The following selection from Anathema argues that reformist and activist approaches to combating climate change and industrial capitalism are not enough to ensuring human survival.
In an interview about his new book on precision and the modern world, Simon Winchester questioned whether we had gone too far. When making things to withstand such incredible tolerances, the components have to be incredibly precise, otherwise you have the example he gave of an airplane wing becoming irreparably damaged in flight due to a fraction of a millimeter of an error. He elaborated that we might be “in danger of fetishizing precision,” constructing our lives around it, and losing respect for simple skills and hand-made things.
You might notice that we don’t usually advocate half-measures in these pages. The life of an anti-capitalist under capitalism is often a life of compromise, for fear of imprisonment or death at the hands of the state, but we aspire to be so much more – and those times that appear as compromise may only be a disguise to keep us free as we continue to escalate our conflict. The recent spate of communiques surrounding May Day seems to attest to that.
During one of the May Day speeches beside City Hall, a member of the the Radical Education Department suggested that, “we need to go on the offensive” – and they are more right than they know. But with the continuation of absolute atrocities against the earth and its inhabitants (e.g. poisoned water, poisoned air, massive deforestation, indigenous genocide, racist murders by police), we would have a long way to go before we overcame our defensive position – meaning it is only more necessary that we attack, and do so by every means available.
“By insurrectional practice we mean the revolutionary activity that intends to take the initiative in the struggle and does not limit itself to waiting or to simple defensive responses to attacks by the structures of power.” – For an Antiauthoritarian Insurrectionist International
In a recent report by Counterpunch, it was put forth that environmentalists contribute to deforestation due to their consistent compromises with the state, maintaining the course of removing what very little remains of an already decimated landscape. Similarly, marching in the streets over those aforementioned atrocities, and asking the authorities in charge of those that committed them to address that “injustice,” doesn’t even begin to get to the point. Relying on accrued examples of earth-devastating malfeasance by a drilling company, as some residents are doing in “opposition” to the Mariner East 2 pipeline, again, doesn’t halt the problem – and doesn’t really address the the technological advances that allow for horizontal drilling, which has similarly made new advances in further contaminating our groundwater.
And what do they gain for their sacrifices? “Electronics-recycling innovator is going to prison for trying to extend computers’ lives.” On April 29th, it was reported that “Mahwah, NJ is fining Ramapough [Lenape Indians protesting proposed pipeline] up to $42,500 per day for prayer and sacred altar retroactively since March 29, 2018.” Bureaucracy prevails, as Mumia can’t even get a new trial under progressive DA Larry Krasner, despite lying and tampering by cops involved in testimony and evidence gathering, and overt racism by the judge. Whether or not you believe he did it (which really shouldn’t matter anyway), by the state’s own logic he should get a new trial.
The food and water in prisons, among other conditions in those modern slave plantations, have contributed to riots occurring in recent months – months ahead of a proposed prison strike beginning in August.
Meanwhile, the food and water we consume on the outside is also less nutritious than the wild foods that persisted before agriculture, and incredibly tainted. Industrial food production has recently contributed to E. coli outbreaks in Romaine Lettuce and ready-to-eat salads produced in PA, listeria contamination of milk in Lancaster County, staphylococcal enterotoxin and clostridial toxin contamination of beef, the contamination of sausages and beef in two different states with hard pieces of plastic – and that’s only since our last printing.
“Nearly 70% of Chicago’s tap water tested positive for brain damaging lead,” reads a headline, in the continuing tradition of poisonings that still affect Flint, MI; Chester, PA; and Philadelphia, among so many others.
The New York Times reported last month that a Sperm Whale was killed by 64 pounds of trash that clogged its intestines and stomach, further stating that “as the amount of plastic in the ocean grows every year, some scientists believe that debris might kill more animals than the effects of climate change.” Yes, more than climate change: the human-induced mass-extinction event.
“Today’s ecological crises are a warning sign that capitalism itself is not sustainable. The problem is not that we lack reformist legislation; the problem is that our economic system fundamentally disconnects us from the environment.” Additionally, those technologies developed alongside the growth of that economic system contribute to our alienation from the natural world and to the economic system’s control over our lives.
The potential expiration of “Net Neutrality” on June 11th is not the end of freedom on the internet. Being conceptualized as a “right,” provided by the large corporations that provide the necessary infrastructure for that communication, means that legal use of the internet is already mediated and therefore not free. Freedom means having power – not the power to control other people or their means to communicate (consider how internet service providers already slow down your connection over particular downloads), but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life. You do not have freedom if anyone else has power over you, no matter how benevolently, tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised.
“Facebook harvested 3.5 billion Instagram images without warning their owners” until much later, as they built an Artificial Intelligence photo recognition system. French police were recently revealed to also be using AI to “predict protests and neutralise them,” and “Facebook terms now ban posting photos of undercover agents infiltrating your political group, protest, etc.” – those very same infiltrators that have entrapped activists leading to long prison sentences when no crime had been committed (e.g. Eric McDavid).
“Compromise continues the trajectory and we can’t afford to stay the course.”
“Five journalists arrested while covering Standing Rock still face charges – more than one year later,” reads a headline from two weeks ago, and 59 J20 defendants are still suffering the stresses and costs of fighting decades in prison for attending a protest. It’s a wonder anyone attends protests at all considering the potential costs incurred for so little return. But I guess a student walkout at Temple University in favor of sanctuary status on May Day in a state that “is a free-for-all” for cops that want to arrest undocumented immigrants is really the least you can do.
The two black men being arrested in a local Starbucks minutes after arriving, as they awaited the arrival of another member of their party, is not a new development, but its sensationalism has contributed to this common trend becoming news-worthy. Recent nationwide reports of white people calling the cops on black people having a cookout, on a black Yale student for napping in a common area, on black teenagers for shopping at a Nordstrom, on black folks for checking out of their Airbnb, on five black women for not golfing fast enough at a country club, popularly exhibit the racial profiling that leads to the higher rates of incarceration and murder by police. Take the example of the black man murdered outside of a California Walmart when cops fired 30 rounds into a vehicle after he was suspected of theft, and also wounded one of the passengers. Or the Democracy Now! report that a “black teen [was] sentenced to 30 years in prison for a murder committed by cop.” Then there were the examples of “Native American brothers pulled from campus tour after nervous parent calls police,” and the “young Santee Sioux man shot by police officer while being dragged on the ground.”
This seems an appropriate time to remember that on May 13, 1985, the Philadelphia Police dropped a bomb in a residential neighborhood that killed five children.
Those old fall backs of modernity that claim we’re better off now, as life is safer and easier than it once was, seem mostly unfounded by this only partial round-up of recent news reports. Even before mentioning that the World Health Organization is now warning that “common infections and minor injuries which have been possible to treat for decades may once again kill millions” due to the overuse of antibiotics. Those complex surgeries and cancers that the developed world has been so triumphant in treating, even though it has been the creator of many of the causes of those illnesses, are suddenly becoming extremely difficult to treat. And to add insult to injury, Business Insider reports that “the average American worker takes less vacation time than a medieval peasant.”
The so-called popular alternatives presented to us and advocated for in order to reach the masses, defer to the same Bernie Sanders who once advocated for the dissolution of the CIA, but now just appeals to have a less overtly offensive head for the organization that notoriously contributed to assassinations and torture as a matter of course. Socialist mouthpiece Jacobin can write a whole article on Brexit without mentioning its racially motivated anti-immigrant policies. Local “independent” news site, the Philadelphia Citizen, can propagate its founder’s opinion that we need Amazon to build its HQ2 in Philly to keep the college transplants here, despite the consequent gentrification that will continue to force out already marginalized residents. These are continuations of the path that have lead to the deadly-serious, alienated reality that we currently suffer.
Compromise continues the trajectory and we can’t afford to stay the course.