WE WILL NOT BE SILENT EMBODY THE MESSAGE: OCCUPY THE MND

26Jan/13Off

The Future After the End of the Economy: Franco Berardi Bifo

At the end of 2010, I finished writing a book about the cultural collapse of the most important mythology of capitalist modernity: that of “the future” and its associated myths of energy, expansion, and growth.1 While I was writing, I sensed a possibility that the economic crisis could be deepening. But what actually happened in the summer of 2011—the extraordinary crash of global financial capitalism and the beginning of the European insurrection that exploded in London, Athens, and Rome in December 2010 and then grew massive in England during the four nights of rage in August, and which I expect to spread everywhere in the coming months—this has pushed me to write something more. Alas, writing about the present is a dangerous thing when circumstances change so quickly. But I cannot deny the thrill of running alongside the disaster.

—Franco Berardi, August 19, 2011

1. Economics is Not a Science

It is the end of summer 2011 and the economic newspapers increasingly warn that there will be a double dip. Economists predict a new recession before there can be a recovery. I think they are wrong. There will be a recession—on that I agree—but there will be no more recoveries, no return to the process of constant economic growth.

To say this in public would be to invite accusations of being a traitor, a cynic, a doomsayer. Economists will condemn you as a villain. But economists are not people of wisdom, and I do not even consider them scientists. They are more like priests, denouncing the bad behavior of society, asking you to repent for your debts, threatening inflation and misery for your sins, worshipping the dogmas of growth and competition.

What is a science after all? Without embarking on epistemological definitions, I would simply say that science is a form of knowledge free of dogma, that can extrapolate general laws from the observation of empirical phenomena, and that can therefore predict something about what will happen next. It also a way of understanding the types of changes that Thomas Kuhn labeled paradigm shifts.

As far as I know, the discourse known as economics does not correspond to this description. First of all, economists are obsessed with dogmatic notions such as growth, competition, and gross national product. They profess social reality to be in crisis if it is does not conform to the dictates of these notions. Secondly, economists are incapable of inferring laws from the observation of reality, as they prefer instead that reality harmonize with their own supposed laws. As a consequence, they cannot predict anything—and experience has shown this to be the case in the last three or four years. Finally, economists cannot recognize changes in the social paradigm, and they refuse to adjust their conceptual framework accordingly. They insist instead that reality must be changed to correspond to their outdated criteria.

In the schools of economics and in business schools they do not teach or learn about physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy—subjects that deserve to be called sciences, that conceptualize a specific field of reality. Rather, these schools teach and study a technology, a set of tools, procedures, and pragmatic protocols intended to twist social reality to serve practical purposes: profits, accumulation, power. Economic reality does not exist. It is the result of a process of technical modeling, of submission and exploitation.

The theoretical discourse that supports this economic technology can be defined as ideology, in the sense proposed by Marx—who was not an economist, but a critic of political economy. Ideology is in fact a theoretical technology aimed at advancing special political and social goals. And economic ideology, like all technologies, is not self-reflexive and therefore cannot develop a theoretical self-understanding. It cannot reframe itself in relation to a paradigm shift.

Hendrik Gerritsz Pot, Flora’s mallewagen , c. 1640. Oil on panel. The painting is an allegory of the Tulip Mania, a first speculation bubble in 17th Century Holland. The goddess of flowers is riding a wagon headed to the sea, adorned by the most valuable tulip in the market. Weavers from Haarlem have thrown away their equipment and are following the car.

2. Financial Deterritorialization and Labor Precarity

The development of productive forces, as a global network of cognitive labor that Marx called the “general intellect,” has provoked an enormous increase in the productive potency of labor. This potency can no longer be semiotized, organized, and contained by the social form of capitalism. Capitalism is no longer able to semiotize and organize the social potency of cognitive productivity, because value can no longer be defined in terms of average necessary work time. Therefore, the old forms of private property and salaried labor are no longer able to semiotize and organize the deterritorialized nature of capital and social labor.

The shift from the industrial form of production to the semiotic form of production—the shift from physical labor to cognitive labor—has propelled capitalism out of itself, out of its ideological self-conception. Economists are dazzled by this transformation, as knowledge that had previously been structured according to the paradigm of bourgeois capitalism: linear accumulation, measurability of value, private appropriation of surplus value. The bourgeoisie, which was a territorialized class (the class of the bourg, of the city), was able to manage physical property and a measurable relation between time and value. The total financialization of capital marks the end of the old bourgeoisie and opens the door to a deterritorialized and rhizomatic proliferation of economic power relations. Now the old bourgeoisie no longer has power. They have been replaced by a proliferating virtual class—a deterritorialized and pulverized social dust rather than a territorialized group of persons—usually referred to as the financial markets.

Labor undergoes a parallel process of pulverization and deterritorialization not only in the loss of a regular job and a stable income, but in the precarious relationships between worker and territory. Precarization is an effect of the fragmentation and pulverization of work. The cognitive worker, in fact, does not need to be linked to a place. His or her activity can be spread in non-physical territory. The old economic categories—salary, private property, linear growth—no longer make sense in this new situation. The productivity of the general intellect in terms of use value (i.e., the production of useful semiotic goods) has virtually no limits.

So how can semiotic labor be valued if its products are immaterial? How can the relationship between work and salary be determined? How can we measure value in terms of time if the productivity of cognitive work (creative, affective, linguistic) cannot be quantified and standardized?

The psychology of fear in the stock market. Still from the CBS Evening News story.

3. The End of Growth

The notion of growth is crucial in the conceptual framework of economic technology. If social production does not comply with the economic expectations of growth, economists decree that society is sick. Trembling, they name the disease: recession. This diagnosis has nothing to do with the needs of the population because it does not refer to the use value of things and semiotic goods, but to abstract capitalist accumulation—accumulation of exchange value.

Growth, in the economic sense, is not about increasing social happiness and satisfying people’s basic needs. It is about expanding the global volume of exchange value for the sake of profit. Gross national product, the main indicator of growth, is not a measure of social welfare and pleasure, but a monetary measure, while social happiness or unhappiness is generally not dependent on the amount of money circulating in the economy. It is dependent, rather, on the distribution of wealth and the balance between cultural expectations and the availability of physical and semiotic goods.

Growth is a cultural concept more than an economic criterion for the evaluation of social health and well-being. It is linked to the modern conception of the future as infinite expansion. For many reasons, infinite expansion has become an impossible task for the social body. Since the Club of Rome published the book The Limits to Growth in 1972, we have understood that Earth’s natural resources are limited and that social production has to be redefined according to this knowledge.2 But the cognitive transformation of production and the creation of a semiocapitalist sphere opened up new possibilities for expansion. In the 1990s the overall economy expanded euphorically while the net economy was expected to usher in the prospect of infinite growth. This was a deception. Even if the general intellect is infinitely productive, the limits to growth are inscribed in the affective body of cognitive work: limits of attention, of psychic energy, of sensibility.

After the illusions of the new economy—spread by the wired neoliberal ideologists—and the deception of the dot-com crash, the beginning of the new century announced the coming collapse of the financial economy. Since September 2008 we know that, notwithstanding the financial virtualization of expansion, the end of capitalist growth is in sight. This will be a curse if social welfare is indeed dependent on the expansion of profits and if we are unable to redefine social needs and expectations. But it will be a blessing if we can distribute and share existing resources in an egalitarian way, and if we can shift our cultural expectations in a frugal direction, replacing the idea that pleasure depends on ever-growing consumption.

Stock image for business and finance themes.

4. Recession and Financial Impersonal Dictatorship

Modern culture has equated economic expansion with the future, so that for economists, it is impossible to consider the future independently of economic growth. But this identification has to be abandoned and the concept of the future rethought. The economic mind cannot make the jump to this new dimension, it cannot understand this paradigm shift. This is why the economy is in crisis and why economic wisdom cannot cope with the new reality. The financial semiotization of the economy is a war machine that daily destroys social resources and intellectual skills.

Look at what is happening in Europe. After centuries of industrial production the European continent is rich, with millions of technicians, poets, doctors, inventors, specialized factory workers, nuclear engineers, and so forth. So how did we suddenly become so poor? Something very simple happened. The entirety of the wealth that workers produced was poured into the strongboxes of a minuscule minority of exploiters and speculators. The whole mechanism of the European financial crisis is oriented towards the most extraordinary displacement of wealth in history: from society towards the financial class, towards financial capitalism.

The wealth produced by the collective intelligence has been siphoned off and expropriated, leading to the impoverishment of the richest places in the world and the creation of a financial machine that destroys use value and displaces monetary wealth. Recession is the economic way of semiotizing the present contradiction between the productive potency of the general intellect and its financial constraints.

Finance is an effect of the virtualization of reality acting on the psycho-cognitive sphere of the economy. But at the same time, finance is an effect of the deterritorialization of wealth. It is not easy to identify financial capitalists as individual persons, just as finance is not the monetary counterpart of a certain number of physical goods. Rather, it is an effect of language. It is the transversal function of immaterialization and the performative action of indexicality—statistics, figures, indexes, fears, and expectations are not linguistic representations of some economic referent that can be found somewhere in the physical world, as signifiers referring to a signified. They are performative acts of speech producing immediate effects in the very instant of their enunciation.

This is why, when you try to seek out the financial class, you cannot talk with someone, negotiate, or fight against an enemy. There are no enemies, no persons with whom to negotiate. There are only mathematical implications, automatic social concatenations that one cannot dismantle, or even avoid.

Finance seems inhumane and pitiless because it is not human and therefore has no pity. It can be defined as a mathematical cancer traversing a large part of society. Those who are involved in the financial game are far more numerous than the personal owners of the old bourgeoisie. Often unwittingly and unwillingly, people have been dragged into investing their money and their future in the financial game. Those who have invested their pensions in private funds, those who have signed mortgages half-consciously, those who have fallen into the trap of easy credit have become part of the transversal function of finance. They are poor people, workers, and pensioners whose futures depend on the fluctuations of a stock market they do not control or fully understand.

Concept design project by Mac Funamizu for future mobile internet search, 2008.

5. Future Exhaustion and Happy Frugality

Only if we are able to disentangle the future (the perception of the future, the concept of the future, and the very production of the future) from the traps of growth and investment will we find a way out of the vicious subjugation of life, wealth, and pleasure to the financial abstraction of semiocapital. The key to this disentanglement can be found in a new form of wisdom: harmonizing with exhaustion.

Exhaustion is a cursed word in the frame of modern culture, which is based on the cult of energy and the cult of male aggressiveness. But energy is fading in the postmodern world for many reasons that are easy to detect. Demographic trends reveal that, as life expectancy increases and birth rate decreases, mankind as a whole is growing old. This process of general aging produces a sense of exhaustion, and what was once considered a blessing—increased life expectancy—may become a misfortune if the myth of energy is not restrained and replaced with a myth of solidarity and compassion.

Energy is fading also because basic physical resources such as oil are doomed to extinction or dramatic depletion. And energy is fading because competition is stupid in the age of the general intellect. The general intellect is not based on juvenile impulse and male aggressiveness, on fighting, winning, and appropriation. It is based on cooperation and sharing.

This is why the future is over. We are living in a space that is beyond the future. If we come to terms with this post-futuristic condition, we can renounce accumulation and growth and be happy sharing the wealth that comes from past industrial labor and present collective intelligence.

If we cannot do this, we are doomed to live in a century of violence, misery, and war.

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http://www.e-flux.com/journal/the-future-after-the-end-of-the-economy/

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26Jan/13Off

Greed Kills: Wear GREED KILLS in SOLIDARITY with Leah Bolger

Veterans for Peace National President, Leah Bolger, Protests at the Congressional Super Committee.




This powerful video shows Leah Bolger very calmly and courageously addressing the Congressional Super Committee as she eloquently spoke out against military spending and for spending for social needs and a more just society.


Leah walked right past the table of witnesses and directly addressed the Senators. Her shirt read "GREED KILLS." 


She was arrested and now she will be pleading guilty to speaking out to tell the truth. Her trial will begin on April 12, 2012 in Washington, DC. 


Embody the message. Wear GREED KILLS in solidarity with Leah.


Order a shirt here: http://shop.wewillnotbesilent.net/collections/greed-kills/products/greed-kills


Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZVtPhVBM5Q

Tweet GREED KILLS and tag this campaign:

@leahbolger

@VFPNational

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26Jan/13Off

We Will Not Be Silent By Greta Berlin

Last August, I was standing on a wooden bench in Montreal taking photos of the Gay Pride parade. A huge truck rumbled past with LE STUD marked all over it, and a group of big, beefy men carrying construction tools were standing in the back, waving at the crowd. One of them bellowed at me, "Yes"yes"your shirt is perfect. STAY HUMAN. That's what it's all about".thank you"thank you."

 

I was wearing a T-shirt that said STAY HUMAN on the front, one of the shirts that two women, Laurie Arbeiter and Sarah Wellington, had designed for us. We were the U.S. contingent, sailing on the Audacity of Hope along with representatives from 23 countries sailing to Gaza last summer to break Israel's illegal siege on the Palestinians living there. Only the mendacity of the dying Greek government prevented us from going, as Israel and the U.S. outsourced the occupation to the Greeks. Our boat was hauled into a U.S. compound and, to this day, has not been released.

 

So, since Greece prevented us from sailing, we joined the Greek activists and protested every day for four weeks in the streets of Athens. In Syntagma Square, and at press conferences,we wore shirts that said LET US SAIL TO GAZA in Greek and English, UNARMED CIVILIAN, STAY HUMAN and WE WILL NOT BE SILENT in Arabic, Hebrew and English. The shirts went as fast as we unpacked the boxes. Even our Greek captors guarding us in the compound begged to have the shirts LET US SAIL TO GAZA in Greek and said over and over. "We are so sorry. We are only following orders, and, by the way.... can we have a T-shirt?"

The beauty of these shirts is you can see the message many meters away, and they become a topic of conversation every time we wear them, whether in Syntagma Square in Greece or at the many Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

 

On the first night of the Occupy Wall Street protest in Boston, Ridgely Fuller, one of the passengers on board the Audacity of Hope wrote and said, "I just want to give the loudest and continuous shout out for Laurie and Sarah for providing me with a continuous-use wardrobe. Tonight is the first night of Occupy Boston so, of course, I am wearing my GREED KILLS shirt. For the continued occupations, I will constantly wear STAY HUMAN and UNARMED CIVILIAN."

 

Where did this idea come from for these simple messages?

 

"WE WILL NOT BE SILENT" was born as a student-resistance movement in Nazi Germany called The White Rose to inspire acts of resistance and dissent against the Nazis.

 

The students attended the University of Munich and became known for an anonymous leaflet campaign from June 1942 until February 1943 calling for active opposition to dictator Adolf Hitler 's regime.

 

The six core members of the group were arrested by the German secret police and all were executed in 1943. Today, the members of the White Rose are honored in Germany as some of its greatest heroes, since they opposed the Third Reich in the face of death.

 

Fast forward 60 years, to the beginning of the Iraq war, when protestors began to wear WE WILL NOT BE SILENT again. In 2006, an Iraqi-Palestinian, Raed Jarrar tried to board a JetBlue Airways plane at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to go home to California. He was wearing a simple black T-shirt that said, WE WILL NOT BE SILENT in Arabic and English. All his baggage had been checked, and he had been through all security checkpoints. As he was ready to board, two Transportation Security Authority (TSA) officials as well as JetBlue Airways employees surrounded him and prevented him from boarding, until he agreed to cover his shirt. They then forced him to sit at the back of the plane.WWNBS

 

Within 48 hours after Jarrar was stopped from flying, four women, including Laurie, bought tickets on Jet Blue airlines one way to Washington D.C. wearing WE WILL NOT BE SILENT T-shirts in Arabic. Tremendous media and public attention to this egregious case of racial profiling followed. A year after Jarrar was so rudely stopped, the American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, and, in 2009, TSA and the airline agreed to pay him $240,000 to settle charges that they illegally discriminated against a U.S. resident based on his ethnicity.

 

Since then, the shirts have given birth to a movement of over 50,000 people, all wearing those inspiring words emblazoned across their chests.

 

One of the most poignant stories unfolded in July 2006 when Laurie traveled to Germany to protest against George Bush as he arrived to meet Angela Merkel in Stralsund. The night before, Israel had begun a bombing campaign and invasion of Lebanon. Within an hour of arriving in Stralsund, over 50 people in the town, from a thirteen-year old boy to an eighty-six year old woman, put on the WE WILL NOT BE SILENT T-shirt.

 

Months later, a young Israeli activist traveled to New York City and sought out the artists behind the project.

 

She was given as many shirts as she could carry back to Israel, with WE WILL NOT BE SILENT in Arabic as well as Arabic and Hebrew together. Soon after she returned home, the Israeli activist, wearing the Arabic T-shirt, went to a protest against the apartheid wall in Bil'in, Palestine. Standing next to her was a German woman who had also traveled to protest against the Israeli occupation. She was wearing WE WILL NOT BE SILENT in Arabic. The two were instantly connected by the message on the shirt and forever linked in solidarity with the non-violent protestors in Bil'in.

 

The message WE WILL NOT BE SILENT has now become a rallying point for the 99% around the world, whether they are challenging Israel's occupation of Palestine or the bankers occupation of Wall Street. The website http://www.wewillnotbesilent.net/ now has over 35 T-shirts, one for every message that needs to be imparted.

 

The stories are varied and fascinating. When Carol Murry wore her Greek version of WE WILL NOT BE SILENT black t-shirt to events in Hawaii, "My first stop was the public radio station where the surprised receptionist told me she is Bulgarian, and they have the same alphabet. She was very interested in Syntagma square events. I then went on to the farmers' market where the girl at the Egyptian cafe booth was so excited, she started yelling at the local guy helping and announcing to all in line that I had been on the US Boat to Gaza.  What an amazingly creative and effective job Laurie and friends did - we have become walking teachable moments."

 

Several weeks ago, Laurie sent those of us who have proudly worn these shirts this note, "Thanks for your appreciation for the collective t-shirt project which you are all a part of now... the most important part... by wearing them and spreading the messages. Sarah spent some time on Wall Street and distributed many shirts, with the messages GREED KILLS and WE WILL NOT BE SILENT. People responded immediately, as they did in Syntagma Square in Greece, taking off what they had on and putting the shirt on right away.

 

Days later we went back and learned that one of the women got all dressed and went to Sotheby's, a high-end Art Auction House, wearing GREED KILLS."

 

The final story embodies what these shirts stand for, as Ken Mayers, a Vietnam Vet wrote. "If requently wear Veterans for Peace regalia in downtown Santa Fe without generating much notice.  But the first time I wore the STAY HUMAN shirt, I got many inquiries.  One of the neat things about it is that it's so simple, people actually have to ask what it means.  It should be obvious, but it opens up a broad avenue for conversation.

 

WE WILL NOT BE SILENT has become the symbol of resistance to tyranny, starting during WWII and continuing to this day. Instead of leaflets handed out in secret in Germany, we now proudly wear the simple messages, white on black" GREED KILLS, STAY HUMAN, UNARMED CIVILIAN.

 

Our goal is to have everyone of the 99% wearing one of these shirts, recognizing each other as the Israeli and German women did on the dusty roads of Bil'in.

 

 

 

Greta Berlin is one of the founders of the Free Gaza Movement and was on board the Free Gaza when it sailed to Gaza in August 2008 bearing the first internationals in 41 years to reach the besieged strip of Mediterranean territory. She was a passenger on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, "The Audacity of Hope," that attempted to sail in the international Gaza Freedom Flotilla II Stay Human, to break the naval blockade of Gaza at the end of June, 2011.


http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/We-Will-Not-Be-Silent-by-Greta-Berlin-120129-607.html

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26Jan/13Off

Words are the greatest weapon for political activists

  • The Occupy Wall Street protesters 'named the greed, inequality, and injustice in our system; they made the brutality of debt and the subjugation of the debtors visible'. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

  • guardian.co.uk

In ancient China, the arrival of a new dynasty was accompanied by "the rectification of names", a ceremony in which the sloppiness and erosion of meaning that had taken place under the previous dynasty were cleared up and language and its subjects correlated again. It was like a debt jubilee, only for meaning rather than money.

This was part of what made Barack Obama's first presidential campaignso electrifying: he seemed like a man who spoke our language and called many if not all things by their true names. Whatever caused that season of clarity, once elected, Obama promptly sank into the stale, muffled, parallel-universe language wielded by most politicians, and has remained there ever since. Meanwhile, the far right has got as far as it has by mislabelling just about everything in our world – a phenomenon which went supernova in this year of "legitimate rape", "the apology tour" and "job creators". Meanwhile, their fantasy version of economics keeps getting more fantastic. (Maybe there should be a rectification of numbers, too.)

Let's rectify some names ourselves. We often speak as though the source of so many of our problems is complex and even mysterious. I'm not sure it is. You can blame it all on greed: the refusal to do anything about climate change, the attempts by the .01% to destroy our democracy, the constant robbing of the poor, the resultant starving children, the war against most of what is beautiful on this Earth.

Calling lies "lies" and theft "theft" and violence "violence", loudly, clearly and consistently, until truth becomes more than a bump in the road, is a powerful aspect of political activism. Much of the work around human rights begins with accurately and aggressively reframing the status quo as an outrage, whether it's misogyny or racism or poisoning the environment. What protects an outrage are disguises, circumlocutions, and euphemisms – "enhanced interrogation techniques" for torture, "collateral damage" for killing civilians, "the war on terror" for the war against you and me and our Bill of Rights.

Change the language and you've begun to change the reality or at least to open the status quo to question. Here is Confucius on the rectification of names:

"If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything."

So let's start calling manifestations of greed by their true name. By greed, I mean the attempt of those who have plenty to get more, not the attempts of the rest of us to survive or lead a decent life. Look at the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame: the four main heirs are among the dozen richest people on the planet, each holding about $24bn (£15bn). Their wealth is equivalent to that of the bottom 40% of Americans. The corporation Sam Walton founded now employs 2.2 million workers, two-thirds of them in the US, and the great majority are poorly paid people who feel intimidated and are often underemployed, and routinely depend on government benefits to survive. You could call that Walton Family welfare – a taxpayers' subsidy to their system. Strikes launched against Wal-Mart this summer and autumn protested working conditions of astonishing barbarity – alleged abuses include warehouses that reach 48C (120F), a woman eight months pregnant forced to work at a brutal pace, commonplace exposure to pollutants, and the intimidation of those who attempted to organise or unionise.

You would think that $24,000,000,000 apiece would be enough, but the Walton family sits atop a machine which appears intent upon brutalising tens of millions of people – the suppliers of Wal-Mart notorious for their abysmal working conditions, as well as the employees of the stores – only to add to piles of wealth already obscenely vast. Of course, what we call corporations are, in fact, perpetual motion machines, set up to endlessly extract wealth (and leave slagheaps of poverty behind) no matter what.

They are generally organised in such a way that the brutality that leads to wealth extraction is committed by subcontractors at a distance or described in euphemisms, so that the stockholders, board members, and senior executives never really have to know what's being done in their names. And yet it is their job to know – just as it is each of our jobs to know what systems feed us and exploit or defend us, and the job of writers, historians, and journalists to rectify the names for all these things.

The most terrifying passage in whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg's gripping book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers is not about his time in Vietnam, or his life as a fugitive after he released the Pentagon Papers. It's about a 1969 dinnertime conversation with a co-worker in a swanky house in Pacific Palisades, California. It took place right after Ellsberg and five of his colleagues had written a letter to the New York Times arguing for immediate withdrawal from the unwinnable, brutal war in Vietnam, and Ellsberg's host said, "If I were willing to give up all this ... if I were willing to renege on ... my commitment to send my son to Groton ... I would have signed the letter."

In other words, his unnamed co-worker had weighed trying to prevent the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of people against the upper-middle-class perk of having his kid in a fancy prep school, and chosen the latter. The man who opted for Groton was, at least, someone who worked for what he had and who could imagine having painfully less. This is not true of the ultra-rich shaping the future of our planet.

They could send tens of thousands to Groton, buy more Renoirs and ranches, and still not exploit the poor or destroy the environment, but they're as insatiable as they are ruthless. They are often celebrated in their aesthetic side-effects: imposing mansions, cultural patronage, jewels, yachts. But in many, maybe most, cases they got rich through something a lot uglier, and that ugliness is still ongoing. Rectifying the names would mean revealing the ugliness of the sources of their fortunes and the grotesque scale on which they contrive to amass them, rather than the gaudiness of the trinkets they buy with them. It would mean seeing and naming the destruction that is the corollary of most of this wealth creation.

Where this matters most is climate change. Why have we done almost nothing over the past 25 years about what was then a terrifying threat and is now a present catastrophe? Because it was bad for quarterly returns and fossil-fuel portfolios. When posterity indicts our era, this will be the feeble answer for why we did so little – that the rich and powerful with ties to the carbon-emitting industries have done everything in their power to prevent action on, or even recognition of, the problem. In this country in particular, they spent a fortune sowing doubt about the science of climate change and punishing politicians who brought the subject up. In this way have we gone through four "debates" and nearly a full election cycle with climate change unmentioned and unmentionable.

These three decades of refusing to respond have wasted crucial time. It's as though you were prevented from putting out a fire until it was raging: now the tundra is thawing and Greenland's ice shield is meltingand nearly every natural system is disrupted, from the acidifying oceans to the erratic seasons to droughts, floods, heat waves, and wildfires, and the failure of crops. We can still respond, but the climate is changed; the damage we all spoke of, only a few years ago, as being in the future is here, now.

You can look at the chief executive officers of the oil corporations – Chevron's John Watson, for example, who received almost $25 million($1.57 million in salary and the rest in "compensation") in 2011 – or their major shareholders. They can want for nothing. They're so rich they could quit the game at any moment. When it comes to climate change, some of the wealthiest people in the world have weighed the fate of the Earth and every living thing on it for untold generations to come, the seasons and the harvests, this whole exquisite planet we evolved on, and they have come down on the side of more profit for themselves, the least needy people the world has ever seen.

Take those billionaire energy tycoons Charles and David Koch, who are all over American politics these days. They are spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat Obama, partly because he offends their conservative sensibilities, but also because he is less likely to be a completely devoted servant of their profit margins. He might, if we shout loud enough, rectify a few names. Under pressure, he might even listen to the public or environmental groups, while Romney poses no such problem (and under a Romney administration they will probably make more back in tax cuts than they are gambling on his election).

Two years ago, the Koch brothers spent $1m on California's Proposition 23, an initiative written and put on the ballot by out-of-state oil companies to overturn our 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. It lost by a landslide, but the Koch brothers have also invested a small fortune in spreading climate-change denial and sponsoring the Tea Party (which they can count on to oppose climate change regulation as big government or interference with free enterprise). This year they're backing a California initiative to silence unions. They want nothing to stand in the way of corporate power and the exploitation of fossil fuels. Think of it as another kind of war, and consider the early casualties.

As the Irish Times put it in an editorial this summer:

"Across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, hundreds of millions are struggling to adapt to their changing climate. In the last three years, we have seen 10 million people displaced by floods in Pakistan, 13 million face hunger in east Africa, and over 10 million in the Sahel region of Africa face starvation. Even those figures only scrape the surface. According to the Global Humanitarian Forum, headed up by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, climate change is responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and affects 300 million people annually. By 2030, the annual death toll related to climate change is expected to rise to 500,000 and the economic cost to rocket to $600 billion."

This coming year may see a dramatic increase in hunger due to rising food prices from crop failures, including this summer's in the US midwest after a scorching drought in which the Mississippi river nearly ran dryand crops withered.

We need to talk about climate change as a war against nature, against the poor (especially the poor of Africa), and against the rest of us. There are casualties, there are deaths, and there is destruction, and it's all mounting. Rectify the name, call it war. While we're at it, take back the term "pro-life" to talk about those who are trying to save the lives of all the creatures suffering from the collapse of the complex systems on which plant and animal as well as human lives depend. The other side: "pro-death".

The complex array of effects from climate change and their global distribution, as well as their scale and the science behind them makes it harder to talk about than almost anything else on Earth, but we should talk about it all the more because of that. And yes, the rest of us should do more, but what is the great obstacle those who have already tried to do so much invariably come up against? The oil corporations, the coal companies, the energy industry, its staggering financial clout, its swarms of lobbyists, and the politicians in its clutches. Those who benefit most from the status quo, I learned in studying disasters, are always the least willing to change.

I'm a Californian so I faced the current version of American greed early. Proposition 13, the initiative that froze property taxes and made it nearly impossible to raise taxes in our state, went into effect in 1978, two years before California's former governor Ronald Reagan won the presidency, in part by catering to greed. Prop 13, as it came to be known, went into effect when California was still an affluent state with the best educational system in the world, including some of the top universities around, nearly free to in-staters all the way through graduate school. Tax cuts have trashed the state and that education system, and they are now doing the same to our country. The public sphere is to society what the biosphere is to life on earth: the space we live in together, and the attacks on them have parallels.

What are taxes? They are that portion of your income that you contribute to the common good. Most of us are unhappy with how they're allocated – though few outside the left talk about the fact that more than half of federal discretionary expenditures go to ourgargantuan military, more money than is spent on the next 14 militaries combined. Ever since Reagan, the right has complained unceasingly about fantasy expenditures – from that president's "welfare queens" to Mitt Romney's attack on Big Bird and PBS (which consumes .001% of federal expenditures).

As part of its religion of greed, the right invented a series of myths about where those taxes went, how paying them was the ultimate form of oppression, and what boons tax cuts were to bring us. They then delivered the biggest tax cuts of all to those who already had a superfluity of money and weren't going to pump the extra they got back into the economy. What they really were saying was that they wanted to hang onto every nickel, no matter how the public sphere was devastated, and that they really served the ultra-rich, over and over again, not the suckers who voted them into office.

Despite decades of cutting to the bone, they continue to promote tax cuts as if they had yet to happen. Their constant refrain is that we are too poor to feed the poor or educate the young or heal the sick, but the poverty isn't monetary: it's moral and emotional. Let's rectify some more language: even at this moment, the United States remains the richest nation the world has ever seen, and California – with the richest agricultural regions on the planet and a colossal high-tech boom still ongoing in Silicon Valley – is loaded, too. Whatever its problems, the US is still swimming in abundance, even if that abundance is divided up ever more unequally.

Really, there's more than enough to feed every child well, to treat every sick person, to educate everyone well without saddling them with hideous debt, to support the arts, to protect the environment – to produce, in short, a glorious society. The obstacle is greed. We could still make the sorts of changes climate change requires of us and become a very different nation without overwhelming pain. We would then lead somewhat different lives – richer, not poorer, for most of us (in meaning, community, power, and hope). Because this culture of greed impoverishes all of us, it is, to call it by its true name, destruction.

One of the great accomplishments of Occupy Wall Street was this rectification of names. Those who came together under that rubric named the greed, inequality, and injustice in our system; they made the brutality of debt and the subjugation of the debtors visible; they called out Wall Street's crimes; they labelled the wealthiest among us the "1%", those who have made a profession out of pumping great sums of our wealth upwards (quite a different kind of tax). It was a label that made instant sense across much of the political spectrum. It was a good beginning. But there's so much more to do.

Naming is only part of the work, but it's a crucial first step. A doctor initially diagnoses, then treats; an activist or citizen must begin by describing what is wrong before acting. To do that well is to call things by their true names. Merely calling out these names is a beam of light powerful enough to send the destroyers it shines upon scurrying for cover like roaches. After that, you still need to name your vision, your plan, your hope, your dream of something better.

Names matter; language matters; truth matters. In this era when the mainstream media serve obfuscation and evasion more than anything else (except distraction), alternative media, social media, demonstrations in the streets, and conversations between friends are the refuges of truth, the places where we can begin to rectify the names. So start talking.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/29/words-greatest-weapon-political-activists

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7Apr/12Off

LET FREEDOM SPRING


STILL HERE at the PARK SLOPE FOOD COOP...

Wearing the Human Rights for Palestine hoody is our call for justice. 

Almost 40% of members at the coop general meeting voted YES to allow a coop-wide referendum on BDS. Now every member denied their vote on BDS can wear the Human Rights for Palestine every time they work a shift or shop.

Wherever you are, embody the message. 

For every Palestine hoody sold, we will donate $1 to justice for Palestine.

In this season of renewal, we renew our commitment to liberation.

BEGIN AGAIN. 

A list of human rights on back of Palestine hoody.

Times Square, Land Day 2012.  Photo Bud Korotzer

 

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27Mar/12Off

We are heartbroken at the loss of Trayvon Martin.

 

WE WILL NOT BE SILENT created the UNARMED CIVILIAN shirt/hoody in 2011 to be worn in protest against the threat of violence that so many face from racism and militarism throughout this country and the world. 

We are heartbroken at the loss of Trayvon Martin. 

We wear UNARMED CIVILIAN in memory of all those beautiful people the world has lost. 

We embody this text to acknowledge the risk to so many others.

Wearing the UNARMED CIVILIAN hoody is our call for justice.

We encourage UNARMED CIVILIAN public actions. 

Gather in public places to call out the names of those who have lost their lives from within the U.S. and beyond.  RECLAIM JUSTICE. RECLAIM POWER. 

Going forward we commit to donate one dollar for every UNARMED CIVILIAN shirt sold to support efforts seeking justice for these crimes against all our humanity. 

Our first donation will be made to the family of Trayvon Martin to support their effort and acknowledge their great loss.

"A Song for Trayvon" by Jasiri X - LIVE FROM BROOKLYN, NY


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2Feb/12Off

Political Therapy by Franco Berardi Bifo

 

What if society can no longer resist the destructive effects of unbounded capitalism? What if society can no longer resist the devastating power of financial accumulation?

We have to disentangle autonomy from resistance. And if we want to do that, we have to disentangle desire from energy. The prevailing focus of modern capitalism has been energy: the ability to produce, to compete, to dominate. A sort of energolatria, a cult of energy, has dominated the cultural sense of the West from Faust to the Futurists. The ever growing availability of energy has been its dogma. Now we know that energy isn’t boundless. In the social psyche of the West, energy is fading. I think we should reframe the concept and practice of autonomy from this point of view. The social body is unable to reaffirm its rights against the wild assertiveness of capital because the pursuit of rights can never be dissociated from the exercise of force.

When workers were strong in the 1960s and 1970s, they did not restrict themselves to asking for their rights, to peaceful demonstrations of their will. They acted in solidarity, refusing to work, redistributing wealth, sharing things, services, and spaces. Capitalists, on their side, do not merely ask or demonstrate, they do not simply declare their wish: they enact it. They make things happen; they invest, disinvest, displace; they destroy and they build. Only force makes autonomy possible in the relation between capital and society. But what is force? What is force nowadays?

The identification of desire with energy has produced the identification of force with violence that turned out so badly for the Italian movement in the 1970s and 1980s. We have to distinguish energy and desire. Energy is falling, but desire has to be saved. Similarly, we have to distinguish force from violence. Fighting power with violence is suicidal or useless nowadays. How can we think of activists going against professional organizations of killers in the mold of Blackwater, Haliburton, secret services, mafias?

Only suicide has proved to be efficient in the struggle against power. And actually suicide has become decisive in contemporary history. The dark side of the multitude meets here the loneliness of death. Activist culture should avoid the danger of becoming a culture of resentment. Acknowledging the irreversibility of the catastrophic trends that capitalism has inscribed in the history of society does not mean renouncing it. On the contrary, we have today a new cultural task: to live the inevitable with a relaxed soul. To call forth a big wave of withdrawal, of massive dissociation, of desertion from the scene of the economy, of nonparticipation in the fake show of politics. The crucial focus of social transformation is creative singularity. The existence of singularities is not to be conceived as a personal way to salvation, they may become a contagious force.

When we think of the ecological catastrophe, of geopolitical threats, of economic collapse provoked by the financial politics of neoliberalism, it’s hard to dispel the feeling that irreversible trends are already at work within the world machine. Political will seems paralyzed in the face of the economic power of the criminal class.

The age of modem social civilization seems on the brink of dissolution, and it’s hard to imagine how society will be able to react. Modern civilization was based on the convergence and integration of the capitalist exploitation of labor and the political regulation of social conflict. The regulator state, the heir of the Enlightenment and socialism, has been the guarantor of human rights and the negotiator of social equilibrium. When, at the end of a ferocious class struggle between labor and capital – and within the capitalist class itself – the financial class has seized power by destroying legal regulation and transforming social composition, the entire edifice of modern civilization has begun to crumble.

I anticipate that scattered insurrections will take place in the coming years, but we should not expect much from them. They’ll be unable to touch the real centers of power because of the militarization of metropolitan space, and they will not be able to gain much in terms of material wealth or political power. Just as the long wave of counterglobalization’s moral protests could not destroy neoliberal power, so the insurrections will not find a solution, not unless a new consciousness and sensibility surfaces and spreads, changing everyday life and creating Non-Temporary Autonomous Zones rooted in the culture and consciousness of the global network.

The proliferation of singularities (the withdrawal and building of Non-Temporary Autonomous Zones) will be a peaceful process, but the conformist majority will react violently, and this is already happening. The conformist majority is frightened by the fleeing away of intelligent energy and simultaneously is attacking the expression of intelligent activity. The situation can be described as a fight between the mass ignorance produced by media totalitarianism and the shared intelligence of the general intellect.

We cannot predict what the outcome of this process will be. Our task is to extend and protect the field of autonomy and to avoid as much as possible any violent contact with the field of aggressive mass ignorance. This strategy of nonconfrontational withdrawal will not always succeed. Sometimes confrontation will be made inevitable by racism and fascism. It’s impossible to predict what should be done in the case of unwanted conflict. A nonviolent response is obviously the best choice, but it will not always be possible. The identification of well-being with private property is so deeply rooted that a barbarization of the human environment cannot be completely ruled out. But the task of the general intellect is exactly this: fleeing from paranoia, creating zones of human resistance, experimenting with autonomous forms of production using high-tech low-energy methods – while avoiding confrontation with the criminal class and the conformist population.

Politics and therapy will be one and the same activity in the coming years. People will feel hopeless and depressed and panicky because they are unable to deal with the post-growth economy, and because they will miss their dissolving modern identity. Our cultural task will be attending to those people and taking care of their insanity, showing them the way to a happy adaptation. Our task will be the creation of social zones of human resistance that act like zones of therapeutic contagion. The development of autonomy is not totalizing or intended to destroy and abolish the past. Like psychoanalytic therapy it should be considered an unending process.

Franco Bifo Berardi is a revolutionary Italian philosopher and activist. This essay originally appeared in his newly translated book, After the Future.

 

http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/100/berardi.html

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3Jan/12Off

We will not be silent releases new t-shirt designs by Allison Deger on December 20, 2011

The activist and artist who designed the "we will not be silent" shirts that adorn demonstrators from the Occupy Wall St. movement to Palestine solidarity protests are expanding their t-shirt collection with the addition of 35 new designs.

Sarah Wellington. (Photo: WeWillNotBeSilent.net)

we will not be silent

All over New York City, Laurie Arbeiter and Sarah Wellington can be found selling the t-shirts, which helped support activist causes such as the U.S. Boat to Gaza. Since 2006, these activists have sold the original "we will not be silent" design, which was translated into six languages, connecting with over 50,000 people around the world. Moving forward, the new designs will reflect the changes in the Arab World, and the growing popular moments internal to the U.S. "We will not be silent" new designs include: "mic check," "reclaim solidarity," "occupy the U.S.A.," "reclaim rights," "reclaim the common good," and "reclaim the future."

Reverse of "Palestine" shirt.

back shirt

"We will not be silent," also added a new, special "Palestine" design, which includes a list of human rights on the back-side of the t-shirt, including "the right to live together," "the right to your olive trees," "the right to build a movement," and "the right to thrive."

With the holidays rapidlyapproaching, this is the official Mondoweiss plug, to consider purchasing a "begin again" or "still here" t-shirt.

http://mondoweiss.net/2011/12/we-will-not-be-silent-releases-new-t-shirt-designs.html

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assitant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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9Dec/11Off

Arundhati Roy: Occupy Wall Street is “So Important Because It is in the Heart of Empire”

Renowned Indian writer and global justice activist Arundhati Roy is preparing to address Occupy Wall Street on Wednesday. She recently joined us in the studio to talk about the Occupy movement. "What they are doing becomes so important because it is in the heart of empire, or what used to be empire," Roy said. "And to criticize and to protest against the model that the rest of the world is aspiring to is a very important and a very serious business. So...it makes me very, very hopeful that after a long time you’re seeing some nascent political, real political anger here." She also discussed her new book, "Walking with the Comrades," a chronicle of her time in the forests of India alongside rebel guerrillas who are resisting a brutal military campaign by the Indian government. [includes rush transcript]

Arundhati Roy, renowned Indian writer and global justice activist. She has written many books, including The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize. Her journalism and essays have been collected in books including An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire and Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. Arundhati Roy’s latest book, just out, is Walking with the Comrades.

AMY GOODMAN: We return now to the renowned Indian writer, global justice activist, Arundhati Roy. She has written many books, including The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize. Her journalism and essays have been collected in books including An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire and Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. Arundhati Roy’s latest book, just out, is called Walking with the Comrades, a chronicle of her time in the forests of India alongside rebel guerrillas who are resisting a military campaign by the Indian government.

Last week, I sat down with Arundhati Roy when she came to New York—she had just visited Occupy Wall Street on her first day in New York—to talk about the significance of this, but also we spoke about the Arab Spring. We talk about her walk with the Maoists in India. Tomorrow, she will be speaking at Washington Square Park, part of a national day of action. First, Arundhati discusses Occupy Wall Street.

ARUNDHATI ROY: You know, what they are doing becomes so important because it is in the heart of empire, or what used to be empire, and to criticize and to protest against the model that the rest of the world is aspiring to is a very important and a very serious business. So I think that it makes me—it makes me very, very hopeful that after a long time you’re seeing some nascent political, real political anger here.

It does—I mean, it does need a lot of thinking through, but I would say that, to me, fundamentally, you know, people have to begin to formulate some kind of a vision, you know, and that vision has to be the dismantling of this particular model, in which a few people can be allowed to have an unlimited amount of wealth, of power, both political as well as corporate. You know, that has to be dismantled. And that has to be the aim of this movement. And that has to then move down into countries like mine, where people look at the U.S. as some great, aspirational model. And I can tell you that there is such a lot of beauty still in India. There’s such a lot of ferocity there that actually can provide a lot of political understanding, even to the protest on Wall Street. To me, the forests of central India and the protesters in Wall Street are connected by a big pipeline, and I am one of those people in that pipeline.

AMY GOODMAN: I asked you about the Occupy Wall Street movement. What is your assessment of President Obama?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think, you know, when—I was never one of those people who was, you know, throwing my hat in the air when he won, even though—even though the memory of, you know, old black people, you know, feeling so happy to have a black man in the White House was something you just couldn’t ignore. But to see how he has—I mean, it’s almost reprehensible. You see—what has he done? He’s expanded the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan. Those drone attacks are killing people every day. You know, it’s—I don’t think he has any idea what he’s doing in that subcontinent. You know, no idea whatsoever. It is just devolving into a completely unmanageable, horrendous situation.

In America now, I just feel—I just feel a bit upset every time I hear that smooth, silver-tongued, you know, kind of delivery, which actually means nothing most of the time. And so, if—I keep thinking that if George Bush had done what Obama does, everybody would be saying he’s a fascist, you know, but we really step back and make so much space for what’s going on here, that—you know, it’s an old dilemma, of course, that somebody can do by day what the other person does at night. And, you know, people are so caught up in this view that the only choice you have is between the Democrats and the Republicans or between the Congress and the BJP. Our imaginations have been locked into this kind of electoral politics, so we feel like we have to say nice things about him. But I don’t feel like saying nice things about him.

AMY GOODMAN: This book, Walking with the Comrades — talk about your experiences in India with the people you call "the comrades." Who are they?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, they are—in this case, they are the Maoist guerrillas who are in the forests of central India, fighting against the Indian state and these huge mining corporations that are now moving in to more or less annihilate the forest, as well as the adivasi people, the tribal people. So, actually, it’s a more complicated question than you may perhaps imagine, to say who are the comrades, because I, having been there, don’t know, myself, because they do call themselves Maoists, and the—you know, the Communist Party of India, Maoist, has existed in different avatars, you know, since 1967. But in fact, 99 percent of them are actually adivasi people, tribal people. And so, to what extent the adivasis have influenced Maoist ideology and to what extent the Maoists have influenced the adivasi peoples is an important question, you know, and an unresolved one, as far as I am concerned. But—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the term "adivasi."

ARUNDHATI ROY: Adivasi is—adivasi means the original inhabitants in India, and it means, basically, indigenous, what you would call indigenous, tribal people. And they are a huge population in India. It’s about 150 million people that belong to different tribes.

AMY GOODMAN: What would be like half the population of the United States.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah. And yet, they are really facing a kind of annihilation right now. The entire machinery of Indian democracy has more or less conspired to sort of silence what is actually going on. There’s very little news that comes out of the forest. And last—year before last, the Indian government actually announced a war, called Operation Green Hunt, against the Maoists, though, for the government, anybody who’s resisting the takeover of their lands by these mining corporations, whether it’s Maoists or whether it’s Gandhians or whether it’s militant, you know, independent movements, all of them are being called Maoists.

There is a whole sort of set of laws, mostly the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act, which allows them to arrest and imprison anybody, really, without a trial. And so, thousands of people are in jail, and there are 200,000 paramilitary forces moving in to these forests, heavily armed and basically pushing people out of their villages. So you have in the state of Chhattisgarh, where the—which is where I went into the forest and walked with the guerrillas, they actually also had a vigilante—a government-sponsored vigilante group of tribal people, who went in burning, raping, looting the place. And the whole idea—I mean, it’s an old idea; it’s nothing new. But they basically, more or less, forced people, something like 350,000 people, from about 600 villages to flee. And some of them were forced into roadside camps. About 50,000 people were forced into police camps on the roadside. And the others just went off the radar. Either they were hiding in the forest, some of them joined the Maoists, others fled to different states. So the idea is really to empty these forests, because in the year 2005, the Indian government signed hundreds of what we call MoUs, you know, memorandums of understanding, with various mining and infrastructure companies, and then began this war.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the great Indian writer Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things and her most recent book, Walking with the Comrades. We will play more of this interview in the coming days.

Democracy Now!

November 15, 2011

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9Dec/11Off

Slavoj Žižek speaks at Occupy Wall Street: Transcript

BY SARAHANA » Don't fall in love with yourselves

slavoj zizek speaking at occupy wall street

Yesterday at noon, this blog's trusty mentor, the Slovenian philosopher-scholar Slavoj Žižek, spoke at Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street protests are being held. Here is a full transcript of his speech. Update: Transcript of the Q&A portion of the talk has been posted as well.

Made some corrections, Oct 25, 6:30PM EST

— TRANSCRIPT —

They are saying we are all losers, but the true losers are down there on Wall Street. They were bailed out by billions of our money. We are called socialists, but here there is always socialism for the rich. They say we don’t respect private property, but in the 2008 financial crash-down more hard-earned private property was destroyed than if all of us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.

We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scene from cartoons. The cat reaches a precipice but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath this ground. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street, "Hey, look down!"

In mid-April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV, films, and novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. These people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dreaming. Here, we don’t need a prohibition because the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism.

So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful, old joke from Communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom— war on terror and so on—falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.

There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember, carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beautiful.” Remember that our basic message is “We are allowed to think about alternatives.” If the taboo is broken, we do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?

Remember. The problem is not corruption or greed. The problem is the system. It forces you to be corrupt. Beware not only of the enemies, but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process. In the same way you get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice cream without fat, they will try to make this into a harmless, moral protest. A decaffienated protest. But the reason we are here is that we have had enough of a world where, to recycle Coke cans, to give a couple of dollars for charity, or to buy a Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes to third world starving children is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after marriage agencies are now outsourcing our love life, we can see that for a long time, we allow our political engagement also to be outsourced. We want it back.

We are not Communists if Communism means a system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today those Communists are the most efficient, ruthless Capitalists. In China today, we have Capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American Capitalism, but doesn’t need democracy. Which means when you criticize Capitalism, don’t allow yourself to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and Capitalism is over. The change is possible.

What do we perceive today as possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in technology and sexuality, everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever, but look at the field of society and economy. There, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for health care, they tell you, "Impossible, this means totalitarian state." There’s something wrong in the world, where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for healthcare. Maybe we need to set our priorities straight here. We don’t want higher standard of living. We want a better standard of living. The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature. The commons of privatized by intellectual property. The commons of biogenetics. For this, and only for this, we should fight.

Communism failed absolutely, but the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not American here. But the conservatives fundamentalists who claim they really are American have to be reminded of something: What is Christianity? It’s the holy spirit. What is the holy spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other, and who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense, the holy spirit is here now. And down there on Wall Street, there are pagans who are worshipping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience. The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nostaligically remembering “What a nice time we had here.” Promise yourselves that this will not be the case. We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire. Thank you very much.

— END OF TRANSCRIPT —

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