Student cellphone insurgency

Between the hyperventilated coverage of Anna Nicole’s autopsy today, a peculiar news story squeezed in as filler. YouTube is posting videos, taken with cell phones by students, of teachers in public school classrooms having violent, abusive outbursts. I saw this on MSNBC while I was dusting blinds, and it stopped me in my tracks.

The most remarkable thing about it, aside from the extremely brief flashes of raging teachers smashing students’ phones on the floor, was what the news personality had to say about it. She wondered aloud if this meant schools should ban cell phones.

That was it.

Setting aside the issue of cell phones, there was not even a cursory mention of the behavior of the teachers which was abusive as hell and showing students that the way to reassert control is to act like a raging asshole (links below). The physically violent teachers, by the way, were men.

So what the news personality, or her editor, or MSNBC decided to omit in its coverage of this story, established a baseline. Here are the issues this story raises, period… there are no others. That the students were being subjected to abuse was off the table.

This is the way the media pre-conforms us. They use their constructed authoritative position to establish what is axiomatic. Discourse that wiggles under the fence is automatically de-legitimated. How many times have we seen this with the war, with free trade agreements, with coverage of Venezuela, et al?

As it happens, the night prior, I had been by Internationalist Books at Chapel Hill to hear a too-brief talk by writer, cultural materialist, and intentional communitarian Alexis Zeigler. Alexis was talking about peak oil, the history of technology, ecology, and culture. One of his main points, and also a strong point in his book, Culture Change, is that the primary function of schools as a public institution – is not to teach us to be smarter, but contrariwise to teach us how to conform and be obedient, productive worker bees.

Ivan Illich, who we have featured here as our first New Canon author, says much the same thing – which runs counter to a lot of left orthodoxy that sees fighting for public schools as a key step in establishing the workers’ paradise some fine day.

There are so many issues we could raise in violating this taboo against questioning school and schooling that one hardly knows where to begin. Begin with hierarchy imposed on children because of their dependency… the infantilization of women as part of combining dependency with obedience… the institutionalization and construction of knowledge… the similarities between schools and prisons… off we could go. And there are the complexities, like the fact that schools and universities and even ruling class institutions are also places where we can act out our subversions when we are in a position of inferior social power. There are subversive teachers, subversive schools, and universities have more than once transformed themselves into platforms of resistance (the reason tenure is under attack).

At any rate, I just had to remark on the delicious irony that consumer culture has foisted on us here… kids with cell phones have begun to use them as a weapon to defend themselves against the trainers and turnkeys for late capitalism in the United Consumers of Amerika.

Petition for LaVena Johnson

Help find the truth about the death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson

Once upon a time lived a young woman from a St. Louis suburb. She was an honor roll student, she played the violin, she donated blood and volunteered for American Heart Association walks. She elected to put off college for a while and joined the Army once out of school. At Fort Campbell, KY, she was assigned as a weapons supply manager to the 129th Corps Support Battalion.

She was LaVena Johnson, private first class, and she died near Balad, Iraq, on July 19, 2005, just eight days shy of her twentieth birthday. She was the first woman soldier from Missouri to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The tragedy of her story begins there.

After an investigation, the Army declared LaVenas death a suicide, a finding refuted by the soldiers family. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lavena’s father pointed to indications that his daughter had endured a physical struggle before she died – two loose front teeth, a busted lip that had to be reconstructed by the funeral home – suggesting that someone might have punched her in the mouth.

The military said that the matter was closed.

Little more on LaVenas death was said for many months until a recently televised report on KMOV in St. Louis disclosed troubling details not previously made public:

• Indications of physical abuse that went unremarked by the autopsy
• The absence of psychological indicators of suicidal thoughts; indeed, testimony that LaVena was happy and healthy prior to her death
• Indications, via residue tests, that LaVena may not even have handled the weapon that killed her
• A blood trail outside the tent where Lavenas body was found
• Indications that someone attempted to set LaVenas body on fire

And yet, the Army continues to resist calls by LaVena’s family and by local media to reopen its investigation.

We have seen with other military deaths that the Army has engaged in an insulting game of deny and delay when it comes to uncovering embarrassing facts. Only when public and official attention is brought to bear on the matter – as happened, eventually and with great effort, with the case of Army Ranger and former professional football player Cpl. Pat Tillman – do unpleasant truths come to light.

While it is possible to disagree generally over the war in Iraq, we are unified in our respect for the men and women who serve us in dangerous places, and in our concern for the families who give them up in our name. The very least we owe families of the fallen is an honest accounting of how their loved ones died.

The Armed Services Committees of the Senate and the House have funding authority and legislative oversight over the armed forces. The members of these committees can compel the Army to acknowledge the grief of the Johnson family and reopen its investigation of LaVena’s death. All that is needed is the political will. Help those legislators find that will by signing this petition.

The mother of Pat Tillman once put the matter in stark and honest terms:

This is how they treat a family of a high-profile individual, she said. How are they treating others?

In the case of Private First Class Johnson, we know the answer – but together we can make a better answer for LaVenas family, and for all the families of those in the military.
* * *

Help compel the Army to reopen the investigation of Pfc. LaVena Johnsons death.
[The petition site is here.]

This petition sponsored by Philip Barron, author of the blog Waveflux. Mr. Barron is not a representative of the Johnson family.

While were on Imus

here is Black Agenda Reports Richard Muhammad

Enabling Imus

American Life – Racism White Privilege
Wednesday, 11 April 2017

by Richard Muhammad

In a horrific display of racist solidarity, white media men have circled their wagons around Don Imus, the career broadcast bigot who called the Rutgers womens basketball team a bunch of nappy headed hos. All is forgiven, because Imus is us, say his defensemen. And they are right: Imus is them, irredeemably racist children of white privilege who believe their casual slandering of other races and genders are of no more concern than getting drunk at a frat party. The most important element of the tale is not Imus putrid outbursts, but the reflexive defense of him by his co-racists, who have outed themselves in the process.

Community Garden on Town Land

The Town of Carrboro, in North Carolina, is working with the Carrboro Community Garden Coalition to create a public garden at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park for at least the next few years. This is a great example of a small US town with real progressive values transforming how we live in America. (Slowly but significantly.) Lets hope the idea of community gardening spreads.

Collaborative gardening is certainly an activity that requires teamwork. Right now there are about 20 folks involved in Carrboros community garden effort and its increasing rapidly through word of mouth. McGreger said that many of the folks involved in this project had known each other before but have become much closer as theyve worked together on the garden, and that the community-building aspect of it is as exciting as the growth of the food itself.

The group is planning to do a lot of its work on Saturday mornings but as of yet has no regular schedule. If youre interested in getting involved you can e-mail [email protected] to be added to their electronic discussion group.

Hamm said that their vision is that the garden project will let people see that community gardens can be abundant, beautiful and doable, and inspire similar smaller projects throughout the rest of the town, state and world. For instance, hed like to see Carrboro move from this initial townwide garden to having small ones in each neighborhood all over the community, allowing folks to work in even smaller and locally oriented groups to produce food.

McGreger said another nice aspect of the process in getting the garden started has been the opportunity to learn how to participate in direct democracy.

Women’s Declaration on Food Sovereignty

Women’s Declaration on Food Sovereignty

We, women from more than 40 countries, from different indigenous peoples of Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania and from different sectors and social movements, have gathered together in Sélingué (Mali) at Nyéléni 2007 to participate in the creation of a new right: the right to food sovereignty. We reaffirm our will to act to change the capitalist and patriarchal world which puts the interests of the market before the rights of people.

Women, who throughout history have been the creators of knowledge about food and agriculture, who still produce up to 80% of the food in the world’s poorest countries and are today the principal guardians of biodiversity and agricultural seeds, are particularly affected by neo-liberal and sexist policies.

We suffer the dramatic consequences of these policies: poverty, inadequate access to resources, patents on living organisms, rural exodus and forced migration, war and all forms of physical and sexual violence. Monocultures, including those dedicated to agrofuels, and the widespread use of chemicals and genetically-modified organisms have a harmful effect on the environment and on human health, particularly reproductive health.

The industrial model and the transnationals threaten the very existence of peasant agriculture, small-scale fishing and herding, as well as the small-scale preparation and sale of food in both urban and rural environments, all sectors where women play a major role.

We want to see food and agriculture taken out of the WTO and out of free trade agreements. What is more, we reject the capitalist and patriarchal institutions that see food, water, land and traditional knowledge, as well as women’s bodies, as mere commodities.

Seeing our struggle as part of the fight for equality between the sexes, we are no longer prepared to submit to the oppression of traditional or modern society, nor to the oppression of the market. We want to seize this opportunity to leave behind all sexist prejudice and build a new vision of the world based on respect, equality, justice, solidarity, peace and freedom.

We are mobilized. We are fighting for access to land, to territory, to water and to seeds. We are fighting for access to finance and to agricultural tools. We are fighting for good working conditions. We are fighting for access to training and to information. We are fighting for our independence and for the right to decide for ourselves, and for our full participation in decision-making.

Under the watchful eye of Nyéléni, an African woman who defied discriminatory rules, who shone through her creativity and agricultural prowess, we will find the energy to give effect to food sovereignty and, thereby, the hope of building a different world. We will find this energy in our solidarity. We will take this message to women all over the world.

NEWS – Week 2 – March 2017

Chinas Fault

Some stories, such as corpse custody battles between sleazy lawyers and semi-literate Texas trailer trash et al, the US news media handle really well. On others, such as goings-on in the worlds financial markets, they dont have a clue.

Thus the media saw the big February 27 decline in the Chinese stock market followed by a big decline in the US and in other world financial markets that same day, and decided that being coincident equaling being causative was a concept that the US public could get its mind around pretty easily. Suddenly its all Chinas fault.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives

Domestic or international? One of my most lasting memories from my visit with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Georgia last summer was a profound sense of commonality.

When I embarked on developing a Domestic Fair Trade program at Equal Exchange, some people questioned whether small farmers in our own country really experience the same struggles as coffee growers in the developing world. While I knew intellectually that rural communities around the world are being devastated by globalization in similar ways, I wasnt prepared for the degree to which this was confirmed during my visit with Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

What can I do?

In just a few years, sustainability has changed from a What? word to a buzzword. People are recognizing the threats to our resources water, air, soil, forests as evidenced by the tremendous public response to the recent documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which won an Oscar this week. We cant sustain our planet, much less ourselves, with current practices.

Its a common human response to a huge potential disaster to say, What can I do? Im only one person.

Ben Haggard, a master gardener, teacher and consultant in the Southwest whose 1993 book, Living Community: A Permaculture Case Study at Sol y Sombra, details his work on the garden of that name in Santa Fe, N.M.

Pedestrian-based intentional community

Some labels are content with modest periphery pursuits hosting a club night, printing some t-shirts, rallying a street team while a few have substantially grander designs.

Upping the ante set by Omahas Saddle Creek who, as reported in August, have a serious civic project in the works Athens, Georgias Elephant 6-affiliated Orange Twin imprint has just received the go-ahead from the city and surrounding countys mayor to embark on an ambitious community endeavor.

In the works for some time now, the Orange Twin Conservation Community will consist of a 155 acre pedestrian-based intentional community of homes and common spaces clustered in two villages amid farmland and forest just a few miles outside Athens.

Battering through generations

Experts say domestic violence is a learned behavior, batterers choose to be violent, and the abuse is passed on from generation to generation.

We talked to an abuser who the Vermont Department of Corrections did not want us to identify.

When I was in relationships, I viewed women as caretakers. Men were in charge, said James. Basically my partners were there to make me happy.

Age of narcissism

A little smug self-absorption might be a time-honored trait of at least some subsets of the under-30 crowd.

But over the past few decades the prevailing disposition among college students today labeled Generation Y or Millennials has slid into full-blown narcissism, according to a study released this week.

The all about me shift means much more than lots of traffic at self-revelatory Web sites such as YouTube and Facebook. It points, says the studys author, to a generations lack of empathy, its inability to form relationships and worse.

The fantasy

State of Denial is the title of Bob Woodwards famous book on the Bush teams road to disaster in Iraq, but it would have served just as well for a description of their Latin America policy. This week President Bush heads South for a seven-day, five country, trip to Latin America to see if he can counter the populist political tide that has brought left governments to about half the population of the region.

Carrying vague promises of a joint effort on ethanol production but no offer to lower tariffs protecting the U.S. market President Bush hopes to entice Brazil into taking his side against his nemesis, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. This is a fantasy.


In 1992, while I was an undergraduate, I was raped by a fellow student while we were both drunk. He was not a date. I didnt even like him when we were sober. But we were at a party together, a party at which I tried too hard to keep up with my friends in the alcohol department and wound up far more drunk than I wanted to be. So I went back to my room. And he followed me. And then he raped me.

Looking back, I can imagine a number of social or institutional interventions which might have helped prevent this attack from happening. But none of them includes the approach that so many articles on this subject take, which is to raise awareness among young women that getting drunk in public puts them at greater risk of exploitation and sexual assault.

U.S. financial markets were rocked last week by worries about the soundness of the sub-primeor higher riskmortgage market.

Doris Douglas can tell you from personal experience what the jitters are about. The 55-year-old mother of three grown children signed her first mortgage without reading the fine print seven years ago.

I thought it was a 30-year mortgage, said Douglas, whose house is near Chattanooga, Tenn., in the Appalachians.

The hair thang

This past winter, I noticed something very unsettling while I was visiting my family in St. Louis.

Almost all the black women I encountered were sporting lavishly long hair weaves, fake locks that can add length and volume after being sewed or glued to the scalp. Weaves come in straight, curly and kinky textures. But most black women with weaves wear them to extend and straighten the appearance of their naturally coiled and nappy hair.

Everywhere I turned, from the church to the mall, black women suited up in this straight-hair uniform. Was I missing something? I thought. Would my close-cut Afro set me too far apart from other black women?

Natural, kinky hairwhich is most associated with blacknesshas also been tied to inferiority in the United States. We can thank entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, the late 19th century inventor of the hot pressing combliterally a comb-shaped ironfor the subsequent years of black women burning their disobedient hair into submission.

Anomolous numbers on petrloeum

Bartiromo asked Tillerson how Exxon could be expected to keep growing its reserves of oil and gas when $20 billion a year in capital spending through the rest of this decade will only result in an extra one million barrels a day in production volume, according to Exxon?s estimates.

Tillerson didn?t really answer the question, merely repeating his assertion that Exxon?s volumes will keep growing through the end of the decade. In a later exchange, he added that the world?s oil would not run out in his lifetime.

Oil, equity, finance capital

We also used to see a steep, sharp rise in the price of oil adversely affecting equities. Any oil shock, say, over a war, would mean higher costs passing through to companies, and therefore the market would sell off shares in anticipation of a downturn. Again this is no longer the case. There are several reasons.

Firstly, the market is not logical and those in the know realise this. It no longer sounds convincing to come out with grand resolute theories about the relationship between energy and equity. Instead technical plays and software are much more reliable, making money off of percentage bets, good old Tony Soprano skimming, placed by a computer. The whole process is far more successful. Time and time again we see software setting the pace and computers have their own logic which only studies the now, not the future or the past.

Subprime splash and bubbles

It was perfect example of a classical blow off. Unprecedented level of bad loans was made. The history never saw anything like this before since the collapse of Roman Empire The boom in bad subprime lending was fueled by the Wall Street banks and hedge funds.

The net effect was super bubble in real estate that Fed finally called a froth on the surface. The froth or bubble has finally blow off in a classic style. The homeowners just cannot make the payments. As these properties go on foreclosure, other properties are depressed. The able borrowers now decide to give up their properties because they are dealing with hefty monthly mortgage payments and negative equities in their homes.

Preparing to take back your land

Hold on to your assets. The deepest housing decline in 16 years is about to get worse.

As many as 1.5 million more Americans may lose their homes, another 100,000 people in housing-related industries could be fired, and an estimated 100 additional subprime mortgage companies that lend money to people with bad or limited credit may go under, according to realtors, economists, analysts and a Federal Reserve governor. Financial stocks also could extend their declines over mortgage default worries.

The spring buying season, when more than half of all U.S. home sales are made, has been so disappointing that the National Association of Home Builders in Washington now expects purchases to fall for the sixth consecutive quarter after it predicted a gain just last month.

What does Food Sovereignty mean to you?

Over on the World Changing website there is a report from Anna Lappé who attended the first International Forum on Food Sovereignty in Mali. It got me thinking about what food sovereignty means to Americans. As with many things, I think we can learn from non-Americans on the best way to precede. Here are a few answers to the question.

I’ve been asking every delegate I meet, from Thai fisherman to Senegalese peasant organizers, what food sovereignty means to them. As one delegate, a mayor from Norway (and probably the only mayor here) said: “For me, food sovereignty means we must support food producers in every country. Food, after all, is power, and we need to decide who has that power: food producers or large corporations.” Said an African delegate from Sierra Leone: “Food sovereignty is the ability for our people to be able to feed ourselves. Here in Africa, hunger is not a problem of production, it’s a problem of access and distribution. We need basic things like storage and food processing facilities. We need access to networks for sale and distribution. If we had these things, we could have food sovereignty in five years.”

Politics is Food is Politics

BY D. A. Clarke and Stan Goff

In recent days, we have seen the rising price of oil and the crash of the financial sector create two quantum shifts in the economy: the beginning of the collapse of the air travel industry and a global crisis of food-price inflation. These are related in ways that are crucial to understand because we are seeing the outlines of an historic opportunity to change the terms of theory and practice for a politics of resistance.

As air carriers have gone bankrupt, the knock-on effects on travel agents, airports, airport-colocated hotels, package vacation resorts, etc. are considerable. This is how one cascade pours into another. The manifold contradictions of our global system merge and co-amplify.

Tourism was supposed to be a relatively benign, non-extractive industry for colonized nations an alternative to brutal extraction and cash cropping. It turns out to have been just as extractive all along due to the climate (and cultural) damage done by commodified air travel.

The end of cheap air tourism may seem like a good thing at first glance, from a metropolitan-green point of view. And yet the collapse of tourism, in economies where the culture and scenery have become a last-ditch cash crop, can have effects just as disastrous as the collapse of any other external commodity market in a country that has been sucked into the undertow of global capitalism. The marginal suffer first, most, and longest.

And they starve. How much more devastating is the catastrophic cascade of food price inflation than the collapse of some airlines?

Food riots are also directly related to the plateau of global oil production in the face of relentless expansion of demand. Theyre intertwined; the downsizing of air tourism reduces money income for populations dependent on the global capitalist economy for staple foods, just at the moment when scarcity, uncertainty, and rampant speculation are causing staple food prices to spike.

Its not a pretty picture, and the mainstream media are reporting on it with breathless alarm and utterly unjustified surprise; commentators from various perspectives (left, environmental, anti-colonialist, even libertarians) have seen this coming for a while.

Why Us? Why Now?

The airline industry has been very forthright about their problems. They are saying, We were neither tooled nor organized for $120-a-barrel oil.

Most of us get this, because we associate transport technology with fossil hydrocarbons. We drive cars; and we buy the gas to put in those cars. Planes run on No. 1 Jet Fuel; and if oil prices go up, so does the cost of jet fuel.

Most of us are less likely to associate oil prices with food prices. We buy food at the supermarket; so we dont generally experience directly the association between fuel and food.

The connection, however, is every bit as central in the current food production regime as the link between aircraft engines and their fuel. Industrial monocropping for global distribution is neither tooled nor organized for oil at $120-a-barrel. It is not just the far-flung food transport network (much of it refrigerated and fuel-hungry) that creates the intimate dependency on oil; it is the whole scheme called industrial (or corporate, or modern) agriculture.

This oil/food link during the onset of what some call the Peak Oil event has resulted almost overnight in steep food-price inflation, hitting peripheral economies like a tsunami. Half the worlds population survives on less than $2 per person per day. Even an increase of a few pennies for a kilo of rice can threaten survival on such a slender margin. That on the surface is why we are witnessing an outbreak of food riots around the globe. The unexamined assumption, however, is that its somehow natural for human beings to be in the position of abject dependence on cash money to obtain food.

We said that we are seeing the outlines of an historic opportunity to change the terms of theory and practice for a politics of resistance. In a real sense, however, we are suggesting a return to a perennial politics of resistance: the defense of peasant (smallholder, local) agriculture against imperial profit-takers.

We are embarking upon an epoch that might best be called imperial capitalist exterminism, in which billions of people may be left through calculated villainy or sheer stupidity to the tender mercies of war, pestilence, and famine as externalities of the so-called free market.

In this new world order, the old class antagonisms across the axis of employer-employee have been replaced by debtor-creditor and producer/processor. In this new (dis)order, material contractions in the economy have transformed the reserve army of labor into surplus people a Darwinian nightmare leaving billions of souls at risk.

The brunt as always is now being borne by the most marginal and fragile. The over-developed industrial metropoles, however, are not escaping the impact of this crisis.

In the United States, the culmination of a decades-long crisis of capital accumulation which has heretofore been exported to the rest of the world is coming home to roost in the form of a severe credit crisis at the same time as the oil price spike. We are entering a protracted period of stagflation: economic stagnation (recession) combined with price inflation (due in part to the impact of oil prices on virtually all economic sectors).

We in the US are more deeply in debt, personally and nationally, than at any time in our history. And the key products that are driving up our cost of living even as our net worths falter and fall back are gasoline and food.

Americans panic when we contemplate the possibility of becoming unable to afford our private automobiles. This is not just because of our legendary ego-attachment to the car. The primary reason we panic is because we need our cars to get to our jobs in order to survive. At least one study has suggested that Americans spend 20 percent of their take-home pay on their cars, so we are working one day out of five to pay for the car so we can drive to the job. And we need our jobs.

Its a given: people need their jobs. But why? We dont mean to be overly pedantic, but the obvious has been ignored. We need the jobs because without the income from those jobs, we and our children dont eat. Our access to food is totally mediated by money which we can only obtain by working (for the ruling class) or by becoming wards of the state (which, increasingly involves coerced labor).

Reiterating, petroleum and food are inextricable from one another and they are completely enmeshed with all our dependencies. This is the basis of our obedience to bosses in a totally-monetized economy.

Most people cant eat without participating in the money economy because they we have been driven off the land, and live in high-density people storage buildings without any access to living soil; or because, despite living in the suburbs or semi-rural areas with ample access to soil, they (we) lack the skills and knowledge to produce their own food; or the soil they (we) do have access to has been killed by industrial farming practices and can only produce by means of massive external inputs that must be purchased from the money economy (and the extractive industries). The fossil/extractive industries and the money economy have built fences all around the food supply, from production to consumption.

We play the game or we dont eat.

Now their game is coming apart at the seams.

Food is Not What it Once Was

Now it may be time to take a longer view and recall how these fences around food were built.

The story of the last 200 years can be told many ways, but one way we can tell it is as the triumph of the extractive industries and their mindset and their methods over all other human activities. The masters of mining and metallurgy, and of the colonialist exploitation that corresponds to extraction, have the following fundamental premise: a reductionist approach that isolates the valuable in any resource base, separates it from the dross, and discards externalizes the dross while selling the high value extracted product for the best price possible.

With the rise of industrial capitalism (itself built on intensive colonial extraction) this premise became definitive of all human activities by the dominant imperial culture including those where such a premise is more than merely dysfunctional, it is (eventually, if adhered to rigorously) fatal for its practitioners.

We now practice farming as an extractive industry. Farming, furthermore, is supported by other extractive industries: mining topsoil and fossil water, growing only a handful of predetermined high value crops and discarding/exterminating all other cultivars, and seeking best price in markets regardless of distance and appropriateness.

If it makes more money to grow palm trees for biofuel to ship to wealthy customers overseas, then by all means destroy peasant smallholdings that produced food for local people, or forest that maintained water circulation and climate stability, in order to establish massive monocrop palm oil plantations.

The mindset and praxis of mining has been superimposed on all other activities: fishing is now practiced as stripmining by factory trawlers gargantuan, destructive bottom draggers. The bycatch phenomenon, decimating hundreds of species as collateral damage in the hunt for select high-value species, is directly analogous to the proliferation of slag piles and acid pools around mining operations. Dairy farming is now practiced like stripmining, pumping external inputs (hormones and other drugs) into heifers to force maximum production and extraction of the high value product (milk), and discarding the dross (a cow burnt out as a milk producer by the age of 3 and sold for cheap meat).

This extractive praxis inherently destroys biotic systems whether it be the body of a cow, or an entire ecosystem because no biotic system can survive being stripped for specific high value parts. Ecosystems, like animals, function as a whole. The rates of return demanded by finance capitalism are inherently incompatible with the rate of solar return expressed by natural growth patterns in biotic systems.

We are biological biotic creatures, and all our food is the product of biotic systems. The extractive mindset that capitalism requires to provide its fantastical rates of return is incompatible with biotic reality. Capitalism and food have been on a collision course from the beginning.

The forcing of higher rates of return out of biotic systems to satisfy finance capital and to conform to the extractive metaphor, requires doing such violence to individual organisms and to entire ecosystems, that very soon grotesque amounts of tinkering and external input are required to maintain (temporarily) an unsustainable harvest.

In animal husbandry this translates to the need for massive doses of antibiotics and other medications to enable animals to (barely) survive the cruel and pathogenic conditions of factory farming; in agriculture it translates into the systemic weakness of monocrop plantations which similarly require massive doses of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc. to compensate for what is effectively a sickly biotic system with a compromised immune response, low resilience, no robustness.

These massive external inputs are all fossil-based: they come from the extractive/chemical/synthetic sector (the sector of human endeavor that, in the advanced West, has dominated culture and industry since the early 1900s). That sector in turn is the product of is wholly dependent on cheap fossil energy.

The maintenance of factory farms and feedlots like terminal patients on perpetual life-support has proven very profitable for the chemical/fossil sector. It has proven, temporarily, profitable for agribusiness which reaped record returns. And it has, as a side benefit, improved the efficiency of farming to such a startling extent that fewer than 2 percent of Americans still work on the land producing food.

This means from an industrial capitalist perspective that 98 percent of the population can be held to ransom for money, being unable to produce their own food. (And even those two percent of Americans who still farm often get all their household food from a corporate supermarket, since what they grow on their vast overcapitalized monocrop spreads is not edible by humans but merely the feedstock for industrial processes.)

The Official Story

The dismal quality of factory food has been ably documented by the Slow Food Movement, watchdog groups, and medical associations as well as by mavericks like Weston Price. Why do we tolerate it and the near-totalitarian control exercised over our food supply by a handful of giant agribiz combines? In part we tolerate monopoly and lousy quality in our food economy because the public believes industry propaganda that (in Margaret Thatchers infamous phrase) There Is No Alternative. The industry has cranked out a relentless barrage of propaganda for the last 50+ years, the gist of which can be summarized as follows:

**Industrial farming (aka the Green Revolution, one of historys more painfully ironic misnomers) has increased yields per acre

**Given the pressure of present and future population growth, only industrial farming can feed the world

**Industrial farming is hygienic, scientific, smart and safe; all earlier farming techniques were dirty, primitive, ignorant and inferior

However, present circumstances impel us to ask what is smart or safe about a farming praxis that destroys topsoil and depletes millennia of subterranean water accumulation in a matter of decades; what is hygienic about a farming praxis that notoriously contaminates soil and watersheds with industrial chemicals, or creates lagoons of unmanageably concentrated animal urine and manure, or produces food that routinely generates health scandal headlines; and what is scientific about a farming praxis that routinely disregards the most basic principles of ecosystem theory and management. Add to the mix the fragility of a farming praxis utterly dependent on a fast-depleting finite resource like fossil fuels, and it looks more and more like folly or a con game.

According to the industry propaganda line, only industrial farming can feed the world because industrial farming increased yields, and previous methods of farming were inadequate. Therefore, according to industry propaganda, the solution to the present food crisis is to throw more technology at it namely, genetic modification to produce organisms (GMOs) that can somehow survive or even thrive in the cruel and pathogenic conditions of factory farming.

The fact that intellectual property law related to GMOs could then be used to extend the centralized control of food production into a completely enclosed monopoly is, of course, merely coincidental.

To deconstruct this seamless no alternative story we have to return to the first big lie: that the Green Revolution (chemical/factory farming) improved agriculture, increasing efficiency/yields, reducing pest losses, making the best use of land, etc.

In the short term some of the claims appear to be true: you can grow larger vegetables if you salt the soil with artificial fertilizers, and this appears to improve yields per hectare. However, several studies confirm foods produced biotically (organically in the somewhat confusing US idiom) are more nutritious than the larger and more cosmetically perfect factory-farmed equivalent; not only are they uncontaminated with chemical poisons, but they are more nutrient-dense, ounce for ounce, than the industrial product. In this case, what yield means to the industrial ag-nexus is not food not nutritional value for people to eat but hundredweight of marketable commodity.

In terms of efficiency, industrial agriculture does indeed look efficient from the finance capitalist point of view: using large mechanized devices to plant, harvest and process uniform, engineered monocrop from vast regimented plantations means that labor can be minimized: fossil fuels and machinery substitute for human labor, so that the wages/subsistence of workers/peasants are eliminated as an operating cost.

So long as fossil fuels are dirt (so to speak) cheap, this practice is efficient (in terms of realizing maximum profit on a hundredweight of commodity); and it creates a large alienated, captive labor pool of people who at one time had some kind of food self-sufficiency as agricultural laborers and smallholders. Not so when thrown off the land and into the industrial/money economy. This is the essence of dependency.

In the long term, however, and by any measure aside from profit, it seems patently absurd to call any farming method efficient if it invests 10 fossil fuel calories to produce one calorie of food; or if it uses up a inch of topsoil for every 13 years or so of farming the same fields. (F. H. Kings Farmers of Forty Centuries documents practices which permitted Asian peasant farmers to plant and harvest on the same land for four millennia without exhausting the soil; North American topsoil 21 inches deep or more prior to European colonization is now down to 6 inches or less in many areas after only 200 years.)

In the long term, even the initial successes of the Green Revolution (GR) are hollowed out by diminishing returns and inconvenient facts: losses to pests are now higher per hectare than they were before the GR, despite the application of more and more costly high-tech pesticides. Monocrop plantations are simply too sickly, and pests are too rapidly-evolving and adaptive, for anything other than an endless treadmill of escalating cost and increasing toxicity. The artificial fertilizer and heavy machinery treadmill is very similar: for the first few years, yields may seem to improve, but soon the application of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides kills the soil, over-irrigation and heavy equipment compact it into hardpan, and what was fertile farmland becomes, essentially, semi-desert a near-sterile growing medium requiring more and more chemical inputs to support plants in a kind of gigantic outdoor hydroponic garden.

The Happy Ever After story of the Green Revolution and Better Living Through Chemistry is not wearing well. Moreover, contrary to industry claims, there is an alternative; and the alternative has potentially profound political implications which is precisely why the finance capital/extractive nexus wishes to eliminate it from public discourse.

Another Agriculture is Possible

Many well-substantiated studies show that intensive biotic polyculture that is, the cultivation of many species of food plants in a small footprint, using biotic soil amendments and nutrient recycling produces far more food per hectare than factory farming; uses far less water; and builds, rather than destroying, topsoil. Although more human ingenuity, care, and attention are required, the adoption of permaculture principles and techniques reduces the drudgery of food production considerably; the permaculturist is assisting food to grow rather than forcing it to grow, which is much less work all round than our cartoon cultural memory of dawn-to-dusk backbreaking peasant labor. The labor only became backbreaking when smallholders had to pay tribute and debts to people with weapons and ledgers.

What intensive biotic polyculture does not do is maximize money profits, minimize labor inputs, or facilitate large-scale extractive cash-cropping. For these reasons not for any failure to produce food for eating it is derided by industrial agribiz experts as impractical, inefficient, inadequate, etc. In fact, poly/permacultures abundant success in producing food for eating is one of the things that makes it a frightening prospect for those who control people by controlling peoples access to food.

What they dont want us to know is that it works.

Eisenia foetida the red wiggler earthworm under ideal worm-farming (vermiculture) conditions double their volume through reproduction every 90 days. Each individual worm can eat approximately half its body weight each day. A pound of E. foetida, then, can consume a half-pound of non-oily, vegetable kitchen scraps each day. The majority of that mass is excreted as an extremely high quality compost, with a bit of fluid (worm tea) left over (considered by many to be the organic uber-fertilizer). So, potentially, one pound of worms can convert around 180 pounds of kitchen scraps each year into the highest quality organic soil additive. Every five pounds of worm-castings can convert one-square surface-foot of soil into a super-producer for a four months. So one pound of worms can sustain 12 square surface-feet of garden throughout the year for the highest levels of productivity.

My own [Stans] anecdotal evidence, without using worm castings but using simply composting mulch on organic compost over non-compacted soil, is that in 12 square surface-feet, one can grow three species of food, with six plants each producing okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas, bush beans, etc. Mixing them, and adding a couple of marigolds and aromatics (like mint or parilla) seems to keep the little critters from taking more than their share. Last summer I had one cucumber vine that produced around 50 mature cucumbers, totaling well over 20 pounds of food, for around three months. By rotating seasonals, it is easily conceivable to take a 12 square-foot plot in a temperate zone and raise 100 pounds of food a year being very conservative. Neither Syngenta, nor Cargill, nor Archer-Daniels-Midland want you to know this.

They want to sell you mass-produced food, for money which you have to work for. Let us not forget that Enclosure (forcing people off the land, or separating them from their land) was the method used to compel people into the monetized industrial economy in the first place.

A 12-foot garden bed is three-feet by four-feet. How many of these can you build on a half an acre?

The key is always in the design. But by design, we mean learning as in the design philosophy of permaculture how to work with nature, and not to attempt the vain conquest of nature. The key to that design aside from the mechanical tricks of trellising, water catchment, etc. is to create the conditions for increasing dynamic biotic complexity, beginning at the micro-level with the soil itself.

We are not accustomed, especially on the political left, to thinking about such practical activities as political. We are still trapped in a strategic-theoretical model that equates power with policy (policy flowing from the Program), and policy is then undertaken as a purely ideological struggle. The persuasion of the word and the concept is given primacy over the persuasion of actual conditions and deeds. Metaphorically, we have constructed a line, running from left to right, and we use a constellation of policy-issues to place both people and discourse along that line.

The system, however, reproduces itself most earnestly through facts-on-the-ground. Fighting a system with nothing more than ideas is the most Quixotic, and ineffectual, form of struggle. Before we can suggest ideas, we must first have some facts-on-the-ground of our own to point to.

Fortunately, we do. Some of them have just been recited above. We just need to point to them with more urgency now.

Because the facts-on-the-ground of the present capitalist system, as we can see, have slammed into something like the end of an unexpected cul-de-sac. The epidemic of dollar hegemony has spread through the world like a plague; but plagues burn themselves out when all who are susceptible have been wiped out.

The airlines have run into a deep impasse of tooling and organization and so has our food system.

Our system has arrived decisively at what Ivan Illich called its second watershed: all our cures have become the disease. We are in a state of accelerating iatrogensis. The capitalist/extractive/technomanagerial system can only prescribe more of the same medicine that is killing us or new medicines to treat the symptoms of the last medicine. This is not a metaphorical treadmill, but a downward spiral and there is a bottom.

This may look gradual and incremental in the daily chronos of our lives; but in the larger sweep of historical kairos a time that punctuates and disrupts chronos the convergence of a crisis in dollar hegemony with the energetic limits to growth has been concentrated on the reality of food a reality from which no one can escape.

Those in the commanding heights of the world food regime are watching their edifice begin to crumble. Meanwhile, we already have our facts, our examples; and we have an opportunity through sheer necessity driven by empty bellies to expand those facts while the toppling food regime falls into its inexorable disarray. This is a teachable moment if ever there was one.

What is a Food Issue? Why Do We Need a Politics of Food Praxis?

At the policy level, because we would never eschew that, there is a nascent opposition to the Farm Bill a massive annual government giveaway to agri-business. The left is not alone in its opposition to this. Libertarians oppose it, too. Does it matter why? The grotesque dysfunctions and injustices of the Farm Bill are visible to people across the political spectrum: more importantly perhaps, so is the unsatisfactory quality of the food and pseudo-food produced by the agribusiness cartels coddled by the Farm Bill.

This is a food issue.

Free-trade agreements are ultimately designed to convert foreign economies into dollar-generating export platforms; and agriculturally this means monocropping at the expense of peasants, the urban poor, and the globes disappearing forests.

This is a food issue.

US agricultural dumping is facilitated by massive government subsidies to agribusiness, which also facilitate the competitive destruction of local small producers. This same dumping introduces patented and GMO foods and seeds into the Third World to extend the reach of intellectual property lawsuits (a prime weapon of the extractive nexus against small producers).

That is a food issue.

36 million households in the US are food insecure, because food is largely available only on the monetized economy; and poor people have very little money.

This is a food issue.

The food we do eat is filled with chemicals and contaminants because the regulatory agencies (like the Food and Drug Administration) have been converted into industry advocates by the determining role of money in politics (Ethanol, for example, is a vote-buying scheme, with ADM behind the scenes). And because the industrial methods of farming require chemicals and contaminants to compensate for their pathogenic and violent treatment of creatures and biotic systems.

These are food issues.

Health authorities increasingly acknowledge that the western diet, especially the western/industrial junk-food diet, is associated with the onset or the exacerbation of many debilitating diseases and conditions. Meanwhile, our medical care system is in crisis, in an endless death spiral of increasing demand and increasing cost. Our hospitals contain McDonalds franchise outlets.

These are food issues.

Our children are subjected to crap-food propaganda in school; and they eat crap food there. Corporations are behind this; and they intentionally addict our kids to crap-food. Some schools have begun to grow their own food; and the gardens are used as practical pedagogical tools as well as a source for clean food, with great success. Behavioral problems drop dramatically when kids eat clean, fresh food.

These are food issues.

Anal-retentive white homeowners associations, who associate (pun intended) vegetable gardens with (eewwww) immigrants and dark-skinned folks, prohibit vegetable gardens in their neighborhoods (in the belief that veggies lower property values).

This is a food issue.

The agribusiness cartels are already trying to crack down on CSAs, farmers markets and other direct producer-to-eater convenyances of real food, usually under the banner of public health. They have already managed to leverage well-meaning public health and safety laws as weapons against small dairy and meat producers, and are even now trying to leverage the E. coli scares into a weapon against organic salad greens producers.

This is a food issue.

One of the imperial fiats issued by Proconsul Bremer during the early occupation of Iraq was Order 81, the imposition of US intellectual property law on the subjugated nation; and one of the earliest aid initiatives was the marketing arm of the GMO seed vendors, attempting to force Iraqi farmers to use US patented GMO strains of wheat and barley. The American invaders may or may not intentionally have destroyed Iraqs premier national seed bank of traditional, varietal cultivars.

This is a food issue.

There is no aspect of our existence, locally, regionally, nationally, or globally, that does not have a direct connection to food. We are what we eat. What we eat is who we are.

Resistance is Fertile

In India, there are already mass movements of farmers against agribusiness. In Brazil, there is a mass movement of peasants against agribusiness. Even in Europe, there is mass resistance to genetically-modified crops and US monocrop dumping. Other regions will evolve their own forms of resistance, out of their own cultures.

The job of Americans is to work with other Americans; and the more locally, the better. This is where we know each other culturally. This is the belly of the beast. This is where we can make some facts-on-the-ground; where we can break out of the impasse created by these agribusiness behemoths and create practical alternatives first cell-divisions of new social forms in the interstices of a decaying system.

Practical alternatives, skill sets and designs not alternative abstract ideologies can give us the wherewithal to resist control when the ruling class tries to bully and bluff its way out of the crisis unfolding around us. Moreover, the fact of food independence is something tangible that people can and will defend.

Food dependency has always been the most essential weapon of the oppressor.

That applies to the abused wife who will be cast into penury if she leaves her abuser (we ask, How will she eat?); and it applies to the alienated suburban technodrone, who knows deep down that he doesnt know how he would eat without money. It applies to the indigenous population forbidden to grow their traditional crops by colonial masters; kicked off the best arable land by colonial masters; made dependent on second-rate food exports from the colonizing nation; etc. It applies to the yeoman farmer deprived of common land and forced into the pool of desperate, hungry, deracinated wage-slaves who staffed the first industrial factories. It applies to citizens of Zimbabwe forbidden by President Mugabe and his political clique to keep vegetable gardens in the yards of their urban and suburban homes.

Self-determination, that shopworn phrase used by right and left alike, is not practically feasible in any guise whatsoever without food independence. If someone else controls your access to food then you have, by definition, no self-determination. You cant hold a strike without a strike fund. Why do you need a strike fund? So you can eat.

Food independence food autarky is not possible without greater separation of food from the monetized economy: (money is a weapon of control, an entitlement against others). There is quite simply no independence, and little hope of a sustained resistance, without food security. Nor is there any way to get there (to a state of food democracy or food security) without relocalization as our most fundamental precondition.

What is To Be Done?

This is primarily a design-task, and only secondarily an ideological one which bears the truth historical materialism should teach us above all others.

In the United States and the other metropolitan nations, there is an emerging food movement. It involves everything from fighting prohibitions on raw milk to farmers markets to community-supported agriculture to community gardens.

This practice, which is coalescing into a movement, constitutes the original facts-on-the-ground referred to above. It is a hungry movement (another pun intended); and it craves expansion not into a bureaucratic behemoth, but through organic expansion (another pun intended) at the local level. It is connected, through inextricable chains of implication, with a commitment to social justice, to environmental responsibility, to community-building, to fair labor practice, to fair trade. It connects people to these issues through the positive attraction of hedonism good food tastes better and the pleasures of engagement in community: it connects people to these issues through their urgent concerns about their own food security and the cleanliness/honesty/safety/responsibility of their food supply. And it cannot by its very nature fail to critique industrial capitalism as a system.

The argument from the archaic left, i.e., that the Food Underground is individualistic voluntarism, has copped to the idea that all practical, local palliatives are somehow ineffective. This is a deeply fallacious argument. It means we still see the world exclusively through our left-to-right, linear, and purely ideological continuum. We still see politics as the persuasion of the word, and our deeds being limited to either symbolic expressions of resistance or aiming some mythical mass blow (a military metaphor, which implies military organization and discipline). Support our Program, and we will win Political Power, and change the Policies, and all will be well.

The fact that this strategic approach has a history of the most dismal failure or hideous distortions of original goals doesnt faze true believers.

And so, as counterpoint to the overwhelmingly complex and dynamic facts of the system, there is no concrete alternative we can show. We can only tell, or consult the historical archives. We need less telling and more showing.

Food autarky and relocalization are not symbolic acts of resistance, but actual resistance the basis of resistance, the precondition of resistance.

Past revolutions began not with ideas in isolation; they began with facts-on-the-ground. By the time the French overthrew their aristocracy, that aristocracy was already moribund except for its political power. In every other realm, the businessmen who led the revolution were already dominant. The revolution evolved through the kairos of history through slowly maturing metatrends which then interjected itself into the here-and-now chronos of politics.

The kairos of history, in our time, is the long arc of fossil fuel depletion and the inevitable collapse of intricate profit-taking systems and hyper-extraction strategies predicated on unlimited cheap energy. Just throw petroleum at it is not going to work any more.

This means that deep contradictions and crises papered over by desperate energy-intensive bandaids will become visible and painful (and they are, already). The industrial food system is riddled with such crises and contradictions, barely papered over by throwing ever-more petroleum at it. It has reached a breaking point, and popular discourse is not unaware of this (as we may infer from the groundswell of popular nonfiction books highly critical of the system).

The exposure of these fault lines and the intimate nature of food, for us social primates can be highly politicizing for large numbers of people; and whatever the ideological effects, the praxis of food autarky and community-through-food can only enhance our chances of survival and resistance during a period of (potentially) extreme dislocation.

The kitchen garden the victory garden represents not only the ability to sustain resistance (or aggression) against a foreign enemy, but the ability to resist domestic authority and to withdraw, at least partially, from the money economy and the wage-slavery and debt on which it is based.

Here is a point that needs to be made again and again to any would-be revolutionary: People will not fight to break a system upon which they utterly depend. Never have. Never will.

Capitalism began by kicking people off their land and forbidding them to grow their own food; the end of capitalism may come when people who grow their own food and share it with neighbors are able to say a resounding No to capitalisms end-phase exterminism.

We need not start from scratch in order to return to a perennial politics of resistance: the defense of peasant (smallholder, local) agriculture against imperial profit-takers. The Food Underground is already here. It has been invisible to many of us, because our eyes were fixed on higher ideological struggles while the basis of effective counter-ideology skill and design quietly passed us by. It is time to change that.

Political resisters need to learn and apply the skills and designs of the food underground; and the food underground needs deeper, more focused and intentional politicization. The Left may even learn something about organizing and social change from the permaculture principles; it may be that in the long run, we do not grow revolution any more than we grow plants; it may be that social change is not forced, but is assisted to happen by creating the preconditions for an explosion of vitality, diversity and robustness in our (counter)culture. It may be that successful social change is more like gardening, and less like war, than our rhetoric and our habits of thought assume.

In summary, the Left and the food underground need each other; because historys kairos has interjected itself into our chronos and opened a path, a teachable moment for all of us. It is an unfamiliar path, perhaps, but not nearly so perilous as standing still.

Holloway on Christianity, feminism, and more

Most people in our culture appear to have decided that being a Christian means inhabiting a kind of consciousness that is no longer possible for them, so they have abandoned it and rarely ever think about it. They are fortified in their rejection by the Christians they hear most about today, because they agree with their estimation of Christianity, though they draw diametrically opposite conclusions from it. Both groups believe that Christianity is emphatically committed to a specific way or ordering human relationships that was decreed by God and cannot therefore ever be changed.

Is that it, then? Christianity has already been pushed to the edges in our society as an eccentric type of consciousness that is profoundly antipathetic to contemporary values. Are we to witness its slow but inevitable death, apart from a few refugee encampments here and there?

There is another group in the game – though whether it will be sent off the field is still an open question, since it tends to be despised by both the other groups as traitorous.

This group believes that it is possible to be a Christian and post-modern, to be a member of a church and a supporter of feminism and the rights of sexual minorities in spite of Christian tradition.

It is a radical position, which has uncoupled Christianity from absolute claims about the status of the Bible and tradition.

And what broke the chain, as the traditionalists rightly foresaw, was the emancipation of women. Having embraced the ethical imperative of feminism, those of us who are members of this group came to realise that we were now reading the Bible as a human not as a divine creation.

The issue for those of us who find ourselves in this position is whether we can discover new ways of using the Christian tradition that will deepen our humanity, our care for the earth and for one another. That was the agenda I set myself in this series of lectures.

The Emergency Wormcasting Network

Is it an emergency yet?

Well, it has been for a long time, but more people are starting to notice. The symptoms cant be papered over as easily as they get more severe, frequent, and ubiquitous. Peak Oil climate derangement authoritarian movements rollback of womens rights food contamination scares concentration of media owmership species loss water shortages runaway incarceration megafires resource wars financial meltdowns Seems like things are going more wrong, more rapidly, more generally than were used to. Whats to be done?

A natural response is survivalism: how am I gonna get through this? But theres more than one kind of survivalism: if you are worried about how your community your tribe, your extended family, your township, your county, your neighbours and friends are going to get through this together then were working on a radio show for you. The Emergency Wormcasting Network has two basic premises: (a) we believe theres a real emergency, and (b) we believe there are things you can do about it both to influence public life to soften the landing, and to safeguard the health and freedom of yourself and your community.

The Emergency Wormcasting Network is just getting off (or into) the ground. Segment Zero was recently completed and is available online, as streaming audio and mp3 download. Segment Zero discusses home food production, the politics of vegetable gardening in the suburbs, why certain social forces like HOAs oppose visible food growing in suburban hoods, why food security is at the heart of autonomy and popular resistance, and many other related issues. DeAnander interviews Stan Goff on his local struggle to save his familys food garden from the HOA. Wed like to get comments and feedback at the EWN thread at Feral Scholar what do you think about this segment?

Future topics on the table as of Nov 2007 are: Local Currencies; Sustainable Transportation; Safe Humanure Composting; introduction to the essays of feral philosopher Ran Prieur; Industrialism, Warfare, and Gender you are invited to suggest some more!

We could respond to this growing state of emergency with gold under the mattress and guns in the attic or with bicycles in the neighbourhood and veggies in the yard. Adventurism, or autarky? Our feeling at IA and FS is that Option B offers more lasting prospects for resistance and social change. Were trying to offer the practical and strategic tools, resources, and inspirations for a distributed and growing culture of Option B. Peak oil, environmental degradation, class, capital, gender, race, energy, land, food and water well try to connect the dots, and help listeners move beyond despair into action.

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