Red Emma Speaks

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Something from Arne Naess

I've never managed to read any Arne Naess (the Norwegian philosopher and founder of Deep Ecology). Until now, anyway. Some time ago, a local timber producers' association attempted to sue the Forest Service for taking ecological principles into account, saying that it was a violation of the separation of church and state, because Deep Ecology was a religion. (Hmmmph. So why are the same folks so insistent upon forcing their religious principles upon me when it comes to abortion, etc.? But whatever. Hypocrisy abounds, does it not?) They lost, because of course the Forest Service was responding to science (and the law), not religion. (And certainly not Deep Ecology. Not that I don't wish they did. But let's get real, huh? It's like Christians complaining they're being discriminated against. As if being in charge of fucking everything isn't enough.)

So just now, I've finally gotten around to finding out more about Deep Ecology. Here are some quotes from Naess that struck me:

(from "The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary"):

...the equal right to live and blossom is an intuitively clear and obvious value axiom. its restriction to humans is an anthropocentrism with detrimental effects upon the life quality of humans themselves.
"Live and let live" is a more powerful ecological principle than "Either you or me."
The exploiter lives differently from the exploited, but both are adversely affected in their potentialities of self-realization.
(And from "Identification as a Source of Deep Ecological Attitudes." My own outline, Naess' words):
Shallow Ecology says:
Natural diversity is valuable as a resource for us.

Deep Ecology says:
Natural diversity has its own (intrinsic) value.

Shallow Ecology says:
It is nonsense to talk about value except as value for mankind.

Deep Ecology says:
Equating value with value for humans reveals a racial prejudice.

Shallow Ecology says:
Plant species should be saved becuase of their value as genetic reserves for human agriculture and medicine.

Deep Ecology says:
Plant species should be saved because of their intrinsic value.

Shallow Ecology says:
Pollution should be decreased if it threatens economic growth.

Deep Ecology says:
Decrease of pollution has priority over economic growth.

Shallow Ecology says:
Third World population growth threatens ecological equilibrium.

Deep Ecology says:
World population at the present level threatens ecosystems but the population and behavior of industrial states more than that of any others. Human population is today excessive.

Shallow Ecology says:
"Resource" means resource for humans.

Deep Ecology says:
"Resource" means resource for living beings.

Shallow Ecology says:
People will not tolerate a broad decrease in their standard of living.

Deep Ecology says:
People should not tolerate a broad decrease in the quality of life but in the standard of living in overdeveloped countries.

Shallow Ecology says:
Nature is cruel and necessarily so.

Deep Ecology says:
Man is cruel but not necessarily so.

The conditions under which the self is widened are experienced as positive and are basically joyful. The constant exposure to life in the poorest countries through television and other media contributes to the spread of the voluntary simplicity movement. But people laugh: What does it help the hungry that you renounce the luxuries of your own country? But identification makes the efforts of simplicity joyful and there is not a feeling of moral compulsion. The widening of the self implies widening perspectives, deepening experiences, and reaching higher levels of activeness (in Spinoza's sense, not as just being busy). Joy and activeness make the appeal to Self-realization stronger than appeal to altruism. The state of alienation is not joyful, and is often connected with feelings of being threatened and narrowed. The "rights" of other living beings are felt to threaten our "own" interests.

Friday, July 15, 2005

More from the Real Red Emma

From "Anarchism: What it Really Stands For":

The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.

Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime. What does society, as it exists today, know of the process of despair, the poverty, the horrors, the fearful struggle the human soul must pass on its way to crime and degradation.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

peace or war

I wanted to post a bunch of articles on the G8 demonstrations. I always feel so irritated with the dismissive and irrational reporting that goes on during these massive actions, but then the London bombing happened, and I just didn't have it in me.

I will say this: I've always had mixed feelings about the black-clad window-breaking anarchists. I know clearly that most if not all the aggression in these demonstrations are between police and kids (and almost always started by the nervous and over-tired police). The sideline of breaking Burger King's windows is to make a point I sometimes agree with, even if I myself wouldn't do it. I understand the frustration of dealing with a corporate, heartless world that won't listen; and therefore, I don't blame them for their acts, although I wish they would stand up, like the Catholic Workers who break the law of the land while upholding "god's law" and are willing to go to jail for it. (This instead of denial in the face of accusation, or trying to blame someone else. I would rather see so-called "eco-terrorists" stand up and explain in that court of law the WHY--that would have more impact than obfuscation, IMO. That's only sometimes, though--I understand the idea of "living to resist another day.")

And I will point to one article that I think everyone can agree is disgusting. Other than that, I'm just too sad to talk about politics.

In moments like these, I become less Red Emma and more Virginia Woolf.

When 9.11 happened, it sent me into a funk I think I've yet to escape. For me, it's about this sense of humanity gone horribly horribly wrong. Since then, I've pointed to that as the date I became a pessimist--before that I always thought of myself as a rather bubbly believer in the inherent goodness of folks. However, I've been transcribing my journals leading up to that date, and find that I was feeling a sense of pressure before that--a sense that things were tightening, tightening, tightening... that something was going to go bust. I knew as I watched the buildings fall that my country wouldn't respond well to such a thing, that we'd fall into the "fascist-light" sort of place we've always become in moments of fear. Humans, I guess, always do fear badly--but I tend to think of USians as more reactionary than most.

If we're not shitting ourselves and crying, we're trying to kill the person that made us feel that way.

I'm just dropping back into that place that sees Bush's war as one never-ending, and designed to keep humanity deep in the murk of "getting what's mine." I'm terrified for the psyches of the soldiers, knowing well what war does to the minds of young men, how it teaches them barbarity that they then have to try to forget or live with the rest of their lives. It infects all of us, as a result.

From Pema Chodron:

Every day we could think about the aggression in the world, in New York, Los Angeles, Halifax, Taiwan, Beirut, Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq, everywhere. All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, "Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?" Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, "Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?"

Monday, July 04, 2005

Subcommandante Marcos Scares the Clueless

I haven't read much about the Zapatistas lately. But the NYT put out an article today by James C. McKinley Jr. that managed to irritate me (not that that's terribly difficult). (try ireallyhatenyt3/ireallyhatenyt for entry.) I know that no newspaper is ever really non-biased, and I know that although the New York Times is purported to be liberal, any time you get onto the anti-capitalist subject, they start talking just like the rest of the corporate media. And so, in reality, there's nothing new here. But I can't help but point out the biased language:

1. The headline reads that Mexico is "bracing" for the Zapatistas' next move, which implies a storm, no? Violence. However, a reading of the article points to the fact that there is no indication of upcoming violence. In fact, the main thing they are apparently "bracing for" is a "nationwide leftist political movement." Forgive me for not being terrified.

2. Marcos "has issued several rambling missives over the Internet." Only nutcases ramble. (Although, after reading this letter we can sort of see rambling going on. I think he just sounds like a nice guy.)

3. When the NYT uses the term "anticapitalist language," it sounds like they really mean "crazy talk." But it sounds pretty reasonable, if'n you ask me:
The statement was peppered with anticapitalist language and accused Mexico's politicians of trampling the interests of workers and farmers in the name of free markets. "What is happening in Mexico is that it has become a place where people are born, and die, only to work for the enrichment of foreigners, principally rich gringos," he said.

Okay, on second thought, the writer didn't do too badly. Even if he did call Marcos a "master manipulator," as if he were some sort of evil genius, and refers to the rebels' peaceful efforts to work communal cooperative villages as "utopian."

I just want to go back and read the letter again. It gives me hope.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Lameness Abounds...(or Paul Stokes is a lame-ass)

I'm a fan of protest. I love the rush of adrenaline when one is in the center of a shouting crowd, all focusing anger that could hurt into something better, into something a bit grand. Being there is suddenly believing, in a way, in a true sea change--a better future. It can be tremendously inspiring.

I realize that many folks get unbelievably angry when they witness a protest. I've seen enraged red-faced sorts threaten activists with their cars, screaming obscenities as they whizz by. And I can't make myself get too worked up about it. Most of it's bluster, and can be dealt with by those properly trained in non-violent intervention, after all.

But it's always interesting to me how little fact or cause is ever published when mainstream news outlets discuss protests. Very often, the tone of the newsbits is one of bemusement and mocking. A case in point is today's smarmy little tidbit on the Making Poverty History protests. Stokes worries that he's going to be harassed for wearing a suit, and appears to have spent the entire protest hanging around the food court. (He gets paid for this?) Instead of actually asking any of the protesters why they were there, he spends his ink trying to make some sort of point about how this is an anti-hunger march and, whoa!, these people are eating. He might have made a point about how eating hamburgers shortchanges the earth's ability to feed us, but no such luck. (Not to mention other stuff.) He makes a little joke about the tarot reader, and then winds up with a fairly decent point about the direct good of buying the African musicians' CDs versus not. But nowhere--I mean nowhere--does he get anything of substance out of a single marcher. In fact, he doesn't even get any lame-ass "for the children" quotes. Whatta waste.

There was this little bit:

Stephen Tomlin, who described himself as an ordinary working actor from Lancaster, was there with his daughter and grandson. He was sporting two wristbands, the white Make Poverty History and a red one calling for the end of capitalism. So what would he say to the African desperate to set up his own roadside burger stall to lift himself and his family out of poverty? Surely that was capitalism too? "It's a contradiction," he said. "But life's full of contradictions."
Pretty lame backhand. But isn't it sad that most protesters have their thoughts reduced to a soundbyte like that, anyway? Let's hope he meant to say that an African trying to set up a roadside stall isn't really what any anti-capitalist sort is worried about. In fact, I think it's really about making sure that that African with the roadside stall (let's assume that in his country, the people are far less likely to crave burgers than we are, and he can have something his neighbors can produce the agricultural goods for. Which is far more likely.) gets just as much chance to survive as the chain McD's trying for yet another outpost of mediocrity. That's really what's being talked about, here.

Anyway, here's my own lame-ass wish that reporters like Paul Stokes would wander away from the food court a bit so that the world might get some insight as to what's actually going on.

I have to add that I had to go look up the word "punter."

And I'm still not sure what he meant, exactly. (added 7/4/05)

what the RRE says:

One of the things I must do, then, is become familiar once again with the Real Red Emma's (RRE's) words.

Here are a few from the Preface to Anarchism and Other Essays:

"Why do you not say how things will be operated under Anarchism?" is a question I have had to meet thousands of times. Because I believe that Anarchism can not consistently impose an iron-clad program or method on the future. The things every new generation has to fight, and which it can least overcome, are the burdens of the past, which holds us all as in a net. Anarchism, at least as I understand it, leaves posterity free to develop its own particular systems, in harmony with its needs. Our most vivid imagination can not foresee the potentialities of a race set free from external restraints. How, then, can any one assume to map out a line of conduct for those to come? We, who pay dearly for every breath of pure, fresh air, must guard against the tendency to fetter the future. If we succeed in clearing the soil from the rubbish of the past and present, we will leave to posterity the greatest and safest heritage of all ages.

My lack of faith in the majority is dictated by my faith in the potentialities of the individual. Only when the latter becomes free to choose his associates for a common purpose, can we hope for order and harmony out of this world of chaos and inequality.

to begin

I'll start by saying that I in no way believe I am as intelligent or interesting or driven as the Real Red Emma.

I am just an ordinary woman with 20 years of activism and study and living under my belt. Some weeks ago, I joined MetaFilter, and blithely took RedEmma as my screen name. I figured it was a short cut to letting people know where I stood politically (although many had no idea who The Real Red Emma was, sad to say). And then I found a certain pressure to live up to that screen name, like if I'm going to take her moniker, I'd better aspire to a high level of thoughtfulness and straight-talking about how I view this world. Emma Goldman is a hero of mine, and by speaking through her name, I hope a little bit of her spirit infects me and allows me a clear voice.