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(en) US, Calif. Berkeley, Slingshot - Disruption With a Smile

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://slingshot.tao.ca/displaybi.php?74001)
Date Wed, 20 Feb 2002 04:52:19 -0500 (EST)


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                Disruption with a Smile 
                By PB Floyd 

                Amidst the cold winds that have blown since 9-11, the
                possibility of militant resistance to the global corporate
                machine seems, at first glance, to be decreasing. The
                government and the media have seized on the terror created
                by the September 11 attacks to "unify" the majority of the US
                population around a program of more government control and
                surveillance at home and military intervention abroad. The
                implication is that the new "unity" should extend to
                unquestioned support for all government policies, as well as
                the corporate economic status quo. Government officials like
                attorney general Ashcroft have come right out and said that
                anyone who disagrees with the government's new programs is
                "aiding and abetting" the terrorists. Its easy to imagine what
                would happen should a black bloc of anarchists attack a
                Starbucks or McDonalds with hammers, barricading the street
                with burning dumpsters. They would get, very literally,
                smashed, by the cops, by the media, in the Courts, possibly
                even by enraged, "unified", flag waving regular citizens. 

                Meanwhile, while direct action options to resist corporate
                control seem limited, the need for such resistance is if
                anything much greater than it was before 9-11. The four
                months since the attack on the World Trade Center have seen
                a broad, comprehensive, some might even say historic series
                of authoritarian take-backs both in the USA and internationally.
                Generally, the bombing of Afghanistan and the new security
                measures in airports and against immigrants are the least of
                the matter. 

                The real authoritarian expansion lies in the many
                consolidations of capitalist power that would have been major
                news before 9-11, but barely warrant a short article in the
                newspaper now that everyone's attention is focused on the 3
                "A"s: anthrax, Afghanistan and airport security. In just a few
                months, Bush opened a trillion dollars of new military spending
                by canceling the ABM treaty. He obtained fast track trade
                authority to extend NAFTA to the entire American hemisphere,
                north and south. The forestland road building moratorium was
                ended. Wilderness areas were opened to gas drilling. Millions
                have been laid off. Its hard to even figure out all the things that
                happened as the nation stood paralyzed with terror. 

                All of this with hardly a peep from . . . anyone. While right after
                September 11 it was extremely encouraging to see lots of
                people mobilize to oppose the coming war, resist crackdowns
                on civil rights and privacy, and seek solidarity with the Arab
                and Muslim communities who were under racist attack, it now
                feels like a lot of these initial positive reactions to the 9-11
                crisis have faded. At least around here, there's hardly been an
                anti-war march over the past two months. And as necessary
                as these efforts to address the 9-11 crisis are, they're all tied
                up with our reaction to power's initiatives. These mobilizations
                are reactive , not proactive. The momentum coming off Seattle
                where thousands of people started to set the agenda by
                rejecting the corporate, capitalist, industrial vision for the
                future, and instead described an alternative option - this
                momentum is in danger of dying, if it hasn't died already. 

                But the point of this little article isn't just to endlessly depress
                everyone. The point is that now is a crucial time to put forward
                an anti-authoritarian political option - an alternative vision of
                society and of the future - to counteract the vast post 9-11
                take-backs. Somehow, we need to go beyond the tired,
                comfortable but ineffective "reactive" politics we're used to,
                and describe as accurately as possible what we really want. 

                The September 11 attack was a huge shock to the entire
                system, as if all the pieces in the social game were suddenly
                hurled into the air. Now they're falling back to earth.
                Authoritarians have seized on the disruption to put the pieces
                back the way they want them. But these kinds of shocks are
                times when huge social change in many directions is possible.
                If there's only one option presented, like over the past four
                months, the social change coming out of 9-11 will all be
                towards more authority, stronger power and more hierarchy.
                Its crucial that in the moment of shock and change,
                anti-authoritarians are present to paint another picture of what
                the world could look like. 

                In the post 9-11 world, we find ourselves caught between, on
                the one hand, religious fanatics bent on killing at random,
                using whatever blunt instruments are available, and on the
                other hand, carefully calculating fanatics of a different sort who
                kill systematically, in the quasi-religious pursuit of power and
                money. Both of these hands, seemingly diametrically opposed,
                function in tandem to squeeze out the alternative to either type
                of fanaticism; that of life and freedom from domination. 

                What the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Bush Administration, the WTO
                and a long list of others have in common is their belief that
                they should be able to control the lives of others. The most
                widely felt exercises of power and domination aren't dramatic
                events like the bombing of the World Trade Center or the
                carpet bombing of Afghanistan - they're everyday occurrences
                like the cutting of forests, over fishing, pollution of water and
                air . . . comprehensively creating an SUV-drive to the
                mall-consume-watch TV-obey-die world. 

                The most amazing result of the 9-11 attack has been the
                wholesale retreat of fundamental critiques of power. In the
                face of violence like the destruction of the WTC, its easy for
                the media to convince folks to embrace "security" and "safety",
                which is naturally provided by huge government
                organizations, the police and the military. Its up to us to point
                out that these institutions of power offer precisely the same
                menu offered by "terrorists" - violence and the concentration of
                power based on might that is then exercised to dominate
                everyone in society. 

                The alternative is trust and cooperation - people doing things
                for each other voluntarily, not because they're forced by the
                government, a corporation, the market, or even a terrorist. In
                times of fear and danger, the alternative is to get together with
                community to protect ourselves, rather than looking to an
                authoritarian state to take care of our problems for us. The
                alternative must make clear the similarities between fanatical
                religious fundamentalism that denies freedom, and fanatical
                market based fundamentalism, that similarly denies freedom.
                The alternative is a social system organized around people,
                the earth, freedom and happiness, not one organized to serve
                machines and accumulation, with people and their happiness
                as a faint, possible, but not required, byproduct. 

                The so-called "anti-globalization movement" was getting
                closer to articulating something positive - something like a
                vision - before September 11. Such a vision was implicit in the
                critique promoted by the anti-globalization movement, but the
                movement's failure to make its vision explicit was becoming
                more and more of a liability. It was easy to misunderstand the
                movement as just a vegetable soup of single issue causes
                that could be addressed piecemeal with the traditional, liberal
                solutions. If there's a problem with sweatshops or turtles, or
                whatever, the official response can just be to tinker with the
                economic system to address these narrow concerns while
                ensuring that the underlying capitalist order is maintained.
                Only if critique of the whole order is articulated can liberal
                cooption be avoided. Many within the movement itself
                misunderstood its potential, anxiously hoping the government
                would buy them off. 

                To the extent it was becoming increasingly important for the
                anti-globalization movement to realize that only a
                comprehensive critique / vision could be effective in taking the
                movement to the next step, the September 11 attacks require
                articulating these alternatives - moving to the next level - now,
                or damn soon. The post 9-11 political vacuum of alternatives is
                deafening. The importance of spending time and energy
                developing political thought, vision and alternatives - not just
                visually arresting actions - cannot be under estimated. 

                But to get across the anti-authoritarian alternative requires
                some kind of action in the real world, not just ideas, especially
                where purveyors of the establishment option have vast
                propaganda resources (the mainstream media) at their
                disposal. The only way to fight the ideological hegemony of the
                system is to actively disrupt that system and thereby shatter its
                version of reality - that everything is "okay." Shattering popular
                understanding of reality opens the way for alternatives and
                critical thought. 

                In the post 9-11 environment, there is no excuse whatsoever
                to retreat from militancy, urgency and action, but
                simultaneously there is every reason to be smart about the
                kind of militancy we employ. What is called for is disruption
                with a smile - figuring out the most disruptive options available
                which bare the least resemblance possible to violence against
                people. Violence against people justifies state repression and
                doesn't advance an alternative to power and coercion. While
                disruption with a smile will often be met with violent state
                repression, if the disruption is done right, that state repression
                will appear to lack justification and will end up hurting the
                state's ideological and political control. 

                There are numerous options available for smiling disruptive
                actions. In general, actions which are celebratory can be
                disruptive and effective. In Ottawa, snake dancers shut down
                the business district. Reclaim the Streets street parties can tie
                up business as usual, permitting instructive cultural/political
                confrontations - dancers vs. lines of solemn cops. Another
                idea is building the future society within the old. How about
                community gardens and free schools down the middle of Wall
                Street? 

                The capitalist/corporate/industrial system is attacking the earth
                and its people on a daily basis. Time is running out. Its time to
                do something.

    slingshot@tao.ca



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