By Rob Kall
Let’s face it, the system is pathologically broken, designed to hurt and exploit the middle class. it is contemptible. The courts are contemptible, the Judges are contemptible, the politicians– almost all of them– are contemptible, the political parties are contemptible. The mainstream media are contemptible. The vast legion of police and police leaders who violate the law or protect lawless cops are contemptible. The laws that are passed by lobbyist-bought or intolerant fundamentalist influenced politicians are contemptible.
So where do we turn to fight back, to bravely move forward towards hope and progress?
First, we don’t put all our eggs in the electoral basket. That is a delusional idea. Okay, so vote, even donate to really strong progressive candidates. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that any effort or donations to electoral activity is enough. Consider electoral action to be comparable to lightly tapping the brakes on a deadly car crash that is already under way.
The fact is the system is not only toxic and broken, it is biting back aggressively at people who speak out in the ways that people fighting for democracy have traditionally fought back. Chris Hedges says,
” All acts of resistance–including nonviolent protest–have been conflated by the corporate state with terrorism. The mainstream, commercial press has been emasculated through the Obama administration’s repeated use of the Espionage Act to charge and sentence traditional whistle-blowers.”
Hedges wrote, last year, about Jeremy Hammond, before he was convicted and sentenced for hacking:
” He said he is fighting as “an anarchist communist” against “centralized state authority” and “exploitative corporations.” His goal is to build “leaderless collectives based on free association, consensus, mutual aid, self-sufficiency and harmony with the environment.” It is essential, he said, that all of us work to cut our personal ties with capitalism and engage in “mass organizing of protests, strikes and boycotts.” Hacking and leaking, he said, are part of this resistance–“effective tools to reveal ugly truths of the system.”
And further discussing Hammond, Hedges says,
” He said resistance must be a way of life. He intends to return to community organizing when he is released, although he said he will work to stay out of prison. “The truth,” he said, “will always come out.” He cautioned activists to be hyper-vigilant and aware that “one mistake can be permanent.” But he added, “Don’t let paranoia or fear deter you from activism. Do the down thing!”
if you want work towards a positive future– one that supports social, economic and ecological justice, fairness and safety– you must stand up to the system– hack it, whistleblow it, expose it, resist it, defy it, undermine it and do all you can every day to wake people up to the malignant, pathological threat assault THEY and their families and communities are currently being subjected to.
James C. Scott, anarchist scholar and Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology at Yale University. writes, in his book, Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity and Meaningful Work and Play
“One day you will be called upon to break a big law in the name of justice and rationality. Everything will depend on it. You have to be ready. How are you going to prepare for that day when it really matters? You have to stay “in shape” so that when the big day comes you will be ready. What you need is “anarchist calisthenics.” Every day or so break some trivial law that makes no sense, even if it’s only jaywalking. Use your own head to judge whether a law is just or reasonable. That way, you’ll keep trim; and when the big day comes, you’ll be ready.”
Keith Farnish, author of Undermining and Times Up, talks about how the system systematically engages in a plethora of ways to not only disconnect us but that make us forget that we were connected or desperately need to be connected to be fully human. We have to fight back, but he writes,
“…you can’t attack these great systems, these great structures head on, it’s really not going to work, you’re not powerful enough to do that.
“The only way that we’re going to really get to return humanity to a decent way of living is to look at those tools of disconnection and get people to realize what’s going on. Allow people to be connected again because once you connect people, once you take away all the things that are masking that need that humanity really has to be connected, then you end up with awareness.”
So, to fight disconnection and get people reconnected you have to fight the ways that the system disconnects people from each other and from the positive aspects of community, family and humanity that keep us being fully human.
Farnish says technology keeps us distracted– that people don’t like to hear that almost everything they’ve ever believed in is wrong and they will do everything in their power to retain those beliefs.
“anyone can be an underminer”
“the vast majority of the time I am doing community work which is a form of undermining because what that community work does is allow people to appreciate what’s local to them.”
The thing is Farnish’s goal for undermining goes all the way– to the point that the industrial world is totally undermined and no longer working. That would put people in a situation where they depended entirely on local resources. He says that’s necessary .
“… we need to be looking smaller, yes we need to be banding into communities that are self sufficient, there’s no way we can exist in using any form of mass anything, which is destructive. Therefore we have to start breaking things down into smaller chunks.
We need to be more self controlling. We need to understand that global government and even national government are only in it for the interests of the greater corporate world. But once you start getting local, we call it local government, local administration, then you get a lot more control back. So I can see the argument and that is an inevitable outcome of undermining these great industrial worlds.”
Farnish is not talking about toning things down. He’s talking about shutting them down:
” Greenpeace is saying you can have less damaging technologies, well yes, relatively, 10% less damaging, 20% less damaging, they still screw everything up. They’re still killing the planet.”
The quotes from Keith Farnish come from my interview with him, here. I said,
” I’ve talked for a couple of years now about the idea that when the dinosaurs died it wasn’t that the little tiny mammals, the little mice, the one-foot high horse, the birds, they didn’t attack the giant dinosaurs and replace them; they out-survived them. Think in terms of what you’re talking about here, this dinosaur of industrial corporate civilization.”
” Yes, I can see that. I think it’s a very good metaphor. We have a situation where these dinosaurs, yep I think that’s a good way of, although saying that, I mean, they were natural beings and they were wiped out in a mass extinction event. We’re coming to a massive extinction event, I think this is true, but it’s a mass extinction event caused by something that is entirely unnatural.This idea that you’ve got niches that the people can go into in order to create a new world, yes that’s one way of looking at it but as you say those niches weren’t created until the dinosaurs went. Now, industrial civilization, we can wait for it to collapse if we want. We can say, okay we’ll wait it out. But the problem with waiting it out is when it does collapse, there’s nothing left. It’s done so much damage, there’s already this mass extinction event which is inevitable.
Or we can say industrial civilization is something that we have to get rid of before this mass extinction takes place. Before the Earth is in a state that we can no longer live there. Before it collapses while we are totally dependent on it. That’s another side of things because if we remain dependent upon civilization, when it collapses we’re gone as well.
So we have to learn how to start walking away. We have to become less dependent on it. We have to become connected outside of industrial civilization. So the small mammals, the shrew-like creatures, they didn’t do that. They waited it out. There was a mass extinction event, that mass extinction event actually wiped out the vast majority of the shrew-like creatures as well, fortunately there were a few that managed to survive but who knows what might have come about if that mass extinction hadn’t taken place.
I can guarantee that if humans would have been around at the time, they wouldn’t have survived that mass extinction event either. “
And I threw in another ” another biological metaphor into the conversation.
“There are some insects that plant their eggs in another insect or mammal and then when the egg hatch, they consume the living breathing creature, killing it in the process, and I kind of conceptualize that the way towards a future where corporations and industrial civilization are no longer the dominating destroyers is absolutely not one where there is direct confrontation but rather where we begin building alternative infections that grow into positive structures and constructions where they lead to the acceleration of the death of this industrial civilization.”
Keith Farnish relied,
“Yes, I mean I have used the metaphor on the website of spiders spinning their webs in the eaves or mice making their homes under the floor boards, quietly and industriously. You’re quite right. We need to be doing things all the time. We need to be creating communities, we need to become self-sufficient. All of these things need to be taking place as a replacement, as a viable replacement for what is going to go and that’s something that we should be starting now.Regardless of whatever we do, because in a way that is both a method by which we can live in the future and also a way we can undermine the system. So for instance, if you grow your own food, you’re not going to buy your food from the supermarket because you’ll learn to love that food that you’ve grown. You’ll treasure that, you’ll protect that. The supermarket becomes something that’s other worldly. It’s something that other people use.
If people don’t shop at supermarkets then supermarkets close down. That’s a great lump of civilization gone. The mass consumerism, this idea that you can only get your food in approved places of mass consumption…. “
I said to Keith Farnish, in our interview,
“… your book on undermining goes into a lot of detail on many many different ways and different approaches on how to undermine, starting with just a black magic marker and changing the message on a poster to blocking the entrances to shopping malls. They can get very risky or they can get minimally risky but a lot of them involve in some ways breaking the law.”
“Yeah. The law, I think we’ve got to distinguish between what’s legal and what’s lawful here. Laws in, certainly laws in Western countries are, they are statutes, they are things that have been put there by politicians to control you to make sure that you do whatever the system wants you to do. There are certain things like murder, taking someone’s property although you do question where the property came from in the first place, obviously harming someone directly in some way, taking away their liberty, that kind of thing, these common features of human morality, and that’s what I would consider to be a law and they’re the laws by which humans should live.
Yes breaking the law, if we can use that phrase is something that underminers will inevitably do, and it’s incredibly liberating. It’s a wonderful thing. In the vast majority of cases you’re not going to get in any trouble for it if you’re careful and I do provide some instructions on how to be careful but we are going to have to break the law because the laws are about controlling people.
Laws are about benefiting the corporate world and if we’re going to change things then those legal instruments that are being put in place to control people have to be broken apart. They have to be challenged constantly otherwise nothing will change and that is why we have to distinguish between what is lawful? What is something that is naturally right and moral for humans to do and where that overrides what politicians and corporations have put in place to make themselves rich or make themselves powerful.
If you stop a factory polluting the river you could be breaking the law but morally you’re doing the right thing.
So I say to you. What are you doing with the rest of your life? What can you do to make humanity better? What can you do to make the world a little bit better for your children and your grandchildren?
The answer is, a hell of a lot. My hope is that this article will stretch the boundaries of your imagination. You have the potential for a bigger vision and you’ll have to fight for it. Many of the tools of disconnection that Farnish refers to are built to restrict and limit your imagination. You can do ANYTHING. Some of those anythings may cost you more than you are willing to pay. But at the least, please, please expand your view and think of all the possibilities. Snowden was not the first whistleblower. Neither was Daniel Ellsberg.
And please, don’t try to do this alone. Connect, connect, connect. That’s the way bottom-up change is made to happen. Simply connecting in new ways to the same or new people in your communities can be revolutionary, can be undermining can be resistance. Like Jim Scott says. Do something every day. Raise your voice. Expose the lies of the dominating system. Take public the secrets that the billionaires, the corrupt politicians hold tight. Refuse! Refuse to follow the rules that most people accept as mandatory. A few years back police were arresting people who shot videos or photos of them. But people kept at it, exposing their acts, rejecting their orders to stop, REFUSING to give up their rights. Now, not only has the law made it clear that you CAN videotape police, but the police are beginning to record themselves. I’m sure it will be a battle, getting public access to ALL police recordings. But it could happen. Stand up and refuse. In his brilliant book, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, James C. Scott says, “Any public refusal, in the teeth of power, to produce the words, gestures, and other signs of normative compliance is typically construed– and typically intended — as an act of defiance.” Scott points out, “ON very rare occasions when what has been orchestrated as a mass public demonstration of domination and enthusiastic consent erupts into a public display of repudiation from below, the ‘formidable shadow of general impotence’ becomes what can only be described as a symbolic rout.”
We’re talking about parades, ceremonies, public events. Even a moment of televised disruption can open the consciousness of millions and expose the lie of of power and the vulnerability of the elites running the performance. This can be highly planned, like Medea Benjamin did when she interrupted President Obama, or it can be spontaneous, when you discover an unexpected opportunity. I interviewed Medea on how to do it, here.
One last thing. Don’t get stuck with absolutism. You don’t have to change your life completely. Your organization does not have to totally change. Every resistant, undermining, bottom-up step you take as a conscious act contributes to progress. It may take thousands or millions of people doing millions or billions of small acts. But that’s possible. It is the ONLY way that most of the changes in the world happen. Matter of fact, don’t expect your single action will be THE one. Consider your acts to be like drops of water eroding a massive edifice.
Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect of OpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), and publisher of Storycon.org, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor . He is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com
Listen to over 200 of Rob’s Podcast interviews here.