This Is America #31: Autonomous Florence Relief Efforts

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Welcome, to This Is America, September 20th, 2018.

In today’s episode we’re going to talk specifically about Hurricane Florence, and anarchist and autonomous disaster relief responses to it. Included in this episode will be two interviews, one with someone recorded a few days ago that gives a good overview of the situation both in terms of the impact of the storm and autonomous disaster relief efforts, and another with a member of Blue Ridge Autonomous Defense, who talks with us about the work being done in the town of Wilmington, North Carolina, and how anarchists and autonomists through a network of food distribution points, public buildings, and self-organized supply chains have become one of the only relief networks on the ground, while the State simply tries to enact curfew.

This reality of the true nature of the State in the face of the storm, was made even more clear, when yesterday, President Trump flew out to a photo-opt, and during the press conference launched into familiar talking points about how prepared and amazing the government response was, how the State had the “best people,” and how great the economy was doing. He then asked if the area near where his expensive golf course was impacted by the storm, and after learning that it was unaffected, went across the street to ask a man with a yacht left in his yard by the storm waters, if it was indeed his. When the man replied “No,” Trump stated: “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.” Trump concluded his photo-opt by helping to hand out sack lunches and telling people to, “Have a good time.”

But debris is about the only thing people in North and South Carolina will get out the storm, as the areas hit the hardest are some of the poorest in the region. Now, people are returning to their damaged homes and finding collapsing infrastructure unable to deal with the realities brought on by climate change, in an area where the government literally passed a law against using climate change data while preparing for disasters. Being that we live in a country where literally the average household can’t afford an unforeseen $500 expense, the impact of destroyed and damaged homes, often uncovered by insurance, will be to put it mildly, devastating.

Meanwhile, the Senate just passed a new spending bill, “[a]nd 80 percent of that bill—$675 out of $854 billion—consisted of military spending, a $60 billion increase over last year’s military budget.” To further drive the point home, remember how last time we talked about the realities of the growing deficit under the new Trump tax cuts, and how the working and middle classes were paying more, while corporations and the wealthy were paying less? Well the Trump administration already has a plan for how to fix this problem: by making massive cuts to medicare and Medicaid. Meanwhile, the Republicans are now also pushing for a new round of Tax Cuts, which will only further cement all of these realities.

Back in the Carolinas, 37 have already sadly lost their lives (to say nothing of the thousands of farm animals), and almost a million have lost power or able to access basic services. According to one report:

Approximately 20,000 people in North Carolina were in emergency shelters as of Friday, with an additional 5,500 in South Carolina. There are also an estimated 400 evacuees at shelters in Virginia. NPR reported that the influx of internal refugees from the storm in North Carolina is so great that shelters are running out of cots.

Most impacted are the poor, elderly, those living in rural communities, and migrant workers, who are being targeted through check points and at shelters by ICE. Perhaps most horrific, has been the deaths of two women being transported by Sheriff’s deputies, who drowned after two officers left them in the back of a vehicle, after having climbed on top to avoid flooding.

To further compound the horror, is the growing threat of water contamination and pollution from hog farms, coal sites, and nuclear plants. Already, Duke energy has reported two spills into water ways from coal plants, sewage plants have lost power and flooded into water ways, and one nuclear power plant was cut off to outside personnel due to flooding. Again, the impact from these industries is tied into the nature of capitalism itself; both North and South Carolina are seen as some of the most ‘business friendly’ states in the country, with low regulations and government oversight. But while this has made corporations and wealthy business owners rich, it now threatens the lives and drinking water of millions.

Hurricane Florence lays bare the realities of just what the American State is: a made in China “Make American Great Again” hat, a hot dog sack lunch from an orange faced egomaniac, a rant about how great “our” economy is doing in the face of crippling poverty and devastation, and the realization that this system is more willing to spend billions on war toys than shelters and levees in order to save lives. This isn’t a nation, it’s a plantation.

But in the face of this a new material force is rising, one based on autonomy, direct action, and the power of horizontal organization. The inspiring success of anarchist and autonomous action in North and South Carolina should be a wake up call for all of us: we can not only create the kind of world that we want, but that people are ready for it. Moreover, we can, and will, create the dual power we so desperately need, from autonomous clinics, to community centers, to distribution systems of goods and services, built on lines of mutual aid and communal control.

In that spirit, enjoy the interviews!

Places To Donate:

Blue Ridge Autonomous Defense Venmo: @paulG-36

Disaster Relief Amazon Wish Life: http://smile.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/31L1C537RHCZS

Interface Climate Justice Organize in Lumberton Venmo: @interfaithclimatejustice


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