -- as in the case of the quarrels just mentioned -- commonly
accompanies attempts to claim that one group's experience of oppression
and injustice deserves more attention from the activist community
Reifications are problematic because they can distract progressives
from points of access where their actions can make a difference.
Consider George Lakey's fascinating account of the Otpor movement
against Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic in his article "Strategizing
for a Living Revolution" (pp. 135-160). One of the tactics
Otpor members used to halt police violence against them was to
take photos of their wounded and make sure the family members,
neighbors, and children of the police got to see them. This was
a brilliant bit of magic. The individual human beings who made
up that reified abstraction, "the police," were stripped
of that identity by a spell of unnaming, and turned back into
neighbors, husbands, children, parents: people who were part of
civil society, and subject to its standards and social pressures.
That couldn't have been achieved if Otpor had reified and protested
"police brutality," since that act would have strengthened
the reification of police as something other than ordinary members
The same point should be made about one of the most pervasive
reifications in "Globalize Liberation," the reification
of the existing order of society itself. David Solnit's otherwise
excellent introduction (pp. xi-xxiv) falls headlong into this
trap. Solnit confidently proclaims that "the system"
is the cause of the world's social and ecological problems, and
then goes on to define "the system" as the sum total
of those problems: war, economic exploitation, and so on. It's
a breathtaking display of circular logic, and invites the retort
that "the system" is simply an abstract reification
of everything about the world that the progressive community doesn't
Again, Lakey's account offers a potent alternative. Otpor strategists
recognized that the Milosevic dictatorship wasn't an independent
reality imposing itself from above on a passive society. It was
simply an arrangement of things within Serbian society, and could
only exist with the constant cooperation of millions of ordinary
Serbs. The same is true of today's global corporate economy; it
exists because people throughout the world, and especially people
in America, uphold it by their actions. In effect, we are "the
system." If we recognize that fact, instead of reifying "the
system" as some force alien to us, we can own and then wield
our power over it.
II. The Spell of Corporate Triumphalism
The notion that "the system" is something outside the
society that constitutes it goes hand in hand with the claim that
the struggle against "the system" is entering its most
desperate phase right now. Patrick, I'm going to pick on you here,
mostly because you indicated a willingness to accept scathing
criticism; plenty of other essays in the book fall into this same
rhetoric. You start your thoughtful essay "Decolonizing the
Revolutionary Imagination" (pp. 161-212) with the words:
"Our planet is heading into an unprecedented global crisis.
The blatancy of the corporate power grab and the accelerating
ecological meltdown is evidence that we do not live in an era
where we can afford the luxury of fighting merely the symptoms
of the problem." Language like "doomsday economy"
and repeated insistences that we have no choice except all-out
struggle feed this sense of desperation.
There's a strong confirmatory bias at work in discussions of
these topics in the activist community, which has resulted in
the widespread acceptance of statements that can't be justified
by the facts. You comment, for example, that the current ecological
transformation is "the sixth great extinction," that
it's more rapid than any other, and that it threatens the survival
of the Earth's biosphere itself. This rhetoric is extremely common
in activist circles these days but it's not actually supported
by scientific research into the Earth's past extinction crises,
which I'd encourage you to look into. There have been more than
twenty great extinctions since the end of the Precambrian Period,
not five (or six); many past extinctions were much swifter than
the present example (the K-T event that wiped out the dinosaurs
was almost instant, since it involved an asteroid smashing into
the Earth); and the Earth's biosphere has easily weathered crises
much more drastic than anything it's facing now. The current crisis
is a reality but it doesn't threaten the survival of life on the
Does this mean that we needn't worry about the ecological and
climatic shifts now under way as a result of human blundering?
Hardly. Given that global warming alone may well drown every coastal
city in the world under rising oceans, wreck the global agricultural
system on which six billion people depend for their daily meals,
and send tropical epidemics raging through the temperate world,
just in the next century, we have plenty to fret about. As James
Lovelock has shown, the earth's biosphere is an intricate, powerful
system that responds homeostatically to cancel out imbalances.
Our society's inept prodding at the biosphere risks kindling a
homeostatic response that could flatten the proud towers of our
cities and push Homo sapiens to the brink of extinction.
This view of the situation has a solid foundation in science.
As a tool for raising questions about the existing order of society
and mobilizing individuals and communities, it's likely to work
at least as well as the rhetoric of desperation described above.
Yet it's received very little attention in progressive circles.
Partly that's an effect of the third spell I'll discuss in this
essay; partly, it's a rhetorical habit, common on the American
left from colonial times to the present, of using apocalyptic
rhetoric to prod people into listening (though by this point people
are pretty well immunized to it). Partly, though, it's the result
of another factor.
This factor is a mythology of corporate triumphalism. Today's
global corporate economy presents itself as the inevitable wave
of the future, a rising power that will master the destiny of
the planet sometime soon if it hasn't done so already. Francis
Fukuyama's widely read essay "The End of History" typifies
this myth: "liberal democracy" (that is, corporate socialism
manipulating the republican systems of an earlier era of politics)
is the most efficient and therefore the best possible form of
government, and so history defined as the evolutionary clash between
competing forms of government is at an end.
Fukuyama's essay is a masterpiece of unintentional comedy, with
its implied portrayal of George Herbert Walker Bush as Hegel's
"world-historical personality" -- am I the only person
who thinks that Bush the First talks like Hardy Har Har, the chronically
depressed hyena in the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons? -- but it also
offers a glimpse into the workings of the myth. It starts with
a clever reification, turning six thousand years of wildly diverse
events into a single process called "history," which
by Hegel's definition has one driving force (conflict between
forms of government) and one goal (the triumph of the "best,"
or rather, the most efficient form of government). By this act
of name magic, all previous time becomes a process leading inevitably
to today's global corporate system, and the total triumph of that
system becomes the natural conclusion of everything that's come
before: the end of history.
Progressive activists might be expected to challenge this forcefully,
and present new ways of seeing the past that either dissolve "history"
altogether or redefine it in ways that foster social change. Instead,
most modern progressive thought accepts the myth of corporate
triumphalism intact, merely changing the moral signs ("good"
becomes "bad" and vice versa) and tacking on a final
chapter in which, at the last possible minute, the good guys win
out anyway. The resulting story makes for good fantasy (it's the
basic plot of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings") but bad
strategy. Worse, by fitting the social change community into the
dramatic role of heroic fighters for a lost cause, it subtly encourages
activists to put themselves in positions where they will heroically
fail to accomplish their goals, thus playing the part the story
defines for them.
As a contrarian thought experiment, imagine that by some accident
(a head-on collision between two time machines?) you find yourself
holding a history of the world published in San Francisco in the
year 3004. You eagerly turn to the pages about the early 21st
century, hoping to find out how a triumphant, expansionistic corporate
system was defeated by a heroic minority of global activists.
What you find instead is something quite different...
"By the dawn of the 21st century it was clear that the ramshackle
structure of economic and political compromises that followed
the disastrous Great European War of 1914-1945 was falling apart,
and taking Euro-American global hegemony with it. Efforts to expand
that hegemony's technological base in the late 20th century by
introducing supersonic transports, large-scale nuclear power,
and other dubious advances went nowhere in the face of popular
resistance and economic realities, while spectacularly inept handling
of currency exchange problems by would-be "global managers"
among the governing elites put formidable strains on a faltering
system. The triumphant imperialism of the 19th century had given
way, and the global capitalism that followed it proved too weak
to resist the forces of change.
"From 1970 on, elite groups knew they faced severe resource
and energy shortages in the near future, and from 1990 on the
catastrophic threat of global climate change could no longer be
ignored (though it was publicly denied), but the system they were
expected to manage lacked the flexibility and resources to respond
to these hard realities. Nor could it cope with the ballooning
of a fictive economy built on exotic financial instruments --
essentially unpayable IOUs with nothing backing them -- which
emerged in response to pervasive weakness all through the productive
sectors of the economy. Increasingly frantic transfers of jobs,
resources and wealth across nation state borders propped up the
system over the short term, but the resulting ecological and economic
damage fanned the flames of popular discontent and brought the
final collapse steadily closer.
"2001 marked the beginning of the end. In that year, another
fiscal crisis mismanaged by the elites pushed the nation state
of Argentina (now part of the Confederacion de Vecindades de America
del Sur) into economic and political meltdown. Argentines responded
by building new, locally based networks for decision making and
exchange, and as these expanded the remnants of national government
slowly flickered out. Fiscal and ecological crises elsewhere in
Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe in 2005, 2008, and 2010
saw more than a dozen nation states start coming apart in the
same way. Even in those nation states that managed to hold together
through the troubled first decade of the 21st century, economic
dislocation and political failure drove the growth of new local
systems on the Argentine model. As news of these spread over the
Internet, it fed a growing awareness that the old order's days
"In the end, the breakup of the West Antarctic ice sheet
in 2012 proved to be simply one crisis too many for a beleaguered,
malfunctioning, and overloaded system. Faced with rising sea levels
and coastal flooding worldwide, hamstrung by an unmanageable burden
of unpayable debt from the fictive economy, and targeted by overwhelming
popular resentment due to their failure to take preventive action
against the global warming crisis, the world's economic and political
elites were left without any viable options at all. Most members
of the elites were killed outright or fled into hiding. In their
absence, the old society fell apart in a matter of months, leaving
local networks and neighborhood councils to pick up the pieces."
Take a moment to think of your own place today in that history
of elite failure and collapse. To mimic the effects of confirmatory
bias, think of everything you know that fits that vision of the
future. Make an effort to experience the world around you as though
today's global corporate system isn't a triumphant monster, but
a brittle, ungainly, jerry-rigged contraption whose managers are
vainly scrambling to hold it together against a rising tide of
crises. See the issues that engage your activism in that light,
not as though you're desperate, but as though the system is. It's
a very different perspective from that of most activists, and
reaching it even in imagination might take some work, but give
it your best try.
The point I'd like to make, once you've tried on both stories
of the future, is that both of them -- the story of corporate
triumph and the story of corporate failure -- explain the past
and present equally well. The actions of the IMF and the World
Bank in the last decade or so, for example, can be explained as
a power grab by a doomsday economy in the driver's seat, but they
can equally well be explained as desperation moves by a faltering
elite faced with a world situation that's more unsteady and ungovernable
by the day. The same is true of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and
anything else from the current-events page you wish to name.
Which of these stories is true? Wrong question. The events that
define either story haven't happened yet, and which story people
believe could well determine which way the ending turns out. If
people believe that the global corporate system is invulnerable,
most of them will make their peace with it and come to rely on
it, and their actions will give it more power. If people believe
that the global corporate system is doomed, most of them will
withdraw their support from it and begin seeking alternatives
-- and that in itself could doom it. Ask yourself, then, which
of these stories fosters more hope, gives more encouragement to
alternative visions of society, and more effectively cuts at the
mental foundations of today's economic and political systems.
Yet of course these aren't the only two choices. Philosophers
of science have agonized over the hard realization that any given
set of facts can be explained by an infinite number of hypotheses.
Mages, by contrast, revel in the freedom this implies. The freedom
to reinterpret the world, to abandon a story of desperation for
one of possibility and hope, is basic to the worldview of magic.
It's a freedom that today's progressive community might find it
useful to embrace as well.
III. The Spell of Rescue
But the progressive community's embrace of the rhetoric of desperation
and the mythology of corporate triumphalism have another source,
as I've suggested above. Another spell or, to use a model that's
particularly appropriate here,another story keeps these patterns
Patrick, I'm going to pick on you again, though I could as well
discuss most of the essays in the book. "Decolonizing the
Revolutionary Imagination" tells a story with three characters.
One is innocent, helpless, and in need of rescue. The second is
sinister, devious, and the cause of the first character's predicament.
The third is heroic, idealistic, and the first character's only
hope of rescue. The biosphere, the corporate "doomsday economy,"
and the activist community are the names you give these three
characters. Other essays in the book tell the same story but give
the characters different names. Still, you know whose story I'm
talking about. It's the story of Dudley Do-right.
On the off chance that you somehow missed out on watching the
Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, where he originally appeared, I'll
summarize. Dudley Do-right was a Mountie, blond, heroic, and as
thick as a brick. His girlfriend Nell Fenwick was always being
tied to railroad tracks by the villainous Snidely Whiplash. Dudley
rescued her time after time, to the sound of Snidely's trademark
line, "Curses, foiled again!" The next episode, though,
there's Snidely tying Nell to the tracks again as Dudley gallops
to the rescue. The roles of the three characters are as predictable
as a corporate press release: Snidely has the active role and
gets the action going in each episode, Nell's role is passive
(getting tied up and rescued), and Dudley's is reactive (foiling
Snidely and rescuing Nell).
Map the story of Dudley Do-right onto your article and it fits
down to the fine details. "The system" has the active
role, and it's always tying someone or other to the railroad tracks.
The biosphere, in this case, waits passively to be rescued. The
progressive community reacts by galloping to the rescue, and Whiplash
Petroleum issues a press release saying "Curses, foiled again!"
Dudley uses direct (re)action of various kinds -- at the point
of assumption (he tries to talk Snidely out of tying people to
railroad tracks), destruction (he unties Nell from the tracks),
production (he flags down the train), and so on. The next episode,
though, there's Snidely tying Nell to the tracks again. And again.
What's happened here is another bit of magic gone awry. The magic
in question is what the system of magic I practice calls "assuming
a godform." For certain kinds of magic, mages in my tradition
choose one of the gods or goddesses of ancient Egypt, based on
the energy they want to bring into focus -- Isis for love, Horus
for power, Nephthys for wisdom, and so on -- and first visualize,
then actively experience themselves as that deity. In its psychological
dimension (it has others) assuming a godform is a way of temporarily
redefining self-concept. Who you think you are defines what you
think you can do, and that sets the limits on what you can do.
Assuming a godform allows the mage to step outside the limits
of ordinary self-concepts by taking one aspect of human potential
and raising it to the power of infinity.
People do this in a less conscious way all the time. Kids assume
popular culture "godforms" right and left -- look, I'm
Spider-Man! Most adults do it a bit more subtly, but if you watch
them and know your pop culture you can usually figure out what
images they've assumed. You'll also notice, though, that many
of them are stuck in a single image, repeating the same role over
and over, even when it's conterproductive. I suggest that this
is what's happened to the American progressive community; it's
gotten stuck in the godform of Dudley Do-right.
No, I don't think today's activists literally spent too much
time watching the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and got mesmerized
by Canada's least intelligent Mountie. Like any satire, Dudley
Do-right pokes fun at familiar themes; we laugh at him because
we all know the story he's lampooning. The self-concept that the
progressive community has embraced is the one Dudley Do-right
makes fun of, the image of the heroic rescuer. Assuming that image
in the first place was good strategy: an effective counter to
negative images of "protesters," not to mention a way
to impose the image of Snidely Whiplash on defenders of privilege.
What makes it a problem is that activists got stuck in the role
and can't step out of it. They can't see themselves as anything
but heroic rescuers. As confirmatory bias comes into play, they
inevitably see the world around them in terms of Nells to rescue
and Snidelys to vanquish.
The spell of Dudley Do-right has much to do with the purely reactive
stance of the American activist community. When activists define
their role wholly in terms of resistance and refusal, of "articulat[ing]
a NO to the system" (David Solnit's phrase, p. xv) rather
than pursuing a positive ideal, they guarantee that they'll perpetually
be scrambling to counter some new assault by the system, trying
to maintain an inadequate status quo against the threat of further
losses, rather than making the system and its defenders scramble
to counter efforts to change the status quo for the better. This
reactive stance comes out of the Dudley Do-right role, since the
heroic rescuer is always reactive; it's the Snidelys of the world
who get each episode moving by grabbing another Nell and tying
her to the railroad tracks.
Dudley also underlies some of the less productive rhetorical
habits of the activist community. Patrick, I'm going to use your
sidebar "Framing the Climate Crisis" on p. 182 as an
example; it's fairly mild compared to some of what we've all seen,
but it'll make the point. You argue that "[i]t's up to activists
to ensure that people understand that a small cartel of energy
corporations and their financial backers knowingly destabilized
our planet's climate for their own personal gain. This may turn
out to be the most devastating crime ever perpetrated against
humanity, the planet, and future generations." Grand rhetoric,
but I trust you're aware that it's a fantastic hypersimplification
of a hugely complex issue. To be precise, it's a Dudley Do-right
definition, in which activists are Dudley, energy corporations
are Snidely Whiplash, and "humanity, the planet, and future
generations" are a collective Nell.
Is it a useful redefinition? Depends on what you're trying to
achieve. It sounds as though you hope to target the energy companies
for destruction by using them as scapegoats for disasters caused
by global warming. If that's indeed your intention, it might work,
but since global warming's sources go far beyond the mere Snidelyhood
of oil companies (and include the actions of the energy-squandering
American middle class you skillfully dismiss as "soccer moms"),
having oil company CEOs torn to pieces by howling mobs won't actually
do much for humanity, the planet, or future generations. In the
meantime, the rhetoric of demonization helps guarantee that the
issue of global warming will become more fiercely polarized and
further from a solution than ever.
An alternative approach might be worth considering. Again, George
Lakey's discussion of the Otpor movement is relevant. The Otpor
strategists deliberately avoided polarization of the sort that
American progressives embrace reflexively. Instead of demonizing
the police, they pursued a policy of outreach, building bridges
that ultimately reached into the upper levels of the police bureaucracy.
That paid off handsomely in the final crisis of the Milosevic
regime, when the police stood by and did nothing as crowds seized
the Serbian Parliament building. If activists in this country
took an Otpor approach to people in the energy companies, instead
of painting Snidely Whiplash's long black mustache on them, they
could get similar results.
Of course this would require giving up the very real emotional
payoffs of the Dudley Do-right role; the rush of being a rescuing
hero is a potent drug, and so is the righteous indignation of
knowing your enemies are Satan (or Snidely) incarnate. Letting
go of Dudleyhood can also require giving up more tangible payoffs;
as Patrick points out in an excellent analysis of the professionalization
of dissent (pp.193-199), significant parts of the activist community
have been bought out and turned into junior partners in the corporate
system. Playing Dudley Do-right is among other things an effective
way to ignore one's own complicity in arrangements of privilege
and exploitation, since everything can be blamed on a Snidely
Whiplash of one's choosing (such as "the system").
IV. Binaries, Ternaries, and Shifting Levels
I'd like to shift gears here and talk a little more directly
about the magical dimension of all this. One of the interesting
things about the spell of Dudley Do-right is that it's a dysfunctional
ternary. James, we've discussed magical number theory at quite
some length, but again I don't know how much of that you've shared
with Patrick, and if either of you show this to anyone else the
chance that they'll have the least idea of what I'm talking about
is pretty slim. So I'll try to sum up the elements of magical
philosophy in 500 words or less.
Toward the beginning of this letter I mentioned that the structures
of consciousness are tools of magic. In the system of magic I
practice, those structures are identified with the numbers from
1 to 10, understood not as quantities but as abstract relationships.
You can experience anything through any number (though numbers
above 10 denote relationships too complex for the human nervous
system to handle). Each number has its strengths and its weaknesses.
If you're working deliberately with the structures of consciousness
-- which is to say, if you're a mage -- you choose the structure/number
you use based on the effects you want to get. Most of the time,
for reasons too complex to get into here, you choose one, two,
Anything seen through the filter of the number one is called
a unary. When you see something as a unary, you highlight qualities
in it such as wholeness, indivisibility, and isolation. See it
through the number two, as a binary, and you'll highlight different
qualities such as division, conflict, balance, and complementarity.
See it through the number three and still different qualities
such as change and complexity will be highlighted. All these have
practical implications. If you want people to cooperate and build
community, get them to think of themselves as part of a unary;
if you want them to quarrel and resist change, convince them they're
on one side of a binary; if you want them to make change, make
them think of their community and their world as a ternary.
Our society has a persistent habit of always seeing things in
binaries. The binary is symbolically masculine -- think of the
ithyphallic straight line, defined by any two points -- so this
isn't surprising! Our politics divide up into left and right,
our ethics into good and evil, our most popular religions oppose
one god and one devil, and so on. Campaigns for social change
are no different, and plenty of activists think they can get where
they want by opposing something. In a binary, though, every action
is balanced by an opposite reaction, so thinking in binaries is
very problematic if you want to foster change.
If you're a mage, you respond to dysfunctions of this sort by
shifting numbers. The traditional rule here is that numbers always
change in a specific order: one becomes two, two becomes three,
and three becomes one and shifts to another level. (The reasons
for this rule, again, are too complex to go into here.) Thus if
you've got a situation that presents itself as a binary, and you
want to change it, you can't effectively turn it back into a unary
-- it'll just pop back into being a binary again -- but you can
turn the binary into a ternary by redefining the situation in
terms of three independent factors, rather than two. This is called
neutralizing a binary, and it's a very common bit of magical strategy.
The "good cop/bad cop" routine is a move of this sort.
The cops redefine the binary between policeman and suspect by
having one officer act friendly, while the other comes on like
Attila the Hun. The binary opposition dissolves, and fairly often
the suspect talks. The American political establishment uses the
same move on the progressive community every four years, with
the Democrats playing good cop and the GOP playing bad cop; activists
time and again get sucked into the ternary, and put their time
and energy into a candidate whose only claim on their attention
is that he's not quite as bad as the other guy. It doesn't help
that the two parties switch roles and do the identical move on
conservative activists too.
James, you and I have talked at quite a bit of length about ways
that activists can take control of this dynamic and use ternaries
for their own purposes -- for example, by having "good cop"
moderate progressives and "bad cop" radicals double-team
a corporation or a government. But it's a crucial mistake to oppose
"good" ternaries with "bad" binaries, and
thus turn the relationship between them into a binary. Every number
is appropriate in some places and a waste of time in others, and
the Dudley Do-right scenario is an example of a ternary that's
a waste of time. The three characters circle endlessly around
one another; you've got action, complexity, and an addictive emotional
payoff of self-regarding heroism and self-righteous indignation.
What you don't have is a resolution of the problems the progressive
community thinks it's fighting.
The magical response to the Dudley Do-right trap is to shift
from ternary to unary, which means recognizing that Dudley, Nell,
and Snidely aren't three independent factors at all, but three
interdependent elements of a single structure of experience. As
long as activists see themselves as heroic Dudleys, they'll inevitably
see every problem in terms of Nells to rescue and Snidelys to
rescue them from. Any one role defines the other two. Leaving
that behind, in turn, involves shifting to a new level of self-awareness.
Many activists these days honestly believe that the three roles
are out there in the world, that the biosphere really is tied
helplessly to the railroad tracks and the board of directors of
Whiplash Petroleum really are twiddling their black mustaches
and going "nya ha ha" as the train approaches. Banishing
the spell requires waking up to the fact that these roles are
in the mind of the observer, and that it's possible to define
the situation in other ways.
This is one of the reasons why, earlier on, I deliberately proposed
several models for the current situation that don't fit the Dudley
Do-right scenario at all. For the biosphere to be a suitable Nell
for Dudley to rescue, she has to be helplessly tied to the railroad
track; the fact that this particular Nell might actually be an
irritated grizzly bear, fully capable of breaking the ropes and
tearing Snidely (and Dudley) limb from limb, doesn't fit the story
even though it may fit the facts. In the same way, the future
history that shows Snidely himself tied to the railroad track,
flailing about helplessly as the train approaches, chucks the
Dudley scenario out the window. Redefine one role and the entire
It may be high time for some such redefinition. I'm heartened
by the words of the anonymous aboriginal woman quoted on p. 417:
"If you come only to help me, you can go back home. But if
you consider my struggle as part of your struggle for survival,
then maybe we can work together." In the terms I've used
here, she's saying that she isn't a helpless Nell awaiting rescue,
and progressives from the industrial world aren't heroic Dudleys
riding to her help. She's cast a spell of renaming that turns
the Dudley Do-right ternary into a unary of equals working together
for survival. Can that same spell be extended to the entire project
of social change? I believe so.
V. Learning New Magics
I've put quite a bit of time into critiquing aspects of the activist
community in this letter, and for all I know one or both of you
may see that as a frontal assault against everything you believe.
That's not my intention, though. I've tried, borrowing your language,
to apply some direct action at the point of assumption -- that
is, to challenge some of the inadequately examined assumptions
that are hindering a powerful global movement for positive change.
What I see in "Globalize Liberation" generally is a
situation in which theory hasn't caught up to practice. Shopworn
slogans and reifications long past their pull date jostle new
tactics and strategies that the old language doesn't really describe.
Patrick, I've lambasted your essay "Decolonizing the Revolutionary
Imagination" several times, but it's also in many ways the
most impressive and magically sophisticated section of the book.
Yes, it suffers from each of the problems I've noted, but it also
breaks very promising ground.
I'd like to point out two things it does that put it way past
many other attempts to analyse the situation and propose strategies.
First, it focuses on the central place of imagination in the making
and unmaking of social reality. That's spectacularly important.
The politics of reality, as Theodore Roszak pointed out in "Where
the Wasteland Ends" (1972), is a politics of the imagination.
It's not just that change has to be thinkable before it's possible,
though this is true and important; it's also that imagination
can change the world by itself. The collapse of eastern Europe's
communist bloc in 1989 happened because people stopped imagining
themselves and their societies in ways that made putting up with
a bad system reasonable. Remember the dazed expressions on the
faces of so many former communist heads of state and secret police
chiefs? Their power had always been imaginary; political power
always is. What happened in 1989 was that people recognized that,
and imagined it out of existence.
The essay goes on to say that "[i]f we want to talk about
reality in the singular...we must talk about ecological reality"
(p. 200). Here you're selling your own insights short. I grant
that as mental maps go, ecology -- with its keen awareness of
limits and consequences -- is a helluva lot more useful now than
the economic models that powered industrial society through the
glory days of the Age of Exuberance, but it's still a map, not
the territory it tries to describe. If it's allowed to fossilize
into a dogmatic ideology, it could become just as toxic as the
mental maps it's starting to replace.
If we want to talk about reality in the singular, we haven't
yet grasped the power of the imagination, because "reality"
is always in flux, shaped by a complex dialogue between the blooming,
buzzing confusion of the universe of our experience and the world-defining
powers of the imagination -- and the result is never quite the
same for any two individuals, ever. The Zapatista quest for "a
world where many worlds fit" offers more than any one vision
of what's real. That being said, I find the idea of earth-centered
politics very useful, since it focuses attention on the raw experience
of natural systems. If I may speak briefly from a position wholly
within the magical worldview, how trees and stones imagine the
world is at least as important as how human beings do so, even
if the human beings are ecologically literate.
The second crucial thing "Decolonizing the Revolutionary
Imagination" does is encourage self-awareness in the activist
community. The edgy discussion of the professionalization of dissent,
and the brief but lethal definition of "defector syndrome"
in the appendix, challenge two of the most obvious places where
activism has become its own reward rather than a means to an end.
My comments about the spell of Dudley Do-right are aimed at another.
When activism becomes a masturbatory act of self-gratification,
as it sometimes does, it's just another part of the existing order
-- a pressure valve that allows the disaffected to vent their
This is where "Globalize Liberation," with its focus
on Third World activism and experience, has the most to offer
American progressives. The essays on Zapatismo and the Argentine
experience are among the most promising things I've read in social
change literature in the last two decades. They point to powerful
redefinitions of activism and the transformation of society, and
if activists here in America pay close attention the results could
be spectacular. The principles Manuel Callahan cites in his essay
"Zapatismo Beyond Chiapas" (pp. 217-228) -- refusal,
space, and listening -- would be worth applying within the activist
community, as well as in interactions with the rest of American
society. Can you imagine a group of radicals from San Francisco
moving to Pittsburgh, and subordinating themselves to the community
in the middle of the Rust Belt? If you can't, work on the idea
until you can.
I could go on about many other strong points in the essays in
"Globalize Liberation," but this letter has already
ballooned to unjustifiable size and I'll limit myself to one:
the theme of Marina Sitrin's brilliant piece "Weaving Imagination
and Creation: The Future In the Present" (pp. 263-276). The
notion of prefigurative politics itself is profoundly magical.
Ritual magic, after all, is prefigurative politics on the individual
level; the mage works with symbols, and focuses will and imagination
through that act to make the symbol prefigure the reality. To
do the same thing on the scale of nations and peoples is an immense
challenge, but it's also a powerful possibility. It also points
toward modes of politics -- parapolitics might be a better term
-- that use the prefigurative power of the imagination to change
the world without using anything that looks like politics in any
sense we'd recognize today.
What I'm seeing most clearly in "Globalize Liberation"
is a movement in transition, partly anchored in tactics and analyses
from past decades, partly working with the improvisations of the
present, partly reaching out to the new possibilities of the future.
It's a promising sight. As I've suggested in talking about the
myth of corporate triumphalism, the existing order may not be
nearly so solid as it tries to make itself appear. It can't be
repeated often enough that the modern industrial state isn't the
natural endpoint (or endgame) of some inevitable historical process.
It's what philosophers call a contingent reality; things happened
to turn out this way, but they didn't have to, and there are good
reasons why the future probably won't be a duplicate of the past.
As we move into the twilight of the industrial age, the old bets
So those are my responses. I hope some of this turns out useful.
Call me or drop me an email any time if you want to talk about
any of it.
With my best as always,
John Michael Greer
John Michael Greer is the author of eleven books and many articles
magical philosophy and practice, including "Inside a Magical
(Llewellyn, 1998), "The New Encyclopedia of the Occult"
2003), "A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism"
(ADF, 2005), and the forthcoming "Druidry: A Green Way of
Wisdom" (Weiser, 2006). An initiate in the Golden Dawn
tradition, he has also been active in the Druid community for
many years; he currently heads the Ancient Order of Druids in
America (AODA), holds the highest level of initiation in the Order
of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD), and received OBOD's Mount Haemus
award in 2003 for his research into Druid history. He lives in
Ashland, OR, with his wife Sara.
More information and a complete list of his book publications
sanctions against war
that permits one country to prey
upon another is immoral." --Mahatma Gandhi
Click on the following links to make
your dollars speak for you.
Do you know enough to justify going
to war with Iraq?
1. Q: What percentage of the world's population does
the U.S. have?
A: Less than 6%
2. Q: What percentage of the world's wealth does the
3. Q: Which country has the largest oil reserves?
A: Saudi Arabia
4. Q: Which country has the second largest oil reserves?
5. Q: How much is spent on military budgets a year
A: $900+ billion
6. Q: How much of this is spent by the U.S.?
7. Q: What percent of US military spending would ensure
life to everyone in the world, according the UN?
A: 10% (that's about$40
billion, the amount of funding initially requested
fund our retaliatory attack on Afghanistan).
8. Q: How many people have died in wars since World
A: 86 million
9. Q: How long has Iraq had chemical and biological
A: Since the early 1980's.
10. Q: Did Iraq develop these chemical & biological weapons
on their own?
A: No, the materials
and technology were supplied by the US
along with Britain and private corporations.
11. Q: Did the US government condemn the Iraqi use of gas warfare
12. Q: How many people did Saddam Hussein kill using gas in the
of Halabja in 1988?
13. Q: How many western countries condemned this action at the
14. Q: How many gallons of agent Orange did America use in Vietnam?
15. Q: Are there any proven links between Iraq and September 11th
16. Q: What is the estimated number of civilian casualties in
the Gulf War?
17. Q: How many casualties did the Iraqi military inflict on the
during the Gulf War ?
A: 148 combat-related
deaths -- Source Many
thousands more --untallied-- developed Gulf War
from exposure to the depleted-uranium of U.S. bombs.
18. Q: How many retreating Iraqi soldiers were buried alive by
ploughs mounted on the front?
19. Q: How many tons of depleted uranium were left in Iraq and
A: 40 tons
20. Q: What according to the UN was the increase in cancer rates
1991 and 1994?
21. Q: How much of Iraq's military capacity did America claim
in 1991? A: 80%
22. Q: Is there any proof that Iraq plans to use its weapons for
than deterrence and self defense?
23. Q: Does Iraq present more of a threat to world peace now than
24. Q: How many civilian deaths has the Pentagon predicted in
the event of
attack on Iraq in 2002/3?
25. Q: What percentage of these will be children?
A: Over 50%
26. Q: How many years has the U.S. engaged in air strikes on Iraq?
27. Q: Was the U.S and the UK at war with Iraq between December
28. Q: How many pounds of explosives were dropped on Iraq between
and September 1999?
A: 20 million
29. Q: How many years ago was UN Resolution 661 introduced, imposing
sanctions on Iraq's imports and exports?
A: 12 years
30. Q: What was the child death rate in Iraq in 1989 (per 1,000
31. Q: What was the estimated child death rate in Iraq in 1999
A: 131 (that's an increase
32. Q: How many Iraqis are estimated to have died by October 1999
of UN sanctions?
A: 1.5 million
33. Q: How many Iraqi children are estimated to have died due
34. Q: Did Saddam order the inspectors out of Iraq?
35. Q: How many inspections were there in November and December
36. Q: How many of these inspections had problems?
37. Q: Were the weapons inspectors allowed entry to the Ba'ath
38. Q: Who said that by December 1998, "Iraq had in fact,
been disarmed to
level unprecedented in modern history."
A: Scott Ritter, UNSCOM
39. Q: In 1998 how much of Iraq's post 1991 capacity to develop
mass destruction did the UN weapons inspectors claim to have
40. Q: Is Iraq willing to allow the weapons inspectors back in
41. Q: How many UN resolutions did Israel violate by 1992?
A: Over 65
42. Q: How many UN resolutions on Israel did America veto between
44. Q: How many countries are known to have nuclear weapons?
45. Q: How many nuclear warheads has Iraq got?
46. Q: How many nuclear warheads has US got?
A: over 10,000
47. Q: Which is the only country to use nuclear weapons?
A: the US
48. Q: How many nuclear warheads does Israel have?
A: Over 400
50. Q: Who said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become
A: Dr. Martin Luther
March 9, 2003 -- When I was a very young woman, after being "dumped"
by a boyfriend, my mother offered some wisdom that remains today.
She invited me to consider that as bad as it is to suffer at the
hands of another, it is
far, far worse to be the one who makes the suffering happen.
As a therapist, I have been reminded of this lesson over the
years by Vietnam
veteran clients, whose suffering makes it clear that the horrors
are not just visited upon the victims. The wounds are at least
as deep and
often more difficult to heal in those who are the perpetrators.
this was true for the many young men who took actions while swept
up in the
dynamics of battle that normally they would abhor. In my work,
I know all too well the cost to them, their loved ones and others
who have paid a price for their unresolved guilt and grief.
Please join me in supporting a path out of our current world
alternative to war is presented by Sojourners, a Christian group
mission "is to proclaim and practice the biblical call to
renewal and social justice."
Their solution, developed by a group of U.S. church leaders,
actions, not the least of them a way for American soldiers to
be the source
of salvation rather than slaughter.
This is a form of freedom that we cannot in good conscience withhold.
We must remember that our citizens in the military largely come
not out of desire for aggression, but in search of economic and
opportunity. We owe them our allegiance and our refusal to burden
the role of perpetrators.
Although the Sojourner solution specifically relates to the current
situation, it embodies an attitude that is necessary if the human
to end our history of domination and the violence that accompanies
it -- in
order to build a future where partnership is the norm for human
Please go to Sojourner's website and join their petition. Then
message out -- not just to those with whom you agree, but those
with whom you have differences. Let us join forces in a creative
solution that works for
Can you imagine what life would be
like if everything werent always getting more crowded, dirtier
and poorer every day with the threat of war and ecological collapse
hanging over our heads? The root cause of our global impoverishment
is growth. Growth both the economic kind and the population kind,
makes every ecological and social problem worse and more unmanageable.
Growth may bring vast wealth to a few, for a limited amount of
time, but the legacy of growth is topsoil loss, over-fished oceans,
deforestation, global warming, species extinction, pollution,
disease, starvation and war. The world needs a strategy to stop
growing and start living sustainably. We now have 6 billion people
and may grow to twice that number in the next few generations
if we dont do something. Growth not only needs to be stopped,
it needs to be reversed, for a time at least. Some ecologists
think that two billion is a reasonable number for the Earth to
support in perpetuity.
The good news is that we could humanely
reach an optimum global population of two billion in only three
generations. Looking back, when my parents were born, there were
only two billion people in the world. If every woman on earth
today had no more than one child, the number of people of reproductive
age would halve in the next generation. In another two generations,
we could achieve our goal of two billion. Think of what a bright
new day it would be for those two billion people and the other
species they share the planet with. There would be enough of everything,
including clean air, clean water and wilderness. War would become
a thing of the past and the human war against nature would end.
If we had the will, we women could put
the brakes on growth by simply stopping up our wombs for a while.
With the planet headed toward ecological collapse, someones
got to take charge. Could women do it? The only precedent I can
think of is a literary one: the classical Greek comedy Lysistrata,
by Aristophanes. Lysistrata whose name means she who disbands
armies organizes Athenian and Spartan women in a sex strike
in order to force their men to abandon the war between the two
city-states. The women are tired of losing sons and husbands.
Lysistratas bold plan works because the men, befuddled by
horniness and tripping over erections, give in and decide they
prefer to make love, not war. The play ends in a celebration of
pan-Hellenism with Athenians and Spartans singing of their common
battles against the Persians who are numberless as the sand
on the shores.
By 300 BC, when Lysistrata was written,
Greece had supported a civilization with an intensive agriculture
and high population density for more than a thousand years. Greek
soils were thin and eroded easily. The land was not as productive
as it once was, and the cities were overcrowded. Athens and Sparta
made peace several times during the Classical period, but war
always broke out again because the underlying causes were never
addressed. Lysistrata may have been based on an actual revolt
by Athenian women against these debilitating Peloponnesian wars.
If Lysistrata had been a real person, what
would she have had to do, to end war permanently? First, she would
have had to convince Greek women to continue their reproductive
strike long enough to reduce population pressure on the crowded
and ecologically depleted peninsula. Then a new era of plenty
might have encouraged Athens and Sparta to live in peace. Ultimately,
to really end war, a Lysistrata would have needed to organize
the enemy Persian women in a sex strike as well.
The Lysistrata strategy then, requires
women to take control of the means of reproduction in order to
reduce population to ecologically sustainable levels. Surprisingly,
the Lysistrata strategy is not a new idea. We know that hunter-gatherers
practiced population limitation as an important part of their
overall survival strategy for thousands of years. It was only
when agriculture opened up the possibility of food storage during
lean times that populations could afford to grow.
Once we learned how to grow, it seems we
cant learn to stop. Its like eating potato chips.
You cant eat just one and its awfully hard to stop
before youve consumed the whole bag. The Lysistrata strategy
challenges us to stop at just one --one child that is.
What Im calling the potato
chip factor, really is related to food. Studies of modern
hunter gatherers like the !Kung people of the Kalahari, show that
the average woman bears four children. Only two survive to reproduce,
keeping numbers stable. A long period of nursing serves to suppress
ovulation so that pregnancies are spaced by four to five years.
Called lactational amenorrhea, this is the critical factor in
keeping birth rates down, but it exists only under certain conditions:
nursing must be constant and regular, and a womans body
fat percentage must be low. When agricultural grains are substituted
for grubs, leaves and nuts, body fat increases and natural contraception
Intensive, grain-based agriculture had
another effect besides increasing womens body fat; it also
gave an incentive to produce large families. More hands to thresh
and sow meant more grain produced and the ability to feed more
As populations grew, unavoidably there
was more conflict between tribes. Metallurgy and the horse provided
formidable war machinery. Military technology combined with large-scale
food production, storage, and redistribution systems allowed the
first expansionist empires of the Near East to form. With agriculture
as sower and war as reaper, humanity was now locked into the patriarchal
large family system.
Civilizations formalized their new survival
strategy in the first written codes of law. Gerda Lerner, in her
book, The Creation of Patriarchy (1986) has analyzed four of these
codes: the Codex Hammurabi, Middle Assyrian law, Hittite laws
and biblical law. She found that up to fifty percent of these
laws concerned the reproductive and sexual behavior of women.
Under Middle Assyrian Law, for example, abortion was a capital
crime punished by a stake through the heart of the offending woman.
So much for reproductive choice.
Everywhere in the pre-modern world, womens
reproductive function was the foundation of politics because a
man was powerful in proportion to the number of kin he could rally
to his cause. But outside the empires, in small-scale, tribal
societies, this political power took a completely different shape.
Maximizing the number of offspring was not the always the best
strategy, because as a couples progeny increased, the balance
of power in the community could shift and kinsmen would begin
to feel threatened.
Because population limitation in tribal
societies was so critical, there was also a lack of privacy in
family life: sex and babies were everybodys business. With
the coming of big agriculture and the military state, inhibitions
on family size were loosened. Family life became a private affair,
under the control of the father who was the only family member
answerable to the state as a citizen.
Conflict between the private and public
spheres was a prominent subject in Greek drama of the classical
period. One of the themes of Lysistrata is the mens denial
of womens right to an opinion on political matters like
war. Lysistrata must point out to them that women make a contribution
to war --their sons-- and so have the right to a say in the matter.
Aristophanes used the device of inverting the established order
(putting women in charge) to dip into the domestic sphere for
feminine values to apply to the problem of war. In the end though,
the spheres remain separate and the problem of war in real life
The Greeks, like every other civilization
of the time, were locked into the large family system. Not to
produce cannon fodder would lead to their downfall. Through their
literature, though, we know that they valued the egalitarianism
of a small-scale society. Aristotle was among the first to advocate
limiting population. He advised abortion for parents with too
many children, writing in Politics that "... neglect of an
effective birth control policy is a never failing source of poverty
which in turn is the parent of revolution and crime." Democracy
itself is a holdover from small-scale, tribal society, not a hallmark
of civilization at all. Ultimately, Greek democracy was devoured
by internal warfare that weakened its ability to fight off conquerors
from outside. Within 200 years of Aristophanes, the Greeks were
nothing but a backwater Roman colony.
Our modern form of civilization has been
advanced by people who lift their ideals from Greek rationalism
and democracy and who hope for an end to war and injustice. These
hopes have been based on a projected end to scarcity brought about
by technology. Modern progressives often take the position that
overpopulation will end only after development is brought to the
world and poverty is ended.
What most progressives dont seem
to realize is that overpopulation among the poor is strategically
beneficial to the wealthy classes. The French term, proletariat,
literally means breeders. Marvin Harris and Eric B.
Ross provide enlightenment on this issue in their important history
of population regulation: Death, Sex and Fertility, Population
Regulation in Preindustrial and Developing Societies (1987). They
use the fabled Irish potato famine to illustrate the impact of
economic exploitation on population growth. Contrary to myth,
the potato was an established food crop in Ireland long before
the famine of the 1840s and did not by itself cause the
Irish population boom.
Landlords who wanted to switch from cattle
grazing to grain production, which required a larger work force,
brought about the Irish population boom. Landlords manipulated
population growth through the tax structure. They encouraged peasants
to marry earlier by allowing them to grow potatoes tax-free in
order to feed their large families. But after only a few decades,
landlords switched back to grazing to cash in on the market for
meat to supply English colonial armies. At the very height of
the famine, shiploads of Irish grain and meat were delivered to
Englands shores while English politicians and men of letters
blamed the profligacy of the starving Irish.
Modernity has seen the final shift of political
power from kinship relations to the bureaucratic control of large
populations of workers. The corporate state profits from a surplus
of people and has every reason to encourage breeding among the
masses. Otherwise how will wages be kept so low? Elizabeth Gurley
Flynn was an American labor radical and an early proponent of
family planning who articulated this relationship back before
1920: The large family system rivets the chains of slavery
upon labor more securely. It crushes the parents, starves the
children, and provides cheap fodder for machines and cannons.
In our day, capitalism finds its cheap
labor among the masses of the third world, so theres no
immediate threat to the system by stabilizing population in the
so-called first world. But as women step out of enforced motherhood
and into other societal roles, the backlash against reproductive
choice is coming from a different segment of the patriarchal power
structure. As Susan Faludi pointed out in Backlash (1991), the
leaders of the anti-abortion movement are often working class
white men whose relatively privileged place in society has recently
evaporated. Without the little woman under their thumb, they have
no basis for self esteem.
In the United States, fundamentalist terrorists
have robbed women of their choices. Abortion and family planning
services are ever more scarce. The US is the fastest growing industrialized
nation in the world and only one-third of that growth comes from
immigration. We also have one of the highest teenage pregnancy
rates in the world. Here in my rural Oregon community, where the
problem is particularly acute, almost 30% of the female high school
students are pregnant or already mothers. Teenagers are less likely
to use contraceptives effectively, but for a teenager in my community
to obtain an abortion she would have to travel between 75 and
200 miles, depending on which clinics were open. And the fundamentalist
right has managed to stigmatize abortion to the extent that most
of these teens would not even consider it. Conception happens,
and even for responsible adults, abortion will always be a necessary
Ginette Paris, in her provocative book,
The Sacrament of Abortion (1992), gets to the heart of the matter:
Men have the right to kill and destroy, and when the massacre
is called a war they are paid to do it and honored for their actions.
War is sanctified, even blessed by our religious leaders. But
let a woman decide to abort a fetus that doesnt even have
the neurological apparatus to register suffering, and people are
shocked. Whats really shocking is that a woman has the power
to make a moral judgment that involves a choice of life or death.
That power has been reserved for men.
In the less developed world, women need
more than just attitude changes to give them choices. The 1994
UN Population Conference in Cairo reached a consensus on what
is required: Women need basics such as food, clean water, health
care and access to contraceptives and abortion. The Cairo Conference
concluded that providing better reproductive care worldwide would
cost $17 billion annually, which is less than the world currently
spends each week on armaments. Again, we must follow the example
of Lysistrata who knew that a sex strike alone wouldnt be
enough --she had her women seize the treasury of Athens as well.
But if the stakes in these matters of sex
and war were high before, they are even higher now. In 1970, Stephanie
Mills, in her speech as college valedictorian, declared that she
would refrain from bringing any children into the world since
overpopulation was threatening global ecological collapse. Since
1970, a few more women have made such public declarations, and
an unknown number have privately decided to forego or limit childbearing
out of ecological considerations. But, there has been no large-scale,
public procreation strike. The reasons for this, I
believe, are partly found in the public/private dichotomy that
is an integral part of patriarchy. It is not socially acceptable
to interfere in the reproductive decisions of families, even by
verbal persuasion. Even the pro-choice movement defends abortion
by using the right to privacy. But given the threat to biodiversity
and ecological integrity that is posed by our increasing population,
a truly pro-life movement is desperately needed to beat the drum
for voluntary limits on reproduction.
We must imagine a world without runaway
growth, where war cannot exist because there is enough for all.
We must seize the treasury and make full reproductive health services
available to every woman in the world. We as women must think
globally and act as locally as our own bodies, recognizing that
we own the means of reproduction and that we must choose small
families in this time of resource shrinkage. That is the message
that the postmodern Lysistrata needs to take to the women of the
I've been asked to speak about "How
to confront Empire?" It's a huge question, and I have no
When we speak of confronting "Empire,"
we need to identify what "Empire" means. Does it mean
the U.S. Government (and its European satellites), the World Bank,
the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization,
and multinational corporations? Or is it something more than that?
In many countries, Empire has sprouted
other subsidiary heads, some dangerous byproducts -- nationalism,
religious bigotry, fascism and, of course
terrorism. All these march arm in arm with the project of corporate
Let me illustrate what I mean. India -
the world's biggest democracy - is currently at the forefront
of the corporate globalization project. Its "market"
one billion people is being prized open by the WTO. Corporatization
and Privatization are being welcomed by the Government and the
It is not a coinidence that the Prime Minister,
the Home Minister, the Disinvestment Minister - the men who signed
the deal with Enron in India, the men who are selling the country's
infrastructure to corporate multinationals, the men who want to
privatize water, electricity, oil, coal, steel, health, education
and telecommunication - are all members or admirers of the RSS.
The RSS is a right wing, ultra-nationalist Hindu guild which has
openly admired Hitler and his methods.
The dismantling of democracy is proceeding
with the speed and efficiency of a Structural Adjustment Program.
While the project of corporate globalization
rips through people's lives in India, massive privatization, and
labor "reforms" are pushing people off their land and
out of their jobs. Hundreds of impoverished farmers are committing
suicide by consuming pesticide. Reports of starvation deaths are
coming in from all over the country.
While the elite journeys to its imaginary
destination somewhere near the top of the world, the dispossessed
are spiraling downwards into crime and chaos. This climate of
frustration and national disillusionment is the perfect breeding
ground, history tells us, for fascism.
The two arms of the Indian Government have
evolved the perfect pincer action. While one arm is busy selling
India off in chunks, the other, to divert attention,
is orchestrating a howling, baying chorus of Hindu nationalism
and religious fascism. It is conducting nuclear tests, rewriting
history books, burning
churches, and demolishing mosques. Censorship, surveillance, the
suspension of civil liberties and human rights, the definition
of who is an Indian citizen and who is not, particularly with
regard to religious minorities, is becoming common practice now.
Last March, in the state of Gujarat, two
thousand Muslims were butchered in a State-sponsored pogrom. Muslim
women were specially targeted. They were
stripped, and gang-raped, before being burned alive. Arsonists
burned and looted shops, homes, textiles mills, and mosques.
More than a hundred and fifty thousand
Muslims have been driven from their homes. The economic base of
the Muslim community has been devastated.
While Gujarat burned, the Indian Prime
Minister was on MTV promoting his new poems. In January this year,
the Government that orchestrated the killing was voted back into
office with a comfortable majority. Nobody has been punished for
the genocide. Narendra Modi, architect of the pogrom, proud member
of the RSS, has embarked on his second term as the Chief Minister
Gujarat. If he were Saddam Hussein, of course each atrocity would
have been on CNN. But since he's not -- and since the Indian "market"
is open to global
investors -- the massacre is not even an embarrassing inconvenience.
There are more than one hundred million
Muslims in India. A time bomb is ticking in our ancient land.
All this to say that it is a myth that the free market
breaks down national barriers. The free market does not threaten
national sovereignty, it undermines democracy.
As the disparity between the rich and the
poor grows, the fight to corner resources is intensifying. To
push through their "sweetheart deals," to corporatize
the crops we grow, the water we drink, the air we breathe,
and the dreams we dream, corporate globalization needs an international
confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in
poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the
mutinies. Corporate Globalization - or shall we call it by its
name? Imperialism - needs a press that pretends to be free. It
needs courts that pretend to dispense justice.
Meanwhile, the countries of the North harden
their borders and stockpile weapons of mass destruction. After
all they have to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents
and services that are globalized. Not the free movement of people.
Not a respect for human rights. Not international treaties on
racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons or greenhouse
gas emissions or climate change, or -- god forbid -- justice.
So this -- all this -- is "empire."
This loyal confederation, this obscene accumulation of power,
this greatly increased distance between those who make the decisions
and those who have to suffer them. Our fight, our goal, our vision
of Another World must be to eliminate that distance.
So how do we resist "Empire"?
The good news is that we're not doing too
badly. There have been major victories. Here in Latin America
you have had so many - in Bolivia, you have Cochabamba. In Peru,
there was the uprising in Arequipa, in Venezuela, President Hugo
Chavez is holding on, despite the U.S. government's best efforts.
And the world's gaze is on the people of Argentina, who are trying
to refashion a country from the ashes of the havoc wrought by
In India the movement against corporate
globalization is gathering momentum and is poised to become the
only real political force to counter religious fascism. As for
corporate globalization's glittering ambassadors -- Enron, Bechtel,
WorldCom, Arthur Anderson -- where were they last year, and where
are they now?
And of course here in Brazil we must ask
who was the president last year, and who is it now?
Still, many of us have dark moments of
hopelessness and despair. We know that under the spreading canopy
of the War Against Terrorism, the men in suits are hard at work.
While bombs rain down on us, and cruise
missiles skid across the skies, we know that contracts are being
signed, patents are being registered, oil pipelines
are being laid, natural resources are being plundered, water is
being privatized, and George Bush is planning to go to war against
If we look at this conflict as a straightforward
eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation between "Empire"
and those of us who are resisting it, it might seem that we are
But there is another way of looking at
it. We, all of us gathered here, have, each in our own way, laid
siege to "Empire."
We may not have stopped it in its tracks
- yet - but we have stripped it down. We have made it drop its
mask. We have forced it into the open. It now stands
before us on the world's stage in all it's brutish, iniquitous
Empire may well go to war, but it's out
in the open now - too ugly to behold its own reflection. Too ugly
even to rally its own people. It won't be long before
the majority of American people become our allies.
Only a few days ago in Washington, a quarter
of a million people marched against the war on Iraq. Each month,
the protest is gathering momentum.
Before September 11th 2001 America had
a secret history. Secret especially from its own people. But now
America's secrets are history, and its history is
public knowledge. It's street talk.
Today, we know that every argument that
is being used to escalate the war against Iraq is a lie. The most
ludicrous of them being the U.S. Government's deep commitment
to bring democracy to Iraq.
Killing people to save them from dictatorship
or ideological corruption is, of course, an old U.S. government
sport. Here in Latin America, you know
that better than most.
Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a
ruthless dictator, a murderer (whose worst excesses were supported
by the governments of the United States and
Great Britain). There's no doubt that Iraqis would be better off
But, then, the whole world would be better
off without a certain Mr. Bush. In fact, he is far more dangerous
than Saddam Hussein.
So, should we bomb Bush out of the White
House? It's more than clear that Bush is determined to go to war
against Iraq, regardless of the facts - and
regardless of international public opinion.
In its recruitment drive for allies, The
United States is prepared to invent facts.
The charade with weapons inspectors is
the U.S. government's offensive, insulting concession to some
twisted form of international etiquette. It's like leaving the
"doggie door" open for last minute "allies"
or maybe the United Nations to crawl through.
But for all intents and purposes, the New
War against Iraq has begun.
What can we do?
We can hone our memory, we can learn from
We can continue to build public opinion
until it becomes a deafening roar.
We can turn the war on Iraq into a fishbowl
of the U.S. government's excesses.
We can expose George Bush and Tony Blair
- and their allies - for the cowardly baby killers, water poisoners,
and pusillanimous long-distance bombers that they are.
We can re-invent civil disobedience in
a million different ways. In other words, we can come up with
a million ways of becoming a collective pain in the ass.
When George Bush says "you're either
with us, or you are with the terrorists" we can say "No
thank you." We can let him know that the people of the world
do not need to choose between a Malevolent Mickey Mouse and the
Our strategy should be not only to confront
empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame
it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our
literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer
relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories
that are different from the ones
we're being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse
if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their
version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of
Remember this: We be many and they be few.
They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she
is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
Porto Alegre, Brazil
January 27, 2003
ZNet January 28, 2003
War is an extreme
form of criminality
Those who've seen battle say war is hell. Many veterans feel
deep alienation on their re-entry to society, unable to reveal
what they've seen. Others return home violently unrecognizable
to their own families, racked with addictions, driven by the demons
of what they themselves have done.
Patrick J. Sloyan in his Nov. 17, 2002, article "War
without death" gives a glimpse of the hidden horrors
of the gulf war. What follows is a letter to the editor following
the article's publication:
Editor -- Patrick J. Sloyan's article
("War without death," Insight section, Nov. 17)
has haunted me since I picked up that Sunday paper.
The image of the U.S. military's "grisly innovation"
during Desert Storm of burying, alive or dead, every Iraqi
soldier in more than 70 miles of trenches, and then bulldozing
the evidence and lying to the press about casualties, was
bad enough. Adding to my sense of horror was the description
of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney's cynical manipulation
of the press and self-congratulation on sanitizing the war.
He said, "The American people saw . . . through the
magic of television what the U.S. military was capable of
doing." But he made sure we never saw a dead body,
only tidy bombs from a distance.
And now we read through the magic of the press what the
U.S. military and members of both Bush administrations are
capable of doing: butchering people in innovative ways,
hiding the evidence, lying to the press and the people and
patting themselves on the back for substituting secret government
for an open and accountable democracy.
Does anyone think this Bush administration's methods of
waging and reporting war will differ from the last one's?
For all the sanitized versions our media gives us, war involves:
the dismissive killings of civilians termed "collateral damage";
the slow killings of millions more through bombing of hospitals,
water treatment plants, crops and through malnutrtion and disease
caused by sanctions; the destruction and poisoning of the environment
with landmines that go on killing and maiming and with radiation
that goes on producing congenitally
malformed infants; the covert assassinations and topplings
of legally elected governments; the trafficking in drugs and diamonds
to bankroll clandestine operations; the coverups of torture and
massacres; the beatings and killings of journalists; the scapegoating
and imprisonment of minor players to remove attention from the
real atrocities; and the lying to the American public every step
of the way, knowing we would not allow it if only we knew.
Basra, Iraq. March 22, 2003 Man carries body of small girl
killed during the siege of Basra. Photo:
Amr Nabil, AP
"We need to humanize the reality of this terrible conflict.
When they say today that there's a massive bombardment, what
they mean is that in a country in which 50% of the people
are 15 or younger, what we are really doing is murdering children.
We can't give up the plea for sanity." --Frieda
Engel, 84, Seniors for Peace
Organizing Strategy re Oil
David Glick -- 12/4/02
I suggest we organize a nation-wide two-
or three-day gasoline boycott to demonstrate broad-based opposition
to the impending war on Iraq and to demonstrate our understanding
that this war is neither about disarming Iraq nor democratizing
Iraq but about securing control over Iraq's oil fields.
I would suggest the boycott start January
19, 2003, the day after the national mobilizations against the
war and the day before the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s
birthday. Dr. King was the spokesman for the historic 381-day
Montgomery bus boycott that ultimately resulted in the desegregation
of that city's bus system. He also spoke out powerfully against
the U.S. war on Vietnam . This form of nonviolent direct action
is a wonderful way to honor Dr. King and involve many people who
might not otherwise participate in more overt or militant forms
There are many segments of the population
that we can reach using the internet and personal contacts and
possibly using advertisements in progressive magazines if we have
time. We can reach out to the membership of human rights organizations,
environmental organizations, peace and justice organizations,
organizations focused on the Middle East, labor groups, religious
groups (especially Black churches, mosques and progressive pro-Palestinian
Jewish organizations) as well as student organizations across
the country on college campuses.
A corollary idea would be a month-long,
rotating boycott of major gas stations. For example, the first
week of the month people could boycott Shell stations, the next
week Exxon-Mobil, then Chevron-Texaco, then BP-Arco-Amoco. The
down side of this latter idea is the impact on local franchise
owners of service stations. However, it sends a strong message
to the government and big oil conglomerates that this war is about
oil and we oppose it.
The over-all theme of the campaign could
be something as simple as "no blood for oil profits".
This would also give us an opportunity to emphasize how critical
it is, both for the security of our nation and the health of the
environment, to shift our energy base from fossil fuels to renewable
energy. During the boycott we would be on the street with signs
Our literature should be simple. It should
emphasize that this is a war to advance American global domination
and that the war is immoral, illegal and insane in that it will
destabilize the Middle East region and encourage more acts of
terrorism directed at the U.S. because the war will understandably
be experienced by many as a war against Arabs and Muslims. We
must also emphasize that not only will innocent Iraqis die in
the tens of thousands, but that we are sending U.S. soldiers into
a country poisoned with the depleted uranium the U.S. used in
the last Gulf War. Thus the Bush policy shows a callous disregard
not only for Iraqi lives but American lives as well.
The campaign should also focus on the Bush
administration's assault on our constitutionally protected civil
liberties and emphasize that our protest is part of a deep American
tradition of dissenting from tyranny and upholding fundamental
human rights. Finally, we must emphasize that the anticipated
cost of the war--estimated at between $100 to $200 billion--will
divert much needed money from critical domestic needs such as
housing, education, health care, job development and environmental
protection and restoration.
I just discovered the Lysistrataproject
website. I think
it is wonderful. I am elated by it. ...I
have but one demurrer. ...
[T]he Joan Ryan piece made my heart sink! Look....if
going to argue against the draft, we must argue not only against
the draft of women but surely against the enslavement
of young men by this odious institution.
The peace of women is intimately bound
up with the peace
of men, and, conversely, the peace of men is intimately
connected to the peace of women. This is about as
fundamental as we can get. I believe that is also the major
premise of Riana Eisler's partnership community
as described in The Chalice and the Blade.
That concept has to be the lens through
read articles such as those by Joan Ryan. How consistent
are her writings with the central premise? Before we apply
this criterion to her two articles in question, I need to
state that my understanding of "peace" is wholeness
well-being. It is a holistic concept embracing the totality
of life. It is not merely the absence of tension but the
presence of justice. In my mind, I equate peace with
Now, having said that, we revisit the articles
Ryan. How, I ask, can she call for women to enjoy
the well-being of an equal share in power with men
on the one hand (in Women, Get Angry!) while at the
same time denying to men the well-being of freedom
from the shackles of war-slavery (as in Women and
Uncle Sam) on the other hand? And she even sets this
into the context of the existence of the Women's
Movement for thirty years! The point is probably lost
on men that their peace is intimately connected to the
peace of women, but I sort of thought most women
were operating out of a consciousness that their peace
cannot be attained apart from the peace of men. Is this
clear or is this murky? I mean: is this my imagination or
a delusion on my part or does it have a basis in reality?
If this is even close to being correct,
then I think that
women have an enormous stake in helping men win
their freedom from enforced warriorhood. One of the
major sources of violence against women is militarism
and war. The ability of a government to subject young
men to compulsory military service is one of the major,
if not the major, underpinnings of warmaking. Without
the ability to coerce young men into military violence,
it would severely hamper the ability of governments
to wage long, protracted wars.
Therefore, whatever works to abolish that
oppressive power over young men also works powerfully
against militarism and war, and also works toward
reducing violence against women from that source.
For that reason alone, women have an enormous stake
in the freeing of men from these shackles. How it is
that a woman like Joan Ryan can fail to see that is
She needs to be calling for women to get
this and to start acting to end this most salient form of
oppression of men. Yes, I agree, men are not oppressed
like women are under patriarchy. Not even close. I agree.
But how can a consciousness of women's oppression exist
in one's mind, and, in that same mind not find a consciousness
of this awesome form of oppression men are forced to endure
under that same patriarchy?
Joan Ryan needs to call women to get angry
own peace is at stake in all of this. The Masters of War could
not massively commandeer the bodies of young men without
the consent of society, fifty percent of which is women! Even
if all the men supported this system (which is far from the case),
if women massively withdrew their consent ---the mothers of
these young men most especially, but certainly all women---
then they could stop this oppression in its tracks! It would fall!
Only the awesome silence and massive consent of women
allow this war-slavery to exist. To withdraw that consent
would truly be Lysistrata-esque!
So, perhaps you can understand, that when
I read articles like
Women and Uncle Sam and find there a woman advocating
the perpetuation of the status quo with respect to the rape
and enslavement of young men into the violence of war --
and at the same time calling for the peace of women by
preserving their freedom from it--- I find my jaw dropping
onto my chest, my arms lifted over my head, and a feeling
inside that just wants to collapse onto the ground in utter
shock and disbelief! How can this author be so blind?
How can she be so utterly blind to the notion that the peace
of women ---if it must be cast in such a narrowly self-interested
form---is bound up with the peace of men?
Please, just call for women to massively
withdraw their consent
to this enslavement of men and not be satisfied to simply
preserve their own freedom from it. I understand that
Russian women have gone so far as to pull their young
sons off those buses which were driving them away to
the brutalization of the military training camps. Only
when women and men link arms to do something like
that here if necessary will that glorious vision, so
prominently featured on your website, be realized:
that the women of the world will demand an end to
the enforced warriorhood of young men and thus
put an end to their sons being forced to kill other
Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote: Save us from
resignation to the evils we deplore.
King, Jr. on Conscience
"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is
Expedience asks the question, 'Is it politic?'
Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?'
But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?'
There comes a time when a man must take
that is neither safe nor politic nor popular but he must do it
because conscience tells him it is right."
10 Reasons Why Women Should Oppose
the U.S. "War on Terrorism"
1. "Smart wars" save the lives of US soldiers while
civilians largely women and children become "collateral damage."
2. War and militarism subject women and girls to rape and sexual
violence; the culture of aggression encourages domestic violence
3. Weapons of mass destruction, produced and used by the US,
poison the soil and sea, causing miscarriages, birth defects and
4. The "war on terrorism" gives other governments an
excuse to strike out at political opponents, with disastrous consequences
for women in war zones.
5. The "war on terrorism" is a cover for US global
domination, which impoverishes women worldwide.
6. When Arab, Muslim and immigrant men are locked up without
cause and without charges, women, children and communities suffer.
7. A women's rights agenda cannot be advanced while human rights
and civil liberties are trampled.
8. US war industries reap enormous profits, while programs that
benefit women and girls healthcare, education, welfare and childcare,
for example face budget cuts.
9. Bush's war reinforces global racism, negatively impacting
women of color worldwide.
10. The Pentagon cannot liberate Afghan women or any other women.
inspiration for this page
are the acts of the people of Denmark during World War II
On being occupied
by the Nazis they raised no weapons, knowing that violent resistance
would result in their country being destroyed and their people
killed, as they had witnessed with their neighbors. Rather, they
spent the war years inventing and applying methods of noncooperation
that were nonconfrontational but that undermined German authority.
Factory workers who
had been pressed into service manufacturing munitions and parts
opted against striking. Instead, they sabotaged the rate of production.
They worked at snail's pace, finding myriad excuses to interrupt
their labor. They blundered, requiring work to be done over. They
left work early each day to go water their gardens, citing the
fact that they had to be home before curfew.
When news spread of
Germany's intention to round up Denmark's Jews, the country quickly
a matter of weeks, individual citizens and small groups were able
to smuggle nearly all 8,000 Jews living in Denmark across the
narrow body of water into neutral Sweden.
Ultimately the Danes
wore down the system and made themselves ungovernable.
Author of The Chalice and the Blade
I had the opportunity to express my gratitude to a country that
did take such a strong stand. That year marked the publication
of The Chalice and the Blade in Denmark, the only European country
in which the people joined together to nonviolently resist Hitler's
orders~where, beginning with King Christian, people openly refused
to collaborate in the Nazi extermination of those who, like me,
happened to be born to Jewish parents.
That publication ~for which I wrote a special
epilogue that honored the courage of the Danes~ was also intensely
meaningful for me. It was a reminder that if enough of us join
together, we can halt the drift back to domination, that if we
hold fast in our resolve, we can put into action our vision of
creating a partnership world. And particularly at a time when
what is daily presented to us by the media as "news"
focuses almost exclusively on the bad news, on violence and regression
and repression, we need many such reminders~lest we forget that
each of us can make a difference, that, in the end, the choice
of what kind of world we live in is up to every one of us.
The espoused program of world dominance is
known by insiders as "Pax Americana" (Amer. peace).
"The United States will require bases and stations within
and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary
access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. troops."
serving in Bush administration)
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary; John Bolton,
Undersecretary of State for arms control and international security;
Eliot Cohen, on Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board; I. Lewis
Libby, Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff; Dov Zakheim, Undersecretary
of Defense (comptroller) and CFO for the Pentagon; Stephen Cambone,
head of the Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation at the Defense
The report's repeated references
to terrorism would seem to be inspired
by the events of September 11, 2001.
Yet its approach can be found in much the same language in the following
"Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies,
Forces and Resources for a New Century"
Released September 2000 by Project for the New American Century,
a group of conservative interventionists.
defensenationalsecurity.htm ) "At no time in history has the
international security order been as conducive to American interests
and ideals. The challenge of this coming century is to preserve
and enhance this 'American peace.'"
27 people listed as having contributed to report, among them Paul
Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Eliot Cohen, I. Lewis Libby, Dov Zakheim and
"Rebuilding America's Defenses"
directly acknowledges an earlier document
Draft by the Defense Department, 1992
Leaked in final draft form, the proposal
drew so much criticism that it was hastily withdrawn and repudiated
by then president, George Bush Sr.
Drafted by Paul Wolfowitz, then Defense Undersecretary for
(Dick Cheney was Defense Secretary)
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