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Wars and Invisible Resistance

Over my morning bowl of cereal I flipped back and forth between the New Yorker, Jon Lee Anderson on the destruction of Lebanon, and the Berkeley Ecology Center’s ever-improving Terrain magazine. An odd juxtaposition that in some ways captures quite directly the schizophrenic quality of life now.

Anderson goes around southern Lebanon and Beirut interviewing many Hezbollah leaders, average folks, Christians and Sunni Muslims, and shows what we already know if we aren’t brainwashed by the U.S. media: the Israeli air war has greatly strengthened Hezbollah politically, and what’s more, Hezbollah cannot be destroyed by military means. With the wholescale destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure and ability to carry on as a state, the Israeli/U.S. agenda is obvious: demodernization and elimination of any official entity that cannot be bullied by force (and probably, this episode is just the opening gambit of the forthcoming U.S. attack on Iran).

But it won’t and can’t work. The whole program is based on a flawed sense of history and human psychology. Air wars never work, never have and never will. No bombing campaign has ever destroyed an enemy military force (even in Nazi Germany, postwar studies showed that the massive bombardment only intensified the will to resist and actually led to an increase in military production!). No father has ever earned the love and respect of his children by beating them. Brutal violence and attempted coercion produce revolt, plain and simple. Human dignity will not be destroyed by blind repression. (This is not to say that human dignity won’t relinquish itself through various types of co-optation and integration, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

In Terrain, meanwhile. very interesting articles under the “Go Local” label detail the efforts of the Post-Carbon Institute and initiatives in Mendocino, Willits, and Sonoma to “relocalize” the economy. Citizens have been meeting to analyze and plan a conversion to locally produced food, including how to store food locally, how to move it around in an oil-depleted world, etc., hoping against hope that they have 10 years at least in which to get a big jumpstart on this transformation.

(Terrain is free and easy to get a copy of in the Bay Area, and I highly recommend it. They also have a good online, searchable archive of back issues.)

The juxtaposition is striking. The U.S. is wreaking havoc in the Middle East in a hopeless effort to control the region and its indispensable oil reserves. In the northern California hinterlands, largely invisible to the mass culture, citizens are coming together in small and medium-size groups to plan a life that is relocalized, newly independent of the barbaric webs that connect our daily lives to the madness overseas. In fact, the folks in Willits and elsewhere up north are examples of what I think is starting to happen with greater and greater frequency, though largely out of sight, across North America. Non policy-making individuals are taking initiatives that once would have been the logical task of (at least local) government, to structure the local economy so it can sustain itself in the event of catastrophe, or nowadays, so it can sustain the local population without the tentacles of dependency that render most Americans blind to the barbarism carried out in their names.

An anti-GMO initiative passed in Mendocino County a year ago, but it failed in later elections in Sonoma and a couple of other California counties. Now state legislators under the control of Monsanto and agribusiness are trying to pass a state law to overrule any county’s control over its own agricultural practices. It’s not hard to imagine state government being used to suppress lots of local efforts to create alternatives (like the statewide Ellis Act is used to defang local rent control efforts where tenants have successfully organized). The state tries to move power up the hierarchy away from local jurisdictions, but the clamor for direct democracy and local control will only gain strength as blatant corporate plunder is refused by more and more people. The old fears of “too much democracy” that plagued the Trilateralists in the 1970s still haunt the criminals running the national government and economy; their solution has been to suppress voter registration and turnout in popular districts (esp. non-white), and to use electronic voting machines to steal elections. In a vital chapter, the Mexican presidential election is still being openly contested by the populist Lopez Obrador versus the Bush-lite Calderon, and the legal machinery of the state is under the pressure of several hundred thousand people camped out in dozens of locales around Mexico City right now… and it’s blacked out in the U.S. media of course.

For all the despair and sense of hopelessness that we all encounter in the face of this insanity every day, it’s good to remember that there are countless acts of resistance going on too. The ruling order doesn’t forget, and they spend huge sums scrambling to bolster the crumbling edifice they still cling to… for us, the ruins are already visible and it’s in those ruins that we can already see the seeds of a new world starting to grow.

Cooperation, mutual aid, nurturance–values that are generally feminized in this dumb macho world–are the keystone values of a life worth living, locally designed and controlled, sustainable and enjoyable. It’s just common sense and eventually common sense should prevail over the barbaric stupidity of bitter old men whose thinking never made it even to the 20th century.

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