Greece has been in turmoil for 11 days. The mood seems to have turned "pre-insurrectionary" in parts of Athens - to borrow from the Marxist handbook.
This is a foretaste of what the world may face as the "crisis of capitalism" - another Marxist phase making a comeback - starts to turn two hundred million lives upside down.
We are advancing to the political stage of this global train wreck. Regimes are being tested. Those relying on perma-boom to mask a lack of democratic or ancestral legitimacy may try to gain time by the usual methods: trade barriers, sabre-rattling, and barbed wire.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, is worried enough to ditch a half-century of IMF orthodoxy, calling for a fiscal boost worth 2pc of world GDP to "prevent global depression".
"If we are not able to do that, then social unrest may happen in many countries, including advanced economies. We are facing an unprecedented decline in output. All around the planet, the people have reacted with feelings going from surprise to anger, and from anger to fear," he said.
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Friday, December 26, 2008
Greece has been in turmoil for 11 days. The mood seems to have turned "pre-insurrectionary" in parts of Athens - to borrow from the Marxist handbook.
Pakistan has moved its regular armed forces to the borders across the Rajasthan border. The BSF has confirmed that Pakistan has stepped up activities across the border, by deploying its armed forces and heavy artillery including the mortars and tanks.
The Centre has asked the government to evacuate the villages on border areas so that no damage is done to villagers in case of a Pakistani aggression. The Pakistani Army was seen on the Badmer border. The Pakistani Air Force has already moved to forward locations, with complete readiness to launch an attack if necessary.
Pakistan has moved its armed forces to the eastern border to divert the attention from the terror attacks in Mumbai and force the international community to mediate to ease the pressure off Pakistan. Pakistan is unable to withstand the diplomatic pressure from India and the US and hence decided to take a tough stance against India to put the world community in a tight spot.
Meanwhile, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Yousaf Raza Gilani have slammed India, saying India is trying to cover-up its own intelligence failure. Gilani has alleged that India is trying to make Pakistan a scapegoat for the Mumbai terror attacks. Both leaders have warned India that Pakistan is ready to retaliate if India launches an attack on Pakistani territory.
~ Breaking News Online ~
For this Bush should surely be held to account. And yet there is no sign that he will, and precious little agitation that he should. A still smiling Cheney denies the Bush administration did anything wrong. Note this breathtaking exchange with Fox News at the weekend. He was asked: "If the president during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?" Cheney's answer: "General proposition, I'd say yes."
It takes a few seconds for the full horror of that remark to sink in. And then you remember where you last heard something like it. It was the now immortalised interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon. The disgraced ex-president was asked whether there were certain situations where the president can do something illegal, if he deems it in the national interest. Nixon's reply: "Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."
It is no coincidence that Cheney began his career in the Nixon White House. He has the same Nixonian disregard for the US constitution, the same belief that executive power is absolute and unlimited - that those who wield it are above the law, domestic and international. It is the logic of dictatorship.
But Nixon was forced from office, his vision of an unrestrained presidency rejected. If Bush and Cheney are allowed to retire quietly, America will have failed to reassert that bedrock principle of the republic: the rule of law.
This is why there must be a reckoning. Bush will do all he can to avoid it: and it is wholly possible that one of his last acts as president will be to cover himself, his vice-president and all his henchmen with a blanket pardon. Even if that does not happen, Barack Obama is unlikely to want to spend precious capital pursuing his predecessor for war crimes.
But other prosecutors elsewhere in the world should weigh their responsibilities. In the end, it was a lone Spanish magistrate, not a Chilean court, who ensured the arrest of Augusto Pinochet. A pleasing, if uncharitable, thought this Christmas, is that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush will hesitate before making plans to travel abroad in 2009. Or indeed at any time - ever again.
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Here are the facts. A meta-analysis culled from 88 samples in 12 countries, and with an N of 22,818, revealed that “several psychological variables predicted political conservatism.” Which variables exactly? In order of predictive power: Death anxiety, system instability, dogmatism/intolerance of ambiguity, closed-mindedness, low tolerance of uncertainty, high needs for order, structure, and closure, low integrative complexity, fear of threat and loss, and low self-esteem. The researchers conclude, a little chillingly, that “the core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and a justification of inequality.”
The above list of variables is more than a little unsavory. We are talking about someone full of fear, with a poor sense of self, and a lack of mental dexterity. I always tell my students that tolerance of ambiguity is one especially excellent mark of psychological maturity. It isn't a black and white world. According to the research, conservatives possess precisely the opposite: an intolerance of ambiguity and an inability to deal with complexity.
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Most of us take for granted that those rectangular green slips of paper we keep in our wallets are inviolable: the physical embodiment of value. But alternative forms of money have a long history and appear to be growing in popularity. It's not merely barter or primitive means of exchange like seashells or beads. Beneath the financial radar, in hip U.S. towns or South African townships, in shops, markets and even banks, people throughout the world are exchanging goods and services via thousands of currency types that look nothing like official tender.
Alternative means of trade often surface during tough economic times. "When money gets dried up and there are still needs to be met in society, people come up with creative ways to meet those needs," says Peter North, a senior lecturer in geography at the University of Liverpool and the author of two books on the subject. He refers to the "scrips" issued in the U.S. and Europe during the Great Depression that kept money flowing and the massive barter exchanges involving millions of people that emerged amid runaway inflation in Argentina in 2000. "People were kept from starving [this way]," he says.
Closer to home, "Ithaca Hours," with a livable hourly wage as the standard, were launched during the 1991 recession to sustain the economy in Ithaca, N.Y., and stem the loss of jobs. Hours, which are legal and taxable, circulate within the community, moving from local shop to local artisan and back, rather than leaking out into the larger monetary system. The logo on the Hour reads "In Ithaca We Trust."
Alternative (or "complementary") currencies range from quaint to robust, simple to high tech. There are Greens from the Lettuce Patch Bank at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in rural northeastern Missouri. In western Massachusetts one finds fine-artist-designed BerkShares, which are convertible to U.S. dollars. More than $2 million in BerkShares have been issued through the 12 branches of five local banks, according to Susan Witt, executive director of the E.F. Schumacher Society, the nonprofit behind the currency. And in South Africa, proprietary software keeps track of Community Exchange System (CES) Talents; one ambitious plan is to make Khayelitsha, a vast, desolate township of perhaps 1 million inhabitants near Cape Town, a self-sustaining community.
An alternative currency is generally used in conjunction with conventional money; one may use local currency at the farmers' market and regular greenbacks at the supermarket. "It doesn't try in any way to replace cash," says Christoph Hensch, a Swiss national and former banker living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Rather, it offers a way "for people to share and redeem value they have in the community." He says the currencies are most useful in geographical areas or social sectors where money doesn't flow sufficiently, citing, for example, New Zealand's Golden Bay, which is so remote that it sometimes nearly functions as its own economy.
Advocates of alternative currencies say they are a means of empowerment for those languishing on the margins of fiscal life, granting economic agency to people like the elderly, the disabled or the underemployed, who have little opportunity to earn money. For example, in some systems one can "bank" Time Dollars for tasks like child care and changing motor oil. It's not whether you're employed or what financial assets you have that matter, says Les Squires, a consultant on social-networking software who has been working with groups developing alternative currencies. Each person has "value" that is "exchangeable" on the basis of time spent or a given task.
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Resolution C6 to Governments (corporations and citizens too): "Use an altenate time-based currency" to "restructure the global financial architecture."
John "The Engineer," "Great Canadian Gambler," "TajProfessor," "Anti-poverty engineer," "Bank-fighter Extraordinaire," "Robin Hood," "Atlas Shrugged Not," "Spartacus at Babylon" Turmel
Committed to freeing the debt slaves and getting rid of paupers by getting the rich to help the poor get rich too.
Occupation: Engineer; Professional Gambler, ...
Companies: Abolitionist Party of Canada So...
Interests and Hobbies: Engineering Heaven; Poker, music, history, sci-fi
Movies and Shows: Star Trek, History Bites, JFK (A, not A+ because Oliver Stone missed Kennedy's Silver-based money as the best reason he was offed.
Music: Classical, Welk, Rock (Doobie Brothers tickle my soul)
Books: Bible, Captains and the Kings, Babylonian Woe, Tragedy & Hope, Social Credit, Secret Team, Play Holdem Poker like a Bookie
A spirit of rebellion has slowly enveloped Iceland, reinforced by every new horror story about the financial crisis. "What responsibility to you feel over the fact that my debts have quadrupled, although I make my repayments on time and haven't taken out any new loans?" asked one ordinary citizen of Prime Minister Geir Haarde this week in front of 2,000 listeners.
"Somehow, everyone is responsible," the premier answered meekly. He added that his responsibility will have to be clarified before an independent "truth commission."
According to publicist Oskar Gudmundsson, "the way our government here is being brought to account is reminiscent of a Chinese people's court in the Cultural Revolution" - albeit a very polite "people's court."
Polite or not, the 320,000 citizens of the northern Atlantic island have been in a state of constant shock ever since the collapse of all three of Reykjavik's leading banks in October.
That shock was compounded by inflation that has climbed toward 20 per cent and a national currency, the krona, that has lost so much value that some see it on par with the nearly worthless currency used in Soviet-bloc countries during the Cold War.
"Iceland is sinking and no one knows when we'll reach dry land," said Andri Snaer Magnason, a spokesman for the fast-growing protest movement.
It is absolutely exceptional, given the country's tiny population, that almost 10,000 people are now arriving every Saturday to protest in front of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing. Single mothers, who suddenly have to cope with 100-per-cent rent hikes, stand shoulder- to- shoulder with prosperous-looking middle-class Icelanders facing the abyss due to credit pressures for their new apartments and cars.
"We are the people," is their mantra, displayed on placards as they stand under wintry and dark Icelandic skies.
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Plan B Bureau
We define the metropolis as the compact group of territories and heterogeneous devices crossed in every point by a disjunctive synthesis; there is not any point of the metropolis, in fact, where command and resistance, dominion and sabotage are not present at the same time. An antagonistic process between two parts, whose relation consists in enmity, totally innervates the metropolis. On one side, it consists, true to it's etymology, in the exercising of a command that is irradiated on all the other territories – so everywhere is of the metropolis. It is the space in which and from which the intensity and the concentration of devices of oppression, exploitation and dominion express themselves in their maximum degree and extension. In the metropolis, the city and the country, modernity and second natures collapse and end. In the metropolis where industry, communication and spectacle make a productive whole, the government's required job consists in connecting and controlling the social cooperation which is at the base to then be able to extract surplus value using biopolitical instruments. On the other side, it is a whole of the territories in which a heterogeneous mix of subversive forces – singular, Common, collective – are able to express the tendentiously more organized and horizontal level of antagonism against command. There are not places and non- places in the metropolis: there are territories occupied militarily by the imperial forces, territories controlled by biopower and territories that enter into resistance. Sometimes, very often, these three types of territories cross one another, other times the latter separates itself from the other two and, in yet other occasions, the last enters into war against the first two. The Banlieue is emblematic of this “third” territory: but if everywhere is of the metropolis, then its also true that everywhere is of the Banlieue. In the metropolitan extension of Common life, the intensity of the revolutionary imagination of communism-to-come lives.
In the metropolitan struggles, the biopolitical strike defines the principle articulation of the attack strategy that the irreconciliated forms-of-life take against the metropolis of command. Today, the refusal of work cannot be other than the refusal to concede pieces of life, fragments of affections and shreds of knowledge to cybernetic capitalism. Today, struggle against capitalism is the direct removal of bodies from exploitation and attacking revenue, guerrilla warfare against gentrification and violent appropriation of the Common, sabotage of the control devices and destabilization of political and social representation. Likewise, and just as direct, is the wild experimentation in the forms-of-life, liberation of affections, construction of communities, inoculation of happiness and dynamic expansion of desires. Just as bodies – in as much singularity as in population – are the target of the biopolitical police and exploitation, it is only starting from the singularity of bodies that every human, biopolitical, general strike against the metropolis starts: it is in the singularity as form-of-life that holds the Ungovernability that resists biopower.
Capitalist initiative can be anticipated, at least if diffused singular refusal is accompanied by the decision to build a metropolitan organization of autonomous groups able to bring the rebel forms- of-life to become an insurgent multitude. When singularities rise up as a Common body, the Ungovernable can become revolutionary process.
The blocking tactic is essential to the effectiveness of the biopolitical strike when it is seriously done in the metropolis, which is to say when it exceeds specificity and extends everywhere as a paralysis of control, a circulation block, a counterbehavioral virus, a suspension of production and reproduction, an interruption of the communication factory. In other words: impeding the normal course of capitalist valorization. Through blocks it is possible to recognize the generalized nature of the biopolitical strike. The piqueteros of Buenos Aires and the insurgence against the CPE in France highlighted the force and the capacity of organization. Blocks are material signs of the secession of capital and biopower. Every metropolitan block opens other roads, other passages, other lives: the metropolitan block is necessary for the construction and the defense of the exodus.
Sabotage responds to the necessity of unifying government destabilization to command deconstruction and thus reinforces the metropolitan blocks. It intervenes on different levels in metropolitan life: from the anonymous singularity that slows the rhythm of value production- circulation to the punctual and devastating intervention of a declared conflict. In the first case, it is a spontaneous, diffused, anti-work behavior, in the second it is subversive intelligence that diagonally interrupts conflict mediation in the governmentability. The subversive science of the metropolis is therefore also defined as the science of sabotage.
When the biopolitical strike, sabotage and blocking converge the presuppositions for metropolitan revolt are created between them. Metropolitan insurrection becomes possible when the chaining together of specific struggles and the accumulation of revolts make a comprehensive strategy that hits (or overtakes) territories, existences, machines and devices.
Social centers, liberated spaces, houses and communized territories, should be to the political critique of the multitudes and transformed into new Mutual Aid Societies. Just as between the 18th and 19th centuries, these territorial aggregations could provide not only solidarity between individuals, mutuality between forms-of-life and organization for both specific and general struggles, but also to the singularity's and the community's texture of conscience in that they are both oppressed and exploited. The Common, as a political act, is therefore born as a process in which the friendship and mutuality between those who are deprived transforms itself into a resistance commune. Today, every socialized space can become that place in which an autonomous organization in and against the metropolis is condensed from their rebellious intensity. Temps, workers, gays, students, women, lesbians, teachers, immigrants, queers, children – everyday singularities must be able to refer to these spaces to create revolutionary forms-of-life and organize themselves in so that they are unassailable by the biopolitical police. Common elements – like mutual aid funds, minor knowledges, shared housing, community gardens and parks, autonomous production and reproduction tools, passions and affections – should be salvaged, invented, built, and be available to all those who decide to enter into resistance, on strike, or in revolt. The sum of all of these elements will compose, territory by territory, the Commons of the 21st century.
The only security to which non submissive forms-of-life aspire is the end of oppression and exploitation. The material and ethical poverty that the biopower constrains millions of men and women to is the source of the insecurity that reigns in the metropolis and governs over the population. Against this, we can't fall into the loophole of asking for rights, which means more government and therefore non-liberty: the only Common law is created and determined through its revolutionary exercise. Every desire, every need that the forms-of-life of the multitudes are able to express are in their right. In doing so, they lay the law.
Without rupture there is no possibility of bringing the escape routes beyond command. Every rupture corresponds to a declaration of war by the rebel forms-of-life against the metropolitan Empire: remember Genoa 2001. In the metropolis, an asymmetry between biopower and forms-of- life rules, but it is exactly this asymmetry that can become a fundamental weapon in metropolitan guerrilla warfare: the impact between forms-of-life and command creates an excess and, when it is expressed with force and strength, can become revolutionary organization of Common life.
In the metropolis, the articulation and the linking of different forces and not mediation is what pushes their intensity to drive the game of subversive alliances. The construction and the effectuation of the Rostock revolt, against 2007's G8, showed the potency of this “game.” Autonomy, as a strategic indication for the succession from biopower, means the political metropolitan composition of all of the becoming-minor into a becoming-Common, a horizontal proliferation of counter-behaviors dislocated on a single plane of consistence without ever producing a transcendent unit. In the metropolis there is no revolutionary Subject: there is a plane of consistence of subversion that brings each singularity to choose it's part.
The important part of every social metropolitan movement is found in the excess which it produces.
Without a shared language, there is never any possibility of sharing any sort of wealth. Common language is constructed only in and by struggles.
One of biggest dangers for the autonomous forms-of-life is indulgence in the technical separation between life and politics, between managing the existent and subversion, between goods and Common use, between enunciation and material truth, between ethics and blind activism for its own sake. The confusion between what is Common and what is held in property, in individualism and in cynicism, should be defeated in practice, which is to say through an ethic of the Common forged in conflict.
The personal is biopolitical, politics are impersonal.
The metropolitan architectures of autonomy are all horizontal. As such, they adhere to the form-of- organization in all of their constitutive political stances and vice versa. Those of power, in every form and everywhere it is present, are all vertical and that is how they separate individuals from the Common. These architectures are to be deserted, surrounded, neutralized and, when it is possible, attacked and destroyed. The only possible hierarchy in metropolitan autonomy is in the clash with dominion.
The form-of-organization, in the present historical conditions, cannot be other than the form-of-life. It is non-normative regulation of the Common for the Common. Here discipline does not mean other than the Common organization of indiscipline. The form-of-organization is the plane of consistency on which individuals and multitudes, affections and perceptions, reproduction tools and desires, gangs of friends and indocile artists, arms and knowledge, loves and sadnesses circulate: a multitude of fluxes that enter in a political composition that permits everyone's power to grow while, at the same time, diminishes that of the adversary.
In the metropolis, individuals are only the bodily reflection of biopower, whereas singularities are the only living presences capable of becoming. Singularities love and hate while individuals are unable to live these passions if not through the mediation of the spectacle in such a way that they are governed an neutralized even before being able to arrive to the presence. The individual is the base unit for biopower whereas the singularity is the minimum unit from which every practice of liberty can begin. The individual is the enemy of the singularity. The singularity is the most Common we can be.
The moment has come to put the category of “citizenship”, the heredity of an urban modernity that doesn't exist in anywhere, into discussion. In the metropolis, being a citizen means simply reentering in the biopolitical job of governmentability, seconding the “legality” of a State, of a Nation and of a Republic that doesn't exist if not only as ganglion of the Empire's organized repression. The singularity exceeds citizenship. Vindicating one's own singularity against citizenship is the slogan that, for example, migrants write daily with their blood on the Mediterranean coasts, in the CPT in revolt, on the wall of steel that divides Tijuana from San Diego or on the membrane of flesh and cement that separates the Rom bidonvilles from the shamefully sparkling City Center. Citizenship has become the award for faithful allegiance to the imperial order. The singularity, as soon as it can, happily does without it. Only the singularity can destroy the walls, borders, membranes and limits constructed as the infrastructure of dominion by biopower.
Just as capitalist revenue parasitically exploits metropolitan social cooperation, politics coincides with the parasitic revenue of the government on the multitude's forms-of-life: violent or “democratic” extortion of consensus, the privately public use of the Common, and the abusive exercise of an empty sovereignty over society are the ways that political revenue fattens itself in the shade of the global capital skyscrapers. In the metropolis, only the political remains as a possibility of exercising the Common and multitudinarian deadline for its appropriation. One should never do some politics, if to reach the “point of no return”. Politics are always a form of government. The political is, sometimes, revolutionary.
The biopolitical metropolis is administrated exclusively using governance. Social movements, autonomous forces and all those who truly have the desire to subvert the status quo understand that when a struggle begins one should never commit the fatal error of going straight to negotiate with governace, sit at it's “tables”, accept its forms of corruption and thus become its hostage. On the contrary, it is necessary right from the beginning to impose the battleground, the deadlines and even the modality of struggle on governance. Only when the balance of power is overturned in favor of the metropolitan autonomy will it be possible to negotiate governance's surrender while standing up, on solid legs. The extraordinary insurgence of Copenhagen demonstrates that which is possible, if only one has the courage to take the initiative and persevere as oneself.
In the metropolis, just as work has become superfluous, paradoxically, everyone has to work all the time, intensively, from the cradle to the grave and maybe beyond; evidently the compulsion to work is evermore obviously a political obligation inflicted upon the population so they will be docile and obedient, serially productive of goods and individually occupied in the production in and of themselves as imperial subjects. We vindicate the refusal of work and the creation of other forms of production and reproduction of life that are not burdened under salary's yoke, that are not even linguistically definable by capital, that start and finish with and in the Common. Guaranteed metropolitan income can become a Common fact only when the practices of appropriation and the extension of autonomy over the territory massively impose a new balance of power. Until that moment, it's probable that it will instead be – as, for example, what happens in the local and regional proposals of a so called “citizenship income” – another passage in the fragmentation of the Common and in the hierarchy of the forms-of-life. Moreover, as the autonomous experiences of the '60s and '70s have taught us, it is only when we are effectively capable of putting our very lives in Common, of risking them in the struggle, that any egalitarian vindication has sense. In our history, there has never been an economic vindication that wasn't immediately political: if factory workers said “more salary for all” to mean “more power to all”, today “income for all” means “power shared by all”. As singularities that have chosen to be on the subversive side, we must have the courage to construct and share the Common above all among ourselves. This is what will make us strong.
A new sentimental education is in course in the rebel communities, it's invention and it's microphysical experimentation is on the agenda of every true revolutionary experience that fights against the Empire today. One cannot speak of friendship, of love, of brotherhood and sisterhood, if not as a part inside the strategic advancement of the insurrection against biopower and for the Common. In the same moment in which a friendship comes to exist, that a love becomes a force of the Common, or a gang constitutes itself to fight dominion, their enemy appears on the horizon. The destruction of the capitalist metropolis can only be the fruit of an irreducible love, of the Common effort of all the singularities that will rise up with joy against the priests of suffering and the hired thugs posted to defend the Towers of command. The communism-that-comes will be generated by the forms-of-life of the multitudes that will have chosen the party of the Common against biopower._
 In the original Italian text “della metropoli” here plays on what would usually be “nella metropoli” or literally “in the metropolis”. Taking an alternate approach, the sense could also be rendered in English using “belongs to the metropolis”.
In reference to the minority dense suburbs of Paris, where over the last few years numerous volatile situations have systematically erupted.
 The piquiteros movement was an important factor in the post-economic collapse of Argentina in 2001. The english picket line was adopted but with an additional emphasis on the impermeability of the block.
 In Italian, “centro sociale” specifically refers to type of squat, or occupied abandoned spaces that are converted into self-run collective projects. There are as many variations as there are examples throughout Italian territory, including concert halls, libraries, restaurants, pubs, etc..
 The Italian “diritto” has the double meaning of both “right” (as in a civil right) and “law”. Obviously, law here is not intended to mean some legal procedure but what could be called a Common right.
 The mobilizations against the G8 summit of 2001 in Genoa.
 The Rostock demonstrations were characterized by a veritable mixing of the plurality of variated groups, and the adopting a much more fluid form in respect the usual “bloc” formations. The result was a colorful mass of different tactical expressions that was extremely difficult for the law enforcement bodies to counter. Excess, in all of its forms, is the expression a struggle's truth. What remains after every struggle is always a Common truth.
“Centro di Permanenza Temporanea” litteraly translated would be “Temporary stay center” which is quite misleading: CPT are prison structures used to hold people caught without stay permits, usually destined for deportation.
A bidonville is a small area, usually in abandoned areas of a city, where a migrant Rom population lives, quite similar to migrant camps found in the US.
A reference to the campaign of resistance to the eviction of the Ungerdomshuset collective house in Copenhagen.
~ Support the Tarnac 9 ~
(the 2007 cover of the legendary “Vavel” magazine's “christmas special”, which became one of the main slogans of the 2008 revolt)
“Normality” (read: their normality; the capitalist norm of exploitation, misery, repression and death) is what we are standing up against. This is what we do now, what we have always done, yet in these past days it is something that has become clearer than ever (like writen elsewhere: “sometimes, tear gas can make you see better”). There were so many of us now that normality faced a new fear: a fear that it might soon be a normality no more. This is when the normal panicked and called the exceptional to its defense. The assassination was called “an exception” or even, as the assassin's lawyer claimed, “a misunderstanding”. But the people only got more enraged by their lies. So they brought in “exceptional measures”: Thousands of the occupation army of murderers and torturers (aka, the greek police) flood the streets while the threat of an army intervention, a state of exception or the lifting of the academic asylum was hanging over our heads. And yet it wouldn't be that easy for them, not this time round. What we had was an army of the frantic, of the desparate, of all those who wanted to shatter and smash the frame in which normality wouldn't let them fit. “The first stone is for Alexandros, the rest are for us”. Things were getting way too serious, way out of control. Another exception is now called in: They tell us these days are special, they are “holy”, they call for social peace, consumerism and truce. This year there is, indeed, something to celebrate: not the remains of some obscure pagan feast, but a fabulous uprising that is worrying them, and rightly so. Let normality sink in its crisis and we'll be sure to bring it some more fear.
El Libertario, Venezuela
25 Dec, 2008
* Article originally published in spanish language in El Libertario, Venezuela, # 54, September-October 2008, that analyzes and goes over the problem of criminal violence through its social impact on contemporary Venezuela.
All opinion polls conducted in the country agree on one topic: the insecurity is the main problem for the citizens. The numbers of homicides and personal injuries place us, at present, as one of the most dangerous countries on the continent. This situation is particularly felt in the popular sectors, where there are areas with "curfews" imposed by the antisocial. Against this, the government response has been inefficient in dealing with the situation, prioritizing the repressive policies that has been amply demonstrated, are as inadequate as counterproductive.
Despite the magnitude and importance of citizen insecurity, a review of the available literature, as well as speeches by the various political actors, reveals another reality: the absolute incomprehension of the phenomenon. A strange consensus says that efforts should be emphasized in resizing the police. This orphan of vision and speech is particularly visible in the groups of bolivarianos, who reduced the edges of insecurity to the shirt of strength of the ideology. In contrast, the levels of violence experienced by the country lay bare and show our crisis as a society: the absence of a shared project and the absolute erosion of the economic and cultural model based on the oil revenues. An understanding of the different dimensions of the problem would then pave the different ways to reverse it. At the end of the year 2007, the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, an initiative coordinated by the Laboratory of Social Sciences (LACSO) of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), submitted a report which provides the most rigorous effort to understand the genesis of the issue and present figures about its reality. Following is a commented summary on the results found by the team, led by sociologist Roberto Briceño-Leon.
- Building a model for the understanding
On first place, and as the study makes it clear, urban violence is a global problem; that's why it has become a subject of study by different national and multilateral agencies. The model used by the LACSO to explain violence in Latin America, valid to the Venezuelan case, has three levels. The first is structural in nature, dealing with macro social processes of long duration, being considered the one that houses the factors of the origin of the violence. At this high level are six factors: the rise of urban inequality of education and employment, as well as the increase of the social aspirations; the changes in the family structure and the loss of vigour of the Catholic religion as a factor of social control.
In Latin America the gap between rich and poor is the largest in the world. Unlike other continents, there is more poverty and more wealth at the same time, so there is greater inequality than if they were all rich (as in Europe) or all poor (as in Africa). During the 80s, it was a special increase of poverty in the urban areas of the continent. These cities have first offered a greater access to education than in rural areas, so despite the constraints, the numbers for the major Latin American cities showed that 86% of young people had completed their primary education. But this educational improvement has not been translated into better opportunities for their employment or to improve their living standards. The vague and inadequate integration into the society of this mass of school teenagers has been a major source of violence in the region. These young people who are outside the formal labour market have the same expectations than the others who are inside. Unlike previous generations, whose rural origin was transformed by the migration to the cities, young people today-the main victims and protagonists of violence- grew up in a world where the mass culture imposed on them targets of consumption. Therefore, in different social strata, there are similar expectations but there are different possibilities to fulfil them. The family, meanwhile, has weakened in its function of social control by the transformations it has suffered in recent decades. Among the principals of these transformations are the increase of families with a single father or mother and the fact that both must meet a workday away from home. One consequence of this situation is that young people should grow up in the street, available to professional criminals. Finally, religion has ceased to be an inhibiting force to violence, and the decline of its influence has not been replaced by a secular human moral that discourages murderer behaviour.
The second level of the explanatory model of violence is one of medium type in the body of society, with a less structural root than the previous one and where special situations contribute to increased violence by encouraging a kind of behaviour that exacerbates it. These situations are segregation and urban density, the market of drug traffic and the patriarchal culture of machismo.
The cities of Latin America grew up very slowly during the early years of the twentieth century, changing drastically in the middle of the 50s. The then rapid and unplanned urbanization generated a high density in the cities, motivating conflict and attacks because of the lack of space for proper development of life and creating territories of tortuous architecture, setting the path to the growth of criminal gangs. At a regional level, in Latin America, men suffer a rate five times higher for homicides than women. The culture of masculinity prevalent in the continent has favoured the violent actions and exposure to violence. This macho culture takes a special dimension during adolescence, a period in which it builds the identity of those who do not want to be the subject of ridicule and disrespect because of show an "inappropriate" behaviour. Thus, the culture of "respect", the recognition of manhood from his peers, becomes relevant, so the characteristic of "being violent" is a way to grow and to have recognition in that context. Ultimately, the market for drugs-far more than their own consumption- has proven to be a great catalyst for violence. The territorial control of the selling spaces, by the sellers, is the source of hundreds of victims on the continent. Moreover, this market brings another dark side: the chain of institutional justice, which is corrupted and neutralized by drug traffickers and promote impunity at all levels.
The third layer of violence is composed of the micro factors, found in the individual, that facilitate violent behaviours, making them more damaging and lethal, enable and empowering them. The first noted by the study is the increase of the possession of firearms in the population; it is estimated in Latin America the existence of between 45 and 89 million weapons in the hands of the civilian population. Secondly excessive consumption of alcohol, which acts as a liberator of inhibition, reducing barriers and repressions that culture has internalized in the individual. Finally a more subjective factor: the incapacity of verbal expression of the feelings. Those who can not express their discomfort with words (a weakness according to the macho culture of Latin America) express it with physical acts. In this way they implement to themselves a mechanism that substitutes their feelings and desires.
- The Venezuelan case
The violence was not a major public health problem in Venezuela until the end of the twentieth century. For several decades the rate of homicides ranged between six and ten deaths per hundred thousand inhabitants, occupying a discrete place in the ranking of violence in the continent. Most of the twentieth century was a period of Venezuelan social upward mobility and improvement of the health conditions of the population, where the dominant role in the economy was the growing oil revenues, that situation reversed in the early eighties, when the so-called "black Friday" opened a crisis extended until today. From this date the society as a whole became more poor, unstable and violent. In two decades homicides were multiplied by ten. In the early eighties the killings did not reach the 1,300 deaths annually. Twenty years later the figure reach up to 13,000 murders. For Briceño-Leon this is the period of the incubation of violence.
The election campaign of 1988 was build with a symbolic debate that sought to relive the years of plenty. Thus the contrast between the image of a populist and distributive candidate and a subsequent president who apply an economy of neo liberal type, led to the social revolt of February 27, 1989, known as the "Caracazo." Subsequently, another major rupture of the social pact were the attempts of coup d'etat of 1992, which, among other consequences, increased criminal violence to the figure of 16, 3 deaths per hundred thousand inhabitants. Between the coups of 1992 and the start of the government of Rafael Caldera, in 1994, the killings nearly double the amount in the country, bringing its rate to 22 victims per hundred thousand people. When, at this period, the barrier of the four thousand murders a year in the country has reached and passed, Venezuela was included in the studies of the Pan-American Health Organization on violence. While the period of President Dr. Caldera brings back some governance to the country, nothing would ever be like before.
In January 1998, during the next election campaign, 4550 murders were committed across the whole country. Six years later the figure was six times as much, 13,288 homicides. Of the 22 victims for every thousand people it rose to 55, an increase that can not be classified as a "normal tendency" or by chance. For researchers in LACSO, the political crisis of recent years has led to violence and, in the other part, the government has been ambiguous on attacking the problem. On the one hand, the presidential speech has suggested justifications for certain crimes, such as theft by necessity, but counterpart's policies have prioritized the punitive aspect. To this picture we need to add the different steps, taken at various levels, to minimize the problem and disguise the statistics. Although they are not the only indicator to take in mind, they do represent a figure to control the totality. During the years 2004 and 2005 authorities did not disclose the numbers of homicides occurred in the country, which is a violation of the right to information present in the Constitution, and hinders any work of social oversight of the public policies on citizen security.
In a context of political violence -symbolic, verbal and real- and the social polarization, gang violence and police violence will tend to increase. However, the dismantling of it all, must pay attention to their social origins and understand that their main breeding ground is poverty and inequality of the population. To live in peace and end violence we would require a real revolution.
[Translation: Julio Pacheco]
El Libertario, Venezuela
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~ Indymedia UK ~
A woman's place has never been just in the home - not even in ancient Greece.
The proof is in an exhibition titled "Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens," a collection of artifacts that correct the cliched idea of Athenian women as passive, homebound nurturers of men and children.
In the display covering Greek life, art and religion, women play important, vibrant roles, as do their goddesses - from lover to priestess to political peacemaker to protagonist of public festivals.
"Today's woman has more in common with the woman of ancient Athens than one imagines," said curator Stella Chryssoulaki. She pointed to a vase showing a group of women who escaped city life, getting together in the countryside for a three-day festival honoring their beloved god Dionysius. They talked and shared lots of wine, leaving their husbands behind.
Contrary to the popular perception of the Athenian female rituals as wild orgies, "there was no sex."
It was a religious rite, but also "a way to get out of the house and talk and exchange feelings," Chryssoulaki said. "It was kind of like group therapy, and then they went home relaxed and ready for the stresses of daily life."
Resentful husbands gave these gatherings a bad name, but actually Dionysius "was a gentle god, both somewhat masculine and feminine," she said.
~ more... ~
"I think we should see today's developments in terms of 1989," he replied. "Back then, it was the Eastern bloc that collapsed under the pressure of economic crisis, and popular movements in the streets. Now we are seeing the same in the West."
"The economic crisis is huge and Greece is showing, I think, the future for what will happen in other countries. We could say that 2009, 20 years on, will see the collapse of Western capitalism."
I asked him if he was not simply looking at the recent unrest through the rose-tinted glasses of an old left-wing romantic.
"Well, yes, of course. I am all of those things you just said," he replied. "But this democracy is failing people and the present revolt is much deeper, it will last much longer, it will affect society much more profoundly."
"It does mean misery... in terms of people losing their jobs, their homes and their pensions. There's going to be a lot of suffering. But at the same time people are reacting, not in a resigned way, but with anger and with action and that's always hopeful."
The unrest across Greece is no longer an outpouring of youthful anger over the "martyrdom" of a schoolboy in the Athens district of Exarchia.
As Mr Garganas explained, for many protesters it is now a vigorous attempt both to topple the conservative government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, and to create waves across Europe.
~ more... ~
26 Dec, 2008
Three weeks have passed since the unprovoked police murder of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens, and the riots engulfing Greece show no sign of abating.
While the student occupations of the capital's three universities (Economics, Polytechnic and the law faculty) are expected to end soon, a major student demonstration has been called for January 9, and the protests, street clashes and seizures of television and radio stations are set to continue in full force.
A Greek blogger wrote this week: "We have a duty to move here, there, anywhere but back to our couches as mere viewers of history, back home to the warmth that freezes our conscience."
The international ripples are also tangible. Solidarity demonstrations and attacks on Greek embassies have taken place around the globe, from Moscow to New York and Copenhagen to Mexico City. Declarations and manifestos issued by student assemblies at Greek schools are almost immediately translated and posted online in English, French, Italian, Turkish and Serbian.
In the first few days of the revolt, bloggers were trying to put together a list of all the solidarity actions taking place, but the task proved impossible: There have been literally hundreds of them; thousands of people have taken to the streets. Last Saturday, a global day of action against police violence saw raucous demonstrations in over 30 cities worldwide.
The corporate press has trotted out various theories to explain the cause of the unrest - frustration with a corrupt government, the global financial crisis, and discontent among Greece's youth, who face meager prospects of secure employment or welfare rights - the riots being a blind reaction to objective conditions.
But all these explanations are in fact decoys intended to silence and ignore the rebels' own declared motivations.
A declaration by the students occupying the Athens School of Economics was quite clear about how they see the issue: "The democratic regime in its peaceful facade doesn't kill an Alex every day, precisely because it kills thousands of Ahmets, Fatimas, Jorjes, Jin Tiaos and Benajirs: because it assassinates systematically, structurally and without remorse the entirety of the third world ....
"The cardinals of normality weep for the law that was violated from the bullet of the pig Korkoneas [the policeman who shot Grigoropoulos]. But who doesn't know that the force of the law is merely the force of the powerful? That it is law itself that allows for the exercise of violence on violence? The law is void from end to bitter end; it contains no meaning, no target other than the coded power of imposition."
Or, in another declaration, this one anonymous: "What do we seek? Equality. Political, economic, social. Between all people. Our possibility of convincing the servile consumers to refuse being commodities and subjects is rather limited. What can we do? Ravage and plunder the market, distribute the goods to everybody, dissolve the myths that support inequality."
These are no single-issue protests or vague grievances. This is full-blooded revolutionary anarchism.
The mainstream media simply cannot stomach the notion that what is happening in Greece is by now a proactive social revolt against the capitalist system itself and the state institutions that reinforce it. It is time to acknowledge that the Greek anarchist movement has successfully seized the initiative after the killing of one of its own, framing the issues in a way that appeals to a larger - albeit mostly young - public.
Few people realize that the Greek anarchist movement is appreciably the largest in the world, in proportion to its country's population. It also enjoys wide social support due to its legacy of resistance to the military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974. Highly confrontational demonstrations are a matter of regularity in Greece. It is practically a bimonthly occurrence for anarchists and police to engage in fiery street battles in Thessaloniki or Athens. The current events are only marked by their breadth and duration, not by their level of militancy.
Another rarely appreciated factor is that Greece is a country in which the security apparatus is normally kept on a relatively tight leash. For example, Privacy International's 2007 assessment of leading surveillance societies found Greece to be the only country in the world with "adequate safeguards" against the abuse of government power to spy on its citizenry. The legacy of the dictatorship has created a lasting image of the police as inherently oppressive, even among the middle class.
Will the riots in Greece lead to an anti-capitalist revolution? Only if the opening they have torn in the social fabric widens and deepens, involving ever-growing sections of society and creating new grass-roots institutions alongside the destruction of the old. This seems unlikely in the short term, as bureaucratic labor unions and the Communist Party attempt to domesticate the revolt and cut their own political coupon with their demand to disarm the police.
But there is no doubt that a new benchmark has been set for what can be expected in Western countries during the coming era of economic depression and environmental decay. European governments will no doubt ratchet up their policies of surveillance and repression in anticipation of growing civil unrest. But that may not be enough to keep the population subdued, as crisis after crisis calls the existing arrangement of power and privilege into question.
Uri Gordon is the author of "Anarchy Alive!: Anti-Authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory" (Pluto Press); www.anarchyalive.com.
~ Haaretz ~
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