Categories Archives: Culture of Resistance

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Lights of rebellion shine at the Zapatista resistance festival

Giovanni Cattaruzza

Post image for Lights of rebellion shine at the Zapatista resistance festivalLast month, the Zapatistas organized the first World Festival of Rebellion and Resistance Against Capitalism. One participant shares his impressions.

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

The mountains of Xochicuautla, which are waiting for the snow and for yet another Christmas here in Mexico, don’t know anything about us.

They don’t know anything about the thousands of people from all over the world who climbed up here in the cold.

The mountains of Xochicuautla ignore what democracy looks like, where Palestine or Valle di Susa is, what sort of thing an international airport is, or what so-called “sustainable capitalism” looks like.

They don’t know anything about mega-development projects, highways, garbage dumps, mines, GMO’s, transnational companies, militarization, and progress.

They are only mountains, they speak Nahuatl, and it’s kind of complicated to have a conversation with a mountain.

Rebuilding from below

On December 21, the first World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion Against Capitalism — “Where those from above destroy, those from below rebuild” — organized by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), was inaugurated in the San Francisco Xochicuautla community, municipality of Lerma, in the state of Mexico.

More than 2.000 Mexican activists, 500 international comrades from 48 different countries, and hundreds upon hundreds of indigenous community representatives started their journey throughout the country from these mountains.

The EZLN and the CNI invited all the people of the world here in Mexico in order to travel together to the southern-most point of the country and to discover the histories and struggles of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, and the challenges faced by all the political organizations that take the Zapatistas as a point of reference — from the anarchists of the Z.A.D. of Nantes, to the Sem Tierra of Brazil, on to the teachers of Oaxaca.

Once again, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation together with the indigenous communities of Chiapas decided to build a common project in cooperation with the anti-capitalist movements of the planet.

Once again, from the jungles of the south-east of Mexico, they thought globally. Inviting the people from all over the world to Chiapas in order to fight against capitalism together. According to the Zapatistas, global capitalism in the year 2015 reveals itself most clearly through mega-development projects and violent attacks to Mother Nature all over the world.

This journey can be summarized in one line: preguntando caminamos (“asking while walking”), as the Zapatistas say. It is a time to learn and to doubt ourselves.

We walked and dreamed together from Mexico City to the tropical rains of the State of Campeche, on to to the cold altiplano of the Caracol of Oventik, sharing political practices of resistance, knowing that, as Subcomandante Insurgente Moises said:

There is no single answer. There is no manual. There is no dogma. There is no creed. There are many answers, many ways, many forms. And each of us will see what we are able to do and learn from our own struggle and from other struggles.

“We give you 43 embraces”

During the so called “sharings” in Xochicuatla, Monclova and in the University of the Land (CIDECI) in San Cristobal de las Casas, we listened to hundreds of languages and political experiences of resistance, but most importantly we listened to the voices of the families of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa to whom the EZLN gave its own seat during the festival.

We cried together and we embraced each other under the cold rain of Oventik, looking at the members of the Comandancia of the EZLN hugging one by one the fathers and the mothers of the 43, after hearing the voice of Subcomandante Moises pronouncing the following words:

And so, when this day or night comes, your missing ones will give you the same embrace that we Zapatistas now give to you. It is an embrace of caring, respect, and admiration. In addition, we give you 43 embraces, one for each of those who are absent from your lives.

In the next weeks the EZLN will communicate in detail some actions and proposals to the world.

According to the Zapatistas and to the individuals and organizations that attended this first World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion Against Capitalism, there is no more time to waste. The henchmen of global capitalism — big business, national governments and international organizations — are quelling all voices of dissent, attempting to destroy all forms of resistance wherever it pops up. Ayotzinapa is just another example of this mechanism that kills everyone who chooses to resist, from Turkey and Ferguson to Mexico.

Today is the time for unity of all those who want to fight capitalism and who do not recognize themselves in any political party.

The lights of rebellion and resistance

The night is dark as only the nights in Chiapas can be, here in the Caracol of Oventik. It is December 31, 2014, 21 years after the Zapatista uprising.

Deaths, disappearances, repression and the threat of imprisonment will continue to challenge los de abajo also in the year we are entering. 2015 will be tough for them — but in the extreme darkness of the night, in the black hole of the capital in which we’re living, there are some lights of resistance.

The thousands of people who arrived here, in the mountains of Southeast Mexico, are here to share some of these little lights.

It’s funny to look at these little lights, here in Oventik, where the words of the EZLN — reaching us through the voice of Subcomandante Insurgente Moises — echo in the mountains:

Darkness becomes longer and heavier across the world, touching everyone. We knew it would be like this. We know it will be like this. We spent years, decades, centuries preparing ourselves. Our gaze is not limited to what is close-by. It does not see only today, nor only our own lands. Our gaze extends far in time and geography, and that determines how we think.

Each time something happens, it unites us in pain, but also in rage. Because now, as for some time already, we see lights being lit in many corners. They are lights of rebellion and resistance. Sometimes they are small, like ours. Sometimes they are big. Sometimes they take awhile. Sometimes they are only a spark that quickly goes out. Sometimes they go on and on without losing their glow in our memory.

And in all of these lights there is a bet that tomorrow will be very different.

The night is ours.

Giovanni Cattaruzza lives in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. He collaborates with the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolomè de las Casas-FrayBa and is a graduate of Latin American Studies at Leiden University. A great supporter of Genoa C.F.C, proudly NO-TAV, and in love with the continent of Pancho Villa, he writes articles about the struggles of indigenous communities and social movements in Latin America.

http://roarmag.org/2015/01/zapatista-festival-rebellion-resistance-capitalism/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Video from “Creating Strategies for Revolution” Panel talk

About the Event

Industrial civilization and capitalism are currently harming or killing billions of humans and countless nonhumans, and threaten to destroy all life on our planet. On August 27, Deep Green Resistance New York held a discussion on an appropriate and even necessary response: revolution. About fifty people attended to hear panelists including Jen Bilek & Frank Coughlin of DGR NY, Chris Hedges, Ted Rall, David Valle of OWS Zapatista Solidarity, Kiki Makandal of One Struggle NY, and Itzy Ramirez & Javier of Associated Indigenous Movement. The speakers addressed many aspects of revolution:

  • What Is Revolution?
  • The Role of Women in a Revolution
  • What Is a Culture of Resistance?
  • Destruction of and Role of Indigenous Cultures in a Revolution
  • How a Revolution Happens

Highlights

We need systemic change, not regime change. Many historically momentous events, such as the Indian independence movement and the success of the ANC in South Africa, are incorrectly termed revolutions even though the classes dominating and dominated didn’t actually change. For true revolution to occur, dominated classes need to overthrow the dominating classes and restructure society to eliminate exploitation.

We need to avoid sectarian interfeuding with those who could be allies. Many individuals and groups with different approaches or philosophies on some points can still work side by side to take down capitalism and civilization. We can sort out our differences after we defeat our common enemy and defuse the immediate threats of catastrophe. There are, of course, groups with whom we’ll decide we can’t work, but we should base those decisions on rational analysis of where we have fundamental differences vs where we can agree to disagree. We do have to be careful to avoid a neoliberal approach of hyperinclusivity and hyperindividualism. We should deliberately build anti-individualism, countering the dominant trend of privileging individual autonomy and identity at the expense of the group. It’s crucial to say “It is inappropriate to do certain things, regardless of your politics.”

Along those lines, a common pitfall for militant resistance movements is to embrace machismo and hypermasculinity. We must emulate the Zapatistas, consciously putting women in positions of power, challenging internal patriarchy, and changing deeply held cultural paterns and behaviors to increase participation of women. Deep Green Resistance, thanks to its code of conduct and interview process, is an example of a radical feminist organization creating safety for women to work alongside male allies.

The actual mechanics of revolution depend on a long process of building both non-violent and violent capacity. Ted Rall points out that true revolutions have, historically, always included violence because people with power and prividlege do not give it up voluntarily. Chris Hedges focuses on the final stage of successful revolutions, which typically depends on the foot soldiers of a regime refusing to protect the elite any longer, or to carry out their orders for repression. This non-violent non-participation is critical.

See more

Leigha Cohen edited video footage of the event into “A Progressive Voice.” Watch it below, and visit the Deep Green Resistance Youtube Channel for more videos from other DGR events.

Our Words Are Our Weapons: The Feminist Battle of the Story in the Wake of the Isla Vista Massacre

By Rebecca Solnit

It was a key match in the World Cup of Ideas. The teams vied furiously for the ball. The all-star feminist team tried repeatedly to kick it through the goalposts marked Widespread Social Problems, while the opposing team, staffed by the mainstream media and mainstream dudes, was intent on getting it into the usual net called Isolated Event. To keep the ball out of his net, the mainstream’s goalie shouted “mental illness” again and again. That “ball,” of course, was the meaning of the massacre of students in Isla Vista, California, by one of their peers.

All weekend the struggle to define his acts raged. Voices in the mainstream insisted he was mentally ill, as though that settled it, as though the world were divided into two countries called Sane and Crazy that share neither border crossings nor a culture. Mental illness is, however, more often a matter of degree, not kind, and a great many people who suffer it are gentle and compassionate. And by many measures, including injustice, insatiable greed, and ecological destruction, madness, like meanness, is central to our society, not simply at its edges.

In a fascinating op-ed piece last year, T.M. Luhrmann noted that when schizophrenics hear voices in India, they’re more likely to be told to clean the house, while Americans are more likely to be told to become violent. Culture matters. Or as my friend, the criminal-defense investigator who knows insanity and violence intimately, put it, “When one begins to lose touch with reality, the ill brain latches obsessively and delusionally onto whatever it’s immersed in — the surrounding culture’s illness.”

The murderer at Isla Vista was also repeatedly called “aberrant,” as if to emphasize that he was nothing like the rest of us. But other versions of such violence are all around us, most notably in the pandemic of hate toward and violence against women. 

In the end, this struggle over the meaning of one man’s killing spree may prove to be a watershed moment in the history of feminism, which always has been and still is in a struggle to name and define, to speak and be heard. “The battle of the story” the Center for Story-Based Strategy calls it, because you win or lose your struggle in large part through the language and narrative you use.

As media critic Jennifer Pozner put it in 2010 about another massacre by a woman-hating man,

“I am sick to death that I have to keep writing some version of this same article or blog post on loop. But I have to, because in all of these cases, gender-based violence lies at the heart of these crimes — and leaving this motivating factor uninvestigated not only deprives the public of the full, accurate picture of the events at hand, but leaves us without the analysis and context needed to understand the violence, recognize warning signs, and take steps to prevent similar massacres in the future.”

The Isla Vista murderer took out men as well as women, but blowing away members of a sorority seems to have been the goal of his rampage. He evidently interpreted his lack of sexual access to women as offensive behavior by women who, he imagined in a sad mix of entitlement and self-pity, owed him fulfillment. 

#YesAllWomen

Richard Martinez, the father of one of the young victims, spoke powerfully on national TV about gun control and the spinelessness of the politicians who have caved to the gun lobby, as well as about the broader causes of such devastation. A public defender in Santa Barbara County, he has for decades dealt with violence against women, gun users, and mental illness, as does everyone in his field. He and Christopher Michaels-Martinez’s mother, a deputy district attorney, knew the territory intimately before they lost their only child. The bloodbath was indeed about guns and toxic versions of masculinity and entitlement, and also about misery,cliché, and action-movie solutions to emotional problems. It was, above all, about the hatred of women.

According to one account of the feminist conversation that followed, a young woman with the online name Kaye (who has since been harassed or intimidated into withdrawing from the public conversation) decided to start tweeting with the hashtag #YesAllWomen at some point that Saturday after the massacre. By Sunday night, half a million #yesallwomen tweets had appeared around the world, as though a dam had burst. And perhaps it had. The phrase described the hells and terrors women face and specifically critiqued astock male response when women talked about their oppression: “Not all men.”

It’s the way some men say, “I’m not the problem” or that they shifted the conversation from actual corpses and victims as well as perpetrators to protecting the comfort level of bystander males. An exasperated woman remarked to me, “What do they want — a cookie for not hitting, raping, or threatening women?” Women are afraid of being raped and murdered all the time and sometimes that’s more important to talk about than protecting male comfort levels. Or as someone named Jenny Chiu tweeted, “Sure #NotAllMen are misogynists and rapists. That’s not the point. The point is that #YesAllWomen live in fear of the ones that are.”

Women — and men (but mostly women) — said scathing things brilliantly.

— #YesAllWomen because I can’t tweet about feminism without getting threats and perverted replies. Speaking out shouldn’t scare me.

— #YesAllWomen because I’ve seen more men angry at the hashtag rather than angry at the things happening to women.

— #YesAllWomen because if you’re too nice to them you’re “leading them on” & if you’re too rude you risk violence. Either way you’re a bitch.

It was a shining media moment, a vast conversation across all media, including millions of participants on Facebook and Twitter — which is significant sinceTwitter has been a favorite means of delivering rape and death threats to outspoken women. As Astra Taylor has pointed out in her new book, The People’s Platform, the language of free speech is used to protect hate speech, itself an attempt to deprive others of their freedom of speech, to scare them into shutting up.

Laurie Penny, one of the important feminist voices of our times, wrote,

“When news of the murders broke, when the digital world began to absorb and discuss its meaning, I had been about to email my editor to request a few days off, because the impact of some particularly horrendous rape threats had left me shaken, and I needed time to collect my thoughts. Instead of taking that time, I am writing this blog, and I am doing so in rage and in grief — not just for the victims of the Isla Vista massacre, but for what is being lost everywhere as the language and ideology of the new misogyny continues to be excused… I am sick of being told to empathize with the perpetrators of violence any time I try to talk about the victims and survivors.”

Our Words Are Our Weapons

In 1963, Betty Friedan published a landmark book, The Feminine Mystique, in which she wrote, “The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.” In the years that followed, that problem gained several names: male chauvinism, then sexism, misogyny, inequality, and oppression. The cure was to be “women’s liberation,” or “women’s lib,” or “feminism.” These words, which might seem worn out from use now, were fresh then.

Since Friedan’s manifesto, feminism has proceeded in part by naming things. The term “sexual harassment,” for example, was coined in the 1970s, first used in the legal system in the 1980s, given legal status by the Supreme Court in 1986, and given widespread coverage in the upheaval after Anita Hill’s testimony against her former boss, Clarence Thomas, in the 1991 Senate hearings on his Supreme Court nomination. The all-male interrogation team patronized and bullied Hill, while many men in the Senate and elsewhere failed to grasp why it mattered if your boss said lecherous things and demanded sexual services. Or they just denied that such things happen.

Many women were outraged. It was, like the post-Isla Vista weekend, a watershed moment in which the conversation changed, in which those who got it pushed hard on those who didn’t, opening some minds and updating some ideas. The bumper sticker “I Believe You Anita” was widespread for a while. Sexual harassment is now considerably less common in workplaces and schools, and its victims have far more recourse, thanks in part to Hill’s brave testimony and the earthquake that followed.

So many of the words with which a woman’s right to exist is adjudicated are of recent coinage: “domestic violence,” for example, replaced “wife-beating” as the law began to take a (mild) interest in the subject. A woman is still beaten every nine seconds in this country, but thanks to the heroic feminist campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s, she now has access to legal remedies that occasionally work, occasionally protect her, and — even more occasionally — send her abuser to jail. In 1990, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported, “Studies of the Surgeon General’s office reveal that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, more common than automobile accidents, muggings, and cancer deaths combined.” 

I go to check this fact and arrive at an Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violencewebsite that warns viewers their browsing history might be monitored at home and offers a domestic-violence hotline number. The site is informing women that their abusers may punish them for seeking information or naming their situation. It’s like that out there.

One of the more shocking things I read recently was an essay in the Nation about the infamous slaying of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in a neighborhood in Queens, New York, in 1964. The author, Peter Baker, reminds us that some of the neighbors who witnessed parts of her rape and murder from their windows likely mistook the savage assault by a stranger for a man exercising his rights over “his” woman. “Surely it matters that, at the time, violence inflicted by a man on his wife or romantic partner was widely considered a private affair. Surely it matters that, in the eyes of the law as it stood in 1964, it was impossible for a man to rape his wife.”

Terms like acquaintance rape, date rape, and marital rape had yet to be invented.

Twenty-First Century Words

I apparently had something to do with the birth of the word “mansplaining,” though I didn’t coin it myself. My 2008 essay “Men Explain Things to Me” (now the title piece in my new book about gender and power) is often credited with inspiring the pseudonymous person who did coin it on a blog shortly thereafter.  From there, it began to spread.

For a long time, I was squeamish about the term, because it seemed to imply that men in general were flawed rather than that particular specimens were prone to explain things they didn’t understand to women who already did. Until this spring, that is, when a young PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, told me that the word allowed women to identify another “problem with no name,” something that often happened but was hard to talk about until the term arose.

Language is power. When you turn “torture” into “enhanced interrogation,” or murdered children into “collateral damage,” you break the power of language to convey meaning, to make us see, feel, and care. But it works both ways. You can use the power of words to bury meaning or to excavate it.  If you lack words for a phenomenon, an emotion, a situation, you can’t talk about it, which means that you can’t come together to address it, let alone change it. Vernacular phrases — Catch-22, monkeywrenching, cyberbullying, the 99% and the 1% — have helped us to describe b
ut also to reshape our world. This may be particularly true of feminism, a movement focused on giving voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless.

One of the compelling new phrases of our time is “rape culture.” The term came into widespread circulation in late 2012 when sexual assaults in New Delhi, India, and Steubenville, Ohio, became major news stories. As a particularly strongly worded definition puts it:

“Rape culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. Rape culture affects every woman. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape.”

Sometimes I’ve heard “rape culture” used to describe specifically what’s called “lad culture” — the jeering, leering subculture in which some young men are lodged. Other times it’s used to indict the mainstream, which oozes with misogyny in its entertainment, its everyday inequalities, its legal loopholes. The term helped us stop pretending that rapes are anomalies, that they have nothing to do with the culture at large or are even antithetical to its values. If they were, a fifth of all American women (and one in 71 men) wouldn’t be rape survivors; if they were, 19% of female college students wouldn’t have to cope with sexual assault; if they were, the military wouldn’t be stumbling through an epidemic of sexual violence. The term rape culture lets us begin to address the roots of the problem in the culture as a whole.

The term “sexual entitlement” was used in 2012 in reference to sexual assaults byBoston University’s hockey team, though you can find earlier uses of the phrase. I first heard it in 2013 in a BBC report on a study of rape in Asia. The study concluded that in many cases the motive for rape was the idea that a man has the right to have sex with a woman regardless of her desires. In other words, his rights trump hers, or she has none. This sense of being owed sex is everywhere. Many women are told, as was I in my youth, that something we did or said or wore or just the way we looked or the fact that we were female had excited desires we were thereby contractually obliged to satisfy. We owed them. They had a right. To us.

Male fury at not having emotional and sexual needs met is far too common, as is the idea that you can rape or punish one woman to get even for what other women have done or not done. A teenager was stabbed to death for turning down a boy’s invitation to go to the prom this spring; a 45-year-old mother of two was murdered May 14th for trying to “distance herself” from a man she was dating; the same night as the Isla Vista shootings, a California man shot at women who declined sex. After the killings in Isla Vista, the term “sexual entitlement” was suddenly everywhere, and blogs and commentary and conversations began to address it with brilliance and fury. I think that May 2014 marks the entry of the phrase into everyday speech. It will help people identify and discredit manifestations of this phenomenon. It will help change things.  Words matter.

Crimes, Small and Large

The 22-year-old who, on May 23rd, murdered six of his peers and attempted to kill many more before taking his own life framed his unhappiness as due to others’ failings rather than his own and vowed to punish the young women who, he believed, had rejected him. In fact, he already had done so, repeatedly, with minor acts of violence that foreshadowed his final outburst. In his long, sad autobiographical rant, he recounts that his first week in college,

“I saw two hot blonde girls waiting at the bus stop. I was dressed in one of my nice shirts, so I looked at them and smiled. They looked at me, but they didn’t even deign to smile back. They just looked away as if I was a fool. In a rage, I made a U-turn, pulled up to their bus stop and splashed my Starbucks latte all over them. I felt a feeling [of] spiteful satisfaction as I saw it stain their jeans. How dare those girls snub me in such a fashion! How dare they insult me so! I raged to myself repeatedly. They deserved the punishment I gave them. It was such a pity that my latte wasn’t hot enough to burn them. Those girls deserved to be dumped in boiling water for the crime of not giving me the attention and adoration I so rightfully deserve!”

Domestic violence, mansplaining, rape culture, and sexual entitlement are among the linguistic tools that redefine the world many women encounter daily and open the way to begin to change it.

The nineteenth-century geologist and survey director Clarence King and twentieth-century biologists have used the term “punctuated equilibrium” to describe a pattern of change that involves slow, quiet periods of relative stasis interrupted by turbulent intervals. The history of feminism is one of punctuated equilibriums in which our conversations about the nature of the world we live in, under the pressure of unexpected events, suddenly lurch forward. It’s then that we change the story.

I think we are in such a crisis of opportunity now, as not one miserable, murderous young man but the whole construct in which we live is brought into question. On that Friday in Isla Vista, our equilibrium was disrupted, and like an earthquake releasing tension between tectonic plates, the realms of gender shifted a little. They shifted not because of the massacre, but because millions came together in a vast conversational network to share experiences, revisit meanings and definitions, and arrive at new understandings. At the memorials across California, people held up candles; in this conversation people held up ideas, words, and stories that also shone in the darkness. Maybe this change will grow, will last, will matter, and will be a lasting memorial to the victims.

Six years ago, when I sat down and wrote the essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” here’s what surprised me: though I began with a ridiculous example of being patronized by a man, I ended with rapes and murders. We tend to treat violence and the abuse of power as though they fit into airtight categories: harassment, intimidation, threat, battery, rape, murder. But I realize now that what I was saying is: it’s a slippery slope.
That’s why we need to address that slope, rather than compartmentalizing the varieties of misogyny and dealing with each separately. Doing so has meant fragmenting the picture, seeing the parts, not the whole.

A man acts on the belief that you have no right to speak and that you don’t get to define what’s going on. That could just mean cutting you off at the dinner table or the conference. It could also mean telling you to shut up, or threatening you if you open your mouth, or beating you for speaking, or killing you to silence you forever. He could be your husband, your father, your boss or editor, or the stranger at some meeting or on the train, or the guy you’ve never seen who’s mad at someone else but thinks “women” is a small enough category that you can stand in for “her.” He’s there to tell you that you have no rights.

Threats often precede acts, which is why the targets of online rape and death threats take them seriously, even though the sites that allow them and the law enforcement officials that generally ignore them apparently do not. Quite a lot of women are murdered after leaving a boyfriend or husband who believes he owns her and that she has no right to self-determination.  

Despite this dismal subject matter, I’m impressed with the powers feminism has flexed of late. Watching Amanda Hess, Jessica Valenti, Soraya Chemaly, Laurie Penny, Amanda Marcotte, Jennifer Pozner, and other younger feminists swing into action the weekend after the Rodgers killing spree was thrilling, and the sudden explosion of #YesAllWomen tweets, astonishing. The many men who spoke up thoughtfully were heartening. More and more men are actively engaged instead of just being Not All Men bystanders.

You could see once-radical ideas blooming in the mainstream media. You could see our arguments and whole new ways of framing the world gaining ground and adherents. Maybe we had all just grown unbearably weary of the defense of unregulated guns after more than 40 school shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, of the wages of macho fantasies of control and revenge, of the hatred of women.

If you look back to Betty Friedan’s “problem that has no name,” you see a world that was profoundly different from the one we now live in, one in which women had far fewer rights and far less voice. Back then, arguing that women should be equal was a marginal position; now arguing that we should not be is marginal in this part of the world and the law is mostly on our side. The struggle has been and will be long and harsh and sometimes ugly, and the backlash against feminism remains savage, strong, and omnipresent, but it is not winning. The world has changed profoundly, it needs to change far more — and on that weekend of mourning and introspection and conversation just passed, you could see change happen.

Rebecca Solnit’s new bestselling book of essays on women, power, and violence, Men Explain Things to Me (Dispatch Books, Haymarket Books), has just been published. Its title comes from the essay (now updated) that Solnit posted at TomDispatch in 2008, and which has been making the rounds ever since.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook and Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Rebecca Solnit

We All Must Become Zapatistas

By Chris Hedges

The Future Must Be Green, Red, Black and Female

By Robert Jensen / Truth-Out

By Robert Jensen / Truth-Out

The human species must acknowledge that any future that allows us to retain our humanity will jettison capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy – and be based on an ecological worldview, says Jensen.

(These remarks were prepared for a private conference on sustainability, where the participants critiqued corporate farming, “big ag,” and “big pharma” and industrialized medicine. There was agreement about the need for fundamental change in economic/political/social systems, but no consensus on the appropriate analysis of those systems and their interaction.)

The future of the human species – if there is to be a future – must be radically green, red, black and female.

If we take this seriously – a human future, that is, if we really care about whether there will be a human future – each one of us who claims to care has to be willing to be challenged, radically. How we think, feel, and act – it’s all open to critique, and no one gets off easy, because everyone has failed. Individually and collectively, we have failed to create just societies or a sustainable human presence on the planet. That failure may have been inevitable – the human with the big brain may be an evolutionary dead-end – but still it remains our failure. So, let’s deal with it, individually and collectively.

We can start by looking honestly at the data about the health of the ecosphere, in the context of what we know about human economic/political/social systems. My conclusion: There is no way to magically solve the fundamental problems that result from too many people consuming too much and producing too much waste, under conditions of unconscionable inequality in wealth and power.

If today, everywhere on the planet, everyone made a commitment to the research and organizing necessary to ramp down the demands that the human project places on ecosystems, we could possibly create a plan for a sustainable human presence on the planet, with a dramatic reduction in consumption and a gradual reduction of population. But when we reflect on our history as a species and the nature of the systems that govern our lives today, the sensible conclusion is that the steps we need to take won’t be taken, at least not in the time frame available for meaningful change.

This is not defeatist. This is not cowardly. This is not self-indulgent.

This is reality, and sensible planning should be reality-based.

Let’s Not Deny, Avoid, Evade

So, for all the hard-nosed logical folks who regularly complain that so many people in contemporary culture deny, avoid, evade crucial issues; that so many Americans slip past science when that science has bad news; that so many other people won’t face tough truths, I have a suggestion: Let’s demand of ourselves the rigor we demand of others. Let’s not deny, avoid, evade any aspect of reality.

Another way of saying this: The “things-can’t-be-that-bad” card that so much of the general public plays to trump difficult data is a dead-end, but so is the “we-have-to-have-hope” card that is used to avoid the logical conclusions of our own analysis.

Hope is for the lazy. Now is not the time for hope. Let’s put hope aside and get to the real work of our understanding our historical moment so that our actions are grounded in reality.

My thesis: Our task today is not to scurry around trying to hold onto the world as we know it, but to focus on how we can hold onto our humanity as we enter a distinctly different era of the human presence on the planet, an era that will challenge our resolve and reserves. Call it collapse or the apocalypse or the Age of Aquarius – whatever the name, it will not look like anything we have known. It is not just the fall of an empire or a localized plague or the demise of a specific ecosystem. The future will be defined by the continuing drawdown of the ecological capital of the planet well beyond replacement levels and rising levels of toxicity, with the resulting social conflict exacerbated by rapid climate destabilization in ways we cannot predict specifically, but that will be destructive to human well-being, perhaps even to human survival.

The thesis, restated: For most of my life, my elders told me that the moral challenge to my generation was how to feed 5 billion, 6 billion, 7 billion, maybe one day, 10 billion people. Today our moral challenge is how to live on a planet of 4 billion, 3 billion, 2 billion, maybe less. How are we going to understand and experience ourselves as human beings – as moral beings, the kind of creatures we’ve always claimed to be – in the midst a long-term human die-off for which there is no precedent? What will it mean to be human when we know that around the world, maybe even down the block, other human beings – creatures exactly the same as us – are dying in large numbers not because of something outside human control, but instead because of things we humans chose to do and keep choosing, keep doing?

If you think this is too extreme, alarmist, hysterical, then tell a different story of the future, one that doesn’t depend on magic, one that doesn’t include some version of, “We will invent solar panels that give us endless clean energy,” or “We will find ways to grow even more food on even less soil with declining natural fertility,” or perhaps, “We will invent a perpetual motion machine.” If I’m wrong, explain to me where I’m wrong.

But, comes the inevitable rejoinder, even if we can’t write that more hopeful story today, can’t we trust that such a story will emerge? Is not necessity the mother of invention? Have not humans faced big problems before and found solutions through reason and creativity, in science and technology? Doesn’t our success in the past suggest we will overcome problems in the present and future?

That response is understandable, but brings to mind the old joke about the fellow who jumps off a 100-story building and, when asked how things are going 90 floors down, says, “Great so far.” Advanced technology based on abundant and cheap supplies of concentrated energy has taken us a long way on a curious ride, but there is no guarantee that advanced technology can solve problems in the future, especially when the most easily accessible sources of that concentrated energy are dwindling and the life-threatening consequences of burning all that fuel are now unavoidable.

Reality-Rejection Stories

Necessity may have been the mother of much invention, but that doesn’t mean mother will always be there to protect us. The technological fundamentalist story of transcendence through endless invention is no more helpful than a religious fundamentalist story of transcendence through divine intervention. The two approaches, while very different on the surface, are popular for the same reason: Both allow us to deny, avoid, evade. They are both reality-rejection stories.

Our chances for a decent future depend in part on our ability to develop more sustainable technology that draws on the best of our science and on our ability to hold onto traditional ideas of shared humanity that are at the core of religious traditions. Technology and religion matter. But their fundamentalist versions are impediments to honest assessment and healthy practice.

If one agrees with all this, there is one more common evasive technique – the assertion, as one media researcher recently put it, that “disaster messages can be a turnoff.” Since most people don’t enjoy pondering these things, it’s tempting to argue that we should avoid presenting the questions in stark form, lest some people be turned off. We should not give in to that temptation.

First, these observations and conclusions are a good-faith attempt to deal with reality. To dismiss these issues because people allegedly don’t like disaster messages is akin to telling people in the path of a tornado to ignore the weather forecast because disaster messages are a turnoff. Just as we can’t predict exactly the path of a tornado, we can’t predict exactly the nature of a complex process of collapse. But we can know something is coming our way, and we can best prepare for it.

Second, let’s avoid the cheap trick of displacing our intellectual and/or moral weakness onto the so-called “masses,” who allegedly can’t or won’t deal with this. When people tell me, “I agree that systemic collapse is inevitable, but the masses can’t handle it,” I assume what they really mean is, “I can’t handle it.” The attempted diversion is cowardly.

When we come to terms with these challenges – when we face up to the fact that the human species now faces problems that likely have no solutions, at least no solutions that allow us to continue living as we have – then we will not be deterred by the resistance of the culture. We will work at accomplishing whatever we can, where we live, in the time available to us. Which brings me to the future: green, red, black and female.

Green: The human future, if there is to be a future, will be green, meaning the ecological worldview will be central in all discussions of all of human affairs. We will start all conversations about all decisions we make in all arenas of life by recognizing that we are one species in complex ecosystems that make up a single ecosphere. We will abide by the laws of physics, chemistry and biology, as we understand them today, realizing the ecosystems on which we depend are far more complex than we can understand. As a result of the ecological worldview, we will practice real humility in our interventions into those ecosystems.

Red: The human future, if there is to be a future, will be red. By that, I mean we must be explicitly anticapitalist. An economic system that magnifies human greed and encourages short-term thinking, while pretending there are no physical limits on human consumption, is a death cult. To endorse capitalism is to sign onto a suicide pact. We need not pretend there exists a fully elaborated plan for a replacement system that we can take off the shelf and implement immediately. But the absence of a fully explicated alternative doesn’t justify an economic system that has dramatically intensified the human assault on the larger living world. Capitalism is not the system through which we will craft a sustainable future.

Black: The human future, if there is to be a future, will be black. By that, I mean we have to reject the pathology of white supremacy that has for five centuries shaped the world in which we live, and continues to shape us. Do not confuse this with shallow “multiculturalism” – I am not suggesting that by celebrating “diversity” we will magically create peace and harmony. Instead, we must recognize that the existing distribution of wealth is the product of a profoundly pathological system of racial hierarchy conceived of, and perpetuated by, white Europe and its offshoots (the United States, Australia, South Africa).

Female: The human future, if there is to be a future, will be female. By that, I mean we have to reject the pathology of patriarchy that has for several thousand years shaped the world in which we live and continues to shape us. Again, this should not be confused with the tepid liberal and “third wave” versions of feminism that the dominant culture acknowledges. Instead, we must embrace a radical feminism that rejects the hierarchy and violence on which male dominance depends.

My claim is that we must deal with all these systems in a holistic, integrated fashion, that we will not successfully reject one hierarchal system without rejecting all hierarchical systems. Holding onto any system that depends on one group claiming dominance over another undermines our ability to shape a decent future. We should be dismantling any system based on dominator logic.

Green: Our quest to exploit the larger living world is based on an assumption that humans have a right, rooted in either theological or secular beliefs, to dominate based on our sense of being the superior species. Whether we believe the big brain comes from God or through evolution, in cognitive terms we certainly do rank first among species. But ask yourself, within the human family, is being smart the only thing of value? Do we rank each other only on cognitive ability? We understand that within our species, no one has a right to dominate another simply because of a claim of being smarter. Yet we treat the world as if that status as the smartest species is all that is needed to dominate everything else.

Red: If we put aside the fantasies about capitalism found in economics textbooks and deal with the real world, we recognize that capitalism is a wealth-concentrating system that allows a small number of people to dominate not only economic, but also political decision-making – which makes a mockery of our alleged commitment to moral principles rooted in solidarity and political principles rooted in democracy. In capitalism, domination is self-justifying – if one can amass wealth, one can dominate without question, trumping all other values.

Black: Although the worst legal and social practices that defined and maintained white supremacy for centuries have been eliminated, the white world never settled its accounts with the nonwhite world, preferring to hold onto its disproportionate share of the world’s wealth that was extracted violently. As a result of that moral failing, the material reality and ideological power of white supremacy endures, modified in recent decades to grant some privileges to some of the formerly targeted populations so long as the dominator logic of the system is not challenged. We have not dealt with this because to deal with it, honestly, would mean a dramatic redistribution of wealth, internally within societies and globally, and an even more dramatic shift in the way white people see ourselves.

Female: It is not surprising that the foundational hierarchy of male domination has remained so intractable – to acknowledge the existence of patriarchy is to recognize that patriarchy’s domination/subordination dynamic, which decent people claim to reject, is woven deeply into the fabric of all our lives in every sphere, including sexuality. Taking the feminist critique seriously shakes the foundation of our daily lives. Again, the system’s ability to allow a limited number of women into elite circles, as long as they accept the dominator logic, does little to undermine patriarchy.

This sketch of a radical politics does not mean that every person must always be involved in organizing on all of these issues, which would be impossible. Nor does this short summary of systems of domination/subordination capture every relevant question. But, for those who claim to be concerned with social justice and ecological sustainability, I would press simple points: Everyone’s analysis must take into account all these aspects of our lives; if your analysis does not do that, then your analysis is incomplete; and an incomplete analysis will not be the basis for substantive and meaningful change. Why?

If the story of a human future is not green, there is no future. If the story is not red, it cannot be green. If we can manage to restructure our world along new understandings of ecology and economics, there is a chance we can salvage something. But we will not be able magically to continue business as usual; our longstanding assumption of endlessly expanding bounty must be abandoned as we reconfigure our expectations.

That means we have to start telling a story about living with dramatically less of everything. The green and red story is a story of limits. If we are to hold onto our humanity in an era of contraction, those limits must be accepted by all, with the burdens shared by all. And that story only works if it is black and female. Without a rejection of the dominator logic of ecological exploitation and capitalism, there is no future at all. Without a rejection of the dominator logic of white supremacy and patriarchy, there is no future worth living in.

When someone says, “All that matters now is focusing on ecological sustainability” (asserting the primacy of green), we must make it clear that such sustainability is impossible within capitalism. When someone says, “All that matters now is steady-state economics” (asserting the primacy of red), we must make it clear that such a steady state is morally unacceptable within white supremacy and patriarchy. When someone says, “Talking about sustainability doesn’t mean much for subordinated people suffering today” (asserting the primacy of black and female), we must make it clear that attaining social justice within a rapidly declining system is a death sentence for future generations.

Anytime someone wants to narrow the scope of our inquiry to make it easier to get through the day, we must make it clear that getting through the day isn’t the goal. “One day at a time” may be a useful guide for an individual in recovery from addiction, but it is a dead-end for a species on the brink of dramatic and potentially irreversible changes.

Any time someone wants to think long term but narrow the scope of our inquiry to make it easier to tackle a specific problem, we must make it clear that fixing a specific problem won’t save us. “One broken system at a time” may be a sensible short-term political strategy in a stable world in which there is time for a long trajectory of change, but it is a dead-end in the unstable world in which we live.

To be clear: None of these observations are an argument for paralysis or passivity. I am not arguing that there is nothing to do, nothing worth doing, nothing that can be done to make things better. I am saying there is nothing that can be done to avoid a serious shift, a scale of change that is captured by the term “collapse.” What can be done will be worth doing only if we accept that reality – instead of asking, “How can we save all this?” we should ask, “How can we hold onto our humanity as all of this changes?”

When relieved of the obligation to conjure up magical solutions, life actually gets simpler, and what can be done is easier to apprehend: Learn to live with less. Give up on empty talk about “conscious capitalism.” Cross boundaries of race, ethnicity, class and religion that typically keep people apart. Make sure that both public and private spaces are free from men’s violence. Recognize that central to whatever projects one undertakes should be the building of local networks and institutions that enhance resilience.

We Have Done This

If all this seems like too much to bear, that’s because it is. No matter how flawed anyone of us may be, none of us did anything to deserve this. We shouldn’t have to bear all this. But collectively, we humans have done this. We have done this for a long time, thousands of years, ever since the invention of agriculture took us out of right relationship with the larger living world.

The bad news: The effects of our failures are piling up, and it may be that this time around we can’t slip the trap, as humans have done so many times in the past.

The good news: We aren’t the first humans who looked honestly at reality and stayed true to the work of returning to right relation.

The story we must tell is a prophetic story, and we have a prophetic tradition on which we can draw. Let’s take a lesson from Jeremiah from the Hebrew Bible, who was not afraid to speak of the depth of his sorrow: “My grief is beyond healing, my heart is sick within me” (Jer. 8:18). Nor was he afraid to speak of the severity of the failure that brought on the grief: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 8:21)

Along with this prophetic tradition, we also must be willing to draw on the apocalyptic tradition, recognizing that we have strayed too far, that there is no way to return to right relation within the systems in which we live. The prophetic voice warns the people of our failures within these systems, and the apocalyptic tradition can be understood as a call to abandon any hope for those systems. The stories we have told ourselves about how to be human within those systems must be replaced by stories about how to hold onto our humanity as we search for new systems.

We have to reject stories about last-minute miracles, whether of divine or technological origins. There is nothing to be gained by magical thinking. The new stories require imagination, but an imagination bounded by the ecosphere’s physical limits. When we tell stories that lead us to believe that what is unreal can be real, then our stories are delusional, not imaginative. They don’t help us understand ourselves and our situation, but instead offer only the illusory comfort of false hope.

One last bit of good news: If your heart is sick and your grief is beyond healing, be thankful. When we feel that grief, it means we have confronted a truth about our fallen world. We are not saved, and we may not be able to save ourselves, but when we face that which is too much to bear, we affirm our humanity. When we face the painful reality that there is no hope, it is in that moment that we earn the right to hope.

Originally posted by Truth-Out.

Let’s Get Free!: Radicalizing Pro-Feminist Education for Men

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

The following speech was originally given at the Stop Porn Culture Conference at Wheelock College, Boston, in July 2013.

Hello everyone, my name is Kourtney Mitchell and I am a political activist and a member of the group Deep Green Resistance. We are a radical organization dedicated to social, political and environmental justice. As an organization we ally ourselves with indigenous communities, women, people of color and the poor. Our aim is to stop the destruction of the planet and the oppression of people and animals.

We are a relatively new organization just a couple of years old but we are growing and have numerous chapters with hundreds of activists around the world who are all dedicated to stopping the genocide of the planet.

So, I’ll offer just a brief background on my experience as a man with pro-feminist activism and educating men. I attended university and it was there that I first received academic and activist training in feminism and anti-violence through the peer education program on campus.

The peer education program consists of graduate students, faculty, and staff who train undergraduate volunteers. The training includes education about the widespread violence that women face and volunteers learn to give presentations to peers on rape, sexual assault, relationship violence, and feminism.

In turn, peers would then join our organizing efforts and events. This was the most profoundly significant and life changing time for me. To travel around the country raising awareness of violence against women, facilitating workshops, speak-outs, and protests was fulfilling, not to mention meaningful. The training threw me into another world, one in which violence and misogyny could no longer be ignored. Our advisors did a really comprehensive job of giving us an adequate scope of the problem, and creating a sense of urgency about these issues.

They helped facilitate the creation of a student culture based on the belief that it is possible to end violence against women, and knowing that possibility helped galvanize us to take action. Many of us went on to make this our life’s work.

My primary role in the campus activist community was recruiting and teaching men about pro-feminism and anti-violence. I helped lead the male ally program, which included a weekly discussion group, activism in the community, pro-feminist art and performance, and collaborations with other similar programs around the country.

I remember vividly the anxiety of pouring over every detail of presentations I would be giving to men, worrying if the way I presented concepts was too complicated or if men would shut down for the rest of the talk if I said something too complicated. I left some events feeling like no one was reachable, but I also walked away feeling really good about the successes which were accomplished.

Many men joined our organizations and became quite active – some because they just felt it was the right thing to do, but many more because of personal experiences and the experiences of their loved ones. Several men randomly wandered into our office and left planning to attend the next ally meeting, and sure enough did continue coming. This was just one of the many things that kept me optimistic about bringing more men to pro-feminist ideas and activism.

Unfortunately, the campus activist community was largely liberal and very much influenced by queer theory. Pornography was widely accepted, and a real revolution against the patriarchal order was more joked about than seriously considered. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the radical feminist perspective that I began to see the flaws of the liberal approach to pro-feminist education.

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Earth at Risk: Waziyatawin

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Calling All Defenders of the Land

For our second installment of our EARTH AT RISK film series, we welcome you to watch the interview with historian and anti-colonial activist, Waziyatawin.

Author of For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook as well as other books, Waziyatawin is a Dakota professor and activist from Pezihutazizi Otunwe in southwestern Minnesota. Her books are about indigenous resistance and decolonizing strategies. She is also the founder of Oyate Nipi Kte, a non-profit organization dedicated to the recovery of Dakota traditional knowledge, sustainable ways of being, and Dakota liberation.

As an activist she was most notably arrested multiple times in 2007 protesting the Minnesota sesquicentennial celebration while raising awareness of broken treaties and colonial violence – including the hanging of 38 Dakota men during the Dakota War of 1862 (the largest mass execution in American history).

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This event is free and open to the public. For space accommodation please be sure to RSVP. If you have any questions, need directions, or need any further information, please contact us at newyork@deepgreenresistance.org

Wednesday, October 30th
7pm – 9pm

Bellevue Hospital
Room A-342
462 1st Avenue
(between East 26th/28th)

Heart of Zapatismo Event

“Yes, Marcos is gay. Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains.” ―Subcomandante Marcos

With ski masks, simple arms, and shouts of “Ya basta!” (“Enough is enough”) the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) began their march into public memory. As a movement of mostly rural indigenous peoples in the south of Mexico, they shocked the world on January 1st, 1994, the date of implementation of the disastrous North American Free Trade Agreement.

They fought in the cities and mountains of Mexico to create a new, autonomous society, free from the “Empire of Money” quickly advancing over the world through globalization and neo-liberal policies. Using a wide variety of tactics, including armed resistance, education, media outreach, non-violent direct action, and the creation of autonomous communities, they have been able to preserve thousands of hectacres of land, free from national governmental intrusion. Having almost no access to material resources, they have successfully built healthcare systems, sustainable ways of feeding their populations, schools, and “bottom-driven” forms of self-government. Now they have opened up their homes to teach their history and tactics.

On Monday, October 14th, hear from one member of the EZLN’s “Little Schools”, who attended the first school in August and has been working to spread the “heart of Zapatismo” in the US. Come learn as we discuss how to create the culture of resistance necessary to put meaning behind the call for international solidarity and fight with those who struggle against oppression around the world.

For more information, please read “Practice First, Then Theory”. Please feel free to join us – the meeting is free and open to the public.

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Monday, October 14th
8pm – 9pm

Bellevue Hospital: Room A-342
462 1st Avenue
(between East 26th/28th)

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Join our celly group by texting @dgrnyc to 23559 to receive up to date information about meetings and other events. If you need any further directions or have any questions, please contact us.