I was digging around the archive at the online Anarchist Library today and found an interesting conversation between Derrick Jensen and anarchist theorist John Zerzan, who suggests that modern society has subjugated the populace to the point that it no longer even sees the bars of its cage. The entire interview, especially a discussion of time and the “subtle coercion of the clock,” is quite interesting and I encourage readers to click through and take in the entire piece.
Anarchism, along with its cousin, socialism, suffers from a bad case of misinformation and negative propaganda that has been going on now for well over a hundred years. Right now, in this supposedly free country, at least three people are imprisoned for refusing to testify before a grand jury about their anarchist beliefs and those of their associates. This stems from an FBI witch hunt, as reported at Green is the New Red:
The three were subpoenaed to this grand jury following FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force raids in multiple cities in the Northwest. The search warrants identified “anti-government or anarchist literature.” At the time, because of statements from police and because the warrants listed that the items were connected to “conspiracy to destroy government property” and “interstate travel with intent to riot,” it appeared that the raids and grand jury were connected to broken windows and other vandalism at a Seattle May Day protest.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, but Lauren Regan, an attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center, learned that the grand jury was empaneled March 2, 2012 — before the May Day protests even took place. It’s possible that prosecutors spent months anticipating and investigating May Day protests, but a more likely explanation is that this grand jury is not about broken windows.
We live in a country where thoughts and beliefs alone are enough to get you arrested and even killed if members of our government and its “law enforcement” apparatus decide your ideas are dangerous. Joseph Stalin would be mighty proud I think.
If all you know about anarchism and socialism is what you were taught in school or picked up from the capitalist controlled media in this country, I hope you will take the time to read the following, and then do a little digging on your own. I can assure you that almost everything you were ever taught about these ideas was not only wrong, but intentionally misleading.
Do your own thinking. It’s part of the price of admission to a free society. You do want to live in a free society don’t you?
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Jensen: Now that the mainstream media have discovered anarchism, there seems to be more and more confusion about what it means. How do you define it?
Zerzan: I would say anarchism is the attempt to eradicate all forms of domination. This includes not only such obvious forms as the nation-state, with its routine use of violence and the force of law, and the corporation, with its institutionalized irresponsibility, but also such internalized forms as patriarchy, racism, homophobia. Beyond that, anarchism is the attempt to look even into those parts of our everyday lives we accept as givens, as parts of the universe, to see how they, too, dominate us or facilitate our domination of others.
But has a condition ever existed in which relations have not been based on domination?
That was the human condition for at least 99 percent of our existence as a species, from before the emergence of Homo sapiens, at least a couple of million years ago, until perhaps only 10,000 years ago, with the emergence of first agriculture and then civilization. Since that time we have worked very hard to convince ourselves that no such condition ever existed, because if no such condition ever existed, it’s futile to work toward it now. We may as well then accept the repression and subjugation that define our way of living as necessary antidotes to “evil human nature.” After all, according to this line of thought, our pre-civilized existence of deprivation, brutality, and ignorance made authority a benevolent gift that rescued us from savagery.
Think about the images that come to mind when you mention the labels “cave man” or “Neanderthal.” Those images are implanted and then invoked to remind us where we would be without religion, government, and toil, and are probably the biggest ideological justifications for the whole van of civilization, armies, religion, law, the state. The problem with those images, of course, is that they are entirely wrong. There has been a potent revolution in the fields of anthropology and archaeology over the past 20 years, and increasingly people are coming to understand that life before agriculture and domestication, in which by domesticating others we domesticated ourselves, was in fact largely one of leisure, intimacy with nature, sensual wisdom, sexual equality, and health.
How do we know this?
In part through observing modern foraging peoples, what few we’ve not yet eliminated, and watching their egalitarian ways disappear under the pressures of habitat destruction and oftentimes direct coercion or murder. Also, at the other end of the time scale, through interpreting archaeological digs. An example of this has to do with the sharing that is now understood to be a keynote trait of non-domesticated people. If you were to study hearth sites of ancient peoples, and to find that one fire site has the remains of all the goodies, while other sites have very few, then that site would probably be the chief’s. But if time after time you see that all the sites have about the same amount of stuff, what begins to emerge is a picture of a people whose way of life is based on sharing. And that’s what is consistently found in preneolithic sites. A third way of knowing is based on the accounts of early European explorers, who again and again spoke of the generosity and gentleness of the peoples they encountered. This is true all across the globe.
How do you respond to people who say this is all just nutty Rousseauvian noble savage nonsense?
I respectfully suggest they read more within the field. This isn’t anarchist theory. It’s mainstream anthropology and archaeology. There are disagreements about some of the details, but not about the general structure.
If things were so great before, why did agriculture begin?
That’s a very difficult question, because for so many hundreds of thousands of years there was very little change. That’s long been a source of frustration to scholars in anthropology and archaeology: How could there have been almost zero change for hundreds of thousands of years, the whole lower and middle Paleolithic Era and then suddenly at a certain point in the upper Paleolithic there’s this explosion, seemingly out of nowhere? You suddenly have art, and on the heels of that, agriculture.
I think it was stable because it worked, and I think it changed finally because for many millennia there was a kind of slow slippage into division of labor. This happened so slowly, almost imperceptibly, that people didn’t see what was happening, or what they were in danger of losing. The alienation brought about by division of labor, alienation from each other, from the natural world, from their bodies, then reached some sort of critical mass, giving rise to its apotheosis in what we’ve come to know as civilization. As to how civilization itself took hold, I think Freud nailed that one when he said that “civilization is something which was imposed on a resisting majority by a minority which understood how to obtain possession of the means of power and coercion.” That’s what we see happening today, and there’s no reason to believe it was any different in the first place.
What’s wrong with division of labor?
If your primary goal is mass production, nothing at all. It’s central to our way of life. Each person performs as a tiny cog in this big machine. If, on the other hand, your primary goal is relative wholeness, egalitarianism, autonomy, or an intact world, there’s quite a lot wrong with it. I think that at base a person is not complete or free insofar as that person’s life and the whole surrounding setup depend on his or her being just some aspect of a process, some fraction of it. A divided life mirrors the basic divisions in society and it all starts there. Hierarchy and alienation start there, for example. I don’t think anyone would deny the effective control that specialists and experts have in the contemporary world. And I don’t think anyone would argue that control isn’t increasing with ever-greater acceleration.
But humans are social animals. Isn’t it necessary for us to rely on each other?
It’s important to understand the difference between the interdependence of a functioning community and a form of dependence that comes from relying on others who have specialized skills you don’t have. They now have power over you. Whether they are “benevolent” in using it is really beside the point.
In addition to direct control by those who have specialized skills, there is a lot of mystification of those skills. Part of the ideology of modern society is that without it, you’d be completely lost, you wouldn’t know how to do the simplest thing. Well, humans have been feeding themselves for the past couple of million years, and doing it a lot more successfully and efficiently than we do now. The global food system is insane. It’s amazingly inhumane and inefficient. We waste the world with pesticides, herbicides, the effects of fossil fuels to transport and store foods, and so on, and literally millions of people go their entire lives without ever having enough to eat. But few things are simpler than growing or gathering your own food.
Someone posted the following comment somewhere on the Internet the other day. I liked it and saved it here to see if I could add anything to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t copy the source, so I don’t know who to credit, but whoever they are; they’re absolutely right.
“Can you imagine the absolute shit-storm that would blow up if Jesus came back and started preaching the same old things he did before but in the USA ?
Can you hear the howls of outrage from the conservative ‘christian-right’, from the grassroots of the GOP, that the guy’s a socialist or a commie or at least a bleeding-heart liberal who hangs out with low-life scum and whores and that he’s pretty obviously anti-christian and therefore probably a tool of the devil?
And if he caused enough of a commotion, if there was any serious chance he might change the way things are, he’d surface on the US (government’s) radar and that could be fatal. Swarthy middle-eastern guy with a beard butting heads with the establishment ? Chances are some government agency would pin him as a ‘terrorist’ and assassinate him or whip him off somewhere secret where he could be hurt for a spot of ‘indefinite detention’ without trial.
You can understand why he might want to stay well clear of America today.”
When I read that, my first thought was, ‘Isn’t that exactly what happened to the guy 2000 years ago in Palestine?’
Some of the most “religious” people I know, some of whom have advanced degrees in, you guessed it, Christianity, have been soaking so long in the brine that they cannot see how far removed their own beliefs are from what the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth were really all about.
Jesus hung out with the dregs of society because they didn’t get any respect or love from the powers that were (and still are) in charge. Jesus was pointing out to those people that they didn’t have to see themselves as less than human just because they were poor, or sick, or outcasts, or foreigners. Jesus was teaching that we are all brothers and that we didn’t have to listen to the corrupt rulers of church or state who told them and still tell us that we’re all so different we can never trust each other, live together, or find the strength in our numbers to challenge the status quo and make a better world for ourselves right here, together.
The kingdom of heaven is within you, he said, and that stirred some people’s imaginations, and got them to thinking and talking to each other, and, worst of all, challenging the powerful few who controlled the many. For that, it was arranged to have old Josh put to death, but the seed had been planted and was growing.
Over the decades and centuries that followed, one group of usurpers after another latched onto the original message preached by the Nazarene and worked their own particular agenda into it until today, the original message is almost totally lost.
If Jesus came back today, he’d be in the streets, protesting NATO and capitalist imperialism. He’d be standing up for equal civil rights for all people – including homosexuals. Hell, he’d probably be gay just to spite the hateful bigots who continue to preach hate in his name. He’d be carrying signs, or playing a guitar, singing at the top of his lungs, and if his work created enough of a stir to make the plutocrats and oligarchs in power feel a little bit insecure, the writer of that original comment up above would be absolutely right. Jesus would be disappeared to some nice quiet death camp, where some Bible-thumping self-righteous idiot, funded by our own holier-than-thou government, would torture him to death in the name of his god, the almighty dollar of the US of A.
This is the beginning—from “I” to “we”. If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into “I”, and cuts you off forever from the “we”.
~ John Steinbeck, Chapter 14, The Grapes of Wrath
Reposted from Climate & Capitalism
Enough is enough! It’s time for a maximum wage, by Sam Pizzigati
The Occupy Wall Street movement hasn’t yet demanded a cap on individual income but it probably will. Ever since the “golden age” after the Civil War, great American popular surges for economic justice always come to demand an income cap, now called a “maximum wage”. This is more than a cap on salary, it means total annual income; and the term derives from the more familiar concept of a “minimum wage.”
America’s first serious maximum wage proposal was made by the philosopher Felix Adler, remembered as the founding chairman of the National Child Labor Committee, the early 1900s advocacy group that led the campaign to end the exploitation of the young. The exploitation of workers young and old, he believed, generated private fortunes that exerted a “corrupting influence” on US politics.
To curb this, he proposed a steeply graduated income tax — with a 100% top rate at the point “when a certain high and abundant sum has been reached, amply sufficient for all the comforts and true refinements of life.”
The New York Times gave Adler’s call ample publicity, but the idea didn’t take a specific legislative form until the first world war, when progressives demanded a 100% tax on all income over $100,000 to help finance the war effort. The group backing this, the American Committee on War Finance, would assemble a network of 2,000 volunteers across the country and put ads in newspapers that readers could sign to pledge their commitment “to further the prompt enactment into law” of the boldest tax proposal any American political grouping had ever advanced. They were demanding a fixed limit on income, “a conscription of wealth”.
The committee chairman Amos Pinchot, a New York attorney, declared: “If the government has a right to confiscate one man’s life for public purposes, it certainly ought to have the right to confiscate another man’s wealth for the same purposes.” He later testified to Congress that the richest 2% of Americans owned 65% of the nation’s wealth.
“Neither the United States nor any other country can carry on a war which will make the world safe for democracy and the plutocracy at the same time,” Pinchot told lawmakers. “If the war is to serve God, it cannot serve Mammon.”
A changed discourse
Pinchot and his fellow progressives did not manage to enforce the rate. But by war’s end their campaign had totally changed the tenor of the US’s political discourse on taxes and the top rate, on incomes over $1m, just 7% in 1914, would rise to 77% in 1918.
The “red scare” that followed the first world war in the US quickly dashed progressive hopes for a more egalitarian nation — and ushered in a right-wing political reaction that again made the country safe for plutocracy. Incomes and wealth concentrated at a ferocious pace throughout the 1920s and, in Congress, both Democrats and Republicans pushed hard for lower taxes on the richest. By 1925, no income over $100,000 faced more than a 25% tax rate.
The crisis of 1929, which almost collapsed the economy, changed things. By 1933, 25% of US workers were unemployed and there was a renewed call for income caps. From the state of Louisiana, a flamboyant young senator, Huey P Long, mobilised a Share Our Wealth movement that swept the nation, urging a $1m cap on individual annual income (the equivalent of $15m in 2010) and an $8m cap on individual net worth.
President Franklin Roosevelt tried to steal Long’s thunder in June 1935, outraging corporate America and the nation’s deepest pockets with a “soak the rich” tax plan that, later that year, raised the top tax rate on income over $5m ($78m in 2010) to 79%. This manoeuvre — and the assassination of Long in August 1935 — removed income caps from the agenda. By April 1942 they were back: FDR, inspired by trade unions, called for a maximum wartime income of $25,000 a year ($350,000 in 2010). In 1944 Congress hiked the top tax rate on income over $200,000 to a record 94%.
For the next two decades America’s top tax rate hovered around 90%, before dropping to 70% under Lyndon Johnson (November 1963-January 1969). Under Ronald Reagan, the top tax rate dropped to 50% in 1981, then to 28% in 1988. The current top rate is 35%.
But this overstates today’s tax burden of America’s rich: much of their income comes from capital gains — the profits they make buying and selling stocks, bonds and other assets — which are taxed at only 15%. In 2008, the US’s 400 highest-earning taxpayers had some $270.5m each in income. They paid just 18.1% on that, exploiting all the loopholes in federal income taxes. In 1955, they had averaged only $13.3m (in today’s dollars) and paid 51.2% of that in tax.
A true ’maximum wage’
Today the heirs to Adler, Pinchot and Long are focused on enterprise more than income tax. They advocate that US authorities — local, state, and national — leverage the power of the public purse to deny tax dollars to corporations that pay their top executives high multiples of workers’ earnings. Almost every major US corporation currently depends on tax dollars.
Companies get tax dollars to perform government contracts or for economic development subsidies or, indirectly, via tax breaks and preferences. No tax dollars should go to corporations that pay their executives over 10 or more times what their workers are making.
“The federal government currently denies contracts to companies that increase, through discriminatory employment practices, racial or gender inequality in the United States,” notes an Institute for Policy Studies report. “The same principle could be invoked to deny contracts to companies that, through excessive executive compensation, increase the nation’s economic inequality.”
The ultimate goal is a true “maximum wage”, tied to the minimum wage, to be enforced through a progressive income tax, just as Adler proposed over a century ago. The maximum would be set as a specific multiple of the minimum wage and all income over a given multiple of that minimum would then be subject to a 100% tax. This would encourage and nurture a solidarity economy: society’s most wealthy would have a vested interest in the well-being of society’s least wealthy.
Before Occupy Wall Street, this was political fantasy. No longer. In a sign of our changing times, two respectable US academics — a law professor at Yale and a Berkeley economist — have recently published in The New York Times a cogent case for tax reform that would limit the average incomes of America’s richest 1% to 36 times the nation’s median income.
Today we take the idea of a minimum wage for granted. Why not a maximum?
Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, editor of the journal Too Much and author of The Rich Don’t Always Win, Seven Stories Press, New York, forthcoming 2012
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”
~ Aldous Huxley