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Deep Green Resistance – Liberal vs Radical Part 3 of 3

Don’t miss Liberal vs Radical part one and part two.

(Video captions available in English, Russian, Portuguese.  Contact us if you would like to translate this or other Deep Green Resistance videos to another language.)

Video Transcript:

Once people realize that bad things are happening most of us are called to action. I would say these are the four main categories of response.

Response Categories

The take home point here, if you remember nothing else from this, is that all four of these categories can be either liberal or radical.

None of them are inherently liberal or radical. It depends how we use them. They all have strategic strengths, they all have strategic failings. So it depends what we want to do with them.

This is the realization to which radicalism brings you. My two favorite people again.

Liberal vs Radical quotes

Social change requires force. Why? Because it’s not a mistake out of which the powerful can be educated. Don’t misunderstand me that when I say “force”, that does not have to equal violence. Whether or not to wage your struggle using violence or nonviolence is a decision that comes way later, way down the pike.

Nonviolence is a very elegant political technique if it is understood and used properly. I don’t think that it is being used properly on the left right now but this is not a division between violence and nonviolence. It is only to recognize that power is not a mistake, I mean, not unless you’re a liberal.

Again, if you want to be a liberal, great, if that’s the framework that works for you, it’s your decision. I mean really, some of my best friends, right?

[Lierre Keith and audience laugh]

Back to our categories.

The first one is legal, for obvious reasons. A lot of activist groups really focus on making legal changes to the social power. And, to quote Catharine MacKinnon, “Law organizes power”, so it makes sense that a lot of us will sort of gravitate to that. The trick is we got to do that as radicals and not as liberals.

Basic question: Does this initiative, whatever it is, does it redefine power? Not just who’s at the top of the pyramid, but does it actually redefine power? Does it take power away from the powerful and redistribute it such that we all have some control over the material conditions? That would make it a radical action. But a lot of people, they give up on the legal stuff, or it doesn’t appeal for whatever reason.

Direct action, also tried and true. You can totally bypass the legislative arena and get a lot done. Usually that’s some kind of civil disobedience. It can be letter writing, petitioning, some kind of pressure but it really kicks into gear when you hit them economically.

Great example is the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was not a legal campaign, it was “we’re going to hit them economically”, and they did. They brought the bus company to their knees and made them stop segregating the buses. So it can be very effective.

Your basic insurrection would be another good example of direct action. That covers a lot of ground from very liberal things to very successful movements on up to really profound change.

Number three is withdrawal. Now this is a tricky one. The main difference between withdrawal as a successful strategy and withdrawal as a failed strategy is whether that withdrawal is seen as adequate in itself or whether it’s seen as necessary, connected to a larger political struggle. And that distinction hinges exactly on the difference between liberal and radical. Because issues of identification and loyalty are crucial to resistance movements but they’re not enough because your emotional state is not actually what’s going to create political change.

The withdrawal has to go beyond the intellectual, beyond the emotional, beyond the psychological. It’s got to include a goal, actually winning justice by withdrawing.

Withdrawal may give solace but ultimately it will change nothing. Living in a rarefied bubble-world of the already converted is a very poor substitute for freedom and it will not save our planet.

This is Gene Sharp, who I think is marvelous, and you should go to the library, get every book he’s ever written, keep you busy for a year. He makes a very similar point. The people who he calls “utopians” I would call “withdrawalists”.

Utopians Gene Sharp

They’re often especially sensitive to the evils of the world, they crave certainty and purity, they reject the evil as firmly as possible, they don’t want to have any compromise, and they await this new world, which will come into being by either an act of God, a change in human spirit, autonomous changes in conditions, some kind of spontaneous upheaval… but all of these are beyond deliberate human control.

The most serious weakness of this response to the problem of this world is not the broad vision or the commitment of the people who believe in it. The weakness is that these believers have no effective way to reach the society of their dreams. That about sums up my youth.

[L.K. and audience laugh]

I’ve heard the phrase “secular millennialism” and that’s exactly what he’s getting at.

So the left has these vague notions that our actions will inspire others, that even more vaguely these will accumulate into some kind of meaningful social change, or kick off a spontaneous insurrection.

There’s a nonviolent version which is usually lifestyle stuff like diet. There’s the more militant actions like the Weather Underground. Those are the two poles of secular millenialism. Change will happen because it MUST or because the Great Turning narrative says it will, or because the fires of our righteous rage will make it be so.

Given that revolution is not actually inevitable, I think we would be wise to understand the basic principle of resistance. “Dislodging injustice requires”, in the words of Andrea Dworkin, “organized political resistance”.

This brings us to the next category which is spirituality.

Withdrawalists’ stance is usually based on despair but it’s an answer that relies on faith, not on strategy. Which is to say, it’s an emotional response, an emotional solution, and it’s not a material solution. This merges right into Millenarianism.

Millenarianism is any religious movement that predicts the collapse of the world order as we know it, to be replaced by this wonderful time of justice and whatnot. There are lots of examples across history of desperate people taking this up. I highly recommend reading up on this.

Much of the left has been infected by this kind of thinking. We’re going to meditate to stop global warming, we’re going to orgasm our way to peace…

If all else fails, which it will, December 2012 is coming up, right? How many of these have we lived through? I’m 46, I think I’ve lived through 4? Every 10 years there’s another one, right? It’s not going to happen.

The worst examples in history that we know of: the Xhosa Cattle Killing Cult. The Xhosa are cattle-herding people in eastern South Africa. In the 1700s there’s various colonial invasions, displacement, genocide, war, all these horrors. By 1854 there’s this terrible lung disease and a whole bunch of the cattle die so the people are just incredibly vulnerable at this point, and somebody has a vision.

A teenage girl has a vision, and the vision is, if we kill all the cattle, destroy all our food stocks, even our cooking pots, everything, then this great thing will happen. The dead are going to return, the food supplies will just spring up overnight, there’s going to be gigantic cattle that you’ve never even seen before, they’re so big, and the spirit warriors will drive the British out and we will have our land again.

This vision starts to spread, everybody starts having visions, it’s just like this mass visioning is happening everywhere.

People believe it, more people believe it, they start killing the cattle. At some point so many cattle are killed that the carrion birds can’t even keep up with it. There’s so many corpses rotting in the sun. 400,000 beasts are slaughtered by the end of this.

The first deadline comes, does anything happen? One guess… no.

And of course the unbelievers are blamed. This is always where it ends with this kind of millenialism. It’s YOUR fault ’cause you didn’t believe it. So the very last cattle have to be killed.

A few people are hanging on, “nah, I’m just going to keep this one cow for some milk”. You can’t do it. So every last cattle has to be killed.

So, what happens? Mass starvation ensues. All its attendant atrocities and horrors, people ate corpses, people ate grass, people ate their children. I mean it’s just absolute hell. The population at one point was 105,000 and it collapses to 26,000 people, a lot whom had to escape into cities ’cause they were just starving in the countryside.

150 years of imperialism could not defeat the Xhosa but 2 years of millennial fever almost did.

So, bad example.

The Boxer Rebellion is another one, just as horrible. They called themselves the Righteous Harmony Society. This was a religious society in northern China that was absolutely a response to the Opium Wars and British Imperialism. You get why people are desperate.

They did martial arts, diet and prayer and they believed they’d be given the power to fly if they did this. And absolutely, they had special garments, protection against bullets and swords. You find that theme a lot. You’re going to wear this special garment and they won’t be able to kill you.

There was going to be an army of spirit soldiers that was going to arrive to save the day and drive out the British. They never appeared. The entire thing ends in complete disaster for China. Very evil stuff. How the British responded was just appalling.

Anyway, two examples and it is really worth, I think, knowing more about this because I just see these tendencies all the time and it’s not going to end well for us either.

Divine intervention has never yet stopped a system of unjust power across the entire sweep of human history. As a political strategy it is a complete failure and we really need to get over this one.

This is not in any way to dismiss the role of spirituality in a resistance movement. Spirituality is so often the core of any culture, and it is often the cradle of the resistance movement.

A lot of people talk about the black churches as the beginning of the Civil Right Movement, the Anti-Apartheid Movement also, the churches play this huge role. All across the world you can find how the Tibetans and the Buddhism, how this all comes together. It gives people incredible dignity and strength, you can get yourself respect through your spiritual practice. It absolutely helps communities stay together under really brutal conditions, helps set community norms.

All that is incredibly important. My point, really, is that faith is not a political strategy.

The only miracle we’re going to get is us.

Don’t miss Liberal vs Radical part two.

Watch more DGR videos:  http://youtube.com/user/DeepGreenResistance.

Deep Green Resistance – Liberal vs Radical Part 2 of 3

Watch part one and part three.

(Video captions available in English, Russian, Portuguese.  Contact us if you would like to translate this or other Deep Green Resistance videos to another language.)

Video Transcript:

People withstand oppression using 3 psychological methods: denial, accommodation, and consent. So if they had but known they were slaves.

Anyone on the receiving end of domination learns early in life to stay in line or risk the consequences. And those consequences only have to be applied once in awhile to be effective. From that point forward the traumatized psyche will police itself.

We have a saying in the battered women’s movement, “One beating a year will keep a woman down” so once in awhile is all it takes. Any show of resistance is met on the continuum that starts with derision, social derision, all the way across to violence, including murder, and that’s how oppression works. We end up consenting.

But resistance does happen, somehow. Despite everything people WILL insist on their humanity.

Here is “tank-man”. I love this. We still don’t know this man’s name, we don’t know if he’s alive, but he did this.

[Male voice from audience: ] No, he was killed.

[Lierre Keith:] He was killed?

[Male voice from audience mumbles something in agreement]

[Lierre Keith:] They’re pretty sure he was killed? ‘Cause he WAS pulled out of the street but they don’t know whether it was by police or whether it was by other citizens who were trying to save him ’cause they were like, “he’s going to get murdered” and so they dragged him out, yeah…

[Man in audience mumbles:] …killed.

[Lierre Keith:]…killed, yeah. It’s a big mystery, we’re not quite sure what happened to him in the end but he said “over my dead body”, that’s quite clear.  And frankly that’s what we all need to be doing, right? In one way or another.

The final difference is the approach to justice. With power being invisible on the liberal side, justice is therefore served by adhering to these moral principles that are abstract.

For radicals justice cannot be blind. Domination will only be dismantled by taking away the rights of the powerful and redistributing those rights to the rest of us.  So you’re going to have to name the harm and then think up a specific redress and then go ahead and do it.
By having it be blind it means that you’re really only supporting the powers that be that are already in place.

One really great example of this is: there’s a famous sex discrimination case, it was a class action case against Sears and Roebuck.  Women came forward, had a whole bunch of stories about how they were being denied promotions, and whatnot, at Sears. This was heard by a federal court.  One of the problems was that women weren’t getting maternity leave.  They were being discriminated against ’cause they don’t have maternity leave.
The court denied all their claims. For women, this is a huge loss. WalMart is doing the same thing now. It has not changed in 30 years.

The part that gets you always is the federal judge then says, “This is not discrimination against women because if men got pregnant too, they also would not have maternity leave.”  This is a federal judge. You could not find a more abstract principle.  “If men got pregnant…”  Men DON’T get pregnant, that’s the point!  That’s WHY it’s discrimination against women.

[audience laughs]

So here we’ve been using these words like “oppression”.  We haven’t defined this yet.

dgr-quotes-Frye-OppressionDefinition-articlesizeIf you did your reading you will have come across Marilyn Frye.  [Oppression is] “…a system of interrelated forces and barriers which reduce, immobilize and mold people who belong to a certain group, and effect their subordination to another group.”  Now that is radicalism in one elegant sentence.  Oppression is not an attitude, it’s about a system of power.  And one of the harms of that system is that is creates subordination in that group.  It creates that consent in the oppressed.

The image that she uses is the birdcage.  If you are a liberal you’re only going to see random bars.  They’re not connected into that interrelated set, right?  What keeps that bird in that cage is the fact that all those bars work together. It’s the interrelated forces and barriers.  So if you’re a liberal, why is that bird in that cage?  Oh I don’t know, there’s nothing keeping that bird in that cage.  You don’t see the forces and barriers.  It either has to be voluntary, “the bird wants to be in that cage”, or it’s natural, “well it’s just in that bird’s nature to be in that cage”.

We’ve got another word here we should talk about which is “subordination”. We’ve got some very smart people who’ve come before us.

This is Andrea Dworkin, Four Elements of Subordination:

An

Hierarchy: group on top, group on the bottom. Of course the people on the bottom have a lot fewer rights, resources, blah, blah.

Objectification: some human beings are seen as less than human.  In whatever way they are used as objects, they are bought and sold as objects, it’s appropriate to treat them as objects.

Submission: so here we go again. You have to submit in order to survive. And this is always the rock and the hard place that you’re up against when you are being oppressed.
You are objectified and because you then have to submit that’s used as proof that you in fact deserved that oppression or you’re somehow made for that oppression, it doesn’t hurt you when you’re oppressed.  But in fact it’s really just the only option you’ve got, if essentially, you don’t want to die.

Finally there’s violence: of course committed by the people on top against the people on the bottom. It’s totally natural, in fact, they have a right to do it.  It’s when people start fighting up from the bottom that you’ve got trouble.

All 4 of these elements work together to create this hermetically sealed world, psychologically and politically.  Where oppression is normalized and is almost as necessary as air for the whole society to function.

Coming to political consciousness is not a painless task.  To overcome that denial, the accommodation, the consent, it means facing the everyday normative cruelty
of the society in which you live, in which millions of people are participating in this.
A lot of them get direct benefits from it, others of them get benefits as bystanders. It’s really hard to face that.  It’s also really hard to face your own collusion in your own oppression. It’s not a fun moment.

A friend of mine remembers the first person in her family who ever went to college grew up in really extreme poverty and her first year in college she kind of had a mental breakdown and it was over this one sentence:

She said, “I realized there were rich people and there were poor people and there was a relationship between the two”.

That whole year was just coming to grips with that.

Knowledge of oppression starts from some kind of baseline recognition that subordination is always wrong, that oppression always hurts real people, and that we can do something about it. I would submit that knowledge, and the skills that we acquire in analyzing the situation that we’re in can be emotionally freeing, certainly intellectually freeing and ultimately spiritually freeing.  It can give us the kind of courage we need to go forward, so, we gotta do it.

Watch part one and part three.

Watch more DGR videos:  http://youtube.com/user/DeepGreenResistance.

Deep Green Resistance – Liberal vs Radical Part 1 of 3

Watch part two and part three.

Video Transcript:

Two of my favorite people from history. My dad gets upset because they don’t really teach science anymore in the public schools, and this is mostly because the Right Wing can’t bear the thought of evolution. My mom gets sad ’cause they don’t really teach history anymore and my sister fairly weeps because you don’t get art anymore in the school system. But me, I’m like, ‘they just don’t teach revolution anymore in those public schools’.[audience laughs] Am I right? Right?

So this is like the basic political education that really, we all should have gotten, and really most of us didn’t. And I start here with liberals and radicals because I think this is the main division.

I think this is important because a lot of times in our friendships and our activist networks and even in our groups, and across broader movements, there are these tensions that can be really painful and profound and a lot of it really comes down to the difference between liberals and radicals. I, in the end, don’t care which side of this you decide to land on you got to figure out which, you know, which world view actually describes the world as you know it (and that’s up to you really). But it can really help to understand where these different perspectives are coming from because then when you have these conflicts suddenly you go, ‘right, that’s liberal and I’m radical, and that’s why we’re never going to meet in the middle’ because these are profound differences, politically. Doesn’t mean we can’t work together; lots of coalitions need to happen.

I mean, I am not trying to demonize anybody here but these ARE different positions that people can take across the spectrum. I would say the main division between liberals and radicals is individualism.

Liberals believe that society is made up of individuals. That’s the basic social unit. In fact individualism is so sacrosanct that in this view, to be identified as a member of a group is seen as an affront; that’s the insult.

Totally different for radicals over on the other side of the chart. Society is not made up of individual people, it’s made up of groups of people. In Marx’s original version this was class, it was economic class. This is the debt that all radicals owe Karl Marx. It doesn’t matter if you are a Marxist or not, he figured this out. It’s groups of people and some groups have power over other groups. That’s what society is made of.

In the radicals’ understanding being a member of a group is not an insult. In fact it’s the first primary step you have to take coming to a radical consciousness and then ultimately having effective political action, you have to identify as a member of that group. You’ve got to make common cause with the people who share your condition. That’s how political change happens. This is both an active and a critical embrace of that group identity.

We radicals get accused all the time of creating this kind of ‘victim identity’, but that’s not what’s going on. We are more than what they’ve done to us, and we do have agency. But we do have to recognize that there is power in the world and we’re on the receiving end.

The other big division is between the nature of social reality. Liberalism is what’s called idealist. Social reality, for them, is made up of attitudes, of ideas; it’s a mental event. And therefore social change happens through education. Through changing people’s minds.

Materialism, in contrast, over on the radical side: society is organized by concrete systems of power, not by thoughts and ideas. By material institutions. And the solution to oppression is to take those systems apart brick by brick.

The liberals will say, ‘we have to educate, educate, educate’, and the radicals will say, ‘actually we have to stop them’.

Political movements need education, this is an educational event, here we are. And you need active proselytizing, the oppressed need mechanisms to understand political oppression, consciousness raising. This is all really profoundly important.

But for radicals alone that does not change social reality. Because the world is not an internal state. It’s not a mental state. The point of education is to build the movement that can take down those oppressive structures and bring about some kind of justice.

If you remove power from the equation oppression looks either natural or voluntary.

If you’re not going to see that people are formed by these social conditions how else are you going to explain subordination? Well either those people aren’t quite human, so they’re naturally different than us — that’s why they’re subordinate, or they’re somehow volunteering to be subordinate. Those are the options that you’re left with.

For instance race and gender are seen as biological. These are supposed to be physically real. Well they’re not, they’re politically real.

It’s brutal, vicious subordination that creates those things. But it’s ideology, and it is the ideology of the powerful that says this is biological. They make that claim that this is biological because how are you going to fight God or Nature or 4 million years of evolution? Well you’re not.

There are physical differences between people who are from northern Europe and people who live at the equator, just like there are differences between males and females but those differences only matter because power needs them to. It is power that creates the ideology and it’s a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power.

These are unjust systems that we are going to have to dismantle, and these are social categories we are going to have to destroy.

Just like naturalism operates in the service of power, so does volunteerism. If you are not going to go the biological route, all you are left with is volunteerism as a concept.

This is the thing that liberals do not understand. With power removed from the equation, if it looks voluntary you are going to erase the fact that it’s social subordination.

So here is Florynce Kennedy, ‘without the consent of the oppressed.’ 90% of any oppression is consensual. That’s what it does. It does not mean it’s our fault, it does not mean we are responsible, it doesn’t mean it will somehow crumble if we withdraw our consent. All it means is that the powerful — the capitalists, the white supremacists, the masculinists, whoever — they can’t stand over vast numbers of people 24/7 with guns.  Luckily, for them, depressingly for the rest of us, they don’t have to.

Liberals-vs-Radicals

Watch part two and part three.

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