Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Selfishness of SOPA

   The public won a great victory this week, and it ironically needed business to lead the charge. SOPA’s defeat is a boon for freedoms of press and of speech, yet it tellingly exposes the disenchantment of the general public.

   SOPA was stripped of its “free enterprise” clothes. Internet users all around the country rallied against it, writing their congressional representatives and spreading the word through social media streams. Some 7,000 websites blacked-out to draw attention to the potential harm vague language allows. Perhaps providing this symbolic steroid to the apolitical masses, anti-SOPA groups succeeded in what may be recalled as the successful first battle to maintain our constitutional rights. The threat underlying SOPA was bullshit, to borrow Harry Frankfurt’s conceptualization of what is concerned with neither truth nor falsehood. We, the people, just needed to see it as such.
   What the amazingly rapid coalescence of public opinion against SOPA shows, at least to me, is that the American public has not yet matured beyond the selfishness so deeply ingrained in our popular mind—the perpetuated individualism from Poor Richard to the rugged frontiersman, from gun-slinging cowboy to the insanity of the covertly segregated exurb. SOPA directly threatened those sites we love and depend on to sedate our dissatisfaction with the state of the world. Extending corporate control into the information free-for-all under the guise of the virtual Queen’s navy, SOPA promised to blaze the legislative trail for bandwidth prioritization, as if we could escape the dominance of the faux news triumvirate. Freedom of press--which needs to be reinstated jurisprudentially as freedom of information--is one of our many inalienable rights. Yet, not three weeks prior, the federal government assaulted the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution without much resistance.

   NDAA is probably the most significant piece of anti-rights legislation to cross the executive desk since the PATRIOT Act. As SOPA does, NDAA relies on vague language that opens the door to the interpretive largess of the executive and the intelligence communities. Fortunately in some cases, but unfortunately here, the court system takes a very long time to produce the differences in appellate court decisions that warrant a Supreme Court review. NDAA also poses difficulty to judicial interpretation because it suspends rights to trial. It is not invalid to suggest a slippery slope; the court can’t opinionate and set precedence in cases it can’t review.

   NDAA poses the greatest threat to American liberties we’ve ever faced. Denouncing communism publicly and ratting on your colleagues was enough to keep the McCarthyists off your back. Accepting second-class status was enough to keep the Klan home. In the emerging dystopia, we are all terrorists. Unless, of course, we swear allegiance to the corporatocracy and don’t try to organize our factory floors or start community gardens, or suggest that education should be a publicly-funded quest for greater social responsibility and enlightenment, or that imperialism is bankrupting the treasury. Justice may be color-blind, but injustice is not.
   The apolitical represents the vast spectra of a majority; only butt fucking, baby killing and Muslims can rally the right and left. A new world is dawning, where the real issues are finally breaking the bonds of the Washington consensus’ stranglehold on progressive vision. Yet SOPA reveals that Americans aren’t ready to rise to the challenges, because the 24-hour news cycle is too much and the numbness of humor sites is too little. We proved that it is only willing to engage the political system if it dare shut them off from new episodes of RvB or Dexter. When it really mattered, like the needed but scarcely-existent opposition to NDAA, we couldn’t give two shits.
   “The future is a long way away, away,” we can recite until we’re asleep. But it won’t dislodge us from being stuck in the mythology of the past, unwilling to see that the new age thought to be at dawn is actually the present age at dusk.     

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Prepping the soil and planting seeds: a to do list for 2012

I've been compiling a list of things to do. Most I won't accomplish. Hopefully I can track my progress here. But only if I can get past number one.

1. Write more and write better. I read a lot, but writing is so much more socially productive. Since I've basically decided to procrastinate my thesis until next winter, I endeavor to tackle some of the more interesting projects in my mind and on various scraps of paper scattered around my house. As for writing better, I need to tone down the habituated academic prose. I am aware that what I write sounds pretentious. And I can only blame myself for subduing the rational and empirical to the emotional and creative. Indeed, emotions are very human, and very powerful when channeled properly. 

2. Get religious. Or perhaps, spiritual. Robert Jensen's All My Bones Shake has transformed my disdain for religion into a flame of hope. I always prodded my mother to connect stewardship of the environment to Christian doctrine. Disappointed in her failure to engage in anything remotely progressive, I must do it myself. I get a little added benefit of spiritual and intellectual growth in the process. Given the current state of global affairs, this can only be a good thing.

3. Engage the church: Related to number two, I need to compile a comprehensible message--as I advocate elsewhere--to reach the broadest audience possible. My crippling skepticism that the  ignorant huddled in their subdivisions will ever turn an ear to the Great Struggle must begin in the common thread that even the secular can't avoid. Whether we like it or not, whether we agree or not, Christianity is at the center of of our popular imagination. Perhaps only second (or third) to the illusion of the individual and narratives of progress. The Church, in the letters that comprise most of the new testament, is everyone. So if you can't reach the people through religious framing than the corporate media has already won.

4. Plant the seed: Both figuratively and literally. I suppose the madman isn't mad, but actually sane in a sea of insanity. All of the above is just soil conditioning to prepare for this goal. To get the hands dirty, gardening and tending to plants is the surest way to build a sustainable society of equally invested members, a community. Of course, I'll plant my own, but I plan to solicit faith and community based organizations and test the waters. If one or two bite, the seeds are planted. Also, some folks from Occupy Dover are down to reclaim a downtown plot as our own. The length to which we carry this highly symbolic act of disobedience is yet to be discussed. Still, consider this. If progress is our narrative, then guerrilla gardening isn't even disobedient, but the continuation of a long tradition of expropriating land from those who choose squalor for otherwise productive land. Further, the slow--or not so slow--decline of the fossil fuel era will only hasten the need for local food production. Lastly, downtown Dover is a food desert, and for the fiscal conservative kicking the inside of my chest, good food reduces health costs, improves educational potential and alleviates budget pressures from fixed income and poor residents. As an added bonus, community gardens provide little islands of public space in a wasteland of privatization, supports decentralization and self-sufficiency, and essentially tells the government to fuck off. The last of which is critical if we are ever to transition to a peaceful, people-powered, egalitarian--and I would never refrain from saying--anarchist society. 

It's winter. But I have a lot of work to do. And sitting here for a half hour shows I care to invest a little energy in the project.

Peace through love,

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Selling to the checkbook of social capital

A very thoughtful occupier posed an analogy that seems and appropriate frame for maintaining the forward momentum of this revolution. “In sales, you don’t pitch your product to the secretary, you pitch it to the one with the checkbook.” A social revolution is our product; the masses wield the checkbook. I’m not referring specifically to donors, but to an untapped social capital that can guarantee our success.

We are outgunned, and our accounts paltry in comparison to the 1%’s bankroll. But if we can reach those spread across the American suburban landscape, the 99% that are comfortable in their complacency, too comfortable talking about Casey Anthony and fantasy football pools, though not ignorant of injustice—because this is an impossibility—but overwhelmed in the size of our task, we may yet succeed. Political revolution could be perhaps accomplished by the few but it would be meaningless and temporary without first inspiring a social revolution—a global revolution that opens eyes to relationships between humans and the non-human world, that all components of our existence must be treated with dignity, respect and stewardship.

This is a watershed moment. This is not a claim of self-aggrandizement, against which we’ve been warned. We are in a crisis that defies the structures of coping; indeed, these structures are the source of the disease.
Given that the United States is the hegemon—manipulating the strings of global culture and expectations—and that McPherson Square is proximate to the mechanisms of cancerous propagation, the occupation is in a unique position to cultivate the social revolution: rallying the masses who can deposit their social capital into this struggle. It is, therefore, critical to conduct ourselves in a way that speaks to these masses in comprehensible language. We must continue to foster non-violent tactics and refine our ability to employ them with subdued passion. We must also be presentable and conduct ourselves in a way that commands respect. We must abandon the idea that appealing to the masses is subjugating ourselves to the violence and injustice of the system and realize that only through popular appeals can we conjure the support necessary to succeed. We must reach hands to our friends in existing organizations, even if they are unaware that they are our allies; these are structures longing to be freed from the dominance of our broken system. We must also inspire dialogue. Only through passionate and respectful conversation can we compel the dispossessed and disenfranchised to action.

Our task is to grow a social revolution: one that necessarily precedes a global community as stewards of a global commons, the creation of a fellowship founded in equity and justice, one characterized by choosing quality of life over material possessions, one that replaces selfishness with love and states with individuals. I opine the surest way to do so is through selling to the checkbook of social capital, the caged masses that only need to hear the message in their own language before throwing the cage door open and joining us in the streets, sharing in our vision of a better future.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Apocalypse Soon: The End of Shallow Peace

Below is a creative essay written for a graduate seminar on the foundations of peace. Most of the sources cited herein are the source of many of my more radical thoughts.

    Why does the Western political establishment view peace as an end product achieved through persuasion, economic gamesmanship or raw military power? What motivates practitioners to grant more attention to this shallow, abstract peace than a deeper peace that includes human actors? How does this conceptualization reflect the landscape of peace in the 21st century? These troubling questions suggest that the post-Cold War normative expansion of war-making cannot be alleviated using traditional structures—embassies, militaries, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping etc. This fundamental socio-psychological difference can explain the failure of Western institutions to prevent conflict. Indeed, the same forces creating this “rational” approach to peace can be tied to the proliferation of violence in the last several decades.

   During the Renaissance, the resurgence of rationality—most obviously in the visual arts and spectacle of the built environment--helped establish the human-nature dichotomy as a fundamental component of modernism. Moreover, it created a Western predisposition to experience the world in a particular way (Howett 1997; Cosgrove 1997). The rationalization of the natural environment led to both private property through the systematic enclosure of the public commons (Cronon 1983, 76-79; Isenberg 2005, 137-139) and, more acutely, a grid survey system and land allotment programs that shifted human relationships toward one of improvement instead of stewardship (Kunstler 1993, 29-31; Cronan 1983). The conceptualization of land as where the “ax meets the tree” created an ethos that heralded exploitative capitalism—which would later quicken its pace with mechanization—to replace mercantilist trade economies (Merchant 1998). This process, which spanned hundreds of years, brought about a change in perspective that diminished relations between genders and across segments of societies, cross-border and otherwise (Berry 1977; Merchant 1980). Further, and most importantly, the industrial capitalist system that emerged in the late 19th century diminishes the bond between humans and prevents collective problem solving (Jensen 2009). Specialization is one rational tool that creates shallow peace.

    Specialization not only segregates peace research and practitioners from the breadth of social science (Udayakumar 1998), it has far-reaching implications within a culture. Specialization not only creates a class of disconnected elite, but also severs individuals from their communities spiritually (Berry 1977). Instead of viewing peace as a condition of human existence, specialists subdue the interconnectedness of cultural and structural violence for greater empiricism in direct violence studies (Galtung 1990, 302-303). Rational humanism and capitalist efficiency seem to have quantified peace studies when human beings are the only constant variable. In choosing efficiency of focus, peace practitioners fail to see the relationships between myriad factors of conflict (Jensen 2009; Udayakumar 1998). Holism, if it is to replace specialization in inquiry and practice, requires the destruction of the dangerous human-nature dichotomy and a relegation of industrial capitalism and its systemic feedbacks.

    Specialization, generally, leads to dependency of component parts on the whole (Weber 1999, 358), so systemic forces perpetually indenture human beings to the role of part, rather than seeking to be whole (Berry 1977; Weber 1999; Udayakumar 1998). Within the globalized capitalist system, specialization reflects not only the philosophical inadequacies of Western peace practitioners (Udayakumar 1998) but also the broader patterns of dependency between core and peripheral states in Marxist geographies (Klink 1990). Indeed, the replication of capitalist resource production and supply chains aggravates agricultural societies (Udayakumar 1998).[1] Peace research demands attention to intrastate conflict in the non-Western world. Thus, it is important to recognize that the core-periphery model of the world system is a relationship that exists within regions (Poon 1997) and within a state (Jacobs 1985). Therefore, using peace agendas to replicate the Western economic system abroad—call it imperialism of the core against the periphery (Galtung 1977)[2]—prevents deep peace.

    The landscape of peace reflects a fundamental disconnect between humanity and the natural world. The exploitation inherent in the global capitalist system undermines healthy communities. In respect for diversity—of culture, politics and economics—lies the foundation of peace because while conflict is rooted in differences, difference is the essence of humanity (Hume 2005). Paradoxically, rationalization and specialization have been employed to address arising conflicts. Since human beings treat each other as they treat the natural world (Jensen 2009), deep ecology should be viewed as complimentary, if not identical, to deep peace. As evidenced above, Western thinking and many complex, historical processes have created a schism between human and non-human. Thus, the roots of cultural and structural violence are deeply imbedded in the Western subconscious.

    Without an economic system that values human dignity, the world will never be at peace. Abstracting her spiritual and existential core, the commoditization of the individual’s labor diminishes her humanity (Heinberg 2011, 31). Capitalist enterprises seek profit and cast consequences aside unless they threaten the bottom line. Communities without the institutional histories of Western democracies have suffered—and indeed, the developed world is beginning to suffer the system’s injustices (OECD 2011)—as globalization and the idea that “there is no alternative”[3] economic system to industrial capitalism crept across the planet. Capitalism is “fundamentally inhuman, antidemocratic and unsustainable” (Jensen 2009, 151-152), so expanding this system as part of peace-in-practice is self-defeating. Normative changes in violence may be attributed to the Cold War stabilization effect, but it is hardly a coincidence that destructive and dehumanizing economic policies accompanied other forces of violence. Trying to create peace using the same logic that creates war is counterintuitive and destined to fail.

    Peace and stability require the “fullest respect” for human rights (Hume 2005), yet the system is clearly stacked in opposition to its realization. “Apocalypse” in the original Greek means a lifting of the veil (Jensen 2011). If we are to ever realize the deepest and lasting peace, the foundations of Western thought and practice must be broken. We must at once dispel an entrenched way of thinking and radically change the way we organize society. As the end of growth draws near (Heinberg 2011; Rogoff 2011) and dissent becomes the norm (Anderson 2011), we may be witnessing the lifting of this veil. If so, deep peace may prevail as the first flowers force their way upwards through cracks in the brittle earth of shallow peace.


Andersen, Kurt. December 14, 2011. TIME Magazine. “TIME’s Person of the Year: The Protester.” Available at,28804,2101745_2102132_2102373,00.html. Accessed January 5, 2012.
Berry, Wendell. The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. SF: Sierra Club Books, 1977.
Cosgrove, Denis. “Spectacle and Society: Landscape and Theater in Premodern and Postmodern Cities.” In Paul Groth and Todd W. Bressi, eds. Understanding Ordinary Landscapes. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.
Cronan, William. Changes in the Land: Indians, colonists and the ecology of New England. NY: Hill and Wang, 1983:76-79.
Galtung, Johan. “A Structural Theory of Imperialism.” Journal of Peace Research 8, no. 2 (1971): 81-117.
___________. “Cultural Violence.” Journal of Peace Research 27, no. 3 (1990): 291-305.
Heinberg, Richard. The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Press, 2011.
Howett, Catherine. “”Where the One-Eyed Man is King: The Tyranny of Visual and Formalist Values in Evaluating Landscapes.” In Paul Groth and Todd W. Bressi, eds. Understanding Ordinary Landscapes. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.
Hume, John. “Nobel Lecture.” In Irwin Abrams, ed. Nobel Lectures in Peace, Volume 7: 1996-2000. River Edge, NJ: World Scientific Publishing Co., 2005.
Isenberg, Andrew D. Mining California: an ecological history. NY: Hill and Wang, 2005.
Jacobs, Jane. Cities and the Wealth of Nations. NY: Vintage Press, 1985.Jensen, Robert. August 8, 2011. “Nature bats last: Notes on revolution and resistance, revelation and redemption.” Available at Accessed January 5, 2012.
_______. All My Bones Shake: Seeking the Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice. NY: Soft Skull Press, 2009.
Klink, Frank F. “Rationalizing Core-Periphery Relations: The Analyt
ical Foundations of Structural Inequality in World Politics.” International Studies Quarterly 34, no. 2 (1990): 183-209.
Kunstler, James Howard. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-made Landscape. NY: Touchstone Press, 1993.
_______. “2012 Forecast: A Bang and a Whimper.” Clusterfuck Nation. January 2, 2012. Available at Accessed January 7, 2012.
Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution. NY: Harper Collins, 1980.
_______. Green versus Gold: sources in California’s environmental history. Washington DC: Island Press, 1998.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Society: Governments must tackle record gap between rich and poor, says OECD.” OECD Online. May 12, 2011. Available at
0/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_49166760_1_1_1_1,00.html . Accessed January 8, 2012.
Poon, Jessie P. “The Cosmopolitanization of Trade Regions: Global Trends and Implications, 1965-1990.” Economic Geography 73, no. 4 (1997): 390-404.
Reich, Robert. “The Decline of Public Goods.” January 4, 2012. Available at Accessed January 7, 2012.
Rogoff, Kenneth. “Is Modern Capitalism Sustainable?” December 2, 2011. Available at Accessed 7 January, 2012.
Udayakumar, S.P. "Landing peace theory on solid ground." Peace Review 10, no. 1 (1998): 13-19.
Weber, Thomas. “Gandhi, Deep Ecology, Peace Research and Buddhist Economics.” Journal of Peace Research 36, no. 3 (1999): 349-361.

[1] My own research interests seek to understand the confluence of Western capitalist economics and its correlation to quantitative burgeoning of violence from the socio-psychological perspective.

[2] Imperialism is the result of power dynamics and defines dominance through economic, political, cultural and coercive means. Power exerted over others precipitates structural violence, Johan Galtung notes, especially as the living condition gap between parties grows (Galtung 1971, 81-82). This inequality has increased greatly over the last three decades and will likely show itself as a destabilizing force in the coming years (Jensen 2011; Kunstler 2012).

[3] T.I.N.A., or “there is no alternative” is a phrase Margret Thatcher used famously to describe the neoliberal ideas of the Washington Consensus. Ronald Reagan echoed the claim and both major political parties in the United States adopted its policies. Not surprising, Thatcher also argued there was “no such thing as society,” and we see the consequences of privatization daily in the mainstream and alternative presses (Reich 2012).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Buying time

   So I’ve said I’m on the fence about Ron Paul. His ideas are genuine, but part of me is trapped in a nightmarish funk facing the reality that climate change is going to make hell on earth an uncomfortable reality.
   I think that the transition to a free market will benefit those with already existing systemic advantages. If we allow business to shed its regulations, we will no doubt see increased income polarity. However, this polarity will gradually lessen, I suspect, as the government stops choosing winners and losers and consumers are empowered to create economic associations more in tune with localized, community-driven plans for improving the human condition. However, this requires a complimentary commitment to the right of voluntarily assembled individuals to determine their own social and economic structures; its absence will further the proliferation of wage slavery in poisoned environments.  Do we have time or the will to see this transition through?
   I admit that I am not as knowledgeable when it comes to fiscal policy and a return to the gold standard. Still, the elimination of the banking cartel under the Federal Reserve could hardly do any more harm than the bailout guarantees have wrought. A financial system without credit will certainly bring “growth” to just above absolute zero; the mechanic molecular processes will not give us the high, but it will also subdue the low of the business cycle. When individuals plan for their futures and have it all on the table, presumably fewer tragic errors will result. We must, as anarchists or as Christian moralists or whatever, accept that individuals must determine their own destinies, financial and otherwise. Moreover, removing the internationalized credit I.V. from local banks, we may also see stronger communities based on the collective necessity of raising startup capital.
   So, if humans structure economies in ways that best suit their needs and immediate wants, we can dispel the myth of the anonymous and ominous economic monster under the proverbial bed, holding us hostage to the unknowns inherent in social scientific inquiry. We must accept that every individual is her own master. But are we?
   Any brief survey of recent scholarship in climate science can transform the most optimistic face into one that hangs with the burden of annihilation. How can freed markets set this straight in the limited time frame we are given? Put simply, they cannot.  The schism is both intellectual and philosophical. I care more about human survival in the biological sense than I care about a way of life that has never been, at any time since the industrial revolution, sustainable. And at once I am hopeful that the promises of limited government can free communities from the bondage of the modern bureaucratic state, but also disbelieving that individual freedom can solve the collective crisis of climate change. The surety of famine and furious climatic events necessitate the creation of a global consciousness—call it the cosmopolitan revolution. It is our only hope to preventing the unscrupulous decline of human civilization to a deserted relic of our present.
   While it may be tempting to dismiss the necessity of the cosmopolitan revolution as liberal hyperbole, it is not. Of all the impediments, one seems certain to destroy any immediate prospects to stymieing the coming climate disaster. Here is where I leap from the fence in faith, choosing imperfect near-term economic and social realities for a chance--distant as it may seem--to revolutionize the global conscience. We cannot expect to build bridges between communities of individuals—states, boroughs, villages, whatever--if we allow the shallow rhetoric of nationalism once again to drag us into total war. The international house of cards is in a precarious balance as the United States seeks to expand its militaristic empire in response to the shriveling of its economic reach into obscuration. Even the untrained observer can see the aligning of states vis a vis others, with metronomic propaganda machines spewing disinformation to their respective publics. If we are to survive a climate apocalypse, we cannot waste resources, time and political will. We cannot allow the facade of hate to perpetuate distrust and cast shadows over the imperative of human survival. World War III will likely not destroy humanity, but peering so shallowly into the future may prevent us from conquering the greater threat.
   Ron Paul does not have all the answers for creating responsive social and economic institutions, but at least he buys us time. If any other delusional imperialist retains control of the behemoth military-industry, we can expect war. And not far beyond the ruins of great cities, our farms will weather to deserts, and not soon enough thereafter our souls may be cast to the expanse of energy wandering the universe.