21 March 2003


One of the things that will doubtless motivate people to reject capitalism in favor of ecosocialism will be the existential loneliness that accompanies capitalist life. Under capitalism, everyone grows up to be a "legal person," an individual who is ostensibly a full participant in the capitalist economic system. The individual's participation in capitalist life is motivated by the proverbial carrot and stick -- the carrot is those things that money can buy, the stick is the obligation to acquire the money to buy the things.

More onerous than the behavioral "microphysics of power" within capitalism, so thoroughly introduced by Michel Foucault, is the psychological equation, and this is where existential loneliness comes in. What's critical is that we have all adopted the necessary mental apparatus, required of the individual-under-capitalism, in order to play the game. Under capitalism, every individual must behave according to a balance sheet of assets and liabilities, maximizing one while minimizing another. Thus capitalism makes us all into the alienated individual of Jeremy Bentham's philosophy, who is a mere calculus of pleasure to be gained against pain to be avoided. This results in existential loneliness, because friendship (under capitalism) is only as valid as its value on the balance sheets of the friends. In fact, most friendship (under capitalism) is a liability, because friendship (under capitalism) has a monetary cost -- it costs money to go places and do things with friends, money which could otherwise be invested. So, without any rebellion against capitalism in the relation between you and I, it might as well profit us not to be friends at all.

The legal definition of the individual-under-capitalism, furthermore, is the individual who seeks to avoid the liability of prison-time by obeying the law. The very thing that makes "getting arrested" such a radical aspect of nonviolent civil disobedience, then, is its violation of the calculus of pain and pleasure imposed by the legal definition of the individual-under-capitalism. The civilly-disobedient arrestee actually seeks the pain of jail time and a criminal record, as a protest against the individuality that is experienced in an unjust system like capitalism. Thus all nonviolent civil disobedience is in essence a nascent revolt against capitalism. Nonviolent civil disobedience is, then, what Kovel would call a "prefiguration" of ecosocialism.

One of my students tried to write a paper on the recent protests. He claimed in his first draft that the main reason for the protests was to send a message to President Bush. I told him that it was quite likely that President Bush doesn't really care about, or listen to, protesters, and that therefore there must be another reason for the protests. I did not supply this reason myself. But there is a reason for the current protests outside of "sending a message to Bush" -- the protesters are protesting in order to deal with themselves, to protest the existential loneliness that being a self-under-capitalism has forced them to experience. Being a lonely self-under-capitalism in a world that is going to Hell in a handbasket is so painful that it drives protesters to irrational action, and actively protesting the state of the world is the lesser of a number of irrationalities. Especially given the feelings of togetherness it gives protesters.

Now, if one is to accept a theory of existential loneliness as a base experience of capitalist individuality, it stands to reason that most individuals (under capitalism) do not recognize, much less know, their existential loneliness. They nevertheless spend their lives looking for, and being enticed by, innumerable capitalist amusements, because perpetual amusement is felt to be necessary to distract the individual from the existential loneliness he or she feels deep down inside.

Yet it must be said that, regardless of the bombardment of amusements showering each person (under capitalism), or of the effectiveness of capitalist amusement, existential loneliness persists as a perpetually reoccuring capitalist liability. Ecosocialism, as a utopian concept, promises to relieve the self of existential loneliness. Under capitalism, the main form of relief has got to be death, because in death the individual returns to the world of merely-organic matter that forms the material substrate of the living Earth, of Gaia. As Gary Snyder once remarked, we can receive comfort from the knowledge that, when we are dead, something will eat us, and return us to the food chain. This death is our link to the cycle of life, and under capitalism, death is the main guarantee of the promise of reunion. Ecosocialism promises to fuse a consciousness of the cycles of life with the process of living life as a living human being, whereas without ecosocialism we must wait for death to re-experience the cycle of life directly. This is the singular nature of ecosocialism's promise: the re-integration with natural living, for all, before the wait for death.

Privileged individuals can move to the forest today; but in doing so they remain in existential isolation from the capitalist world, which in its turn is isolated from itself. I remember seeing Snyder in Claremont awhile back, at Pitzer College. He read to us a recent poem he had composed about urban life, which strained to combine urban reality with Snyder's Zen ethic. I listened intently, but I don't think it came off.

20 March 2003


In his recent entry on Znet, Chomsky says:

"There are two ways for Washington to respond to the threats engendered by its actions and startling proclamations. One way is to try to alleviate the threats by paying some attention to legitimate grievances, and by agreeing to become a civilized member of a world community, with some respect for world order and its institutions. The other way is to construct even more awesome engines of destruction and domination, so that any perceived challenge, however remote, can be crushed – provoking new and greater challenges. That way poses serious dangers to the people of the US and the world, and may, very possibly, lead to extinction of the species – not an idle speculation."

I don't think it will come to nuclear war, unless the folks in DC try too hard to pry loose the regime in Beijing. Yet I don't really see any end to the arrogance of the Project for a New American Century crowd. So here's my nominee for a more likely future. The US invades Iraq and creates a major humanitarian disaster, unaccompanied by emergency funding, most of which was taken away from the AIDS disaster in Africa to deal with America's two Asian wars. The UN becomes a rubber-stamp for US militarism around the world. The ruling classes in France, Germany, and Russia cave, and attempt to re-establish normal relations with the regime in DC as if nothing had happened. They soon learn, however, that if they want their economy to run, they had better plan for a source of oil, and Iraq's oil will by then be firmly in the control of one Tommy Franks. Iran will not be an alternative, as the US will be invading it soon, as well, and Saudi Arabia will be holding on to every US batallion it can get in exchange for whatever is left of Prince Abdullah's power-base.

Then the Global Hubbert Peak hits, somewhere around 2010. All of a sudden it's time to convert to alternative energy sources. But the US, as well as the rest of the world, has been putting all its energies into coping with the Bush/Cheney Administration's foreign policy debacles. (Oh yeah, in 2008 Cheney is elected President, and the Democratic Party disappears as a viable alternative.) The popular opposition in the US, the "progressives," are preoccupied fighting the Bush/ Cheney Administration's re-establishment of the military draft, while the price of oil, having been so cheap in the US for so long (remember we've got that Iraqi supply!) skyrockets out of sight. The economy collapses. A "state of emergency" is instituted, the President is given dictatorial powers, and the Constitution falls into complete disuse as martial law is proclaimed (since the military is granted a monopoly on oil by its sponsor, Exxon/Mobil). Revolts within the military become widespread and are crushed brutally. The economy of the rest of the globe regresses to feudalism.

Now, remember, folks, that's the LIKELY future. It basically discounts the role of public opinion in shaping the future. Now, it's reasonable to expect no role for public opinion, as history is more likely to shape public opinion than public opinion is to shape history. But that could change.

19 March 2003


This individual "Red Jeremy" was posting to the "Green Alliance" group awhile back... about this old matter of how Nader let Gore won and how George W. Bush is such a horrible plague and how it's all Nader's fault. My response:

"Let me suggest that most of your outrage at G.W. is due to the fact that the atrocities that have been going on in his regime are so outrageous _not_ because there's something radically "new" about them, but _rather_ because such atrocities are going on _out in the open_ rather than _in secret_, as has been the case for so long. So, in sum, you are outraged at George W. because you KNOW he's a mass-murdering asshole, whereas with Clinton maybe you only had a suspicion that this was so. So what's outrageous today is, qualitatively, the same thing that was outrageous yesterday, only it's more outrageous because it's being hidden with a lesser degree of secrecy.

Name a President, I can find you a ton of corpses he's responsible for creating. They're all responsible for doing horrible, horrible things in the world. The problem is not that one President is so much worse or better than another, though the Bush Jr. program is distinctly a product of the Project for a New American Century (http://www.newamericancentury.org/ ). (The DLC has its equivalent, trust me. ) The problem is that human society is still run by Chairman Mao's maxim: "Power emanates from the barrel of a gun." Clinton did nothing to change this, Gore cannot be welcomed as our savior either. Nothing new is going to happen unless this reality is changed in some way, and the best we will be able to do if we accept it as a "given" is to delay the inevitable slide to global dictatorship. If we had had Gore, maybe less bad stuff would be going on, but it would be happening in secret, and the people would generate no outrage to generate a solidarity against it. With Bush, at least we have our outrage, our solidarity.

Forget about Presidential candidates altogether -- the whole thing is a charade to determine who is going to be our "elected" Global Dictator, having nothing to do with people power. And people power is, right now, the only thing that is going to save us.

But we're selling _it_ out too. I went to the Los Angeles solidarity demo yesterday, in the pouring rain. Lots of people showed up. Too few Greens, but at that point I don't really care a whole lot. The thing that concerned me was the speeches that implored the US government to have "respect for international law." Law won't save us here. Law only works when there is a monopoly on the use of violent force -- "the police" -- which is of course what the US government is trying to establish today with its invasion of Iraq. So nothing that was said in respect of "international law" on that rainy day presented any contradiction to the aims or motives of the murderous imperialists. Much more impressive, then, was the fact that so many people had the ganas to stand against war on such a rainy day.

The US government, of course, has been violating the law, internationally or otherwise, practically since it was formed. It doesn't really matter: what matters is the _unethical_ behavior of the US. Its repeated and constant use of violence is a danger to us all, and if we care for our lives we should stand in a 24/7/ 365 solidarity against it. See, in the final analysis, people do what they want, and the law only serves as an expression of some lawmaker's desires in that regard. We need something stronger than law: we need _daily solidarity against organized violence_.

The maxim that "power emanates from the barrel of a gun" may someday become untrue, but "people do what they want" will always be true. All of our legal structures are, therefore, only products of our desires, though our desires will be more or less armed depending upon the realities of violence of our era. In such circumstances, then, you can forget about Nader for President or dictator or Grand Poobah, in 2004 as well as in 2000. He's just another protester like you. The question he posed was one of whether you wanted to vote for a protester, or were you satisfied with the blood on our hands. Forget about the result, too; the fact of the matter is that he had the ganas to pose the question, and that constituted his defiance of the regime. If Nader is to be taken to task, then, it should be for his failure to build a daily solidarity that fights the regime.

American society is a violent society, and this is to be expected from violent Europeans who destroyed native civilizations and disrupted their
ecologies in order to dominate each other and the African slaves they imported at genocidal cost. Centuries-old traditions of violence are not eliminated in a year, or a decade. Stop obsessing over yesterday's failures, and build some hope for yourself. And make sure it's the real hope that originates in solidarity, too."

Well, that's what I said. In that regard, one sees waaay too much regard for "law" in the antiwar left these days. Witness, for instance, the commentary on Justice Antonin Scalia's recent speech in a blog called Lean Left. Scalia's idea of "rights" is clearly in contravention to the Constitution. But at this point one needs to remember that "law" is only a reflection of the contradictory will of the ruling class in the first place. In the past, "progressives" have been able to jump through the holes created by the contradictions in ruling class idealism, and use concepts such as "rights" to support the claims-to-life of working people. None of that means anything anymore. The ruling class can create whatever laws they want, and interpret the ones on the books to deny all rights to those they don't like. So killing Rachel Corrie was illegal? Enter "war," the all-purpose loophole. And now, for the sake of illegality, is the time that all will be devoured by the rich and their hired bureaucrats for the sake of the class struggle. All we will have left is our solidarity. Urging our Grand Poo-bahs to the creation of more laws, insisting on the enforcement of the ones on the books, none of that will be effective. More to the point is Tanya Reinhart's article. The first step to stopping short of mass suicide is total disbelief in the system, and total solidarity in that disbelief.

We may even have to "break the law" in order to get out from under the coming fascism. Can you leftists live with that?