Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Never Mind The G8, Here's The Bollocks

I recently received a very well-written and thought provoking email in response to my earlier blog about violence, a small excerpt of which I quote below:

"It was important for me to know that fighting back was O.K. because it made it O.K. not to fight back too, and a choice - my choice. In "How Nonviolence Protects the State" (South End Press, 2007) Peter Genderloos makes a pretty convincing argument that not only is the cult of pacifism delusional but it is ineffective. On some deep level we knew that hippies were full of shit, and that even efficient nonviolence requires a confrontation with a violent opponent before the tactic can even be recognized, let alone taken seriously. Kind of a scary concept, but one that, as I said, seemed to be intuitive on our parts."

To read her entire letter, click here.

The writer chose not to post it as a comment, because she says she wasn't entirely sure that she agreed with one of the conclusions she reached. I'm not sure I agree with it either but it certainly is worth discussing, especially in light of this week's violent protests against the G8 summit taking place in Germany. Basically, the question is whether non-violent protest plays into the hands of those in control.




After all, as we have seen time and time again, the authorities have no qualms about using force to disperse a lawfully assembled crowd, even going so far as to suggest that photo-journalists will not be allowed at future demonstrations to avoid documentation of their crowd control methods. Not that we need to worry about the U.S. media serving as watchdogs. They're too busy being lapdogs.

A quick bit of history here: the G8 (Group of Eight) evolved from an informal gathering of senior financial officials from The U.S., U.K., West Germany and Japan that took place in 1974. They became known as the Library Group. Over the years, the heads of state of the participating nations have continued to meet to discuss issues of global significance. The number of participating countries has grown from the original to include France, Canada, Italy and Russia.

The leaders of the 8 most powerful economies are meeting to discuss issues of vital importance to the planet, whether or not we realize it. The mainstream media in the U.S. seems to be doing their best to ensure that we don't. The top story on CNN yesterday? Paris Hilton going to jail. I feel like I'm watching a very bad magic show where the magician is attempting to distract me with a shiny object in one hand, while the real action is taking place in the other hand I'm not keeping an eye on. While we’re watching Paris Hilton pack her toiletries for her stay in the big house, an estimated 520 demonstrators have been reported injured and dozens of people have been imprisoned in what began as peaceful demonstrations to coincide with the G8 summit. The elite will meet behind a barbed wire barricade designed to keep the masses and the prying eyes of the rest of the world out.



At stake here is our future, not just as Americans but as human beings. This year’s G8 summit is expected to attract demonstrators opposed to capitalism, globalization and the war on Iraq. This is stuff that concerns me. Another important topic to be discussed is global warming and the reduction of greenhouse gases. I want to know about this - don’t you?

The real news dealing with issues that affect the whole world is being buried under infotainment. Are we really so stupid or so complacent that we can’t see what’s happening in the world? Do we want to live in our little gilded Eden in peaceful ignorance until the whole thing goes down the toilet?



A friend of mine once joked that she didn’t care what was going on in the rest of the world as long as she could have her 500 cable TV channels. I think there’s a bit of truth to that and I think it's more common than we'd like to believe. But I also believe that there are things worth fighting for and this is where Tamara’s letter struck a chord with me. On some deep level, we have to question whether the hippies were naive in putting all their trust in peaceful demonstrations. Punks, on the other hand, did seem to intuit that confrontation - even violent confrontation - was sometimes necessary and even justified.





I just want to clarify that I’m not advocating anyone throw rocks at police during a peaceful demonstration. That is a terrible idea that endangers innocent people and will probably lead to your being clobbered and arrested. Peaceful demonstrations can work and can accomplish much but they depend on public opinion and on being able to gather support by inviting the media to publicize your plight around the world. If our access to information is being curtailed, the success of peaceful demonstrations is being subverted. If the powers that be wish to subvert our ability to convey our wishes and demands in nonviolent ways then they are effectively pushing us towards more aggressive options.

As poverty and hunger around the world and global warming threatens our very existence we can’t afford to be ignored.

Penelope Houston of the Avengers once wrote:

"Open your eyes, open your eyes
You don't see what's going on
Come on, open your eyes, open your eyes
you watch TV to find out what's right and wrong, yeah
Open your eyes well, they tell you lies and you sing along
Open your eyes to what you respected
Open your eyes and you can reject it."

Postscript added by Alice on 6/7/07:

This post elicited several responses. I'd like to share a couple more links for those of you who'd care to read some other views on the subject:

Arms and the Movement by Peter Gelderloos

Protest Is Dead. Long Live Protest by Joseph Hart

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog entry, Alice and thought provoking to say the least. I will be sharing this with my friends.

Jenny Lens said...

I'm gonna throw a great big flaming rock at this argument: Mahatma Gandhi. Add Martin Luther King, who was greatly influenced by Gandhi.

One cannot dismiss the idea of nonviolence without discussing Gandhi and to a certain extent, King.

For those who don't know their history: Gandhi liberated India from British imperialism/iron-fisted, heavily military/political rule.

He never threw one rock.

Who stopped the Vietnam War? PEOPLE TAKING TO THE STREETS. Mostly YOUNG PEOPLE. Who fought for free speech in Paris and Berkeley in the ‘60’s?

College students. Who were behind the rise of the right wing conservatives starting with the Reagan era? College students.

Who knew young people have such power? Former college students who lived through all this, paid attention and remember it well. People like me.

Hippies, what are they good for?

Civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, fair housing, environmental awareness/protection, end of Vietnam War and much more. Like it or not, they also produced some decent music.

What went wrong? Two things come to mind, and I am being simplistic: the elite who were threatened and used the FBI and local police to harass and jail many (never mind on too-often trumped-up charges) and the cost of living. Many hippies turned to making money when they saw their revolutionary ideas being co-opted and turned against them. Why beat them when you can join them and not get beaten up?

When did the right-wing start to despise the rest of us? During the Eisenhower era and beatniks or when the hippies non-violently fought for social rights?

Before you dismiss the hippies, look into all we tried to do. At least the hippies and punks took to the streets, airwaves, etc.

Hippies didn't get it right, neither did the punks.

I hate to say this, but most every young person I talk to in person and emails has an attitude of "why try?"

I tell them/write: do what the right-wing did starting in the '80's: write advertisers you and everyone you know will boycott their products if they continue to advertise on mindless or offensive news shows or programs.

Write to Doc Martens and Saatchi and Saatchi because they co-opted Joey, Joe Strummer, Kurt and Sid's faces/bodies to sell shoes.

Get them where it hurts: financially. And blog it, blog it, blog it.

Don't give up and don't discount peaceful, non-violent means. Don't stoop to the level of those who would do you harm. Harm not just by beating you up, but depriving you of the rights so many fought to preserve.

Fight for affordable, uncensored net. That's the threat I find that needs constant vigilance. Most people don't even know we might lose our lone, most effective tool: the net. But fight with words and the wallet.

That's all the time I have to discuss this. Besides, it saddens, disgusts and infuriates me to read the hippies dismissed to blatantly.

Although I identify as a punk, I was 13 when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show on Feb 9, 1964. I lived through this era people want to dismiss. Throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Jenny Lens said...

I forgot one really important point: why are hippies despised? Cos wow, have they've been smeared! History truly does belong to the victors. I shocked and dismayed at the lack of awareness and knowledge in an era of so much info on the net. I know our schools distort and limit knowledge. But there's a lack of curiosity that astounds me.

Please, please don't take this for some kind of know it all, I'm older, I’ve been there, listen to me shit. I only speak up because I believe, like Patti, people have the power. But use it! And this is a problem going back to when I grew up in the ‘50’s. I’ve been speaking up since I learned to talk. So it’s not generational. It’s a human disconnect. Don’t tune in and drop out. Tune in and do something productive! And never stop!

I was at the 99 cent store yesterday. I usually walk, but because I had to pick up a 16 x 20 print from the lab (I usually walk if print smaller, to either pick up or mail) and other items, I drove. I thought, I'll stock up on melons and heavy things rather than my usual walk around the corner for bananas, mangos and avocados at the only place those things are affordable.

A young woman approached me in the store. My little Toyota wagon is covered with bumper stickers in the back. She told me she really loved my bumper sticke, "Are you willing to die for Exxon?"

She was so surprised when I told her one way to fight back is writing advertisers, and threaten to boycott them. I told her that's how the right wing and religious conservatives/fundamentalists, et al gained power starting in the '80's.

They wrote letters. That is also why they are so threatened by the net. They know this power is now in our hands. Worse, according to what I've read by conservatives, they are behind the curve because more progressives know how to use computer technology and have such a large presences on the net.

I didn’t ask her, but why didn’t she know that? It’s in the online news I read. The net is full of information, hadn’t she heard? I come across that all the time when young people write, telling me they love my pix, wish they were around with people like Alice and I. I thank them, then turn the conversation around.

I always write “Punk is political. What are you doing about what’s going on today?” They don’t know what to do. They don’t know history. They have given up. . And they want to be punks like Alice and I. Have we given up? Or they want to do something, but don’t know what or how to begin

I love that Alice always writes about the very things that parallel my life. I don't have a blog yet because I'm in the midst of possibly dismantling my website/store and replacing it all with a blog. It's an incredible amount of work, time and knowledge I don’t have time to learn by myself. I am contacting WordPress gurus for consulting, advising, and training. So I appreciate being able to express my thoughts about the very issues I discuss in emails and in person.

Thanks Alice and all who contribute to her site.

Final thought, for those who want to read another great political blog with contributions from many, go to huffingtonpost.com. But they missed the G8 coverage!

Mark said...

Hi Jenny,

I'm fairly confident that Alice is far from condemning the hippies or what they achieved. I know from reading her other blogs that she feels there is alot in common between the punk generation and the hippies of the 60's and early 70's. Shared ideals, values...just different approaches towards making the world better.
I think both Alice and Tamara were uncomfortable with the conclusion that non-violence doesn't work because it clearly has in the past (e.g., Ghandi and MLK). But bear in mind that there is much more empirical evidence for the argument that violence works too (e.g., American and Mexican Revolutions to name a few.)

Either way, it takes a galvanized, mobilized group of committed individuals to effect massive change, like ending the war or stopping global warming. The only way masses of people can become galvanized is through awareness. When the powers that be control the news and information we receive, then we become docile sheep and no longer a threat to those who would control us.

First Amendment - anyone???

Alice Bag said...

Thanks Mark and Jenny for your comments.

I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t appreciate the contributions of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, the 60's hippies and civil right movements. My intention is to question whether the methods that were used in the past are still effective today given the level of disinformation that we are experiencing. Knowing your opponent’s strategies is crucial to defeating them and it seems that our opponents have figured out how to thwart the success of our peaceful demonstrations. I have not forgotten the past. The people that inspired you also inspired me. But the times they are a changing...

godoggo said...

Not sure how you're defining "hippies." Seems to me there was plenty of violence coming from the 60s counterculture. The government was genuinely worried about revolution, as I understand...

Anyway, my only problem with pacifism is that I'm generally averse to universal principals as a way to avoid thinking about unique situations, but, without bothering to back this up with examples, it seems to me that, in the overwhelming number of cases, violence does more harm than good, and even when the direct results are relatively good, the indirect result is the justification of violence as a useful tool, which goes back to my previous point. The threat of violence seems to be useful though, as long as it doesn't cross over into actual violence. There's a thin line between clever and stupid.

The classic anti-pacifism essay, of course is Orwell's "Reflections on Gandhi" http://www.readprint.com/work-1260/George-Orwell

godoggo said...

...incidentally, I was trying to google a Lester Bangs piece about how "gentle" most punks were in reality, but couldn't find it...anyway, it seems to me that the main difference between the 60s counterculture and the punks is that the former quickly became a popular movement, while the latter failed to, at least in the U.S., which is part of the reason the former accomplished so much more.

aliceandmark said...

It is odd how news media show the same events so differently.

Over here (Oxford England) G8 is top of the news with reporters camped outside breathlessly promising they will will give us the inside track on developments (its even on the radio in the background as I write this).

My understanding was that the first few meetings in the 1970s were genuinely unpredictable discussions, but in the last few years the events have become much increasingly stage managed.

I'm equivocable about the protesters, their aims are laudible but I believe trade probably benefits the poorest in Africa. Getting rid of trade barriers would give them the opportunity to sell their products to richer countries.

And the violence of the protests means the leaders now meet behind barbed wire, well away from the rest of us. That doesn't seem a successful outcome.

godoggo said...

btw...on second reading that Orwell essay doesn't look quite as anti-pacifist as I thought...maybe I was thinking of this one: http://www.resort.com/~prime8/Orwell/nationalism.html

Tamara said...

I think what I wanted to say is that nonviolence is one tool in a pretty big box. When it works, great. But I think a lot of hippie-types still think that if they ask really, really nicely everything will be o.k.

Going back to Gelderloos, he pretty much destroys the argument about protesters ending the Vietnam war by pointing out that thousands of armed Vietnamese did more to end the war than any sit-down strike ever did. And as for Gandhi and King, they wouldn't have gotten any
praise at all if there weren't other armed groups like the Black
Panthers and radical Indian revolutionaries to pick up the slack where they left off.

I think one of the best things the punk movement did was to move us away from a permission culture and into a D.I.Y. environment. And as
author Derrick Jensen says, a failure to react is simply a failure to love. No mother animal just stands by while someone goes after her children. He argues that if we don't defend what and who we love, then we're already defeated.

By the way, you may have noticed from your link that Peter Gelderloos is facing some pretty serious charges in Spain--so we might get a chance to see how effective his arguments really are.

Jenny Lens said...

I never meant to imply that Alice ever either forgot about non-violence nor was advocating violence. I was reacting to the comment about hippies. She was quoting from other sources.

I've said this before, and I'll reiterate, I was shocked to read Alice's recollections about her aggressiveness in punk. The Alice Bag I knew, loved and respected then and continue to love is one who has only shown kindness, patience, understanding and acceptance. She is one of the most loving persons I've ever known.

Alice was always the kindest person to me in punk. She also is a great example of someone who knows when to be aggressive and when not to. Sorry if that were lost in what I was trying to say.

I have to take great umbrage at the statement that it was the Vietnamese who ended the war. Shouldn’t the Iraq war be ended right now, today, using the same argument?

The American people ended the Vietnamese war. At least that's the way I remember it. But history, and our memories, depend upon our viewpoint. I’m not going to rehash Johnson, Nixon, Kissinger, and the American people from 1964 (Gulf of Tonkin, which I remember well. I suggest reading “Arrogance of Power” about Tonkin incident and lies to and by our government by then-Senator Fulbright. That along with “1984” and “Animal Farm,” all read when I was 14, were highly relevant then and now) - 1972.

But it's not as simple as just we the people or just the North Vietnamese army. War and peace is never that simple.

That's why I write. I get very discouraged when I read simplistic statements. Doesn't matter if it comes from the left, liberal, progressives or the right, fundamentalists, conservatives. Issues are complex. Some of us can be considered liberal on one issue, conservative on another.

Just like violence and non-violence. I don't know how violence alone will help. Think of China and its tanks and Tianamen Square.

We have two tools, and the first needs vigilance: the net. The second is organizing and writing companies and advertisers. Hit them where it hurts: money. That's something the left has not learned from the right.

That said, sometimes you have to take up arms. But I've seen street photos like those Alice posted for over 40 years and what has changed? It’s gotten much worse for those who care about economic equality, the environment, equal rights, education, pay equality, jobs security/availability, so much more.

As someone who lived through the exciting progressive times of the ‘60’s, I also saw how the middle and right ganged up and shut us down. We’ve never seen it worse than the almost-total dismantling of social, environmental, science, justice, etc in our govt since 2000.

We have the net: protect it and use it. It just might be our last chance, our last hope.

Traditional press is up in arms over Google and blogs. The right is rightfully concerned. They have the big companies and government cronies trying to make it more expensive, less access, and more censorship. That is the number one threat to all we hold dear! We have so much power right now, but few know how to harness it via the net.

And as Patti says, it’s not just the net, we need to meet in person. Alice and I live on the outskirts of major cities. Think how many people we communicate with! I am a fan of huffingtonpost.com. There’s moveon.org and more. Get involved there first. When you are arrested, you can ruin you life (we’re not all like Paris Hilton, thank God!). And if injured, medical help can also ruin not just your financial future, but your health.

Spend time online organizing and directing meaningful blogs and emails towards companies, government officials, corruption wherever you see it. Violence is as old as Cain and Able. I'd just like to see other methods used as often, but more effectively.

Shalom. That's Hebrew for Peace.

godoggo said...

I just have to say that the notion that the N. Vietnamese ended the war by continuing to fight it is...Orwellian.

godoggo said...

BTW, one example I'd been thinking of: it's kind of a shame that the old Crips website no longer exists, because it included a really useful history of L.A. gangs; the Crips were apparently originally formed as a way to provide protection against crime, and were even fairly idealistic (inspired by the Black Panthers); the Bloods were formed to defend against the Crips, and were more violent to compensate for their smaller numbers. This just strikes me as analagous to, well, all sorts of things.

godoggo said...

OK, last comment: I guess the word "violence" has gotten my mind going off into all sorts of tangents - violence in war, violent revolution, etc. - which maybe aren't exactly relevant to the topic at hand (discussed in those newest links that Alice added)... I guess the ultimate point is that I believe in Karma...well, that's not the kind of word I usually use...let's say "blowback."

All done.