Updated by @deepgreenphilly

Recent Updates

Mar02

Jitish Kallat & Sonia Sanchez

Audio of Jitish Kallat and Sonia Sanchez in conversation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (moderated by Amanda Sroka). Kallat’s contemporary art exhibit, ‘Covering Letter‘, was the spring board for a wider conversation on the role of the artist in today’s world and the relevance of Gandhi’s ideologies during these times of turmoil, uncertainty, inequality, and violence. Gandhi’s letter to Hitler was brought to life by Kallat in a riveting fashion utilizing words projected onto a screen of fog.

The world we are living in and the challenges we face in some ways mirror the world on the eve of WWII when Gandhi decided to reach out to Hitler and appeal to his (nonexistent) better nature. Sonia Sanchez used poetry and her own sharp insights to orient us and guide the conversation towards an exploration of the sometimes contradictory themes at work in both ‘Covering Letter’ and in our own lives.

Introduction

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Sonia Sanchez Poetry Reading

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Moderated Conversation

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Q&A

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Kallat & Sanchez intro.mp3
Sonia Sanchez Reading.mp3
Kallat & Sanchez convo.mp3
Kallat & Sanchez Q&A.mp3

Feb03

Socialism or Barbarism

Christmas Day Tragedy Reveals Necessity of Adequate Social Service Programs

Originally posted by DGP on Medium, January 5th, 2017

Tricia McCauley, a well known D.C. area stage performer, was attacked and murdered by a homeless, mentally ill man on Christmas day in our nation’s capital. The circumstances of her death were very tragic but not, as has been claimed, senseless or unforeseeable as we will explore later on.

As we work to make sure this never happens again, we must reject the simplistic and reductionist notion that the solution to crime is more police, more jails, and an expansion of an already deeply flawed and inequitable justice system.

Many of us know people like Tricia McCauley. Her outgoing personality endeared her to almost everyone she met. A theater colleague describes her:

While we in the theatre community initially knew her as a brilliant performer, often with her creative family at Washington Stage Guild, Tricia was also a teacher, a health coach, and an urban farmer. In her valedictorian speech at her herbal medicine graduate ceremony, she referred to herself as a “plant translator. My deepest joy is introducing plants to people.” Whether it was a recommendation of a detox juice recipe or a list of edible flowers, Tricia made it her personal mission to develop relationships among her friends — human ones and floral ones…

[Content warning: physical violence resulting in death, sexual assault.]

Tricia McCauley spent most of Christmas Day preparing food for an annual holiday party, and in the early evening she departed for the party with her signature dishes in tow. At some point along the way she was accosted by Adrian Duane Johnson, a 29 year old homeless man with a history of mental illness and arrests for petty thefts and misdemeanors. McCauley’s battered body was discovered several days later stuffed into the rear section of her Toyota Scion, her legs bound, her body exhibiting signs of blunt force and sexual trauma. She had been strangled. Johnson’s statements to law enforcement after being arrested were bizarre and unhinged. He claimed the 115 lbs, 5’4 McCauley, a woman traveling alone at night, offered him a ride. He also insisted they engaged in consensual sex after which she became “emotional” and hung herself in the car, but not before telling him that he could have all of her belongings.

Violence against women is epidemic in our society and across the world, and it was the main factor in this situation. Yet we must also acknowledge the equally important role policy makers have played in setting the stage for this particular chain of events and similar tragedies. Tricia McCauley was murdered in the capital city of the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, a country that prides itself on being the “land of opportunity,” — and yet many people living in the capital languish in poverty. In nearby towns and cities like Baltimore the situation is even more desperate. The affluent and the dispossessed exist side by side in almost Dickensian fashion with D.C. enduring a homelessness rate that is twice the national average.

No one likes poverty, no one likes seeing homeless people sleeping on the streets, and yet it seems that many are resigned to the status quo because they believe they will never be directly affected. Tricia McCauley was a victim of this status quo, and one way of honoring her memory is to work much harder towards ending the disparities that inevitably lead to social pathology.

Her facebook page reveals her to be someone who leaned strongly to the left end of the political spectrum. Several of her public posts show she was a strong believer in racial and economic justice, a fact that makes the circumstances of her death especially tragic. She was also conscious of her position as a white person living in the gentrifying majority Black Bloomingdale neighborhood of north-central Washington D.C.

Considering the type of person she was, we can be fairly sure she would not have wanted her tragic death to be used as an excuse for more intensive dismemberment and policing of Black communities, more jails, and more oppression.

In light of the fact that her attacker was homeless let us examine some statistics. A recent study concluded that providing shelter for those enduring homelessness is cheaper than leaving them to languish on the streets. According to the study, providing housing did more than save the city money:

The tenants also spent 84 percent fewer days in jail, with a 78 percent drop in arrests. The reduction is largely due to a decrease in crimes related to homelessness, such as trespassing, loitering, public urination, begging and public consumption of alcohol, according to Caroline Chambre, director of the Urban Ministry Center’s HousingWorks, the main force behind Moore Place.

The connection between stability and low crime can no longer be overlooked. According to Prison Legal News, affordable housing reduces crime and improves public safety:

Despite the strong correlation between increased spending on supportive housing and reduced correctional spending, “jurisdictions continue to spend more on corrections than on housing” by a wide margin. “An increase in spending on housing is associated with a decrease in violent crime at the national level and a decrease in incarceration rates at the state level,” according to JPI. “An increase in spending on housing and community development paired with a decrease in spending on corrections is associated with both lower crime rates and lower prison incarceration rates.”

As countries like Finland and India explore and prepare to implement basic income programs to ensure their citizens can meet essential needs, here in the U.S. we face the prospect of more draconian cuts to social services with one of the most right-wing Congressional and Presidential administrations in decades. For the most part the millionaires on Capitol Hill are insulated from the effects of their slash and burn policies; they live in gated communities with security men; they are chauffeured, provided with carefully crafted itineraries, insulated from the consequences of their cruelty. Unlike Tricia McCauley, the upper echelon decision makers are usually sheltered from all but the most carefully managed of interactions with the dispossessed and the downtrodden who, like the Morlocks in H. G. Well’s The Time Machine, occasionally emerge from the murky depths of their oppression.

One of the rare exceptions to the above mentioned dynamic occurred in 1981 when a young man suffering from schizophrenia shot newly elected president Ronald Reagan in an attempt to impress actress Jodi Foster. It was an extremely ironic turn of events considering Reagan’s track record of shutting down state services, institutions and programs for the mentally ill while governor of California. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey connects the dots between Reagan’s policies and on the ground events in his 2013 article ‘Ronald Reagan’s shameful legacy: Violence, the homeless, mental illness’:

California was the first state to witness not only an increase in homelessness associated with deinstitutionalization but also an increase in incarceration and episodes of violence. Of all the omens of deinstitutionalization’s failure on exhibit in 1970s California, the most frightening were homicides and other episodes of violence committed by mentally ill individuals who were not being treated.

– 1970: John Frazier, responding to the voice of God, killed a prominent surgeon and his wife, two young sons, and secretary. Frazier’s mother and wife had sought unsuccessfully to have him hospitalized.
– 1972: Herbert Mullin, responding to auditory hallucinations, killed 13 people over 3 months. He had been hospitalized three times but released without further treatment.
– 1973: Charles Soper killed his wife, three children, and himself 2 weeks after having been discharged from a state hospital.
– 1973: Edmund Kemper killed his mother and her friend and was charged with killing six others. Eight years earlier, he had killed his grandparents because “he tired of their company,” but at age 21 years had been released from the state hospital without further treatment.
– 1977: Edward Allaway, believing that people were trying to hurt him, killed seven people at Cal State Fullerton. Five years earlier, he had been hospitalized for paranoid schizophrenia but released without further treatment.

According to Dr. Torrey’s article (which includes excerpts from his book ‘American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System’), there is a direct chain of causation between Reagan’s decisions and the violence and mayhem that was later unleashed on society. He also notes that sentiments linking psychiatry to Communism likely influenced Reagan’s decisions both as governor and later as president.

Whether we’re considering homelessness, mental health treatment, or mitigating poverty, we must understand that the resources to solve these problems exist. The problem is with a system that will absolutely not allow a sustainable and equitable distribution of resources for the betterment of the entire community. Instead, many people are left to fend for themselves; many wallow in misery, madness and resentment.

The phrase “socialism or barbarism” made popular by Polish-German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg is more relevant today than ever before. She herself was also a victim of violence, shot in the head and dumped in a river by her political enemies. She wrote:

Friedrich Engels once said: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” . . . Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. . . . Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration — a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war.

The war she speaks of is not only the war that imperialist countries wage against their victims overseas. The social war is in full effect and has been for quite some time, and many of us are losing. Some of the first victims of this war were the indigenous people of this continent and the enslaved Africans brought here in chains. Tricia McCauley is one of the latest casualties of this ongoing war, though an unintended one to be sure.

How many wonderful and talented people have we lost to the insanity of our current system? If the status quo continues there will be many more Tricia McCauley’s, many more Tamir Rice’s, many more Sandra Bland’s. As we see literal white supremacists taking up residence in the White House it bears asking what will it take for people to overthrow this system and demand something better.

If we learn to live side by side with oppression and inequality then what we’re saying is that we are OK with occasionally losing good people. The best way to honor Tricia McCauley’s memory is to work towards abolishing a cruel system that creates an endless cycle of perpetrators and victims. Revolution and socialism now!

                                    Tricia McCauley
Feb03

A History Lesson

What a 1943 Protest Against the Nazis Teaches Us About Organizing to Defeat Trump’s Agenda

Originally posted by DGP on Medium, November 11, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump is bringing along with him a Senate and Congress dominated by Republican majorities with strong proto-fascist elements. Many people are understandably distraught considering the threats to immigrants, LGBT people, Muslims, women’s reproductive rights, and the implications for poor and marginalized Black communities. Yet while it’s true we are facing an incredibly difficult and dangerous situation, we should not succumb to resignation and despair. History shows us that even the most nefarious and brutal regimes can be successfully defied.

In early 1943 a group of unarmed German women organized what has come to be known as the Rosenstrasse protest. It was Nazi Germany’s only successful protest movement to stop the expulsion and murder of Jewish people, namely their husbands and sons who had been arrested and slated for deportation. The Rosenstrasse protest strongly contradicts those who claim that there was nothing privileged German citizens could have done to stop Nazi atrocities. It reveals to us who live in a much more free and open society that the barriers to defending the threatened and marginalized are mostly in our minds. It also reveals the power that can be unleashed when the personal becomes political.

The protest, overwhelming led by women, was extraordinary, but before we examine it we should view it in context. After the passing of the 1935 Nuremburg Laws, marriage between “Aryans” (referred to here as non-Jewish) and Jews was prohibited and referred to as “race defilement”. Privileged Germans who entered into a sexual relationship with a person categorized as Jewish faced arrest and possible confinement in a concentration camp. Those who were already married to Jews at the time of the passing of the Nuremburg laws were subjected to intense pressure to divorce their spouses. Some did, but many did not. It is difficult to overstate how extreme anti-Jewish propaganda became after the passing of the Nuremburg Laws, yet this atmosphere of intense antisemitism had actually begun in 1933 when Hitler officially took power. Those who chose to remain married to their Jewish spouses did so despite the threat of social exclusion and increased Gestapo (secret police) scrutiny. The situation for those in “mixed marriages” deteriorated rapidly after the beginning of WWII. Some couples were stripped of their property and even their homes and were forced to move into “Jew houses,” a kind of miniature ghetto. Those “mixed” couples without baptized Christian children were especially vulnerable to harassment by the Gestapo; Jewish people in “mixed” marriages not privileged by having Christian children were forced to wear the yellow star and display it on their place of residence.

By late 1941 the first round-ups and deportations of German Jews had begun, yet those married to non-Jews were exempt — at least until February of 1943 when Nazi leaders decided once and for all to rid the capital city of Berlin of all of its Jewish residents. 10,000 people were arrested including around 2,000 men who were in “mixed” marriages or the product of those marriages. They were separated from the others and held in abandoned factory buildings at Rosenstrasse 2–4. When the wives and mothers of these men discovered where they were being detained, they went to the buildings and demanded their release. They came in small groups at first, but the crowd soon grew to hundreds and then, as some historians claim, into the thousands. As the crowd grew larger and more vocal, guards were sent out to set up machine guns which were pointed at the crowd. Despite threats of arrest and murder, protesters remained in the freezing cold both day and night for a full week until finally the government gave in to their demands and released the detainees.

Memorial commemorating the Rosenstrasse protest on the street where it took place

At the time of the Rosentrasse protest the Nazi regime was still very powerful. The regime held a stranglehold grip on the German public by way of the Gestapo and an extensive network of civilian informants, yet like all states it was very nervous about civil unrest. The thousands of non-Jewish women and their social and familial connections posed a threat to order; the international media had become aware of the protest, and there was a danger that it could spread to other German cities and towns. Hitler could not spare soldiers from two war fronts to contain domestic civil unrest. Also, a messy situation in the capital city of Berlin would have made the regime seem weak. The men being held at Rosenstrasse were released and allowed to return home, but the 8,000 other Jewish people who had been rounded up were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where most of them were murdered.

Yet the protest may have saved more than just the lives of these 2,000 men. According to historian Nathan Stoltzfus, by the end of the war there were 13,217 registered Jewish people living in Germany. 12,987 of these were married to non-Jews. We can see that around 98% of German Jews who survived the war did so because of the protection offered by intermarriage. Had the Rosenstrasse protest never happened, the action in Berlin would very likely have become official policy and the “mixed” marriages across the rest of the country would have been broken up and the Jewish partners sent to their deaths. The protest in Berlin may have also saved the life of Victor Klemperer, the renowned Dresden professor married to a non-Jew. His shocking and mesmerizing diaries chronicle his life under the Nazis and his escape from the Dresden bombing, and we very likely have the Rosenstrasse protest to thank for the fact that his writings are available to the world today.

So, what lessons can we learn from the Rosenstrasse protest and how can we apply them to our current situation, whether it’s fighting proto-fascism in the U.S., France, the UK, or wherever else the far-right is attempting to consolidate its power? First, we should recognize how the Rosenstrasse protesters were able to leverage their privilege as valued “Aryan” citizens. Understanding how a racial hierarchy functions is the first step towards using it to our advantage along the path to eventual abolition. Here in the U.S., despite the fact that our country is very clearly founded upon white supremacy, genocide, and exclusion of ethnic minorities, there are still far too many people in denial or committed to downplaying the implications of this. White people are valued more in this society, and for this reason white people must put themselves on the front lines of any protests against Trump or the policies of the right wing proto-fascist government. People who are already marginalized and usually targeted should not be the ones forced to risk their safety and livelihoods. The white-dominated mainstream media is also more likely to cover a protest or an action if white people are involved, and white privilege gives allies and conspirators access to places and resources denied to most people of color. Of course the eventual goal should be to abolish the racial caste system, but in the mean time whiteness should be used strategically and not merely maligned or bemoaned.

Perhaps most importantly, the Rosenstrasse protest shows us that effective resistance is born from emotional connections and empathy. To face the machine guns and the threats of one of the most vicious regimes to ever grace the Earth took more than courage, it took an understanding that the endangered person cast as “the other” was in fact not disposable, not murder-able, not inferior, and worth fighting for. We must prioritize and cultivate institutions and social and cultural programs that foster humanism and the recognition of the inherent worth of all people regardless of ethnicity, gender or socio-economic status. Our art, our politics, our praxis, and our activism must foster the development of the kind of empathetic connections that will remove the artificial barriers between “us” and “them”. Once these barriers are removed and apathy defeated, it will be much easier to convince people to make sacrifices for those targeted by state violence.

The Rosenstrasse protest reminds us of the strategic importance of time and place. Instead of marching through the streets or congregating at the Reichstag, the protesters made the logical choice of gathering at the actual place where the injustice was happening. Once there, they kept the pressure on consistently over days until their demands were met.

The fact that the women who gathered at Rosenstrasse were unarmed is also an important point to consider. In this case, nonviolence worked precisely because there were no other options and because a nonviolent approach was the most strategic. However, we should remember that the Nazis were ultimately defeated by both the Russian and U.S. military and armed partisans who worked to rescue civilians and undermine the effectiveness of the Wehrmacht.

Lastly, while the protest may have been nonviolent, it was not necessarily peaceful, as this quote from Nathan Stoltzfus shows:

The square, according to one witness, “was crammed with people, and the demanding, accusing cries of the women rose above the noise of the traffic like passionate avowals of a love strengthened by the bitterness of life.” One woman described her feeling as a protester on the street as one of incredible solidarity with those sharing her fate. Normally people were afraid to show dissent, fearing denunciation, but on the street they knew they were among friends, because they were risking death together. A Gestapo man who no doubt would have heartlessly done his part to deport the Jews imprisoned in the Rosenstraße was so impressed by the people on the streets that, holding up his hands in a victory clasp of solidarity with a Jew about to be released, he pronounced proudly: “You will be released, your relatives protested for you. That is German loyalty.”

“One day the situation in front of the collecting center came to a head,” a witness reported. “The SS trained machine guns on us: ‘If you don’t go now, we’ll shoot.’ But by now we couldn’t care less. We screamed ‘you murderers!’ and everything else. We bellowed. We thought that now, at last, we would be shot. Behind the machine guns a man shouted something; maybe he gave a command. I didn’t hear it, it was drowned out. But then they cleared out and the only sound was silence. That was the day it was so cold that the tears froze on my face.”

Oct20

Climate Change Not Worth Debating?

cvlsh5tviaa5eav

Climate change is an existential threat to human society. A rapidly heating climate will effect not only the weather but will also have grave consequences for human health, biodiversity, food production, refugee migrations, wars for natural resources, and the world economy.

Military experts have warned that climate change presents a “significant risk to U.S. national security and international security”. The DoD (Department of Defense) has released a report on the security implications of climate change, and the Pentagon has also declared climate change to be a threat to national security. Clearly, at the highest levels of the U.S. security state, climate change is being taken seriously and viewed as an imminent threat.

Why then during the U.S. presidential debates have the two people vying for the position of Commander in Chief spent less than 90 seconds discussing this pressing national and international security issue? Not a single one of the debate moderators raised the issue of climate change, and it only received a partial mention during the town hall when internet sensation Ken Bone asked about the balance of environment, energy policy, and jobs. Instead of focusing on the implications of both Clinton and Trump’s subsequent advocacy for fracking and the climate challenges that lay ahead, the media idiotically seized on Ken Bone’s red sweater and quirky demeanor as fodder for the 24 hour news cycle.

To her credit, Hillary Clinton did make a few ad hoc comments on the reality of climate change and the need for clean energy jobs during the first debate, yet this was not a nod to the urgency of the moment but was yet another politically advantageous attempt to contrast herself with Donald Trump (who has stated that climate change is a Chinese conspiracy theory). About half of the presidential debates were spent discussing Donald Trump’s disgusting misogynistic comments and Hillary Clinton’s borderline-criminal private email server. While not unimportant, these issues are certainly not more newsworthy than the fate of our planet and our species, so how can we explain the veil of silence regarding what is arguably one of the most important and urgent issues facing humanity?

One explanation is that the media is very much dependent on fossil fuel related advertising revenue. From Media Matters:

CNN aired almost five times as much oil industry advertising as climate change-related coverage in the one-week periods following the announcements that 2015 was the hottest year on record and February 2016 was the most abnormally hot month on record. Specifically, CNN aired 23.5 minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads during its morning, afternoon, and primetime coverage over those two weeks, compared to just five minutes of coverage about climate change or the temperature records. That disparity does not even account for dozens of Koch Industries ads that also ran on CNN, which were not energy-focused but did serve to boost the image of the oil billionaire Koch brothers’ primary corporation.

We must consider the implications of automobile advertising which provides a large chunk of corporate media advertising revenue:

Automakers, the vast majority of whom produce vehicles that run exclusively on fossil fuels, dominate the advertising landscape:

Even NPR has been tainted. Since they began taking money from America’s Natural Gas Alliance, their coverage of climate change has dropped by 20%; listeners have been angered after tuning in to their beloved station and hearing blatantly misleading pro-fracking propaganda.

Money does indeed talk, and it has drowned out the voices of the many Americans who are very much worried about climate change:

Polling firm Gallup, which has been tracking public sentiment on the topic annually since 1997, found that 41% of US adults feel warming will pose a “serious threat” to them during their lifetimes. This is the highest level recorded by Gallup, a 4% increase on 2015.

A total of 64% of those polled said they worried about global warming a “great deal” or a “fair amount”, the highest level of recorded concern since 2008. Just 36% of Americans said they did not fret about it, or only worried a little.

We should be outraged that, despite growing public concern about climate change, it received no mention at all from the presidential debate and town hall moderators and only a passing mention from the candidates themselves. This should illuminate for us the dangers we face at the hands of the increasingly corporate-controlled state. An existential threat is being hidden and obscured to protect corporate profits. The corporate media has essentially become a mouthpiece for the mega-wealthy and their interests; they have failed in their journalistic duty to provide the public with correct and adequate information regarding a serious threat, a threat we can at least prepare for and mitigate against if we’re presented with the right information in a timely fashion.

Despite the corporate media silence, people can see what is happening around them: the ongoing drought in California; the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Sandy; record warmth and lack of snow in Alaska; destructive floods in Louisiana, Iowa, Texas and Maryland; the spread of the Zika virus in Florida — these and many other examples are what people have been experiencing on the ground in their own communities, and this is the reality that cannot be denied.

Aug18

On Pipelines & Nate Parker

Let’s begin by taking a look at a map of of the over 2.5 million miles of pipeline coverage here in the United States. Keep in mind that this map was last updated in 2012. Please take a moment to really look at this map; let the implications of this sink in.

GasTransmission-HazLiquidPipelinesMap

Our Earth is sometimes described as a mother, as our mother, yet we are almost never invited to consider the current situation from her perspective. A recent editorial asks an important question: ‘We imagine how it feels to be a character, why can’t we imagine how the land feels?’ This author does not go quite far enough, but he begins to touch upon what is at the root of the environmental emergency we are now living through: the objectification and commodification of the Earth, and a culture that can only view the Earth through a utilitarian lens.

One explanation for why we can call the Earth our mother and yet seem to have trouble mustering empathy towards her plight is the fact that our way of life depends upon the Earth being stripped of  spirituality, feeling, agency, rights, or any of the other attributes of personhood. One cannot have a relationship with a thing that is meant to be destroyed and consumed, which is why (with few exceptions) we do not keep cows, chickens and pigs as beloved pets.

When one’s way of life depends upon the exploitation or destruction of another, the one targeted must of course lose their agency, their personhood, and their rights. The period of chattel slavery in both north and south America is one example of how personhood was denied in order to justify institutionalized enslavement, torture, rape and generations of forced labor. The Nazi desire for lebensraum exclusively for “pure” Aryans was used as a justification for the systematic dehumanization, expulsion, enslavement and murder of Poles, Jews, Russians, Roma, and others.

The above mentioned atrocities and many others are almost always framed by the perpetrators as a matter of necessity blessed by divine right or cultural superiority. The atrocities being committed against the Earth fall into the same category. We must have these pipelines, we must mine for coal, we have no choice but to frack for gas and oil. Think of the jobs, think of the economy, think of our geopolitical concerns! And of course the underlying unspoken understanding is that as modern humans we have the absolute entitlement to everything on, above and underneath the Earth. Modern science legitimizes our entitlement, reminding us of our “superior” brains and intelligence.

If the Earth could say “no, stop,” if she could vocalize, if she could scream in pain as she is slashed and penetrated and torn, would that make a difference? Maybe, maybe not. We perceive the Earth as silent, enduring and devoid of emotion, but is she really? The storms, the floods, the heatwaves and wildfires that are increasing all over the planet – do they not contain and convey somewhat of a hint of anger, indignation and fury?

For eons humans both personified and deified nature and the natural forces around us; on the south American continent, in Africa, and in Australia and everywhere in between, the rituals and spiritual practices of so-called primitive people reflected a deep respect and awe for the life sustaining mysteries. For eons we lived in harmony with nature, just one of many other species who call this planet home. Then something happened, something changed. Most likely during a time of hardship and chaos we discovered with our big brains ways of bypassing the rules all species had up until that point lived by. We discovered how to dominate, how to bend the world to our will. We discovered how to make the land do what we wanted it to do, and how to make other animals and other people do what we wanted them to do. We discovered the intoxication of power, the thrill of control, and during this period the land went silent.

As the gods moved up into the sky, or into other dimensions, the Earth became a thing, an inert, voiceless and soulless thing. The land was enslaved, then plants, then animals, then women, then came a new way of living. Towns emerged, then cities, kings and queens, and along with them a new kind of warfare; then came the written word and culture and the whole beautiful and terrible mess of the past ten thousand years. During this time, a relatively short period of time, we as human beings have been actors in a play of our own creation, dancing and singing and fighting and fucking on the voiceless and soulless Earth that only forms the backdrop for our drama. We call the Earth our mother yet treat her with more contempt than the most reviled and hated whore. Perhaps even worse, we both ignore her suffering and rationalize why it must continue.

We tolerate and ignore crimes against our mother, crimes against the Earth, and then wonder why there is a global epidemic of violence against women and a general atmosphere of savagery and selfishness. While we wring our hands and wonder why men can’t stop raping, beating and murdering women, day after day machines penetrate into the Earth’s deepest recesses leaving behind toxic and radioactive sludge, all in the name of accessing cheap oil, coal and natural gas. Our rivers and streams are poisoned and defiled by chemical plants, textile factories and slaughter houses; our oceans are strewn with plastic waste and toxic waste. Thanks to our stupidity and immense sense of entitlement, marine life and many other animals are dying in record numbers during what scientists have named the sixth mass extinction.

Our energy hungry and consumer goods driven way of life depends upon violence, upon murder, upon the misery of others. Those who fly the flag and claim that the military protects our freedoms are half right – the military and the misery it spreads protects our entitlement to stable currency, world markets and cheap consumer goods. Americans in particular benefit from extreme violence perpetrated by our military, diplomacy and economic policies all over the world, but then we wonder why this violence manifests in our day to day interactions. We wonder why Nate Parker, such a seemingly nice fellow who’s always mentioning his wife and five daughters in recent interviews, could have been scummy enough to run a train on an incapacitated acquaintance while in college.

The same forces that have facilitated the rape of the Earth also facilitate the rape, assault and exploitation of women, girls, and some men and boys as well. And so we have an epidemic of rape and sexual assault not only in the United States but all over the world. Of course men know that rape is wrong. Nate Turner knew that taking a drunken woman back to his place and ravaging her body with a friend was the wrong thing to do; and yet it happened anyway. Why? Because Nate Parker is a monster who hates women? Maybe, but it’s more likely that he suffers from the conditioning that almost all men have gone through in our society where men are taught that it’s OK (and manly!) to take what you want, consequences be damned. The need in the moment, the desire that burns bright white and hot supersedes all. Satisfaction must be achieved at all costs; appetites must be fed regardless of the impact on others. And this in a nutshell is the general attitude of most modern humans towards the natural world, towards the Earth, towards our mother. We want what we want, so we take it, and we rationalize or explain away the consequences. Or we claim that we’ll die without taking what we want. Or we say that the Earth exists to fulfill our needs and desires for whatever religious, scientific or philosophical reason.

The tragic life of Nate Parker’s victim reminds us of the consequences of the sort of entitlement we see all around us. After enduring a hellish ordeal, her grades suffered and she dropped out of school. For years she battled PTSD and deep depression with psychotic features, a common occurrence with people who are struggling to process trauma threaded through with feelings of guilt and self-doubt. In 2012 a sleeping pill overdose ended her life at the young age of thirty.

3759304B00000578-0-image-a-1_1471480637054

Meanwhile, Nate Parker has gone on to have a successful and distinguished career. He is financially secure. He is happily married with children and is expecting the release of a critically acclaimed film he co-wrote and stars in. Life for him has been good. While his victim struggled to hold onto jobs and moved around constantly (a common problem with people suffering from depression and PTSD), his life blossomed and flourished. He extracted what he needed from his victim and moved on.

In the esoteric world there is a saying: as above, so below. This principle can be seen in the structures of our body and in plants, in the way patterns that form molecules and neurons and flower petals mimic the structures of much larger systems like hurricanes, solar systems and galaxies.

huge

d803cd2ed1c4bc3ca60951c900d56812

As above, so below is a truism. We are a reflection of the forces that shape us, and we in turn shape those within our sphere of influence. Knowing this, we must ask whether or not a violent and dangerous empire can produce a mentally stable, moral and healthy population.

The Nate Parker revelations should anger us and motivate us to create social change, but they should not shock or surprise us. His assault on that young woman took place at Penn State, a campus now notorious for shielding a child rapist for decades. Campus sexual assaults are common, and there are hardly any mechanisms in place to prevent or deter them. Most rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. When rapists are brought before the court they often receive lenient sentences. The process of seeking justice against a perpetrator is so costly, emotionally devastating and time consuming that many women simply don’t or can’t pursue charges. This state of affairs continues because men feel entitled to women’s bodies, and our institutions protect this entitlement. Keep in mind that not too long ago women were viewed as chattel by mainstream society; they were the property of their husbands and fathers, were subjected to strict codes of conduct and dress requirements, were not allowed to travel alone, vote, attend college, or own land. In essence, women were for many ages denied the full expression of their humanity and were viewed primarily as a resource for producing heirs, keeping a household, and as tools of pleasure.

Changing the cultural landscape and defeating male entitlement will be almost impossible until we begin to question the very foundations of our society. There are alternatives to this sick society we inhabit, and there have always been alternatives, though they were often hidden from us, or unfairly maligned. Rape culture and the cultural debasement of women was rare on this continent before the era of colonization. While European women were being burned at the stake, matriarchal societies were flourishing on this continent.

There is much more to be said about this, as we now see that Native people, especially women, are at the forefront of working to protect what’s left of our natural world from the ravages of industry.

S4DAPLProtest

Screenshot 2016-08-02 at 9.33.59 PM

1471296362_10060921+Pipeline+Protesters

On Black Mesa the traditional elders who are fighting to protect their ancient way of life from the Peabody energy corporation describe coal as the “the liver of the sacred female mountain.” According to them, it must be kept in the ground where it belongs. They are not the only tribe to give female or feminine attributes to the land; the Earth and the land as our sacred mother is a common thread through many indigenous cultures. If we want a template for how we should treat each other and the Earth we depend on for survival, we would be wise to study the life ways of those who lived here before us, those who were so harshly and cruelly pushed aside and branded as savages. Ironically, they may have the answers we desperately need in these turbulent and uncertain times.

 

 

Aug16

Eric McDavid’s Philly Tour Stop

eric-mcdavid-forest

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Eric McDavid in Philly.mp3

Former eco-political prisoner Eric McDavid is near the end of a speaking tour where he goes into detail about life behind bars and how he managed to make it through nine years including significant periods in solitary confinement. If Eric does another tour and comes to your neck of the woods, definitely try to make it out to see him speak, it’s worth it.

Because of security culture, I did not record the Q&A portion of the talk where he goes into detail about the disgusting piece of shit informant who entrapped him. There has been much written on that subject if you want to learn more. What you will hear from him in this podcast is how he managed day by day life behind bars, details of the case against him, and his general thoughts and feelings on what it’s like now to be free.

Watching him speak was like being in the presence of a warrior who has returned from battle. He projects strength and self control, and it’s obvious that these aspects are what helped him survive for nine years behind bars; but there’s hardly a trace of the coldness or hardness one might expect. Prison did not break him or turn him into someone else. Part of the reason for this is the support he received while he was locked down; the letters, books, well wishes and visits obviously sustained him, and we must make sure we’re providing this support to all political prisoners.

If we’re engaged in activism, eco-defense, solidarity work, or anything that challenges the power of the government and corporate interests, we must be aware that Eric’s story could easily be our own under the “right” circumstances. For me personally, this has led to a certain paralysis. When I asked him how to combat paranoia and the paralysis it fosters, his very wise answer included a suggestion that we make sure we’re having one on one conversations instead of jumping to conclusions. If there’s a problem, a disagreement, or a misunderstanding, don’t let it fester to the point where suspicions begin to thrive. Problematic people and fucked up behaviors will always be a part of any community, and of course the feds have figured out how to exploit this quite well. The way we respond to the inevitable provocations and infiltrations determines the strength of our communities and our long term effectiveness in the struggle.

Mar31

The Health Impacts of Fracking

PA Spud Map 2014-15 20150331

Audio of the Clean Air Council‘s ‘Air & Health Effects of Shale Gas Infrastructure, at the University of Pennsylvania’. This recording features the presentations of Dr. Celia Lewis (Research and Communications Consultant for the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project) and Joseph Minott (Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel). For video of the full panel, please check the Clean Air Council’s website in the coming days.

From the event description:

Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas producing state and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that pollution from this industry can have a serious impact on the health of those who live in the surrounding communities.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Health Impacts of Fracking.mp3

Click here to learn about the fight against the Mariner 2 pipeline.

Could Philadelphia be the next Houston? The Oil Industry Hopes So

8 Dangerous Side Effects of Fracking That the Industry Doesn’t Want You to Hear About