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S. Brian Willson
This site contains essays describing the incredible historic pattern of U.S. arrogance, ethnocentrism, violence and lawlessness in domestic and global affairs, and the severe danger this pattern poses for the future health of Homo sapiens and Mother Earth. Other essays discuss revolutionary, nonviolent alternative approaches based on the principle of radical relational mutuality. This is a term increasingly used by physicists, mathematicians and cosmologists to describe the nature of the omnicentric*, ever-unfolding universe. Every being, every aspect of life energy in the cosmos, is intrinsically interconnected with and affects every other being and aspect of life energy at every moment.
*everything is at the center of the cosmos at every moment
All blog entries and essays posted on this site are authored by S. Brian Willson.
“Thank you for your service.” For more than the three decades that I have publicly acknowledged being a veteran, I continue to hear over and over this professed appreciation. Recently I was admitted to the Portland, VA hospital and once completing her medical intake interview the attending physician made sure she thanked me for my service. I cringed. My service? She had left my room before I could compose an honest response. Nothing I did while in my 3 years, 11 months and 17 days of military functioning could be even closely defined as service – not to the US people, not to the people of the world, and certainly not to myself. And the implicit, if not explicit message is a thank you to veterans for preserving “our freedom.”
In 2012 the Pentagon (Department of War) launched a thirteen-year national Vietnam War Commemoration public relations project (until 2025) explicitly designed to justify, glorify and honor the Viet Nam War, including its soldiers. In fact, it is a poorly masked effort to obliterate from our memory the egregiously criminal US war, and the popular GI and citizen opposition to it. This effort has likely made such thank yous a more pronounced ubiquitous policy. Eradicating memory is a long historical pattern of imperial powers.
It is a shame that the public seems unwilling to grasp that virtually all our military adventures are lawless, imperial barbarisms, violently robbing others of their freedom and autonomy enabling the US people to continue living in fantastic opulence justified by a sense of exceptionalism while we callously outsource the consequential pain and suffering inflicted on innocent others and the sacred earth. Our veteran “service” does not protect our “freedoms”, though it does preserve freedom to rob, pillage, and rape, destroying and repressing others devoid of genuine diplomacy or “democracy”.
Since World War II alone, the US military has intervened at the direction of our President, funded by Congress and the US American people, at least 390 times against dozens of sovereign countries in violation of both domestic and international laws while bombing 28 of them, and launching thousands of covert interventions to boot. All have been criminal, conducted with virtual total impunity while murdering and impoverishing millions. A diabolical history beyond comprehension.
My role during the Viet Nam war consisted first of designing security procedures for new weapons systems while sitting in an air conditioned Air Force headquarters office, then later functioning as a night security commander of a US air force base in Viet Nam’s hot and humid Mekong Delta where I was protecting invasive death machines from indigenous attacks enabling infliction of their violent power to destroy inhabited, undefended fishing villages, murdering and maiming thousands of innocents. In effect, I was a complicit cog in a vast murder money-making machine organizing genocide against people I knew virtually nothing about, people simply seeking preservation of their own self-determination from outside imperial, lawless forces. That I was brainwashed and duped is an understatement, but I quickly realized the absurdity and criminality of my participation. Thus, it is painful to hear the persistent “thank yous” which in fact serve only to justify an unthinking continued support of US wars, ad nauseum. This absurd habit of thanking veterans for our service performs a terrible disservice to a genuine search for a truthful national history.
*Known as “The Great War”, World War I ceased with an armistice effective on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” In 1926, Congress passed resolution with the words: “the 11th of November 1918 marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals … and it is fitting that … this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving … designed to perpetuate peace …” A 1938 law made every November 11th a legal holiday to be … celebrated as “Armistice Day.” But sixteen years later, in 1954, following the Korean War, veterans service organizations pressured Congress to strike out the word “Armistice” and insert in its place the word “Veterans.”
PROPOSITION: The USA is a relatively recent nation-state culture. It is an over-sized imperial monster, irredeemable, unreformable, and vertically anti-democratic, enabled by popular obedience & cooperation, even if reluctant, of the vast majority of our non-autonomous population who deeply believe in and materially benefit from manifest destiny, maintained at any cost.
Original wool IS in our eyes
Eurocentric values were introduced into the New World in 1492 when Italian Cristoforo Columbo, sailing under the Spanish flag, invaded the West Indies: “Cruelty never before seen, nor heard of, nor read of” — Bartolome de las Casas, an on-site Spanish priest arriving in 1502 in Hispaniola, describing unspeakable Spaniard behavior (severe, dreadful, vicious, unlimited close-fisted avarice, and barbarisms that “no age can parallel”) inflicted on Indigenous who possessed no vocabulary words to describe such bestiality. (See A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, 1552 by de las Casas).
Wool has never been cleansed from our eyes
I experienced the egregious US version of the Columbus Enterprise in 1969 while in Viet Nam, realizing that invasion was no aberration once learning of the hundreds of US military interventions beginning in the 1790s: “Our business is killing, and business is good.” — Slogan painted on a 9th Infantry Division helicopter in VN’s Mekong Delta. As a consuming nation we enable a pattern of US wars to continue ad nauseum.
1. Rhetoric: Intention and basic values of the Republic of the US are revealed by looking at the rhetoric of Puritans, “Founding Fathers”, basic documents, US politicians, religious leaders, academic pursuits, etc., highlighting our “exceptionalism.”
2. Patterns: Reality of US policy is revealed by carefully examining the patterns of US behavior: At least 560 military interventions have been ordered and publicly funded into more than 100 countries since 1798, always justified with noble sounding rhetoric, in addition to thousands of paramilitary and military operations waged against Indigenous from the 1600s to 1900.
Developing and using Atomic bombs – weapons of cosmic violence – following the wholesale and indiscriminate bombing of concentrated civilian population centers in World War II, launched a deadly militarization of our society and an accompanying huge profit-making enterprise dominating our political economy ever since while demoralizing the Western mind. In effect, the US unconditionally morally surrendered to Nazi and Fascist forces and values.
Thousands of covert operations, all illegal, have occurred since creation of the CIA in 1947. US “Full Spectrum Dominance” has been assured with over 1,000 military installations around the world, Special Forces death squads operating in more than 150 countries, military ships sailing in every seaspace, military planes flying in every airspace, and satellites and weapons launched in outerspace, and insidious myopic propaganda bombarded into our brains every day.
Since our origins, stolen Land by force (Genocide #1), stolen Labor by force (Genocide #2), and stolen Global Resources by force (Genocide #3) have murdered millions, impoverished billions, with total impunity.
3. AWOL: The rhetoric & patterns culminate in the American Way Of Life (AWOL), whereby 4.6% of the world’s people consume at least 25% of the world’s resources on a finite planet, possible only thru massive theft enforced by grotesque violence (imperialism). Even as our society is pathologically narcissistic as a result of believing in its “exceptionalism”, it ironically is annihilating itself and rest of the world. Amazingly, it is our people’s cooperation and addiction to materialism that enables this suicide mission at breakneck speed to continue. The universal energy is desperately begging a spiritual re-discovery of human archetypes of empathy, cooperation, mutual respect, and equity.
Examples of Rhetoric:
John Smith, English adventurer and investor in the southern London Company (Virginia) expedition to Jamestown, VA in 1607, later part of the northern London Company (Plymouth) referred to native Indigenous as “subanimals, more unnatural brutishness than beasts” worthy only of extermination.
William Bradford, a Mayflower Pilgrim, described the Indigenous as savage and brutish men
John Winthrop, severe Puritan lawyer/governor of MA Bay Company, founded a Bible Commonwealth. Believing they were God’s chosen people, he said, “We shall find that the God of Israel is among us… For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us...”
John Underhill, Puritan military commander directing massacre of Pequot Indians in 1637, referred to the Bible justifying the massive killings saying we had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.
John Jay, member of 1st & 2nd Continental Congresses, President of Continental Congress 1778-79, became 1st Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1789-1795): The people who own the country ought to govern it.
George Washington: Indians are like wolves, beasts of prey
Thomas Jefferson: (1) merciless Indian Savages as written in the Declaration of Independence – Jefferson decrying King George III’s policies that endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions, describing precisely our US policy in Viet Nam. (2) Later Jefferson described Indian behavior that oblige us now to pursue them to extermination, or drive them to new seats beyond our reach. He described the new USA as an empire for liberty. (3) Jefferson advocated for preventive war: If the English do not give us the satisfaction we demand, we will take Canada, which wants to enter the union, and when, together with Canada, we shall have the Floridas, we shall no longer have any difficulties with our neighbors, and it is the only way of preventing them.
English Settlers: Indians are brutes, vermin; Note my commander in Viet Nam called Vietnamese vermin, others called them gooks or slopeheads. In the 2000s, US invaders in Iraq & Afghanistan refer to citizens as towel heads, sand niggers, rag head, haji. Demonizing is a universal principle enabling murdering.
US Constitution, a document despite the later added Bill of Rights, is primarily a document protecting private property and commercial enterprises at the expense of human freedom and liberty.
Note: The US American Revolutionary War was a bourgeois revolution preserving an upper class of successful business people and plantation owners desiring freedom from irritating British rules and taxation. In effect, it was a revolt of Brits against Brits assuring inherited land replaced inherited government. Only 56 selected White men signed the 1776 Declaration of Independence, 48 White men the 1778 Articles of Confederation. Of the original 65 White men selected (but not elected) as state delegates to convene on May 14, 1787 for the totally secret Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, only 55 attended, and of those, only 39 signed the final document on September 17, many with reservations. None of these men, many slave owners, all learned and holding sufficient interests, were typical representatives of the colonial population.
James Madison, in the secret 1787 Constitutional debates: Landholders ought to have a share in the government…to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. He described the USA as one of imperial republicanism. He made clear in Federalist Paper #10 (1787) why a strong central government was needed: to curb the demand of a majority faction for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked object.
Continental Army Supreme General George Washington’s orders to General Sullivan, May 31, 1779, during the Revolutionary War described his intentions to completely eliminate the Iroquois:
The Expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians, with their associates & adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more.
I would recommend, that some post in the center of the Indian Country, should be occupied with all expedition, with a sufficient quantity of provisions whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.
But you will not by any means listen to any overture of peace before the total ruinment of their settlements is effected. Our future security will be in their inability to injure us and in the terror with which the severity of the chastisement they receive will inspire them. — [Writings of George Washington. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, XV, pp. 189-93; Drinnon, R. (1980). Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, p. 331].
This order, explicitly or implicitly, established US imperial operating principles: 1. Total War, civilians and combatants alike considered legitimate targets; 2. Preventing/Not Wanting Peace; 3. Preventive and Pre-emptive War; 4. Terror; 5. Torture; 6. Revenge.
General John Sullivan, with Generals James Clinton and Colonel Daniel Brodhead, and their 5,000 troops, dutifully carried out Washington’s orders in September 1779. Sullivan proudly recorded carrying out Washington’s orders to instill “terror” in the Iroquois and “to lay waste all their settlements” in New York State, that their country “may not be merely overrun but destroyed.” The Iroquois Confederacy practiced cooperative agriculture, and was considered the most advanced Indigenous federation in the New World. Sullivan’s troops with their 120 boats, 1,200 pack horses, and 700 cattle, loyally employed a scorched earth policy no less ruthless than General Sherman’s march to the sea during the American Civil War, General Curtis LeMay’s incendiary wasteland bombings of North Korea, 1950-53, or search and destroy missions of US soldiers in Vietnam. In little more than a month (September 1779) the Iroquois were nearly wiped out. This early “manifest destiny” behavior was psychically facilitated by the combination of a “white” ethnocentrism (ethnic superiority) accompanied by a deep racism (fear manifested as hatred) directed toward people of “color,” or those who otherwise looked “different” from white Europeans.
US Senator Thomas Hart Benton (D-MO, 1820-1850): Urged trade and rich commerce with eastern Asia to realize the grand idea of Columbus carrying wealth and dominion with it.
Woodrow Wilson described the theme of the new American century well in a 1907 lecture at Columbia University, six years before he became US president: “Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down … Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.”
During Wilson’s administrations (1913-1921) the US intervened in Latin America more frequently than at any other time in its history. This despite Wilson’s reputation as a progressive, and for his famous Fourteen Points speech of January 8, 1918, in which he promised the adjustment of colonial claims to conform with the wishes and interests of the inhabitants, a representation that encouraged the colonized that they might finally be freed. Ho Chi Minh was one who had taken Wilson’s words very seriously in his efforts to achieve Vietnamese independence from all outside nations, especially France, China, and the United States.
Wilson militarily intervened into Mexico in 1913, 1914, again in1916, and several times in 1918-19; Haiti in 1915 where US Marines remained occupiers until 1934; the Dominican Republic in 1916; Cuba in 1917; and Panama in 1918. Throughout his two administrations he maintained effective military and political control over Nicaragua with the stationing of thousands of Marines. So it must be understood that when a US President is thought to be “progressive” while rhetorically speaking of self-determination for colonized peoples, it must be taken with a grain of salt.
Wilson also engineered the first “Red Scare” (fearing “Bolsheviks”) during World War I against thousands of citizens and residents who vigorously opposed US intervention in the war, including systemic domestic surveillance. Thousands were imprisoned and deported without due process, others murdered with impunity.
George Kennan, director of US State Department’s Policy Planning Staff published a top-secret document in 1948 in which he offered an honest assessment for a successful US imperial policy:
: “…we have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task…is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security…We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction…We should cease to talk about vague and — for the Far East — unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
The United States’ ability to crush authentic popular movements around the world (incorrectly labeled “communists”), was first demonstrated in Korea, 1945-50, serving an important test of success of its “containment” policy (everywhere) articulated first by Truman in 1947, assuring protection of AWOL.
US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and State Dept Asian specialist George Kennan made it clear in 1949 that the ability of the “democratically elected” Syngman Rhee in Korea to suppress the internal threats to his regime was very important for the success of our containment (of “communism”) policy. The “guerrillas” fighting the post-World War II hated US occupation had to be quickly eliminated so that the world could clearly witness Korea’s successful handling of the “communist threat.” The stakes were high in Korea for the US, and the West in general, and the US wanted to make sure that their puppet Rhee would prevail, no matter the cost to the Korean people or to their aspirations for a reunified country. …Everyone is watching how Korea handles the communist threat.
Attorney General Howard McGrath (1949-1952 under Truman) referred to Koreans as rodents
National Security Council 10/2 1948 (NSC-10/2) established Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) as the covert action arm of the CIA, chartered to conduct endless secret destabilizing activities world over as long as the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them, an ultimate declaration of global manifest destiny.
National Security Council Report #68 (NSC-68), United States Objectives and Programs for National Security, April 14, 1950, “United States Objectives for National Security.” An ultimate declaration of US “Manifest Destiny,” NSC-68 formulated a worldview of polarization between two opposing ideologies where the leaders of the United States asserted the unique right and responsibility to impose their chosen “order among nations” so that “our free society can flourish,” that US policy and action must “foster a fundamental change in the nature of the Soviet system.” A global imperial policy was seen as indispensable to protect our belief in ourselves and our way of life. NSC 68 concluded that the assault on free institutions is world-wide and imposes on us, in our own interests, the responsibility of world leadership such that we must seek to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish.
Ideologically speaking, this document articulates well our historical addiction to an imperial psychology that continues to this day. It became clear that following World War II, the United States considered all political and economic sectors or regions of influence that it did not control as being a threat to its global objectives of an integrated political-economic capitalism, i.e., promotion of the grotesquely consumptive American Way Of Life (AWOL).
I. Industrial civilization is on a collision course with life itself. Facilitating its collapse is a deserved and welcomed correction, long overdue. Collapse is inevitable whether we seek to facilitate it or not.
Nonetheless, whatever we do, industrial civilization, based as it is on mining and burning finite and polluting fossil fuels, cannot last because it is destroying the ecosystem and the basis of local, cooperative life itself. It knows no limits in a physically finite world and thus is unsustainable. And the numbers of our human species on earth, which have proliferated from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7 billion today, is the consequence of mindlessly eating oil – tractors, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides – while destroying human culture in the process. Our food system itself is not sustainable. Dramatic die-off is part of the inevitable correction in the very near future, whether we like it or not. Human and political culture has become totally subservient to a near religion of economics and market forces.
Technologies are never neutral, with some being seriously detrimental. Technologies come with an intrinsic character representing the purposes and values of the prevailing political economy that births it. The Industrialism process itself is traumatic. It is likely that only when we experience an apprenticeship in nature can we be trusted with machines, especially when they capital intensive & complicated.
The nation-state, intertwined more than ever with corporate industrialism, will always come to its aid and rescue. Withdrawal of popular support enables new imagination and energy for re-creating local human food sufficient communities conforming with bioregional limits.
II. The United States of America is irredeemable and unreformable, a Pretend Society.
The USA as a nation state, as a recent culture, is irredeemable, unreformable, an anti-democratic, vertical, over-sized imperial unmanageable monster, sustained by the obedience and cooperation, even if reluctant, of the vast majority of its non-autonomous population. Virtually all of us are complicit in this imperial plunder even as many of us are increasingly repulsed by it and speak out against it.
Lofty rhetoric has conditioned us to believe in our national exceptionalism, despite it being dramatically at odds with the empirically revealed pattern of our plundering cultural behavior totally dependent upon outsourcing the pain and suffering elsewhere. We cling to living a life based on the social myth of US America being committed to justice for all, even as we increasingly know this has always served as a cover for the social secret that the US is committed to prosperity for a minority thru expansion at ANY cost. Our Eurocentric origins have been built on an extraordinary and forceful but rationalized dispossession of hundreds of Indigenous nations (a genocide) assuring acquisition of free land, murdering millions with total impunity. This still unaddressed crime against humanity assured that our eyes themselves are the wool.
Our addiction to the comfort and convenience brought to us by centuries of forceful theft of land, labor, and resources is very difficult to break, as with any addiction. However, our survival, and healing, requires a commitment to recovery of our humanity, ceasing our obedience to the national state. This is the (r)evolution begging us.
Original wool is in our eyes: Eurocentric values were established with the invasion by Columbus: Cruelty never before seen, nor heard of, nor read of – Bartolome de las Casas describing the behavior of the Spaniards inflicted on the Indigenous of the West Indies in the 1500s. In fact the Indigenous had no vocabulary words to describe the behavior inflicted on them (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, 1552). Eurocentric racism (hatred driven by fear) and arrogant religious ethnocentrism (self-righteous superiority) have never been honestly addressed or overcome. Thus, our foundational values and behaviors, if not radically transformed from arrogance to caring, will prove fatal to our modern species.
Wool has remained uncleansed from our eyes: I personally discovered the continued vigorous U.S. application of the “Columbus Enterprise” in Viet Nam, discovering that Viet Nam was no aberration after learning of more than 500 previous US military interventions beginning in the late 1790s. Our business is killing, and business is good was a slogan painted on the front of a 9th Infantry Division helicopter in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta in 1969. We, not the Indigenous, were and remain the savages.
The US has been built on three genocides: violent and arrogant dispossession of hundreds of Indigenous nations in North America (Genocide #1), and in Africa (Genocide #2), stealing land and labor, respectively, with total impunity, murdering and maiming millions, amounting to genocide. It is morally unsustainable, now ecologically, politically, economically, and socially unsustainable as well. Further, in the 20th Century, the Republic of the US intervened several hundred times in well over a hundred nations stealing resources and labor, while imposing US-friendly markets, killing millions, impoverishing perhaps billions (Genocide #3).
Since 1798, the US military forces have militarily intervened over 560 times in dozens of nations, nearly 400 of which have occurred since World War II. And since WWII, the US has bombed 28 countries, while covertly intervening thousands of times in the majority of nations on the earth.
It is not helpful to continue believing in the social myth that the USA is a society committed to justice for all , in fact a convenient mask (since our origins) of our social secret being a society committed to prosperity for a few through expansion at ANY cost. (See William Appleman Williams). Always possessing oligarchic tendencies, it is now an outright corrupt corporatocracy owned lock stock and barrel by big money made obscenely rich from war making with our consent, even if reluctant.
The Cold War and its nuclear and conventional arms race with the exaggerated “red menace”, was an insidious cover for a war preserving the Haves from the Have-Nots, in effect, ironically preserving a western, consumptive way of life that itself is killing us. Pretty amazing! Our way of life has produced so much carbon in the water, soil, and atmosphere, that it may in the end be equivalent to having caused nuclear winter. The war OF wholesale terror on retail terror has replaced the “red menace” as the rhetorical justification for the continued imperial plunder of the earth and the riches it brings to the military-industrial-intelligence-congressional-executive-information complex. Our cooperation with and addiction to the American Way Of Life provides the political energy that guarantees continuation of U.S. polices of imperial plunder.
III. The American Way Of Life (AWOL), and the Western Way of Life in general, is the most dangerous force that exists on the earth. Our insatiable consumption patterns on a finite earth, enabled by but a one-century blip in burning energy efficient liquid fossil fuels, have made virtually all of us addicted to our way of life as we have been conditioned to be in denial about the egregious consequences outsourced outside our view or feeling fields. Of course, this trend began 2 centuries earlier with the advent of the industrial revolution. With 4.6% of the world’s population, we consume anywhere from 25% to nearly half the world’s resources. This kind of theft can only occur by force or its threat, justifying it with noble sounding rhetoric, over and over and over.
Our insatiable individual and collective human demands for energy inputs originating from outside our bioregions, furnish the political-economic profit motives for the energy extractors, which in turn own the political process obsessed with preserving “national (in)security”, e.g., maintaining a very class-based life of affluence and comfort for a minority of the world’s people. This, in turn, requires a huge military to assure control of resources for our use, protecting corporate plunder, and to eliminate perceived threats from competing political agendas. The U.S. War department’s policy of “full spectrum dominance” is intended to control the world’s seas, airspaces, land bases, outer spaces, our “inner” mental spaces, and cyberspaces.
Resources everywhere are constantly needed to supply our delusional modern life demands on a finite planet as the system seeks to dumb us down ever more. Thus, we are terribly complicit in the current severe dilemmas coming to a head due to (1) climate instability largely caused by mindless human activities; (2) from our dependence upon national currencies; and (3) dependence upon rapidly depleting finite resources. We have become addicts in a classical sense. Recovery requires a deep psychological, spiritual, and physical commitment to break our addiction to materialism, as we embark on a radical healing journey, individually and collectively, where less and local becomes a mantra, as does sharing and caring, I call it the Neolithic or Indigenous model. Sharing and caring replace individualism and competition.
Therefore, A Radical Prescription
Understanding these facts requires a radical paradigmatic shift in our thinking and behavior, equivalent to an evolutionary shift in our epistemology where our knowledge/thinking framework shifts: arrogant separateness from and domination over nature (ending a post-Ice Age 10,000 year cycle of thought structure among moderns) morphs to integration with nature, i.e., an eco-consciousness felt deeply in the viscera, more powerful than a cognitive idea. Thus, we re-discover ancient, archetypal Indigenous thought patterns. It requires creative disobedience to and strategic noncooperation with the prevailing political economy, while re-constructing locally reliant communities patterned on instructive models of historic Indigenous and Neolithic villages.
It is instructive to examine Gandhi’s evolution from believing in reform through petitioning the entrenched oligarchic governments of both India and England, bolstered by satyagraha actions, toward (1) more selective and strategic noncooperation while (2) systematically creating thousands of self-reliant communities, areas often roughly defined by bioregional watersheds.
Mahatma Gandhi’s two-prong strategy: (1) strategic noncooperation, and (2) systematic constructive, autonomy program
In the mid-1930s, Gandhi revealed a noticeable and significant shift in his emphasis and thinking. He had been significantly influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894) in which Tolstoy wrote of the power of disassociation from the state altogether while consciously moving toward creation of numerous self-reliant communities. In fact, Gandhi’s life and work became overwhelmingly dominated by his strategies of reconstruction from below, lessening emphasis on civil disobedience and noncooperation (satyagraha), though the latter was always to be entertained when deemed strategically important. The major thrust instead became withdrawing support for the political state while building economically self-reliant communities from below. The spinning wheel was a symbol for achieving autonomy and at the same time a practical appropriate technology, promising creation of local people’s industries and crafts everywhere enabling liberation from dependence upon British textiles and related pervasive policies and attitudes.
Today, the symbol for us westerners might be seeds, a hoe, or a bicycle.
To Gandhi, civil disobedience and noncooperation (satyagraha) was the nonviolent counterpart of guerrilla war, while the constructive program was the counterpart of a parallel society from below similar to the local community structures important in the Mexican, Chinese, and Viet Nam revolutions. Noncooperation and withdrawal of consent, taken by themselves, were woefully ineffective, since they do not feed the hungry or permanently relieve the oppressed. Affirmative action was imperative to actually enable social betterment and justice in every village offering the people authentic local alternatives.
Nonetheless, he believed that satyagraha was always available as deemed strategically necessary, stressing its goal of conversion and moral transformation, not retribution. He rejected western materialist values and industrialism. Achievement of political independence required a structural and moral reconstruction of society from below (decentralization) through swaraj (self-rule, self-organizing, local responsibility), centered on economic renewal of autonomous village life through swadeshi (self-making, local reliance, decentralization), guided by a sense of justice, or sardovaya (social uplift for everyone).
Historically withdrawal of support from vertical power was a major factor in the collapse of the Mayan civilization @ 900 AD. The massive class of workers simply walked away under their own steam, abandoning their increasingly enslaved conditions while the Mayan rulers became more greedy and demanding. They literally fled to the mountains where they lived on a mix of farming and foraging, and the Mayans alive today are a testament to their commitment to survive freed from slavery. [see Beyond Civilization: Humanities Next Great Adventure by Daniel Quinn (NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999), pp. 41, 82, 91, 95, 98, 99; and The World Without US by Alan Weisman (NY: St. Martins Press, 2007), pp. 227-229].
In 1933, Gandhi founded the weekly newspaper, Harijan, to concentrate on social and economic issues, directly addressing and empowering the impoverished (untouchables). Growing contempt for the pattern of tyrannical state power led to his resignation from the Indian Congress in September 1934, in effect retiring from active involvement in state electoral politics in order to serve better the poor, to transform society from below, and to develop village industries and crafts. In 1935 he inaugurated the All-India Village Industries Association. In 1936 he created the Sevagram Ashram as a model village of service. He increasingly talked about the “constructive program” in addition to satyagraha (noncooperation and civil disobedience to unjust laws).
His political struggle thus significantly shifted toward the constructive work or program to transform society from below, reviving the economic strength of self-reliant, self-contained village cultures, actually hundreds of thousands of them in a decentralized federation.
The constructive program was as effective a path to altering political power as noncooperation. Noncooperation served to drain power away from the oppressor but the constructive program generated power in the hands of the villagers/resisters. In effect, rebuilding self-reliance from below served both to undermine support for the state while empowering local people to become autonomous. Today, we might talk of re-constructing local self-reliant, food and simple tool sufficient communities in watersheds or bioregions.
PRACTICAL Ingredients for constructing society from below (invisible resistance)
Some guiding mantras: less and local; contraction, relocalization, and conservation; small and slow are beautiful; sharing and caring in conscious community; autonomy and bioregional sufficiency; simplicity; transition from carbon economy to a non-carbon local one; steady state/subsistence; community essentially replaces national currency
Practice Examples for starters: Behavior shifts toward choosing independence from corporate made products and services from afar by re-discovering what I call the local/bioregional Neolithic or Indigenous model, where living in cooperative food- and simple tool-sufficient communities (thousands of them) becomes literally essential for survival with dignity:
* eating local, bioregionally produced food – CSAs, farmer’s markets, co-ops, home gardens (the 100 foot diet, the 100 mile diet;
* practicing permaculture (permanent culture); permaculture consciously practices harmonious integration with nature’s design – growing food; providing low tech energy, shelter, and transportation; building cooperative local community; and seeking all material and spiritual needs in a sustainable way.
* Community complementary currency and LETS (local-exchange trading system);
* switch any extra monies from banks & stock market to community credit unions/locally owned banks;
* reducing dependence upon or eliminating personal credit cards;
* living simply and below taxable levels, or practicing outright tax refusal;
* consciously increasing face-to-face conversations to replace many of our electronic-facilitated ones;
* create/participate in local, neighborhood resilience and transition support committees everywhere;
* transitioning to simpler technology in order to dramatically reduce our dependence upon grid electricity (which is generally dependent upon burning fossil fuels or processing uranium);
* buying used, not newly manufactured goods;
* bicycling and walking rather than driving cars; public transportation including trains rather than cars;
* cease flying (most intensive polluting and energy consuming form of travel per passenger mile)
* cooperatives as worker’s alternatives to being wage slaves;
* rainwater collection;
* composting everything organic, including our food waste, garden material, urine, and poop;
* design with passive solar concepts;
* heating with local dry firewood;
* community cob ovens;
* etc; etc.
Conclusion: It becomes critical to consciously practice local community as we cease using fossil fuels – stop flying, stop driving, stop burning natural gas and coal, dramatically reducing electricity use, etc. The massive proliferation of personal electronic gadgets and computers require generation of electrons, mostly by burning fossil fuels or processing uranium. The precious metals needed in manufacture of electronic gadgets are mined and manufactured by gruesome exploitation of various human cultures and the earth’s ecosystem. Radically downsizing our highly consumptive lives has become literally essential, i.e., living radically simpler lives re-discovering ancient practices of locally sharing with others. We moderns are equally the problem, and the solution. We are living in an evolutionary moment where a leap in eco-consciousness becomes the missing element for our survival. An eco-consciousness innately seeks to live within the carrying capacity of a finite Mother Nature in each bioregion where we live.
Resources – There are hundreds of resources relating to nonviolence and Gandhi. My emphasis here is to reveal Gandhi’s shift to the more important, as he saw it in the 1930s, building the constructive program from below. Here are some selected, relevant resources:
*DVD Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh documentary by Helena Norbert Hodge, Green Planet Films, Corte Madera, CA, about the Ladakh people in the Himalayas who lived peacefully for centuries and reveals what happens to their culture in just one generation of “development.”
*DVD Why Kerala, Grampa? documentary by Tom Chamberlin, Portland, OR, about the amazing development of thousands of relatively self-reliant communities communicating with each other in the state of Kerala, one of the 28 states of India.
*DVD The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil documentary by Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, Yellow Springs, OH
*“Gandhi’s Three Pillars of Freedom Are the Key To Our Survival,” interview of Vandana Shiva by David Barsamian, YES Magazine, Summer 2009. Note: The three pillars: (1) Swadeshi – self-making, local-reliance, decentralization; (2) Swaraj– self-rule, self-organizing, local responsibility; (3) Satyagraha– civil disobedience, noncooperation, withdrawal of consent. System change doesn’t happen at the system level; it happens by enough people wherever they are making changes that they want to see.
*“Gandhi’s Constructive Program – And Ours”, by Joanne Sheehan, Peacework, Issue 368, Sept 2006 (http://www.peaceworkmagazine.org/gandhi-s-constructive-program-and-ours)
*CONSTRUCTIVE PROGRAMME: It’s Meaning and Place by M. K. Gandhi (http://www.gandhi-manibhavan.org/gandhiphilosophy/philosophy_consprogrammes_bookwritten.htm)
*The Kingdom of God Is Within You by Leo Tolstoy (1894; Lincoln, NE: Univ of Nebraska Press, 1984).
*The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People by Jonathan Schell (NY: Metropolitan Books, 2003), Chapter 4, “Satyagraha”, pp. 103-142.
*Gandhi by Peter Ruhe (NY: Phaidon Press, 2001), “Introduction”, pp. 6-11.
*The Politics of Obedience: A Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Etienne De La Boettie (@1552 or 1553, Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1997).
*Gandhi Today: The Story of Mahatma Gandhi’s Successors by Mark Shepard (Wash., DC: Seven Locks Press, 1987), pp. 5-8, 13-14, 42-43.
*Gandhi: All Men Are Brothers, Autobiographical Reflections, ED Krishna Kripalani (NY: Continuum, 1984), p. 183.
*Gandhi: A Memoir by William Shirer (NY: Washington Square Press, 1979), p. 213.
*For Pacifists by M.K. Gandhi (Ahmedabad-14: Navajivan Press, 1949), pp. 124-128.
Modern human travel assumes faster is better, signaling “progress,” which assumption is result of the one century blip of the fossil fuel revolution burning stored sunlight (carbon) that took millions of years to form in the ground. The blip will NOT repeat.
This assumption is riddled with delusions: (1) that these energy “resources” are infinite. Of course, the Planet is finite and many will be depleted in our lifetime; (2) that extracting and burning these resources are necessary and benign. Extraction is extremely energy/capital intensive preempting biocracy* as it severely damages the ecosystem (i.e., us). Burning these resources creates fatal consequences for all life, threatening climate instability equaling nuclear winter. [*Biocracy incorporates nature into all cultural policies. Democracy is a conspiracy of humans against nature as if humans are not intrinsically nature]; (3) that moving faster is desired. In fact, traveling faster impairs individual and community awareness of egregious consequences of fast movement while preventing important experiential inputs on one’s journey; (4) that the energy embedded in complex transportation and communication technologies can be ignored. When incorporating embedded energy into the equation, most renewables are not sustainable.
When calculating energy consumed and pollution emitted for every passenger mile of airline travel, I chose to stop flying. Though not as onerous, car travel nonetheless is nearly as polluting and energy devouring. Being addicted to moving our 150-200 pound weight in 4,000 pound vehicles spewing carbon molecules equivalent to particles of mass destruction threatening all Planetary life is just plain absurd, and ecocidal.
Extracting, manufacturing and burning finite raw materials to provide our monstrous air and land “tanks” is producing massive negative net energy sinkholes.
LESS AND LOCAL
Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years in small, locally cooperative food and simple tool sufficient communities, that is, until the advent of hierarchical, patriarchical power complexes called “civilization” some 6,000 years ago. We are now staring at a huge “correction” from having dangerously exceeding the restrictions of finite systems, and destroying the diverse, sacred interconnected natural world. Our survival begs re-discovery of our ancient eco-consciousness where life is experienced in smaller, slower, and simpler rhythms, living locally and cooperatively with less.
Cultural historian Ivan Illich (1926-2002) concludes that “high speed is the critical factor which makes transportation socially destructive” [“Energy and Equity,” 1973]. He suggests that social health is maintained when moving weight at efficient bicycle speed, or about 15 mph. Moving faster hinders social and economic equity as it increases scarcity of both time and space. It saves time for some as it forces others to lose it, increasing class-based inequities.
My primary bioregional transportation is my arm-powered handcycle – traveling nearly 60,000 miles over 14 years, riding at 10-12 mph. Moving slowly without a surrounding cage is a dramatically different experience than moving faster in an airplane or car. It not only aids in promoting physical and mental health, it facilitates community conversations while expanding sensitivities to our larger nature as we journey without burning fossil fuels.
High tech, high speed modern lifestyles have dramatically shaped our thought patterns, language, values, and living habits around unsustainable bigger and faster addictive practices. Human powered movement represents a dramatic metamorphosis from a noisy, fumy car society to a more quiet, sustainable bicycle one. This is as radical as the metamorphosis that occurs in the chrysalis cacoon woven by the devouring caterpillar that fiercely resists its transformation into a nearly weightless, cross-pollinating butterfly. It is up to us to re-discover that we are part of nature, living lightly and responsibly.
Veterans For Peace Chapter 72, Portland, Oregon
July 11, 2013
The Grotesque Injustice of Guantánamo: An Insiders’ Account
The illegality, immorality and inhumanity of the U.S. Naval Detention Center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is the focus of a special presentation on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:00 PM in the Buchan Room, First Unitarian Church, 1226 SW Salmon Street, Portland, Oregon. After being incarcerated with no charges and no trial for more than a decade, subjected to inhumane conditions and treatment considered by international observers to be torture, 166 detainees from more than 25 Middle Eastern and Asian countries remain in captivity at Guantánamo. An examination of this horrendous reality will be provided by experts with intimate knowledge of conditions at the infamous detention center.
**Steven T. Wax, chief Federal Public Defender for the District of Oregon, is considered one of the premier defenders in the nation with expertise in habeas corpus. He oversaw a legal team representing a number of the kidnapped Guantánamo prisoners, including Sudanese hospital administrator Adel Hamad, and successfully defended Portland lawyer Brandon Mayfield who was arrested in the U.S. global “war on terror” as a material witness to bombings in Spain based on the FBI’s grossly mistaken fingerprint identification. A graduate of Harvard Law School and a former law instructor at Lewis & Clark College, he is author of Kafka Comes to America: Fighting for Justice in the War on Terror (Other Press, 2008).
**Laura Sandow, a U.S. Navy veteran, was serving at the Guantánamo Naval Base when the first detainees were brought there from the Middle East and Asia in 2001-2002. Her story is featured in comic strip form in the June 2013 issue of Symbolia, a new electronic magazine designed for tablet.
**S. Brian Willson, former commander of a security unit in Viet Nam, trained lawyer and criminologist, and long-time peace activist, recently participated in a hunger strike in Portland in solidarity with Guantánamo hunger strikers. He is author of Blood On The Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson (PM Press, 2011).
**Tentative Teleconference Panelists TBA
**Portland journalist Sarah Mirk will moderate the discussion.
Suggested sliding-scale donation of $5 to $20. No one turned away for lack of funds. Doors open 6:30 pm.
The event is cosponsored by Veterans For Peace Portland Chapter 72, First Unitarian Church of Portland’s Social Justice Council and Economic Justice Action Group….[much longer list to come].
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