Sustaining Empire?

The discussions regarding the whole pie thing reminded me of something I’ve been worrying about recently in relation to this “movement,” and that’s the seeming Elephant-in-the-room: Imperialism.

For those in the US, we live in an Empire — the largest, most powerful empire the planet has ever seen. The United States Empire enacts genocide (just ask the Hopi, the Navajo, the Western Shoshone or any other Native American tribe). The United States Empire plays key roles abroad in colonization, both through military operations like the dirty wars waged in Latin America in the ’80s and into Iraq in the present as well as through economic means (through neoliberal institutions like the IMF and WorldBank). The United States Empire makes war for profit (Military-Industrial Complex anyone?). The United States Empire makes a very few rich at the expense of everyone else (it is the nature of Empires, after all). Overall, like any Empire, the United States is a massive force that has shown that it is willing to throw its political, economic, and military might around without care for human dignity. (If all of this seems strange, offensive or unheard of to you, there are a number of things that you might want to read. I’ve listed a few books below, but I’d welcome others to throw out more book suggestions that are instructive on issues of Empire and global domination. The one’s I’ve chosen may not be the best)

Given that we do live in an Empire, which I rate to be pretty awful on the whole, I have wondered what it is this so-called movement is working for? Are we just working for windmills and solar panels so that we can sustain the Empire? Why should we expect Empire be any less destructive just because it’s powered by so-called “clean energy” and so-called “green jobs”? Isn’t that just trying to put the wolf into sheep’s clothing? Can an empire ever be reformed to be “sustainable and just”? Are we just enabling oppressors by trying to get large banks and governments to “invest in wind and solar”?

I think it’s instructive to look at history for an example. Has there ever been a “sustainable and just” Empire? No! Then why should we expect that we can make this one “sustainable and just”? (For those who don’t think there’s ever been a sustainable and just human society, what do you think humans were doing for those 190,000 years between the emergence of homo sapiens and the rise of massive civilizations and Empires? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the cavemen lie we’ve been spoonfed since birth…)

I was talking to a good friend of mine recently and he was saying that he feels it’s important to not just ask questions or provide simple “solutions” and “fixes” to complex problems, but to offer difficult answers, which themselves act as a riddle. So, how do we tackle climate change and social inequality at the same time? We dismantle Empire and the structures of Global Capitalism which keep it going.

19 Responses to “Sustaining Empire?”

  1. 1 Jonathan Apr 28th, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Good thoughts. If we want to get down to brass tacks, I don’t see any society relying on finite resources as “sustainable”, by definition. Anything past stone-age technology probably relies on a limited amount of metals and other compounds buried in the earth that A) are difficult to get out and B) will eventually run out. That doesn’t bode well for long-term planning. So how long do we really want to sustain this artificially created boat we’re on? Much more importantly is why?

    I don’t really care to sustain a world economic and political regime that is destroying the only planet that we have found to be hospitable (although Mars is looking quite attractive this holiday season.) I’m more interested in sustaining communities where people are harmoniously living in balance with the ebb and flow of Earth’s natural systems. Sounds like hippie-yippie mumbo jumbo, I know, right?

    I’m not so interested in supporting a world economic and political order that has transformed a world of unique societies carved out of their specific environments into a global mono-culture where one metal, rubber, and silicon size fits all. I’m much more interested in supporting an order where the next community up the river/over the hill/ across the valley/through the woods is nearly as different to my own as Sheboygan, Wisconsin is to Baltistan, Pakistan.

    To sum it up, I’m much more interested in sharing meals I’ve helped grow and prepare with my neighborhood than I am in supporting global capitalist cartels that deprive people of their own means of subsistence so that they can supply the North’s hyper-consumerism, even if it is “green/fair trade/organic”. I’m less interested in oppression, exploitation, and slavery than I am in entering into mutually respectful relationships with the space where I live, the things I need to live, and the living creatures I come into contact with.

    But hey, its America. Love or leave it, right?

  2. 2 JP Apr 28th, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I think an interesting example to look at here is our export of clean energy tech to China, in a sense enabling a different empire to gain strength and grow without releasing as many green house gas emissions. So, I would hesitate to say that the movement is solely based on maintaining the U.S.’s empire.

  3. 3 jessejenkins Apr 28th, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Let me see if I’m clear on your argument and proposed course of action, Evan:

    -You seem to think that America and American civilization/democracy/society are inextricably Imperialist and present this in an essentialist way that seems to imply you don’t see how it could be any different.
    -You reference another post which praises the “aboriginal peoples of what-is-now-called “Australia” [as] a great example of sustainable human cultures.” (Note: Australian Aboriginal populations at the time of European arrival on the continent are estimated at just 300,000-750,000. Current Australian population is around 21 million)
    -You consistently challenge the assumption “that human populations of 6 billion+ are with us to stay and that we can somehow make, by force, all of these things sustainable if we try hard enough.”
    -You call into question what you consider a false claim that, “We can’t go back, and why would we want to go backwards?”

    All this – along with your advocacy of violent tactics, or “whatever it takes” – seems to imply that you want to quickly, and violently if necessary, bring down current civilization, hastening a return to aboriginal ways of living.

    You want us to return to a way of living that supported a tiny fraction of the current population of this planet. So, my question to you is this: tell me how this might be accomplished in a manner that does not result in the suffering, and presumably the death, of billions of humans?

    After you answer that, then we can really talk about your proposed “solution” to American Imperialism and climate change.

    (To be clear: I am no way defending American Imperialism here. I just do not share you essentialist view of American society and modern civilization, or have much tolerance for a course of action that’d willfully start a process that saw billions and billions of humans suffer and die, which is what I’m afraid you are indeed advocating)

  4. 4 jessejenkins Apr 28th, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Woops, sorry about the screwed up link! That was supposed to end after “advocacy of violent tactics”…

  5. 5 Martin Fee Apr 28th, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I love “activists” who support violent action while crying about the violence perpetrated by the Government. Hmmm can we say hypocrite? These same people will do whatever they can to silence a voice or opinion with which they disagree, yet when it comes to them it’s ” Like hey man I have right’s man, Freedom of Speech man, 1st amendment ya know” Blah, blah, blah. yet all the time it’s “Peace and tolerance” Ever notice how the loudest voices for tolerance are the least tolerant?

    The complaints about capitalism are old and boring, but then again the people complaining believe in socialism and/or communism where there is nothing more then the attainment of mediocrity. You act like there is a finite amount of wealth and an infinite amount of people which is backwards. There are very few countries where you can go from being poor to having wealth and not one of them is a communist state. yet the belief is that communism is right. How many of you have even bothered to read the origins of your beliefs? very few I bet. You sit in some college class listening to some disgruntled Liberal Arts professor who uses “academic freedom” to pass only those who kneel at their feet and revel in the feces that comes out of their mouths. Yet neither the professor nor the student has ever been to, or lived under, a communist regime.

    I have a feeling that this post will not be well received but so be it. I am just fed up with idealistic 20 somethings who have never held a job, or supported a family, whining and crying about how evil capitalist America is while wearing Che shirts chanting Power to the People, without ever ONCE realizing that people like Che TOOK power from the people, Murdered those who opposed the regime, and silenced free speech. Do not believe me? Go to Cuba or Venezuela and talk crap in public about the regime. then come back and tell us all how it worked out for ya. See ya in 10 to 20.

  6. 6 uli nagel Apr 28th, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    These are important points – it’s true that America is an empire – it’s equally true that it’s power is declining rapidly (See Jim Garrison’s book, America as Empire), as global cooperation is the only way to address global problems. And I think there are more and much more exciting alternatives to consider than going back to the ways we lived 100s or 1000s of years ago or succumbing to the grip of an inhuman, toxic reign of global corporations. As a European, I keep being struck by how little Americans take the rest of the world into accont. Right now there is a city being built in China and the middle east that is entirely waste and pollution free (cradle to cradle design, William Mc Donnough) Holland is taking on this new way of industrial design (see Magazine What is Enlightenment, issue 40) In Europe, a plan has been drawn up for a large solar power station in the Sahara that could provide over a thousand times the power needed for that continent and Africa combined. You can read more about this kind of thinking here: I am not saying that any one solution is perfect, but
    there is no need to condemn humanity for the mistakes it has made – we developed throughout millenia and we all have benefitted immensely from that. Climate change is becoming an issue because more people than ever before can afford a better life. The more interesting (and challenging) question is what is NEW on the horizon. A lot is happening on the planet and it makes more sense to me to throw our weight behind what will bring us forward and take as many people with us as we can.
    More on this topic and for some of the technological projects I mentioned on –

  7. 7 Jonathan Apr 28th, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    I understand your concern Jesse, the problem is that over a million people are die everyday. Not to count the millions more that live in extreme poverty/are starving/have no access to water/etc. And if you want to take a step out of your silly man suit (DD reference anyone?) and into the genetic make up of any other living organism on the planet, you wouldnt care if humans disappeared overnight, except maybe if your a European breed of cow, since they have been breed into retardation over the centuries of domestication, and can now no longer survive in the wild. The human species is the most invasive species on the planet, and not only that but the most destructive. I’m not citing this, so call me out if I’m wrong, but I believe the ratio of human deaths from a shark VS. shark deaths from a human is somewhere around 1 to 220 million. and theres about 70 human deaths from shark attacks, so multiply as you please. Same goes for bears, migratory birds, you name it.

    Now maybe your not concerned about obscure species going extinct because A) your a human and B) you don’t really like foreign food anyway. I am concerned though. Because we all know that in the giant global food web, when one critters lunch goes extinct, something else has to take its place, which then is over eaten, which then disappears, leaving yet another gap in the food web and so on and so forth. We all know that our existence is irremovably dependent on the survival of other species.

    Nobody told the sea otters, island-dwelling birds, or whales when the US/France/UK were detonating hydrogen bombs in the Pacific.

    Bringing it back to “the crash”. I whole-heartedly understand and embrace your pacifist position. (For all naysayers out there, the word “passive” has no linguistic relation to “pacifist”. A pacifist is one who MAKES peace. Look it up.) I think it is part of our responsibility as the most cognitively capable creatures on the planet to shrug off the chains of instinct and be able to find solutions to problems and situations that dont involve brutality. However, due to the 80-90% of DNA that I share with most other mammals, I cant help but ask myself, “If there was an exploitive, destructive, and imminent force that threatened the lives of myself, my family, and my community, were I a mother grizzly bear, how would I react?”

    I think there is a grey area where violence and self-preservation reside. And in that grey area is where the imminent death and destruction caused by a global ecological/environmental collapse caused by climate change due to inaction, and the death and destruction followed by rebirth that a conscious transformation of how we live into a lifestyle of natural harmony would bring.

    When you talk against violent tactics, remember that to be violent means to violate, and ask yourself who is being violated and why?

  8. 8 Chris Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Let’s bring it down to earth for a minute…

    I think this is a core reason why American college students should be organizing against military recruiters on their campus. It makes me nauseous to see the FBI, NSA, and CIA tabling at my school’s career fairs. It’s as absurd as passing by a Nazi rally as if it were business as usual. I see businessmen walking around my campus with Blackwater pawprint cufflinks, and I’m supposed to accept it? Why doesn’t that logo induce as much anxiety in our generation’s sensibilities as a swastika or a burning cross?

    Realistically, there’s not much we can do to take down the post-9/11 police state as it is. The best hope I can muster up derives from what I know about the collapse of ancient civilizations. From a certain perspective, you can see that America is on its way out, the great black sluggish mass receding from the shoreline to slumber in the nightmare depths of history. I can’t bring down everything that is Paul Wolfowitz, or George Bush Sr., or Rupert Murdoch. But I can confront the salesmen who are creating tomorrow’s imperialists. The most direct impact I can make would be severing the ties between young people and the Pentagon.

    I’m a student at UT-Knoxville, one of two public research universities in the country that oversees a national research laboratory (the other being UC-Berkeley, which enjoys a little more cred in the protest tradition). My tuition helps pay for research projects designed by the DoD. The FBI and Microsoft helped to develop UT-Knoxville’s network security system. There’s CIA agents crawling around campus promoting scholarships in Arabic Languages, International Relations, and Mineral Economics. So this campus isn’t so much a battlefield as it is a satellite of the Pentagon. The potential for organized resistance is mouth-watering.

    So while it’s a relief to see people contextualizing sustainability and imperialism, and I hope we continue to radicalize the discourse, I’d be disappointed if it didn’t amount to new tactics and new targets. Thomas Friedman is a media celebrity, so embarrassing him sends a good polarizing signal to other opinion leaders, but even Friedman himself knows where the real action is:

    “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
    — New York Times, March 28, 1999

    For example, if we want green-collar jobs to create career opportunities in disenfranchised communities across the country, we’re competing with the Joint Chiefs of Staff for new recruits. At my old highschool, Marines would show up in fatigues carrying military formalwear in one hand and a McDonald’s uniform in the other. They’d skip past the prep tables and go over to the black and the redneck tables, asking them which outfit they want to wear for the rest of their lives. We should expand our focus to include the influence of American imperialism on our peers, with action that signals local resistance all the way back to Washington.

    Have you tee-peed your local recruiting office today?

  9. 9 Root Force Apr 29th, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Glad to see a systemic critique! Indeed, it’s hard to believe that we can bring greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2050 as needed if the system is still in place.

    The fact is, all extractive technology is so dependent on fossil fuels that there’s no realistic way to shift away from them in the time scale we’re confronted with. And so-called clean energy sources that are dependent on mining (read: solar panels, wind, etc.) are just another form of imperialism, forcing the destructive effects of mines and manufacturing onto someone ELSE’S community.

    That’s one of many reasons that Root Force advocates taking down the system by strategically targeting its weak points. One such weak point is the system’s dependence on globalized infrastructure — the mining, transport, electric and telecommunications networks that allow First World economies to import all the raw materials that they need to keep functioning — copper, oil, steel, wood, etc.

    If we can prevent the expansion of global trade infrastructure (mines, highways, ports, dams, etc.), we can cut off the Empire’s access to the resources it needs to sustain itself (read more about this strategy on our web site).

    In answer to the understandable concern about “the death of billions of humans”: Keep in mind that taking down the system isn’t going to mean throwing some master switch that shuts off all machines in an instant. If that were possible, maybe it would. But it’s not.

    Collapse is always a gradual process. With the strategy we articulate (hastening an inevitable resource shortage), the Empire’s grip will begin to weaken first in the periphery. For example, there comes a point when the oil required to fly the warplanes is more than the amount of oil that could be gained from the war.

    This disintegration of central power will allow people — first in the “Third World,” then in the “First” — to create alternatives, reclaim land and find other ways to sustain themselves without dependence on the system. The majority of the world’s population still lives close to the land, or is only a generation or two removed and maintains much of its ancestral survival knowledge. It’s the System that prevents this knowledge from being exercised — that keeps land out of the hands of the people, in order to create scarcity and profit.

    But every day, more farmers are dispossessed and more landbases destroyed. If we do NOT act quickly, then the deaths of billions of people are assured, along with all other life on this planet.

    Root Force fact sheet on global warming:

  10. 10 Kiashu Apr 29th, 2008 at 5:46 am

    For an interesting perspective on empires, see Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers.

    Basically he says that an “empire” is a country who has a population which is X% of the world’s population, but is able to over decades secure nX% or more of the world’s resources, where n>1; that it, an empire is a country grabbing more than its fair share of the world’s resources. To do this, it obviously needs a military which is at least nX% of the world’s militaries in strength; that is, to secure a larger than fair share of the world’s resources, you need a larger than a fair share of the world’s military.

    What happens is that the empire is challenged by other countries wanting to be empires; they want more than their fair share, too. “Germany must have its place in the sun,” said Kaiser Willy. So the empire ends up in lots of wars to secure its larger-than-fair share of resources. For example, Britain at one point with 5% the world’s population had 25% its resources and 35% its military spending. This military spending undermines the strength of the empire, they stop investing in manufacturing, education and so on. Eventually the empire is so weakened from within by a lack of a real economy, and so battered from without by rivals, that it just crumbles, and then sinks back down towards having its resource share about equal to its population share. It’s a slow sink, since there are often good reasons for the country’s being an empire in the first place (lots of educated people, lots of domestic resources, etc).

    Some empires foresee their demise and accept it more or less gracefully (eg Britain after WWII). Other countries fight it, and their collapse is the greater because of it (eg Austria-Hungary).

    Keeping this sort of thing in mind gives an interesting perspective on the US empire.
    Share of world population: 4.5%
    Share of world resources: 25%
    Share of world military spending: 50%

    It’s quite obviously an empire in crisis.

  11. 11 R Margolis Apr 29th, 2008 at 7:29 am

    With the rise of countries such as China and India I think you will see US influence diminish. However, I do not think it will bring the paradise you seek. China supports Iran and Sudan for their oil demands just as other countries supported regimes throughout the world. It is the nation-state system, not a specific country’s system.

  12. 12 jcwinnie Apr 29th, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Unsure whether Evan is railing against the pattern or this particular iteration of it? The question could be important if you trying to decide whether to work to effect change from within or outside Empire. The hidden hand / hidden fist is connected to an arm, which is connected to the body politic. Be, all that you can be, Ghandi!

  13. 13 kaibosworth Apr 29th, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I find the language being used in these comments to be really disheartening, especially the justification of violence. I think there is a point for opposition, but there’s also a point for the construction of an alternative. I don’t agree with how some of these antagonistic forces are developing because I’m more interested in building the society that I wish to see than tearing down the one I don’t, and I’d like to think that a much larger chunk of society is OK with that. As Van Jones says, we have to make the vision irresistible to everyone.

  14. 14 Jonathan Apr 29th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Kai brings up a really good point: the necessity of this being a popular movement. Anything less is an authoritative regime change. Think French Revolution. We don’t want the heads to roll, we want the clean, green love to flow. And I think, to the average person’s credit, they will make the best decision possible given the correct information and the proper options. Most people are more interested in feeding their families than dismantling the state or oppressing subsistence cultures. I believe about 95% of people operate this way. Just speculation.

    The necessity to appeal to these people is evident. The problem is the other 5%. The other 5% is represented by psychopaths, or the global political/corporate elite. Now traditionally, there are group homes, family, and friends to take care of people with unique and sometimes destructive dispositions, and for the most severe we have medical institutions where trained professionals address their specific needs. The problem is these psychopaths view people as commodities, and therefore, “acceptable losses” in order to “increase profits”. Like Kai, I hope that the large majority of people are better than that, and do not have that sort of world view. Again, the problem is the tiny minority of psychopaths who possess most of the worlds political power, capital, and access to the mode of production.

    So what now? Do we kill them? No silly, of course not. MLK, Gandhi, Christ, Dalai Lama, and my mother would definitely not approve – all respectful authorities on non-violent action. In fact, our late Sen. Wellstone worked really hard to get the rest of the US to acknowledge the rights of those with mental quirks who required the assistance of others. It would be terrible to disregard all of their hard work to start cappin’ peeps.

    I think that in support of Kai’s concerns, I should reiterate a concern I have. I think it is foolish to think that knowingly destructive CEOs and politicians who have the most to lose (and are psychopaths) are willing to release power to meet our demands, especially on any national or federal level. I think it is much more realistic to see us, as people, transforming the way we live. Including how our politics are conducted, how we eat, where our necessities come from, etc. When the MAN realizes that we are no longer dependent on HIM, it will be two late. HE will realize that the backs and bones of those who HE has built HIS empire on has moved out from under him. And he no longer has any friends, or slaves.

    In my humble opinion, wrestling the means of production away from the elite includes a certain amount of downward mobility. If that means no bananas in Minnesota in January, so be it. I liked potatoes better anyway.

  15. 15 kaibosworth Apr 29th, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Yeah, Johnathon (Roberts maybe?) that last point is what I was getting at (although you articulated it much better)…It’s about time we start making change rather than telling other people to change it for us. Rejecting the current power structure by building our own gives us true freedom.

    This is a little out of context, but the basis is relevant. From Globalize Liberation: 5 Stages for Social Movements by George Lakey
    Strategy = Power

    The young people who started Otpur had a clear conception of how domination works. They saw their society as a pyramid, with Milosevic and his cronies at the top, in alliance with business owners, party leaders, and generals. The direction of power was typically top-down, and included both obvious repression (the army, police, secret police) and subtle repression, like a monopoly of the media and school curricula.

    Here’s where Otpur activists diverged from conventional wisdom about power. They noticed that each layer of domination was in fact supported by the layer below; that the orders that were given were only carried out because those below were willing to carry them out. Rather than buy into the top-down version of power that Milosevic wanted them to believe, they decided instead to picture Serbian society as organized into pillars of support holding up the dictator. If the pillars gave way, Otpur believed that Milosevic would fall.

  16. 16 kaibosworth Apr 29th, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    “This disintegration of central power will allow people — first in the “Third World,” then in the “First” — to create alternatives, reclaim land and find other ways to sustain themselves without dependence on the system. The majority of the world’s population still lives close to the land, or is only a generation or two removed and maintains much of its ancestral survival knowledge. It’s the System that prevents this knowledge from being exercised — that keeps land out of the hands of the people, in order to create scarcity and profit.

    I also want to reiterate that we don’t have to wait for this point. We don’t have to wait until the “disintegration of central power” to begin to create alternatives. More on this later…

  17. 17 Jonathan Apr 30th, 2008 at 12:00 am

    Kai, the quotes were spot on. I think a lot of times we prefer to criticize people for their ideas/lifestyles/mindframes before we show them a successful alternative. Like I said before, most people will do the right thing given the information and the option. By actively pursuing functional alternatives to the linear/fossil fuel/carbon/capitalist global economy in our own communities we will erode the support for the current top-down power structures, and empower people to take control over their own lives (read: provide subsistence), and the vitality of their own communities.

    I also want to stress the need for action. Beyond not waiting. Bringing it back to the original thread, I think even many “crashists” would agree that the sooner that people rediscover meaningful, successful, and plausible ways to carry on and live, the less destructive and the easier the transition from any sort of actively pursued or climate consequential crash would end up being. That is good.

    And others under the much broader anti-empire umbrella I think would be first in line to support viable alternatives. So would anyone else who has more specifically been maliciously affected by the slimy tentacles of the American Empire (think Native North Americans/Asians/Africans/Caribbeans/Latin Americans). That includes a lot of people. Many farmers and homesteaders I know seem to be doing the same thing. So are many punks, squatters, university students, churches, groups of widows, Catholic Worker, and Mennonite communities that I’ve known, along with my aunt who is really excited about having a garden large enough to supply all of her vegetables for her family this summer. The Amish have been “seeking an alternative” for the last several centuries.

    I think this bodes well that vast groups of people are realizing the effects of an asymmetric and destructive economic regime, even if to them its simply wanting to be more self-sufficient in their own lives. A variety of tactics expressed across the globe by various groups to wrestle back the means of production and subsistence to their own locals will most definitely have a powerful effect on an exploitive global system that is dependent on interdependence.

    I’ve started planting my own “victory garden” last week. What are you doing to erode the pillars in the dominant power structure?

  18. 18 Alexander M. Tinker Apr 30th, 2008 at 6:36 am

    What we really need to start thinking about is how to decline gracefully. It is a fact that the American Empire is in decline. The dollar is in shambles. Our foreign policy relies increasingly on violence. China and India are on the rise. Our oil companies (I know, we hate them, but they are a big measure of our power) are losing contracts to foreign state-backed and private ones.

    I know I’m not fighting to put a pretty face on the American Empire. We have to think of the massive economic changes we need to make re: energy as an opportunity to change our entire economic structure.

    Green energy reduces our dependence on oil, which means less war for access to oil.

    Green jobs are domestic jobs, which can employ Americans at a living wage.

    Ecologically conscious design and manufacturing means less destruction of the lands indigenous people get their livelihood from.

    There are countless green angles from which to attack social justice issues, and it is vitally important to this movement that we do more than green the planet. Our green future must be a more just future – we must use the clean energy revolution to create a more just order domestically and internationally.

    Capitalism is evil, SMASH THE STATE!

  19. 19 Root Force May 1st, 2008 at 1:19 am

    “We don’t have to wait until the ‘disintegration of central power’ to begin to create alternatives.”

    Of course not, nor should we. BUT — and this is a very important “but” — the degree to which the powerful will tolerate alternatives that truly challenge their power is necessarily limited.

    It will not be possible to boycott corporations out of existence, for example. That’s what the police and military are there for — to make sure that people follow the rules set by the powerful and keep the system running smoothly. Historically, radical alternatives have always been met with violence. The need to eliminate alternatives is one of the reasons that European cultures have been so determined about destroying indigenous ones.

    This violent destruction of alternatives is most obvious on the international stage, perhaps — as with Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, etc. — but the same would happen with any truly radical domestic alternatives as well. To take a less obviously violent example: One of the reasons that schooling was made compulsory in the US was to destroy the strong community bonds that allowed Irish immigrant communities to be self-sustaining and not participate in the wider capitalist economy. Of course, parents that did not want to send their children to compulsory schools were, well…compelled. With police force.

    That’s why it’s not enough to JUST build alternatives. Nor should we WAIT for the disintegration of central power.

    We have to take the offensive against the system and bring it down.

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