Arquivo da tag: Cidadania

Bens públicos e violência: notas sobre São Paulo (uninomade.net)

Por Rafael Zanatta, no E-mancipação

14/06/2013

sp

Voltei terça-feira dos Estados Unidos e me deparei com a velha confusão de São Paulo. Ao olhar a cidade da janela do ônibus que me transportava de Garulhos até o centro, tudo parecia normal. Na minha mente, a maior preocupação era a vigilância de dados pelo governo estadunidense (cf. o texto-chave de Glenn Greenwald ‘NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others‘). Como estava fora do país, não havia notado o que estava se passando no Brasil em termos de mobilizações sociais. Tampouco desconfiava da organização concertada dos protestos contra o aumento das tarifas dos transportes públicos (cf. ‘Protestos contra aumento da tarifa repercutem na imprensa internacional‘). Foi somente no trabalho que percebi algo estranho. Alguém comentou na Fundação Getulio Vargas: “Será que precisamos avisar que as aulas vão começar mais tarde? O protestou travou a Consolação e o congestionamento está gigantesco”.

De noite, no intervalo de uma aula, fui alertado pelo meu colega Francisco Cruz que a violência havia se alastrado no centro de São Paulo. O protesto – pacífico, alegre e cativante (cf. o relato ‘Contra o aumento das tarifas de ônibus: o protesto que eu não vi pela TV‘, do Bruno Passos) – foi conturbado por uma série de depredações e atos violentos de pequenos grupos. Essas ações, geralmente realizadas por grupos e associações radicais, levaram ao uso desproporcional e ilimitado da violência por parte da Polícia Militar. O cenário, então, virou caótico. As imagens gravadas ontem, e que circularam nas redes sociais hoje, são apavorantes. Um exemplo é o espancamento do jornalista Pedro Ribeiro Nogueira, encurralado e agredido por diversos homens que integram a estrutura burocrática que detém o “uso legítimo da força” em nosso “regime democrático”. Não dê play se você não tiver nervos para encarar a realidade.

O uso desmedido da violência causa indignação para alguns, mas não para todos. A maioria da população paulistana acha que “esses baderneiros devem levar um cacete mesmo”. O paulistano médio apoia a violência policial (e não é à toa que tanto Fernando Haddad quanto Geraldo Alckmin – os dois em Paris negociando a realização de um mega-evento comercial em São Paulo – apelam para o discurso de que é preciso mais repressão). Dizer publicamente que os vândalos devem ser punidos é o mecanismo mais fácil para ganhar capital político.

O posicionamento reacionário é o senso comum. É um absurdo (mas como reverter a fabricação de consensos e a manipulação das massas?). Além de ignorarem o fato de que o pequeno grupo radical não faz parte doMovimento Passe Livre, consideram plenamente normal que diversos homens investidos em uma estrutura burocrática estatal possam utilizar da força para deixar uma pessoa inconsciente, algemá-la, colocá-la em um camburão, conduzi-la até uma delegacia e prendê-la. Para muitos, a violência de terça-feira foi basicamente o quebra-quebra de estações de metrô, bancas de jornal e pixações de locais públicos.

Mas a dimensão da violência não é outra?

Como bem colocou minha caríssima Silvia Horta, “violência é aquela diariamente praticada contra a dignidade dos trabalhadores que dependem de um transporte caro e ineficiente pra se deslocar; dano ao ‘patrimônio público’ são os milhões anualmente surrupiados do povo para manter o monopólio das empresas de transporte coletivo“. Aí está a violência, uma violência sistêmica que é nutrida pelo capitalismo-dependente brasileiro e pela deformação das instituições, que talvez já nasceram deformadas pela condição colonial e patrimonialista deste país. A revolta não é contra a correção inflacionária das tarifas, mas sim contra todo a teia de relações político-econômicas que sustentam um sistema de apropriação das rendas do povo sem uma contra-prestação eficaz de serviços estatais.

Ressalto mais uma vez esse ponto. O protesto do Movimento Passe Livre não está brigando por 20 centavos. A questão não é somente a correção das tarifas de transporte – algo que, em um raciocínio típico de economista, faria sentido considerando a inflação e o congelamento do valor do transporte há algum tempo em São Paulo. A passeata e a revolta estão direcionados a elementos mais amplos (cf. ‘Protestos vão muito além de R$0,20‘, de Orlando Pedroso).

O tumulto e os protestos, reprimidos de forma violenta pela Polícia Militar, atacam justamente a violência sistêmica brasileira, sendo o trânsito das metrópoles apenas um exemplo. Trata-se de uma violência que, segundo o argumento de Bruno Cava, foi arquitetada para funcionar assim (cf. ‘O sistema de transporte é mais violento do que a polícia‘).

O ponto central dos protestos contra o aumento das tarifas talvez seja que eles vão muito além de reivindicações por reduções nos preços das passagens. Ele canaliza uma série de frustrações e rebeldias contra o “Estado de Direito” brasileiro, contra a falácia da democracia e a precarização da vida no século 21, consequência das reestruturações do capitalismo em escala global – um capitalismo baseado em “cidades competitivas”, que acumulam riquezas e aprofundam desigualdades.

Qual a alternativa então?

Não há caminho fácil ou simplista. O que nos resta é aprofundar a experiência democrática com mais protestos, debates e articulações. Nesse sentido, o movimento de ir às ruas gritar por um transporte de qualidade deve ser apoiado por todos os indignados brasileiros. Trata-se de quebrar a docilidade dos corpos e as pedagogias dos afetos (tristes) e ir para o tumulto, onde a voz de um não é somente a voz de um, mas a voz de um todo, de uma luta comum. Não se trata de um incentivo à baderna. É uma práxis política. Precisamos repensar, tal como propõe Murilo Duarte Corrêa, o significado dos corpos rebeldes e da liberdade (cf. ‘Notas sobre a revolta profunda dos corpos‘).

Não proponho aqui nada de inovador, apenas que encaremos os protestos de São Paulo com outros olhos, enxergando a verdadeira violência política que se exerce de modo obscuro. Subverter o discurso raso do Estado de Direito e, em um exercício crítico, seguir o conselho político de Michel Foucault. O alerta de décadas atrás é extremamente válido: a verdadeira tarefa política é a de criticar o jogo das instituições aparentemente neutras e independentes; criticá-las e a de atacá-las de tal maneira que a violência política que se exercia obscuramente nelas seja desmascarada e que se possa lutar contra elas.

Voltei terça-feira dos Estados Unidos e me deparei com a velha confusão de São Paulo. Ao olhar a cidade da janela do ônibus que me transportava de Garulhos até o centro, tudo parecia normal. Na minha mente, a maior preocupação era a vigilância de dados pelo governo estadunidense (cf. o texto-chave de Glenn Greenwald ‘NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others‘). Como estava fora do país, não havia notado o que estava se passando no Brasil em termos de mobilizações sociais. Tampouco desconfiava da organização concertada dos protestos contra o aumento das tarifas dos transportes públicos (cf. ‘Protestos contra aumento da tarifa repercutem na imprensa internacional‘). Foi somente no trabalho que percebi algo estranho. Alguém comentou na Fundação Getulio Vargas: “Será que precisamos avisar que as aulas vão começar mais tarde? O protestou travou a Consolação e o congestionamento está gigantesco”.

De noite, no intervalo de uma aula, fui alertado pelo meu colega Francisco Cruz que a violência havia se alastrado no centro de São Paulo. O protesto – pacífico, alegre e cativante (cf. o relato ‘Contra o aumento das tarifas de ônibus: o protesto que eu não vi pela TV‘, do Bruno Passos) – foi conturbado por uma série de depredações e atos violentos de pequenos grupos. Essas ações, geralmente realizadas por grupos e associações radicais, levaram ao uso desproporcional e ilimitado da violência por parte da Polícia Militar. O cenário, então, virou caótico. As imagens gravadas ontem, e que circularam nas redes sociais hoje, são apavorantes. Um exemplo é o espancamento do jornalista Pedro Ribeiro Nogueira, encurralado e agredido por diversos homens que integram a estrutura burocrática que detém o “uso legítimo da força” em nosso “regime democrático”. Não dê play se você não tiver nervos para encarar a realidade.

O uso desmedido da violência causa indignação para alguns, mas não para todos. A maioria da população paulistana acha que “esses baderneiros devem levar um cacete mesmo”. O paulistano médio apoia a violência policial (e não é à toa que tanto Fernando Haddad quanto Geraldo Alckmin – os dois em Paris negociando a realização de um mega-evento comercial em São Paulo – apelam para o discurso de que é preciso mais repressão). Dizer publicamente que os vândalos devem ser punidos é o mecanismo mais fácil para ganhar capital político.

O posicionamento reacionário é o senso comum. É um absurdo (mas como reverter a fabricação de consensos e a manipulação das massas?). Além de ignorarem o fato de que o pequeno grupo radical não faz parte doMovimento Passe Livre, consideram plenamente normal que diversos homens investidos em uma estrutura burocrática estatal possam utilizar da força para deixar uma pessoa inconsciente, algemá-la, colocá-la em um camburão, conduzi-la até uma delegacia e prendê-la. Para muitos, a violência de terça-feira foi basicamente o quebra-quebra de estações de metrô, bancas de jornal e pixações de locais públicos.

Mas a dimensão da violência não é outra?

Como bem colocou minha caríssima Silvia Horta, “violência é aquela diariamente praticada contra a dignidade dos trabalhadores que dependem de um transporte caro e ineficiente pra se deslocar; dano ao ‘patrimônio público’ são os milhões anualmente surrupiados do povo para manter o monopólio das empresas de transporte coletivo“. Aí está a violência, uma violência sistêmica que é nutrida pelo capitalismo-dependente brasileiro e pela deformação das instituições, que talvez já nasceram deformadas pela condição colonial e patrimonialista deste país. A revolta não é contra a correção inflacionária das tarifas, mas sim contra todo a teia de relações político-econômicas que sustentam um sistema de apropriação das rendas do povo sem uma contra-prestação eficaz de serviços estatais.

Ressalto mais uma vez esse ponto. O protesto do Movimento Passe Livre não está brigando por 20 centavos. A questão não é somente a correção das tarifas de transporte – algo que, em um raciocínio típico de economista, faria sentido considerando a inflação e o congelamento do valor do transporte há algum tempo em São Paulo. A passeata e a revolta estão direcionados a elementos mais amplos (cf. ‘Protestos vão muito além de R$0,20‘, de Orlando Pedroso).

O tumulto e os protestos, reprimidos de forma violenta pela Polícia Militar, atacam justamente a violência sistêmica brasileira, sendo o trânsito das metrópoles apenas um exemplo. Trata-se de uma violência que, segundo o argumento de Bruno Cava, foi arquitetada para funcionar assim (cf. ‘O sistema de transporte é mais violento do que a polícia‘).

O ponto central dos protestos contra o aumento das tarifas talvez seja que eles vão muito além de reivindicações por reduções nos preços das passagens. Ele canaliza uma série de frustrações e rebeldias contra o “Estado de Direito” brasileiro, contra a falácia da democracia e a precarização da vida no século 21, consequência das reestruturações do capitalismo em escala global – um capitalismo baseado em “cidades competitivas”, que acumulam riquezas e aprofundam desigualdades.

Qual a alternativa então?

Não há caminho fácil ou simplista. O que nos resta é aprofundar a experiência democrática com mais protestos, debates e articulações. Nesse sentido, o movimento de ir às ruas gritar por um transporte de qualidade deve ser apoiado por todos os indignados brasileiros. Trata-se de quebrar a docilidade dos corpos e as pedagogias dos afetos (tristes) e ir para o tumulto, onde a voz de um não é somente a voz de um, mas a voz de um todo, de uma luta comum. Não se trata de um incentivo à baderna. É uma práxis política. Precisamos repensar, tal como propõe Murilo Duarte Corrêa, o significado dos corpos rebeldes e da liberdade (cf. ‘Notas sobre a revolta profunda dos corpos‘).

Não proponho aqui nada de inovador, apenas que encaremos os protestos de São Paulo com outros olhos, enxergando a verdadeira violência política que se exerce de modo obscuro. Subverter o discurso raso do Estado de Direito e, em um exercício crítico, seguir o conselho político de Michel Foucault. O alerta de décadas atrás é extremamente válido: a verdadeira tarefa política é a de criticar o jogo das instituições aparentemente neutras e independentes; criticá-las e a de atacá-las de tal maneira que a violência política que se exercia obscuramente nelas seja desmascarada e que se possa lutar contra elas.

Divulgue na rede

Cientistas sociais procuram modelo para onda de protestos no Brasil (Folha de S.Paulo)

23/06/2013 – 11h09

CASSIANO ELEK MACHADO
GRACILIANO ROCHA

Olhem para paris, diz Teresa Caldeira. Mas não a de Maio de 68: para a antropóloga brasileira radicada nos EUA, professora da Universidade da Califórnia em Berkeley, a análise das manifestações que tomaram o país na semana passada deve se pautar pelos distúrbios que eclodiram nas periferias francesas em 2005, quando cidades suburbanas na região metropolitana de Paris (“banlieues”) explodiram em uma onda de protestos sociais.

Especialista em antropologia urbana, Caldeira, 58, pesquisa a cultura da periferia, em especial a de São Paulo, e diz que se vários cientistas sociais se declararam surpresos, para ela não há novidade.

“Todos comparam com Istambul ou com a Primavera Árabe, mas deveriam olhar para o que houve em Paris há oito anos”, diz Caldeira. “Dá muito bem para entender o que está acontecendo e isso vem sendo articulado há muito tempo”, acredita a antropóloga, autora do livro “Cidade de Muro: Crime, Segregação e Cidadania” (Editora 34).

Ela lembra que o Movimento Passe Livre (MPL) existe há muitos anos e afirma que ele “articula todo o imaginário da produção cultural da periferia”.

“A Folha fez uma foto em 2010 de um grafite feito pelo MPL no Minhocão, em São Paulo, que dizia ‘A cidade só existe para quem pode se movimentar por ela’.”

Caldeira reproduziu a imagem em um artigo dela na revista “Public Culture” (Duke University Press, 2012) e a frase do grafite como uma ideia fundamental do movimento cultural da periferia. “Rap, literatura marginal, pixação, saraus, todos se fazem na base e rede e de circulação. E circular por São Paulo é um caos para quem não tem dinheiro.”

Opinião diferente tem o sociólogo francês Sebastian Roché. Em seu livro “Le Frisson de l’Émeute”, (Seuil, sem tradução no Brasil), ele afirma que as revoltas que inflamaram a França -cujo estopim foi a morte de dois adolescentes eletrocutados em uma perseguição policial- foram protagonizadas por jovens que se consideram vítimas da xenofobia por não terem a pele branca e, na maioria, filhos de imigrantes e muçulmanos.

“Os jovens muçulmanos, muito numerosos nas ‘banlieues’, não se sentem aceitos nem respeitados em suas crenças. Além disso, essa juventude foi abandonada à própria sorte. Nas ‘banlieues’, a taxa de desemprego oscila entre 25% e 40% entre jovens com menos de 25 anos”, frisa Roché.

Professor da celebrada Sciences Po (Instituto de Estudos Políticos), da Universidade de Grenoble e pesquisador do CNRS (Centro Nacional de Pesquisa Social), Roché diz ter acompanhado com atenção a onda de protestos no Brasil, e não vê “muitos pontos de comparação” entre o que aconteceu aqui e lá. Na França, diz ele, “não foram pobres destruindo o meio de vida de outros pobres”.

“A burguesia ou o governo não foram os alvos. Nenhum espaço do poder foi sitiado ou tomado. Ninguém se aproximou, por exemplo, do parlamento nem da sede do governo [como ocorreu no Brasil]. Aqui, os grupos operavam durante a noite, escondiam o rosto em capuzes e muitas vezes buscavam o confronto com a polícia. Não houve qualquer manifestação de massa, nenhum líder ou palavra de ordem emergiu.”

Teresa Caldeira, que no ano passado ganhou a prestigiosa bolsa Guggenheim de pesquisa, nos EUA, aponta outra foto dos movimentos recentes, que ela diz ter visto nas redes sociais, como icônica do que está acontecendo. Dois rapazes seguravam cartazes: um dizendo “O Brasil acordou” e outro “A periferia nunca dormiu”.

Também chamaram a atenção dela as faixas que faziam referências ao trabalho da polícia. “A PM está fazendo na Paulista o que faz todo dia na periferia”, dizia uma delas. “Há uma tensão de classes latente. E não me surpreende que os protestos tenham chegado agora na periferia”, diz ela, citando como exemplo as manifestações dos últimos dias em regiões como a estrada do M’Boi Mirim (na zona sul de São Paulo).

Ela aposta que, “tal como em Paris, em 2005, veremos agora a explosão da periferia”. Ainda que, segundo ela, a presença de classes A e B tenha tido importante papel na eclosão dos movimentos, os protestos veiculam uma insatisfação que vem sendo cozinhada nas periferias. “Uma coisa é de onde vem o caldo e a outra é a forma que a manifestação adquire. Na forma, parece um pouco com a Primavera Árabe: a maneira como circularam as informações e a insatisfação com as instituições políticas tradicionais”, diz.

“No conteúdo, é muito significativo que tenha estourado pelos R$ 0,20. Ninguém aguenta mais os ônibus da cidade. Conheço muita gente da periferia, devido às pesquisas, que todos os dias posta algo em mídias sociais contra o transporte público.”

Para o francês Roché, “a melhoria das condições de vida faz com que aqueles que se sentem excluídos se mobilizem coletivamente para reivindicar, como é o caso do Brasil”. “Na França, a questão é de exclusão social em um período de estagnação econômica, e a revolta de 2005 não gerou um modelo coletivo de massas e organizado. Não houve protesto contestador, mas sim apropriações individuais, como roubos e saques, ou então confrontos e destruição para exprimir a raiva. Nas ‘banlieues’, não houve reivindicação explícita.”

Ele afirma que, embora “revoltas possam ensinar muito aos governantes”, isso depende de eles “serem capazes de olhá-las de frente”. “Na França, nós não aprendemos muito. Em novembro de 2005, a França estava a um ano e meio das eleições presidenciais. O então ministro do Interior [Nicolas Sarkozy, presidente entre 2007-2012] viu naquilo uma oportunidade de reafirmar sua autoridade e estigmatizar as ‘banlieues’ e seus habitantes com vistas à eleição de 2007” -que ele terminaria vencendo. “Nenhuma análise política foi feita pelo Parlamento e menos ainda pelo ministério do Interior, proibido de refletir sobre sua atuação pelo próprio ministro.”

Para o sociólogo, as revoltas urbanas podem, ainda, exprimir um desejo de participação direta nas decisões públicas, no caso de países como Brasil e Turquia. “Nesses dois países, muitos jovens com acesso à educação apresentam reivindicações sobre o direito à diferença e que sejam levadas em conta suas demandas sociais pelo poder central desses países.”
O estudioso considera que “há progressos econômicos tanto no Brasil quanto na Turquia, e esses movimentos de contestação se dão em um contexto bem diferente do que ocorreu na França, cujo crescimento econômico tem sido mínimo ou nulo nos últimos anos”.

Para o sociólogo “o que está acontecendo no Brasil se parece mais com o Maio de 68”. “Naquela época a França vivia em pleno Les Trente Glorieuses [como ficaram conhecidas as três décadas de crescimento e prosperidade no pós-Guerra], e a juventude, com trabalho ou diplomas, mergulhou numa luta para que seu modo de vida e aspirações fossem reconhecidos pelo governo”, recorda.

La privatización de los comunes que encendió la Primavera Turca / A Primavera do Direito à Cidade (outraspalavras.net)

10/6/2013

Bernardo Gutierrez | Tradução: Bruna Bernacchio

Taksim é nosso, Istambul é nossa!”. Os gritos não pertencem a algum dos jovens que ocuparam o Parque Taksim Gezi, da capital turca, na virada do mês. Tampouco é um mote que esteja correndo o mundo no Twitter, sob a tag #OccupyGezi. “Taksim é nosso” está sendo pronunciado por um cidadão anônimo no vídeo Tkasim Square (Istambul Commons), durante uma manifestação celebrada no outono passado. “Taksim é nosso” – continua a voz no megafone – “não importa as opções políticas que tenham as pessoas”.

O vídeo foi produzido no âmbito do projeto Mapeando o Comum [Mapping the Commons], idealizado pelo estúdio sevilhano Hacktitetura e desenvolvido pelo ativistaPablo de Soto, em Atenas e Istambul. E contextualiza com perfeição a vertiginosa insurreição que está vivendo Istambul e toda a Turquia. O centro comercial planejado pelo governo de Recep Tayyip Erdogan, que incendiou #OccupyGezi, é apenas a ponta de um iceberg maior: um duro plano neoliberal para privatizar bens comuns (águas, bosques) e espaço público. Até que ponto o ataque ao comu, e concretamente a privatização dos espaços urbanos deflagraram a Primavera Turca?

O projeto Mapeando o Comum — definido por seus próprios autores como uma performance que pode tornar-se reflexão, uma obra de arte ou uma ação social — é um verdadeiro passeio pelas raízes de #OccupyGezi. A cartografia, realizada na plataformaMeipi, organiza o comu de Istambul em quatro categorias: bens naturais, cultura, espaço público e digital. Os vídeos publicados, todos com falas parcialmente em inglês, resumem os ataques que o o espaço público sofre na era Erdogan.

“Communication space”, por exemplo, revela, por meio dos protestos dos estudantes universitários, a luta pelo conhecimento e comunicação livres. Em “Water as a commons”, o assunto central é a privatização da gestão da água na região. “For-rest”denuncia que a terceira ponte sobre o estreito de Bósforo, que o governo de Erdogan planeja, implicaria na desaparecimento do bosque Belgrado, pulmão verde da cidade. A repressão no espaço público de manifestações sócio-culturais como festas nas ruas ou o fim da única praça de pedestres (Galata Square) de Istambul são tema os vídeos Cultural expressions in public space e o Galata Tower Square.

Até que ponto a privatização selvagem dos bens comuns naturais e urbanos de Istambul incendiou a revolta de #OccupyGezi? O ativista Pablo de Soto, em declarações ao jornal espanhol El Diario, sustenta que os fatos estão intrinsecamente relacionados: “O corte das árvores para construir um centro comercial para a elite e os turistas foi o pavio de incêndio, o catalizador final dos protestos por justiça social e econômica”.

A arquiteta turca Pelin Tan, em seu artigo Um relato de Gezi Park reforma a tese: “Para o governo turco, as novas políticas urbanas são a desculpa para atos de segragação, para incentivar estilos de vida neoliberais, o progressivo endividamento dos seus cidadãos, exploração, racismo, corrupção, e a instalação de um estado de exceção que viola os direitos humanos”. Por sua vez, a prestigiosa plataforma Architizer também situa os bens comuns urbanos como claro estopim da revolta.

#OccupyGezi é muito mais que um grito ecologista para salvar os árvores de Taksim. Mas não exclusivamente é apenas uma revolta antagonista contra a arrogância macropolítica do governo turco ou a suposta tentativa de islamização da Turquia que, segundo a imprensa ocidental, Erdogan conduz.

Em A Catedral e o Bazar, o hacker Eric S. Raymond contrapunha dois modelos na elaboração de software. A Catedral representa o modelo de desenvolvimento hermético e vertical do software proprietário. O bazar, com sua dinâmica horizontal e barulhenta, representaria a Linux e outros projetos de software livre, baseados no trabalho comunitário. Nenhum lugar como Istambul, com seu barulhento Gran Bazar, encarna melhor a metáfora urbana da tese de Raymond. De um lado, a catedral de receitas top down e privatizantes, do Governo de Erdogan. Do outro, o grande bazar humano de Istambul, seu espaço público, a tradição comunal das comunidades da cidade. #OccupyGezi e sua convivência humana resumem o choque de trens da história, entre dois modelos incompatíveis.

Derya Calik, estudante e ativista, descreve em uma entrevista a estratégia da catedral neoliberal contra os manifestantes de Taksim. “Na Turquia, não temos uma boa conexão 3G. Quando muito usada, a rede entra em colapso. Além disso, muitas pessoas foram informadas do uso de inibidores de sinal, por parte da polícia. Por isso, começamos a utilizar uma conexão VPN (Rede Virtual Privada). E, além disso, as lojas, restaurantes, hotéis e os residentes da zona cederam Wi-Fi aos manifestantes, abrindo as senhas de suas redes”. O bazar colaborativo de Istambul, no momento, driblou a aprisionadora catedral de Erdogan.

É possível fazer alguma comparação entre #OccupyGezzi e a acampada da Porta do Sol de Madri do 15M ou do Occupy Wall Street em Zuccotti? Pelin Tan, no texto já citado, destaca que “a ocupação de Gezi é um símbolo de estar juntos no comum (a arquiteta emprega a quase intraduzível palavra commoning), apesar de nossas diferenças”. Em #OccupyGezi, continua ela, envolveu-se “gente de diferentes classes, bairros e movimentos culturais — mais que organizações políticas e grupos de oposição”. Uma auto-organização transversal do bazar colaborativo, que a violência policial multiplicou até limites não esperados. Da praça ao mundo. Do hiperlocal à geopolítica.

Já o ativista Orsan Selap, habitual nas listas de correios de TakeTheSquare.net criadas no início do 15M espanhol, ressalta a El Diario a importância das redes na incipiente Primavera Turca: “O pensamento peer-to-peer (P2P) e em favor do comum nos dá uma alternativa clara ao capitalismo. Nesses momentos, nas redes sociais, as ruas e as lutas de Istambul estão convertendo-se em algo com muitos vínculos internacionais”.

(esquerda) Imagem do video Taksin Square, de Mapping the Commons; (direita) projeto do shopping em Taksim

De Taksim ao mundo. Do hiperlocal ao global. Do urbano à geopolítica. Em seu aclamado livro Cidades rebeldes, o sociólogo David Harvey afirma que a “revolução será urbana ou não será”. E adapta ao século XXI “o direito à cidade”, um velho grito dos anos sessenta, título de um mítico livro de Henry Lefebvre. O direito à cidade seria um “espaço social com interações e práticas onde a produção social tem lugar”.

A metrópole moderna tem um papel importante na produção do comum. Curiosamente, os movimentos sociais de Istambul estão remesclando o grito de Lefebvre-Harvey. No texto “O movimento pelo Direito à Cidade e o verão turco”, a jornalista independente Jay Cassano faz um detalhado repasse dos ataques neoliberais que Istambul está sofrendo nos últimos tempos, além do projeto de centro comercial para Gezi Taksim.

Jay cita em seu artigo a conversão do histórico cine Emek em shopping center. Menciona a terceira ponte sobre o Bósforo. E destaca o forte processo de segragação que Istambul está sofrendo, especialmente nos “bairros históricos de Sulukule, Tarlabasi, Tophane e Fener-Balat, onde vivem os imigrantes e a minoria curda”. Precisamente, Mapeando os Comuns dedica um vídeo ao distrito de Fenet-Balat-Ayvansaray, onde os vizinhos resistem ao plano urbanístico do Ajuntamento pela Associação Febayder.

O coletivo Reclaim Istambul, inspirado no coletivo britânico Reclaim the streets, que lutava pelo espaço público, faz uma verdadeira lista dos horrores urbanísticos planejados para a capital turca: “Centenas de edifícios gradeados, torres de escritórios, centros comerciais e projetos multiusos crescendo como flechas em toda a cidade”. Entre a penca de projetos de corte neoliberal, destacam Via Port Venezia (“redesenhamos Veneza e a trouxemos a Istambul”) ou Mall of Istambul (“aproveite de perto de um dos maiores shoppings da Turquia”). Em certo sentido, #OccupyGezi nasceu como grito coletivo para evitar que a milenária Istambul acabe se convertendo em Las Vegas ou Dubai.

O Reclaim Istambul é responsável por um dos documentários mais polêmicos dos últimos tempo, Ekümenópolis. Com um verdadeiro coquetel de imagens, entrevistas, músicas, gráficos e animações, Ekümenópolis desenha o selvagem ataque ao comum urbano e natural que sofre a cidade. A contundência de sua sinopse dá uma ideia da dureza de seu conteúdo: “Há alguns anos, Istambul tinha 3,5 milhões de habitantes. Hoje somos 15 milhões e em 15 anos seremos 23. Foram ultrapassados os limites ecológicos e de população. Perdeu-se a coesão social. Aqui surgiu uma imagem do urbanismo neoliberal: Ekümenópolis”.

“É mais que uma revolução tecnológica: é uma revolução cultural. Os rígidos modelos verticais para intensificar os sistemas de produção de massa do século passado estão sendo substituídos por flexíveis redes peer-to-peer, que nos levam até uma nova estética de códigos”. A frase é do arquiteto Joseph Grima, diretor da última edição da Bienal de Desenho de Istambul, celebrada ao final de 2012. Adhocracy, o título da Bienal, não foi casual. A adocracia, outro termo recentemente ressuscitado, é um novo modelo de organização flexível, intuitiva, transversal. A adocracia é horizontal, rotativa. Por isso, Adhocracy foi muito mais que uma exposição. Foi um laboratório.

Uma de suas comissárias, Ethel Baraona (dPr-Barcelona), respondendo a um questionário sobre #OccupyGezi, destaca o vínculo da Bienal com o comum urbano: “Uma grande parte dos projetos estava relacionada com o ativismo urbano, com a intenção de chamar a atenção do espaço público como espaço de intercâmbio de conhecimentos e de ação”. A Bienal adocrata espalhou por Istambul o dinamismo de coletivos-projetos como Crafting NeigborhoodsRecetas UrbanasOpen Structures,Maker Faire Africa, Arduino ou Zuloark (representando o madrilenho El Campo de Cebada).

Especialmente metafórico foi o projeto Drone Shade, da artista James Bridle. Depois de polvilhar de sombras de “drones” (aviões não tripulados) a Faixa de Gaza ou Londres, James desenhou com linhas brancas, no coração urbano de Istambul, a suposta sombra dos drones que os Estados Unidos utilizam da Turquia. O espaço público como tabuleiro do mundo. Como metáfora geopolítica. A metralhadora top down e neoliberal de Erdogan, representada em uma forma de contornos brancos. A aliança militar estadounidense-turca, que persegue o Partido dos Trabalhadores do Curdistão (PKK) no norte da Turquia e no norte do Irã, como uma verdade ao rés do chão. A cidade como campo de batalha.

Será #OccupyGezi é a primeira revolução incendiada pelo comum urbano? Talvez a primeira, mas não a última. O modelo da catedral neoliberal de Istambul replica-se em todo o mundo. As remoções e a especulação imobiliária no Rio de Janeiro pré-olímpico são um exemplo. O projeto EuroVegas de Madri, como destaca Pablo de Soto, “é um escândalo de privatização e exceção da legalidade com mesmo grau destrutivo do parque Gezi em Taksim”.

Chegou a era das Cidades Rebeldes de David Harvey? Veremos uma sequência de revoluções urbanas em um planeta que esgota seus recursos naturais a um ritmo assustador? Ainda que não haja respostas, existem intuições. O antropólogo e ativista do 15M Adolfo Estalella, em seu provocador texto El procomún no es un commons vaticina uma forte politização dos núcleos urbanos: “O pró-comum é a figura que permite politizar a cidade. Se há dez anos a globalização era o objetivo de ativismo, agora é a cidade. Por isso, o comum é, para o ativismo atual o que a globalização era para este há dez anos”.

http://outraspalavras.net/2013/06/10/a-primavera-do-direito-a-cidade/

fonte original: http://www.eldiario.es/turing/privatizacion-comunes-encendio-Primavera-Turca_0_139986455.html

Conservation without supervision: Peruvian community group creates and patrols its own protected area (Mongabay)

By:Jenny R. Isaacs

April 30, 2013

“Rural dwellers are not passive respondents to external conservation agents but are active proponents and executers of their own conservation initiatives.”—Noga Shanee, Projects Director forNeotropical Primate Conservation (NPC), in an interview with mongabay.com.

When we think of conservation areas, many of us think of iconic National Parks overseen by uniformed government employees or wilderness areas purchased and run from afar by big-donor organizations like The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, or Conservation International. But what happens to ecosystems and wildlife in areas where there’s a total lack of government presence and no money coming in for its protection? This is the story of one rural Peruvian community that took conservation matters into their own hands, with a little help from a dedicated pair of primate researchers, in order to protect a high biodiversity cloud forest.

On the 22nd of November, 2012, the Peruvian Andes village of Líbano celebrated the launch of the Hocicón Reserve, formed under an innovative conservation model in accordance with federal law which allows for local administration of lands by community organizations (in this case the Rondas Campesinas). The new reserve protects an area of tropical Andean cloud forest in one of the most diverse biomes on earth, home to many endangered and unique species including the endemic Andean night monkey (Aotus miconax), the Endangered white-bellied spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth), jaguars, tapirs and many more. Hocicón, a 505.9 hectare protected area, is on the border of the Amazonas and San Martin regions—two of the most densely populated rural regions in Peru with some of the highest deforestation rates in the country. The rural population in these regions—Campesinos or ‘peasant farmers’—are predominantly of mixed indigenous and European origin and, like the native wildlife, are also endangered, by land insecurity and degraded natural resources.

Noga and Sam Shanee have helped provide technical assistance to the creation of the Hocicón reserve. Ronda leader, Marcos Díaz Delgado, was instrumental in the reserve's creation. Photo courtesy of NPC.
Noga and Sam Shanee have helped provide technical assistance to the creation of the Hocicón reserve. Ronda leader, Marcos Díaz Delgado, was instrumental in the reserve’s creation. Photo courtesy of NPC.

Noga Shanee and her husband Sam, of the organizationNeotropical Primate Conservation (NPC), work primarily in Peru to support the connection between communities and conservation. They live most of each year not far from the Hocicón reserve they helped to create. “We created NPC as a result of our experience as conservation practitioners and the need we felt to finding efficient solutions to the grave situation in which we found the yellow tailed woolly monkey and its habitat,” Noga told mongabay.com.

The Shanees’ work in primate conservation brought them in close contact with local residents, where it became clear that protection of nature might best be achieved by supporting grassroots community efforts. In the last few years, they have administratively assisted in registering seven conservation areas with the local and national governments before helping to establish the Hocicón reserve under the Ronda Campesina group in Libano. Through NPC they offer Libano residents technical support (GPS equipment, GIS mapping, basic biological assessment and the writing of a basic report), advice on quantifying the ecological importance of the area, and help with legal matters.

Such assistance is necessary because according to governmental demands for conservation projects “local initiators have to execute plans of economic activities and reserve maintenance involving factors which many rural campesinos don’t have the capacity and/or resources to undertake,” writes Noga Shanee in a forthcoming article, which details their fieldwork and the many obstacles that prohibit local community groups from establishing official protected areas. “The main restrictions found to Campesino conservation initiatives was a lack of access to support from governmental and non-governmental institutions and a lack of access to economic resources for the extended bureaucratic processes of registering these protected areas.”

The Andean night monkey (Aotus miconax) is endemic to Peruvian forests which are being protected not by the government or big NGOs, but local communities. Photo by: Andrew Walmsley/NPC.
The Andean night monkey (Aotus miconax) is endemic to Peruvian forests which are being protected not by the government or big NGOs, but local communities. Photo by: Andrew Walmsley/NPC.

Noga Shanee says that the bigger problem is disconnect between the state’s expressed desire for conservation and the overly restrictive process of providing for it.

“The Peruvian state presents itself as an enthusiastic promoter of conservation and public participation in environmental issues, taking pride in legislation that allows private and community conservation,” she notes. “However, our experience shows us that the process of legally registering privately run conservation areas is extremely complicated, expensive and slow, requiring teams of specialists and cost on average $20,000 US dollars, just up to the initial registration of the area. After completing this arduous process, the government does not provide any support for the conservation initiators; on the contrary, they require additional reports and economic investments. Therefore, this process is inaccessible to most of the rural population creating inequality and losing opportunities for local participation and conservation efficiency…most local people are unable to create their own reserves and need the help of NGOs. The creation of these reserves including the elaboration of the proposal and waiting for registration takes from 1.5 to 5 years. During this time the land is not legally protected and other land uses are possible which in some cases has led to conflicts.”

One effect of this long, and expensive process is the exclusion of non-experts, small groups, and those lacking connections to government officials or influential NGOs in the process of establishing reserves.

“Although it is perceived locally that broad inter-institutional cooperation would be the best way towards effective regional conservation, cooperation is rare, mainly due to competitiveness related to economic pressures,” Shanee writes.

Launching community reserves from the ground up has proven to be a great way to overcome these bureaucratic obstacles while combating a myriad of threats to both animals and local people.

Ronderos voting to create Hocicón Reserve. Photo by: Noga Shanee.
Ronderos voting to create Hocicón Reserve. Photo by: Noga Shanee.

“The area suffers from high levels of deforestation fueled by immigration, road construction, extractive industries, hydroelectric dams, cattle ranching and lately a boom of palm oil plantations. The Ronda Campesina [community group, which launched the reserve,] has been protesting for many years against this development model (aggressively promoted by the government) which is so destructive to natural habitats and to rural societies,” Noga Shanee, told mongabay.com.

Such threats are caused by a number of actors, according to Shanee, including the federal government, international corporations, and even the rural campesinos [farmers] themselves.

“Severe economic and social pressures are found to force campesinos into unsustainable practices,” writes Noga Shanee, in a recently submitted paper.

Clown tree frog (Dendropsophus sarayacuensis) in the region. Nestor Allgas Marchena/NPC.
Clown tree frog (Dendropsophus sarayacuensis) in the region. Nestor Allgas Marchena/NPC.

In her PhD Thesis on the subject written for Kent University in the UK, Noga Shanee summarized that “current conservation efforts are far from sufficient to offset the mounting threats they face,” adding “an amalgam of contradicting agendas, power struggles, superficial-spectacular solutions, and prejudices towards rural populations hinder the efficiency of conservation interventions” as “the immense pressures impacting human populations transforms directly into environmentally degrading processes.”

The Hocicón conservation model is not your typical conservation solution to these problems. In contrast to uniformed park officials greeting visitors or teams of well-paid foreign biologists in the field monitoring wildlife populations, these reserves are organic extensions of the community—policed and patrolled by the local residents themselves; such projects bring, according to Shanee, “a sense of pride and inclusion to the rural people who implement them.”

The Rondas enjoy distinctive legal rights within Peruvian society because of long-standing traditional land claims by indigenous peoples in combination with large areas of territory devoid of governmental or NGO supervision.

“The areas we are working and living in (departments of Amazonas and San Martin in Northern Peru) are almost completely abandoned by the government and would be in complete anarchy if it wasn’t for the Rondas…The Ronda Campesina (Peasant Patrol) is a network of autonomous, civil organizations, aimed at self-protection,” Shanee explains. “They practice vigilance and civil justice in the rural Peruvian countryside where state control is insufficient.”

The royal sunangel (Heliangelus regalis) is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: Sachar Alterman/NPC.
The royal sunangel (Heliangelus regalis) is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: Sachar Alterman/NPC.

Ronda bases can be organized by any population (community, town, or village). Nationally, the Ronda has more than half a million active members, in more than 5,000 bases, mainly, but not only, in Northern Peru and solves about 180,000 civil justice cases per year. Rondas also protest against external environmental hazards, such as polluting mining operations. According to Noga Shanee’s thesis, “by criticism and setting examples, the Rondas pressure both the government and NGOs to act more efficiently and morally towards conservation.”

Sam Shanee, also of NPC, says Ronda self-government is purely for protective purposes. “The ronda is basically a neighborhood watch group in most villages (I myself am a ‘rondero’ in the village where we live). All that this new approach entails in its most basic form is a group of villagers (or the entire village) getting together a deciding to protect an area of forest or other natural habitat near where they live… there has been no use of force for the creation of this first ARCA and the Ronda is not really a militia organization except when necessary, for example in the face of terrorism, drug cartels, illegal mining/logging etc.”

White-bellied spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth). Photo by: Shachar Alterman.
White-bellied spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth). Photo by: Shachar Alterman.

In the absence of top-down support or supervision, the Rondas offer their own path to conservation. The Ronda-run Conservation Areas, known as ARCAs, are quick, extremely low-cost, and are uniquely tailored to the Ronda social structure, allowing for participation of local people in conservation efforts, according to the Shanees.

Marcos Díaz Delgado, a national Ronda leader, told mongabay.com that “The [Ronda-run Conservation Areas (ARCAs)] are an alternative to the state’s legal conservation system which is extremely slow, expensive and fails to reach many remote, rural parts of our country. As a special jurisdiction we don’t only defend our safety and our human rights, but we also defend the natural world inside our territories. We invite the state authorities and all social organizations to join us for the collective defense of our natural resources.”

The ARCAs were designed to streamline the process of establishing protected areas: because of the Rondas special legal status, they only necessitate the minimal process (mapping and basic biological info), and cost almost nothing. Therefore “the Ronda Campesina’s conservation initiatives are an honest and efficient answer to habitat and species loss in Peru as well as to the deficiencies of mainstream, non participative conservation,” Noga Shanee says, adding that while this project is a collaboration between NPC and the Ronda, “we are hoping that they will become more and more self sufficient with time…our help is trying to organize, augment and formalize this initiative”. Orin Starn, Chair and Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, and author of the book Night Watch, the Politics of Protest in the Andes, told mongabay.com that, “the Rondas are the largest, most influential grassroots movement in Peru’s northern mountains. Environmentalism is a relatively new development to this area, and it’ll be very interesting to see the directions that this new collaboration between an old peasant movement and the new NGO-driven green activism may take.”

Noga Shanee (in pink) with community members. Photo courtesy of NPC.
Noga Shanee (in pink) with community members. Photo courtesy of NPC.

The Shanees’ work in the Amazon continues to illustrate the close biocultural connection between nature and community. Noga sees this connection as a positive force for change when strengthened. In her thesis she writes that destructive pressures on local communities and forests “also create positive consequences by creating new conservation opportunities.” By turning local environmental and social crisis into opportunity, new collaborations and conservation without supervision, born of necessity, can emerge, offering real hope for biocultural diversity.

“All over the world there are small groups of local farmers and indigenous people that organize themselves in order to protect their neighboring forests,” Noga Shanee says. “These initiatives are rarely heard about as these people often lack resources and expertise to promote their successes through academic or popular publications.” But she adds that she hopes the Hocicón model will become increasingly common in Peru and even spread abroad.

“This initiative can inspire other grassroots organizations to organize themselves to administer conservation, which could benefit many different species and habitats around the world. “

She believes that community-run conservation will prosper, saying, “we might be naïve and of course this project can fail, but our work in Peru has shown us that local communities put huge efforts in conserving their forests, usually with no help from mainstream conservationists and sometimes even despite them. We believe that they deserve the chance.”

Cloud forest in Northeastern Peru. Photo by: Andrew Walmsley/NPC.
Cloud forest in Northeastern Peru. Photo by: Andrew Walmsley/NPC.

Noga in front in purple with community leaders. Photo courtesy of NPC.
Noga in front in purple with community leaders. Photo courtesy of NPC.

White-fronted spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth). Photo by: Shachar Alterman.
White-fronted spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth). Photo by: Shachar Alterman.

CITATIONS:

Shanee N (2012) The Dynamics of Threats and Conservation Efforts for the Tropical Andes Hotspot in Amazonas and San Martin, Peru. PhD Thesis (Kent University, Canterbury). Supervised by Prof. Stuart R. Harrop.

Shanee, Noga, Sam Shanee, and Robert H. Horwich (2012 in revision). “Locally run conservation initiatives in northeastern Peru and their effectiveness as conservation methods,” shared by permission of the authors

Starn O (1999) Nightwatch: the politics of protest in the Andes (Duke Univ Pr, Los Angeles) p 329.

Chapin, M. (2004) A Challenge to Conservationists. World Watch, 17, 17-31

Sobrevila, Claudia. (2008) “The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation; The Natural but Often Forgotten Partners” World Bank Report.

Read more athttp://news.mongabay.com/2013/0430-isaacs-rondas.html#LcSylhiLfpBJhPkz.99

How Science Can Predict Where You Stand on Keystone XL (Mother Jones)

Want to make sense of the feud between pipeline activists and “hippie-punching” moderates? Talk to the researchers.

—By  | Wed Apr. 17, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

Washington monument with protestors around itThe anti-Keystone “Forward on Climate” rally in Washington DC, February 17th, 2013. Jay Mallin/ZUMA Press

On February 17, more than 40,000 climate change activists—many of them quite young—rallied in Washington, DC, to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport dirty tar sands oil from Canada across the heartland. The scornful response from media centrists was predictable. Joe Nocera of the New York Times, for one, quickly went on the attack. In a column titled “How Not to Fix Climate Change,” he wrote that the strategy of activists “who have made the Keystone pipeline their line in the sand is utterly boneheaded.”

Nocera, who accepts the science of climate change, made a string of familiar arguments: The tar sands will be exploited anyway, the total climate contribution of the oil that would be transported by Keystone XL is minimal, and so on. Perhaps inspired by Nocera-style thinking, a group of 17 Democratic senators would later cast a symbolic vote in favor of the pipeline, signaling that opposing industrial projects is not the brand of environmentalism that they, at least, have in mind.

The Keystone activists, not surprisingly, were livid. Not only did they challenge Nocera’s facts, they utterly rejected his claims as to the efficacy of their strategy: Opponents of the pipeline have often argued that it is vital to push the limits of the possible—in particular, to put unrelenting pressure on President Obama to lead on climate change. Van Jones, the onetime Obama clean-energy adviser and a close supporter of 350.org founder and Keystone protest leader Bill McKibben, has put it like this: “I think activism works…The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement kept pushing on the question of marriage equality, and the president came out for marriage equality, which then had a positive effect on public opinion and helped that movement win at the ballot box and in a number of states, within months.”

This article is about the emotionally charged dispute between climate activists and environmental moderates, despite their common acceptance of the science of climate change. Why does this sort of rift exist on so many issues dividing the center from the left? And what can we actually say about which side is, you know, right?

Does Joe Nocera really have a sound basis for calling the pipeline opponents’ strategy boneheaded—or is that just his gut feeling as a centrist? Does Van Jones have any basis for claiming that activism works—or is it just his gut feeling as someone favorably disposed towards activism?

This line of inquiry should prove duly humbling to both activists and moderates—and help to unite them.

It’s high time we considered the science on these questions. There is, after all, considerable scholarly work on whether activists, by pushing the boundaries of what seems acceptable, create the conditions for progress or, instead, bring about backlashes that can complicate the jobs of sympathetic policymakers.

There’s also data that may shed light on why these rifts between “moderates” and “activists” are more the rule than the exception—across the ideological spectrum. “I can’t really think of any movement where there isn’t some internal dissent about goals and tactics,” says Carleton College political scientist Devashree Gupta, who studies social movements. The recurrence of this pattern on issues from civil rights to gun control to abortion suggests that there is something here that’s well worth understanding, preferably before the next rhetorical bloodbath around Keystone.

A chief benefit of this line of inquiry: It should prove duly humbling to activists and moderates alike—and thus might help to unite them.

FROM THE OUTSET, I think we can agree on one fundamental point: Over the past several years, driven by the failure of cap and trade and a worsening climate crisis, America’s environmental movement has become considerably more activist in nature—some might even say “radical.” Exhibit A is the successful attempt by 350.org inspirer-in-chief McKibben (who has written extensively about climate for Mother Jones) to create a grassroots protest movement rather than simply to work within the corridors of power.

“What Bill is doing is actually quite impressive—he’s the first one to create a social movement around climate change, and he’s done it by creating a common enemy, the oil industry, and a salient target, which is Keystone,” says Andrew Hoffman, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies environmental politics.

There’s really little doubt that the “dark greens” are on the ascendant.

One crucial aspect of this shift is a growing reluctance by environmentalists to work hand in hand with big polluters. The latter was a central feature of the US Climate Action Partnership, the industry-environmental collaboration that led an unsuccessful cap-and-trade push a few years back. Nowadays, the environmental movement is moving toward a more oppositional relationship with industry, as evidenced by its attempts to block a major industrial project (Keystone) and to get universities and cities to drop their investments in fossil fuel companies (another of McKibben’s goals).

The rival environmental factions are sometimes described as “dark greens” (the purists who want to force radical change) and “bright greens” (those who seek compromise and accept tradeoffs). There’s really little doubt that dark greens are on the ascendant. “He’s pulling the flank out,” Hoffman says of McKibben. “I do think he has a valuable role in creating a space where others can create a more moderate role.”

Then along come the moderates, unleashing flurries of “hippie punching” under the guise of being more rational than the activists they are criticizing.

It’s also fair to say that McKibben—the charismatic journalist-turned-organizer—lies a good way to the political left. Its centrist biases notwithstanding, a recent paper by American University communications professor Matthew Nisbet does capture McKibben’s “romantic” ideology: Like most people, he’s unhappy about environmental degradation, but he also seems opposed, in a significant sense, to the economic growth engine that drives it. He believes in living smaller, in going back to nature, in consuming less—not a position many politicians would be willing to espouse. (Indeed, President Obama’s comments about climate change often contain an explicit rejection of the idea that environmental and economic progress are mutually exclusive.)

So environmentalists are moving left and becoming more activist in response to political gridlock and scary planetary rumblings. Then along come the moderates, unleashing flurries of what Grist‘s David Roberts calls “hippie punching” under the guise of being more rational and reasoned than those they are criticizing. For example, Nisbet writes: “McKibben’s line-in-the-sand opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, his skepticism of technology, and his romantic vision of a future consisting of small-scale, agrarian communities reflects his own values and priorities, rather than a pragmatic set of choices designed to effectively and realistically address the problem of climate change.”

You can see how an activist might find this just a tad irritating. For what is Nisbet’s statement if not a reflection of his own values and priorities? Words like “pragmatic” and “realistic” give away the game.

A Radical Anthropologist Finds Himself in Academic ‘Exile’ (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

April 15, 2013

A Radical Anthropologist Finds Himself in Academic 'Exile' 1

Pete Marovich for The Chronicle. David Graeber, an anthropologist who studies and participates in the radical left, finds fans of his work inside academe and out. Here he speaks with audience members during a talk at a public library in Washington, D.C.

By Christopher Shea

Who’s afraid of David Graeber? Not the dozens of D.C.-area residents who showed up on a recent night at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library to hear the anthropologist and radical activist talk about his new book, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement(Spiegel & Grau). Aimed at the mainstream, the book discusses Mr. Graeber’s involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement and the idea that principles drawn from anarchist theory—a wholesale rejection of current electoral politics, for starters, in favor of groups operating on the basis of consensus—offer an alternative to our present polity, which he calls “organized bribery” (or “mafia capitalism”).

On this warm spring evening the rumpled scholar was interviewed by a friendly and more conventionally telegenic writer, Thomas Frank. Graying lefties and young liberals and radicals in the crowd alike seemed impressed. Even the token skeptical economist in the audience framed her question respectfully, and C-Span broadcast live.

Mr. Graeber is a star in the left-academic world. Indeed, it’s possible that, given his activism and his writings, he is the most influential anthropologist in the world. He played a part in establishing the nonhierarchical “organization” of the Occupy movement, in its early days in Manhattan, and his 500-plus-page Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Melville House, 2011) struck scholars for its verve and sweep. It made the case that lending and borrowing evolved out of humane, communitarian impulses in premodern societies—out of a free-floating interest in the common weal—and only later became institutionalized actions spawning moral guilt and legal punishment.

The book ranged from discussions of ancient Sumerian economics to analyses of how Nambikwara tribesmen in Brazil settle their affairs to the international monetary system. “An argument of Debt’s scope hasn’t been made by a professional anthropologist for the best part of a century, certainly not one with as much contemporary relevance,” wrote the British anthropologist Keith Hart, of Goldsmiths College, University of London, in a review on his Web site last year. The book won a prize for best book in anthropology from the Society for Cultural Anthropology in 2012 and according to his agent has sold nearly 100,000 copies in English alone.

But strikingly, Mr. Graeber, 52, has been unable to get an academic job in the United States. In an incident that drew national attention, Yale University, in 2005, told him it would not renew his contract (which would have promoted him from assistant professor to “term associate” professor). After a fight, he won a reprieve—but only for two years. He never came up for tenure.

Foreign universities immediately sent out feelers, he says. From 2008 through this spring, Mr. Graeber was a lecturer and then a reader at Goldsmiths College and, just last month, he accepted a professorship at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

But no American universities approached him, he says, and nearly 20 job applications in this country (or Canada) have borne no fruit. The applications came in two waves: directly after the Yale brouhaha and a couple of years later, when he concluded he wanted to return to the States for reasons that were partly personal (a long-distance romantic relationship, the death of his mother and older brother).

His academic “exile,” as he calls it, has not gone unnoticed. “It is possible to view the fact that Graeber has not secured a permanent academic position in the United States after his controversial departure from Yale University as evidence of U.S. anthropology’s intolerance of political outspokenness,” writes Jeff Maskovsky, an associate professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, in the March issue of American Anthropologist.

That charge might seem paradoxical, given anthropology’s reputation as a leftist redoubt, but some of Mr. Graeber’s champions see that leftism as shallower than it might first appear. Anthropology “is radical in the abstract,” says Laura Nader, a professor in the field at the University of California at Berkeley. “You can quote Foucault and Gramsci, but if you tell it like it is,” it’s a different story, she says.

Mr. Graeber “talks about possibilities, and God, if there’s anything we need now it’s possibilities,” she says. “We are in tunnels. We are turned in. We are more ethnocentric than ever. We’ve turned the United States into a military zone. And into this move-to-the-right country comes David Graeber.”

When he applied to Berkeley in the early 2000s and the department failed to hire him, “we really missed the boat,” she says.

Jonathan Marks, a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who had no direct experience with any Graeber job search, agrees: “Whoever had a chance to hire him and didn’t missed out on having the author of one of the most important books in recent memory on their faculty,” he wrote in an e-mail.

 ‘Incredibly Conformist’

Mr. Graeber was at first reluctant to talk about his failed job searches, for fear of coming across as bitter and souring future chances, but he decided to open up after the LSE job became official. As he recalled, the places to which he applied twice were the City University of New York Graduate Center, the New School, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago. The others were Hunter College, Emory, Duke, Columbia, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins—as well as the University of Toronto. He heard indirectly of colleagues at other universities trying to secure him a position, to no avail.

Responding to anthropologists’ frequent claim that they embrace activist scholarship, he echoes Ms. Nader: “They don’t mean it”—at least when it comes truly radical activism.

“If I were to generalize,” Mr. Graeber says, “I would say that what we see is a university system which mitigates against creativity and any form of daring. It’s incredibly conformist and it represents itself as the opposite, and I think this kind of conformism is a result of the bureaucratization of the university.”

He and his allies also suspect that false information emanating from his public fight with Yale, garnered secondhand, has hurt him.

When Yale announced it was not renewing his contract, students and some professors rallied behind him, and he gave interviews suggesting that the decision was politically motivated. (The story made The New York Times.) He had spent part of a sabbatical working with the Global Justice Movement, which has mounted protests against such groups as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Perhaps surprisingly, he did not take much part in the heated Yale debate over graduate-student unionization. He was, he likes to say, “a scholar in New Haven and an activist in New York.”

During the dispute over his Yale position, he said, he’d been accused of not doing service work (though he did all he was asked, he said), of being late for classes, and of being ill prepared to teach. Yancey Orr, a graduate student in religion at the time who took courses from Mr. Graeber and is now an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, says that charge is absurd: “He was easily the most helpful seminar leader you could ask for.”

Being denied tenure at Yale is hardly unusual, but not getting rehired at Mr. Graeber’s stage is. Some professors Mr. Orr has talked to at institutions that failed to hire Mr. Graeber were under the impression that he went nuclear over a tenure denial, but the situation was more complex, more unorthodox, says Mr. Orr.

The chairs of the departments to which Mr. Graeber applied who could be reached all cited confidentiality in declining to talk about the decisions—or, typically, even to confirm he’d applied. But several denied that politics would affect such decisions. “I can say without hesitation,” wrote James Ferguson, the chair of anthropology at Stanford, in an e-mail, “that I personally would not regard Graeber’s political orientation as in any way disqualifying, nor would I expect such views to be held by my colleagues.”

“As is known throughout the world,” wrote Janet Roitman, chair of anthropology at the New School, “the New School prides itself for its longstanding tradition of radical politics; David would not have been the first hire or tenured faculty member to pursue ‘radical’ political positions or to engage in activism.”

Some anthropologists, including Alex Golub, a contributor to the popular blog Savage Minds and an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, suggested that a general dearth of jobs in the field would be enough to explain Mr. Graeber’s run of bad luck—especially because the book that brought him fame, Debt, had not been published at the time of the searches. (Though he’d published four others by 2009, as well as a much-read pamphlet, “Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology,” with Prickly Paradigm.) But Mr. Graeber scoffs at that: “Gee, I applied for 17. Somebody got those jobs.” Moreover, Britain is not brimming with anthropology jobs, either, yet he’s had little problem there.

“I believe it’s possible that his politics have helped him in some cases and hurt him in others,” says Mr. Maskovksy, of CUNY, who in his American Anthropologist essay raised the issue of what Mr. Graeber’s academic exile to England meant for the profession . “He has a huge following among graduate students because of his protest work and because he links his protest work to the kind of anthropology he wants to do. But there’s a huge gap between generating that kind of interest and respect, on the one hand, and job-hiring decisions. I don’t know what makes people hire and what makes them not.”

On Collegiality

One charge that has dogged Mr. Graeber is that he is “difficult,” an attribute that’s obviously hard to gauge. Ms. Nader says she urged him to soften his rough edges—to send thank-you cards, even, when protocol suggested it. (Mr. Graeber does not recall that counseling session on manners and says he always sends thank-you notes.) But she finds it deplorable that scholars would value superficial clubbability over originality of thought; she decries the “‘harmony ideology’ that has hit the academy.” She also thinks the fact that he “writes in English,” eschewing jargon, hasn’t helped him.

There is some evidence of Mr. Graeber’s contentiousness. During an online seminar about Debt on the blog Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University, said Mr. Graeber had—for example—provided insufficient evidence that in the first Gulf War the United States had attacked Iraq partly because Iraq had stopped using dollars as its reserve currency and turned to the euro. In Mr. Graeber’s response, he accused Mr. Farrell of “consummate dishonesty” and said he had failed to engage with the argument and instead sought to show its maker was a “lunatic.” Mr. Farrell responded that he was “very unhappy” with Mr. Graeber’s charges and tone.

From February to April 1, J. Bradford DeLong, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, baited Mr. Graeber by setting up an automated Twitter stream that sarcastically recounted dozens of alleged (or actual) errors of fact in Debt. For example: “Learned that 12 Regional Fed Banks not private banks like Citi or Goldman Sachs? Stay away until you do! #Graebererrors.” Mr. Graeber responded aggressively. At one point he wrote, on Twitter, referring to Mr. DeLong’s work in the Clinton Treasury Department on the North American Free Trade Agreement: “I bet the poor guy had a rough time at 14. Tried to compensate by gaining power, then look—destroyed Mexico’s economy.”

Mr. Graeber calls some of Mr. DeLong’s postings “libelous”—a virtual campaign of harassment. “He has been on a crusade to hurt me in every way,” he says, growing angry.

“Yet these guys are considered mainstream and I’m the crazy guy who can’t get a job.” He adds, “I don’t even write negative book reviews.”

Mr. Graeber, who says he gets along just fine with his colleagues in London—and, indeed, with most of his former colleagues at Yale—has his own take on what scholars mean by “collegiality”: “What collegiality means in practice is: ‘He knows how to operate appropriately within an extremely hierarchical environment.’ You never see anyone accused of lack of collegiality for abusing their inferiors. It means ‘not playing the game in what we say is the proper way.'”

In his American Anthropologist essay, CUNY’s Mr. Maskovsky said that the many graduate students who took part in Occupy Wall Street might view Mr. Graeber’s difficulty finding a job as a cautionary tale. Would their advisers see their activism as, at the least, a distraction from their research?

Manissa Maharawal is one such student, at CUNY, a participant in Occupy now studying the activist projects that emerged from it. She says she has received nothing but support from her advisers and doesn’t understand the politics of academic hiring, but finds the Graeber situation perplexing—in a bad way. “His work is really good, he’s well reviewed, he’s become pretty famous in the last year,” she says. “I’m not sure what’s going on. You can have all the boxes you’re supposed to check checked and still not get a job. It’s scary, for sure.”

Lições Espanholas: debate entre o movimento 15M da Espanha e os movimentos de Porto Alegre (MaterialismoS)

Publicado em abril 4, 2013 por 

Debate com participante do movimento 15M, da Espanha, este sábado às 17h45 no Quilombo das Artes/Assentamento Urbano Utopia e Luta, escadaria da Borges.

Lições Espanholas MaterialismosG

Enquanto Porto Alegre viu, nas últimas semanas, aquilo que pode ser o início de um novo movimento de massa, a Espanha tem vivido desde maio de 2011 um momento riquíssimo de mobilização popular. Mais antigo, mais numeroso e mais duradouro que o movimento Occupy dos Estados Unidos, o 15M foi o primeiro dos movimentos globais a seguir o exemplo da Primavera Árabe e reagir contra as políticas de austeridade, a ditadura do capital financeiro e a erosão da democracia representativa no estado espanhol e na Europa; foi da Espanha que originalmente partiu o chamado para o dia de ação global de 15 de outubro de 2011, que transformou Occupy em um fenômeno global.

Nestes quase dois anos, o 15M se deparou com vários desafios que os movimentos de Porto Alegre terão de enfrentar cada vez mais: a necessidade de ampliar seu alcance para parcelas cada vez maiores da população; as tentativas de criminalização pela polícia e a mídia; a relação com os partidos políticos e a política institucional; o problema de como aumentar a capacidade de agir mantendo a democracia interna; a necessidade de desenvolver diversidade e flexibilidade de táticas de ação e comunicação para atacar as questões sociais de diferentes ângulos.

Este encontro é uma oportunidade para aprender mais sobre esta experiência com alguém que a vive por dentro: Sérgio González, cientista político e ecólogo, membro da rede 15M de Barcelona e do projeto X.net, associação de defesa da cultura livre e da democracia em rede. É também uma ocasião para refletir sobre o que estamos fazendo em Porto Alegre, e pensar, a partir daquilo que tem se construído na Espanha, quais podem ser nossos próximos passos.

O debate é coorganizado pelo grupo de pesquisa MaterialismoS e o Assentamento Urbano Utopia e Luta, e dá continuidade a discussões iniciadas no evento O que significa mudar o mundo hoje? de outubro de 2011.

Para saber mais sobre o 15M:

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movimiento_15-M
https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/X.net
https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Desahucios#Stop_Desahucios
http://15mparato.wordpress.com/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kODIHGNokrI&list=PL92FE5C92CA3F3211

Para saber mais sobre o Assentamento Urbano Utopia e Luta:

http://www.sul21.com.br/jornal/2011/09/assentamento-em-predio-publico-de-porto-alegre-desafia-politica-habitacional/

Everybody Knows. Climate Denialism has peaked. Now what are we going to do? (EcoEquity)

– Tom Athanasiou (toma@ecoequity.org).  April 2, 2013.

It was never going to be easy to face the ecological crisis.  Even back in the 1970s, before climate took center stage, it was clear that we the prosperous were walking far too heavily.  And that “environmentalism,” as it was called, was only going to be a small beginning.  But it was only when the climate crisis pushed fossil energy into the spotlight that the real stakes were widely recognized.  Fossil fuels are the meat and potatoes of industrial civilization, and the need to rapidly and radically reduce their emissions cut right through to the heart of the great American dream.  And the European dream.  And, inevitably, the Chinese dream as well.

Decades later, 81% of global energy is still supplied by the fossil fuels: coal, gas, and oil.[1]  And though the solar revolution is finally beginning, the day is late.  The Arctic is melting, and, soon, as each year the northern ocean lies bare beneath the summer sun, the warming will accelerate.  Moreover, our plight is becoming visible.  We have discovered, to our considerable astonishment, that most of the fossil fuel on the books of our largest corporations is “unburnable” – in the precise sense that, if we burn it, we are doomed.[2]  Not that we know what to do with this rather strange knowledge.  Also, even as China rises, it’s obvious that it’s not the last in line for the promised land.  Billions of people, all around the world, watch the wealthy on TV, and most all of them want a drink from the well of modern prosperity.  Why wouldn’t they?  Life belongs to us all, as does the Earth.

The challenge, in short, is rather daunting.

The denial of the challenge, on the other hand, always came ready-made.  As Francis Bacon said so long ago, “what a man would rather were true, he more readily believes.”  And we really did want to believe that ours was still a boundless world.  The alternative – an honest reckoning – was just too challenging.  For one thing, there was no obvious way to reconcile the Earth’s finitude with the relentless expansion of the capitalist market.  And as long as we believed in a world without limits, there was no need to see that economic stratification would again become a fatal issue.  Sure, our world was bitterly riven between haves and have-nots, but this problem, too, would fade in time.  With enough growth – the universal balm – redistribution would never be necessary.  In time, every man would be a king.

The denial had many cheerleaders.  The chemical-company flacks who derided Rachel Carson as a “hysterical woman” couldn’t have known that they were pioneering a massive trend.  Also, and of course, big money always has plenty of mouthpieces.  But it’s no secret that, during the 20th Century, the “engineering of consent” reached new levels of sophistication.  The composed image of benign scientific competence became one of its favorite tools, and somewhere along the way tobacco-industry science became a founding prototype of anti-environmental denialism.  On this front, I’m happy to say that the long and instructive history of today’s denialist pseudo-science has already been expertly deconstructed.[3]  Given this, I can safely focus on the new world, the post-Sandy world of manifest climatic disruption in which the denialists have lost any residual aura of scientific legitimacy, and have ceased to be a decisive political force.  A world in which climate denialism is increasingly seen, and increasingly ridiculed, as the jibbering of trolls.

To be clear, I’m not claiming that the denialists are going to shut up anytime soon.  Or that they’ll call off their suicidal, demoralizing campaigns.  Or that their fogs and poisons are not useful to the fossil-fuel cartel.  But the battle of the science is over, at least as far as the scientists are concerned.  And even on the street, hard denialism is looking pretty ridiculous.  To be sure, the core partisans of the right will fight on, for the win and, of course, for the money.[4]  And they’ll continue to have real weight too, for just as long as people do not believe that life beyond carbon is possible.  But for all this, their influence has peaked, and their position is vulnerable.  They are – and visibly now – agents of a mad and dangerous ideology.  They are knaves, and often they are fools.[5]

As for the rest of us, we can at least draw conclusions, and make plans.

As bad as the human prospect may be – and it is quite bad – this is not “game over.”  We have the technology we need to save ourselves, or most of it in any case; and much of it is ready to go.  Moreover, the “clean tech” revolution is going to be disruptive indeed.  There will be cascades of innovation, delivering opportunities of all kinds, all around the world.  Also, our powers of research and development are strong.  Also, and contrary to today’s vogue for austerity and “we’re broke” political posturing, we have the money to rebuild, quickly and on a global scale.  Also, we know how to cooperate, at least when we have to.  All of which is to say that we still have options.  We are not doomed.

But we are in extremely serious danger, and it is too late to pretend otherwise.  So allow me to tip my hand by noting Jorgen Randers’ new book, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years.[6]  Randers is a Norwegian modeler, futurist, professor, executive, and consultant who made his name as co-author of 1972’s landmark The Limits to Growth.  Limits, of course, was a global blockbuster; it remains the best-selling environmental title of all times.  Also, Limits has been relentlessly ridiculed (the early denialists cut their teeth by distorting it[7]) so it must be said that – very much contrary to the mass-produced opinions of the denialist age – its central, climate-related projections are holding up depressingly well.[8]

By 2012 (when he published 2052) Randers had decided to step away from the detached exploration of multiple scenarios that was the methodological core of Limits, and to make actual predictions.  After a lifetime of frustrated efforts, these predictions are vivid, pessimistic and bitter.  In a nutshell, Randers doesn’t expect anything beyond what he calls “progress as usual,” and while he expects it to yield a “light green” buildout (e.g., solar on a large scale) he doesn’t think it will suffice to stabilize the climate system.  Such stabilization, he grants, is still possible, but it would require concerted global action on a scale that neither he nor Dennis Meadows, the leader of the old Limits team, see on today’s horizon.  Let’s call that kind of action global emergency mobilization.  Meadows, when he peers forwards, sees instead “many decades of uncontrolled climatic disruption and extremely difficult decline.”[9]  Randers is more precise, and predicts that we will by 2052 wake to find ourselves on a dark and frightening shore, knowing full well that our planet is irrevocably “on its way towards runaway climate change in the last third of the twenty-first century.”

This is an extraordinary claim, and it requires extraordinary evidence.[10]  Such evidence, unfortunately, is readily available, but for the moment let me simply state the public secret of this whole discussion.  To wit: we (and I use this pronoun advisedly) can still avoid a global catastrophe, but it’s not at all obvious that we will do so.  What is obvious is that stabilizing the global climate is going to be very, very hard.  Which is a real problem, because we don’t do hard anymore.  Rather, when confronted with a serious problem, we just do what we can, hoping that it will be enough and trying our best not to offend the rich.  In truth, and particularly in America, we count ourselves lucky if we can manage governance at all.

This essay is about climate politics after legitimate skepticism.  Climate politics in a world where, as Leonard Cohen put it, “everybody knows.”  What does this mean?  In the first place, it means that we’ve reached the end of what might be called “environmentalism-as-usual.”  This point is widely understood and routinely granted, as when people say something like “climate is not a merely environmental problem,” but my concern is a more particular one.  As left-green writer Eddie Yuen astutely noted in a recent book on “catastrophism,” the problems of the environmental movement are to a very large degree rooted in “the pairing of overwhelmingly bleak analysis with inadequate solutions.”[11]  This is exactly right.

The climate crisis demands a “new environmentalism,” and such a thing does seem to be emerging.  It’s final shape is unknowable, but one thing is certain – the environmentalism that we need will only exist when its solutions and strategies stand up to its own analyses.  The problem is that this requires us to take our “overwhelmingly bleak” analyses straight, rather than soft-pedaling them so that our “inadequate solutions” might look good.  Pessimism, after all, is closely related to realism.  It cannot just be wished away.

Soft-pedaling, alas, has long been standard practice, on both the scientific and the political sides of the climate movement.  Examples abound, but the best would have to be the IPCC itself, the U.N’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The world’s premier climate-science clearinghouse, the IPCC is often attacked from the right, and has developed a shy and reticent culture.  Even more importantly, though, and far more rarely noted, is that the IPCC is conservative by definition and by design.[12]  It almost has to be conservative to do its job, which is to herd the planet’s decision makers towards scientific realism.  The wrinkle is that, at this point, this isn’t even close to being good enough, not at least in the larger scheme.  At this point, we need strategic realism as well as baseline scientific realism, and it demands a brutal honesty in which underlying scientific and political truths are clearly drawn and publicly expressed.

Yet when it comes to strategic realism, we balk.  The first impulse of the “messaging” experts is always to repeat their perennial caution that sharp portraits of the danger can be frightening, and disempowering, and thus lead to despair and passivity.  This is an excellent point, but it’s only the beginning of the truth, not the end.  The deeper problem is that the physical impacts of climate disruption – the destruction and the suffering – will continue to escalate.  “Superstorm Sandy” was bad, but the future will be much worse.  Moreover, the most severe suffering will be far away, and easy for the good citizens of the wealthy world to ignore.  Imagine, for example, a major failure of the Indian Monsoon, and a subsequent South Asian famine.  Imagine it against a drumbeat background in which food is becoming progressively more expensive.  Imagine the permanence of such droughts, and increasing evidence of tipping points on the horizon, and a world in which ever more scientists take it upon themselves to deliver desperate warnings.  The bottom line will not be the importance of communications strategies, but rather the manifest reality, no longer distant and abstract, and the certain knowledge that we are in deep trouble.  And this is where the dangers of soft-pedaling lie.  For as people come to see the scale of the danger, and then to look about for commensurate strategies and responses, the question will be if such strategies are available, and if they are known, and if they are plausible.  If they’re not, then we’ll all going, together, down the road “from aware to despair.”

Absent the public sense of a future in which human resourcefulness and cooperation can make a decisive difference, we assuredly face an even more difficult future in which denial fades into a sense of pervasive hopelessness.  The last third of the century (when Randers is predicting “runaway climate change”) is not so very far away.  Which is to say that, as denialism collapses – and it will – the challenge of working out a large and plausible response to the climate crisis will become overwhelmingly important.  If we cannot imagine such a response, and explain how it would actually work, then people will draw their own conclusions.  And, so far, it seems that we cannot.  Even those of us who are now climate full-timers don’t have a shared vision, not in any meaningful detail, nor do we have a common sense of the strategic initiatives that could make such a vision cohere.

The larger landscape is even worse.  For though many scientists are steeling themselves to speak, the elites themselves are still stiff and timid, and show few signs of rising to the occasion.  Each month, it seems, there’s another major report on the approaching crisis – the World Bank, the National Intelligence Council, and the International Energy Agency have all recently made hair-raising contributions – but they never quite get around to the really important questions.  How should we contrive the necessary global mobilization?  What conditions are needed to absolutely maximize the speed of the clean-tech revolution?  By what strategy will we actually manage to keep the fossil-fuels in the ground?  What kind of international treaties are necessary, and how shall we establish them?  What would a fast-enough global transition cost, and how shall we pay for it?  What about all those who are forced to retreat from rising waters and drying lands?  How shall they live, and where?  How shall we talk about rights and responsibilities in the Greenhouse Century?  And what about the poor?  How shall they find futures in a climate-constrained world?  Can we even imagine a world in which they do?

In the face of such questions, you have a choice.  You can conclude that we’ll just have to do the best we can, and then you can have a drink.  Or maybe two.  Or you can conclude that, despite all evidence to the contrary, enough of us will soon awaken to reality.  What’s certain is that, all around us, there is a vast potentiality – for reinvention, for resistance, for redistribution, and for renewal of all kinds – and that it could at any time snap into solidity.  And into action.

Forget about “hope.”  What we need now is intention.

***

About a decade ago, in San Francisco, I was on a PBS talk show with, among others, Myron Ebell, chief of climate propaganda at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  Ebell is an aggressive professional, and given the host’s commitment to phony balance he was easily able to frame the conversation.[13]  The result was a travesty, but not an entirely wasted time, at least not for me.  It was instructive to speak, tentatively, of the need for global climate justice, and to hear, in response, that I was a non-governmental fraud that was only in it for the money.  Moreover, as the hour wore on, I came to appreciate the brutal simplicity of the denialist strategy.  The whole point is to suck the oxygen out of the room, to weave such a tangle of confusionism and pseudo-debate that the Really Big Question – What is to be done? – becomes impossible to even ask, let alone discuss.

When Superstorm Sandy slammed into the New York City region, Ebell’s style of hard denialism took a body blow, though obviously it has not dropped finally to the mat.  Had it done do, the Big Question, in all its many forms, would be buzzing constantly around us.  Clearly, that great day has not yet come.  Still, back in November of 2012, when Bloomberg’s Business Week blared “It’s Global Warming, Stupid” from its front cover, this was widely welcomed as a overdue milestone.  It may even be that Michael Tobis, the editor of the excellent Planet 3.0, will prove correct in his long-standing, half-facetious prediction that 2015 will be the date when “the Wall Street Journal will acknowledge the indisputable and apparent fact of anthropogenic climate change; the year in which it will simply be ridiculous to deny it.”[14]  Or maybe not.  Maybe that day will never come.  Maybe Ebell’s style of well-funded, front-group denialism will live on, zombie-like, forever.  Or maybe (and this is my personal prediction) hard climate denialism will soon go the way of creationism and far-right Christianity, becoming a kind of political lifestyle choice, one that’s dangerous but contained.  One that’s ultimately more dangerous to the right than it is to the reality-based community.

If so, then at some point we’re going to have to ask ourselves if we’ve been so long distracted by the hard denialists that we’ve missed the parallel danger of a “soft denialism.”  By which I mean the denialism of a world in which, though the dangers of climate change are simply too ridiculous to deny, they still – somehow – are not taken to imply courage, and reckoning, and large-scale mobilization.  This is a long story, but the point is that, now that the Big Question is finally on the table, we’re going to have to answer it.  Which is to say that we’re going to have to face the many ways in which political timidity and small-bore realism have trained us to calibrate our sense of what must be done by our sense of what can be done, which these days is inadequate by definition.

And not just because of the denialists.

George Orwell once said that “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”[15]  As we hurtle forward, this struggle will rage as never before.  The Big Question, after all, changes everything.  Another way of saying this is that our futures will be shaped by the effort to avoid a full-on global climate catastrophe.  Despite all the rest of the geo-political and geo-economic commotion that will mark the 21st Century (and there’ll be plenty) it will be most fundamentally the Greenhouse Century.  We know this now, if we care to, though still only in preliminary outline.  The details, inevitably, will surprise us all.

The core problem, of course, will be “ambition” – action on the scale that’s actually necessary, rather than the scale that is or appears to be possible.  And here, the legacies of the denialist age – the long-ingrained habits of soft-pedaling and strained optimism – will weigh heavily.  Consider the quasi-official global goal (codified, for example, in the Copenhagen Accord) to hold total planetary warming to 2°C (Earth surface average) above pre-industrial levels.  This is the so-called “2°C target.”  What are we to do with it in the post-denialist age?  Let me count the complications: One, all sorts of Very Important People are now telling us it’s going to all but impossible to avoid overshooting 2°C.[16]  Two, in so doing, they are making a political and not a scientific judgment, though they’re not always clear on this point.  (It’s probably still technically possible to hold the 2°C line – if we’re not too unlucky – though it wouldn’t be easy under the best of circumstances.)[17]  Three, the 2°C line, which was once taken to be reasonably safe, is now widely seen (at least among the scientists) to mark the approximate point of transition from “dangerous” to “extremely dangerous,” and possibly to altogether unmanageable levels of warming.[18]  Four, and finally, it’s now widely recognized that any future in which we approach the 2°C line (which we will do) is one in which we also have a real possibility of pushing the average global temperature up by 3°C, and if this were to come to pass we’d be playing a very high-stakes game indeed, one in which uncontrolled positive feedbacks and worst-case scenarios were surrounding us on every side.

The bottom line is today as it was decades ago.  Greenhouse-gas emissions were increasing then, and they are increasing now.  In late 2012, the authoritative Global Carbon Project reported that, since 1990, they had risen by an astonishing 58 percent.[19]  The climate system has unsurprisingly responded with storms, droughts, ice-melt, conflagrations and floods.  The weather has become “extreme,” and may finally be getting our attention.  In Australia, according to the acute Mark Thomson of the Institute for Backyard Studies in Adelaide, the crushing heatwave of early 2013 even pushed aside “the idiot commentariat” and cleared the path for a bit of 11th-hour optimism: “Another year of this trend will shift public opinion wholesale.  We’re used to this sort of that temperature now and then and even take a perverse pride in dealing with it, but there seems to be a subtle shift in mood that ‘This Could Be Serious.’”  Let’s hope he’s right.  Let’s hope, too, that the mood shift that swept through America after Sandy also lasts, and leads us, too, to conclude that ‘This Could Be Serious.’  Not that this alone would be enough to support a real mobilization – the “moral equivalent of war” that we need – but it would be something.  It might even lead us to wonder about our future, and about the influence of money and power on our lives, and to ask how serious things will have to get before it becomes possible to imagine a meaningful change of direction.

The wrinkle is that, before we can advocate for a meaningful change of direction, we have to have one we believe in, one that we’re willing to explain in global terms that actually scale to the problem.  None of which is going to be easy, given that we’re fast approaching a point where only tales of existential danger ring true.  (cf the zombie apocalypse).  The Arctic ice, as noted above, offers an excellent marker.  In fact, the first famous photos of Earth from space – the “blue marble” photos taken in 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 – allow us to anchor our predicament in time and in memory.  For these are photos of an old Earth now passed away; they must be, because they show great expanses of ice that are nowhere to be found.  By August of 2012 the Arctic Sea’s ice cover had declined by 40%,[20] a melt that’s easily large enough to be visible from space.  Moreover, beneath the surface, ice volume is dropping even more precipitously.  The polar researchers who are now feverishly evaluating the great melting haven’t yet pushed the entire scientific community to the edge of despair, though they have managed to inspire a great deal of dark muttering about positive feedbacks and tipping points.  Soon, it seems, that muttering will become louder.  Perhaps as early as 2015, the Arctic Ocean will become virtually ice free for the first time in recorded history.[21]  When it does, the solar absorptivity of the Arctic waters will increase, and shift the planetary heat balance by a surprisingly large amount, and by so doing increase the rate of  planetary warming.  And this, of course, will not be end of it.  The feedbacks will continue.  The cycles will go on.

Should we remain silent about such matters, for risk of inflaming the “idiot commentariat?”  It’s absurd to even ask.  The suffering is already high, and if you know the science, you also know that the real surprise would be an absence of positive feedbacks.  The ice melt, the methane plumes, the drying of the rainforests – they’re all real.  Which is to say that there are obviously tipping points before us, though we do not and can not know how much time will pass before they force themselves upon our attention.  The real question is what we must do if we would talk of them in good earnest, while at the same time speaking, without despair and effectively, about the human future.


[1] Jorgen Randers, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, Chelsea Green, 2012, page 99.

[2] Begin at the Carbon Track Initiative’s website.  http://www.carbontracker.org/

[3] Two excellent examples: Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Bloomsbury Press, 2011,  Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science, Basic Books, 2006.

[4] See, for example, Suzanne Goldenberg, “Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks,” February 14, 2013, The Guardian.

[5] “Lord Monckton,” in particular, is fantastic.  See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w833cAs9EN0

[6] Randers, 2012.  See also Randers’ essay and video at the University of Cambridge 2013 “State of Sustainability Leadership,” athttp://www.cpsl.cam.ac.uk/About-Us/What-is-Sustainability-Leadership/The-State-of-Sustainability-Leadership.aspx

[7] Ugo Bardi, in The Limits to Growth Revisited (Springer Briefs, 2011) offers this summary:

“If, at the beginning, the debate on LTG had seemed to be balanced, gradually the general attitude on the study became more negative. It tilted decisively against the study when, in 1989, Ronald Bailey published a paper in “Forbes” where he accused the authors of having predicted that the world’s economy should have already run out of some vital mineral commodities whereas that had not, obviously, occurred.

Bailey’s statement was only the result of a flawed reading of the data in a single table of the 1972 edition of LTG. In reality, none of the several scenarios presented in the book showed that the world would be running out of any important commodity before the end of the twentieth century and not even of the twenty-first. However, the concept of the “mistakes of the Club of Rome” caught on. With the 1990s, it became commonplace to state that LTG had been a mistake if not a joke designed to tease the public, or even an attempt to force humankind into a planet-wide dictatorship, as it had been claimed in some earlier appraisals (Golub and Townsend 1977; Larouche 1983). By the end of the twentieth century, the victory of the critics of LTG seemed to be complete. But the debate was far from being settled.”

[8] See, for example, Graham Turner, “A Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality.” Global Environmental Change, Volume 18, Issue 3, August 2008, Pages 397–411.  An unprotected copy (without the graphics) can be downloaded at www.csiro.au/files/files/plje.pdf.  Also

[9] In late 2012, Dennis Meadows said that “In the early 1970s, it was possible to believe that maybe we could make the necessary changes.  But now it is too late.  We are entering a period of many decades of uncontrolled climatic disruption and extremely difficult decline.”  See Christian Parenti, “The Limits to Growth’: A Book That Launched a Movement,” The Nation, December 24, 2012.

[11] Eddie Yuen, “The Politics of Failure Have Failed: The Environmental Movement and Catastrophism,” in Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, Sasha Lilley, David McNally, Eddie Yuen, James Davis, with a foreword by Doug Henwood. PM Press 2012.  Yuen’s whole line is “the main reasons that [it] has not led to more dynamic social movements; these include catastrophe fatigue, the paralyzing effects of fear; the pairing of overwhelmingly bleak analysis with inadequate solutions, and a misunderstanding of the process of politicization.” 

[12] See Glenn Scherer, “Special Report: IPCC, assessing climate risks, consistently underestimates,” The Daily Climate, December 6, 2012.   More formally (and more interestingly) see Brysse, Oreskes, O’Reilly, and Oppenheimer, “Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama?,” Global Environmental Change 23 (2013), 327-337.

[13] KQED-FM, Forum, July 22, 2003.

[14] Michael Tobis, editor of Planet 3.0, is amusing on this point.  He notes that “many data-driven climate skeptics are reassessing the issue,” that “In 1996 I defined the turning point of the discussion about climate science (the point where we could actually start talking about policy) as the date when theWall Street Journal would acknowledge the indisputable and apparent fact of anthropogenic climate change; the year in which it would simply be ridiculous to deny it.  My prediction was that this would happen around 2015… I’m not sure the WSJ has actually accepted reality yet.  It’s just starting to squint in its general direction.  2015 still looks like a good bet.”  See http://planet3.org/2012/08/07/is-the-tide-turning/

[15] The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950, Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, Editors / Paperback / Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968, p. 125.

[16] See for example, Fatih Birol and Nicholas Stern, “Urgent steps to stop the climate door closing,” The Financial Times, March 9, 2011.  And see Sir Robert Watson’s Union Frontiers of Geophysics Lecture at the 2012 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, athttp://fallmeeting.agu.org/2012/events/union-frontiers-of-geophysics-lecture-professor-sir-bob-watson-cmg-frs-chief-scientific-adviser-to-defra/

[17] I just wrote “probably still technically possible.”  I could have written “Excluding the small probability of a very bad case, and the even smaller probability of a very good case, it’s probably still technically possible to hold the 2°C line, though it wouldn’t be easy.”  This, however, is a pretty ugly sentence.  I could also have written “Unless we’re unlucky, and the climate sensitivity turns out be on the high side of the expected range, it’s still technically possible to hold the 2°C line, though it wouldn’t be easy, unless we’re very lucky, and the climate sensitivity turns out to be on the low side.”  Saying something like this, though, kind of puts the cart before the horse, since I haven’t said anything about “climate sensitivity,” or about how the scientists think about probability – and of course it’s even uglier.  The point, at least for now, is that climate projections are probabilistic by nature, which does not mean that they are merely “uncertain.”  We know a lot about the probabilities.

[18] See Kevin Anderson, a former director of Britain’s Tyndall Center, who has been unusually frank on this point.  His views are clearly laid out in a (non-peer-reviewed) essay published by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation in Sweden.  See “Climate change going beyond dangerous – Brutal numbers and tenuous hope” in Development Dialog #61, September 2012, available at http://www.dhf.uu.se/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dd61_art2.pdf.  For a peer-reviewed paper, see Anderson and Bows, “Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world.”  Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society, (2011) 369, 20-44 and for a lecture, see “Are climate scientists the most dangerous climate skeptics?” a Tyndall Centre video lecture (September 2010) at http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/audio/are-climate-scientist-most-dangerous-climate-sceptics.

[19] “The challenge to keep global warming below 2°C,” Glen P. Peters, et. al., Nature Climate Change (2012) 3, 4–6 (2013) doi:10.1038/nclimate1783.  December 2, 2012.  This figure might actually be revised upward, as 2012 saw the second-largest annual  concentration increase on record (http://climatedesk.org/2013/03/large-rise-in-co2-emissions-sounds-climate-change-alarm/)

[20] The story of the photos is on Wikipedia – see “blue marble.”  For the latest on the Arctic ice, see the “Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis” page that the National Snow and Ice Data Center — http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

[21] Climate Progress is covering the “Arctic Death Spiral” in detail.  See for example Joe Romm, “NOAA: Climate Change Driving Arctic Into A ‘New State’ With Rapid Ice Loss And Record Permafrost Warming,” Climate Progress, Dec 6, 2012.  Give yourself a few hours and follow the links.

O episódio Marco Feliciano, o Congresso e as manifestações populares

Guilherme Karakida, da UFRJ Plural, me entrevistou ontem, poucas horas antes do anúncio, por parte do PSC, de que Marco Feliciano permaneceria na presidência da CDHM. Reproduzo a entrevista abaixo – Renzo Taddei.

Por Guilherme Karakida – 26 de março de 2013

O que significa, do ponto de vista político, a presidência do Marco Feliciano na Comissão dos Direitos Humanos e Minorias(CDHM)?

Essa não é uma questão simples. Há vários fatores distintos que marcam o momento político atual brasileiro, e que se cruzam no caso do Marco Feliciano. Vou mencionar alguns que acho mais importantes, do meu ponto de vista. E o meu ponto de vista é o de alguém mais próximo aos movimentos sociais e não de um especialista no funcionamento do legislativo. É importante deixar claro a partir de onde se está falando. Se o Marco Feliciano tem uma virtude que muitos outros congressistas não têm, é o fato de ele não esconder quem ele é.

Em primeiro lugar, há a estratégia de amplas alianças partidárias como forma de chegar ao poder e se manter nele, usada pelo PT desde meados da década de 1990. Isso não é marca exclusiva do PT: em ciência política, se diz que o Brasil tem como sistema político um presidencialismo de coalizão. Isso significa que os partidos necessitam criar coalisões para ter sucesso eleitoral, e os presidentes da república precisam delas para governar, especialmente no que diz respeito às formas como a presidência se relaciona com o Congresso Nacional. O que ocorre é que, no caso da era PT, há partidos na base aliada que são marcadamente conservadores. Ou seja, aquela ideia antiga que diz que o governo do PT é de esquerda e a oposição é de direita não condiz com a realidade. O PT se relaciona melhor com partidos de centro-direita do que com partidos de esquerda, como o PSTU e o PSOL. É nesse contexto que o PSC passa a fazer parte da ampla coligação de partidos em apoio à candidatura de Dilma Roussef em 2010. Marco Feliciano foi cabo eleitoral importante de Dilma dentro do mundo evangélico. Com o consequente loteamento de cargos dentro das várias instâncias do governo, inclusive no legislativo, era de se esperar que Marco Feliciano assumisse alguma posição de liderança.

Em segundo lugar há o avanço da bancada evangélica no universo da política, de forma crescente, nos últimos anos. Há, entre lideranças políticas evangélicas, a agenda declarada de ocupar todos os cargos possíveis, com o intuito de barrar a aprovação de legislação que vá contra os preceitos morais que defendem. O próprio Marco Feliciano diz abertamente que está lá para barrar a aprovação do PL 122, o projeto de lei que criminaliza a homofobia.

E, finalmente, há o descaso do governo Dilma para com as questões dos direitos humanos e das minorias. Apesar de o governo Dilma ter sinalizado,no início de sua gestão, em direção favorável no que diz respeito a esses temas, com a criação da Comissão da Verdade e com a valorização da questão de gênero na composição do governo, e também com a manutenção do movimento pró-cotas que herdou do governo Lula, o que viria depois iria demonstrar que aquelas eram iniciativas de certa forma pontuais, e que não constituiriam uma linha de ação perene. Em virtude de uma série de conflitos com grande parte dos movimentos sociais, por razões que vão do descaso e desrespeito às populações chamadas tradicionais, como os indígenas, ao retrocesso quanto às políticas culturais da gestão anterior, onde havia a compreensão de que o direito à própria cultura é uma forma de direito humano, o governo Dilma enfrenta a oposição massiva das organizações da sociedade civil – pelo menos daquelas que não foram cooptadas pelo governo e passaram a depender de verba federal para existir. De certa forma, o governo Dilma reduz o tema dos direitos humanos, como todos os demais problemas sociais, à questão da renda, pura e simplesmente. O governo Dilma foi criticado pela Anistia Internacional e pelo HumanRightsWatch, apenas para mencionar duas entidades importantes na área. É esse descaso que fez com que a Comissão dos Direitos Humanos e Minorias não fosse prioridade das lideranças governistas no legislativo, e esta se tornou alvo fácil da bancada evangélica.

Como um parlamentar que deu declarações homofóbicas e racistas pode assumir um órgão que luta justamente pela garantia e manutenção dos direitos humanos desses grupos?

Trata-se de uma estratégia política, fundamentada na agenda específica da bancada evangélica, e não na compreensão que o senso comum tem do que são os direitos humanos e as minorias. Ou seja, é óbvio que Marco Feliciano não está lá para avançar na questão dos direitos humanos e das minorias, da forma como estas pautas se constituem historicamente no Brasil; pelo contrário, ele está lá para evitar que qualquer avanço nessa área se dê de forma conflitante com a agenda moralizante da bancada à qual ele faz parte. No Brasil, os temas dos direitos humanos e das minorias são historicamente parte das agendas políticas da esquerda; a direita sempre defendeu a supressão desses temas dos debates nacionais, como ainda se pode ver dentro dos meios militares, por exemplo. O que ocorre é que é a direita religiosa, e não a direita histórica, formada por militares e ruralistas, por exemplo, e com a qual a esquerda sempre esteve mais acostumada, começou a ocupar cargos importantes. E, o que é mais problemático, o faz de dentro mesmo do governo, como parte da base aliada.

É preciso que se diga, no entanto, que a bancada evangélica é notoriamente fragmentada em questões políticas, convergindo apenas em questões ligadasas decorrência políticas de sua fé, como nos temas do casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo e aborto. Nesse contexto, Marco Feliciano é particularmente patético e espalhafatoso, a ponto de uma grande quantidade de pastores evangélicos no país terem aderido à campanha “Marco Feliciano não me representa”. Ou seja, ele se transformou num abacaxi até mesmo para parte importante do universo evangélico.

Um aspecto disso que passa despercebido da maioria dos debates é o fato de que há o risco de que se reforcem os preconceitos de classe associados à população evangélica, tipicamente proveniente de camadas populares. Ou seja, dentro do contexto de ascensão conservadora em lugares como a cidade de São Paulo, tema de debate recente na USP, há o potencial de que o ressentimento da classe média dita “tradicional” para com as populações favorecidas pelos programas sociais das últimas duas décadas se dê na forma de recrudescimento de preconceitos religiosos.

A presidência do CDHM por um sujeito como o parlamentar do PSC reflete o cenário político brasileiro, no qual os absurdos se repetem?

Sem dúvida, e o uso do termo absurdo ilustra outra dimensão do problema: a crise de legitimidade do Estado atinge agora níveis estratosféricos. Particularmente no parlamento, com Renan Calheiros na presidência do Senado, Marco Feliciano na Comissão dos Direitos Humanos e Minorias – e esses são apenas os exemplos do momento -, as duas casas são marcadas porum nível de descrédito talvez inédito. Ou seja, a população vive a velha sensação de desconexão com o parlamento de forma inflacionada, em parte porque tanto Renan Calheiros quanto Marco Feliciano e alguns de seus apoiadores, como o Jair Bolsonaro, dão performances públicas profundamente desrespeitosas à população brasileira.

Por outro lado, há um aspecto positivo nisso tudo: tenho a impressão de que essa controvérsia toda, somada a outros conflitos como o de Belo Monte, o dos Guarani Kaiowá do Mato Grosso do Sul, o da Aldeia Maracanã e demais remoções desumanas ocorridas no Rio de Janeiro em função dos chamados grandes eventos, esta inserindo um bocado de gente jovem no mundo da política, repolitizando gente não tão jovem assim, e quebrando a ideia de que a população só pode se relacionar com a política através de partidos políticos e das eleições. Frequentemente escuto alguém dizer “mas ele foi eleito,e não há nada que se possa fazer a esse respeito”. Isso é discurso de quem não tem interesse na efetiva participação popular na política desse país. A democracia participativa é mais democrática que a representativa; manifestações populares nas ruas e petições públicas são coisas que fortalecem a democracia. E há iniciativas ligadas à democracia participativa ocorrendo em diversas partes do mundo. O sociólogo espanhol Manuel Castells tem escrito sobre a iniciativa chamada Partido do Futuro naquele país; no Brasil, articula-se o #rede. Em ambos os casos, um dos objetivos centrais é a valorização e o fortalecimento de ações políticas existentes fora das instituições tradicionais de poder.

É de se esperar, naturalmente, que aslideranças ligadas ao status quo tendam a ser conservadoras, e se esforcem para diminuir a importância das manifestações populares: em todos os poderes iremos escutar que não se pode administrar um país em função do clamor que vem das ruas, sob o risco de se deixar levar por sentimentalismos de momento e, assim, fragilizar as instituições e o Estado. Não se pode discutir a redução da maioridade penal ou a pena de morte com base no sensacionalismo da mídia; obviamente existe lógica no argumento. O problema é que ele é frequentemente usado para desarticular movimentos políticos legítimos – Renan Calheiros usou esse argumento para justificar a razão pela qual não deixaria a presidência do Senado. O resultado disso tudo é a sensação de que o custo da estabilidade institucional do parlamento é a sua falência moral. O ponto é justamente esse: para grande parte da população brasileira, as instituições de poder estão moralmente falidas, e as ações de membros da base aliada, como Renan Calheiros e Marco Feliciano, sem que as principais lideranças se manifestem a esse respeito, não fazem mais do que evidenciar isso de forma contundente.

O parlamentar já se defendeu publicamente e pediu um “voto de confiança” da população. Nesse caso, e com a repercussão que o assunto alcançou, isso é possível?

Marco Feliciano não vai mudar sua linha de ação. Talvez modere o seu discurso, mas não vai mudar de agenda. Mesmo após o movimento que exige sua renúncia tomar as proporções que tomou, ele afirmou recentemente à revista Veja que a população LGBT não constitui minoria; na tentativa de dizer que os negros não são amaldiçoados, ele simplesmente repetiu o argumento original e, portanto, a calúnia, e pateticamente adicionou “Eu não disse que os africanos são todos amaldiçoados. Até porque o continente africano é grande demais. Não tem só negros. A África do Sul tem brancos”.

Não estou dizendo, com isso, que não há lugar no parlamento para ele. Isso seria profundamente antidemocrático. É natural que exista a bancada evangélica, e ela deve ser respeitada. O que é um contrassenso é ter um líder de comissão cuja agenda é impedir que a comissão funcione, como é claramente o caso de Marco Feliciano.

O que pode vir a ocorrer caso o deputado permaneça no cargo?

Infelizmente nem a Dilma nem o PT, insulados que estão no jogo do poder, tem preocupação com o que pensam a sociedade civil e os movimentos sociais. A cada pesquisa de opinião que mostra os níveis elevados de popularidade da presidenta, menos interesse ela tem em dialogar com os atores ativos da sociedade civil. Daí o mutismo presidencial no que diz respeito a esse imbróglio político. O que ocorre, no entanto, é que nunca no Brasil o movimento LGBT, por exemplo, foi tão organizado e ativo; o mesmo pode se dizer de grupos que atuam em defesa de populações indígenas, muitas das quais veem na atividade missionária evangélica uma ameaça real à sua existência cultural. Não acredito que possa haver qualquer forma de acomodação quanto à presença de Marco Feliciano na presidência da Comissão dos Direitos Humanos e Minorias. Marco Feliciano provavelmente irá bloquear a discussão de pontos importantes da agenda de alguns movimentos, notadamente o LGBT, o que sem dúvida irá manter a briga acirrada.

As manifestações tanto nas redes sociais como nas ruas podem contribuir de que maneira para sua saída?

Cabe à sociedade civil transformar essa questão em algo que cause desgaste político a Dilma e ao PSC; ou seja, é hora de fazer barulho.Nesse exato momento, o PSC examina o custo político de deixar as coisas como estão, porque sentiu o efeito da mobilização popular. Não há qualquer dúvida de que foram as redes sociais, nesse caso, como na coleta de mais de um milhão e seiscentas mil assinaturas na petição em favor da renúncia de Renan Calheiros, ou no apoio aos Guarani Kaiowá ou à Aldeia Maracanã, que fizeram toda a diferença.

As redes sociais tem papel fundamental na circulação de informações que não figuram na mídia tradicional, ou pela possibilidade de enquadramentos diversos àqueles que caracterizam as grandes corporações de imprensa desse país. Além disso, a própria forma como as informações existem nas redes sociais são um diferencial enorme: boa parte delas circula como dado, como declaração de apoio à causa e como convocação à ação, tudo isso ao mesmo tempo. Quebra-se assim a falsidade ideológica característica do discurso supostamente neutro da imprensa corporativa. Há também o risco de que a mobilização política nas redes ganhe um caráter de linchamento cibernético, como tem reclamado o próprio Marco Feliciano; infelizmente os movimentos sociais não sabem como lidar com esse problema, que é real.

O fato é que vivemos um momento de transformação dos processos políticos, em especial no que diz respeito à relação destes com as tecnologias digitais. Ninguém sabe exatamente como se dá a relação entre redes sociais e a política, porque não temos muita experiência a esse respeito, tudo é muito novo, ainda estamos engatinhando nesse sentido. Mas já pudemos ver o potencial existente nessa articulação. E é exatamente por isso que vivemos um momento excepcional: estou certo de que 2014 será um ano de enormes surpresas. Espero que aí se inicie um processo através do qual muitos dos paleopolíticos que infestam Brasília sejam extintos; mas só esperando pra ver. Só não podemos esperar sentados: para que isso efetivamente ocorra, é preciso acreditar que a política das ruas e dos teclados é tão, senão mais, importante que a das instituições centrais do poder.

A política do futuro já chegou (Revista Fórum)

25/03/2013 9:12 pm

Uma iniciativa popular na Espanha propõe exercer a democracia direta. A ideia se disseminou na internet e evidenciou a crise institucional do país, e também, a necessidade de outro sistema de representação.

Por Manuel Castells*

No dia 8 de janeiro foi anunciada, na internet, a criação do “partido do futuro”, um método experimental para construir uma democracia sem intermediários, que substituiria as atuais instituições deslegitimadas na mente dos cidadãos. A repercussão social e midiática tem sido considerável. Apenas no primeiro dia de lançamento, apesar do colapso do servidor ao receber 600 petições por segundo, foram 13 mil seguidores no twitter, 7 mil no Facebook e 100 mil visitas no Youtube. Mídias estrangeiras e espanholas têm repercutido o futuro que anuncia o triunfo eleitoral de seu programa: democracia e ponto. (http://partidodelfuturo.net).

Movimento 15-M em Madri: nova política (Foto: Wikimedia Commons)

Sinal de que já não se pode ignorar o que surge do 15-M (nascimento do movimento dos indignados). Porque este partido emerge do caldo  criado pelo movimento, embora de forma alguma se equipare ao mesmo. Porque não há “o movimento” com estrutura organizada, nem representantes, e sim pessoas em movimento que compartilham de uma denúncia básica das formas de representação política que tem deixado pessoas indefesas diante dos efeitos de uma crise que não foram culpadas, porém sofrem os resultados a cada dia. O 15-M é uma prática coletiva e individual diversificada e de mudanças, que vive na rede e nas ruas, e cujos componentes tomam iniciativas de todo o tipo, desde a defesa contra o escândalo das hipotecas até a proposta de lei eleitoral que democratize a política.

Porém, até agora, muitas destas iniciativas parecem condenadas a um beco sem saída. Por um lado, as pesquisas mostram que uma grande maioria dos cidadãos (cerca de 70%) concorda com a crítica do 15-M e com muitas de suas propostas. Por outro lado, toda esta mobilização não se traduz em medidas concretas que aliviem as pessoas, pois há um bloqueio institucional para a adoção destas propostas. Os dois grandes partidos espanhóis são corresponsáveis pela submissão da política aos poderes financeiros no tratamento da crise, compartilhando, por exemplo, a gestão irresponsável dos diretores do Banco da Espanha, com um governador socialista, no caso de Bankia e do sistema de caixas, que tem conduzido a ruína milhares de famílias. Por isso, o 15-M se expressou no espaço público, em acampamentos, manifestações, assembleias de bairro e em ações pontuais de denúncia. Mas, embora esta intervenção seja essencial para criar consciência, se esgota em si mesma quando se confronta com uma repressão policial cada vez mais violenta.

Felizmente, o 15-M tem freado qualquer impulso de protesto violento, e tem feito um papel de canalizador pacífico da ira popular. O dilema é como superar as barreiras atuais sem deixar de ser um movimento espontâneo, auto-organizado, com múltiplas iniciativas que não são um programa. E por isso, podem unir potencialmente os 99% que sabem o que não querem, e que concordam em buscar um conjunto de novas vias políticas de gestão pela vida.

Para avançar nesse sentido, tem surgido uma iniciativa espontânea de ocupar o único espaço em que o movimento é pouco presente: as instituições. Mas não imediatamente, porque seu projeto não é ser uma minoria parlamentar, e sim de modificar a forma de fazer política, mediante uma democracia direta, instrumentada na internet, propondo referendos sobre temas-chaves, elaborando propostas legislativas mediante consultas e debates no espaço público, urbano e cibernético, implantando medidas concretas de debates entre os cidadãos e utilizando a plataforma com propostas que saiam do povo.

Na realidade, não é um partido, embora esteja inscrito no registro dos partidos, mas sim um experimento político, que vai se reinventando conforme avança. No horizonte vislumbra-se um momento em que o apoio do povo para votar contra todos os políticos de uma vez e em favor de uma plataforma eleitoral que tenha como único ponto no programa, permitir uma ocupação legal do parlamento e o desmantelamento do sistema tradicional de representação por dentro dele mesmo. Não é tão descabido. É muito o que aconteceu na Islândia, referência explicita do partido do futuro.

Mas, como evitar reproduzir o esquema de partido no processo de conquistar a maioria eleitoral? Aqui é onde surge a decisão, criticada pela classe política e alguns meios, das pessoas que têm tomado esta iniciativa de manter-se no anonimato. Porque se não há nomes, não há lideres, nem cargos, nem comitês federais, nem porta-vozes que dizem falar pelos demais, mas que acabam representando a si mesmos. Se não há rostos, o que sobra são ideias, práticas, iniciativas. De fato, é a prática da máscara como forma de criação de um sujeito coletivo composto de milhões de indivíduos mascarados, como fizeram os zapatistas, ou como fazem os Anonymous com a sua famosa máscara reconhecida em todo o mundo, mas com múltiplos portadores. Inclusive o anonimato do protesto se encontra em nossos clássicos: “Fuenteovejuna todos a una”.

Talvez chegue o momento em que as listas eleitorais queiram nomes, mas não necessariamente serão líderes, porque poderão ser sorteados os nomes entre milhares de pessoas que estejam de acordo com uma plataforma de ideias. No fundo se trata de pôr em primeiro plano a política das ideias com a que os políticos enchem a boca, enquanto fazem sua carreira entre cotoveladas. A personalização da política é maior sequela da liderança ao longo da história, baseada na demagogia, na ditadura do chefe e na política do escândalo para destruir pessoas representativas. O X do partido do futuro não é para esconder-se, mas sim para que seu conteúdo preencha as pessoas que projetem neste experimento seus sonhos pessoais em um sonho coletivo: democracia e ponto. A definir.

*Tradução: Carolina Rovai. Artigo publicado originalmente no La Vanguardia

Making a New Economy: Getting Cooperative (Truthout)

Saturday, 16 March 2013 00:00By David MorganTruthout | Op-Ed

Hands together(Image: Hands together via Shutterstock)

A new economy is coming. While Wall Street banks are on a trend of corporate mergers and acquisitions, Main Street businesses are generating community wealth while undergoing a transition of their own. Traditional companies are becoming worker cooperatives, both to sustain during tough economic times and because years of success have enabled these companies to reward their workers. State and local governments are beginning to get wise to this trend, too, adding legislative influence to an already vibrant movement.

Take the example of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, an umbrella company that runs a fleet of food service outfits based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over the course of more than 30 years, Zingerman’s has become a statewide destination for food lovers, and their owners have become business community luminaries. Nearly 600 employees work in the eight distinct businesses that comprise the Zingerman’s Community, generating annual revenues of $46 million. Inc. Magazine once rated Zingerman’s among the coolest companies in the States, and the very same leaders whose vision has been so celebrated are now designing a plan to transition Zingerman’s to an employee-owned worker cooperative. When the transition is complete, Zingerman’s will be among the largest worker co-ops in the United States.

“It’s exciting to see so many of these transitions happening today, and when a relatively large and remarkably successful company like Zingerman’s moves in this direction, it says something powerful about the possibilities of the Next Economy,” says John Abrams of South Mountain Company. Abrams is advising Zingerman’s on its transition, and brings more than 25 years of experience to the Zingerman’s table. In 1987, Abrams was among those who transitioned his workplace, a design/build firm in Massachusetts named South Mountain Company, to a worker-owned cooperative. “Ownership is a very big deal,” he explains, “and when the people who are making the decisions share in both the rewards and the consequences of those decisions, it’s natural that better decisions result.”

Putting decision-making power in the employees’ hands can keep a local economy going in tough times, and create stable jobs that are far less likely to disappear in times of crisis. The high-profile example of Chicago’s Republic Windows & Doors is one such case of a transition born out of conflict and economic strife. In late 2008, Bank of America cancelled the company’s line of credit, driving it into bankruptcy, and the workers were set to be laid off without their due severance pay or other benefits. Days later, the embattled workers occupied the factory and took control of what the bank had threatened to take away. Assisted by many players in the cooperative movement, those same workers who occupied Republic Windows & Doors have since decided to take permanent control of the company and turn it into a cooperative called New Era Windows.

These recent conversions draw from deep roots. Businesses transitioning today enjoy a broad support network of co-ops drawing from decades of experience. Pioneering company conversions include the 25-year-old Collective Copies of western Massachusetts, whose unionized, striking employees pooled their skills and experience to change over the failing and exploitative Gnomon Copies, revitalizing, strengthening, and updating it to a modern, collectively-run print shop.

These historical examples and the current economic climate are convincing municipalities across the country that transitioning to a co-op-focused economy is a good idea. Recently, two dozen city officials met in Reading, Pennsylvania, to discuss boosting the local economy by creating co-ops, and the mayor of Richmond, California, created a co-op development position to advise the city government.

The picture isn’t as rosy elsewhere in the country, however. “You can’t even form a cooperative in every state in the US,” says Melissa Hoover, president of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, because “the legal form simply does not exist in some states.” Indeed, even among cooperative enterprises, only one percent are worker-owned.

As one of the five states that offer worker cooperatives an official business identity, Massachusetts leads the way in supporting worker cooperatives. Legislation is currently on the table that would formalize and clarify the transition process for companies looking to become worker-owned. The new laws would require business owners to notify their workers when they intend to sell the company, making it clear to employees that they are eligible to purchase or bid on the company. It would also give the employees the right of first refusal.

Where co-ops don’t already have a foothold, advocacy groups are making strides, including the formative New Orleans Cooperative Development Project, which describes itself as “a community consortium to facilitate the startup and development of worker-owned cooperative businesses in the region.” In the midwest, the Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative, pairs United Steelworkers – the largest US-based union – with the Mondragon Cooperative Complex, the largest co-op worker system in the world.

“To survive the boom and bust, bubble-driven economic cycles fueled by Wall Street, we must look for new ways to create and sustain good jobs on Main Street,” Leo Gerard, president of United Steelworkers, told The Nation last year. “Worker-ownership can provide the opportunity to figure out collective alternatives to layoffs, bankruptcies and closings.”

The cooperative movement enjoys growing acceptance in the business community, aided by visionary political leadership that recognizes the value of community resilience. A crucial part of the co-op movement is how it integrates with our communities; each new co-op makes the economy more accountable to the people who live on Main Street, and has the power to change how we will build a new economy.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

David Graeber: Some Remarks on Consensus (Occupy Wall Street)

Posted on Feb. 26, 2013, 3:37 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt 

the medium is the message

As part of our recent series on Occupy and consensus, we are posting this timely piece by David Graeber, originally published at OccupyWallStreet.net

There has been a flurry of discussion around process in OWS of late. This can only be a good thing. Atrophy and complacency are the death of movements. Any viable experiment in freedom is pretty much going to have to constantly re-examine itself, see what’s working and what isn’t—partly because situations keep changing, partly because we’re trying to invent a culture of democracy in a society where almost no one really has any experience in democratic decision-making, and most have been told for most of their lives that it would be impossible, and partly just because it’s all an experiment, and it’s in the nature of experiments that sometimes they don’t work.

A lot of this debate has centered around the role of consensus. This is healthy too, because there seem to be a lot of misconceptions floating around about what consensus is and is supposed to be about. Some of these misconceptions are so basic, though, I must admit I find them a bit startling.

Just one telling example. Justine Tunney recently wrote a piece called “Occupiers: Stop Using Consensus!” that begins by describing it as “the idea that a group must strictly adhere to a protocol where all decisions are unanimous”—and then goes on to claim that OWS used such a process, with disastrous results. This is bizarre. OWS never used absolute consensus. On the very first meeting on August 2, 2011 we established we’d use a form of modified consensus with a fallback to a two-thirds vote. Anyway, the description is wrong even if we had been using absolute consensus (an approach nowadays rarely used in groups of over 20 or 30 people), since consensus is not a system of unanimous voting, it’s a system where any participant has the right to veto a proposal which they consider either to violate some fundamental principle, or which they object to so fundamentally that proceeding would cause them to quit the group. If we can have people who have been involved with OWS from the very beginning who still don’t know that much, but think consensus is some kind of “strict” unanimous voting system, we’ve got a major problem. How could anyone have worked with OWS that long and still remained apparently completely unaware of the basic principles under which we were supposed to be operating?

Granted, this seems to be an extreme case. But it reflects a more general confusion. And it exists on both sides of the argument: both some of the consensus’ greatest supporters, and its greatest detractors, seem to think “consensus” is a formal set of rules, analogous to Roberts’ Rules of Order, which must be strictly observed, or thrown away. This certainly was not what people who first developed formal process thought that they were doing! They saw consensus as a set of principles, a commitment to making decisions in a spirit of problem-solving, mutual respect, and above all, a refusal of coercion. It was an attempt to create processes that could work in a truly free society. None of them, even the most legalistic, were so presumptuous to claim those were the only procedures that could ever work in a free society. That would have been ridiculous.

Let me return to this point in a moment. First,

1) CONSENSUS IS “A WHITE THING” (OR A MIDDLE CLASS WHITE THING, OR AN ELITIST FORM OF OPPRESSION, ETC)

The first thing to be said about this statement is that this idea is a very American thing. Anyone I mention it to who is not from the United States tends to react to the statement with complete confusion. Even in the US, it is a relatively recent idea, and the product of a very particular set of historical circumstances.

The confusion overseas is due to the fact that almost everywhere except the US, the exact opposite is true. In the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania, one finds longstanding traditions of making decisions by consensus, and then, histories of white colonialists coming and imposing Roberts Rules of Order, majority voting, elected representatives, and the whole associated package—by force. South Asian panchayat councils did not operate by majority voting and still don’t unless there has been a direct colonial influence, or by political parties that learned their idea of democracy in colonial schools and government bodies the colonialists set up. The same is true of communal assemblies in Africa. (In China, village assemblies also operated by consensus until the ’50s when the Communist Party imposed majority voting, since Mao felt voting was more “Western” and therefore “modern.”) Almost everywhere in the Americas, indigenous communities use consensus and the white or mestizo descendants of colonialists use majority voting (insofar as they made decisions on an equal basis at all, which mostly they didn’t), and when you find an indigenous community using majority voting, it is again under the explicit influence of European ideas—almost always, along with elected officials, and formal rules of procedure obviously learned in colonial schools or borrowed from colonial regimes. Insofar as anyone is teaching anyone else to use consensus, it’s the other way around: as in the case of the Maya-speaking Zapatista communities who insisted the EZLN adopt consensus over the strong initial objections of Spanish-speaking mestizos like Marcos, or for that matter the white Australian activists I know who told me that student groups in the ’80s and ’90s had to turn to veterans of the Maoist New People’s Army to train them in consensus process—not because Maoists were supposed to believe in consensus, since Mao himself didn’t like the idea, but because NPA guerillas were mostly from rural communities in the Philippines that had always used consensus to make decisions and therefore guerilla units had adopted the same techniques spontaneously.

So where does the idea that consensus is a “white thing” actually come from? Indigenous communities in America all used consensus decision-making instead of voting. Africans brought to the Americas had been kidnapped from communities where consensus was the normal mode of making collective decisions, and violently thrust into a society where “democracy” meant voting (even though they themselves were not allowed to vote.) Meanwhile, the only significant group of white settlers who employed consensus were the Quakers—and even they had developed much of their process under the influence of Native Americans like the Haudenosaunee.

As far as I can make out the ideas comes out of political arguments that surrounded the rise of Black Nationalism in the 1960s. The very first mass movement in the United States that operated by consensus was the SNCC, or Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a primarily African-American group created in 1960 as a horizontal alternative to Martin Luther King’s (very vertical) SCLC. SNCC operated in a decentralized fashion and used consensus decision-making. It was SNCC for instance that organized the famous “freedom rides” and most of the direct action campaigns of the early ’60s. By 1964, an emerging Black Power faction was looking for an issue with which to isolate and ultimately expel the white members of the group. They seized on consensus as a kind of wedge issue—this made sense, politically, because many of those white allies were Quakers, and it was advantageous, at first, to frame the argument as one of efficiency, rather than being about more fundamental moral and political issues like non-violence. It’s important to emphasize though that the objections to consensus as inefficient and culturally alien that were put forward at the time were not put forward in the name of moving to some other form of direct democracy (i.e., majority voting), but ultimately, part of a rejection of the whole package of horizontality, consensus, and non-violence with the ultimate aim of creating top-down organizational structures that could support much greater militancy. It also corresponded to an overt attack on the place of women in the organization—an organization that had in fact been founded by the famous African-American activist Ella Baker on the principle “strong people don’t need strong leaders.” Stokely Carmichael, the most famous early Black Power advocate in SNCC, notoriously responded to a paper circulated by feminists noting that women seemed to be systematically excluded from positions in the emerging leadership structure by saying as far as he was concerned, “the only position for women in SNCC is prone.”

Within a few years SNCC began to splinter; white allies were expelled in 1965; after a brief merger with the Panthers it split again, and dissolved in the ’70s.

These tensions—challenges to horizontalism and consensus, macho leadership styles, the marginalization of women—were by no means peculiar to SNCC. Similar battles were going on in predominantly white groups: notably SDS, which ultimately ditched consensus too, and ended up splitting between Maoists and Weathermen. This is one reason the feminist movement of the early ’70s, which within the New Left began partly as a reaction to just this kind of macho posturing, embraced consensus as an antidote. (Anarchists only later adopted it from them.) But one point bears emphasizing. It’s important. None of those who challenged consensus did so in the name of a different form of direct democracy. In fact, I’m not aware of any example of an activist group that abandoned consensus and then went on to settle on some different, but equally horizontal approach to decision-making. The end result is invariably abandoning direct democracy entirely Sometimes that’s because, as here, that is explicitly what those challenging consensus want. But even when it’s not, the same thing happens, because moving from consensus sets off a dynamic that inevitably leads in a vertical direction. When consensus is abandoned, some are likely to quit in protest. These are likely to be the most dedicated to horizontal principles. Factions form. Minority factions that consistently lose key votes, and don’t have their concerns incorporated in resulting proposals, will often split off. Since they too are likely to consist of more horizontally oriented participants, the group becomes ever more vertical. Before long, those who never liked direct democracy to begin with start saying it’s what’s really to blame for all these problems, it’s inefficient, things would run far more smoothly with clearly defined leadership roles—and it only takes a vote of 51% of the remaining, much more vertical group, to ditch direct democracy entirely.

Obviously, the widespread perception of consensus process as white isn’t just be a hold-over from events that took place forty years ago. A lot of the problem is that, since the ’70s, consensus process has largely been developed among direct-action oriented groups, and, while there are certainly African-American-based groups operating in what might be called the Ella Baker tradition, most of those groups have been largely white. The reasons are pretty obvious. Those lacking white privilege face much higher levels of state repression, and (unlike, in say, Mexico, or India, where those who face the most repression are generally speaking already organized in semi-autonomous communities that operate at least partly by consensus), in the US, this limits the degree to which it’s possible to engage in creating experimental spaces outside the system. Communities face immediate such practical concerns so pressing many feel working outside the system would be irresponsible. Those who don’t often feel they have no choice but to adopt either strict, rigorous, MLK-style non-violence, or adopt revolutionary militarism like the panthers—both of which tend to lead to top down forms of organization. As a result, the culture of consensus, the style in which it’s conducted, the sensibilities surrounding it, inevitably comes to reflect the white middle-class background of so many of those who have created and shaped it, and the result is that those who do not share these sensibilities feel alienated and excluded. Obviously this is something that urgently needs to be addressed. But the problem here is not with the principles underlying consensus (that all voices have equal weight, that no one be compelled to act against their will), but with the way it’s being done—and the fact that the way it’s being done have the effect of undermining those very principles.

2) RULES VERSUS PRINCIPLES

I think the real problem here is a misunderstanding about what we’re basically arguing about. A lot of people on both sides of the debate seem to think “consensus” is a set of rules. If you follow the rules, you’re doing consensus. If you break the rules, or even do them in the wrong order it’s somehow not. I’ve seen people show up to meetings armed with elaborate diagrams or flow-charts for some kind of formal process downloaded from some web page and insist that only this is the really real thing. So it’s hardly surprising that other people put off by all this, or who see that particular form of process hit some kind of loggerhead, say “well consensus doesn’t work. Let’s try something else.”

As far as I’m concerned both sides completely miss the point.

I’ll say it again. Consensus is not a set of rules. It’s a set of principles. Actually I’d even go so far to say that if you really boil it down, it ultimately comes down to just two principles: everyone should have equal say (call this “equality”), and nobody should be compelled to do anything they really don’t want to do (call this, “freedom.”)

Basically, that’s it. The rules are just a way to try to come to decisions in the spirit of those principles. “Formal consensus process,” in is various manifestations, is just one technique people have made up, over the years, to try to come to group decisions that solve practical problems in a way that ensures no one’s perspective is ignored, and no one is forced to do anything or comply with rules they find truly obnoxious. That’s it. It’s a way to find consensus. It’s not itself “consensus.” Formal process as it exists today has been proved to work pretty well for some kinds of people, under some circumstances. It is obviously completely inappropriate in others. To take an obvious example: most small groups of friends don’t need formal process at all. Other groups might, over time, develop a completely different approach that suits their own dynamics, relations, situation, culture, sensibilities. And there’s absolutely no reason any group can’t improvise an entirely new one if that’s what they want to do. As long as they are trying to create a process that embodies those basic principles, one that gives everyone equal say and doesn’t force anyone to go along with a decision they find fundamentally objectionable, then what they come up with is a form of consensus process—no matter how it operates. After all, it a group of people all decide they want to be bound by a majority decision, well, who exactly is going to stop them? But if they all decide to be bound by a majority decision, then they have reached a consensus (in fact, an absolute consensus) that they want to operate that way. The same would be true if they all decided they wanted to be bound by the decisions of a Ouija Board, or appointed one member of the group Il Duce. Who’s going to stop them? However, for the exact same reason, the moment the majority (or Ouija board, or Il Duce) comes up with a decision to do something that some people think is absolutely outrageous and refuse to do, how exactly is anyone going to force them to go along? Threaten to shoot them? Basically, it could only happen if the majority is somehow in control of some key resource—money, space, connections, a name—and others aren’t. That is, if there is some means of coercion, subtle or otherwise. In the absence of a way to compel people to do things they do not wish to do, you’re ultimately stuck with some kind of consensus whether you like it or not.

The question then is what kind of decision making process is most likely to lead to decisions that no one will object to so fundamentally that they will march off in frustration or simply refuse to cooperate? Sometimes that will be some sort of formal consensus process. In other circumstances that’s the last thing one should try. Still, there’s a reason that 51/49% majority voting is so rarely employed in such circumstances: usually, it is the method least likely to come up with such decisions.

Think of it this way.

Imagine the city is about to destroy some cherished landmark and someone puts up posters calling for people to meet in a nearby square to organize against it. Fifty people show up. Someone says, okay, “I propose we all lay down in front of the bulldozers. Let’s hold a vote.” So 30 people raised their hands yes, and 20 people raise their hands no. Well, what possible reason is there that the 20 people who said no would somehow feel obliged to now go and lay in front of the bulldozers? These were just 50 strangers gathered in a square. Why should the opinions of a majority of a group of strangers oblige the minority to do anything—let alone something which will expose them to personal danger?

The example might seem absurd—who would hold such a vote?—but I experienced something almost exactly like it a few years ago, at an “all-anarchist” meeting called in London before a mass mobilization against the G8. About 200 people showed up at the RampArts Social Center. The facilitator, a syndicalist who disliked consensus, explained that another group had proposed a march, followed by some kind of direct action, and immediately proceeded to hold a vote on whether we, as a group, wanted to join as. Oddly, it did not seem to occur to him that, since we were not in fact a group, but just a bunch of people who had showed up at a meeting, there was no reason to think that those who did not want to join such an action would be swayed by the result. In fact he wasn’t taking a vote at all. He was taking a poll: “how many people are thinking of joining the march?” Now, there’s nothing wrong with polls; arguably, the most helpful thing he could have done under the circumstance was to ask for a show of hands so everyone could see what other people were thinking. The results might even have changed some people’s minds—”well, it looks like a lot of people are going to that march, maybe I will too” (though in this case, in fact, it didn’t.) But the facilitator thought he was actually conducting a vote on what to do, as if they were somehow bound by the decision.

How could he have been so oblivious? Well, he was a syndicalist; unions use majority vote; that’s why he preferred it. But of course, unions are membership-based groups. If you join a union, you are, by the very act of doing so, agreeing to abide by its rules, which includes, accepting majority vote decisions. Those who do not follow the group’s rules can be sanctioned, or even expelled. It simply didn’t occur to him that most unions’ voting system depended on the prior existence of membership rolls, dues, charters, and usually, legal standing—which in effect meant that either everyone who had voluntarily joined the unions was in effect consenting to the rules, or else, if membership was obligatory in a certain shop or industry owing to some prior government-enforced agreement, was ultimately enforced by the power of the state. To act the same way when people had not consented to be bound by such a decision, and then expect them to follow the dictates of the majority anyway, is just going to annoy people and make them less, not more, likely to do so.

So let’s go back to Justine’s first example,

the first time I saw a block used at Occupy was at one of the first general assemblies in August 2011. There were about a hundred people that day and in the middle of the meeting a proposal was made to join Verizon workers on the picket line as a gesture of solidarity in the hope that they might also support us in return. People loved the idea and there was quite a bit of positive energy until one woman in the crowd, busy tweeting on her phone, casually raised her hand and said, “I block that”. The moderator, quite flabbergasted asked why she blocked and she explained that showing solidarity with workers would alienate the phantasm of our right-wing supporters. Discussion then abruptly ended and the meeting went on. The truth was irrelevant, popular opinion didn’t matter, and solidarity—the most important of all leftist values—was thrown to the wind based on the whims of just one individual. Occupy had to find a new way to do outreach.

Now, I was at this meeting, and I remember the event quite vividly because at the time I was one of the participants who was more than a little bit annoyed by the block. But I also know that this is simply not what happened.

First of all, as I remarked, OWS from the beginning did not have a system where just one person could block a proposal; in the event of a block, we had the option to fall back on a 2/3 majority vote. So if everyone had really loved the proposal, the block could have been simply brushed aside. While many felt the woman in question was being ridiculous (most of us suspected the “national movement” she claimed to represent didn’t really exist), the facilitator, when she asked if anyone felt the same way, was surprised to discover a significant contingent–some, but not all, insurrectionist anarchists–did in fact object to holding the next meeting at a picket line, since they didn’t want to immediately identify the movement with the institutional left. Once it became clear it was not just one crazy person, but a significant chunk of the meeting—probably not quite a third, but close (there weren’t really a hundred people there, incidentally; more like sixty)—she asked if anyone felt strongly that we should move to a vote, and no one insisted. Was this a terrible failure of process? I must admit at the time I found it exasperating. But in retrospect I realize that had we forced a vote, the results might well have been catastrophic. Because at that point we, too were just a bunch of people who’d all showed up in a park. We weren’t a “group” at all. Nobody had committed to anything; certainly, no one had committed to going along with a majority decision.

A block is not a “no” vote. It’s a veto. Or maybe a better way to put it is that giving everyone the power to block is like giving the power to take on the role of the Supreme Court, and stop a piece of legislation that they feel to be unconstitutional, to anyone who has the courage to stand up in front of the entire group and use it. When you block you are saying a proposal violates one of the group’s agreed-on common principles. Of course, in this case we didn’t have any agreed-on common principles. In cases like that, the usual rule of thumb is that you should only block if you feel so strongly about an issue that you’d actually leave the group. In this sense I suspect the initial blocker was indeed being irresponsible (she wouldn’t have really left; and many wouldn’t have mourned her if she had.) However, others felt strongly. Had we held a vote and decided to hold our next meeting at a picket line over their objections, many of them would likely not have shown up. The anti-authoritarian contingent would have been weakened. Had that happened, there was a real chance later decisions, much more important ones, might have gone the other way. I am thinking here in particular of the crucial decision, made some weeks later, not to appoint official marshals and police liaisons for September 17. Judging by the experience of other camps, had that happened, everything might have gone differently and the entire occupation failed. In retrospect, the loss of one early opportunity to create ties with striking unionists now seems a small price to pay for heading off on a road that might have led to that. Especially since we had no trouble establishing strong ties with unions later—precisely because we had succeeded in creating a real occupation in the park.

There are a lot of other issues that one could discuss. Above all, we desperately need to have a conversation about decentralization. Another point of confusion about consensus is the idea that it’s crucial to get approval from everyone about everything, which is again stifling and absurd. Consensus only works if working groups or collectives don’t feel they need to seek constant approval from the larger group, if initiative arises from below, and people only check upwards if there’s a genuinely compelling reason not to go ahead with some initiative without clearing it with everyone else. In a weird way, the very unwieldiness of consensus meetings is helpful here, since it can discourage people from taking trivial issues to a larger group, and thus potentially waste hours of everyone’s time.

But all this will no doubt will be hashed out in the discussions that are going on (another good rule of thumb for consensus meetings: you don’t need to say everything you can think to say if you’re pretty sure someone else will make a lot of the same points anyway). Mainly what I want to say is this:

Our power is in our principles. The power of Occupy has always been that it is an experiment in human freedom. That’s what inspired so many to join us. That’s what terrified the banks and politicians, who scrambled to do everything in their power—infiltration, disruption, propaganda, terror, violence—to be able to tell the word we’d failed, that they had proved a genuinely free society is impossible, that it would necessarily collapse into chaos, squalor, antagonism, violence, and dysfunction. We cannot allow them such a victory. The only way to fight back is to renew our absolute commitment to those principles. We will never compromise on equality and freedom. We will always base our relations to each other on those principles. We will not fall back on top-down structures and forms of decision making premised on the power of coercion. But as long as we do that, and if we really believe in those principles, that necessarily means being as open and flexible as we can about pretty much everything else.

Entrevista sobre empreendedorismo e pacificação (Cirandas.net)

11 de Março de 2013, por Celso Alexandre Souza de Alvear

No início de março a jornalista Bruna Cerdeira do portal das UPPs me pediu uma entrevista sobre empreendedorismo e pacificação, devido a nosso projeto RioEcoSol. Quando liguei para saber se ela tinha recebido minha resposta, ela disse que não teve como usá-la, pois demorei muito (acho que demorei uns 3 dias pra responder) e que já tinha feito a matéria. Mas acho que minha resposta não agradou muito ela não… Pedi para ela me informar quando entrasse no ar, porém até hoje não tive resposta e não vi nada no site da upps. Assim, estou publicando minha resposta. Acho importante desmistificar um pouco essa visão acrítica que depois da pacificação aumentou o empreendedorismo nas favelas. Abaixo minhas respostas:

Repórter: Fui informada que o senhor foi o responsável por uma pesquisa sobre empreendedorismo em 4 comunidades pacificadas: Cidade de Deus, Complexo do Alemão, Manguinhos e Santa Marta.

Na verdade, não fui responsável por uma pesquisa sobre empreendedorismo em 4 comunidades pacificadas, mas sim pelo livro  resultante da pesquisa sobre economia solidária e economia popular nas 4 favelas (conhecida como RioEcoSol). Diferentemente da maior parte das abordagem de empreendedorismo, que prezam pela competição e pela individualidade dos empreendimentos (sob uma ótica capitalista de quanto mais lucro melhor), a economia solidária preza por uma relação de trabalho sem chefes e empregados (numa cooperativa todos os trabalhadores são donos do empreendimento) e numa lógica de cooperação e solidariedade entre os empreendimentos e entre esses e seu território.

De qualquer jeito, espero que possa te ajudar com sua pesquisa. Seguem minhas respostas.

1) Como a pacificação está ajudando a transformar as comunidades em ambientes favoráveis ao empreendedorismo e a fomentar o consumo dos produtos dos negócios locais pelos moradores?

O programa de pacificação ajudou na vida dos moradores e dos empreendimentos dessas favelas com a possibilidade de um transito mais livre no território e com uma diminuição de uma estigmatização negativa dessas favelas e dos empreendimentos localizados nelas (principalmente aqueles que vendem para pessoas de fora de suas favelas). Porém, com a repressão da polícia a diversas atividades culturais na favela (como no caso dos bailes funks), muitos empreendimentos relatam uma grande diminuição de suas vendas, pois essas atividades culturais geravam uma dinâmica econômica endógena. Outro problema é que muitos empreendimentos relatam que, com o programa de pacificação, muitos empreendimentos familiares vêm sofrendo coerção para se formalizarem (alguns empreendimentos populares, familiares, ou coletivos não tem capacidade para se formalizarem no momento).

Por fim, com o livre transito nesses territórios, a tendência é que os grandes empresários entrem nesses territórios acabando com todo o comércio local (assim como os de Barra/Jacarepaguá tem feito na Cidade de Deus, de botafogo e da zona sul estão fazendo no Santa Marta etc.). Existem vários exemplos de rádios comunitárias que foram fechadas depois da pacificação e de tvs comunitárias que fecharam pois as teves a cabo não tiveram interessem em colocar na grade. No alemão, também temos o exemplo de um empreendedor que comercializava internet (de forma regular e legal) antes da pacificação, mas que agora, com a entrada de velox, tem dificuldades para competir com essas grandes empresas. A pergunta seria então quais estratégias podem evitar a morte desses empreendimentos locais? Consideramos que só com políticas públicas e investimento do Estado pode-se evitar isso (e não com programas como pretendem casar a demanda desses territórios com o que o mercado pode ofertar). Uma política que deveria ser mais estimulado são os bancos comunitários e as moedas sociais. Isso porque, com a moeda social, por exemplo, você favorece a que se compre no comércio local, por conta do desconto.

2) Qual faixa etária (jovens, adultos) está se tornando a principal característica do empreendedorismo nas comunidades?

Todos os dados de nossa pesquisa são estáticos, então não podemos afirmar que é algo de agora ou uma tendência. Os dados detalhados estão no arquivo em anexo.

3) Que tipo de empreendimento mais cresce nessas 4 comunidades pacificadas e qual o perfil do empreendedor? (se tiver um dado mais geral, que englobe outras comunidades pacificadas)

Todos os dados de nossa pesquisa são estáticos, então não podemos afirmar que é algo de agora ou uma tendência. Os dados detalhados estão no arquivo em anexo.

4) Que cursos e/ou oficinas podem contribuir para a formação empresarial dos moradores com vocação para abrir seus próprios negócios?

Além de formações técnicas que possibilitem melhorar seus produtos e gerirem melhor seus empreendimentos, consideramos fundamental formações que desenvolvam a consciência crítica desses empreendedores, sob uma ótica de economia solidária, que permitam refletir seu empreendimento em relação a seu território. Sobre formação empresarial, não fizemos nenhuma pesquisa.

A Scientist’s Misguided Crusade (N.Y.Times)

OP-ED COLUMNIST

By JOE NOCERA

Published: March 4, 2013 

Last Friday, at 3:40 p.m., the State Department released its “Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” for the highly contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which Canada hopes to build to move its tar sands oil to refineries in the United States. In effect, the statement said there were no environmental impediments that would prevent President Obama from approving the pipeline.

Two hours and 20 minutes later, I received a blast e-mail containing a statement by James Hansen, the head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA — i.e., NASA’s chief climate scientist. “Keystone XL, if the public were to allow our well-oiled government to shepherd it into existence, would be the first step down the wrong road, perpetuating our addiction to dirty fossil fuels, moving to ever dirtier ones,” it began. After claiming that the carbon in the tar sands “exceeds that in all oil burned in human history,” Hansen’s statement concluded: “The public must demand that the government begin serving the public’s interest, not the fossil fuel industry’s interest.”

As a private citizen, Hansen, 71, has the same First Amendment rights as everyone else. He can publicly oppose the Keystone XL pipeline if he so chooses, just as he can be as politically active as he wants to be in the anti-Keystone movement, and even be arrested during protests, something he managed to do recently in front of the White House.

But the blast e-mail didn’t come from James Hansen, private citizen. It specifically identified Hansen as the head of the Goddard Institute, and went on to describe him as someone who “has drawn attention to the danger of passing climate tipping points, producing irreversible climate impacts that would yield a different planet from the one on which civilization developed.” All of which made me wonder whether such apocalyptic pronouncements were the sort of statements a government scientist should be making — and whether they were really helping the cause of reversing climate change.

Let’s acknowledge right here that the morphing of scientists into activists is nothing new. Linus Pauling, the great chemist, was a peace activist who pushed hard for a nuclear test ban treaty. Albert Einstein also became a public opponent of nuclear weapons.

It is also important to acknowledge that Hansen has been a crucial figure in developing modern climate science. In 2009, Eileen Claussen, now the president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told The New Yorker that Hansen was a “heroic” scientist who “faced all kinds of pressures politically.” Today, his body of work is one of the foundations upon which much climate science is built.

Yet what people hear from Hansen today is not so much his science but his broad, unscientific views on, say, the evils of oil companies. In 2008, he wrote a paper, the thesis of which was that runaway climate change would occur when carbon in the atmosphere reached 350 parts per million — a point it had already exceeded — unless it were quickly reduced. There are many climate change experts who disagree with this judgment — who believe that the 350 number is arbitrary and even meaningless. Yet an entire movement,350.org, has been built around Hansen’s line in the sand.

Meanwhile, he has a department to run. For a midlevel scientist at the Goddard Institute, what signal is Hansen sending when he takes the day off to get arrested at the White House? Do his colleagues feel unfettered in their own work? There is, in fact, enormous resentment toward Hansen inside NASA, where many officials feel that their solid, analytical work on climate science is being lost in what many of them describe as “the Hansen sideshow.” His activism is not really doing any favors for the science his own subordinates are producing.

Finally, and most important, Hansen has placed all his credibility on one battle: the fight to persuade President Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline. It is the wrong place for him to make a stand. Even in the unlikely event the pipeline is stopped, the tar sands oil will still be extracted and shipped. It might be harder to do without a pipeline, but it is already happening. And in the grand scheme, as I’ve written before, the tar sands oil is not a game changer. The oil we import from Venezuela today is dirtier than that from the tar sands. Not that the anti-pipeline activists seem to care.

What is particularly depressing is that Hansen has some genuinely important ideas, starting with placing a graduated carbon tax on fossil fuels. Such a tax would undoubtedly do far more to reduce carbon emissions and save the planet than stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.

A carbon tax might be worth getting arrested over. But by allowing himself to be distracted by Keystone, Hansen is hurting the very cause he claims to care so much about.

Indígenas ameaçam guerra para barrar hidrelétricas no rio Tapajós (Valor Econômico)

JC e-mail 4671, de 25 de Fevereiro de 2013.

Um grupo de líderes de aldeias localizadas no Pará e no norte do Mato Grosso esteve em Brasília para protestar contra ações de empresas na região

Não houve acordo. O governo teve uma pequena amostra, na semana passada, da resistência que enfrentará para levar adiante seu projeto de construção de hidrelétricas ao longo do rio Tapajós, uma região isolada da Amazônia onde vivem hoje cerca de 8 mil índios da etnia munduruku. Um grupo de líderes de aldeias localizadas no Pará e no norte do Mato Grosso, Estados que são cortados pelo rio, esteve em Brasília para protestar contra ações de empresas na região, que realizam levantamento de informações para preparar o licenciamento ambiental das usinas.

Os índios tiveram uma reunião com o ministro de Minas e Energia (MME), Edison Lobão. Na mesa, os projetos da hidrelétricas de São Luiz do Tapajós e de Jatobá, dois dos maiores projetos de geração previstos pelo governo. Lobão foi firme. Disse aos índios que o governo não vai abrir mãos das duas usinas e que eles precisam entender isso. Valter Cardeal, diretor da Eletrobras que também participou da discussão, tentou convencer os índios de que o negócio é viável e de que eles serão devidamente compensados pelos impactos. Os índios deixaram a sala.

Para o cacique Arnaldo Koba Munduruku, que lidera todos os povos indígenas da região do Tapajós, o resultado do encontro foi negativo. “Nosso povo não quer indenização, nem quer o dinheiro de usina. Nosso povo quer o rio como ele é”, disse Koba ao Valor. “Não vamos permitir que usinas ou até mesmo que estudos sejam feitos. Vamos unir nossa gente e vamos para o enfrentamento. O Tapajós não vai sofrer como sofre hoje o rio Xingu”, afirmou o líder indígena, referindo-se às complicações indígenas que envolvem o licenciamento e a construção da hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, em Altamira (PA).

Numa carta que foi entregue nas mãos do secretário-geral da Presidência, ministro Gilberto Carvalho, os índios pediram “que o governo brasileiro respeite a decisão do povo munduruku e desista de construir essas hidrelétricas”. No mesmo documento, os índios cobram agilidade na investigação da morte de Adenilson Kirixi Munduruku, que foi assassinado com três tiros em novembro do ano passado, na região do Teles Pires, rio localizado no norte do Mato Grosso e que forma o Tapajós, em sua confluência com o rio Juruena.

Os índios se negaram a assinar um documento apresentado pela Presidência, que previa compromissos a serem assumidos pelo governo, por entenderem que se tratava de uma consulta prévia já atrelada ao licenciamento das usinas do Tapajós. “Viemos até aqui para cobrar a punição pelo assassinato de nosso irmão, mas vimos que a intenção do governo era outra. Ele queria mesmo era tratar das usinas, mas não permitimos isso”, disse o líder indígena Waldelirio Manhuary Munduruku. “Não vamos nos ajoelhar. Não haverá usinas, nem estudos de usinas. Iremos até o fim nessa guerra.”

No balanço do Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC) divulgado na semana passada, o cronograma de São Luiz do Tapajós e de Jatobá estabelece o mês de setembro para conclusão dos estudos ambientais das usinas. O levantamento de informações na região começou a ser feito pela Eletrobras há pelo menos um ano e meio. Analistas ambientais e técnicos da estatal têm enfrentado resistências na região para colher informações dos moradores.

O grupo de empresas que o governo reuniu em agosto do ano passado para participar da elaboração dos estudos dá uma ideia do interesse energético que a União tem no Tapajós. Com a Eletrobras estão Cemig Geração e Transmissão, Copel Geração e Transmissão, GDF Suez Energy Latin America Participações, Endesa do Brasil e Neoenergia Investimentos.

Com as usinas de São Luiz e Jatobá, o governo quer adicionar 8.471 megawatts de potência à sua matriz energética. O custo ambiental disso seria a inundação de 1.368 quilômetros quadrados de floresta virgem, duas vezes e meia a inundação que será causada pela hidrelétrica de Belo Monte. O governo diz que é pouco e que, se forem implementadas todas as usinas previstas para a Amazônia, menos de 1% da floresta ficaria embaixo d”água.

(André Borges – Valor Econômico)

The Politics of Disimagination and the Pathologies of Power (Truth Out)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 00:00

By Henry A GirouxTruthout | News Analysis

Eye reflecitng TV(Photo: tryingmyhardest). You write in order to change the world knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that [writing] is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter even by a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” – James Baldwin

The Violence of Neoliberalism

We live in a time of deep foreboding, one that haunts any discourse about justice, democracy and the future. Not only have the points of reference that provided a sense of certainty and collective hope in the past largely evaporated, but the only referents available are increasingly supplied by a hyper-market-driven society, megacorporations and a corrupt financial service industry. The commanding economic and cultural institutions of American society have taken on what David Theo Goldberg calls a “militarizing social logic.”[1] Market discipline now regulates all aspects of social life, and the regressive economic rationality that drives it sacrifices the public good, public values and social responsibility to a tawdry consumerist dream while simultaneously creating a throwaway society of goods, resources and individuals now considered disposable.[2] This militarizing logic is also creeping into public schools and colleges with the former increasingly resembling the culture of prison and the latter opening their classrooms to the national intelligence agencies.[3] In one glaring instance of universities endorsing the basic institutions of the punishing state, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, concluded a deal to rename its football stadium after the GEO Group, a private prison corporation “whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents.” [3A] Armed guards are now joined by armed knowledge.  Corruption, commodification and repressive state apparatuses have become the central features of a predatory society in which it is presumed irrationally “that market should dominate and determine all choices and outcomes to the occlusion of any other considerations.”[4]

The political, economic, and social consequences have done more than destroy any viable vision of a good society. They undermine the modern public’s capacity to think critically, celebrate a narcissistic hyperindividualism that borders on the pathological, destroy social protections and promote a massive shift towards a punitive state that criminalizes the behavior of those bearing the hardships imposed by a survival-of-the-fittest society that takes delight in the suffering of others. How else to account for a criminal justice stacked overwhelmingly against poor minorities, a prison system in which “prisoners can be held in solitary confinement for years in small, windowless cells in which they are kept for twenty-three hours of every day,”[5] or a police state that puts handcuffs on a 5-year old and puts him in jail because he violated a dress code by wearing sneakers that were the wrong color.[6] Why does the American public put up with a society in which “the top 1 percent of households owned 35.6 percent of net wealth (net worth) and a whopping 42.4 percent of net financial assets” in 2009, while many young people today represent the “new face of a national homeless population?”[7] American society is awash in a culture of civic illiteracy, cruelty and corruption. For example, major banks such as Barclays and HSBC swindle billions from clients and increase their profit margins by laundering money for terrorist organizations, and no one goes to jail. At the same time, we have the return of debtor prisons for the poor who cannot pay something as trivial as a parking fine. President Obama arbitrarily decides that he can ignore due process and kill American citizens through drone strikes and the American public barely blinks. Civic life collapses into a war zone and yet the dominant media is upset only because it was not invited to witness the golf match between Obama and Tiger Woods.

The celebration of violence in both virtual culture and real life now feed each other. The spectacle of carnage celebrated in movies such as A Good Day to Die Hard is now matched by the deadly violence now playing out in cities such as Chicago and New Orleans. Young people are particularly vulnerable to such violence, with 561 children age 12 and under killed by firearms between 2006 and 2010.[8] Corporate power, along with its shameless lobbyists and intellectual pundits, unabashedly argue for more guns in order to feed the bottom line, even as the senseless carnage continues tragically in places like Newtown, Connecticut, Tustin, California, and other American cities. In the meantime, the mainstream media treats the insane rambling of National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre as a legitimate point of view among many voices. This is the same guy who, after the killing of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, claimed the only way to stop more tragedies was to flood the market with more guns and provide schools with more armed guards. The American public was largely silent on the issue in spite of the fact that an increase of police in schools does nothing to prevent such massacres but does increase the number of children, particularly poor black youth, who are pulled out of class, booked and arrested for trivial behavioral infractions.

At the same time, America’s obsession with violence is reinforced by a market society that is Darwinian in its pursuit of profit and personal gain at almost any cost. Within this scenario, a social and economic order has emerged that combines the attributes and values of films such as the classics Mad Max and American Psycho. Material deprivation, galloping inequality, the weakening of public supports, the elimination of viable jobs, the mindless embrace of rabid competition and consumption, and the willful destruction of the environment speak to a society in which militarized violence finds its counterpart, if not legitimating credo, in a set of atomizing and selfish values that disdain shared social bonds and any notion of the public good. In this case, American society now mimics a market-driven culture that celebrates a narcissistic hyperindividualism that radiates with a new sociopathic lack of interest in others and a strong tendency towards violence and criminal behavior. As John le Carré once stated, “America has entered into one of its periods of historical madness.”[9] While le Carré wrote this acerbic attack on American politics in 2003, I think it is fair to say that things have gotten worse, and that the United States is further plunging into madness because of a deadening form of historical and social amnesia that has taken over the country, further reproducing a mass flight from memory and social responsibility. The politics of disimagination includes, in this instance, what Mumia Abu-Jamal labeled “mentacide,” a form of historical amnesia “inflicted on Black youth by the system’s systematic campaign to eradicate and deny them their people’s revolutionary history.”[10]

America’s Plunge Into Militarized Madness

How does one account for the lack of public outcry over millions of Americans losing their homes because of corrupt banking practices and millions more becoming unemployed because of the lack of an adequate jobs program in the United States, while at the same time stories abound of colossal greed and corruption on Wall Street? [11] For example, in 2009 alone, hedge fund manager David Tepper made approximately 4 billion dollars.[12] As Michael Yates points out: “This income, spent at a rate of $10,000 a day and exclusive of any interest, would last him and his heirs 1,096 years! If we were to suppose that Mr. Tepper worked 2,000 hours in 2009 (fifty weeks at forty hours per week), he took in $2,000,000 per hour and $30,000 a minute.”[13] This juxtaposition of robber-baron power and greed is rarely mentioned in the mainstream media in conjunction with the deep suffering and misery now experienced by millions of families, workers, children, jobless public servants and young people. This is especially true of a generation of youth who have become the new precariat[14] – a zero generation relegated to zones of social and economic abandonment and marked by zero jobs, zero future, zero hope and what Zygmunt Bauman has defined as a societal condition which is more “liquid,”less defined, punitive, and, in the end, more death dealing.[15]

Narcissism and unchecked greed have morphed into more than a psychological category that points to a character flaw among a marginal few. Such registers are now symptomatic of a market-driven society in which extremes of violence, militarization, cruelty and inequality are hardly noticed and have become normalized. Avarice and narcissism are not new. What is new is the unprecedented social sanction of the ethos of greed that has emerged since the 1980s.[16] What is also new is that military force and values have become a source of pride rather than alarm in American society. Not only has the war on terror violated a host of civil liberties, it has further sanctioned a military that has assumed a central role in American society, influencing everything from markets and education to popular culture and fashion. President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex, with its pernicious alignment of the defense industry, the military and political power.[17] What he underestimated was the transition from a militarized economy to a militarized society in which the culture itself was shaped by military power, values and interests. What has become clear in contemporary America is that the organization of civil society for the production of violence is about more than producing militarized technologies and weapons; it is also about producing militarized subjects and a permanent war economy. As Aaron B. O’Connell points outs:

Our culture has militarized considerably since Eisenhower’s era, and civilians, not the armed services, have been the principal cause. From lawmakers’ constant use of “support our troops” to justify defense spending, to TV programs and video games like “NCIS,” “Homeland”and “Call of Duty,” to NBC’s shameful and unreal reality show “Stars Earn Stripes,” Americans are subjected to a daily diet of stories that valorize the military while the storytellers pursue their own opportunistic political and commercial agendas.[18]

The imaginary of war and violence informs every aspect of American society and extends from the celebration of a warrior culture in mainstream media to the use of universities to educate students in the logic of the national security state. Military deployments now protect “free trade” arrangements, provide job programs and drain revenue from public coffers. For instance, Lockheed Martin stands to gain billions of dollars in profits as Washington prepares to buy 2,443 F-35 fighter planes at a cost of $90 million each from the company. The overall cost of the project for a plane that has been called a “one trillion dollar boondoggle” is expected to cost more “than Australia’s entire GDP ($924 billion).”[19] Yet, the American government has no qualms about cutting food programs for the poor, early childhood programs for low-income students and food stamps for those who exist below the poverty line. Such misplaced priorities represent more than a military-industrial complex that is out of control. They also suggest the plunge of American society into the dark abyss of a state that is increasingly punitive, organized around the production of violence and unethical in its policies, priorities and values.

John Hinkson argues that such institutionalized violence is far from a short-lived and aberrant historical moment. In fact, he rightfully asserts that: “we have a new world economy, one crucially that lacks all substantial points of reference and is by implication nihilistic. The point is that this is not a temporary situation because of the imperatives, say, of war: it is a structural break with the past.”[20] Evidence of such a shift is obvious in the massive transfer upward in wealth and income that have not only resulted in the concentration of power in relatively few hands, but have promoted both unprecedented degrees of human suffering and hardship along with what can be called a politics of disimagination.

The Rise of the “Disimagination Machine”

Borrowing from Georges Didi-Huberman’s use of the term, “disimagination machine,” I argue that the politics of disimagination refers to images, and I would argue institutions, discourses, and other modes of representation, that undermine the capacity of individuals to bear witness to a different and critical sense of remembering, agency, ethics and collective resistance.[21] The “disimagination machine” is both a set of cultural apparatuses extending from schools and mainstream media to the new sites of screen culture, and a public pedagogy that functions primarily to undermine the ability of individuals to think critically, imagine the unimaginable, and engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue: put simply, to become critically informed citizens of the world.

Examples of the “disimagination machine” abound. A few will suffice. For instance, the Texas State Board of Education and other conservative boards of education throughout the United States are rewriting American textbooks to promote and impose on America’s public school students what Katherine Stewart calls “a Christian nationalist version of US history” in which Jesus is implored to “invade” public schools.[22] In this version of history, the term “slavery” is removed from textbooks and replaced with “Atlantic triangular trade,” the earth is 6,000 years old, and the Enlightenment is the enemy of education. Historical figures such as Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, considered to have suspect religious views, “are ruthlessly demoted or purged altogether from the study program.”[23] Currently, 46 percent of the American population believes in the creationist view of evolution and increasingly rejects scientific evidence, research and rationality as either ‘academic’ or irreligious.[24]

The rise of the Tea Party and the renewal of the culture wars have resulted in a Republican Party which is now considered the party of anti-science. Similarly, right-wing politicians, media, talk show hosts and other conservative pundits loudly and widely spread the message that a culture of questioning is antithetical to the American way of life. Moreover, this message is also promoted by conservative groups such as The American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) which has “hit the ground running in 2013, pushing ‘model bills’ mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.”[25] The climate-change-denial machine is also promoted by powerful conservative groups such as the Heartland Institute. Ignorance is never too far from repression, as was recently demonstrated in Arizona, where State Rep. Bob Thorpe, a Republican freshman Tea Party member, introduced a new bill requiring students to take a loyalty oath in order to receive a graduation diploma.[26]

The “disimagination machine” is more powerful than ever as conservative think tanks provide ample funds for training and promoting anti-public pseudo-intellectuals and religious fundamentalists while simultaneously offering policy statements and talking points to conservative media such as FOX News, Christian news networks, right-wing talk radio, and partisan social media and blogs. This ever growing information/illiteracy bubble has become a powerful force of public pedagogy in the larger culture and is responsible for not only the war on science, reason and critical thought, but also the war on women’s reproductive rights, poor minority youth, immigrants, public schooling, and any other marginalized group or institution that challenges the anti-intellectual, anti-democratic worldviews of the new extremists and the narrative supporting Christian nationalism. Liberal Democrats, of course, contribute to this “disimagination machine” through educational policies that substitute critical thinking and critical pedagogy for paralyzing pedagogies of memorization and rote learning tied to high-stakes testing in the service of creating a neoliberal, dumbed-down workforce.

As John Atcheson has pointed out, we are “witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world. We are de-evolving, hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords; by necromancy and superstition; by policies based on fiat, not facts.”[27] We are also plunging into a dark world of anti-intellectualism, civic illiteracy and a formative culture supportive of an authoritarian state. The embrace of ignorance is at the center of political life today, and a reactionary form of public pedagogy has become the most powerful element of the politics of authoritarianism. Civic illiteracy is the modus operandi for creating depoliticized subjects who believe that consumerism is the only obligation of citizenship, who privilege opinions over reasoned arguments, and who are led to believe that ignorance is a virtue rather than a political and civic liability. In any educated democracy, much of the debate that occupies political life today, extending from creationism and climate change denial to “birther” arguments, would be speedily dismissed as magical thinking, superstition and an obvious form of ignorance. Mark Slouka is right in arguing that, “Ignorance gives us a sense of community; it confers citizenship; our representatives either share it or bow down to it or risk our wrath…. Communicate intelligently in America and you’re immediately suspect.”[28] The politics and machinery of disimagination and its production of ever-deepening ignorance dominates American society because it produces, to a large degree, uninformed customers, hapless clients, depoliticized subjects and illiterate citizens incapable of holding corporate and political power accountable. At stake here is more than the dangerous concentration of economic, political and cultural power in the hands of the ultrarich, megacorporations and elite financial services industries. Also at issue is the widespread perversion of the social, critical education, the public good, and democracy itself.

Toward a Radical Imagination

Against the politics of disimagination, progressives, workers, educators, young people and others need to develop a a new language of radical reform and create new public spheres that provide the pedagogical conditions for critical thought, dialogue and thoughtful deliberation. At stake here is a notion of pedagogy that both informs the mind and creates the conditions for modes of agency that are critical, informed, engaged and socially responsible. The radical imagination can be nurtured around the merging of critique and hope, the capacity to connect private troubles with broader social considerations, and the production of alternative formative cultures that provide the precondition for political engagement and for energizing democratic movements for social change – movements willing to think beyond isolated struggles and the limits of a savage global capitalism. Stanley Aronowitz and Peter Bratsis point to such a project in their manifesto on the radical imagination. They write:

This Manifesto looks forward to the creation of a new political Left formation that can overcome fragmentation, and provide a solid basis for many-side interventions in the current economic, political and social crises that afflict people in all walks of life. The Left must once again offer to young people, people of color, women, workers, activists, intellectuals and newly-arrived immigrants places to learn how the capitalist system works in all of its forms of exploitation whether personal, political, or economic. We need to reconstruct a platform to oppose Capital. It must ask in this moment of US global hegemony what are the alternatives to its cruel power over our lives, and those of large portions of the world’s peoples. And the Left formation is needed to offer proposals on how to rebuild a militant, democratic labor movement, strengthen and transform the social movements; and, more generally, provide the opportunity to obtain a broad education that is denied to them by official institutions. We need a political formation dedicated to the proposition that radical theory and practice are inextricably linked, that knowledge without action is impotent, but action without knowledge is blind.[29]

Matters of justice, equality, and political participation are foundational to any functioning democracy, but it is important to recognize that they have to be rooted in a vibrant formative culture in which democracy is understood not just as a political and economic structure but also as a civic force enabling justice, equality and freedom to flourish. While the institutions and practices of a civil society and an aspiring democracy are essential in this project, what must also be present are the principles and modes of civic education and critical engagement that support the very foundations of democratic culture. Central to such a project is the development of a new radical imagination both through the pedagogies and projects of public intellectuals in the academy and through work that can be done in other educational sites, such as the new media. Utilizing the Internet, social media, and other elements of the digital and screen culture, public intellectuals, cultural workers, young people and others can address larger audiences and present the task of challenging diverse forms of oppression, exploitation and exclusion as part of a broader effort to create a radical democracy.

There is a need to invent modes of pedagogy that release the imagination, connect learning to social change and create social relations in which people assume responsibility for each other. Such a pedagogy is not about methods or prepping students to learn how to take tests. Nor is such an education about imposing harsh disciplinary behaviors in the service of a pedagogy of oppression. On the contrary, it is about a moral and political practice capable of enabling students and others to become more knowledgeable while creating the conditions for generating a new vision of the future in which people can recognize themselves, a vision that connects with and speaks to the desires, dreams and hopes of those who are willing to fight for a radical democracy. Americans need to develop a new understanding of civic literacy, education and engagement, one capable of developing a new conversation and a new political project about democracy, inequality, and the redistribution of wealth and power, and how such a discourse can offer the conditions for democratically inspired visions, modes of governance and policymaking. Americans need to embrace and develop modes of civic literacy, critical education and democratic social movements that view the public good as a utopian imaginary, one that harbors a trace and vision of what it means to defend old and new public spheres that offer spaces where dissent can be produced, public values asserted, dialogue made meaningful and critical thought embraced as a noble ideal.

Elements of such a utopian imaginary can be found in James Baldwin’s “Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Davis,” in which he points out that “we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal.”[30] The utopian imaginary is also on full display in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” where King states under the weight and harshness of incarceration that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere … [and asks whether we will] be extremists for the preservation of injustice – or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”[31] According to King, “we must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.”[32] We hear it in the words of former Harvard University President James B. Conant, who makes an impassioned call for “the need for the American radical – the missing political link between the past and future of this great democratic land.” [33] We hear it in the voices of young people all across the United States – the new American radicals – who are fighting for a society in which justice matters, social protections are guaranteed, equality is insured, and education becomes a right and not an entitlement. The radical imagination waits to be unleashed through social movements in which injustice is put on the run and civic literacy, economic justice, and collective struggle once again become the precondition for agency, hope and the struggle over democracy.

Endnotes

1.
David Theo Goldberg, “Mission Accomplished: Militarizing Social Logic,”in Enrique Jezik: Obstruct, destroy, conceal, ed. Cuauhtémoc Medina (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011), 183-198.

2.
See, for example, Colin Leys, Market Driven Politics (London: Verso, 2001); Randy Martin, Financialization of Daily Life (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002); Pierre Bourdieu, Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market 2. Trans. Loic Wacquant (New York: The New Press, 2003); Alfredo Saad-Filho and Deborah Johnston, Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader (London: Pluto Press, 2005); Henry A. Giroux, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism (Boulder: Paradigm, 2008); David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Gerad Dumenil and Dominique Levy, The Crisis of Neoliberalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011). Henry A. Giroux, Twilight of the Social (Boulder: Paradigm, 2013); Stuart Hall, “The March of the Neoliberals,” The Guardian, (September 12, 2011). online at:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/12/march-of-the-neoliberals

3.
See most recently  Kelly V. Vlahos, “Boots on Campus,” Anti War.com (February 26, 2013). On line: http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2013/02/25/boots-on-campus/ and David H. Price, Weaponizing Anthropology (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011).

3A. Greg Bishop, “A Company that Runs Prisons Will Have its Name on a Stadium,”New York Times (February 19, 2013). Online:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/sports/ncaafootball/a-company-that-runs-prisons-will-have-its-name-on-a-stadium.html?_r=0

4.
Ibid. Goldberg, pp. 197-198.

5.
Jonathan Schell, “Cruel America”, The Nation, (September 28, 2011) online:http://www.thenation.com/article/163690/cruel-america

6.
Suzi Parker, “Cops Nab 5-Year-Old for Wearing Wrong Color Shoes to School,” Take Part, (January 18, 2013). Online:http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/01/18/cops-nab-five-year-old-wearing-wrong-color-shoes-school

7.
Susan Saulny, “After Recession, More Young Adults Are Living on Street,” The New York Times, (December 18, 2012). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/us/since-recession-more-young-americans-are-homeless.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

8.
Suzanne Gamboa and Monika Mathur, “Guns Kill Young Children Daily In The U.S.,” Huffington Post (December 24, 2012). Online:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/24/guns-children_n_2359661.html

9.
John le Carre, “The United States of America Has Gone Mad,” CommonDreams (January 15, 2003). Online: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0115-01.htm

10.
Eric Mann Interviews Mumbia Abu Jamal, “Mumia Abu Jamal: On his biggest political influences and the political ‘mentacide’ of today’s youth.” Voices from the Frontlines Radio (April 9, 2012).

11.
See, for example, Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America (New York: Random House, 2012).

12.
Michael Yates, “The Great Inequality,” Monthly Review, (March 1, 2012).

13.
Ibid.

14.
Guy Standing, The New Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011).

15.
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).

16.
This issue is taken up brilliantly in Irving Howe, “Reaganism: The Spirit of the Times,” Selected Writings 1950-1990 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990), pp. 410-423.

17.
I take up this issue in detail in Henry A. Giroux, The University in Chains: Challenging the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex (Boulder: Paradigm, 2007).

18.
Aaron B. O’Connell, “The Permanent Militarization of America,” The New York Times, (November 4, 2012). Online:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/opinion/the-permanent-militarization-of-america.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

19.
Dominic Tierney, “The F-35: A Weapon that Costs More Than Australia,” The Atlantic (February 13, 2013). Online:http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/03/the-f-35-a-weapon-that-costs-more-than-australia/72454/

20.
John Hinkson, “The GFC Has Just Begun,”Arena Magazine 122 (March 2013), p. 51.

21.
Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, trans. Shane B. Lillis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 1-2.

22.
Katherine Stewart, “Is Texas Waging War on History?”AlterNet (May 21, 2012). Online: http://www.alternet.org/story/155515/is_texas_waging_war_on_history

23.
Ibid.

24.
See, for instance, Chris Mooney, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality (New York: Wiley, 2012).

25.
Steve Horn, “Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teachng Climate Change Denial in Schools,”Desmogblog.com (January 31, 2013). Online:www.desmogblog.com/2013/01/31/three-states-pushing-alec-bill-climate-change-denial-schools

26.
Igor Volsky, “Arizona Bill to Force Students to Take a Loyalty Oath,” AlterNet (January 26, 2013).

27.
John Atcheson, “Dark ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment,” CommonDreams (June 18, 2012). Online:https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/18-2

28.
Mark Slouka, “A Quibble,” Harper’s Magazine (February 2009).

29.
Manifesto, Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals, (N.Y.: The Fifteenth Street Manifesto Group, March 2008), pp. 4-5.

30.
James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis,” The New York Review of Books, (January 7, 1971). Online: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/jan/07/an-open-letter-to-my-sister-miss-angela-davis/?pagination=false

31.
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” (1963), in James M. Washington, The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), pp.290, 298.

32.
Ibid, 296.

33.
James B. Conant, “Wanted: American Radicals”, The Atlantic, May 1943.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

A tinta vermelha: discurso de Slavoj Žižek aos manifestantes do movimento Occupy Wall Street (Boitempo)

http://www.comunistas.spruz.com/pt/A-tinta-vermelha-discurso-de-Slavoj-Zizek-aos-manifestantes-do-Occupy-Wall-Street/blog.htm

Oct 9, 2011

Não se apaixonem por si mesmos, nem pelo momento agradável que estamos tendo aqui. Carnavais custam muito pouco – o verdadeiro teste de seu valor é o que permanece no dia seguinte, ou a maneira como nossa vida normal e cotidiana será modificada. Apaixone-se pelo trabalho duro e paciente – somos o início, não o fim. Nossa mensagem básica é: o tabu já foi rompido, não vivemos no melhor mundo possível, temos a permissão e a obrigação de pensar em alternativas. Há um longo caminho pela frente, e em pouco tempo teremos de enfrentar questões realmente difíceis – questões não sobre aquilo que não queremos, mas sobre aquilo que QUEREMOS. Qual organização social pode substituir o capitalismo vigente? De quais tipos de líderes nós precisamos? As alternativas do século XX obviamente não servem.

Então não culpe o povo e suas atitudes: o problema não é a corrupção ou a ganância, mas o sistema que nos incita a sermos corruptos. A solução não é o lema “Main Street, not Wall Street”, mas sim mudar o sistema em que a Main Street não funciona sem o Wall Street. Tenham cuidado não só com os inimigos, mas também com falsos amigos que fingem nos apoiar e já fazem de tudo para diluir nosso protesto. Da mesma maneira que compramos café sem cafeína, cerveja sem álcool e sorvete sem gordura, eles tentarão transformar isto aqui em um protesto moral inofensivo. Mas a razão de estarmos reunidos é o fato de já termos tido o bastante de um mundo onde reciclar latas de Coca-Cola, dar alguns dólares para a caridade ou comprar um cappuccino da Starbucks que tem 1% da renda revertida para problemas do Terceiro Mundo é o suficiente para nos fazer sentir bem. Depois de terceirizar o trabalho, depois de terceirizar a tortura, depois que as agências matrimoniais começaram a terceirizar até nossos encontros, é que percebemos que, há muito tempo, também permitimos que nossos engajamentos políticos sejam terceirizados – mas agora nós os queremos de volta.

Dirão que somos “não americanos”. Mas quando fundamentalistas conservadores nos disserem que os Estados Unidos são uma nação cristã, lembrem-se do que é o Cristianismo: o Espírito Santo, a comunidade livre e igualitária de fiéis unidos pelo amor. Nós, aqui, somos o Espírito Santo, enquanto em Wall Street eles são pagãos que adoram falsos ídolos.

Dirão que somos violentos, que nossa linguagem é violenta, referindo-se à ocupação e assim por diante. Sim, somos violentos, mas somente no mesmo sentido em que Mahatma Gandhi foi violento. Somos violentos porque queremos dar um basta no modo como as coisas andam – mas o que significa essa violência puramente simbólica quando comparada à violência necessária para sustentar o funcionamento constante do sistema capitalista global?

Seremos chamados de perdedores – mas os verdadeiros perdedores não estariam lá em Wall Street, os que se safaram com a ajuda de centenas de bilhões do nosso dinheiro? Vocês são chamados de socialistas, mas nos Estados Unidos já existe o socialismo para os ricos. Eles dirão que vocês não respeitam a propriedade privada, mas as especulações de Wall Street que levaram à queda de 2008 foram mais responsáveis pela extinção de propriedades privadas obtidas a duras penas do que se estivéssemos destruindo-as agora, dia e noite – pense nas centenas de casas hipotecadas…

Nós não somos comunistas, se o comunismo significa o sistema que merecidamente entrou em colapso em 1990 – e lembrem-se de que os comunistas que ainda detêm o poder atualmente governam o mais implacável dos capitalismos (na China). O sucesso do capitalismo chinês liderado pelo comunismo é um sinal abominável de que o casamento entre o capitalismo e a democracia está próximo do divórcio. Nós somos comunistas em um sentido apenas: nós nos importamos com os bens comuns – os da natureza, do conhecimento – que estão ameaçados pelo sistema.

Eles dirão que vocês estão sonhando, mas os verdadeiros sonhadores são os que pensam que as coisas podem continuar sendo o que são por um tempo indefinido, assim como ocorre com as mudanças cosméticas. Nós não estamos sonhando; nós acordamos de um sonho que está se transformando em pesadelo. Não estamos destruindo nada; somos apenas testemunhas de como o sistema está gradualmente destruindo a si próprio. Todos nós conhecemos a cena clássica dos desenhos animados: o gato chega à beira do precipício e continua caminhando, ignorando o fato de que não há chão sob suas patas; ele só começa a cair quando olha para baixo e vê o abismo. O que estamos fazendo é simplesmente levar os que estão no poder a olhar para baixo…

Então, a mudança é realmente possível? Hoje, o possível e o impossível são dispostos de maneira estranha. Nos domínios da liberdade pessoal e da tecnologia científica, o impossível está se tornando cada vez mais possível (ou pelo menos é o que nos dizem): “nada é impossível”, podemos ter sexo em suas mais perversas variações; arquivos inteiros de músicas, filmes e seriados de TV estão disponíveis para download; a viagem espacial está à venda para quem tiver dinheiro; podemos melhorar nossas habilidades físicas e psíquicas por meio de intervenções no genoma, e até mesmo realizar o sonho tecnognóstico de atingir a imortalidade transformando nossa identidade em um programa de computador. Por outro lado, no domínio das relações econômicas e sociais, somos bombardeados o tempo todo por um discurso do “você não pode” se envolver em atos políticos coletivos (que necessariamente terminam no terror totalitário), ou aderir ao antigo Estado de bem-estar social (ele nos transforma em não competitivos e leva à crise econômica), ou se isolar do mercado global etc. Quando medidas de austeridade são impostas, dizem-nos repetidas vezes que se trata apenas do que tem de ser feito. Quem sabe não chegou a hora de inverter as coordenadas do que é possível e impossível? Quem sabe não podemos ter mais solidariedade e assistência médica, já que não somos imortais?

Em meados de abril de 2011, a mídia revelou que o governo chinês havia proibido a exibição, em cinemas e na TV, de filmes que falassem de viagens no tempo e histórias paralelas, argumentando que elas trazem frivolidade para questões históricas sérias – até mesmo a fuga fictícia para uma realidade alternativa é considerada perigosa demais. Nós, do mundo Ocidental liberal, não precisamos de uma proibição tão explícita: a ideologia exerce poder material suficiente para evitar que narrativas históricas alternativas sejam interpretadas com o mínimo de seriedade. Para nós é fácil imaginar o fim do mundo – vide os inúmeros filmes apocalípticos –, mas não o fim do capitalismo.

Em uma velha piada da antiga República Democrática Alemã, um trabalhador alemão consegue um emprego na Sibéria; sabendo que todas as suas correspondências serão lidas pelos censores, ele diz para os amigos: “Vamos combinar um código: se vocês receberem uma carta minha escrita com tinta azul, ela é verdadeira; se a tinta for vermelha, é falsa”. Depois de um mês, os amigos receberam a primeira carta, escrita em azul: “Tudo é uma maravilha por aqui: os estoques estão cheios, a comida é abundante, os apartamentos são amplos e aquecidos, os cinemas exibem filmes ocidentais, há mulheres lindas prontas para um romance – a única coisa que não temos é tinta vermelha.” E essa situação, não é a mesma que vivemos até hoje? Temos toda a liberdade que desejamos – a única coisa que falta é a “tinta vermelha”: nós nos “sentimos livres” porque somos desprovidos da linguagem para articular nossa falta de liberdade. O que a falta de tinta vermelha significa é que, hoje, todos os principais termos que usamos para designar o conflito atual – “guerra ao terror”, “democracia e liberdade”, “direitos humanos” etc. etc. – são termos FALSOS que mistificam nossa percepção da situação em vez de permitir que pensemos nela. Você, que está aqui presente, está dando a todos nós tinta vermelha.

*   *   *

Slavoj Žižek speaks at Occupy Wall Street: Transcript (Impose)

BY SARAHANA » Don’t fall in love with yourselves

Posted on October 10, 2011

slavoj zizek speaking at occupy wall street

Yesterday at noon, this blog’s trusty mentor, the Slovenian philosopher-scholar Slavoj Žižek, spoke at Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street protests are being held. Here is a full transcript of his speech. Update: Transcript of the Q&A portion of the talk has been posted as well.

Made some corrections, Oct 25, 6:30PM EST

— TRANSCRIPT —

They are saying we are all losers, but the true losers are down there on Wall Street. They were bailed out by billions of our money. We are called socialists, but here there is always socialism for the rich. They say we don’t respect private property, but in the 2008 financial crash-down more hard-earned private property was destroyed than if all of us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.

We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scene from cartoons. The cat reaches a precipice but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath this ground. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street, “Hey, look down!”

In mid-April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV, films, and novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. These people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dreaming. Here, we don’t need a prohibition because the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism.

So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful, old joke from Communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom— war on terror and so on—falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.

There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember, carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beautiful.” Remember that our basic message is “We are allowed to think about alternatives.” If the taboo is broken, we do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?

Remember. The problem is not corruption or greed. The problem is the system. It forces you to be corrupt. Beware not only of the enemies, but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process. In the same way you get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice cream without fat, they will try to make this into a harmless, moral protest. A decaffienated protest. But the reason we are here is that we have had enough of a world where, to recycle Coke cans, to give a couple of dollars for charity, or to buy a Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes to third world starving children is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after marriage agencies are now outsourcing our love life, we can see that for a long time, we allow our political engagement also to be outsourced. We want it back.

We are not Communists if Communism means a system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today those Communists are the most efficient, ruthless Capitalists. In China today, we have Capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American Capitalism, but doesn’t need democracy. Which means when you criticize Capitalism, don’t allow yourself to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and Capitalism is over. The change is possible.

What do we perceive today as possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in technology and sexuality, everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever, but look at the field of society and economy. There, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for health care, they tell you, “Impossible, this means totalitarian state.” There’s something wrong in the world, where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for healthcare. Maybe we need to set our priorities straight here. We don’t want higher standard of living. We want a better standard of living. The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature. The commons of privatized by intellectual property. The commons of biogenetics. For this, and only for this, we should fight.

Communism failed absolutely, but the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not American here. But the conservatives fundamentalists who claim they really are American have to be reminded of something: What is Christianity? It’s the holy spirit. What is the holy spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other, and who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense, the holy spirit is here now. And down there on Wall Street, there are pagans who are worshipping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience. The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nostaligically remembering “What a nice time we had here.” Promise yourselves that this will not be the case. We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire. Thank you very much.

— END OF TRANSCRIPT —

Here’s Astra Taylor, who made the documentaries Zizek! and An Examined Life. (She also happens to be married to Jeff Mangum, who performed earlier in the week for the protestors.)

Free training included how to undo a handcuff:

– See more at: http://www.imposemagazine.com/bytes/slavoj-zizek-at-occupy-wall-street-transcript#sthash.XOa1Suzj.dpuf

O futuro dos índios: entrevista com Manuela Carneiro da Cunha (O Globo)

16.02.2013 – Blog Prosa

Por Guilherme Freitas

Muitas vezes vistos como “atrasados” ou como entraves à expansão econômica, os povos indígenas apontam, com seus saberes e seu modo de se relacionar com o meio ambiente, um caminho alternativo para o Brasil, diz a antropóloga Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, que lança coletânea de ensaios sobre o tema. Em “Índios no Brasil: História, direitos e cidadania” (Companhia das Letras), ela reúne trabalhos das últimas três décadas sobre temas como a demarcação de terras e as mudanças na Constituição. Nesta entrevista, a professora da Universidade de Chicago, convidada pelo governo federal para desenvolver um estudo sobre a relação entre os saberes tradicionais e as ciências, critica o ‘desenvolvimentismo acelerado’ da gestão Dilma e defende ‘um novo pacto’ da sociedade com as populações indígenas.

“Índios no Brasil” é uma compilação de textos publicados desde o início da década de 1980. Ao longo desse período, quais foram as principais mudanças no debate público brasileiro sobre as populações indígenas?

Eu colocaria como marco inicial o ano de 1978, ano em que, em plena ditadura, houve uma mobilização sem precedentes em favor dos direitos dos índios. Na época, o Ministro do Interior, a pretexto de emancipar índios de qualquer tutela, queria “emancipar” as terras indígenas e colocá-las no mercado. O verdadeiro debate centrava-se no direito dos índios às suas terras, um princípio que vigorou desde a Colônia. Nesse direito não se mexia. Mas desde a Lei das Terras de 1850 pelo menos, o expediente foi o mesmo: afirmava-se que os índios estavam “confundidos com a massa da população” e distribuía-se suas terras. Em 1978, tentou-se repetir essa mistificação. A sociedade civil, na época impedida de se manifestar em assuntos políticos, desaguou seu protesto na causa indígena. Acho que o avanço muito significativo das demarcações desde essa época teve um impulso decisivo nessa mobilização popular. Outro marco foi a Assembleia Constituinte, dez anos mais tarde. O direito às terras tendo sido novamente proclamado e especificado, o debate transferiu-se para o que se podia e não se podia fazer nas terras indígenas, e dois temas dominaram esse debate: mineração e hidrelétricas. Muito significativa foi a defesa feita pela Coordenação Nacional dos Geólogos de que não se minerasse em áreas indígenas, que deveriam ficar como uma reserva mineral para o país. Desde essa época, as mudanças radicais dos meios de comunicação disseminaram para um público muito amplo controvérsias como a que envolve por exemplo Belo Monte e hidrelétricas no Tapajós, e situações dramáticas como as dos awá no Maranhão ou dos kaiowá no Mato Grosso do Sul. Creio que a maior informação da sociedade civil mudou a qualidade dos debates. Um tema novo de debates surgiu com a Convenção da Biodiversidade, em 1992, o dos direitos intelectuais dos povos indígenas sobre seus conhecimentos. E finalmente, com a Convenção 169 da Organização Internacional do Trabalho (OIT), está se debatendo a forma de colocar em prática o direito dos povos indígenas a serem consultados sobre projetos que os afetam.

Você observa que a população indígena no país aumentou de 250 mil pessoas, em 1993, para 897 mil, segundo o Censo de 2010. A que pode ser atribuído esse aumento? As políticas de demarcação de terras e promoção dos direitos indígenas têm correspondido a ele?

O grande aumento da população indígena se deu no período de 1991 a 2000. Entre 2000 e 2010, o aumento foi proporcionalmente menor do que na população em geral. Só uma parcela desse crescimento pode ser atribuído a uma melhora na mortalidade infantil e na fertilidade. O que realmente mudou é que ser índio deixou de ser uma identidade da qual se tem vergonha. Índios que moram nas cidades, em Manaus por exemplo, passaram a se declarar como tais. E comunidades indígenas, sobretudo no Nordeste, reemergiram. Mas, contrariamente ao que se pode imaginar (e se tenta fazer crer), essas etnias reemergentes não têm reclamos de terras de áreas significativas.

Como avalia a atuação do governo da presidente Dilma Rousseff em relação às populações indígenas, diante das críticas provocadas pela Portaria 303 (que limitaria o usufruto das terras indígenas demarcadas) e o novo Código Florestal, por exemplo?

O Executivo tem várias faces: seu programa de redistribuição de renda está sendo um sucesso; mas seu desenvolvimentismo acelerado atropela outros valores básicos. Além disso, o agronegócio só tem aumentado seu poder político, o que desembocou no decepcionante resultado do aggiornamento do Código Florestal em 2012. O governo tentou se colocar como árbitro, mas ficou refém de um setor particularmente míope do agronegócio, aquele que não mede as consequências do desmatamento e da destruição dos rios. A Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência e a Academia Brasileira de Ciências, em vários estudos enviados ao Congresso e publicados, apresentaram as conclusões e recomendações dos cientistas. Foram ignoradas. Agora acaba de sair um estudo do Imazon (Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia) que reitera e quantifica uma das recomendações centrais desses estudos. Para atender à demanda crescente de alimentos, a solução não é ocupar novas terras, e sim aumentar a produtividade, particularmente na pecuária, responsável pela ocupação de novos desmatamentos. O governo tem um papel fundamental a desempenhar: cabe a ele estabelecer segurança, regularizando o caos que hoje reina na titulação das terras no Brasil. Basta ver que, como se noticiou há dias, as terras tituladas no Brasil ultrapassam as terras que realmente existem em área equivalente a mais de dois estados de São Paulo. Um cadastro confiável é perfeitamente possível, é preciso vontade política para alcançá-lo. Você perguntou especificamente pela Portaria 303/2012, da Advocacia Geral da União, que pretende abusivamente estender a todas as situações de terras indígenas as restrições decididas pelo STF para o caso complicadíssimo de Raposa Serra do Sol em Roraima. Ela é mais um sintoma de tendências contraditórias dentro do Executivo, que, por um lado, conseguiu “desintrusar” pacificamente uma área xavante, mas, por outro lado, admite uma portaria como essa. Ela é um absurdo, e não é à toa que foi colocada em banho-maria pelo governo. Foi suspensa, mas não cancelada… A própria Associação Nacional dos Advogados da União pediu em setembro sua revogação e caracterizou sua orientação como “flagrantemente inconstitucional”. Essa portaria também fere pelo menos quatro artigos da Convenção 169 da OIT, da qual o Brasil é signatário.

Em um ensaio da década de 1990, você já falava sobre a disputa por recursos minerais e hídricos em áreas indígenas. Acredita que essas disputas estão mais acirradas hoje?

Já na Constituinte, em 1988, esses dois temas foram centrais. Chegou-se a um compromisso, que estipulava condições para acesso a esses recursos: ouvir as comunidades afetadas e autorização do Congresso Nacional (artigo 231 parágrafo 3). A disputa não mudou, mas o ambiente político atual favorece uma nova ofensiva da parte dos que nunca se conformaram. E assim surgem novas investidas no Congresso: projetos de lei para usurpar do Executivo a responsabilidade da demarcação das terras e para abrir as áreas indígenas à mineração. Por sua vez, Belo Monte foi enfiado goela abaixo de modo autoritário: o Executivo atropelou a consulta prévia, livre e informada a que os índios têm direito, e não foram cumpridas condicionantes essenciais acordadas, por exemplo no tocante ao atendimento à saúde indígena.

No ensaio sobre a política indigenista do século XIX, você mostra como naquele momento se consolidou uma visão dos índios como povos “primitivos” que teriam por destino serem incorporados ao “progresso” ocidental. Até que ponto essa ideia persiste hoje?

Essa visão está cada vez mais obsoleta: a noção triunfalista de um progresso medido por indicadores como o PIB é hoje seriamente criticada. Valores como sustentabilidade ambiental, justiça social, desenvolvimento humano e diversidade são parte agora do modo de avaliar o verdadeiro progresso de um país. Por outra parte, no século XIX, positivistas e evolucionistas sociais puseram em voga a ideia de uma marcha inexorável da História: qualquer que fosse a política, os índios estariam fadados ao desaparecimento, quando não simplesmente físico, pelo menos social. Essa também é uma falácia que a História ela própria desmistificou: os índios, felizmente, estão aqui para ficar. A História não se faz por si, são pessoas que fazem a História, e seus atos têm consequências. Usa esse entulho ideológico quem carece de argumentos.

No ensaio “O futuro da questão indígena”, você defende a necessidade de “um novo pacto com as populações indígenas” e aponta a “sociodiversidade” como “condição de sobrevivência” para o mundo. Como define “sociodiversidade”, e o que seria esse “novo pacto”?

O Brasil não é só megadiverso pela sua grande diversidade de espécies, ele também é megadiverso pelas sociedades distintas que abriga. Segundo o censo do IBGE de 2010, há 305 etnias indígenas no Brasil, que falam 274 línguas. Essa sociodiversidade é, segundo Lévi-Strauss, um capital inestimável de imaginação sociológica e uma fonte de conhecimento. Um mundo sem diversidade é um mundo morto. E quanto ao pacto com as populações indígenas que evoco, trata-se do seguinte: os índios que conservaram a floresta e a biodiversidade até agora (basta ver como o Parque Nacional do Xingu é uma ilha verde num mar de devastação) estão sujeitos a grandes pressões de madeireiras e de vários outros agentes econômicos. Nada garante, se as condições não mudarem, que possam continuar nesse rumo. Para o Brasil, que precisa com urgência de um programa de conservação da floresta em pé, um pacto com as populações indígenas para esse fim seria essencial.

Na Rio+20, você participou de um painel sobre as contribuições dos saberes indígenas para as ciências. O que pode ser feito para possibilitar esse diálogo?

O conhecimento das diversas sociedades indígenas pode continuar a trazer contribuições da maior relevância para temas como previsão e adaptação a mudanças climáticas, conservação da biodiversidade, ecologia, substâncias com atividade biológica, substâncias com possíveis usos industriais e muitos outros. Isso já está reconhecido e posto em prática no âmbito da Convenção pela Diversidade Biológica e no Painel do Clima, por exemplo. Poder-se-ia pensar que bastaria recolher essas informações e usá-las na nossa ciência quando úteis. Mas há outra dimensão importante desses saberes, que é seu modo específico de produzir conhecimento. Essa diversidade nos permite pensar diferentemente, sair dos limites de nossos axiomas. Não se trata, como fazem certos movimentos new age, de atribuir um valor superior aos conhecimentos tradicionais; não se trata de aderir a eles. Tampouco se trata de assimilá-los e diluí-los na ciência acadêmica. A importância de modos de conhecimento diferentes é nos fazer perceber que se pode pensar de outro modo. Foi abandonando um único postulado de Euclides que Lobatchevski e Bolayi viram de modo inteiramente novo a geometria. Por isso o diálogo dos diferentes sistemas de conhecimentos entre si e com a ciência deve preservar a autonomia de cada qual. O Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação, via CNPq, encomendou-me um estudo para lançar as bases de um novo diálogo entre ciência e sistemas de conhecimentos tradicionais. Não é simples. Mas desde já sabemos que isso implicará formas institucionais que empoderem os vários parceiros. Um projeto-piloto que está sendo planejado nesse contexto responde a uma das diretrizes da FAO (Organização das Nações Unidas para Agricultura e Alimentação) que faz parte do Tratado sobre Recursos Fitogenéticos. Trata-se da conservação da diversidade agrícola de cultivares de mandioca, sob a condução de populações indígenas do Rio Negro. A escolha não é por acaso. As agricultoras do médio e do alto Rio Negro conseguiram manter, criar e acumular centenas de variedades de mandioca.

Como interpreta mobilizações populares recentes em torno de causas indígenas, como aconteceu em favor dos guarani kaiowá?

Acho salutares essas mobilizações que, como já disse, são fruto de uma nova era na informação. Diante do recuo político nas questões ambiental, indígena e quilombola, há vozes que se levantam com indignação. A situação trágica dos guarani kaiowá, pontuada por suicídios de jovens, é emblemática do absurdo que seria a aplicação da Portaria 303/2012. Uma ampliação mais do que justa de suas terras — já que as que lhes garantiram não correspondem ao que determina o artigo 231 da Constituição — levaria a colocar em risco as poucas terras que têm. Os suicídios kaiowá atingem cada um de nós: somos todos kaiowá.

Brazil’s ‘Poor’ Middle Class, And The Poor That No Longer Serve Them (Forbes)

By Kenneth Rapoza – 1/22/2013 @ 11:41AM |8.546 views

Let me preface this by saying that this is not a jab at Brazil. This is actually a story that shows how Brazil’s rising tide is lifting all boats. The poor have more opportunities than ever before. They are earning more money (for some, how’s 56 percent sound?). And for the middle class that used to depend on them to wash their dishes and make their lunch, those days of luxury are over.

Bemvindo a vida Americana, meu bem!

*       *       *

My “house.” Edificio Bretagne. How I miss it. Right in the fold, top floor, all three windows were mine all mine. And a maid cleaned them for me.

Ask an expat what they love most about living overseas and they will inevitably tell you this: the taxes and the maid service. That’s right. Maids. And not for the rich, mind you, but for middle-of-the-road, beer-from-a-can drinking, 2.5 GPA achieving riff-raff professionals. Whether they’re living in Dubai, Mumbai or Brazil, they all love their maids. It’s a luxury they cannot afford back home.

I lived in Brazil for 10 years. I left in March 2010. Maids cooked my lunch, always a three courser. Rice. Beans, sometimes black, sometimes Carioca-style, which meant brown. Meat. Salad. Desert. Fresh squeezed orange juice or Swiss lemonade. Passion fruit. Guarana. Then, she did my dishes. Afterwards, she washed my clothes and pressed them.

As time went on, maintaining a daily maid became too costly. I cut back. I had a maid just twice a week. She cleaned. She did laundry. I cooked. I paid her R$80 a day, or R$140 a week, which was around $78 for two full days of work. Her name was Hélia. Me and my girls loved Hélia. I hope she is doing well. Anyway…

We lived in this beautiful building pictured here in São Paulo, in the Higienopolis neighborhood. A colleague of mine from one of the big U.S. newswires lived there, too. Our children hung out together a lot, especially in the swimming pool, which was surrounded by palm trees that housed these small green parrots that blended in with the palm leaves. He too had a maid, only his maid was there every day and sometimes on the weekends. A female columnist from Folha de São Paulo newspaper lived in the building, too. She also had a daughter. Only her daughter had a maid and a nanny, seven days a week. This was an early 40-something year old newspaper columnist, not a rock star.

Like me, my colleague was an American living a life we could never afford in the States. Ever. We were both scum sucking reporters waiting for the ax to fall on our necks. He, a little richer and hopeful; me, a little younger and angrier. One thing we all appreciated was being able to afford the extra help.

My swimming pool. We even had a barman. Though he was a grump. Me, my daughter and the daughter of an American reporter colleague called him Mr. Grumpy Pumpkin Man during our Halloween parties. Ahhh, the life…

Over the last 8 years, the income of Brazil’s domestic workers has risen by an estimated 56 percent, according to the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics, IBGE. It’s a hard number to quantify because every single maid in Brazil is paid under the table in cash. By comparison, the average income in general rose by 29 percent. Nationwide, the average salary paid to domestic servants runs around R$721 a month, or around $360. However, that figure is double or triple in big cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The income of Brazilian maids has risen by an average of 6.7 percent in just one year in real terms. Adding to the price tag is a steady decline in the number of domestic workers in the market.

Quite frankly, Brazil’s economy is getting richer. The poor have better things to do than clean up after middle class teenagers who still haven’t learned to fold and put away their own  T-shirts.

Short supply, high prices. Many Brazilians cannot afford the help. Welcome to your American Dream, Brazil!

Carol Campos is an administrator at Banco do Brasil in São Paulo. It’s a nice, full-time middle class gig. She lives in Higienopolis. I’ve been to her house many times. Our kids are friends. They went to school together. She used to have a maid every day when her first child was born, then down to a couple days a week and now — because of the rising cost of living — she tells me, “We are now down to just one day per week. It’s too expensive.” She pays her maid R$90 ($45) a day.

A host of new labor laws designed to protect informal workers drove up costs. The government wanted the working poor, most of them women, to have enough money to save for retirement and, of course, healthcare. That started driving up prices around the year 2000.

“About four years ago, when me and my sister were in college and working, my family all decided to just hire a ‘diarista’,” says , Leoberto José Preuss, a systems analyst at Brazilian IT firm TOTVS in Joinville, Santa Catarina, one of the more middle class states in the country.  Back then he says, a diarista, a maid that just comes once in a while and charges a flat day rate, charged just R$60 a day to cook and clean a house. “You’re lucky if you find anyone for less than 90,” he says. “We have someone come three days a week. It’s difficult to find anyone available these days.”

It will get harder. And as time goes on, it will definitely get more costly. So costly, in fact, that the majority of middle class Brazilians will no longer have a maid.

The government recently required full time domestic workers to receive the coveted “thirteenth salary”, a whole month’s work of pay in December, plus workman’s comp through the FGTS tax.  Brazilian maid service is becoming professionalized, and that has pulled the rug out from the middle class that has come to depend on them to keep their house in order.

A poll from Folha de São Paulo this month asked respondents if they would be able to afford a maid given the new labor laws. Out of the 1,177 on line respondents, 44 percent said no, 26 percent said they’d have to cut back on hours. So a total 70 percent are starting to get used to the fact that the good ole “Banana Republic” days are gone.

*       *       *

Sarah Castro, 28, is also from Santa Catarina. She is one of the Brazilian middle class that grew up with a live-in maid, her very own Mary Poppins. For Americans, this is an imperial wet dream.  All that’s missing is Tinkerbell. In the dream, you’re from the rich nation before the days of labor rights, and your family can afford to hire your neighbors wife to clean the house, while he cleans your chimney.  Those days are gone in London. They are ending in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, where Sarah was raised and now works as a reporter.

“Our maid was named Nice. She lived with us and was part of our family. I miss her. There was no one like her,” she says. “Nowadays, we only have a maid once a week.  A good maid is hard to find.”

Let’s rephrase that. Barring a dystopian future, by the time Sarah is in her 40s, an affordable maid will be impossible to find.

I was in my early 20s when I first came to Brazil in 1995, I lived with a family in a city called Londrina, population around 500,000.  It’s in the center of Parana state, an agribusiness boom town.  The father was a professor at the local university.  The mother owned a small business, operating a clothing company out of what was once their garage. They had one weaving machine that made fabric 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can still hear that thing moving back and force, swish-swoosh; swish-swoosh, swish-swoosh. They were Brazil’s middle class. By my standards, they were rich because six days a week they had a maid who cooked and cleaned for them so both parents could work. The maid served them. She picked up after the four children. She cleaned up the dog’s mess in the yard.

Here’s the rub, I was raised by a maid. My mother didn’t graduate from high school. But she grew up in America. A maid that didn’t go to school in Brazil doesn’t live like one that grew up in the U.S.  The Brazilians couldn’t believe that a maid’s son had a basketball pole in his yard, an above ground pool and that my family had three cars. Their car ran on ethanol, and that thing was a piece of junk; a jalopy is more like it. Damn, meu filho; I had aCamaro Berlinetta!

Inequality in Brazil allowed the middle class to enjoy a life of luxury their American peers envied.

I never saw a messy Brazilian house in the decade I lived there. Everything was in its place.  Two-income households in São Paulo, as busy as a two-income household in New York, never had a dish in the sink, an unmade bed, or a laundry basket overflowing onto the bathroom floor.

Embrace the mess, Brazil. (And pick up those socks!)

“I have a maid come once every 15 days and that’s it,” says Keli Bergamo, a lawyer in Parana state. “The cooking, the clothes washing, I have to do myself. But I live alone. I know a lot of people who are cutting back. Brazilians will get crafty with the labor laws, though,” she says, adding that many wealthy Brazilians will avoid the full time labor rules by getting rid of full time maids and hiring part-timers in their place.

“These new laws make it more costly to maintain domestic help in Brazil,” she says. “A lot of people are going to give up this comfort and will have to divide the labor between the members of their household from now on.”

Criminalizing Dissent and Punishing Occupy Protesters: Introduction to Henry Giroux’s “Youth in Revolt” (Truth Out)

Thursday, 31 January 2013 06:22By Henry A GirouxTruthout | Book Excerpt

Military-style command and control systems are now be­ing established to support “zero tolerance” policing and urban surveillance practices designed to exclude failed consumers or undesirable persons from the new enclaves of urban consumption and leisure.

—Stephen Graham

Youth in Revolt.(Image: Paradigm Publishers)

Young people are demonstrating all over the world against a variety of issues ranging from economic injustice and massive inequality to drastic cuts in education and public services.1 In the fall of 2011, on the tenth anniversary of September 11, as the United States revisited the tragic loss and celebrated the courage displayed on that torturous day, another kind of commemoration took place. The Occupy movement shone out like flame in the darkness—a beacon of the irrepressible spirit of democracy and a humane desire for justice. Unfortunately, the peacefully organized protests across America have often been met with derogatory commentaries in the mainstream media and, increasingly, state-sanctioned violence. The war against society has become a war against youthful protesters and in­creasingly bears a striking resemblance to the violence waged against Occupy movement protesters and the violence associ­ated with the contemporary war zone.2 Missing from both the dominant media and state and national politics is an attempt to critically engage the issues the protesters are raising, not to mention any attempt to dialogue with them over their strate­gies, tactics, and political concerns. That many young people have become “a new class of stateless individuals … cast into a threatening and faceless mass whose identities collapse into the language of debt, survival, and disposability” appears to have escaped the attention of the mainstream media.3 Matters of justice, human dignity, and social responsibility have given way to a double gesture that seeks to undercut democratic public spheres through the criminalization of dissent while also resorting to crude and violent forms of punishment as the only mediating tools to use with young people who are at­tempting to open a new conversation about politics, inequality, and social justice.

In the United States, the state monopoly on the use of violence has intensified since the 1980s and in the process has been di­rected disproportionately against young people, poor minorities, immigrants, women, and the elderly. Guided by the notion that unregulated, market-driven values and relations should shape every domain of human life, a business model of governance has eviscerated any viable notion of social responsibility and conscience, thereby furthering the dismissal of social problems and expanding cutbacks in basic social services.4 The examples are endless, but one in particular stands out. In March 2012, Texas governor Rick Perry7joined eight other states in passing legislation to ban funding for clinics, including Planned Parent­hood facilities, affiliated with abortion services for women.5 As a result, the federal government has stopped funding the Texas Women’s Health Program. Unfortunately, this attempt by Perry to punish all women because of his antiabortion stance means that more than 130,000 women in Texas will not have access to vital services ranging from mammograms to health care for their children. There is more at work here than a resurgent war on women and their children or “an insane bout of mass misogyny.”8 There is also a deep-seated religious and political authoritarianism that has become one of the fundamental pil­lars of what I call a neoliberal culture of cruelty. As the welfare state is hollowed out. a culture of compassion is replaced by a culture of violence, cruelty, waste, and disposability.7Banks, hedge funds, and finance capital as the contemporary registers of class power have a new visibility, and their spokespersons are unabashedly blunt in supporting a corporate culture in which “ruthlessness is prized and money is the ultimate measure.”Collective insurance policies and social protections have given way to the forces of economic deregulation, the transformation of the welfare state into punitive workfare programs, the privatiza­tion of public goods, and an appeal to individual culpability as a substitute for civic responsibility. At the same time, violence—or what Anne-Marie Cusac calls “American punishment”—travels from our prisons and schools to various aspects of our daily lives, “becoming omnipresent … [from] the shows we watch on television, [to] the way many of us treat children [to] some influential religious practices.”9

David Harvey has argued that neoliberalism is “a political proj­ect to re-establish the conditions for capital accumulation and to restore the power of economic elites” through the implementation of “an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.”10 Neoliberalism is also a pedagogical project designed to create particular subjects, desires, and values defined largely by market considerations. National destiny becomes linked to a market-driven logic in which freedom is stripped down to freedom from government regulation, freedom to consume, and freedom to say anything one wants, regardless of how racist or toxic the consequences might be. This neoliberal notion of freedom is abstracted from any sense of civic responsibility or social cost. In fact, “neoliberalism is grounded in the idea of the ‘free, possessive individual,'” with the state cast “as tyrannical and oppressive.”11 The welfare state, in particular, becomes the archenemy of freedom. As Stuart Hall points out, according to apostles of free-market fundamentalism, ‘The state must never govern society, dictate to free individuals how to dispose of their private property, regulate a free-market economy or interfere with the God-given right to make profits and amass personal wealth.”12

Paradoxically, neoliberalism severely proscribes any vestige of social and civic agency through the figure of the isolated automaton for whom choice is reduced to the practice of end­less shopping, fleeing from any sense of civic obligation, and safeguarding a radically individualized existence. Neoliberal governance translates into a state that attempts to substitute individual security for social welfare but in doing so offers only the protection of gated communities for the privileged and incarceration for those considered flawed consumers or threats to the mythic ideal of a white Christian nation. Neoliberalism refuses to recognize how private troubles are connected to broader systemic issues, legitimating instead an ode to self-reliance in which the experience of personal misfortune becomes merely the just desserts delivered by the righteous hand of the free market—not a pernicious outcome of the social order being hijacked by an antisocial ruling elite and forced to serve a narrow set of interests. Critical thought and human agency are rendered impotent as neoliberal rationality “substitutes emotional and personal vocabularies for political ones in formulating solutions to political problems.”13 Within such a depoliticized discourse, youths are told that there is no dream of the collective, no viable social bonds, only the ac­tions of autonomous individuals who must rely on their own resources and who bear sole responsibility for the effects of larger systemic political and economic problems.

Under the regime of neoliberalism, no claims are recognized that call for compassion, justice, and social responsibility. No claims are recognized that demand youths have a future better than the present, and no claims are recognized in which young people assert the need to narrate themselves as part of a broader struggle for global justice and radical democracy. Parading as a species of democracy, neoliberal economics and ideology cancel out democracy “as the incommensurable sharing of existence that makes the political possible.”14 Symptoms of ethical, politi­cal, and economic impoverishment are all around us. And, as if that were not enough, at the current moment in history we are witnessing the merging of violence and governance along with a systemic disinvestment in and breakdown of institutions and public spheres that have provided the minimal conditions for democracy and the principles of communal responsibil­ity. Young people are particularly vulnerable. As Jean-Marie Durand points out, “Youth is no longer considered the world’s future, but as a threat to its present. [For] youth, there is no longer any political discourse except for a disciplinary one.”13

As young people make diverse claims on the promise of a radical democracy in the streets, on campuses, and at other occupied sites, articulating what a fair and just world might be, they are treated as criminal populations—rogue groups incapable of toeing the line, “prone to irrational, intemperate and unpredictable” behavior.16Moreover, they are increasingly subjected to orchestrated modes of control and containment, if not police violence. Such youths are now viewed as the enemy by the political and corporate establishment because they make visible the repressed images of the common good and the impor­tance of democratic public spheres, public services, the social state, and a society shaped by democratic values rather than market values. Youthful protesters and others are reclaiming the repressed memories of the Good Society and a social state that once, as Zygmunt Bauman has pointed out, “endorsed collective insurance against individual misfortune and its consequences.”17 Bauman explains that such a state “lifts members of society to the status of citizens—that is, makes them stake-holders in addition to being stock-holders, beneficiaries but also actors responsible for the benefits’ creation and availability, individuals with acute interest in the common good understood as the shared institutions that can be trusted to assure solidity and reliability of the state-issued ‘collective insurance policy.'”18 In an attempt to excavate the repressed memories of the welfare state, David Theo Goldberg spells out in detail the specific mechanisms and policies it produced in the name of the general welfare between the 1930s and 1970s in the United States. He writes,

From the 1930s through the 1970s, the liberal democratic state had offered a more or less robust set of institutional appara­tuses concerned in principle at least to advance the welfare of its citizens. This was the period of advancing social security, welfare safety nets, various forms of national health system, the expansion of and investment in public education, including higher education, in some states to the exclusion of private and religiously sponsored educational institutions. It saw the emer­gence of state bureaucracies as major employers especially in later years of historically excluded groups. And all this, in turn, offered optimism among a growing proportion of the populace for access to middle-class amenities, including those previously racially excluded within the state and new immigrants from the global south.19

Young people today are protesting against a strengthening global capitalist project that erases the benefits of the welfare state and the possibility of a radical notion of democracy. They are protesting against a neoliberal project of accumulation, dispossession, deregulation, privatization, and commodification that leaves them out of any viable notion of the future. They are rejecting and resisting a form of casino capitalism that has ushered in a permanent revolution marked by a massive project of depoliticization, on the one hand, and an aggressive, if not savage, practice of distributing upward wealth, income, and op­portunity for the 1 percent on the other. Under neoliberalism, every moment, space, practice, and social relation offers the possibility of financial investment, or what Ernst Bloch once called the “swindle of fulfillment.”20 Goods, services, and targeted human beings are ingested into its waste machine and dismissed and disposed of as excess. Flawed consumers are now assigned the status of damaged and defective human beings. Resistance to such oppressive policies and practices does not come easily, and many young people are paying a price for such resistance. According to OccupyArrests.com, “there have been at least 6705 arrests in over 112 different cities as of March 6, 2012.”21

Occupy movement protests and state-sponsored violence “have become a mirror”—and I would add a defining feature—”of the contemporary state.”22 Abandoned by the existing political system, young people in Oakland, California, New York City, and numerous other cities have placed their bodies on the line, protesting peacefully while trying to produce a new language, politics, and “community that manifests the values of equality and mutual respect that they see missing in a world that is structured by neoliberal principles.”23 Well aware that the spaces, sites, and spheres for the representation of their voices, desires, and concerns have collapsed, they have occupied a number of spaces ranging from public parks to college campuses in an effort to create a public forum where they can narrate themselves and their visions of the future while representing the misfortunes, suffering, and hopes of the unemployed, poor, incarcerated, and marginalized. This movement is not simply about reclaiming space but also about producing new ideas, generating a new conversation, and introducing a new political language.

Rejecting the notion that democracy and markets are the same, young people are calling for the termination of corporate control over the commanding institutions of politics, culture, and economics, an end to the suppression of dissent, and a shutting down of the permanent warfare state. Richard Lichtman is right to insist that the Occupy movement should be praised for its embrace of communal democracy as well as an emerging set of shared concerns, principles, and values articulated “by a demand for equality, or, at the very least, for a significant lessening of the horrid extent of inequality; for a working democracy; for the elimination of the moneyed foun­dation of politics; for the abolition of political domination by a dehumanized plutocracy; for the replacement of ubiquitous commodification by the reciprocal recognition of humanity in the actions of its agents.”24 As Arundhati Roy points out, what connects the protests in the United States to resistance move­ments all over the globe is that young people “know that their being excluded from the obscene amassing of wealth of U.S. corporations is part of the same system of the exclusion and war that is being waged by these corporations in places like India, Africa, and the Middle East.”25 Of course, Lichtman, Roy, and others believe that this is just the beginning of a movement and that much needs to be done, as Staughton Lynd argues, to build new strategies, a vast network of new institutions and public spheres, a community of trust, and political organiza­tion that invites poor people into its ranks.26 Stanley Aronowitz goes further and insists that the Occupy movement needs to bring together the fight for economic equality and security with the task of reshaping American institutions along genuinely democratic lines.27

All of these issues are important, but what must be addressed in the most immediate sense is the danger the emerging police state in the United States poses not just to the young protesters occupying a number of American cities but to democracy itself. This threat is particularly evident in the results of a merging of neoliberal modes of discipline and education with a warlike mentality in which it becomes nearly impossible to reclaim the language of obligation, compassion, community, social re­sponsibility, and civic engagement. And unless the actions of young protesters, however diverse they may be, are understood alongside a robust notion of the social, civic courage, com­munal bonds, and the imperatives of a vital democracy, it will be difficult for the American public to challenge state violence and the framing of protest, dissent, and civic engagement as un-American or, worse, as a species of criminal behavior.

Although considerable coverage has been given in the pro­gressive media to the violence being waged against the Occupy protesters, these analyses rarely go far enough. I want to build on these critiques by arguing that it is important to situate the growing police violence within a broader set of categories that both enables a critical understanding of the underlying social, economic, and political forces at work in such assaults and al­lows us to reflect critically on the distinctiveness of the current historical period in which they are taking place. For example, it is difficult to address such state-sponsored violence against young people and the Occupy movement without analyzing the devolution of the social state and the corresponding rise of the warfare and punishing state.’2b The notion of historical conjunc­ture is important here because it both provides an opening into the diverse forces shaping a particular moment and allows for a productive balance of theory and strategy to inform future interventions. That is. it helps us to address theoretically how youth protests are largely related to and might resist a histori­cally specific neoliberal project that promotes vast inequalities in income and wealth, creates the student-loan debt bomb, eliminates much-needed social programs, privileges profits and commodities over people, and eviscerates the social wage.

Within the United States, the often violent response to non­violent forms of youth protest must also be analyzed within the framework of a mammoth military-industrial state and its commitment to war and the militarization of the entire society. The merging of the military-industrial complex and unchecked finance capital points to the need for strategies that address what is specific about the current warfare state and the neo­liberal project that legitimates it. That is, what are the diverse practices, interests, modes of power, social relations, public pedagogies, and economic configurations that shape the poli­tics of the punishing state? Focusing on the specifics of the current historical conjuncture is invaluable politically in that such an approach makes visible the ideologies, policies, and modes of governance produced by the neoliberal warfare state. When neoliberal mechanisms of power and ideology are made visible, it becomes easier for the American public to challenge the common assumptions that legitimate these apparatuses of power. This type of interrogative strategy also reclaims the necessity of critical thought, civic engagement, and democratic politics by invoking the pedagogical imperative that humans not only make history but can alter its course and future direction.

For many young people today, human agency is denned as a mode of self-reflection and critical social engagement rather than a surrender to a paralyzing and unchallengeable fate. Likewise, democratic expression has become fundamental to their existence. Many young people are embracing democracy not merely as a mode of governance, but more importantly, as Bill Moyers points out, as a means of dignifying people “so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency.”29 Human agency has become a vital force to struggle over as part of an ongoing project in which the future remains an open horizon that cannot be dismissed through appeals to the end of history or end of ideology.30 But to understand how politics refuses any guarantees and resistance becomes possible, we must first understand the present. Following Stuart Hall. I want to argue that the current historical moment, or what he calls the “long march of the Neoliberal Revolution,”31 has to be understood not only through the emergent power of finance capital and its institutions but also in terms of the growing forms of authoritarian violence that it deploys and reinforces. I want to address these antidemocratic pressures and their relationship to the rising protests of young people in the United States and abroad through the lens of two interrelated crises: the crisis of governing through violence and the crisis of what Alex Honneth has called “a failed sociality”32—which currently conjoin as a driving force to dismantle any viable notion of public pedagogy and civic education. If we are not to fall prey to a third crisis—”the crisis of negation”33—then it is imperative that we recognize the hope symbolized and embodied by young people across America and their attempt to remake society in order to ensure a better, more democratic future for us all.

The Crisis of Governing through Violence

The United States is addicted to violence, and this dependency is fueled increasingly by its willingness to wage war at home and abroad.34 As Andrew Bacevich rightly argues, “war has be­come a normal condition [matched by] Washington’s seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft.”35 But war in this instance is not merely the outgrowth of policies designed ‘to protect the security- and well-being of the United States. It is also, as C. Wright Mills pointed out. part of a “mili­tary metaphysics”36—a complex of forces that includes corpora­tions, defense industries, politicians, financial institutions, and universities. The culture of war provides jobs, profits, political payoffs, research funds, and forms of political and economic power that reach into every aspect of society. War is also one of the nation’s most honored virtues. Its militaristic values now bear down on almost every aspect of American life.37 Similarly, as the governing-through-violence complex becomes normalized in the broader society, it continually works in a variety of ways to erode any distinction between war and peace.

Increasingly stoked by a moral arnd political hysteria, war­like values produce and endorse shared fears and organized violence as the primary registers of social relations. The con­ceptual merging of war and violence is evident in the ways in which the language of militarization is now used by politicians to address a range of policies as if they are operating on a battlefield or in a war zone. War becomes the adjective of choice as policymakers talk about waging war on drugs, poverty, and the underclass. There is more at work here than the prevalence of armed knowledge and a militarized discourse; there is also the emergence of a militarized society in which “the range of acceptable opinion inevitably shrinks.”38 And this choice of vocabulary and slow narrowing of democratic vision further enable the use of violence as an instrument of domestic policy.

How else to explain that the United States has become the punishing state par excellence, as indicated by the hideous fact that while it contains “5 percent of the Earth’s population, it is home to nearly a quarter of its prisoners”?39 Senator Lindsay Graham made this very clear in his rhetorical justification of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act by stating “that under this Act the U.S. homeland is considered a ‘battlefield.'”40 The ominous implications behind this statement, especially for Oc­cupy movement protesters, became obvious in light of the fact that the act gives the US government the right to detain “U.S. citizens indefinitely without charge or trial if deemed necessary by the president…. Detentions can follow mere membership, past or present, in ‘suspect organizations.'”41

Since 9/11, the war on terror and the campaign for home­land security have increasingly mimicked the tactics of the enemies they sought to crush and as such have become a war on democracy. A new military urbanism has taken root the United States as state surveillance projects proliferate, signaling what Stephen Graham calls “the startling militariza­tion of civil society—the extension of military ideas of tracking, identification, and targeting into the quotidian spaces and circulations of everyday life.”42 This is partly evident in the ongoing militarization of police departments throughout the United States. Baton-wielding cops are now being supplied with the latest military equipment imported straight from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Military technologies once used exclusively on the battlefield are now being supplied to police units across the nation: drones, machine-gun-equipped armored trucks, SWAT-type vehicles, “digital communications equipment, and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers used in foreign wars.”43The domestic war against “terrorists” (code for young protesters) provides new opportunities for major defense contractors and corporations to become “more a part of our domestic lives.”44 As Glenn Greenwald points out, the United States since 9/11

has aggressively paramilitarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone mili­tary tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with paramilitary weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons.45

These domestic paramilitary forces also undermine free speech and dissent through the sheer threat of violence while often wielding power that runs roughshod over civil liberties, human rights, and civic responsibilities.46 Given that “by age 23, almost a third of Americans are arrested for a crime,” it is not unreason­able to assume that in the new militarized state the perception of young people as predators, threats to corporate governance, and disposable objects will intensify, as will the growth of a punish­ing state that acts out against young protesters in increasingly unrestrained and savage ways.47 Young people, particularly poor minorities of color, have already become the targets of what David Theo Goldberg calls “extraordinary power in the name of securitization … [viewed as] unruly populations … [who] are to be subjected to necropolitical discipline through the threat of imprisonment or death, physical or social.”4

Shared fears and the media hysteria that promotes them pro­duce more than a culture of suspects and unbridled intimidation. Fear on a broad public scale serves the interests of policymakers who support a growing militarization of the police along with the corporations that supply high-tech scanners, surveillance cameras, riot extinguishers, and toxic chemicals—all of which are increasingly used with impunity on anyone who engages in peaceful protests against the warfare and corporate state.49 Im­ages abound in the mainstream media of such abuses. There is the now famous image of an eighty-four-year-old woman looking straight into a camera, her face drenched in a liquid spray used by the police after attending a protest rally. There is the image of a woman who is two months pregnant being carried to safety after being pepper-sprayed by the police. By now, the images of young people being dragged by their hair across a street to a waiting police van have become all too familiar.50 Some protesters have been seriously hurt, as in the case of Scott Olsen. an Iraq War veteran who was critically injured in a protest in Oakland in October 2011. Too much of this violence is reminiscent of the violence used against civil rights demonstrators by the enforcers of Jim Crow in the 1950s and 1960s.51

No longer restricted to a particular military ideology, the celebration and permeation of warlike values throughout the culture have hastened the militarization of the entire society. As Michael Geyer points out, militarization can be defined as “the contradictory and tense social process in which civil society organizes itself for the production of violence.”52 As the late Tony Judt put it, “The United States is becoming not just a militarized state but a military society: a country where armed power is the measure of national greatness, and war, or planning for war, is the exemplary (and only) common project.”55 But the prevailing intensification of American society’s permanent war status does more than embrace a set of unifying symbols that promote a survival-of-the-fittest ethic, conformity over dissent, the strong over the weak, and fear over responsibility. Such a move also gives rise to a “failed sociality” in which violence becomes the most important tool of power and the mediating force in shaping social relationships.

A state that embraces a policy of permanent war needs willing subjects to abide by its values, ideology, and narratives of fear and violence. Such legitimation is largely provided through people’s immersion in a market-driven society that appears increasingly addicted to consumerism, militarism, and the spectacles of violence endlessly circulated through popular culture.54 Examples of the violent fare on offer extend from the realm of high fashion and Hollywood movies to extreme sports, video games, and music concerts sponsored by the Pentagon.55 The market-driven celebration of a militaristic mind-set de­mands a culture of conformity, quiet intellectuals, and a largely passive republic of consumers. It also needs subjects who find intense pleasure in spectacles of violence.56

In a society saturated with hyperviolence and spectacular representations of cruelty, it becomes more difficult for the American public to respond politically and ethically to the violence as it is actually happening on the ground. In this in­stance, previously unfamiliar violence such as extreme images of torture and death become banally familiar, while familiar violence that occurs daily is barely recognized, relegated to the realm of the unnoticed and unnoticeable. How else to explain the public indifference to the violence inflicted on nonviolent youth protesters who are raising their voices against a state in which they have been excluded from any claim on hope, pros­perity, and democracy? While an increasing volume of brutal­ity is pumped into the culture, yesterday’s spine-chilling and nerve-wrenching displays of violence lose their shock value. As the demand for more intense images of violence accumulates, the moral indifference and desensitization to violence grow, while matters of savage cruelty and suffering are offered up as fodder for sports, entertainment, news media, and other pleasure-seeking outlets.

As American culture is more and more marked by exag­gerated aggression and a virulent notion of hard masculinity, state violence—particularly the use of torture, abductions, and targeted assassinations—wins public support and requires little or no justification as US exceptionalism becomes accepted by many Americans as a matter of common sense.57 The social impacts of a “political culture of hyper punitiveness”58 can be seen in how structures of discipline and punishment have in­filtrated the social order like a highly charged electric current. For example, the growing taste for violence can be seen in the criminalization of behaviors such as homelessness that once elicited compassion and social protection. We throw the home­less in jail instead of building houses, just as we increasingly send poor, semiliterate students to jail instead of providing them with a decent education. Similarly, instead of creating jobs for the unemployed, we allow banks to foreclose on their mortgages and in some cases put jobless people in debtors’ prisons. The prison in the twenty-first century7 becomes a way of making the effects of ruthless power invisible by making the victims of such power disappear. As Angela Davis points out, “According to this logic the prison becomes a way of disappearing people in the false hope of disappearing the underlying social problems they represent.”39 As the notion of the social is emptied out. criminality is now defined as an essential part of a person’s identity. As a rhetoric of punishment gains ground in American society, social problems are reduced to character flaws, insuf­ficient morality, or a eugenicist notion of being “born evil.”60

Another symptomatic example of the way in which violence has saturated everyday life and produced a “failed sociality” can be seen in the growing acceptance by the American pub­lic of modeling public schools after prisons and criminalizing the behavior of young people in public schools. Incidents that were traditionally handled by teachers, guidance counselors, and school administrators are now dealt with by the police and the criminal justice system. The consequences have been disastrous for young people. Not only do schools increasingly resemble the culture of prisons, but young children are being arrested and subjected to court appearances for behaviors that can only be called trivial. How else to explain the case of the five-year-old student in Florida who was put in handcuffs and taken to the local jail because she had a temper tantrum, or the case of Alexa Gonzales in New York, who was arrested for doodling on her desk? Or twelve-year-old Sarah Bustamatenes, who was pulled from a Texas classroom, charged with a crimi­nal misdemeanor, and hauled into court because she sprayed perfume on herself?61 How do we explain the arrest of a thirteen-year-old student in a Maryland school for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance?62 Or the case of a sixteen-year-old student with an IQ below 70 being pepper-sprayed because he did not understand a question asked by the police officer in his school? After being pepper-sprayed, the startled youth started swinging his arms and for that was charged with two counts of assault on a public servant and faces a possible prison sentence .63 In

The most extreme cases, children have been beaten, Tasered, and killed by the police.

These examples may still be unusual enough to shock, though they are becoming more commonplace. What must be recognized is that too many schools have become combat zones in which students are routinely subjected to metal detectors, surveillance cameras, uniformed security guards, weapons searches, and in some cases SWAT raids and police dogs sniffing for drugs.64 Under such circumstances, the purpose of school­ing becomes to contain and punish young people, especially those marginalized by race and class, rather than educate them. “Arrests and police interactions … disproportionately affect low-income schools with large African-American and Latino populations.”65 For the many disadvantaged students being funnelled into the “school-to-prison pipeline,” schools ensure that their futures look grim indeed as their educational experiences acclimatize them to forms of carceral treatment.66 There is more at work here than a flight from responsibility on the part of educators, parents, and politicians who support and maintain policies that fuel this expanding edifice of law enforce­ment against youth. Underlying the repeated decisions to turn away from helping young people is the growing sentiment that youths, particularly minorities of color and class, constitute a threat to adults and the only effective way to deal with them is to subject them to mind-crushing punishment. Students being miseducated, criminalized, and arrested through a form of pe­nal pedagogy in prison-type schools provides a grave reminder of the degree to which the ethos of containment and punishment now creeps into spheres of everyday life that were largely im­mune in the past to this type of state and institutional violence.

The era of failed sociality that Americans now inhabit reminds us that we live in a time that breaks young people, devalues justice, and saturates the minute details of everyday life with the constant threat, if not reality, of violence. The medieval turn to embracing forms of punishment that inflict pain on the psyches and bodies of young people is part of a larger immersion of society in public spectacles of violence. The control society67 is now the ultimate form of entertainment in America, as the pain of others, especially those considered disposable and pow­erless, is no longer a subject of compassion but one of ridicule and amusement. High-octane violence and human suffering are now considered consumer entertainment products designed to raise the collective pleasure quotient. Brute force and savage killing replayed over and over in the culture function as part of an anti-immune system that turns the economy of genuine pleasure into a mode of sadism that saps democracy of any political substance and moral vitality, even as the body politic appears engaged in a process of cannibalizing its own young. It is perhaps not far-fetched to imagine a reality TV show in which millions tune in to watch young kids being handcuffed, arrested, tried in the courts, and sent to juvenile detention centers. No society can make a claim to being a democracy as long as it defines itself through shared hatred and fears rather than shared responsibilities.

In the United States, society has been reconfigured to eliminate many young people’s access to the minimal condi­tions required for living a full, dignified, and productive life as well as the conditions necessary for sustaining and nurturing democratic structures and ideologies. The cruelty and violence infecting the culture are both a symptom and a cause of our collective failure to mobilize large-scale collective resistance against a growing police state and the massive suffering caused by the savagery of neoliberal capitalism. Unfortunately, even as expressions of authentic rage against Wall Street continue in the Occupy movement, the widespread hardship that young people and other marginalized populations face today “has not found resonance in the public space of articulation. “fs With the collapse of a market economy into a market society, democracy no longer makes a claim on the importance of the common good. As a mode of diseased sociality, the current version of market fundamentalism has turned the principle of freedom against itself, deforming a collective vision of democracy and social justice that once made equality a viable economic idea and political goal in the pursuit of one’s own freedom and civil liberties. As Zygmunt Bauman insists, one of the consequences of this market-driven sovereignty is “the progressive decomposi­tion and crumbling of social bonds and communal cohesion.”6

Neoliberalism creates a language of social magic in which the social either vaporizes into thin air or is utterly pathologized. Shared realities and effects of poverty, racism, inequality, and financial corruption disappear, but not the ideological and institutional mechanisms that make such scourges possible.70 And when the social is invoked favorably, the invocation is only ever used to recognize the claims and values of corporations, the ultrarich, banks, hedgefund managers, and other privileged groups comprising the 1 percent. Self-reliance and the image of the self-made man cancel out any viable notion of social relations, the common good, public values, and collective struggle.

The Occupy movements have recognized that what erodes under such conditions is not only an acknowledgment of the historical contexts, social and economic formations, relations of power, and systemic forms of discrimination that have pro­duced massive inequalities in wealth, income, and opportunity but also any claim to the promise of a substantive democracy. Increasingly, as both the public pedagogy and economic dic­tates of neoliberalism are contested by the Occupiers, the state responds with violence. But the challenges to militarism, in­equality, and political corruption with which young people have confronted American society are being met with a violence that encompasses more than isolated incidents of police brutality. It is a violence emanating from an ongoing wholesale transfor­mation of the United States into a warfare state, from a state that once embraced the social contract—at least minimally—to one that no longer has even a language for community, a state in which the bonds of fear and commodification have replaced the bonds of civic responsibility and democratic commitment. As a result, violence on the part of the state and corporations is not aimed just at youthful protesters. Through a range of visible and invisible mechanisms, an ever-expanding multitude of individuals and populations has been caught in a web of cruelty, dispossession, exclusion, and exploitation.

The predominance of violence in all aspects of social life suggests that young people and others marginalized by class, race, and ethnicity have been abandoned as American soci­ety’s claim on democracy gives way to the forces of militarism, market fundamentalism, and state terrorism. We must ad­dress how a metaphysics of war and violence has taken hold of American society, and the savage social costs it has entailed.

It is these very forms of social, political, and economic violence that young people have recognized and endured against their own minds and bodies, but they are using their indignation to inspire action rather than despair. The spreading imprint of violence throughout society suggests the need for a politics that riot only critiques the established order but imagines a new one—one informed by a radical vision in which the future does not imitate the present. Critique must emerge alongside a sense of realistic hope, and individual struggles must merge into larger social movements.

Occupy Wall Street surfaced in the wake of the 9/11 memori­als and global economic devastation rooted in market deregu­lation and financial corruption. It also developed in response to atrocities committed by the US military in the name of the war on terror, violent and racist extremism spreading through US politics and popular culture, a growing regime of discipline and punishment aimed at marginalized youth, retrograde edu­cation policies destructive of knowledge and critical learning, and the enactment of ruthless austerity policies that serve only to increase human suffering. With the democratic horizon in the United States increasingly darkened by the shadows of a looming authoritarianism and unprecedented levels of social and economic inequality, the Occupy movement and other global movements signify hope and renewal. The power of these movements to educate and act for change should not be under­estimated, particularly among youths, even as we collectively bear witness to the violent retaliation of official power against democratic protesters and the growing fury of the punishing state. In the book that follows, I present chapters that move from negation to hope, from critique to imagining otherwise in order to act otherwise.

The first chapter provides a retrospective on 9/11 that ac­knowledges the way in which the tragic events of 2001 were used to unleash brutal violence on a global scale and legitimate the expansion of the warfare state and unthinkable forms of torture against populations increasingly deemed disposable. In particular, the traumatic aftermath of 9/11 in the United States was distorted into a culture of fear: heightened domes­tic security; and accelerated disciplinary forces that targeted youth, particularly the most vulnerable marginalized by race and class, as potential threats to the social order. This chapter exposes some of the widespread impacts of an unchecked pun­ishing state and its apparatuses—most notably the escalating war on youth, the attack on the social state, and the growth of a “governing through crime” complex—while also paying tribute to the resilience and humanity of the victims of the 9/11 at­tacks and their families. It asserts that public recollection in the aftermath of those traumatic events—particularly the sense of common purpose and civic commitment that ensued—should serve as a source of collective hope for a different future than the one we have seen on display since September 2001.71

Chapter 2 discusses in further detail the cultural shift in the United States that has led to the inscription and normalization of cruelty and violence. In spring 2011, the role of the domi­nant media in sanctioning this culture of cruelty extended to its failure to provide a critical response when the “Kill Team” photographs were released. Even as young people around the world demonstrated against military power and authoritarian regimes, soldiers in the US military fighting in the “war on ter­ror” gleefully participated in horrifying injustices inflicted upon helpless others. The “Kill Team” photos—images of US soldiers smiling and posing with dead Afghan civilians and their des­ecrated bodies—serve as but one example signaling a broader shift in American culture away from compassion for the suffer­ing of other human beings toward a militarization of the culture and a sadistic pleasure in violent spectacles of pain and torture. Further discussion of American popular culture demonstrates how US society increasingly manifests a “depravity of aesthetics” through eagerly consuming displays of aggression, brutality, and death. Connecting this culture of cruelty to the growing influence of neoliberal policies across all sectors, I suggest that this disturbing new enjoyment of the humiliation of others—far from representing an individualized pathology—now infects US society as a whole in a way that portends the demise of the social state, if not any vestige of a real and substantive democ­racy. Recognizing the power of dominant culture to shape our thoughts, identities, and desires, we must struggle to uncover “instants of truth” that draw upon our compassion for others and rupture the hardened order of reality constructed by the media and other dominant cultural forces.

The third chapter suggests that even as US popular culture increasingly circulates images of mind-crushing brutality, American political culture in a similar fashion now functions like a theater of cruelty in which spectacles and public policies display gratuitous and unthinking violence toward the most vulnerable groups in the country, especially children. Despite persistent characterizations of terrorists as “other,” the greatest threat to US security lies in homegrown, right-wing extremism of a kind similar to that espoused by Anders Behring Breivik who in July 2011 bombed government buildings in Oslo, kill­ing eight people, and then went on a murderous shooting rampage in Norway, killing sixty-nine youths attending a Labor Party camp. The eruption of violent speech and racist rhetoric within US political discourse indicates a growing tolerance at the highest levels of government of extremist elements and the authoritarian views and racist hatred they deploy to advance their agenda—which includes dismantling the social state, legitimating a governing apparatus based on fear and punish­ment, undermining critical thought and education through ap­peals to conformity and authoritarian populism, and disposing of all populations deemed dangerous and threatening to the dominance of a white conservative nationalism. Bespeaking far more than a disturbing turn in US politics and the broader cul­ture, right-wing policymakers abetted by the dominant media are waging a campaign of domestic terrorism against children, the poor, and other vulnerable groups as part of a larger war against democracy and the democratic formative culture on which it depends for survival.

Continuing an exploration of the neoliberal mode of authori­tarianism that has infiltrated US politics, Chapter 4 discusses how anti-immigrant and racist political ideology couched in a discourse of patriotism is being translated into regressive educational policies and an attack on critical education. Remi­niscent of the book burnings conducted in Nazi Germany, the Arizona state legislature and school board in Tucson have systematically eliminated ethnic studies from elementary schools and banned books that: discuss racism and oppres­sion, including several books by Mexican American authors in a school district where more than 60 percent of the students are from a Mexican American background. Within a neoliberal regime that supports corporate hegemony, social and economic inequality, and antidemocratic forms of governance, racism is either privatized by encouraging individual solutions to socially produced problems or disavowed, appearing instead in the guise of a language of punishment that persecutes anyone who even raises the specter of ongoing racism. The censorship of ethnic studies in Arizona and of forms of pedagogy that give voice to oppression points to how ideas that engage people in a struggle for equality and democracy pose a threat to fundamentalist ideologues and their war against the bodies, histories, and modes of knowledge that could produce the critical conscious­ness and civic courage necessary for a just society.

Chapter 5 examines the politics of austerity in terms of how it releases corporations and the rich from responsibility for the global economic recession and instead inflicts vast amounts of pain and suffering upon the most vulnerable in society. As an extension of the culture of cruelty, austerity measures encode a fear and contempt for social and economic equality, leading not only to the weakening of social protections and tax breaks for the wealthy but also to the criminalization of social prob­lems. Austerity as a form of “trickle-down cruelty” symbolizes much more than neglect—it suggests a new mode of violence mobilized to address pervasive social ills that will only serve to hasten the emergence of punishing states and networks of global violence. Hope for preventing the escalation of human suffering must be situated in a concerted effort both to raise awareness about the damage wreaked by unchecked casino capitalism and to rethink the very nature of what democracy means and might look like in the United States. A capacity for critical thought, compassion, and informed judgment needs to be nurtured against the forms of bigotry, omission, and social irresponsibility that appear increasingly not only to sanction but also to revel in horror stories of inhumanity and destruc­tion.

Tracing the trajectory of class struggle and inequality in America up to the present day, Chapter 6 argues that a grow­ing concentration of wealth in the hands of the ruling elite means that the political system and mode of governance in the United States are no longer democratic, even as state power is subordinated to the interests of corporate sovereignty. In this chapter, an account of the political, social, and economic injus­tices confronting the vast majority of Americans—the result of a decades-long unchecked supremacy of corporate power, the reign of corrupt financiers, and a ruthless attack on the social state and social protections—sets the stage for what emerged as the Occupy Wall Street movement in September 2011. While making visible the ongoing significance of class as a political category, the Occupiers did much more than rehash the tired rhetoric of “class warfare” (marshaled by their opponents in an effort to position the ruling elites as victims of class resentment) Quite to the contrary, the Occupiers revealed the potential for a broad collective movement both to expose the material realities of inequality and injustice and to counter prevailing antidemocratic narratives while also fundamentally changing the terms of engagement by producing new images, stories, and memories that challenged the complacency of the public and the impoverished imagination of political and corporate leadership in America.

Chapter 7 concludes the book by reviewing the impact and legacy of the Occupy movement, particularly how it exposed the many ways in which US society has mortgaged the future of youth. The Occupiers have become the new public intellectu­als, and they are creating a newpedagogy and politics firmly rooted in democracy, social justice, and human dignity that increasingly occupies the terrain of public discourse and poses a fundamental challenge to the control of the public sphere by corporate elites and their teaching machines. At risk of losing ideological dominance, the authorities retaliated against Oc­cupy protesters by resorting to brutal forms of punishment. This police violence at once made visible the modes of au­thoritarianism and culture of cruelty that permeate American society—as was seen even at universities and colleges across the United States, institutions charged with contributing to the intellectual, social, and moral growth of society’s youth.

As I complete the writing of this introduction, the Occupy struggle for social and economic justice continues on American university campuses—where the influence of austerity mea­sures is increasingly being felt, although the working conditions for faculty and the quality of education for students began to deteriorate under the neoliberal ascendancy decades ago. The issues impacting higher education are undoubtedly symptom­atic of the accelerated pace with which the withering away of the public realm is happening. The book finishes, however, by suggesting that the Occupy movement is far from over— despite the shrinking of physical space in which it can protest. As it expands and spreads across the globe, the movement is producing a new public realm of ideas and making important connections between the deteriorating state of education, an­tidemocratic forces, and the savage inequalities produced by a market society. The response of young people as the new generation of public intellectuals offers us both critique and hope. It is a call to work collectively to foster new modes of thought and action—one that should be actively supported by higher education and other remaining public spheres in the United States, if American democracy is to have a future at all.

 

Notes for Introduction

1.   Clearly, there are many reasons for the various youthful pro­tests across the globe, ranging from the murder of young people and anger against financial corruption to the riots against cuts to social benefits and the rise of educational costs.

2.   Christopher McMichael, ‘The Shock-and-Awe of Mega Sports Events,” OpenDemocracy (January 30, 2012), online at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/christopher-mcmichael/shock-and-awe-of-mega-sports-events.

3.  Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives (London: Polity, 2004), p. 76.

4.   See Loic Wacquant, Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Govern­ment of Social Insecurity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

5.  Amanda Peterson Beadle, “Obama Administration Ends Medicaid Funding for Texas Women’s Health Program,” Think-Progress (March 16, 2012), online at:http://thinkprogress.org/ health/2012/03/16/445894/funding-cut-for-texas-womens-health-program.

6.   Maureen Dowd, “Don’t Tread on Us,” New York Times (March 14, 2012), p. A25.

7.   See, for example, Daisy Grewal, “How Wealth Reduces Com­passion: As Riches Grow, Empathy for Others Seems to Decline,” Scientific American (Tuesday, April 10, 2012), online at: http:// http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-wealth-reduces-compassion&print=true.

8.  Azam Ahmed, “The Hunch, the Pounce and the Kill: How Boaz Weinstein and Hedge Funds Outsmarted JPMorgan,” New York Times (May 27, 2012), p. BUI.

9.  Anne-Marie Cusac, Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punish­ment in America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 3.

10.   David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 19.

11.   Stuart Hall, “The Neo-Liberal Revolution,” Cultural Studies 25:6 (November 2011): 706.

12.   Ibid.

13.  Wendy Brown, Regulating Aversion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), p. 16.

14.   Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, “Translators’ Note,” in Jean-Luc Nancy, The Truth of Democracy (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010), p. ix.

15.  Jean-Marie Durand, “For Youth: A Disciplinary Discourse Only,” TruthOut (November 15, 2009), trans. Leslie Thatcher, online at: http://www.truthout.0rg/l1190911.

16.   David Theo Goldberg, The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism (Maiden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), p. 347.

17.   Zygmunt Bauman, “Has the Future a Left?” Soundings 35 (Spring 2007): 5-6.

18.   Ibid.

19.   Goldberg, The Threat of Race, p. 331.

20.   Cited in Anson Rabinach, “Unclaimed Heritage: Ernst Bloch’s Heritage of Our Times and the Theory of Fascism,” New German Cri­tique (Spring 1997): 8.

21.   See OccupyArreste.com, http://occupyarrests.moonfruit.com.

22.   Durand, “For Youth.”

23.   Kyle Bella, “Bodies in Alliance: Gender Theorist Judith Butler on the Occupy and SlutWalk Movements,” TruthOut (December 15, 2011), online at:http://www.truth-out.org/bodies-alliance-gender-theorist-judith-butler-occupy-and-slutwalk-movements/1323880210.

24.   Richard Lichtman, “Not a Revolution?” TruthOut (Decem­ber 14, 2011), online at: http://www.truth-out.org/not-revolu-tion/1323801994.

25.   Arun Gupta, “Arundhati Roy: The People Who Created the Crisis Will Not Be the Ones That Come up with a Solution,'” Guard­ian (November 30, 2011), online at:http://www.guardian.co.uk/ world/2011 /nov/30/arundhati-roy-interview.

26.   Staughton Lynd, “What Is to Be Done Next?” Counter-Punch (February 29, 2012), online at: http://www.counterpunch .org/2012/02/29/what-is-to-be-done-next.

27.   Stanley Aronowitz, “Notes on the Occupy Movement,” Logos (Fall 2011), online at: http://logosjournal.com/201 l/fall_aronowitz.

28.   On the rise of the punishing state, see Cusac, Cruel and Unusual; Wacquant, Punishing the Poor, Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005).

29.   Bill Moyers, “Discovering What Democracy Means,” Tom-Paine (February 12, 2007), online at: http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/02/12/discovering_what_democracy_means.php.

30.   Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (New York: Free Press, 1966); and the more recent Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 2006).

31.   Stuart Hall, “The March of the Neoliberals,” Guardian (September 12, 2011), online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/poli-tics/201 l/sep/12/march-of-the-neoliberals/.

32.  Alex Honneth, Pathologies of Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 188.

33.   John Van Houdt, ‘The Crisis of Negation: An Interview with Alain Badiou,” Continent 1:4 (2011): 234-238, online at: http://con-tinentcontinent.cc/index.php/continent/article/viewArticle/65.

34.   See for instance, Noam Chomsky, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2007).

35.   Andrew Bacevich, “After Iraq, War Is US,” Reader Supported News (December 20, 2011), online at: http://readersupportednews. org/opinion2/424-national-security/9007-after-iraq-war-is-us.

36.   C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 222.

37.   See Gore Vidal, Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (New York: Nation Books, 2004); Gore Vidal, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (New York: Nation Books, 2002); Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (New York: Anchor Books, 2003); Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004); Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis: The Last Days of the Republic (New York: Metropolitan Books); Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010); and Nick Turse, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008).

38.   Tony Judt, “The New World Order,” New York Review of Books 11:2 (July 14, 2005): 17.

39.   Cusac, Cruel and Unusual, p. 2.

40.   Jim Garrison, “Obama’s Most Fateful Decision,” Huffington Post (December 12, 2011), online at: http://www.hufflngtonpost.com/ jim-garrison/obamas-most-fateful-decis_b_l 143005.html.

41.   Ibid.

42.   Stephen Graham, Cities under Siege: The New Military Urban-ism (London: Verso, 2010), p. xi.

43.  Andrew Becker and G. W. Schulz, “Cops Ready for War,” Reader Supported News (December 21, 2011), online at: http:// readersupportednews.org/news-section2/316-20/9023-focus-cops-ready-for-war.

44.   Ibid.

45.   Glenn Greenwald, “The Roots of the UC-Davis Pepper-Spraying,” Salon (November 20, 2011), online at: http://www.salon .com/2011/11 /20/the_roots_of_the_uc_davis_pepper_spraying.

46.   See, for instance, Steven Rosenfeld, “5 Freedom-Killing Tactics Police Will Use to Crack Down on Protests in 2012,” AlterNet (March 16, 2012), online at:http://www.alternet.org/story/154577/5_freedom-killing_tactics_police_will_use_to_crack_down_on_protests_in_2012.

47.   Erica Goode, “Many in U.S. Are Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds,” New York Times (December 19, 2011), p. A15.

48.   Goldberg, The Threat of Race, p. 334.

49.   Lauren Kelley, “Occupy Updates: Extreme Police Violence in Berkeley, with Calls for a Strike; Harvard Protesters Shut out of Harvard Yard,” AlterNet (November 14, 2011), online at: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/728865/occupy_updates%3A_ex-treme_police_violence_in_berkeley,_with_calls_for_a_strike%3B_har-vard_protesters_shut_out_of_harvard_yard; Conor Friedersdorf, “UC Berkeley Riot Police Use Batons to Clear Students from Sproul Plaza,” Atlantic (November 10, 2011), online at: http://www.theatlantic. com/national/print/2011/11 /uc-berkeley-riot-police-use-batons-to-clear-students-from-sproul-plaza/248228; Al Baker, “When the Police Go Military,” New York Times (December 3, 2011), p. SR6; and Rania Khalek, “Pepper-Spraying Protesters Is Just the Beginning: Here Are More Hypermilitarized Weapons Your Local Police Force Could Employ,” AlterNet (November 22, 2011), online at: http://www .alternet.org/story/153147/pepper-spraying_protesters_is_just_the_ beginning%3A_here_are_more_hypermilitarized_weapons_your_lo-caLpolice_force_could_employ.

50.   Philip Govrevitch, “Whose Police?” New Yorker (November 17, 2011), online at:http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/com-ment/2011/11/occupy-wall-street-police-bloomberg.html.

51.   Phil Rockstroh, “The Police State Makes Its Move: Re­taining One’s Humanity in the Face of Tyranny,” CommonDreams (November 15, 2011), online at:http://www.commondreams.org/ view/2011/11/15.

52.   Michael Geyer, ‘The Militarization of Europe, 1914-1945,” in John R. Gillis, ed. The Militarization of the Western World (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989), p. 79.

53.  Judt, “The New World Order,” pp. 14-18.

54.   Geoff Martin and Erin Steuter, Pop Culture Goes to War: Enlisting and Resisting Militarism in the War on Terror (New York: Lexington Books, 2010).

55.   Carl Boggs and Tom Pollard, The Hollywood War Machine: U.S. Militarism and Popular Culture (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publish­ers, 2006).

56.   Kostas Gouliamos and Christos Kassimeris, eds., The Market­ing of War in the Age of Neo-Militarism (New York: Routledge, 2011).

57.   David Cole, “An Executive Power to Kill?” New York Review of Books (March 6, 2012), online at: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/ nyrblog/2012/mar/06/targeted-killings-holder-speech.

58.   Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown, “Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City,” Antipode (2006): 757.

59.   Davis, Abolition Democracy, p. 41.

60.   One classic example of this neoliberal screed can be found most recently in an unapologetic defense of social Darwinism by Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (New York: Crown Forum, 2012). For a critique of this position, see David Garland, The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Con­temporary Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Philip Jenkins, Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); and Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

61.   Chris McGreal, ‘The US Schools with Their Own Police,” Guardian (January 9, 2012), online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/ world/2012/jan/09/texas-police-schools.

62.   Daniel Tancer, “Student Punished for Refusing to Cite the Pledge,” Psyche, Science, and Society (February 25, 2010), online at:http://psychoanalystsopposewar.org/blog/2010/02/25/student-punished-for-refusing-to-recite-the-pledge.

63.   McGreal, ‘The US Schools with Their Own Police.”

64.   Criminal Injustice Kos, “Criminal Injustice Kos: Interrupting the School to Prison Pipeline,” Daily Kos (March 30, 2011), online at:http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/30/960807/-Criminal-InJustice-Kos:-Interruptlng-the-School-to-Prison-Pipeline.

65.   “A Failure of Imagination,” Smartypants (March 3, 2010), online at:http://immasmartypants.blogspot.com/2010/03/failure-of-imagination.html.

66.   See Mark P. Fancher, Reclaiming Michigan’s Throwaway Kids: Students Trapped in the School-to-Prison Pipeline (Michigan: ACLU, 2011), online at:http://www.njjn.org/uploads/digitaljibrary/ resource_1287.pdf; and Advancement Project, Test, Punish, and Push Out: How “Zero Tolerance” and High-Stakes Testing Funnel Youth into the School-to-Prison Pipeline (Washington, DC: Advancement Project, March 2010), online at: http://www.advancementproject.org/sites/default/flles/publications/rev_fln.pdf.

67.   Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” October 59 (Winter 1992): 3-7.

68.  Alex Honneth, Pathologies of Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 188.

69.   Bauman, “Has the Future a Left?” p. 2.

70.   Barbara Ehrenreich, “How We Cured The Culture of Pov­erty,’ Not Poverty Itself,” Truthout (March 15, 2012), online at: http:// http://www.truth-out.org/how-we-cured-culture-poverty-not-poverty-itself/1331821823.

71.  This theme is taken up in great detail in Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

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Make climate change a priority (Washington Post)

Graphic: A new report prepared for the World Bank finds that the planet is on a path to warming 4 degrees by the end of the century, with devastating consequences. Click on the infographic to go to the World Bank for more information.

By Jim Yong Kim, Published: January 24

Jim Yong Kim is president of the World Bank.

The weather in Washington has been like a roller coaster this January. Yes, there has been a deep freeze this week, but it was the sudden warmth earlier in the month that was truly alarming. Flocks of birds — robins, wrens, cardinals and even blue jays – swarmed bushes with berries, eating as much as they could. Runners and bikers wore shorts and T-shirts. People worked in their gardens as if it were spring.

The signs of global warming are becoming more obvious and more frequent. A glut of extreme weather conditions is appearing globally. And the average temperature in the United States last year was the highest ever recorded.

As economic leaders gathered in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum, much of the conversation was about finances. But climate change should also be at the top of our agendas, because global warming imperils all of the development gains we have made.If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak. The World Bank Groupreleased a reportin November that concluded that the world could warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century if concerted action is not taken now.

A world that warm means seas would rise 1.5 to 3 feet, putting at risk hundreds of millions of city dwellers globally. It would mean that storms once dubbed “once in a century” would become common, perhaps occurring every year. And it would mean that much of the United States, from Los Angeles to Kansas to the nation’s capital, would feel like an unbearable oven in the summer.

My wife and I have two sons, ages 12 and 3. When they grow old, this could be the world they inherit. That thought alone makes me want to be part of a global movement that acts now.

Even as global climate negotiations continue, there is a need for urgent action outside the conventions. People everywhere must focus on where we will get the most impact to reduce emissions and build resilience in cities, communities and countries.

Strong leadership must come from the six big economies that account for two-thirds of the energy sector’s global carbon dioxide emissions. President Obama’s reference in his inaugural address this week to addressing climate and energy could help reignite this critical conversation domestically and abroad.

The world’s top priority must be to get finance flowing and get prices right on all aspects of energy costs to support low-carbon growth. Achieving a predictable price on carbon that accurately reflects real environmental costs is key to delivering emission reductions at scale. Correct energy pricing can also provide incentives for investments in energy efficiency and cleaner energy technologies.

A second immediate step is to end harmful fuel subsidies globally, which could lead to a 5 percent fall in emissions by 2020. Countries spend more than $500 billion annually in fossil-fuel subsidies and an additional $500 billion in other subsidies, often related to agriculture and water, that are, ultimately, environmentally harmful. That trillion dollars could be put to better use for the jobs of the future, social safety nets or vaccines.

A third focus is on cities. The largest 100 cities that contribute 67 percent of energy-related emissions are both the center of innovation for green growth and the most vulnerable to climate change. We have seen great leadership, for example, in New York and Rio de Janeiro on low-carbon growth and tackling practices that fuel climate change.

At the World Bank Group, through the $7 billion-plus Climate Investment Funds, we are managing forests, spreading solar energy and promoting green expansion for cities, all with a goal of stopping global warming. We also are in the midst of a major reexamination of our own practices and policies.

Just as the Bretton Woods institutions were created to prevent a third world war, the world needs a bold global approach to help avoid the climate catastrophe it faces today. The World Bank Group is ready to work with others to meet this challenge. With every investment we make and every action we take, we should have in mind the threat of an even warmer world and the opportunity of inclusive green growth.

After the hottest year on record in the United States, a year in which Hurricane Sandycaused billions of dollars in damagerecord droughts scorched farmland in the Midwest and our organization reported that the planet could become more than 7 degrees warmer, what are we waiting for? We need to get serious fast. The planet, our home, can’t wait.

Bolsa Família and the Feminist Revolution in the Sertão (rioonwatch.org)

By Mariana Sanches – January 14, 2013

Over the past five years anthropologist Walquiria Domingues Leão Rêgo has witnessed a change in behavior in the poorest, and probably most sexist, areas of Brazil. The money provided by the federal income subsidy program Bolsa Família has brought the power of choice to women. They now decide everything from the grocery list to whether to file for divorce.

Money from “Bolsa-Família” brought the power of choice to the women of the Sertão, Brazil’s hinterland (Photo from: Editora Globo)

A revolution is underway. Silent and slow—52 years after the creation of the birth control pill—feminism begins to take shape in the poorest, and possibly most chauvinistic, corners of Brazil. The interior of Piauí, the coast of Alagoas, the Jequitinhonha Valley in Minas Gerais, the interior of Maranhão and the outskirts of São Luís are this movement’s setting, described by anthropologist Walquiria Domingues Leão Rêgo, of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). Over the past five years, Walquiria followed the annual changes in the lives of over a hundred women, all beneficiaries of Bolsa Família. She visited the most isolated areas, relying on her own resources, for an unusual exercise: to hear from these women how their lives had (or had not) changed after the creation of the program. Walquiria’s research will be published in a book, to be released later this year, but we will advance some of her conclusions.

WOMEN WITHOUT RIGHTS

The areas Walquiria visited are those where families at times cannot get any income over a whole month. Ultimately, they live off a barter system. With a labor market too small for men, there rests no hope of employment opportunity for women. There is poor access to education and health. Families tend to have many children. The social structure is patriarchal and religious. The woman is always under the yoke of her father, her husband or her pastor. “Many of these women went through the humiliating experience of being literally forced to ‘hunt for food,’” says Walquiria. “It’s people who live without the right to have rights.” Walquiria wanted to know if Bolsa Família had either become a welfare crutch or rescued some sense of citizenship for these people.

LIPSTICK AND DANONE YOGURT

“There is more freedom in money,” says Edineide, one of Walquiria’s interviewees and a resident of Pasmadinho in Jequitinhonha Valley. Women make up more than 90% of the titleholders of Bolsa Família; they are the ones who withdraw the money from the cash machine on a monthly basis. Edineide translates the meaning of this government decision of giving the benefit card to the woman: “When the husband goes shopping, he buys what he wants. And if I go, I buy what I want.” They started buying yogurt for children and to entitle themselves to vanity. Walquiria witnessed women buying lipstick for themselves for the first time in their lives. Finally, they had the power of choice. And that changes many things.

DOES MONEY LEAD TO DIVORCE AND A DROP IN THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN?

“A lot of these women have a fixed income for the first time, and many now have more than their husbands,”says Walquiria. More than simply choosing between buying noodles or rice, Bolsa Família also allowed them to decide whether or not to continue their marriages. It is still rare for a woman to initiate a separation in these regions. Yet this is precisely what is beginning to happen, as Walquiria reports: “In the first interview in April 2006 with Quitéria Ferreira da Silva, 34, a married mother of three in Inhapi, I asked her about the issue of abuse. She cried and told me she did not want to talk about it. The following year, when I returned, I found her separated from her husband, boasting a much more relaxed appearance.”

Despite husbands’ harassments, none of the women interviewed by Walquiria admitted to yielding to their appeals and handing over the Bolsa Família money. “This is my money, President Lula gave it to me to take care of my children and grandchildren. Why am I going to give it to my husband now? I won’t!” said Maria das Mercês Pinheiro Dias, 60, mother of six, a resident of São Luís, in an interview in 2009.

Walquiria also reports that the number of women who seek contraception has increased. They began to feel more comfortable making decisions about their bodies and their lives. It is clear that changes are still subtle. No one visiting these areas will find women burning bras and quoting Betty Friedan. But they are beginning to break with a perverse dynamic, first described in 1911 by English philosopher John Stuart Mill. According to Mill, women are trained since childhood not only to serve men, husbands and fathers, but to want to serve them. It seems that the poorest women of Brazil are finding they can want more than just that.

Medo e tensão no Oeste (Rolling Stone)

Edição 49 – Outubro de 2010

Paraíso perdido na Amazônia, a região de Nova Olinda vive em conflito: de um lado, comunidades a favor da extração da madeira; de outro, aquelas que querem manter suas terras. O impasse continua

Medo e tensão no Oeste

Foto: GREENPEACE

por POR FELIPE MILANEZ

O excesso de céu e águas que se abre à minha frente a partir da proa do barco é deslumbrante. A floresta é uma linha verdejante suave no horizonte, que marca a distinção entre o azul cósmico e o azul mais escuro do rio. Nas margens, praias com areias brancas. Dinael Cardoso, liderança indígena e uma das personalidades mais ativas no Movimento, me acompanha. Chegando a uma pequena comunidade estendida na beira do rio Arapiuns, ele aponta para uma dessas margens paradisíacas, que poderiam estar no Caribe, escoltadas pelo verde da mata: “Foi ali, ano passado. Vai fazer um ano agora que as balsas queimaram”.

É apenas uma ponta de areia, chamada São Pedro, que marca uma confluência. A partir daqui, cada vez mais o Arapiuns, afluente do Tapajós, se fecha, até culminar em uma bifurcação. De um lado, o Maró. Do outro, o Aruã. Essa terra em frente, para onde sigo, se chama Gleba Nova Olinda. O fogo de um ano antes selou a ligação política entre a insurgência presente na Nova Olinda e as comunidades ribeirinhas ao longo do Arapiuns, criando o Movimento em Defesa da Vida e da Cultura do Rio Arapiuns. Em oposição estariam os empresários que comercializam madeira da região, as comunidades que são ligadas a esses empresários e os agentes econômicos com interesse mais amplo: a mineradora Alcoa, que explora bauxita e faz prospecção em toda a área, e os produtores de soja.

Não apenas pelo significado político, mas também pela dimensão social de unir as comunidades, o protesto e o fogo rebelde em balsas carregadas de madeira marcou definitivamente essa curva do Arapiuns.

O fogo explodiu em chamas gigantes pelo meio do rio, de um tamanho nunca antes visto, em um calor nunca antes sentido. As labaredas invadiram o breu, seguiram o outro dia e queimaram por mais duas noites. As comunidades da beira do rio estavam unidas na revolta.

O sindicato dos trabalhadores rurais, que convocou a manifestação, havia abandonado a luta. O Procurador Federal declarou que havia indícios de extração irregular da madeira. A Secretaria de Meio Ambiente (Sema) veio fiscalizar a origem das toras e disse que tudo era legal e dentro dos conformes. Ou seja, a madeira continuaria saindo. “Sendo saqueada”, pensaram as lideranças que estavam no local. Não houve ordem de ninguém para dar início ao fogo, mas uma reação coletiva, em assembleias. “O motivador maior da queima foi a conivência do Estado com a exploração madeireira. O Estado não quis discutir com as comunidades, mandou apenas um técnico para fiscalizar. Isso revoltou os manifestantes, que esperaram por um mês”, afirmou uma liderança que não quis ser identificada.

Quase um ano atrás, no dia 10 de novembro, cansada de uma manifestação que já durava um mês, a multidão queimou duas balsas carregadas de madeira, avaliadas em R$ 5 milhões. Se a região vivia tempos de medo e tensão, o ato tornou-se um divisor, o momento em que as comunidades que lutam contra os empresários perceberam que poderiam se insurgir.

Neste último ano, sem a demarcação da terra indígena pretendida pelos índios borari, sem a regularização dos assentamentos das comunidades ribeirinhas, mas com as autorizações de corte de madeira na área e o patrimônio florestal sendo assim comercializado, o ambiente na Gleba Nova Olinda está tomado de medo e tensão.

“O medo sempre existiu. Mas eu não fiquei com medo de abandonar a luta. Fiquei com mais vontade de lutar”, diz Odair José Alves de Sousa, o Dadá, 28 anos, segundo cacique da aldeia borari Novo Lugar (o primeiro cacique é seu tio Higino, mais velho e experiente). À noite, a água do rio é ainda mais escura. Reflete as estrelas tão nitidamente que a sensação é a de que o barco levita. A aldeia Novo Lugar dorme na terra firme onde atracamos. Há calma no ar. Nessa hora, Dadá pode ficar tranquilo para conversar. Em 2007 ele foi sequestrado e espancado. Desde então faz parte do programa de proteção à testemunha e anda com seguranças. Mas, depois que surgiu o Movimento, a confiança na capacidade de luta aumentou. “O movimento está forte. Nossa luta é justa”, afirma.

Antes do episódio do fogo, escorriam semanalmente pelo Arapiuns cerca de 40 balsas carregadas de toras. Cada uma com uma média de dois mil metros cúbicos de madeira. Agora, diz Dadá, se passarem três balsas por mês é muito. Foi o fogo? “Questão de amedrontamento”, analisa o jovem cacique. O fogo transferiu, ao menos em parte, o medo para o “outro lado”. “A gente está falando no canal de rádio que não tem hora nem momento para ter outra manifestação, para pegar outra balsa. Então eles reduziram a quantidade”, explica. O foco da pressão é a empacada regularização fundiária da Gleba, estacionada em gabinetes e negociada entre audiências públicas e lobbies políticos.

Nova Olinda se divide em duas posições antagônicas. Para entrar na Gleba, é preciso estar de um lado. “A gente vai ter que discutir com a comunidade.” Minha recepção na aldeia Novo Lugar é permeada de desconfiança. Poucas semanas antes, eles haviam recebido uma jornalista que se mostrou envolvida com o tal “outro lado”. Para ter acesso, era preciso explicar que minha presença não implicava em vínculos diretos com o “lado de lá”, os empresários madeireiros, identificados pelo apoio que recebem de comunidades como Fé em Deus, Repartimento e Vista Alegre. Em todas as outras comunidades, o procedimento de abordagem foi o mesmo. Como iniciei a viagem pelo lado da resistência aos empresários, que se encontrava antes pela logística do rio, as comunidades opostas fecharam as portas.

Um daqueles paraísos perdidos na Amazônia, lugar de floresta altamente preservada, onde um sonho de éden ainda parece persistir, a região de Nova Olinda é banhada por rios de águas escuras, que escorrem de forma sinuosa, de difícil acesso, praticamente isolando a área na seca do acesso de barcos maiores – com o rio cheio, leva-se pelo menos um dia para se chegar de barco até Santarém, percurso feito em semanas nas canoas tradicionais.

Com 182 mil hectares, a Gleba integra um mosaico de terras, no Oeste do Pará, parte em Santarém e outra em Juriti, que está em lento processo de regularização fundiária: o conjunto de glebas Mamuru-Arapiuns, com 1,2 milhão de hectares. Seria a primeira de cinco glebas de terras públicas nessa região a ter o problema de destinação do uso resolvido – para exploração, preservação ou uso tradicional. O processo, assim que concluído, poderia servir de modelo de resolução para as demais terras. Algumas áreas de assentamento já foram regularizadas. Falta definir a situação dos assentamentos de duas comunidades, Prainha e Vista Alegre, e a demarcação da terra indígena. A conclusão estacionou, e a tensão cresceu.

Há cerca de 15 comunidades na área. Pela lei, elas devem ser ouvidas sobre sua ocupação e o uso que fazem da terra, e as necessidades devem ser respeitadas na hora da concessão do título, seja na forma de projeto de assentamento, que pode ser coletivo ou em lotes individuais, seja na forma de uma reserva indígena. Mas as interferências externas, ou seja, dos novos migrantes, mudaram a relação pacífica que existia entre as comunidades, que hoje não se comunicam.

Seria natural imaginar que todas demandariam direitos semelhantes. Mas há aquelas que querem a presença dos empresários, e as que refutam. Permeada por essa disputa, surge uma batalha por identidades: para marcar suas diferenças e posições políticas assumem cada uma suas raízes. A grande batalha acontece entre as que reivindicam a identidade indígena, do povo Borari, e aquelas que querem se ver brasileiras e modernas.

Foram os gaúchos (termo genérico para forasteiros) que trouxeram o sonho do progresso e os conflitos. Empresários madeireiros transferidos pelo governo do Pará, eles ocupavam uma área pública que havia sido transformada em terra indígena de ocupação dos índios caiapós no Sul do Estado. O governo paraense decidiu, à época, fazer uma espécie de permuta com os empresários, transferindo-os para outra área administrada pelo Instituto de Terras do Pará (Iterpa). Com a transferência dos títulos, veio junto a grilagem da terra. A partir de 2002, começaram a surgir “laranjas” e milhares de novos madeireiros permutados. Na floresta, cortes de lotes sobrepunham-se, enquanto as populações locais observavam tudo cada vez mais esmagadas nas margens.

Para as comunidades a favor da chegada dos madeireiros, da pesquisa mineral de bauxita ou da instalação da agricultura mecanizada de soja, deixar a vida dura da exclusão em que vivem tornou-se um objetivo urgente. Ainda que tenham se dividido entre grupos que passaram a apoiar a entrada dos empresários, recebendo benfeitorias para isso, e os que os enfrentaram, recebendo ameaças, mas mantendo o sonho da autonomia. A comunidade Repartimento, no rio Aruã, foi a primeira a ceder. No rio Maró, o povoado de Fé em Deus tomou a frente, liderado por Manoel Benezildo Sousa, que passou a agrupar lideranças com ações financiadas pelos empresários. Os benefícios imediatos como um gerador mais potente, alguns salários e alguns empregos na extração da madeira, são de grande importância para quem vive na área. Mas podem ser considerados baixos se comparados ao valor em potencial das terras que estão em jogo. A contrapartida exigida para a chegada do progresso é a demanda por terras menores no processo fundiário em curso.

Contrárias aos madeireiros, as outras comunidades se organizaram com o sindicato dos trabalhadores rurais e os movimentos sociais da região. Decidiram lutar para garantir a terra de uso tradicional. Pelo menos, a maior fatia possível do bolo que estava sendo dividido. Esse é o lado do chamado Movimento no conflito instaurado na Nova Olinda.

Em uma terça-feira pela manhã, estive em Fé em Deus, para conhecer as reivindicações, demandas e os benefícios que têm sido distribuídos. Chovia, ventava, e o dia tinha um aspecto antipático. Eu havia sido informado de que poderia não ser recebido quando o barco que faz a linha de transporte até Santarém, o Crê em Deus, que levava as lideranças aliadas aos madeireiros para uma audiência pública na cidade, atracou junto ao que eu estava para me avisar: a minha presença na área não estava autorizada.

Não souberam informar do que se tratava a audiência pública para a qual haviam sido convocados – no caso, era para discutir a situação ambiental de um porto construído em Santarém, pela Cargill, para o escoamento da soja. Mas o transporte era pago.

Chegando em Fé em Deus, percebi um clima de tensão. Pessoas assustadas, conversas em voz baixa sobre a presença do forasteiro, olhares preocupados. Até que jovens líderes vieram informar que não seria realmente possível o diálogo na ausência de Benezildo de Souza e outras lideranças políticas. No pátio da escola vi tremularem bandeirinhas coloridas que anunciam a festa junina, marcada para o sábado seguinte. A comunidade borari Novo Lugar não vai ser convidada. Na festa deles tampouco alguém de Fé em Deus foi chamado. Sequer fui convidado para entrar na comunidade. A justificativa: eu estaria comprometido com o “outro lado”. Nova Olinda, dividida, vive uma guerra fria.

“Não queremos conversa. Vocês vieram aqui criar índio. Nós queremos ficar em paz e resolver os problemas”, disse um dos líderes da Fé em Deus. Atrás da roda de homens, gritou uma senhora: “A gente fala com vocês, depois vocês vão embora e a gente fica aqui, correndo perigo”. O temor que ela expressa representa alguma repressão interna que aquele povo vive e sobre a qual não quiseram falar.

Em Fé em Deus e nas demais comunidades que se comportam como se tivessem sido pressionadas, também se desconfia de jornalistas. Quando têm interesse de que algo seja publicado, convidam aqueles vistos como pertencentes a “seu lado”. Assim foi com um jornal local, de Santarém, o Impacto, e a revista Veja, que publicaram reportagens sob a égide de progresso e desenvolvimento. Ambos veículos de imprensa deixaram naquelas terras um rastro de desconforto que atinge qualquer jornalista que for para a Gleba, tornando infrutíferas qualquer tentativa de contato com os produtores rurais e os empresários.

Acompanhando um antropólogo de um instituto federal de pesquisa, interessado em compreender a relação das populações tradicionais com o Estado e sem nenhuma relação com questões étnicas, eu não havia sido levado por quaisquer dos dois lados do conflito por terras na região. Da mesma forma que os que desejam o progresso consideram terem “seus” jornalistas, também pensam disporem de antropólogos que os defendem. Nesse caso, eles contrataram Edward Luz, um antropólogo missionário, cuja missão é provar que nessa área não existem índios. Engajado de corpo e alma em acabar com o assunto, jovem líder evangélico na faixa de 30 anos, casado e pai de família, filho do pastor e presidente da Missão Novas Tribos do Brasil e formado em antropologia pela Universidade de Brasília, Edward Luz “nasceu e cresceu em berço missionário”, o próprio me diz numa linda manhã de sol em São Paulo. Era o primeiro dia da primavera de 2009, a mesma época em que tinham início as revoltas no Arapiuns. Estávamos em uma sala confortável na Universidade Mackenzie, junto de uns 15 alunos. Ele ministrava um curso para ensinar outros missionários a traduzirem a Bíblia para línguas indígenas. A missão, aqui, é levar a palavra da religião protestante para povos indígenas de pouco contato ou mesmo isolados. Um caso de proselitismo, que causou ao pai de Edward Luz (os dois têm o mesmo nome) a expulsão do território dos índios Zo’é, quando o filho ainda era criança. Além do proselitismo, também foram acusados de genocídio pela Funai, em razão de epidemias que podem ter provocado. Os Luz, desde então, foram proibidos de entrar em terras indígenas na posição de missionários.

Contratado pela Associação Comunitária dos Trabalhadores Rurais do Aruã e Maró (Acutarm), que é ligada aos empresários, foi solicitado a Luz, segundo ele escreveu em uma carta à qual tive acesso, “que se inteirasse dos fatos que vinham transcorrendo na região da mesopotâmia do Maró e o Aruan” para orientar a associação. Ele esteve nas três comunidades que “se autointitulam indígenas”, mas o acesso lhe foi negado. Ele quer analisar a situação étnica dos borari, que vivem em Cachoeira do Maró, Novo Lugar e São José. Essa demanda fundiária dos indígenas, dependendo dos cálculos da Funai, pode ficar entre 35 e 80 mil hectares. Edward sabe como funciona a Funai – ele já foi contratado pela própria para identificar terras indígenas do povo Kokama, na região do rio Solimões. Mas ele derrubou as pretensões da própria Funai e hoje responde a um processo.

A mais recente disputa de antropólogos sobre o tema ocorreu em meados de agosto, em Santarém, numa audiência pública. De um lado estavam Edward e Inácio Regis – intelectual local que também se apresenta como pesquisador e que também quer provar que aqueles índios, na verdade, não são índios, e que a terra deve ser destinada ao desenvolvimento. Em oposição estavam a antropóloga Manoela Carneiro da Cunha, professora aposentada da Universidade de Chicago, e Maria Rosário Carvalho, da Universidade Federal da Bahia.

Régis, que, procurado por e-mail, não respondeu a tentativas de entrevista, afirmou que os índios do Tapajós estão sendo induzidos a se assumirem indígenas. Luz disse que os vizinhos e parentes dos índios do Maró afirmam que eles não são índios. As duas mulheres foram polidas, e disseram que não estavam na área fazendo pesquisas de campo e, portanto, não poderiam opinar sobre o caso específico. Deixaram no ar, no entanto, que consideram essas comunidades indígenas sem colocar em questão a legitimidade da identidade.

Assim como minha presença na área foi notada com rapidez, o mesmo ocorre quando os órgãos públicos aportam para debates fundiários. De acordo com o relatório de um funcionário do Ibama que participou de uma fiscalização em 2007, a embarcação da equipe foi interceptada por uma lancha conduzida por Edson Taparello, na qual também estava Fernando Belusso, dono e gerente, respectivamente, da empresa Rondobel: “Indagaram para onde ia a equipe”, escreveu o funcionário.

Os empresários estavam acompanhados de Manoel Benezildo e da repórter Gerciene Belo, do jornal Impacto. Convocaram uma reunião-surpresa, sem programação oficial – burocracia que se faz necessária para ter a presença de representantes públicos. A equipe do Iterpa cedeu à pressão e deslocou-se na lancha do empresário. O técnico do Ibama preferiu não comparecer, pois, segundo ele, tratava-se de transporte oferecido por uma empresa que tinha interesse direto no problema e isso poderia causar interferência na fiscalização.

O relatório do Ibama, cujo integrante não compareceu à reunião, descreve o que a funcionária do Iterpa lhe contou: “Os participantes decidiram pela regularização fundiária dos lotes comunitários na modalidade individual, conforme era desejo, também, dos empresários”. A Terra Indígena Cachoeira do Maró está em processo de demarcação pela Funai. A última visita de funcionários do órgão ocorreu em setembro deste ano e buscava identificar fisicamente o local de ocupação. Para a Funai, não está em questão a autenticidade da reivindicação dos índios. “Não cabe ao Estado, ou à Funai, dizer quem é índio e quem não é”, afirma Márcio Meira, presidente da entidade

A lei e a antropologia, segundo Meira, definem a legitimidade da afirmação étnica pela autodeclaração. “Índio é qualquer membro de uma comunidade indígena, que se reconhece como tal e é reconhecido pela comunidade como um membro”, explica. É questão de afirmação social, histórica, econômica e cultural.

Na complexa teia de demandas por terras da Gleba Nova Olinda, a bola da vez é a criação do Projeto de Assentamento Estadual Agroextrativista (Peaex), que envolve as comunidades Vista Alegre e Prainha. Os títulos podem ser regularizados em cinco ou 25 mil hectares, em lotes individuais ou coletivos. E, para cada possibilidade, surge uma pressão contrária. É onde ocorrem os maiores achaques, já que a demanda dos boraris está nas mãos da Funai. Em Vista Alegre e Prainha também há divisão. Um lado, liderado por Márcio Crispim, na Prainha, e Sidiclei Fernandes dos Santos, na Vista Alegre, presidentes de associações locais montadas pelos empresários, pede ao Iterpa uma pequena área de cinco mil hectares e lotes individuais, de forma que vão poder seguir vendendo madeira para os empresários. A maioria se mostra contra esse posicionamento, mas não sabe como se manifestar oficialmente. Pedem um assentamento de lote coletivo, com cerca de 25 mil hectares – número próximo ao definido por uma pesquisa realizada pelo Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, e que identifica a área realmente ocupada pelo uso tradicional, incluindo reservas de caça e terras para plantações de mandioca, como entre 15 e 20 mil hectares.

Algumas associações comunitárias, como a Acutarm, estão unidas para a luta por uma terra menor. No dia 18 de junho ocorreu uma reunião com os empresários, os presidentes das associações, equipes do Iterpa e da Sema. “Os funcionários públicos não estavam capacitados juridicamente para a discussão fundiária. Estavam ali apenas para fazer vistorias dos planos de manejo de madeira”, relatou um funcionário do Ministério Público que não quis se identificar. Isso não foi um empecilho, pois a reunião ocorreu, de acordo com um relatório do MP, inclusive com a presença dos madeireiros Rosenil Vaz, Francisco Souza e Alfredo Sippert.

Laurimar dos santos, o guariba, 63 anos, vive na Prainha e mostrou-se revoltado com a situação que está vivendo quando nos encontramos. Simpático, ele afirmou que não gosta de ir à cidade: “Lá nos tratam que nem bicho, nos chamam de índio”. Santos não aceita um terreno de cinco mil hectares para toda sua família e comunidade. “Estão nos espremendo, vamos comer areia”, esbraveja.

Contrário à posição de Santos está o desejo de Márcio Crispim, que me recebeu de uma forma também simpática, ainda que um tanto desconfiada. Crispim é presidente da associação da sua comunidade, mas ele não se lembra do nome. Diz que não precisam dessa terra toda. Sobre a associação que preside (mais tarde descobri que se trata da Ainorma), Crispim afirmou que nunca houve uma reunião ou assembleia, assumiu sem desconforto que é ligado aos madeireiros, e que por isso recebe um salário com carteira assinada. Está certo de estar contribuindo para o desenvolvimento da região. Mas em outra roda de conversa comentaram que ele deseja partir para Manaus com o dinheiro que tem recebido.

Crispim é amigo de Sidiclei, pastor evangélico da Vista Alegre, que por sua vez é amigo de Edward Luz, o antropólogo missionário. Sidiclei também luta para convencer sua comunidade a aceitar um território menor, ajudar os empresários e receber benefícios e investimentos em troca. Só que Sidiclei deu uma derrapada no terreno da ética, logo após o episódio do fogo no Arapiuns. E foi obrigado a retratar-se publicamente de seus atos, acusado de achacar sua própria comunidade. Ele havia escrito uma carta, “impulsionado pela raiva da informação que foi repassada para nós”, em suas palavras, e resolveu escrever outra em seguida, para as autoridades, desmentindo-se da primeira. As duas cartas estão com o Ministério Público do Estado. A primeira é um abaixo-assinado organizado por ele, no qual a comunidade abria mão de 20 mil hectares em favor das empresas madeireiras e do desenvolvimento regional. Mas a história não foi bem assim, segundo Sidiclei. Em 7 de dezembro passado, ele assinou a segunda carta, direcionada ao Iterpa, na qual constava: “A lista foi feita como um abaixo-assinado das pessoas que queriam um gerador e não dos que queriam a ampliação da área da comunidade… quem foi coletar essas assinaturas fui eu… quando conversava com os moradores, explicava que era uma lista para conseguir o gerador”. Resumo: o abaixo-assinado que ele mesmo organizou foi feito para pedir a diminuição de terras, e não para ganhar um gerador elétrico.

Sidiclei abriu para o Iterpa o jogo para reduzir o território comunitário. Mas seguiu lutando ao lado daqueles que ofereciam o gerador em troca de madeira de lei. As doações têm sido feitas, e a comunidade tem se mostrado receptiva com as benfeitorias. De acordo com o que se ouviu numa recente visita do MP à Vista Alegre, disseram que “receberam doações de seu Francisco Souza, ganharam um grupo gerador, fiação elétrica, vão construir um templo”. Eles “preferem ficar com os cinco mil hectares e ter certeza de que terão os empregos com os empresários madeireiros”. A promotora de justiça também os ouviu dizer que “há pessoas empregadas de carteira assinada e que recebem direitinho e que a vida melhorou bastante e acham que pode melhorar ainda mais”.

Desde que a indústria madeireira passou a sofrer com a repressão à extração ilegal, a partir de 2008, o Oeste paraense foi alçado à posição de um dos grandes fornecedores do mercado. No último ano houve um crescimento de 76% das autorizações de manejo florestal, segundo o jornal Folha de S. Paulo. Operações de fiscalização têm sido realizadas – inclusive, contando com apoio logístico dos madeireiros. Por vezes são distribuídas multas. Os bens apreendidos, como carretas, motosserras, tratores, quando pegos em flagrante, têm sido liberados pela Justiça Federal de Santarém. E, por mais que os fiscais do Ibama percebam que há algo estranho no ar, eles não têm conseguido comprovar. E, em ano eleitoral, um dos setores mais importantes da economia do estado, o setor madeireiro passou a ter ainda mais influência política. “A gente sabe que tem coisa errada, que extraem madeira fora do plano. O problema é que é difícil provar”, afirma um ex-funcionário do Ibama local que também não quer se identificar.

No caso do incêndio das balsas, como nem o IBAMA nem a Sema conseguiam provar as ações ilegais na região, e a demanda fundiária não foi resolvida, surgiu a revolta. Para reagir contra a retirada da madeira e a falta de definição dos títulos de terras, os moradores da Gleba Nova Olinda se juntaram com os ribeirinhos e indígenas do Arapiuns e apreenderam as duas balsas.

Diversas lideranças comunitárias estavam presentes. Agiam de forma coletiva. Mas uma personalidade, já de destaque no movimento social de resistência, foi acusada de ser uma das responsáveis e responde judicialmente pelo ato, junto de um grupo de líderes. É Dadá, do Novo Lugar. “Sou perseguido”, ele diz. Tem sido assim desde que ele fez um curso de agente ambiental do Ibama, em 2003, época em que teria iniciado sua luta política.

Foi nos tempos do Ibama que Dadá, com acesso a relatórios de fiscalização e autorizações de manejo de madeira, descobriu a chegada dos madeireiros na área e passou a organizar a resistência. Com ele estavam Edil e Valnei, líderes de suas respectivas comunidades (Novo Lugar, Cachoeira do Maró e Sociedade dos Parentes). Esses dois tiveram de fugir da região, sob escolta do programa de proteção, para não serem mortos. Dadá ficou: “O que adianta eu ter uma proteção fora, se na aldeia vão ficar meus filhos, minha esposa, minha mãe, meus tios? Se querem me proteger, que seja na minha casa, na aldeia”.

José Heder Benatti, presidente do Iterpa, diz que está informado das negociações por terra que estão ocorrendo sob pressão e achaque. Justifica que o Estado está tomando providências para regularizar a região e consertar os erros anteriores. “As comunidades estão sendo ouvidas, com prioridade, sobre o uso tradicional da terra”, afirma, lembrando que isso não ocorreu quando transferiram os madeireiros.

Se insistirem em trocar um gerador por 20 mil hectares, Benatti diz que o instituto vai negar a titulação. “Essa pressão vai ser inócua”, garante. “A área vai ser formalizada, junto ao Ministério Público, com referência ao estudo do Museu Goeldi. Eles vão ter direito à área que ocupam e usufruem.” Se a programação correr da maneira que ele espera, em três anos o Oeste do Pará, que era uma área esquecida, terá regularizado 1,3 milhão de hectares. No entanto, “período eleitoral não é muito favorável para esse tipo de conversa”, pondera o presidente do Iterpa. Outro problema é que, enquanto isso, a valiosa madeira que pertence em parte às comunidades, e em parte ao patrimônio público, terá sido escoada por mãos privadas.

“Eu tenho medo”, relata a mãe de dadá. Dona Edite assistiu seu filho chegar em casa ferido após o espancamento, a casa dele ser queimada na aldeia, e, neste ano, o outro filho, Poró, também chegar em casa espancado, em maio último. “Dizem por aí que não tem conflito”, ela diz, em alusão a declarações de lideranças de Fé em Deus e Vista Alegre. “Isso é mentira! Aqui tem conflito, e temo por meus filhos. Eu fico muito preocupada. Tem noite que não durmo. Fico tensa quando vão à cidade. Sonho que meu filho pode estar sendo morto”, desabafa a senhora. “Eu tenho muito medo.”