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Deep Green Resistance Southwest April News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

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Photo Credit: Ray Bloxham/SUWA showing the aftermath of treatments in the Modena Canyon Wildlands.

Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense are advocating for a moratorium on all pinyon-juniper deforestation in the Great Basin and we need your help. Pinyon-juniper forests are being wantonly killed as weeds while their inherent ecological value is summarily ignored. These forests store carbon dioxide, dampen climate change, provide crucial wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and have helped humans survive in the Great Basin for millennia. A moratorium gives us time to marshall our resources to put this destruction to a permanent end.

See for yourself the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests and then join the fight.

Don’t let them destroy these forests! Sign our petition here.

Also join us to ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests.

3/25/2016 The Language of Pinyon-Juniper Trees
2/3/2016 BLM & the Ranching Industry: a History of Collusion
1/5/2016 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claim to Virtue
12/13/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis
12/1/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed

Follow our Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests campaign on Facebook for more updates.

Sacred Waters, Sacred Forests

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

A Gathering for Celebration, Community, Movement Building, Ecology, and Land Defense

Join us in May of 2016 for a tour of sacred lands threatened by the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater pipeline. We will spend three days visiting the communities affected by the water grab, learning about the project and the threatened sacred lands and waters. For those already familiar, we’ll also be holding workshops on the ecology and politics of the region at a basecamp in Spring Valley. The tour will begin at Cleve Creek campground, 12 miles north of Highway 6-50 at the base of the Schell Creek Mountains.

The SNWA water grab is a prime example of how civilizations (cultures based on cities, as opposed to cultures based on perpetual care of their landbases, without resource drawdown) inevitably destroy the planet. A bloated power center, ruled by the ultra-rich and served by an underclass of poorly-paid workers, bolstered by bought-and-paid-for politicians (see Harry Reid) and misused public tax dollars,  reaches out and takes what it wants from the countryside.

One of the developers who wants the water grab has described the Mojave desert around Las Vegas as “flat desert stuff.”  They call living land a wasteland to justify its continuing plunder.  To indigenous peoples—Shoshone, Paiute, and Goshute—the land and water are sacred.

Anyone who respects land and visits this place will fall in love with it.  That’s the purpose of the Sacred Water Tour, an annual gathering organized by Deep Green Resistance for the past three years.  In coordination with local activists and indigenous people, the public is welcomed every Memorial Day weekend to tour the region.

Resistance Radio: Derrick Jensen interviews Max Wilbert about the SNWA water grab
2015 Sacred Water Tour: Sacred Water Under Threat
2014 Sacred Water Tour: Report-Back
Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups
Follow our Stop the SNWA Water Grab campaign page on Facebook for more updates


Regional News

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Image: Cone-shaped solar flux of high intensity as in the above 50 kiloWatt per square meter diagram, at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System during operation.

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen: When I Dream of a Planet In Recovery

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers who welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries who grow to be eaten by those who then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi who join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings who live inside you, who make it possible for you to live.

Derrick Jensen: Not In My Name

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. The notion is wrongheaded, disrespectful to the human and nonhuman victims of this culture, an enormous distraction that wastes time and energy we don’t have and undermines whatever slight chance we do have of developing the effective resistance required to stop this culture from killing the planet. The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. When it comes to stopping the murder of the planet, too many environmentalists act more like they’re planning a party than building a movement.

Sustaining a Strategic Feminist Movement

At the core of this movement, there is an intangible force with a measurable impact. It’s an attitude, a mindset, a determination that compels us to push back against oppression. It’s the warrior mindset, the stand-and-fight stance of someone defending her home and the ones she loves.

Many burn with righteous anger. This is important – anger lets us know when people are hurting us and the ones we love. It’s part of the process of healing from trauma. Anger can rouse us from depression and move us past denial and bargaining. It is a step toward acceptance and taking action.

Rewriting the trauma script includes asserting our truth and lived experiences, and naming abuses instead of glossing over them. It includes discovering (and rediscovering) that we can rely on each other instead of on men. It’s mustering the courage to confront male violence. But it’s not going to be easy.

Ben Barker: Masculinity is Not Revolutionary

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.” Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm.

Film Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

All people interested in a living planet–and the resistance movement it will take to make that a reality–should watch this film. The courage found within every one forming their amazing culture of resistance–militant and non; including those who set up alternative courts, sang traditional songs and speak the traditional Gaelic language, open their homes for members of the resistance–is more than i have ever experienced, yet exactly what is needed in our current crisis. Those who fought back endured torture, murder, and the destruction of their communities. Yet, they still fought because they were guided by love and by what is right.


 

Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

In blunt terms, industrialization is a process of taking entire communi­ties of living beings and turning them into commodities and dead zones. Could it be done more “efficiently”? Sure, we could use a little less fossil fuels, but it still ends in the same wastelands of land, water, and sky. We could stretch this endgame out another twenty years, but the planet still dies. Trace every industrial artifact back to its source­ which isn’t hard, as they all leave trails of blood-and you find the same devastation: mining, clear-cuts, dams, agriculture. And now tar sands, mountaintop removal, wind farms (which might better be called dead bird and bat farms). No amount of renewables is going to make up for the fossil fuels or change the nature of the extraction, both of which are prerequisites for this way of life. Neither fossil fuels nor extracted substances will ever be sustainable; by definition, they will run out. Bringing a cloth shopping bag to the store, even if you walk there in your Global Warming Flip-Flops, will not stop the tar sands. But since these actions also won’t disrupt anyone’s life, they’re declared both real­istic and successful.

 


2014-04-16-likely-defeat

 

Stop the Frack Attack Prioritizes Male Entitlement over Saving the Planet

By Deep Green Resistance Colorado

Dear Reader, do you believe women, including those who have been raped by men, have the right to not be forced to share their most intimate spaces with males?

If you believe women have the right to say no, you will not be allowed to table at the Stop the Frack Attack National Convention.

Why? Because evidently the right of males to colonize women’s most intimate and vulnerable spaces is more important to these organizers than the rights of women to say no.

What does this have to do with a conference on fracking? We believe that just as communities have the right to say no to fracking, so, too, women have that right.

As radical environmentalists (and radical feminists), we in Deep Green Resistance oppose any and all threats to the future of the planet. This includes the recent spread of hydraulic fracturing as a method of oil extraction, a particularly vicious expression of this culture’s contempt for the living world. Because of this, we were understandably excited when we saw that Denver would be host to the Stop the Frack Attack (STFA) National Convention this week, and immediately reached out to see about tabling and distributing materials for our organization. Unfortunately, the leaders of STFA made it very clear to us that feminist perspectives are not welcome at their event.

Deep Green Resistance (DGR) is being barred from STFA because, according to the organizers of this conference, we support a “gender binary.” This notion is absurd. No one in DGR supports the gender binary – in fact, we oppose it so strongly that we don’t think those who struggle to fit inside one suffocating category should mutilate their bodies to fit inside the other. Sadly, transgenderists seem to disagree.

The real reason for our being censored is simple: We don’t think one abolishes an oppressive system by creating more categories in between the powerful and the powerless. On every issue except gender, most activists agree with us. After all, Capitalist societies don’t have a “class binary,” but no one thinks that makes the proletariat any closer to liberation. The bloodthirsty Spanish colonizers had at least six racial categories in their so-called New World; did that stop the indigenous from being slaughtered? And if not, then why on Earth would a non-binary gender system do anything to stop men from raping and killing women?

DGR believes the ideal number of genders isn’t three, or four, or dozen, or a million. It’s zero. We aim for a world where no one, male or female, is defined by a set of violent stereotypes called masculinity and femininity. And we can’t get there so long as these patriarchal, culturally constructed notions of Man and Woman are turned into essential aspects of human beings. Abolishing patriarchy means acknowledging that the social roles of this culture are not natural, not innate, and not acceptable – yet transgenderists are determined to naturalize the structure of women’s oppression by turning gender into an identity.

Critics of DGR like to portray us as somehow protecting or defending traditional definitions of gender, but nothing could be further from the truth. Deep Green Resistance encourages and supports anyone who resists the abusive and violent gender system – and the greatest example of such resistance is women saying no to men. Inside a political structure wherein people with penises are taught to disregard, belittle, and abuse people with vulvas – we call this structure “gender” – the truly non-conforming position for males is to defend and support those boundaries, not find new reasons for breaking them. Men force women to sacrifice their spaces every single day in this culture; doing the exact same thing while wearing lipstick and a dress doesn’t make it radical.

In a world teetering on the brink of destruction, we in Deep Green Resistance are absolutely amazed that an activist would turn his back on a committed environmentalist group solely because that group thinks rape victims shouldn’t have to shower and sleep with men. Sadly, many women in DGR are not surprised; they are very used to male activists putting the feelings of men above the physical safety and security of women. If the organizers of Stop the Frack Attack truly want to strike a blow against our restrictive and oppressive gender system, they could start by challenging their own entitlement and misogyny, clearly displayed here for all to see.

In the meantime, thank you to the STFA organizers for at least being clear about their solidarity with males.

The Modern COINTELPRO and How To Fight It

Editor’s Note: this first appeared on Dissident Voice, June 7th, 2014

Crowdsourcing Repression

Let’s Be Honest

Despite the seeming popularity of environmental and social justice work in the modern world, we’re not winning. We’re losing. In fact, we’re losing really badly.1

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Why is that?

One reason is because few popular strategies pose real threats to power. That’s not an accident: the rules of social change have been clearly defined by those in power. Either you play by the rules — rules which don’t allow you to win — or you break free of the rules, and face the consequences.

Play By The Rules, or Raise the Stakes

We all know the rules: you’re allowed to vote for either one capitalist or the other, vote with your dollars,2 write petitions (you really should sign this one), you can shop at local businesses, you can eat organic food (if you can afford it), and you can do all kinds of great things!

But if you step outside the box of acceptable activism, you’re asking for trouble. At best, you’ll face ridicule and scorn. But the real heat is reserved for movements that pose real threats. Whether broad-based people’s movements like Occupy or more focused revolutionary threats like the Black Panthers, threats to power break the most important rule they want us to follow: never fight back.

State Tactic #1: Overt Repression

Fighting back – indeed, any real resistance – is sacrilegious to those in power. Their response is often straightforward: a dozen cops slam you to the ground and cuff you; “less-lethal” weapons cover the advance of a line of riot police; the sharp report of SWAT team’s bullets.

This type of overt repression is brutally effective. When faced with jail, serious injury, or even death, most don’t have the courage and the strategy to go on. As we have seen, state violence can behead a movement.

That was the case with Fred Hampton, an up-and-coming Black Panther Party leader in Chicago, Illinois. A talented organizer, Hampton made significant gains for the Panthers in Chicago, working to end violence between rival (mostly black) gangs and building revolutionary alliances with groups like the Young Lords, Students for A Democratic Society, and the Brown Berets.  He also contributed to community education work and to the Panther’s free breakfast program.

These activities could not be tolerated by those in power: they knew that a charismatic, strategic thinker like Hampton could be the nucleus of revolution. So, they decided to murder him. On December 4, 1969, an FBI snitch slipped Hampton a sedative. Chicago police and FBI agents entered his home, shot and killed the guard, Mark Clark, and entered Hampton’s room. The cops fired two shots directly into his head as he lay unconscious. He was 21 years old.

The Occupy Movement, at its height, posed a threat to power by making the realities of mass anti-capitalism and discontent visible, and by providing physical focal points for the dissent that spawns revolution. While Occupy had some issues (such as the difficulties of consensus decision-making and generally poor responses to abusive behavior inside camps), the movement was dynamic. It claimed physical space for the messy work of revolution to happen, and represented the locus of a true threat.

The response was predictable: the media assaulted relentlessly, businesses led efforts to change local laws and outlaw encampments, and riot police were called in as the knockout punch. It was a devastating flurry of blows, and the movement hasn’t yet recovered. (Although many of the lessons learned at Occupy may serve us well in the coming years).

State Tactic #2: Covert Repression

Violent repression is glaring. It gets covered in the news, and you can see it on the streets. But other times, repression isn’t so obvious. A recent leaked document from the private security and corporate intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (better known as STRATFOR) contained this illustrative statement:

Most authorities will tolerate a certain amount of activism because it is seen as a way to let off steam. They appease the protesters by letting them think that they are making a difference — as long as the protesters do not pose a threat. But as protest movements grow, authorities will act more aggressively to neutralize the organizers.

The key word is neutralize: it represents a more sophisticated strategy on behalf of power, a set of tactics more insidious than brute force.

Most of us have probably heard about COINTELPRO (shorthand for Counter-Intelligence Program), a covert FBI program officially underway between 1956 and 1971. COINTELPRO mainly targeted socialists and communists, black nationalists, Civil Rights groups, the American Indian Movement, and much of the left, from Quakers to Weathermen. The FBI used four main techniques to undermine, discredit, eliminate, and otherwise neutralize these threats:

  1.      Force
  2.      Harassment (subpoenas, false accusations, discriminatory enforcement of taxation, etc.)
  3.      Infiltration
  4.      Psychological warfare

How can we become resilient to these threats? Perhaps the first step is to understand them; to internalize the consequences of the tactics being used against us.

The JTRIG Leaks

On February 24 of this year, Glenn Greenwald released an article detailing a secret National Security Agency (NSA) unit called JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). The article, which sheds new light on the tactics used to suppress social movements and threats to power, is worth quoting at length:

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.

It shouldn’t come as a total surprise that those in power use lies, manipulation, false information, fake identities, and “manipulation [of] online discourse” to further their ends. They always fight dirty; it’s what they do. They never fight fair, they can never allow truth to be shown, because to do so would expose their own weakness.

As shown by COINTELPRO, this type of operation is highly effective at neutralizing threats. Snitchjacketing and divisive movement tactics were used widely during the COINTELPRO era, and encouraged activists to break ties, create rivalries, and vie against one another. In many cases, it even led to violence: prominent, good hearted activists would be labeled “snitches” by agents, and would be isolated, shunned, and even killed.

As a friend put it,

“By encouraging horizontal, crowdsourced repression, activists’ focus is shifted safely away from those in power and towards each other.”

A page from a top-secret document prepared by the JTRIG unit.

Are Activists Targeted?

Some organizations have ideas so revolutionary, so incendiary that they pose a threat all by themselves, simply by existing.

Deep Green Resistance is such a group. If these tactics are being used to neutralize activist groups, then Deep Green Resistance (DGR) seems a prime target. Proudly Luddite in character, DGR believes that the industrial way of life, the soil-destroying process known as agriculture, and the social system called civilization are literally killing the planet – at the rate of 200 species extinctions, 30 million trees, and 100 million tons of CO2 every day. With numbers like that, time is short.

With two key pieces of knowledge, the DGR strategy comes into focus. The first is that global industrial civilization will inevitably collapse under the weight of its own destructiveness. The second is that this collapse isn’t coming soon enough: life on Earth could very well be doomed by the time this collapse stops the accelerating destruction.

With these understandings, DGR advocates for a strategy to pro-actively dismantle industrial civilization. The strategy (which acknowledges that resisters will face fierce opposition from governments, corporations, and those who cling to modern life) calls for direct attacks on critical infrastructure – electric grids, fossil fuel networks, communications, etc. – with one goal: to shut down the global industrial economy. Permanently.

The strategy of direct attacks on infrastructure has been used in countless wars, uprisings, and conflicts because it is extremely effective. The same strategies are taught at military schools and training camps around the planet, and it is for this reason – an effective strategy – that DGR poses a real and serious threat to power. Of course, writing openly about such activities and then taking part in them would be stupid, which is why DGR is an “aboveground” organization. Our work is limited to building a culture of resistance (which is no easy feat: our work spans the range of activities from non-violent resistance to educational campaigns, community organizing, and building alternative systems) and spreading the strategies that we advocate in the hope that clandestine networks can pull off the dirty work in secret.

When I speak to veterans – hard-jawed ex-special forces guys – they say the strategy is good. It’s a real threat.

Threat Met With Backlash

That threat has not gone unanswered. In a somewhat unsurprising twist, given the information we’ve gone over already, DGR’s greatest challenges have not come from the government, at least not overtly. Instead, the biggest challenges have come from radical environmentalists and social justice activists: from those we would expect to be among our supporters and allies. The focal point of the controversy? Gender.

The conflict has a long history and deserves a few hours of discussion and reading, but here is the short version: DGR holds that female-only spaces should be reserved for females.  This offends many who believe that male-born individuals (who later come to identify as female) should be allowed access to these spaces. It’s all part of a broader, ongoing disagreement between gender abolitionists (like DGR and others), who see gender as the cultural lattice of women’s oppression, and those who view gender as an identity that is beyond criticism.

(To learn more about the conflict, view Rachel Ivey’s presentation entitled The End of Gender.)

Due to this position, our organization has been blacklisted from speaking at various venues, our organizers have received threats of violence (often sexualized), and our participation in a number of struggles has been blocked – at the expense of the cause at hand.

A Case Study in JTRIG?

Much of the anti-DGR rhetoric has been extraordinary, not for passionate political disagreement, but for misinformation and what appears to be COINTELPRO-style divisiveness. Are we the victims of a JTRIG-style smear campaign?

On February 23 of this year, the Earth First! Newswire released an anonymous article attacking Deep Green Resistance. The main subject of the article was the ongoing debate over gender issues.

(Although perhaps debate is the wrong word in this case: Earth First! Newswire has published half a dozen vitriolic pieces attacking DGR. They seem to have an obsession. On the other hand, DGR has never used organizational resources or platforms to publish a negative comment about Earth First.)

Here are a few of the fabrications contained in the February 23 article:

  • “Keith and Jensen [DGR co-founders] do not recognize the validity of traditionally marginalized struggles [like] Black Power.” (a wild, false claim, given the long and public history of anti-racist work and solidarity by those two.3 )
  • DGR members have “outed” transgender people by posting naked photos of them. (Completely false not to mention obscene and offensive.4 )
  • DGR is “allied with” gay-to-straight conversion camps. (The lies get ever more absurd. DGR has countless lesbian and gay members, including founding members. Lesbian and gay members are involved at every level of decision making in DGR.)
  • DGR requires “genital checks” for new members. (I can’t believe we even have to address this – it’s a surreal accusation. It is, of course, a lie.)

If these claims weren’t so serious, they would be laughable. But lies like this are no laughing matter.

Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the JTRIG leaks.

Screenshot3

“Crowdsourced Repression”

The timing of these events – the Earth First! Newswire article followed the very next day by Greenwald’s JTRIG article – is ironic. Of course, it made me think: are we the victims of a JTRIG-style character assassination? Or am I drawing conclusions where there are none to be drawn?

The campaigns against DGR do have many of the hallmarks of COINTELPRO-style repression. They are built on a foundation of political differences magnified into divisive hatred through paranoia and the spread of hearsay. In the 1960s and 70s, techniques that seem similar were used to create divisions within groups like the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement.

Ultimately, these movements tore themselves apart in violence and suspicion; the powerful were laughing all the way to the bank. In many cases, we don’t even know if the FBI was involved; what is certain is that the FBI-style tactics – snitchjacketing, rumormongering, the sowing of division and hatred – were being adopted by paranoid activists.

In some ways, the truth doesn’t really matter. Whether these activists were working for the state or not, they served to destroy movements, alliances, and friendships that took decades or generations to build.

I’ll be clear: I don’t mean to claim that the “Letter Collective” (as the anonymous authors of the February 23 article named themselves) are agents of the state. To do so would be a violation of security culture.5 Modern activists seem to have largely forgotten the lessons of COINTELPRO, and I am wary of forgetting those lessons myself. Snitchjacketing is a bad behavior, and we should have no tolerance for it unless there is substantive evidence.

But members of the “Letter Collective”, at the very least, have violated security culture by spreading rumors and unsubstantiated claims of serious misconduct. Good security culture practices preclude this behavior. In the face of JTRIG and the modern surveillance and repression state, careful validation of serious claims is the least that activists can do. Didn’t we learn this lesson in the 60s?

Divide and Conquer

By itself, verifying rumors before spreading them is a poor defense against the repression modern activists face. Instead, we must challenge divisiveness itself: one of the biggest threats to our success.

The 2011 STRATFOR leak included information about corporate strategies to neutralize activist and community movements. Essentially, STRATFOR advocates dividing movements into four character types: radicals, idealists, realists, and opportunists. These camps can then be dealt with summarily:

First, isolate the radicals. Second, “cultivate” the idealists and “educate” them into becoming realists. And finally, co-opt the realists into agreeing with industry.6

This is how movements are neutralized: those who should be allies are divided, infighting becomes rampant, and paranoia rules the roost. To combat these strategies, we must understand the danger they represent and how to counter them.

Fight Repression With Solidarity

We all want to win. We want to end capitalism, reverse ecological collapse, and build a culture in which social justice is fundamental. Many of us have different specific goals or strategies, but we must find similarities, overlaps, and areas where we can work together.

As Bob Ages, commenting on STRATFOR’s divide-and-conquer tactics, put it in a recent piece:

“Our response has to be the opposite; bridging divides, foster mutual understanding and solidarity, stand together come hell or high water.”

Many people across the left share 80% or more of their politics, and yet constructive criticism and mature discussion of disagreements is the exception, not the rule. We need more thoughtful behavior. Don’t spread rumors, don’t tear down other activists, and don’t forget who the real enemy is. Don’t waste your time fighting those who should be your allies – even if they are only partial allies. Let’s disagree, and let our disagreements help us learn more from each other and build alliances.

In the end, that’s our only chance of winning: together.

  1. For Example:
    U.S. Inequality is at its highest point since 1928.
    One in three women is beaten, raped, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
    Obama has overseen more deportations — more than 2 million — than any president in history.
    Two hundred species are driven extinct every day. []
  2. The Koch Brothers get 40,600,000,000 votes. []
  3. The authors of the article come to this conclusion due to a statement by Lierre Keith that we should “abolish race” — apparently, they take this established and central theory of anti-racist organizing and theory to be instead a desire to erase culture – an absurd comparison. []
  4. Any DGR member who did such a thing would be removed, as this would be a violation of the Code of Conduct. []
  5. Security culture is a set of practices and attitudes designed to increase the safety of political communities. These guidelines are created based on recent and historic state repression, and help to reduce paranoia and increase effectiveness. Learn more about security culture on the DGR website. []
  6. Opportunists, who are generally involved in organizing for prestige and power, don’t even merit mention in this neutralization strategy. They should be excluded from our political organizing out of hand. []

Max Wilbert lives in the Pacific Northwest, where he works to support indigenous resistance to industrial extraction projects, anti-racist initiatives, and radical feminist struggles as part of Deep Green Resistance. He makes his living as a writer and photographer, and can be contacted at max@maxwilbert.org. Read other articles by Max.

Let’s Get Free!: Escalate the Fight to End Male Violence

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

I do not have a creative introduction to start this article. I have only the seething rage of a spirit absolutely fed up with a culture that is at war with women, their fervent pleads for solidarity and their righteous actions of self-defense against the monster of male supremacy echoing in my mind. I have only the scenes of men torturing and raping women, filmed for the goal of profit and produced on an industrial scale like a slave trade, an auction where women’s bodies are mutilated and sold for entertainment and sexual gratification, to drive me ever forward to find ways to organize against this barbarity. I have only the cries of my loved ones as they tell of their own abuse and that of others, their wishes to somehow get their murdered or missing friends back from the endless night of death enacted by men who are supposed to be human but instead behave more like demons.

No, I am all out of creative words. All I have are the words of the reality of the world women live in, a reality that I can never fully know, a reality that I still do not truly realize no matter how angry I get about it. I have women’s words – the words they use to tell their stories, to recount their experiences – words I still find increasingly difficult to hear. But hear I must because I do not ever want to become apathetic. I want to be angry, I want to be furious. I must stay furious. And I must allow that fury to teach me how to be a human being once again, instead of a monster. I must allow that fury to inform my actions, and to constantly remind me that the world has had enough of men’s words. What the world needs – what women need, what children need – is men’s action to destroy male violence and patriarchy once and for all.

I have the shame of being a man, that sex-caste category that has socialized me to be abusive, and to be callous towards other men’s abuse of women and children. I have the shame of knowing that I benefit from large-scale violence against women, the subordination and objectification and public humiliation of half the world’s population in the name of masculinity and manhood.

But that shame is not enough. I can see that my shame has not changed men’s behavior. Shame has not prevented our fists from breaking women’s jaws, our penises from torturing women’s bodies, our words from dismissing their experiences.

No, that shame has not ended male violence, but our actions can, and they must.

Profeminist men must escalate the fight to end men’s violence. And we must escalate NOW.

Abusive and controlling men have already declared outright war against women and children. This war is not metaphorical, and it is not an exaggeration. With at least a quarter of all women surviving or fighting off rape (and it is widely known that is an underestimate), and men committing as much as 94% of all child sexual abuse, what else can we call it? These men will readily tell you that they are at war, and it is high time profeminist men take them seriously.

For too long men have left the dirty work of defense and prevention to women, opting to just talk about supporting and defending women but never actually organizing truly effective offensives against male violence. No more. No more complacency, no more lip service, no more disingenuous half-assed activism that has not resulted in real progress towards women’s liberation.

It is time now that profeminist men begin publicly calling for and supporting militant action against the institutions of male supremacy. Simply put, men must stop other men, physically and definitively. We must organize smart, strategic and highly informed offensives against the men abusing women and we must do so under the leadership of feminist women, actively seeking accountability to these women so that our actions are in accordance to liberation on their terms, not ours. We must challenge men in our families, workplaces and peer groups when they speak or behave in ways that normalize or trivialize violence. We must instead normalize respect for women and respect for life, not just supporting militancy which can so easily become glorification of male violence, but committing ourselves to completely dismantling masculine culture on the interpersonal level as well.

Many of us have traveled the world speaking, marching, picketing, and participating in myriad forms of nonviolent protest in support of the feminist and anti-violence movement. And yet, the rate of men’s violence against women is increasing. Our work has been ineffective in bringing about lasting change. The change that we do manage to see is the result of generations of brave and courageous women who bled and died and were imprisoned for fighting for their right to be treated as human beings.

No doubt, some men have done great work, and must continue to do so. But we also must come to terms with the reality of the situation. We must now be honest about what it will actually take to end the violence of this culture.

We have to do more than just recite the numbers, or watch the films, or attend the conferences. We must do more than just abstain from consuming sexist, violent media, or purchasing consumer goods sold on the marketing of women’s bodies. We must do more, a whole lot more. Some of us are going to have to stop abusive men. Some of us are going to have to put our bodies on the line – place our bodies in between these men and the women they intend to abuse. And while physical intervention in interpersonal violence is not the primary focal point of men’s work against patriarchy (and is not applicable in most cases), profeminist men should support such actions when done in a smart, strategic manner.

We have to start treating abusive men like the enemy. No more of these vapid appeals to their humanity or their inner child or whatever else pacifists are coming up with to avoid doing what it takes. Sure, abusive men were once children, many of them abuse survivors themselves. But now they are abusive men. They are not children anymore. They are adult men who make the decision to break women’s bones, blacken their eyes and blast bullets into their skulls. They are adult men who choose to be paid to abuse women on camera, and then laugh about it in porn documentaries. If you do not fume with rage, then you are not paying attention. Start paying attention.

The fact that porn shops are still standing instead of roasting in flames is an affront to women everywhere. The fact that international activist and humanitarian organizations are defending johns and pimps instead of women should cause the planet to stop spinning on its axis. Instead what we see are men locking women in basements for decades, starving and raping them and then standing in court talking about how they actually enjoyed the abuse.

Men as a sex-caste hate women. We hate women just as much as whites as a caste hate people of color, and members of settler culture hate the indigenous. Do those statements make you angry and defensive? Good, they should. You should be appalled that we live in a culture that facilitates and rewards such grotesque behavior. Use that anger to confront those who abuse, go take that energy to them, not us, not the ones who are actually fighting for justice. Go confront men, not the women they abuse.

And if you refuse to do that – if you refuse to examine your own masculinity, your own culpability in men’s oppression of women, then all I can say to you is that you had better get out of the way and let us get this done. Otherwise, you are the enemy, and we will treat you as such.

We do not have any more time to plead with men and ask them nicely to stop abusing and murdering women and children. We do not have time to continue asking our governments to stop dropping bombs and using chemicals to kill and maim people around the world. We do not have time to ask corporations run by psychopathic men to stop destroying the planet. We have been asking nicely for hundreds of years, and nothing has changed. I am done with asking. I want to see porn studios burned to the ground. I want to see “men’s rights activists” fearing for their lives and hiding in their homes, because no one with the audacity to fabricate this fake movement should ever feel safe walking the streets. I want justice, and I will do whatever it takes to achieve it.

Escalation can mean physically intervening if we find ourselves witness to male violence, and it can also mean no longer allowing your buddy to speak or behave in sexist ways. It can mean publicly shaming abusers, speaking in support of women’s right to defend themselves however they need to do so, and actively challenging ourselves and other men to dismantle masculinity inside and out. Just as in any strategic resistance movement in which the very few capable resistors are on the front line and the rest are supporting, the vast majority of profeminist work should be undoing the culture. Ultimately, justice means that we have to start doing something about a culture in which men are either abusive or hardly doing anything at all to end abuse.

Profeminist men must escalate now, or we are not worth the two pennies our words claim. Every day we fail to be effective is another day women are tortured, enslaved and killed and I will be damned if I continue to sit back and let this happen. Profeminist men must say it and mean it: over our dead bodies will this culture continue.

Let’s Get Free! is a column by Kourtney Mitchell, a writer and activist from Georgia, primarily focusing on anti-oppression and building genuine alliance with oppressed communities. Contact him atkourtney.mitchell@gmail.com.

Restoring Sanity, Part 4: Anxiety and Civilization

Editor’s Note: The first three installments of the Restoring Sanity series are An Inhuman System, Mental Illness As A Social Construct, and Medicating.

By Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, Deep Green Resistance

If you don’t want any more anxiety, get rid of all your intelligence and your creativity which would be a very dull life for all of us.

—Rollo May

Don’t worry, be happy.

—Bobby McFerrin

Anxiety is a normal and healthy aspect of human existence. Sören Kierkegaard said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom,” an acknowledgment that we always have some choices to make in life. Each choice we make can bring us closer to our objectives, but can also close off other paths. Choosing is both a birth and a death, both being and non-being. This is why we are anxious. Anxiety begins at the time between being, which is what we experience as a result of our choices, and non-being, which is what we give up. Anxiety is part of becoming, of growing and changing. This is what it means to be alive.

Unhealthy anxiety comes when we are so plagued by worry, stressors, trauma and decisions that we lose tolerance for normal anxiety. We become paralyzed and can no longer act or choose. Thoughts of death may turn to despair and drown out life; we get depressed and apathetic. To be healthily anxious, on the other hand, is in many ways the opposite of depression and apathy. To live a satisfying and effective life is to learn to live with uncertainty. If we become so overwhelmed or intimidated by uncertainty that we avoid making choices, we have passively chosen apathy by default; life then becomes unfulfilling and meaningless. We may walk around and draw breath—feeling like we’re taking action by worrying—but without the opportunities that might have been found by actively choosing. In this way, anxiety and worry become avoidance behaviors that reinforce addictions or depression.

When it’s from fear of life choices or awareness of death, anxiety is not a symptom of a disease but a vigorous mind at work. This is healthy anxiety, finding perspective to make our choices in life or to find appreciation for life in the context of death. In its positive forms, anxiety is meant to motivate us to seek safety, worthiness, competence, and security. Without anxiety, our lives become empty. We wait, not knowing what for, avoiding the unavoidable destiny that comes at the end of our waiting. Healthy anxiety saves us from literal, emotional, and mental death.

Origins

Our previous essays[1] on the oppressive effects of individualism, depression, and addictions all involve an evaluation of the context of civilization. As with any modern mental health problem, a certain sort of anxiety is inherent to living in civilization.

By civilization, we do not mean the supposed social utopia of laws and democratic decisions—a pinnacle of human achievement—that the word has come to mean. Rather we are taking it to task at its root as the formation and maintenance of cities. We define a city as any settlement large enough in population to require the importation of resources.[2] The ancient civilization of Rome was a city that needed to expand its trade influence because it couldn’t grow, log, mine, or otherwise produce its material needs within the city’s immediate area.

While diplomacy and rule of law may play various parts in a civilization’s goals, the underlying requirement will always be force. Because trade is by definition voluntary, Rome’s needs couldn’t be entirely guaranteed by trade alone, so military force had to secure the city within a surrounding empire. Because the environmental and social impacts of agricultural and industrial extraction occur far from a city, it’s possible for civilized people to pretend their way of life is forever sustainable, when in reality it’s the very opposite. The fall of Rome came with the inevitable limits of empire.

To call the Hopi tribe of Arizona a civilization, then, would be false because they had no need to form an empire to acquire what they needed. They had no military because everyone was a warrior,[3] a defender of the high desert they’d made their home for centuries. Calling the Hopi “uncivilized” in the ordinary sense of the word is the worst sort of insult: a lie hidden in a false premise. The Hopi were intelligent, resourceful, fierce, and community-minded, but they were not civilized by the city’s necessity of war and acquisition.

Because nearly all humans alive now were born into civilization, it’s the only reality we know and we naturally take as a given all of its demands. Those include everything from war, deforestation, and global warming, down to the routines of work, money, and worry. Wherever we happen to fit in the wealth-generating scheme of civilization—rich, poor, dominator or oppressed—we assume we’re part of a wise and provident arrangement of humanity.

But civilization is only a destructive imitation of decent human society, a business plan enforced by violence. It is cruel and insane, in denial of the reality of a finite world. Without our knowing it all of civilization’s attributes and consequences have been internalized into our lives, on every level: material, spiritual, and mental. Anxiety, of a chronic and intractable sort, is one of the primary afflictions of the civilized human.

Imagine living in a scrubby, warm forest with a few meandering rivers and rolling meadows, a land so wide it seems to fill the whole of the world. There are no electric lights, no roads, no cars, no computers; only the wild, fecund land. You are a member of an egalitarian society whose food comes from a casual husbandry of small animals like goats and sheep, fishing, the hunting of wild game and gathering of wild plants. Though to a modern person this seems an impossibly distant and antiquated way of life, in fact it was a stable condition that maintained itself very well for many tens of thousands of years.

Agriculture ended that. Not restless inventiveness, not tribal warfare, not human nature, but a technological discovery that made empires possible. Grains can be stored and guarded, and this is what an army really is for, and what it needs more than weapons. As grain cultivation spreads, forests, scrub, and meadows are burned for fields. The grazing animals must go. The rivers must be diverted. The game and predators and wild plants must go, and so food security—for most—must also go. For civilization to produce food surpluses, the majority of people and land area must be enslaved.

The first foundation myth needed for a civilization is that cultivated annuals (wheat, corn, rice) are a more secure food source than hunted or grazed animals. Any monoculture is more prone to catastrophic disease than any polyculture, and requires the constant mining of topsoil to continue. Yet monoculture does produce more food for a limited time, and this allows populations to increase. More people need more food, so more forests fall, and more slaves are born to work more fields.

Generation by generation grain agriculture spread as it consumed topsoil, and agricultural societies adapted to acquire more land. Since their pastoral neighbors hunted, gathered, and fished the lands and waters agriculture needs, they had to go. To continue this way of life, war was no longer about territorial bickering but rather absolute necessity. So was slaving in the fields, and so was the enslavement of women as a resource to produce more slaves, forcing them to increase birthrates.[4] Civilization needs this ongoing control over one by another, and because agriculture requires labor as well as land it will always have many who suffer and toil and few who enjoy the resulting wealth. This social model has grown in sophistication and prevalence, but otherwise hasn’t changed since it began 10,000 years ago.

The Middle East is now stripped of topsoil and human rights and is the hottest furnace of modern war. From what we know about remaining indigenous cultures,[5] life in the pre-agricultural forests of the Fertile Crescent was not the struggle and horror it has become but a comparatively serene existence, with much less work, stress, and illness—physical and mental both. The human animal evolved as a hunting and gathering creature. We are ill-adapted to the civilized life. Its grain-based diet—the malnutrition food of the poor[6]—and constant work schedule keep us literally under the gun, and are the basis for our mental and emotional conditions. Though this condition seems beyond help, it’s not. And it’s here we’ll find answers to why we are always in psychological emergencies.

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Anxiety and Culture

The way we experience anxiety is framed by our culture. In civilization, we are conditioned to feel anxiety in relation to competitive ambition. We are trained to compete—in sports, in education, in wealth, in attractiveness, in popularity—and anxiety often results when our unrealistic visions of perfection aren’t reached. Why should security be tied to individual competition? As social animals, we humans have a need for social acceptance and security. Instead of ensuring this, civilization has conditioned us to accept that “winning” brings acceptance and security, and “losing” brings insecurity and social shunning. It is no wonder that anxiety is so pervasive among humans living within the system of civilization. In his book The Meaning of Anxiety, existential psychologist Rollo May writes: “The weight placed upon the value of competitive success is so great in our culture and the anxiety occasioned by the possibility of failure to achieve this goal is so frequent that there is reason for assuming that individual competitive success is both the dominant goal in our culture and the most pervasive occasion for anxiety.”

This competitive arrangement does not reflect a human quality but is rather a means of increasing production and concentrating wealth. Our hunger for security is so strong that those who suffer most from the abuses of a system based on property and coercion will tolerate and even defend the very system that causes their suffering. They will redouble their efforts using the same cultural assumptions, caught in a double bind, having to choose either ambition or poverty.

The more oppressed an individual is within the classes of civilization, the more anxiety they experience and the less likely they are to ever be in an advantaged position to compete. Women and people of color are less likely to be rewarded with high ranking positions because of racism and sex discrimination, which leads to higher rates of anxiety.[7] Success must be glorified, since who wants to compete in a system that is rigged for most of us to lose?

The dominant culture and the social roles into which we are coerced affect the self-esteem or self-worth of women in particular.[8] Women tend to view themselves more negatively than men, which is a major factor for many mental health problems.[9] Psychological disorders in general are 20-40% higher in women than men,[10] and anxiety disorders are most prevalent in women age 16-40.[11] Cognitive distortion[12] is also a symptom of both low self-esteem and pathological anxiety, and comes from living in a culture where economic and social injustice is so normalized as to be nearly invisible. Those on the bottom in this arrangement are the ones who suffer the most, as the powerless are robbed of choices in their own destiny.[13]

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As for those who “win” in this system, how can they ever be sure that their competitors won’t gain more wealth and power, possibly at their expense? Even the upper middle class can never obtain absolute security, since they are driven to always increase wealth. It is a vicious cycle of acquisition of power, one that is driven by chronic anxiety and misery.

Definitions

Stress and anxiety have similar effects on our bodies and minds. While either chronic anxiety or stress can disable or kill us, the difference between them becomes more apparent when managing symptoms.[14]

Modern civilized lifestyles burden us with many unavoidable stressors like work, inflexible social rules, and money and health worries. Stress can often be managed by giving the body and mind a rest, assuming one can make the time for it. Healthy lives require relaxation. To sit outside under a shady tree drinking tea and watching butterflies, for example. Stress can be reduced by eating well, exercising, and including enjoyable and healthy activities in our days. Some stress might only be resolved by making major life changes, such as eliminating toxic people from our lives, quitting a stressful job, or moving from a hectic and polluted city. Most people are unable to make these changes, of course, and so are subject to chronic stress, the root problem of many mental and physical health issues.[15]

AnxietyDisorders-CognitiveBiasesTowardThreat

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling of nervousness, worry or unease, often about an unknowable outcome or from the fear of being evaluated negatively by others. Specific, acute anxiety keeps us safe from danger and vulnerability. Like pain, anxiety is not a problem itself—both warn us that we need to take some sort of action to reduce or eliminate the cause.

The line between healthy and unhealthy anxiety is vague and subjective. The American Psychiatric Association’s dubiously drug-happy classification handbook, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5, or DSM-5,[16] recognizes the following diagnosable anxiety disorders: phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety, panic disorder with agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and childhood anxiety disorders.[17] Anxiety disorders are the most common diagnosed mental illnesses in the US, affecting 40 million adults, about 18 percent of the population.[18] According to the National Institute for Mental Health, “Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as speaking in public or a first date), anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated.” This is one way of delineating “healthy” from “unhealthy” anxiety. Another way of putting it might be “destructive anxiety” and “constructive anxiety,” though these are subjective terms too.

A more exact definition might be “pathological anxiety,” when danger and vulnerability is exaggerated.[19] If it’s misperceived or nonexistent, there is no action to take that can eliminate the cause of this kind of anxiety, and it can become chronic, generalized, and repressed. Chronic or repressed anxiety leads to apathy, a loss of will, a sense that we can’t obtain anything, and powerlessness. Chronic anxiety can also cause stress that results in physical symptoms like muscle tension, stomach ulcers, heart palpitations, or other physical disorders.[20]

A friend of ours who’s prone to chronic anxiety also has occasional panic attacks, and describes the complete helplessness they bring as “a crazy but certain fear of death.” More mundane moments of anxiety, he says, are more about an inability to perform the simplest tasks. “It’s hard for me to tell the difference between apathy and anxiety,” he explains. We the authors are a more fidgety breed, using anxiety as an engine of activity that often gets so out of control that relaxation is impossible, and our only rest comes from exhaustion. In its most extreme form, this constant stress probably led to Hyatt’s life-threatening autoimmune disorder.

What about positive thinking?

A well-meaning person, concerned about our pain over suffering and injustice, suggested: “What do you think of cultivating a mind where there is a peaceful separation of thought from emotional response?” This seems like a practical idea, encouraged by titles of self-help books like Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quiet Your Mind, and of course it isn’t helpful to get upset about every sad or awful thing the dominant culture does to innocent beings. For one thing, that list is so terribly long; for another, emotions amount to little until they are engaged with action and there is only so much anyone can do, no matter how dedicated they are. But separating our emotional responses from our physical and mental experiences creates disconnection with reality and ourselves. The same is true of undiscriminating negativity.

Is it only by dissecting ourselves (mind from body, emotion from reason, thought from feeling) that we can live a decent life in a civilized world? This is like separating emotional knowledge that the earth is alive from practical knowledge of the minerals in its crust. The ore can be extracted and we don’t feel bad about it. We can then continue on with the lie that we are free. The well-being of our wider community, which must include other species, other cultures, whole biomes, is more important than our personal sense of peace. This is because any lasting freedom and peace—personal or otherwise—depends on functional communities (human and nonhuman both) to exist. It is a sign of our oppression that we must resort to positive thinking to avoid the need to engage a negative but healthy response to living in an unsustainable, toxic society.

When we react with anxiety to situations that we can neither eliminate nor attenuate, it does seem as if the only relief is to think positive thoughts or to feel nothing at all. Chemicals like alcohol and psychiatric meds can help this numbing; so can religion and spirituality. Avoiding the truth might eliminate anxiety or stress in the short term, but the global effects of civilization (deforestation, climate destabilization, ocean acidification, mass extinction, etc.[21]) are neither exaggerations nor the creations of our minds. It would not be healthy—or even rational—to try to cultivate a peaceful, unemotional mind and think positive thoughts when the living world is dying.[22] Avoidance behavior is one reason for this dying; it is also the core of depression, pathological anxiety, and many other disorders that define poor mental and emotional health.

Remedies

The long-term social solution to chronic stress and anxiety is to dismantle civilization and the toxic society resulting from this way of life, and to restore healthy landbases and human communities. Personal solutions for anxiety problems are also available, though they may seem no less daunting.

Remedies for the pathological anxiety of agricultural societies arose alongside the causes. Monotheistic religions are perhaps the best example. Their promotion of controlling behavior, unavoidable apocalypses, and the primary importance of individual salvation all serve the needs of empires. Even Taoism, among the least warlike of civilized doctrines, emphasizes the detachment from the real world that war requires. If starvation is a terrifying reality—as it surely was and will continue to be for many Chinese—it’s no surprise that such a belief system would evolve. Nor is it surprising that women might come to be hated by cultures driven to control their environment—such as those based on agriculture. Treating women as objects to extract resources from grows logically out of this type of culture, as does male violence towards women.

Durable solutions to human misery won’t be found in the usual responses of victim blaming, resource exploitation, and promising rewards in the afterlife, as civilized societies have always done. This is true on both a social and personal scale. Modern pharmaceuticals[23] are only another way civilization moderates its hurtful effects on humans. Helpful as psychiatric meds may occasionally be, they are not fundamentally different than Marx’s “opiates of the masses” or the many cheap and emotionally damaging distractions of pageantry and spectacle for sale anywhere one cares to look.   They’re all coping mechanisms engineered within systems of control that have the system’s needs in mind, not ours.

Denial of emotion is necessary for the dominant culture to function, and complements the way civilization treats every living being as an object. Yet we are alive, and we do feel. So what are we to do with all that worry and stress, if we don’t separate our emotional responses from our daily exposure to the cruelty and waste that civilization requires? Will we despair? Or even worse for civilization, work to take it down because it hurts so much? Will we find others who feel similarly, and organize to resist the destruction of the world and all that’s in it? In the meanwhile, how do we cope with our own worries? Awareness of circumstances and our reactions is a critical first step to healing.

A good way to begin might be to shrink the immensity of the problem to manageable parts, so we might get some short-term relief. When experiencing anxiety, it is essential to analyze the cause to determine if it can be eliminated. This might be as simple as finishing a difficult homework assignment or taking the next step towards completing a big project. If the source of anxiety cannot be eliminated or reduced, we may need to take steps to change how we feel. Some effective non-drug treatments are eliminating caffeine and alcohol, improving diet, and supplementing B and D vitamins. Our friend with panic attacks notes that these steps alone usually eliminate all sensations of pathological anxiety. Other helpful methods include psychotherapy, meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, and various thought-stopping techniques.[24] These all involve a lot of trial and error, so it’s important to remember that failures do not reflect on who we are; they are rather only events, part of discovering, learning, evolving and adapting.

Anxiety has a positive and healthy aspect, and is not to be avoided. The constructive use of anxiety is how we create satisfying and effective lives, and perhaps influence the future of the world in a positive way. Anxiety is inseparable from love. When we love, we commit ourselves to action. Love is the motivation for social and environmental activism, for taking on responsibility, for finding ways to influence our society and world.   Anxiety is experienced as a possibility, the intermediate between potential and reality; it connects us to the world and drives us to protect those we love.

All these problems we now face, it’s no wonder that this is an anxious age because all these things, overpopulation, pollution are going on all at once… Now these things are all symptoms of what makes this an anxious age and I think that what we must do as far as we can is to shift our thinking from simply worrying about these different problems to the questions of what can we do about them? The point is to turn your anxiety into active affect, to overcome the situation.

—Rollo May

Susan Hyatt has worked as a project manager at a hazardous waste incinerator, owned a landscaping company focused on native Sonoran Desert plants, and is now a volunteer activist. Michael Carter is a freelance carpenter, writer, and activist. His anti-civilization memoir Kingfisher’s Song was published in 2012. They both volunteer for Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition.

Bibliography and Further Reading

American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.

Beck, Aaron T., and Emery, Gary. Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective. New York: Basic Books, 1985.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking in Undermining America. New York: Picador, 2009.

Friedman, Ariellad and Todd, Judith. “Kenyan Women Tell a Story: Interpersonal Power of Women in Three Subcultures in Kenya.” Sex Roles 31: 533-546, in Nanda, Serena and Warms, Richard L. Cultural Anthropology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson, 2004, 387, 388.

Jensen, Derrick, Endgame Volume I: The Problem of Civilization, New York City, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2006.

Keith, Lierre. The Vegetarian Myth. Crescent City, CA: Flashpoint Press, 2009.

Leventhal, Allan M. and Martell, Christopher R. The Myth of Depression as Disease: Limitations and Alternatives to Drug Treatment. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2006.

Manning, Richard. Against the Grain: How Agriculture has Hijacked Civilization. New York: North Point Press, 2004.

May, Rollo. Freedom and Destiny. New York: WW Norton and Company, 1981.

_____. Love and Will. New York: Delta, 1989.

_____. The Meaning of Anxiety, Revised Edition. New York: WW Norton and Company, 1977.

Maybury-Lewis, David. Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World. New York: Viking Penguin, 1992.

McKay, Matthew, Ph.D., and Fanning, Patrick. Self Esteem. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2000.

Sevillano, Mando. The Hopi Way: Tales from a Vanishing Culture. Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Press, 1986.

Online

Awais Aftab, MD, MBBS, “Mental Illness vs Brain Disorders: From Szasz to DSM-5,” Psychiatric Times, February 28, 2014, http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/dsm-5-0/mental-illness-vs-brain-disorders-szasz-dsm-5#sthash.hA4QwWSp.wptbyJ4M.dpuf

James Ball, “Women 40% more likely than men to develop mental illness, study finds,” The Guardian, May 22, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/22/women-men-mental-illness-study

Thomas B. Bramanti, W. Haak, M. Unterlaender, P. Jores, K. Tambets, I. Antanaitis-Jacobs, M.N. Haidle, R. Jankauskas, C.-J. Kind, F. Lueth, T. Terberger, J. Hiller, S. Matsumura, P. Forster, and J. Burger, “Genetic Discontinuity Between Local Hunter-Gatherers and Central Europe’s First Farmers,” Science 2009, as reported in Science Daily, September 4, 2009, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090903163902.htm

Levine, Bruce E., “Psychiatry Now Admits It’s Been Wrong in Big Ways—But Can It Change?” Truthout, March 5, 2014, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22266-psychiatry-now-admits-its-been-wrong-in-big-ways-but-can-it-change

Moore, Heidi, “Little surprise here: women expected to do more at home—and at work,” The Guardian, November 1, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/01/women-work-harder-favors-never-counted?CMP=twt_gu

Nauert, Rick, PhD., and Grohol, John M., Psy.D., “Beyond Antidepressants: Taking Stock of New Treatments,” Psych Central, February 18, 2014, http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/02/18/beyond-antidepressants-taking-stock-of-new-treatments/66071.html

Endnotes

[1] Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, “Restoring Sanity, Part 1: An Inhuman System,” Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition, February 6, 2014, http://deepgreenresistancesouthwest.org/2014/02/06/restoring-sanity-part-1-an-inhuman-system/

Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, “Restoring Sanity, Part 2: Mental Illness as A Social Construct,” Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition, March 13, 2014, http://deepgreenresistancesouthwest.org/2014/03/13/restoring-sanity-part-2-mental-illness-as-a-social-construct/

Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, “Restoring Sanity, Part 3: Medicating,” Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition, May 20, 2014, http://deepgreenresistancesouthwest.org/2014/05/20/restoring-sanity-part-3-medicating/

[2]  “Civilization is a culture—that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts—that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning city-state), with cities being defined—so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on—as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.”  Jensen, 17.

[3] Sevillano, 38.

[4] Manning, 36.

Birthrates increased by a factor of four.

[5] Maybury-Lewis.

Millennium is an excellent, general reference on the comparative ease of hunting and gathering life, and an accessible introduction to the academic field of cultural anthropology. The book and accompanying film series describe several noncivilized cultures around the world, their customs and beliefs and general temperament. Chapter 2, “An Ecology of Mind,” (pages 35-62) is especially illuminating.

[6] John B. Marler and Jeanne R. Wallin, “Human Health, the Nutritional Quality of Harvested Food and Sustainable Farming Systems,” Nutrition Security Institute, 2006, accessed November 10, 2014, http://www.nutritionsecurity.org/PDF/NSI_White%20Paper_Web.pdf

[7] Mallory Bowers, “(en)Gendering psychiatric disease: what does sex/gender have to do with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?” The Neuroethics Blog, May 6, 2014, http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2014/05/engendering-psychiatric-disease-what.html

[8] “It’s certainly plausible that women experience higher levels of stress because of the demands of their social role – with that stress helping to trigger problems like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and insomnia. Increasingly, women are expected to function as carer, homemaker, and breadwinner ­– all while being perfectly shaped and impeccably dressed. Given that domestic work is undervalued, and considering that women tend to be paid less, find it harder to advance in a career, have to juggle multiple roles, and are bombarded with images of apparent female ‘perfection’, it would be surprising if there weren’t some emotional cost.

“It’s worth remembering too that women are also much more likely than men to have experienced childhood sexual abuse, a trauma that all too often results in lasting psychological and emotional damage,” Daniel Freeman, Ph.D. and Jason Freeman , “Know Your Mind” Psychology Today, June 2013, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/know-your-mind/201306/the-stressed-sex-1

[9] James Ball, “Women 40% more likely than men to develop mental illness, study finds,” The Guardian, May 22, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/22/women-men-mental-illness-study

[10] Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman, “Let’s talk about the gender differences that really matter – in mental health”, The Guardian, Dec 13, 2013 http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/dec/13/gender-differences-mental-health

[11] Beck and Emery, 83.

[12] McKay and Fanning, 61-87

[13] “In one study, researchers used a storytelling technique to evaluate three groups of Kenyan women: rural women in a traditional village, poor urban women, and middle-class urban women…traditional women almost always told very positive stories that usually had a happy ending. Middle-class urban women told stories that emphasized their own power and competence. Poor urban women’s stories were generally tragic and focused on powerlessness and vulnerability. The researchers note that many poor urban women have ‘lost the security and protection of the old [traditional] system without gaining the power or rewards of the new system,’” Friedman and Todd.

[14] “Chronic anxiety and chronic stress often share a lot in common. They have similar emotional symptoms, they result in similar physiological reactions, and can easily be confused with the other. In a fast paced world, experiencing stress and anxiety is common and frequently people experience them simultaneously; however, it is important to understand the etiology of the symptoms and luckily there are differences which can help tell them apart. Chronic anxiety sufferers who have experienced therapy are often aware of their triggers…” Michele L. Brennan, Psy.D, “Is It Anxiety or Stress?” Psych Central, accessed October 2, 2014, http://blogs.psychcentral.com/balanced-life/2014/01/is-it-anxiety-or-stress/

[15] “The long-term activation of the stress-response system—and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones—can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including: Anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment.” “Chronic stress puts your health at risk,” Mayo Clinic, accessed October 14, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

[16] We discuss the primacy of medications in modern psychiatric care more thoroughly in the second essay in this series, “Restoring Sanity, Part 2: Mental Illness as A Social Construct,” http://deepgreenresistancesouthwest.org/2014/03/13/restoring-sanity-part-2-mental-illness-as-a-social-construct/

[17] Cara Santa Maria, “Anxiety vs. Stress: What’s The Difference?” Huffington Post, September 20, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/anxiety-stress-difference_n_1152590.html

American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Ed.).

[18] “Anxiety Disorders,” National Institute for Mental Health, accessed October 6, 2014, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

[19] Beck and Emory, 30, 68.

[20] “When the individual is burdened with anxiety over a long period of time and he feels he can’t do anything about it, then he may develop not only physical tension but he may develop physical symptoms—they may be heart palpitations or gastric ulcers or some other kind of physical symptom.” Rollo May, “Understanding and Coping with Anxiety,” Society for Existential Analysis, republished from Psychology Today, 1978, http://www.existentialanalysis.org.uk/assets/articles/Understanding_and_Coping_with_Anxiety_Rollo_May_transcription_Martin_Adams.pdf

[21] “Indicators of Ecological Collapse,” Deep Green Resistance, accessed October 1, 2014, http://deepgreenresistance.org/why-resist/ecological-collapse

[22] Madhusree Mukerjee, “Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?” Scientific American, May 23, 2012, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=apocalypse-soon-has-civilization-passed-the-environmental-point-of-no-return

“Species Disappearing at an Alarming Rate, Report Says. Watchdog Releases Annual ‘Red List,’ Warns Extent is Underestimated,” MSNBC.com, November 17, 2004, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6502368/ns/us_news-environment/t/species-disappearing-alarming-rate-report-says/#.T06Tsnn8l2I

[23] “Fluoxetine (Prozac®), sertraline (Zoloft®), escitalopram (Lexapro®), paroxetine (Paxil®), and citalopram (Celexa®) are some of the SSRIs commonly prescribed for panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, and social phobia. SSRIs are also used to treat panic disorder when it occurs in combination with OCD, social phobia, or depression. Venlafaxine (Effexor®), a drug closely related to the SSRIs, is used to treat GAD. These medications are started at low doses and gradually increased until they have a beneficial effect.” National Institute for Mental Health, “Anxiety Disorders,” accessed October 27, 2014, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml#pub8

[24] Michele L. Brennan, Psy.D, “Is It Anxiety or Stress?” Psych Central, accessed October 2, 2014, http://blogs.psychcentral.com/balanced-life/2014/01/is-it-anxiety-or-stress/.

 

End of Gender: Revolution, Not Reform

Gender is not an individual choice, it is not a natural state, and it is not just an idea. Don’t settle for reform – strive for revolution, and the abolition of gender.

by Rachel Ivey

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

Video Transcript:

I was really lucky to be able to give a draft of this presentation to the women’s gathering that happened before the conference so most of the women here have seen it already and I was really lucky to be able to benefit from their experiences and their feedback after I showed it to them first.

My name is Rachel and I was a teenage liberal [audience laughs].  A little more about me for people who don’t already know me very well:  I’m 23. I graduated with a women’s studies minor
from a pretty typical women’s studies program at a mainstream university which I’ll go on to say doesn’t really mean very much but if it’s important to you, I do have some kind of sanctioned background.

I wasn’t only a teenage liberal; I was a 20 year old liberal on the topic of gender.  And then I was a 21 year old liberal on the topic of gender.  Then my liberalism started to fall apart.  It wasn’t all at once.  I don’t think minds change overnight.  I don’t think learning happens overnight.  It took me a while to weed out that liberalism from my activist practice and I think the liberal view of gender was the last thing I had to kind of exorcise from my brain in terms of liberalism.  It sticks hard, and that’s one of the reasons why I feel this presentation and the way we’ve framed it
and what Jessica and Lexy have said is so important because I think we understand the idea behind this presentation is that we understand why liberalism, especially in terms of gender, is so compelling.  I still can understand that.  And that’s one of the reasons that I’m excited that we did it this way.

Through my work with DGR, but also before that—I was a feminist activist before I was an environmental activist.  DGR is actually the first environmentally activist group that I’ve ever been affiliated with. Before that it was all feminism and women’s reproductive rights.  I said that to say that I’ve had a lot of conversations about gender.  And I’ve had them from the liberal perspective and I’ve had them from the radical perspective since I’ve gone on to spend a lot of time doing public speaking for DGR.

Over all that time of having conversations about gender I feel like I’ve developed a kind of standardized approach to beginning those conversations.  They don’t always go in the same direction; every one’s different.  But I can begin them the same way.  So if I feel like I need to bring up the topic of gender, or if someone else is tending towards the topic of gender,
I’ve got to stop them right there and I just have one question that I’ve got to have answered, and that is “What is your definition of gender?”.  Because if I don’t understand your definition of gender and you don’t understand my definition of gender,  you can bet your bottom dollar that conversation is not going to be productive.  Because if you’re using two different definitions of gender you’re not even speaking the same language when it comes to feminism. That’s the core of it.  It took me a while to figure that out.  And I think I’m still figuring it out because I’m still having those conversations. But this is where I’ve gotten so far.

Today I’m going to frame this within the personal shift that I experienced with regard to my definition of gender—like I said, I was a teenage liberal—but I also want to talk about the larger implications, for our activism and for our political practice, of these two differing ideas of gender. Because ideas have material consequences when we act on them.

Since in the past year, maybe year and a half when I’ve been doing DGR activism, you would think that a group advocating the forcible dismantling of civilization would, I don’t know, maybe find that to be the most controversial topic that you bring up.  But no.  [audience laughter] Nope. It’s gender. Every single time.

It’s contentious enough that it’s the only reason as far as I know that we’ve had DGR chapters defect from the organization.  We’ve been denied an audience at speaking events and venues because of the view we take on gender.

And Lierre, who’s unflinchingly vocal on the topic, has received threats of violence and death threats because she does not hold back on her view of gender.

I’m really glad to be able to give some explanation to a topic that has been widely misunderstood and mischaracterized both by the wider activist community and within DGR itself.  If there are misunderstandings about what I say today I’m really happy to answer questions, as are other members of the women’s caucus that are here.  I think that’s extremely important.

I want to be clear, though.  I’m not presenting this topic for debate.  Not in the slightest.  This isn’t only my opinion; this represents DGR’s policy and it has actually happened that people have joined DGR with the intention specifically of shifting our view of gender or challenging the women’s caucus and women in leadership on their radical view of gender.  And it failed miserably. It will again if it’s tried again because this is the core of DGR.  This is the reason I joined DGR.  This is the reason the women I look up to are in DGR.  And if it changed we would all leave. And then where would you be? [audience laughs]  I wanted to get that out of the way first.

Characterizing these two definitions of gender is very simple on the surface but I don’t want to stay on the surface.  I could say one’s liberal, one’s radical, but what does that mean?

Today I want to unpack these two definitions of gender according to what those implications of liberalism and radicalism actually mean in terms of the material effect that we’re likely to have on women’s lives.

But I also want to talk about some of the “light bulb” moments, the personal experiences that I’ve had that shifted my view on gender.  It wasn’t just reading a book.  Things happen that shape your opinion and I think describing those things is the best way I know of to explain to you why I feel the way I do.

We have this word “gender” and there are two definitions of it out there. I’ve kind of distilled these from conversations I’ve had.  Really there’s not a lot of variation.  Either someone tells me one of these or they tell me the other one of these.  They don’t really mix elements, and that’s really interesting to me, that it’s really one or the other. It’s very polarizing. 

In the first definition, gender, often called “gender identity” is a personal, individual quality possessed by each person.  Gender identity is a subjectize perception by an individual
of their position on a spectrum between masculine and feminine, which are both neutral attributes, politically.  Gender is performed outwardly through choice of markers or symbols
like demeanor, body language, aesthetic choices like hair, clothing, presence or absence of makeup, pronoun.  These outward markers are what govern whether an individual
regards you as male or female upon meeting you or interacting with you.

End of Gender 1

Each person has an innate gender identity, characterized with the words “masculine” or “feminine” or in between which is independent of their biological sex.  Each person is born with a biological sex (male, female, intersex) which is also apolitical in this definition.  Sex and gender are not necessarily connected.

What is oppressive about it, according to people who adhere to this definition?

The fact that it’s a binary system in the dominant culture.  The fact that upon birth you are socialized as either masculine or feminine.  Generally, that’s seen as the primary gender oppression in this definition of gender.  That system punishes anyone who doesn’t conform to either one of those binary options.  It follows that this oppresses both women and men.  It oppresses whoever is put into either one of those boxes, no matter why they’re put into it or what happens to them.

So how can we resist?

“Genderqueer” women and men reject the binary system, identify as “gender outlaws” and demand recognition for a range of gender identities, with masculine on one end and feminine on the other.  In this definition, it’s turned from a binary to a spectrum.  The two ends of the binary just get stretched out and we can see some more options in between.

This is the first definition.

The second definition: Gender is a hierarchical system which maintains the subordination of females as a class to males through force.  Gender is a material system of power which uses violence and psychological coercion to exploit female labor, sex, reproduction, emotional support, etc, for the benefit of males.

EndofGender2

Gender is not natural or voluntary, since a person is not naturally subordinate and no one chooses to be subordinated.  Biological sex is a physical feature of each person, and those deemed female upon birth are socialized by the culture into femininity.

In this definition, femininity is defined as ritualized displays of submission to males.

So why is this oppressive?

Because it oppresses a class of people.  And because there are oppressors.  Power is wielded by groups of people. It’s experienced by individuals, yes.  But it’s wielded by groups of people over other groups of people.  And gender is no different.

And how can we resist? Women organize to overthrow male power and thus the entire gender system.

Instead of stretching out those binaries so there’s a spectrum in between, this definition advocates for the abolition of that system of domination and oppression.  Instead of ideally there being more than two different gender identifications, in this definition there would be none.

Because without patriarchy there would be no need for gender.

Anyone want to guess which of these I’m going to characterize as liberal? [audience chuckles]
I ask it as a serious question, because when I read them, if I step back and let go of the fact that I do have a clear conviction with regard to this, the first thing that jumps out at me about the first one is that it emphasizes individualism.  That’s the first thing I’m going to talk about, and I’m going to spend a while on it because I think that’s the core of liberalism with environmentalism and it’s the core of liberalism in gender too.

Again, we have this word gender, and you’ll notice that this looks kind of like a Venn diagram, but the circles don’t overlap at all.

EndofGender3

That’s because I don’t think these two definitions of gender have anything to do with each other.  I think they use the same word to describe two contradictory definitions and I will explain why.  I’ll start with the liberal view.  I picked a quote for each of these that I think sums it up very well.

With this one, the quote is: [Rachel stops talking to let audience read quote]

EndofGender4

And that is Judith Butler, who I spent a lot of time reading in school.  She is a very prominent Queer Theorist, and she gets quoted a lot.  I think her ideas sum up very well the liberal definition of gender so I am going to refer to her quite a bit.  This quote really embodies that individualism for me.

So we start with individualism: On the liberal side, gender is seen as a personal individual quality, and thusly politically neutral.

The individual is held up as so sacred in our “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of dominant culture that it’s not politically correct to criticize or investigate anyone’s gender.

That leads to a lot of arguments, because if you try to analyze it politically people get offended on an individual basis. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

I’m trying to draw connections between how we see gender individually and the class issues that affect material reality.

With liberal environmentalism we see this individualism as the supposed ability of individuals to effect change just by changing themselves.  “I’m going to buy something different, I’m going to wear hemp clothing, I’m going to reduce my carbon footprint and that’s going to help get rid of this system, or change this system, that’s causing environmental destruction in the first place.”

The logical conclusion of that is withdrawalism.  If we just move ourselves out of that system entirely then we’re not contributing to it at all.  The problem with that, as all of you in DGR know, is that just because you’re supposedly not contributing to it, doesn’t mean you’re contributing to the dismantling of it.

The same thing seem to be happening with gender.

A term that Judith Butler coined is the “gender outlaw”, which is a really attractive idea when you’re a teenage liberal, [audience chuckles] because it puts that power supposedly in your own hands.  If I just stop conforming, personally, to these systems or to these attributes that are connected to these systems, then the system will wither and die without me, right?  Or at least I can personally escape the effects of it if I just don’t enact it in my own life.

Again, a “gender outlaw” is someone who abandons the gender stereotypes and the gender symbols that are traditional for their biological sex, and adopts those that are assigned to the other sex.

I do want to be very clear that I don’t really care how someone dresses.  I don’t really care how they cut their hair or whether they wear makeup.  Personally it doesn’t really affect me; I don’t really think it’s political.  But I do have a problem with people postulating that it is a political act of resistance in and of itself.

Dressing as, or appearing as, the traditional gender stereotype of the opposite sex is no more effective than living in a hut in the woods somewhere and expecting civilization to go on by itself.  It doesn’t make any political difference on its own.

But I don’t have any criticism of people individually.

In the liberal view, gender oppression is defined as social restrictions on individual capacity to express their true gender.  So it’s not one class oppressing the other; it’s individuals can’t express themselves.  They’re prevented from doing that, and that’s seen as the primary gender oppression.

When I was a liberal, this was really attractive because it left it all up to me. If I wanted to escape gender, I could do it.  But it wasn’t all up to me. And the idea that it is all up to me is as insulting as it is preposterous.  Because no one, including me, would ever choose a role that involves constant sexual harassment, the ubiquitous threat and in my case occasional enactment of male violence, and the certainty growing up, the conviction that you were meant for
exploitation, erasure, silence, but never personhood. I don’t think any of us think that anyone would choose that.

I’m not sure why, to most of the left, that’s different when it comes to gender.  But it seems to be. [audience applauds & cheers]

I want to emphasize here: I can say that, but I’ve also so far avoided being beaten, sold, or killed by men so as women go, I’m pretty lucky. The fact that I can still identify that class oppression in my own life really tells you something, since I’ve been that lucky.

So I got to college and read things like Judith Butler.  The idea that I could change my outlook on life, change my own perceptions, to escape what feminine socialization was doing to me, was really too tempting to resist. I understand why younger women, younger men — younger people — are really attracted to that.

But I was wrong. And I was wrong because gender is not an individual choice and there was not something wrong with me.

Gender is class oppression of females.

I want to stop here and talk about this. Because individualism too — I’m gonna talk about this throughout, but I wanna start talking about it with individuality.

I’ll repeat something I said earlier: in order to be an outlaw, there has to be a law. In the case of gender outlaws, that law is patriarchy, that system of values and that law is the class oppression of females.  In order for gender outlawism and people describing themselves as trans to make sense, there has to be a majority in order for that minority to exist.

And that majority is “cis” women, of which I count myself among them.

Or more accurately I don’t, because I think that term is oppressive to females on multiple levels
because it describes female people that have capitulated, in this view, to enacting feminism.

We’re taking the easy way out, girls!

We’re enacting that role that we’re supposed to enact, and we’re priviliged because of that.
Because being socialized into a role of femininity that encodes subordination so deep in your identity that you don’t call it that, you call it your nature, you call it your religion, you call it your culture.

I don’t thank that’s a privilege. And I find it ridiculous a lot of the time that I have to describe the fact that that’s not a privilege.

We’ll go over gender according to radical feminists, and I’ll talk about the class issues as opposed to individualism in a second, but first I have this quote:  “It’s become popular in some activist circles to embrace notions from postmodernism, and that includes the idea that gender is somehow a binary.  Gender is not a binary. It is a hierarchy.  It is global in its reach, it is sadistic in its practice, and it is murderous in its completion.  Just like race, and just like class.
Gender demarcates the geopolitical boundaries of patriarchy—which is to say, it divides us in half. That half is not horizontal—it is vertical.  And in case you missed this part, men are always on top.”

EndofGender5

I can envision the anti-DGR, anti-radical feminism party line being “Well of course you’d quote Lierre Keith. Of course you would.”  You know, I would. And part of that is because she’s my friend and because I appreciate her. But it was also because she was the first person I heard say something like this, and that is why it had such an effect on me.  This encapsulates to me the class issues that come into radical feminism.

Group/Class: for radicals, gender itself is oppression. I’ll repeat that:  Without oppression, there can not be gender. They are one and the same when it comes to sex oppression of females.

EndofGender6

For radical feminists, gender is the chain, and patriarchy is the ball, and it’s cuffed to the ankle of every female person born.

That socialization is not escapable, even if you move to that hut in the woods.

If you have a TV, it’s there.  If you know men that have been socialized into this culture, it’s there.  If you have a mother who was socialized as feminine, it’s there.  And that’s what makes it a class issue.

I could not escape gender by changing myself because changing my appearance did not change the fact that I was socialized into the sex class called “women” against my will.

The fear and desperation that comes from that is not something that someone would choose, and it was not my fault.  But even after I realized that, it took me a few years to hold my head up when I walked, and most days I still have to put conscious effort toward it.

So when people postulate that gender is individual, that my individual identity involves walking like you’re about to be kicked, or holding your head down when you speak, that’s offensive. And you can’t put it any other way.  Because no one chooses that identity; no one is innately subordinate.

It’s not a coincidence that 91% of those who are raped are female, and 99% of the perpetrators are male.  It’s not a coincidence that the shoes make it hard to run away.

It’s taboo to acknowledge that females are socialized from birth onward into a subordinate sex class for whom exploitation by males is so ingrained into the social norms that we can’t recognize it any more. That it’s become a “choice”, that it’s become our “identity.”

It’s taboo within mainstream liberal feminism to address the fact that males are socialized from birth onward into a privileged sex class that feeds on violation and subordination of not only women, but as all of you can recognize, of the oceans, of the earth, of life itself.

People who are critical of DGR’s feminist stance often seem unaware that Lierre isn’t the only radical feminist in the organization —“ far from it.  Because she is a woman who doesn’t hedge her words, doesn’t hold her tongue, and really doesn’t accept liberal bullshit, she’s become a lightning rod for the type of flac that radical feminism tends to get.  I find that unfair, first of all. And a lot of that flac comes from a private email she sent that got spread all over the internet, and when people criticize DGR based on the text of that email, they seem to expect us to be so ashamed of it or so offended by it ourselves, that we won’t even address it. So I’d actually like to read it out loud.

“Well, I’ve personally been fighting about this since 1982.  I think “transphobic” is a ridiculous word. I have no strange fear of people who claim to be “trans”.  I deeply disagree with them, as do most radical feminists.

Try this on.  I am a rich person stuck in a poor person’s body.  I’ve always enjoyed champagne rather than beer, and always knew I belonged in first class not economy, and it just feels right when people wait on me.  My insurance company should give me a million dollars to cure my Economic Dysphoria.

Or how about this.  I am really Native American.  How do I know?  I’ve always felt a special connection to animals, and started building tee pees in the backyard as soon as I was old enough.  I insisted on wearing moccasins to school even though the other kids made fun of me and my parents punished me for it.  I read everything I could on native people, started going to pow wows and sweat lodges as soon as I was old enough, and I knew that was the real me. And if you bio-Indians don’t accept us trans-Indians, then you are just as genocidal and oppressive as the Europeans.

Gender is no different. It is a class condition created by a brutal arrangement of power.”

[audience applauds]

EndofGender7

I’d like to follow that comparison a little further to maybe make it a little clearer.  I’ve asked, at first out of genuine curiosity when people would bring this up, why, if gender is something that socialization doesn’t matter, it’s voluntary, you can be trans-gendered or in the more specific case, a trans-woman.  Why is that acceptable when deciding that I’m trans-black is not?
I just want to follow it through. What would it mean if I was trans-black, if I decided that was true.  Would it mean that I wore clothes that are traditionally and stereotypically believed to be worn by African americans?  Would it mean that I identify more strongly with African culture than I do with white culture?

No. And I don’t think I really have to explain why. Because that’s offensive.

I don’t have the cultural background that makes that true; I have not endured the oppression and abuse that goes along with being a marginalized racial class.

So for me to claim that I’m more strongly identified with that is actually just reinforcing those stereotypes.  And I honestly don’t really see what’s different about gender.  If we accept that gender is a class condition, not an individual condition, that analogy makes sense.

People told me about these [analogies] before I actually read them, and once I actually read them, I was kind of underwhelmed [audience laughs] because I didn’t really see what was not straight-forward about calling gender a class position. This was after I left liberalism a little bit.

Next we can talk about idealism.

On the liberal side, gender is idealist.

This is a quote from Jennifer Baumgardner, who I used to idolize.  I went and saw her speak.  She’s a very nice woman.  She does a lot of really good work.  But she says that: “Consciousness is everything.  Even now, acknowledging inequality begs one to do something about it and that is a daunting, albeit righteous, responsibility.”

EndofGender8

The idea that consciousness is everything, just like with environmentalism, leads to an activist practice that’s focused on changing people’s minds as though oppression were a mistake that could be corrected if we could just explain to men that they should really just stop exploiting us.

It begs us to do something about it because we’re the ones affected by it.  But the realization that they’re benefiting from the oppression of others leads the oppressor class to dig in their heels, not to do something about it.

Even liberal feminists — I like to use the example of rape culture, to get away from idealism, because rape is not an idea.  Again, there’s a reason why 91% of rape victims are female, and 99% of the perpetrators are male.  If she’s lucky, the survivor of rape will be one of the 2% whose case actually goes to trial and 97% of rapists never see a day in jail. These are not ideas; they are reality.

EndofGender9When we’re talking about rape culture and idealism, we have to talk about Slut Walk.  I give you one guess who this intrepid young feminist is. [audience laughs]  Do the curls give me away?  I’m not sorry that I participated in this, I actually organized the one at my school, because I think that, just like me, the women who participate in this genuinely want to end rape culture because what woman wouldn’t? The fallacy, the one I fell into (I was 21 in this picture) was that changing people’s ideas about rape culture would actually change rape culture. It says “END RAPE CULTURE” in marker.

The fallacy here is not wanting to end rape culture.  The fallacy is that marching around with “END RAPE CULTURE” on my back was actually going to end rape culture.  Again, it’s based on the idea that we can change people’s ideas about what gender means: if we just redefine the term “slut” then it won’t be an oppressive term to women any more.

But we forget that the lines of oppression are not demarcated by the oppressed.  They are chosen by the oppressor, and they can only be changed through force, not through catchy chants. Which is a shame, because I’m really good at catchy chants. [audience laughs]
For radicals, gender is maintained through force. Gender is a material system of power
which uses violence and psychological coercion to exploit female labor, sex, reproduction,
emotional support, for the benefit of men.

EndofGender10

Rape culture, right along with female poverty, lack of education, the trafficking of our bodies
—it’s maintained through material structures.  Not through people’s ideas.

Gender is a system of power that uses violence and psychological coercion to maintain the oppression of females.  Not to just control our ideas about it, but to control actual physical reality.

Next on the liberal side we have voluntarism, and this again gets back to the heart of the controversy of DGR around feminism. That is, our policy surrounding women’s spaces, and how that relates to people who describe themselves as “trans.”

EndofGender11

I again feel sad that I have to put this as a disclaimer but through my time speaking in public for DGR, we’ve been asked whether we’re a “transphobic” organization. Do we hate trans people?
I can only speak for myself when I say that I do not hate trans people as a group of people;
I don’t hate the individual trans people that I know.

My personal feelings towards individuals has nothing to do with my political analysis  of what that definition of gender means for all of us, and for people as a class.

In the liberal view, gender expression — I took this off the HRC website —  is seen as a voluntarily chosen set of external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, or social interactions.  What follows from this is that if gender is voluntary, then people who are oppressed by gender are choosing to be oppressed.

I come back again to the fact that no one chooses to be oppressed.  If we accept this definition of gender, we accept that people who are oppressed for being born female, are choosing to be in that position and that if they wanted to, they could reject that and move away from it by their own personal choices and do something else.

I think back to a person I met who identified themselves to me as a transwoman.  Again, this person was very sweet; I was very glad to meet them; I don’t mean this as a personal attack.
But something they said really stuck with me as a demonstration, when they said “I don’t have the male privilege that I was raised with any more.”  I had to think about that for a while to think about what I thought about that, and whether that was true.  And I realized that it wasn’t. Because being raised with male privilege is the privilege.

Being raised with the knowledge that you are fully human and you deserve rights and that your body is not fair game and that the court system considers you human is the privilege.  And that doesn’t just go away.

So an alternative name for this presentation is “I’m not afraid of your penis but I’m terrified of your socialization.” [audience laughs] because I think that people think when I say things like this that I consider males innately terrifying, that you’ll never get out of it.  I’ve seen men get out of that system of behavior.

But getting out of being socialized into masculinity, which is based on violation and domination, does not make you female. It makes you a revolutionary, because that is what is actually going to change the culture, people acting outside … [cut off as audience applauds and cheers]

This is a quote from Kourtney Mitchell — maybe he’s on live stream right now, I’m not sure, I hope he is — he wrote an essay on white privilege and backlash. He wrote that “It is important to understand what it means to view racial oppression in the context of class analysis.  Whiteness is a class experience, and not based in biological reality. But that does not mean
one can just decide to stop being white, just like I cannot decide to stop being a man as long as the dominant culture classes me as a man.  As long as you are classed as white, you will continue to benefit from white privilege.  This is what allies need to remember.”

EndofGender12

If you put this in the context of gender oppression, it is just as true.  This is what allies need to remember, that whatever your intentions are, whatever your external presentation is, you’re going to have that socialization and therefore that privilege and that identification by the dominant culture as long as you live.

Just like as long as I live I will have to think about my posture so I’m not hiding.  I will have to speak extra loud most of the time in order to counteract the social forces that tell me not to speak at all.  None of that is going to change just because I want it to.  None of that is voluntary like it is on the liberal side.

Now I want to talk about a kind of conflict that I’ve seen within liberal feminism.

I don’t think oppression is natural or voluntary.  But on the liberal side, oppression is both natural and voluntary.  This is because gender is seen as both natural, something innate that we’re born with, and something that we choose from the wardrobe of gender every day, like clothes.  It’s hard to argue from a radical perspective, because liberals have the market cornered on the naturalism and voluntarism.  They can argue it from both sides, and switch in the blink of an eye, and I am having a really hard time figuring out how to point out that this is a basic conflict of logic.

If something is innate, it can not be voluntary.

My brown hair is innate, therefore it’s not voluntary.  The same goes for gender.  It can’t be both, and in my view it’s neither.

Next is constructivism.  Instead of being natural, in the radical view gender is constructed.  It is artificial.  It is imposed on humans who would enact humanity if given the choice.  But instead, this constructed identity of subordination and domination is impressed upon us.

This quote is from Andrea Dworkin: “Woman is not born; she is made.  In the making, her humanity is destroyed.  She becomes symbol of this, symbol of that;
mother of the earth, slut of the universe; but she never becomes herself because she is forbidden to do so.”

EndofGender13

For females this is the reality of the construction of gender, that it is not escapable.  Just because it’s constructed doesn’t mean that it can be deconstructed at will.  It doesn’t mean that it can be deconstructed individually.  In order to deconstruct it, it will take organization, which is something that has not happened on a mass scale yet and that’s why patriarchy still exists.

The thing that brought this home to me was my relationship with a student I used to have.
We went over basic sex ed, we went over self esteem, media literacy.  A lot of the time we just talked about these things, talked about our experiences of gender and of being a teenager in this culture.

I met a girl who had been subject to incest, trafficking, rape, more horrific incidences than I could comprehend.  She may have been the most horrifically abused person that I had ever met in that context. Part of the time that I knew her…

She already had short hair, she cut it a little shorter, she asked me to use the pronoun “he” which I also did.  I didn’t really think very deeply about that at the time.  At the time if you had asked me “Why did she do that?”  I would have said it’s her innate gender identity. She was born wanting to do that.  Now that she’s away from her parents, and in this institution, she feels like she can, without repercussion, and this is a good thing, because she can enact what is actually her.  But I don’t believe that any more.

One of the reasons I don’t believe that is because one of the days in class, I asked them to
draw a picture, all of my students. I knew what I thought they deserved, but I wanted to know what they thought they deserved. What they wanted their lives to be like when they got out. What their lives would be like if they had gotten what they wanted and what they needed throughout their lives.

They drew a lot of different things, but I kept [the girl’s] drawing for a really long time.
In one corner she drew what was clearly a girl’s face. It had pink lipstick, a pink bow in the hair, and tears running down the face, and it had a big X through it.  And underneath it she wrote words she thought described being a girl. She wrote “pain”, she wrote “fear”, she wrote “rape”, she wrote words in that vein.  In the other corner she drew a human face — in fact it looked a lot like her.  It had short, brown hair, no makeup or accessories, and the face was smiling.
And underneath it she wrote “confident”, she wrote “happy”, she wrote “safe.”  And underneath that she wrote me a paragraph, and it started with “If I hadn’t been a girl…”

“If I wasn’t a girl, I wouldn’t have been raped. If I wasn’t a girl, I wouldn’t be scared.  If I wasn’t a girl, I wouldn’t be here, at this institution.”

I kept that for a while, because I didn’t really understand it right away. It took a while for that to sink in.  I don’t bring up this example to try to convey that every person who describes themselves as trans does so because of the type of horrific abuse that she endured.  I do it to assert that being socialized into femininity is abuse, and she just experienced it more extremely than most of us do.  She did what she could to get out of it at that time.  As much as I want that for her, that doesn’t mean that she actually could get out.  She got out of that institution, but she did not get out of femininity, no matter how short she cuts her hair, and no matter what name she uses.

Gender is anything but natural. She was not born with a feminine brain or a masculine brain, but she was born with a female body and in this culture that means she’s considered less human than members of the sex class “men.”

It’s no wonder to me that she wanted to escape that oppression of female socialization by rejecting her femaleness, but like Kourtney said, just as men cannot erase their masculine privilege, women cannot choose to erase the oppression of being socialized into femininity.

Which brings me to the final distinction between the liberal and radical conception of gender that I’m going to talk about today, which is the difference between reformism and revolution.

This is a long quote; I’m not going to read all of it, because it’s not necessary.

“That’s one of the things that the word ‘queer’ can refer to: the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically.”

EndofGender14

This is a quote from Eve Sedgwick, who’s another really prominent queer theorist.  She goes on to say that people can identify as “radical faeries, pushy femmes, transwomen, lesbians who sleep with men, lesbian-identified men”… she goes on like that for a while, it’s a long paragraph.
The point I’m trying to get to, by reading all of that academic language, is that all of those identities are still based on domination and subordination.

Just because we’re putting extra categories in between the two, does not mean that we’re getting rid of the system based on animosity between the two.

On the radical side, we have revolution. This is Catherine Mackinnon: “In a society in which equality is a fact, not merely a word, words of racial or sexual assault and humiliation will be nonsense syllables.”  In the radical feminist view, this will be what happens to the words “man” and “woman”, along with the sex-class system based on subordination and domination that those words signify.

EndofGender15

And that’s it. Thanks. [audience claps & cheers]

 

Watch more Deep Green Resistance videos.

DIY Resistance: Develop a Sense of Urgency

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this article

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

shawnee-indian-tecumsehWe are losing badly. The dominant culture is destroying what is left of the world and, right now, our resistance is simply ineffective. I cannot pretend to know exactly how we’re going to turn things around and stop the madness. But, I do believe we must develop a profound sense of urgency.

Wherever we look we’re met with the horror that should produce the necessary urgency. Look to the oceans and you’ll find that the coral reefs are dying. Zooplankton, forming the base of the oceanic food chain, have declined 70% over the last 40 years.

Look to the climate and you’ll find we’re boiling the world to death. Even mainstream scientists are predicting a 6 degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures by the end of the century.

Look to the animals and you’ll find 50% of all species disappearing. Look to the forests and you’ll find between 8 and 16 billion trees being cut down a year.

It’s as if the dominant culture sees the future and is holding the most macabre going-out-of-business sale imaginable complete with the advertisement “Everything must go.”

The statistics I include here are tiny snapshots of the immensity of the problem. The eradication of life in the oceans will be devastating for all of us. Climate change will cook the rich and poor alike. All humans need the oxygen lost through deforestation. So, why is it that more of us are not dropping everything to join the resistance? While we feel the tremors in the foundations of life on earth threatening to bury us all in ash and rubble, why are so many still hesitating to fight for their own survival?

***

 One answer is privilege. As a white heterosexual man, I am a member of the most privileged class the world has ever known. I know how powerful the seductions of privilege can be. So much is given to me through the dumb luck of my genetic heritage. The gifts are maintained through a Faustian bargain requiring that I remain willing to deny the suffering of others and silent about the total collapse forming the devil’s due.

What gifts have I been given? I am given an almost total freedom from fear of rape. I am given a choice in religions where patriarchal gods reassure me that the world was made for me. I am given so-called natural resources to use for my civilized progress. I am given women’s bodies to use for my sexual satisfaction. I am given serenity in the knowledge that – whenever I choose to give up this resistance business – I can fade back into my privileged status. I am given the confidence that comes with looking like the most powerful men in the world.

Worst of all, I am given a version of history and a vision of the future that says things have always been – and will always be – this way. Only, we know that things have not always been this way. We know that a civilized, patriarchal violation imperative is destroying the world for everyone – men, women, and non-humans alike.

In the previous installments of this Do-It-Yourself: Resistance series, I wrote that my path to resistance involved falling in love with the world, developing empathy for all forms of life, and then learning to manage the grief that affects the heart made vulnerable by love and empathy. Love and empathy demonstrate that it is my responsibility as a white heterosexual man to step beyond the comfortable walls of my privilege and into the chilly, but star-filled night where our brothers and sisters dwell in reality. Our brothers and sisters are in mortal danger.

Privilege encourages complacency. For the privileged engaged in resistance, privilege gives the sense that there is still time. Privilege allows us time to engage in things like “spiritual preparation” or “finding myself” or “getting my shit together.” Thousands of species are extinct. 100 more went extinct today. 95% of American old growth forests are gone. 250 trees are cut down a second around the world. Millions of women have survived rape. One in four will be raped in her lifetime. Another one in four will fend off rape attempts.

We must develop a profound sense of urgency to stem this destructive tide. The time given to us by privilege is an illusion. There is no time for oppressed peoples and endangered species. We are in the middle of the fastest mass extinction event the world has ever seen.

Feel that for a moment. Test your heart’s ability to conceive the desperation bound to extinction. Whole species are gone. Whole nations of beings are removed from the world. Whole strands in the web of life have dissolved. Forever. If our resistance is going to be effective, we must act decisively and we must act now.

***

We are losing badly. The good news is the oppressed are fighting back.

The Unist’ot’en Clan of the grassroots Wet’suwet’en maintain a camp physically in the path of proposed pipelines routes over their unceded traditional territories in so-called British Columbia.

Lakota Sioux warriors vow they will be dead or in prison before they allow the Keystone XL pipeline to pass over their lands.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger River Delta (MEND) is engaged in armed militant resistance to genocide and ecocide in Nigeria warning the oil industry to “Leave our land or die in it.”

The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) states enough is enough and declares war on the Mexican state.

Sharks continue their attacks on underwater cables and have caused widespread disruptions of internet service.

The common thread tying these resistance groups is an honest acceptance of the urgency facing us. Resisters have been begging us for urgency for centuries. Things keep getting worse because not enough of us are answering their calls.

The EZLN’s Declaration of War recognized, “…we have nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a roof over our heads, no land, no work, no health care, no food nor education. Nor are we able to freely and democratically elect our political representatives, nor is there independence from foreigners, nor is there peace nor justice for ourselves and our children” before characterizing their declaration as “our last hope.” When will we internalize the EZLN’s truth that hope is in its dying throes?

Olowan Martinez said about the Lakota resistance to pipelines, “When they get rid of the Lakota, the earth isn’t too far behind. Our people believe the Lakota is the earth.” When will we see ourselves as the earth and love ourselves enough to fight for our own survival?

Finally, the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh in his “Plea to the Choctaws and Chickasaws” to fight the Americans in the spring of 1811 issued warnings that have never been more true. Tecumseh said, “Think not…that you can remain passive and indifferent to the common danger and escape the common fate. Your people, too, will soon be as falling leaves and scattering clouds before their blighting breath. You, too, will be driven away from your native land and ancient domains as leaves are driven before the wintry storms.” When will we recognize our common danger and common fate?

For too long, too many have refused to develop the urgency we need to resist effectively. Resist, and resist now. Tecumseh’s warning will come true for all of us if we delay. It is time we refuse to be leaves in the storm.

Browse Will Falk’s DIY Resistance series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

DIY Resistance: Recover Empathy

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this article

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

The dominant culture kills our ability to empathize. Faucets deliver water over great distances silencing the voices of rivers. Super-markets place meat on chilled display shelves hiding the sacred ceremonial relationship between hunter and prey. Pornography produces orgasms without mutual vulnerability.

Sockeye salmon swimming upstream

Sockeye salmon swimming upstream

One way empathy is killed is through alienation. The comforts of civilization alienate us from our ancient roles as members of natural communities. Electric lights drown out the stars. Asphalt divorces our feet from the soil. Walls block the caresses of the summer breeze. The hole we’ve burned in the sky forces us to wear UV-resistant sunglasses dulling the vibrant colors of the day.

Another way empathy is killed is through the entitlement that follows this alienation. Living too long in a system that allows us to eat plants without ever seeing where they were grown, that gives us computers without ever seeing where their metals were mined, and that gives us clothing sewn by children in boiling warehouses we will never visit encourages us to forget.

Psychologist R.D. Laing explains the process brilliantly, “If Jack succeeds in forgetting something, this is of little use if Jill continues to remind him of it. He must induce her not to do so. The safest way would be not just to make her keep quiet about it, but to induce her to forget it also.” If Jill reminds Jack of the migratory songbirds killed everyday by cell phone towers, Jack might encourage Jill to forget by simply denying this is true. He might forbid Jill to mention the birds in his presence. Or, a more effective means to encourage Jill to forget is to convince her not to worry about the birds because we deserve cell phones. We have every right to communicate with anyone in the world wherever they are whenever we want. And, those birds are just birds, after all.

***

Consider the war being waged on women by men. How is it possible that men who are given their very lives by women can wage this war? How is it possible that men many of whom claim to love women can perpetuate this violence?

The first answer is the loss of empathy.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 1 out of 3 women have suffered rape or attempted rape worldwide. (http://www.nsvrc.org/publications/fact-sheets/worldwide-sexual-assault-statistics) Every 17 minutes a woman is raped according to the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Another Canadian survey by DeKeserdy and Kelly reports that four out of five female undergraduates have been victims of violence in a dating relationship.

Meanwhile, the porn industry makes more money than Hollywood. (http://stoppornculture.org/about/about-the-issue/facts-and-figures-2/) A 2007 report by Bridges and Wosnitzer “Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography: A content analysis update” appearing in the International Communication Association is enlightening. Bridges and Wosnitzer report 88.2% of the top rated scenes contain aggressive acts. In 70% of these scenes, a man is the aggressor, and 94% of the time the act is directed towards a woman. Open-hand slapping occurs in 41.1% of the scenes.

Pornography is both an expression of and a leading cause for the destruction of empathy. When sex is mediated through a television or computer screen the viewer’s sexual satisfaction is alienated from its beautiful expression in true mutuality. Sex, in the real world, involves the building up of trust between partners. Sex, in the real world, involves the truly magical experience where lovers offer their vulnerabilities in order to share in one another’s bodies.

When sexual satisfaction can be ordered up by placing a DVD into a player or clicking on a link, feelings of entitlement grow. Just like Jack and Jill from Laing’s example, when Jill reminds Jack that pornography is not real, that the bodies of women do not look like that, that acting out the scenes depicted bring her no pleasure, Jack can ignore Jill and gain his orgasms through porn at the expense of the bodies of women he will never have a true relationship with. Jack can point to the prevalence of porn to argue that porn must be natural and undermine Jill. Or, Jack can emulate the men getting off in his favorite scenes and explain to Jill that men are entitled to these actions. We can hear Jack saying, “Look, babe, this is just how it is.”

Jill’s experience is negated for Jack’s entitlement. Jack’s empathy dies.

***

In the first installment of my “Do-It-Yourself: Resistance” series, I wrote that the first step towards a life devoted to saving what is left of the world is to fall in love. The next step is to recover empathy.

Too many in this dominant culture have lost or ignore their ability to feel the suffering of others. Civilization is based on the domination of others. Our comforts depend on the exploitation of others. Laborers are sweating, suffocating, and dying in mines that bring us the metals for our phones, computers, and solar panels. Children are starving due to policies such as the debts imposed on colonized nations by imperial instruments like World Bank. Leatherback sea turtles are critically endangered due to the pollution of the seas.

How would those destroying the planet act if they suffered from the lung ailments suffered by miners? How would those destroying the planet act if it were their screaming from the pangs of hunger? How would those destroying the planet act if they went to eat their dinner only to discover they were consuming a plastic bag too late to prevent the plastic bag from catching in their throats?

It is difficult to recover our empathy because the dominant culture encourages us so strongly to forget with television, with drugs, with pornography, but it is imperative that we cut into our hearts to regain the connections that have always been there. Resistance would become much stronger if more of us truly felt the suffering surrounding us.

Go outside. Let the wind play with your hair. Let the sun warm your skin. Take your sunglasses off and admire the vibrancy surrounding you. Watch the pattern of bumblebees in a camas field. Watch bear cubs wrestle in fireweed. Ask their mother what she needs for her family. And, listen.

Ask your lover to come with you outside. Ask your lover who she is. Ask him to tell you his dreams. Ask her what she wants, what makes her feel good. And, listen.

Look up at the stars. Watch them dance across the space between. Let their light pierce you. Ask them what they want. And, listen.

After listening, act. Act with everything you’ve got because you share in the emotions of those around you.

***

On Monday, August 4, 2014 while I’ve been working on this piece, the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond overwhelmed its dam and released 10 billion liters of polluted water and 4.5 million cubic meters of fine sand into the Hazeltine Creek near Likely, British Columbia. Over the past year, the Imperial Metals Corporation dumped 326 tons of nickel, 400 tons of arsenic, 177 tons of lead, and 18,400 tons of copper into the pond. The spill is depositing this waste through the entire Quesnel and Cariboo river systems. With the sockeye salmon beginning their annual runs up the rivers, this disaster could not come at a worse time.

I have heard many people express hope that maybe – finally – this is the disaster that will wake the world up to the seriousness of the world’s crisis. I remember many people expressing the same hope after the BP Gulf Oil Spill. I remember many people expressing the same hope after Fukushima. But, here we are again.

Have you ever seen the sockeye run up a river? Have you ever seen the brilliant flashes of their bright bodies in a cold current? Have you heard the rivers singing joyous greetings songs to announce the sockeyes’ arrival?

Can you see the poison seeping over the dam and down the channels? Can you taste bitter metals in your water? Can you hear the sockeye weeping?

If you can’t, when will you? If you can, what are you going to do about it?

Browse Will Falk’s DIY Resistance series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

This is what I said at Radfems Respond

Excerpt:

1. Female people are a distinct social class with unique experiences, and members of that class experience specific forms of oppression under male supremacy based on the fact that we are female.

2. Gender is an inherently oppressive caste system that serves to facilitate and maintain the exploitation of female people under male supremacy.

In the last year, my experiences have made it clear to me that these two ideas are tantamount to Orwellian thoughtcrime in our current political climate around gender. And my question – yet again – is why. What is it about these two ideas that justifies the level of threats, backlash, and silencing that we receive just for daring to speak them out loud?

With each of these, I want to talk about their significance to feminism – the reasons that I think it’s important that we state them out loud despite the consequences –  and I also want to honestly address some of the criticisms that I’ve heard directed at them.

Of course, most of radical feminism’s detractors don’t even bother to engage with this discussion. It’s a lot easier to threaten women, to make us afraid, than to actually have a constructive adult conversation. It’s a lot easier to dismiss radical feminism as outdated, a relic from an earlier time, as many choose to, than to acknowledge and engage with our points. This argument, if it can even be called an argument, falls completely flat for me and so many radical feminists of my generation. We’re not clinging to relics, we’re reaching for a politics that actually addresses the scope of the misogyny and male supremacy that we are forced to live within.

Read more:  This is what I said at Radfems Respond

Oppression is always tied to resource extraction

Excerpt from the presentation, Tactics and Talking Points: Re-Radicalizing the Fight for Abortion Access, given July 5, 2013 at the Radfem RiseUp conference in Toronto, ON:

Mainstream reproductive rights activists in the United States are currently accepting a fictional story about why abortion restrictions are being enacted. A recent article by Andrea Ayres-Deets on the popular liberal website Policy Mic contained a common assumption:

“To Republicans, abortion is about a deeply held moral belief concerning the sanctity of life which propels them to legislate against half of the U.S. Population.”

I think we’re giving politicians way too much credit when we take their word on this.

So when the men in power say something like “new greenhouse gas regulations will harm the nation’s economy and threaten millions of jobs over the next quarter century,” as it says in the Republican Party’s official platform, thinking people can look at that, recognize the hypocrisy, and see through it to what they’re actually saying: “New greenhouse gas regulations will harm the ruling class’s power to extract resources and threaten our profit and dominance.”

When George Bush says something like “confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror,” again, we can all see through it and call bullshit. He means that “confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to maintaining the ruling class’s power to extract resources and to ensuring our profit and dominance.”

I’m a firm believer that the men in power and institutions they control – the judiciary, legislature, military, industry – they rarely, if ever, take any action that doesn’t directly or indirectly facilitate resource extraction for the purpose of generating profit, and preserving their power.

So, when the men in power say something like…”I am strongly pro-life, and have fought to protect the rights of the unborn my entire career. I will continue to fight for this cause because I value the sanctity of all human life, which was said by Utah congress member Rob Bishop, why do so many advocates for reproductive rights take him at his word?  Why do we accept his supposed altruism as legitimate?  Why can’t we see through his rhetoric to what he’s really saying?

He means, “I am strongly pro-control and have fought to protect the rights of the ruling class to extract resources for my entire career. I will continue to fight for this cause because I value our profit and dominance.”

The pundits point out the hypocrisy all the time – if they’re so pro-life, why do they cut so many aid programs,sentence children and families to hunger and homelessness, bomb so many children, execute so many prisoners, outlaw birth control, if they’re focused on the sanctity of life?

“Still, GOP bigwigs get furious when they are accused of conducting a war on women. But what else is it? It’s clearly not a great moral crusade to save children,” writes Cynthia Tucker, in The GOP’s War on Women Continues.  Pundits and activists ask the question, the question of why, as though it were rhetorical.  Why can’t we follow our logic to it’s conclusion?  The answer is staring us in the face.

Liberal pundits and activists have taken to calling the escalating surge of reproductive restrictions a “war on women,” yet they seem to forget what war is actually for.  War is hateful, but it’s not just about hate.  It’s violent, but it’s not just about violence.  Its goal is control, but not control for the sake of control.  The hate and violence of war are used to achieve control over resources.  This is as true for the war on women as it is for the war on Iraq, the war on indigenous cultures, the war on the fabric of life that makes up the living planet.  The ideologies of colonial cultures – race, class, gender – all serve the purpose of normalizing and rendering invisible the mechanics of resource extraction.

Oppression is always tied to resource extraction.  Abortion restrictions in the US, from the very beginning, were intended to ensure the dominance of white settlers and the dominance of the medical industry.  Since the very beginning of patriarchy, the reproductive capacity of women has been regarded by the men in power as a resource, and controlling women is not just a hobby, or a religious directive – it’s a way to control and facilitate the extraction of resources from female bodies.

Politicians are restricting abortion access in order to more effectively extract human resources from female bodies, with the added benefit of forced pregnancy further entrenching women’s second class status.  We’re not doing ourselves any favors by taking politicians at their word with regard to their motivations.  In fact, by doing so, we’re throwing the fight, playing by their rules, and dooming ourselves to failure by accepting their terms.

Originally published on Bend Until It Breaks.