Interpersonal Political Violence and its Half-Apologists

by Matt Stannard

Between the end of the primaries and last week, we hadn’t heard much more about physical assaults at the Real Estate Tycoon’s political rallies. But then at one event, video captured a man grabbing a male protester and slapping a female one; at another, police have charged a man with assaulting a 69 year-old woman. Video at another event shows a private security guard working for team Tycoon yelling an obscenity straight into a man’s face, while a video released just prior to these events shows a montage of racist and sexist emotives throughout several events. I’m guessing there are many similar events not captured on video.

As a former legal and resource advocate for domestic violence victims, and a survivor of abuse, these events viscerally disturb me. Even thinking about these things happening to people fills me with a philosophical disgust. Those triggery feelings don’t come from the rough physical contact itself; in sporting or other contexts hard contact doesn’t bother me. It’s that the acts are violative, filled with invasive claims to power, non-consensual and micro-politically oppressive (like the Tycoon’s politics). I’m not trying to describe those feelings as theoretical categories, either. The acts are trauma-inducing to their victims and to hypersensitive observers like me. I also understand that they are utilized as media spectacle, of which I’ll say a little more below.

I’ve felt frustrated trying to articulate these feelings publicly, both because they draw attention to my hypersensitivity over abuse and because this horrified rejection of the Tycoon (and an accompanying concern with stopping the movement he represents) doesn’t lead me to the Democratic Party or compel me to vote for its presidential candidate. That inevitably awkward discussion aside, I’m not comfortable placing my trauma-stress near any of the three dominant political orientations towards the Republican nominee and his followers’ fits of violence.

Those three categories of response are: 1. Republican critics of the Tycoon. They see the violence as an unfortunate and tangential distraction. 2. Democrats. They see the violence as indicative of a temperament unfit to lead. 3. Lefty “half-apologists” for the Tycoon. They see the violence as an inconsequential spectacle and a manifestation of the systemic violence propped up by both parties.  

Intellectually, I am closest to #3, but only with the second of its two holdings. That is, the media may make a spectacle of people getting punched in the face, but it’s not inconsequential and it’s real to its victims and those around it. The problem with proponents of #3 (and they’re a solid presence on the left blogosphere) is that they seem to understand violence systemically but not interpersonally, leading to poor rhetorical interaction with good people who are sincerely and unapologetically voting to stop it; people for whom the horror of bloody masculinist violence perpetrated by a wealthy white male narcissist (and alleged rapist) is indeed enough to compel them to vote for the candidate they deem most likely to defeat him.

I can’t bring myself to blame anyone for making that calculation, and this is a very good illustration of making one decision while not faulting people for making a different one. The substantially lower risk of having someone beat the hell out of you at a Democratic event than a Republican event is real, and there are political reasons for that difference that add to an egalitarian critique of systemic violence. Dismissing a priori the fear of brutality, or simply telling the people who are afraid to toughen up, is to put theory over person and practice. Genuine transformative thinking requires that we understand why, in this unstable and unhinged world, when mechanisms of emancipation are so elusive and inconvenient, many people will vote on which candidate seems less like an abusive predator.

I agree that the order propped up by Clintonian neoliberalism contains (both possesses and hides) equivalent interpersonal violence. I understand the ways liberal politics both depends on and masks systemic and specific violence. And I think it’s possible to understand that, and commit to fight against it, and reject lesser-evilism and vote for the candidates you want to vote for, all while acknowledging the unique horror of the Real Estate Tycoon’s incipient fascist politics. I think it’s possible to say “I share your concern and fear, and it leads me to a different response.” All it takes is some sensitivity, respect for nuance, and willingness to sit out pointless social media arguments that you probably should have avoided in the first place. Stop blaming Democratic voters for being really, really afraid, and start building the alternative we keep insisting must be built. Those actions will build the movement. Acting insensitive and throwing macho bullshit around won’t.

Sept. 9 Inmate Protesters “in this struggle for the long haul”

An update, and interviews with some inmates, on tomorrow’s prison protest events. 

Tomorrow, September 9, inmates in prisons from California to Alabama will rise in protest and civil disobedience against the inhumane conditions, underpaid labor, and socioeconomic oppression of the American prison system. Activists in states from Washington to New York, Michigan to Texas, will gather in solidarity with those prisoners. As I wrote in an article published yesterday at Occupy.com, this is a strike against American corporate capitalism itself, because the prison is the “ideological muscularity” of economic injustice. Punitive incarceration (as opposed to the detention of unstable and dangerous individuals) is a policy farce, which even intelligent conservative legal theorists are hesitant to defend. But what happens in American prisons is even worse–American policymakers have accepted the inevitability of micro-violence, an entire paradigm of inmates’ loss of agency over their bodies, behind prison walls. Even most of the international human rights community reluctantly accepts the inevitability of compulsory labor as part of imprisonment. But radical egalitarian thinking does not, and the politics of 2015-2016 have brought egalitarianism onto a bigger stage.

The events have been in planning and promotion stages for several weeks now, but apart from a fine article in The Nation that also ran yesterday, national media coverage has been lacking. The protest at Standing Rock — a stand by Native Americans and allies against the economic interests that run over indigenous land — have also overshadowed other activist news, and it’s worth noting that the protests there are connected with prison resistance at the deepest levels. The extraction-exploitation economy uses the cheapest human labor it can find, and fights to dig energy out from all land, no matter how sacred to those connected to that land. Dig stuff up, throw people in prison, keep planet and people in a state of dependence and desperation.

The authenticity of the prison fight, and the discomforting intimacy of its demands, make it easy to pass over in our daily quest for a smooth ride from dawn to dark. But that doesn’t fully explain the pervasive public indifference to the inhumane conditions of our prisons, or to the hollowing out and economic disenfranchisement of the incarcerated, effects that, even if they were ethically defensible, would still be pragmatically counterproductive.

That indifference was on my mind as I wrote both of my Occupy.com articles on the September 9 events, and activist Ben Turk provided his perspectives on public indifference for yesterday’s article. “The state has done a good job of convincing us to reduce prisoners to whatever crime they were convicted of,” he said, “regardless of all the circumstances and unreliability of the criminal legal system.”

Someone forwarded the same questions I asked Ben Turk to two incarcerated people with deep involvement in prison demonstrations and, last night, through an intermediary, I received answers  best presented in their entirety.

From the Ohio State Penitentiary, I heard from Siddique Abdullah Hasan, a prison Imam and organizer on death row, a sentence related to the death of a police officer in the 1993 uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Matt Stannard: I think it’s a fair question to ask: What is it about prisoner resistance that causes such dissonance and reactance in the public? Many people I know have friends or family members that have been in prison. But, despite the numbers, prisoners are really at the bottom of the heap for the political priorities of even “progressive-minded” people. What are your thoughts on that?

Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan: There are several factors contributing to this “dissonance and reactance.” One of them being the overexposure of violence, crimes and wars by the national media. It is an undeniable reality that a large percentage of what the public internalizes emanates from the national media who routinely portrays prisoners, their rights, and their ongoing resistance against mass incarceration, prison slavery, and super economic exploitation, in a negative light. When one actually analyzes the colossal negative exposure that are given to prisoners by the national media, it is amazing that prisoners’ rights and their resistance stand even on the bottom of the heap when it comes to the political priorities of “progressive-minded” people.
My personal observation has confirmed that the media, especially mainstream media, devotes a considerable amount of time demonizing prisoners and characterizing them as uncaring, unsympathetic, and incorrigible monsters that deserve to be in prison for the crimes they are suspected of committing against society as well as their fellow citizens. No coverage at all is given to those innocent souls lingering in prison, and very little coverage is given to those whom were wrongfully imprisoned and whom are catching hell trying to put their nightmarish experiences behind them. I submit that if the media were to give some fair coverage as to what causes most people to commit crimes and violence in the first place, then more people would become sympathetic toward prisoners’ rights and resistance. I also submit that if society were to remove the causes to crimes–unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, drug, alcohol, and unlimited access to guns–then there would be no mass effects, viz., robbery, rape, murder, burglary, assault, property crimes, to name a few. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, robbery, rape, murder, burglary, and violence are the most often committed crimes in the United States, and this writer is certain that many of your friends and their families have been either the victims or the secondary victims of these crimes. As a result, the overwhelming majority of the people in society have become detached and desensitized toward prisoners’ rights, their resistance, and their struggles. This detachment and desensitization will only change when the people in society come into the realization that prisoners’ struggles and their struggles are actually one and the same, and that the same government that is oppressing and economically exploiting those in prison is the same government that is oppressing and economically exploiting those in society. Therefore, we should not allow our common enemy to divide and conquer us, nor to pit one group against another.

MS: How would you characterize the significance/importance of the September 9th events? Like, at the risk of sounding shallow, what would be a “win” for the cause in the context of these events?

ISAH: Events on September 9th will be extremely significant in pushing our fight to revolutionize the prison-industrial complex, and to put their corporate friends on notice that we will no longer passively accept their super economic exploitation of either us or our hardworking families. Our objective is to level the playing field by creating both the circumstances and conditions where the prisoncrats will have to compensate us for our labor and afford us the same benefits and protections as traditional workers. Moreover, our objective is to ultimately eliminate prison slavery. We are American citizens, not her slaves, and we are rising up as one and refusing to be treated as such. We will go forward in the spirit of our ancestors, as well as their allies, who fought too hard and too long in this country for their descendants to still be treated as slaves in the 21st Century.
I’ve learned early in life that nothing beats a failure, or a loser, but a person who doesn’t try. We emphatically understand that this movement to eliminate prison slavery is going to be a protracted struggle; therefore, an initial “win” will be to simply stand up to this oppressive government. But, the ultimate “win” will come when we succeed in abolishing prison slavery and mass incarceration. We will accept nothing less. These two issues are nonnegotiable. So come what may and let the wind blow wherever, for we are in this struggle for the long haul. And, that’s real talk!

I also received a message from Greg Curry, also on death row over the deaths in the ’93 Ohio uprising (as the Ohio ACLU points out, Hasan, Curry and others continue to declare their innocence and are denied face-to-face contact with media in retaliation for their argumentativeness). Curry’s message was obviously conveyed via text message, and I’ll post it that way.

I think society, in general, feel if your in prison u get what treatment u get and rumor is we have cable TV !!!microwaves etc. society also feel if we innocent the system will straighten it all out!!! so basically no one wants to see the sausage made. also every oppressed community know A GUY that BELONGS in prison, so each of us viewed through that lens, help explain why its such a disconnect . one other key point is ACTIVIST, MOSTLY, don’t take the time to get to know the prisoner they aim to help. if r children had play dates, or we married, or got matching tattoo s !(smile) then ur working from awhole other sphere! ALSO PERHAPS its time to call out the AS CALLED PROGRESSIVE, the NAACP, etc. the sameway we would call out TRUMP at a local fish fry. all should b held accountable. people and places raise funds off their so called help to prisoners. . no one should b afraid to .MEASURE THE MOVEMENT. in regards to that, by this being a .multi state prisoner driven effort it has already been successful!! the fruit of the labor may not of been tasted as of yet but this is the start of endless possibilities!!!! FREEDOm FIRST, GREG. p.s. evidence on .y case is at GREG CURRY.ORG. … one other thing for .matt… you ask what the win would look like, I should mention what the LOSE look like.. that is to say more of the same abuses, free labor forced compliance, and hopelessness amongst prisoners. that losing has a foul smell to it ,in a losers eyes there is a absence of LIFE. we NEED some VICTORY!!! GREG

If protest involves a “rhetoric of confrontation” by the powerless, which forces us to examine both our own privilege and the massive excavation of planet and living beings necessary to maintain even higher levels of privilege, and does so at the risk of great discomfort, the prison uprisings are exemplary to this. They will make many of us uncomfortable.

With great reverence and respect for those who are risking their necks behind prison walls, I conclude this by urging everyone reading to do something, confronting your discomfort and awkwardness, if you have it, and help these actions and these incarcerated human beings tomorrow.  The Prisoner Resistance list provides the following possibile actions, most of which are explicitly for non-prisoners:

1. IWOC hotline: prisoners facing retaliation for strike activities can call the IWOC hotline collect anytime of the day or night at 816-866-3808. Send that number to your inside contacts, or call it yourself if you hear from someone needing help. You can also email IWOC at iwoc@riseup.net.
2. The National Lawyer’s Guild has offered to file an individual “notice of claim” on behalf of each prisoner against abusive and retaliatory prisons and guards. Filing a notice of claim tells the prison that a suit could be filed and puts them on notice that abuse has happened. *It is not the actual suit*, but it gives violated prisoners time to find local lawyers. Please send details to newjersey@nlg.org and to massdef@nlg.org. Prisoners can also reach out directly to: NLG Mass Defense, 132 Nassau Street, Rm. 922, New York, NY 10038
3. Constant pressure! IWOC has set up a phone zap system to make it easy to make all the needed anti-repression and support phone calls, and to get reminders. Please commit to spending 30 minutes every couple of days to making calls. Visit https://goo.gl/forms/v3kTjt00s6ybO2Of1 to get started.
4. Donate! Support all the great work IWOC is doing, and make sure that Sep 9 is just the beginning of a new chapter of ongoing prisoner struggles by chipping in here: https://rally.org/endprisonslavery
5. Solidarity Actions! Join the over 50 actions across the country! March, rally, organize a mass call in or letter writing campaign, drop a banner, plan support, get inspired by all the amazing plans compiled by ItsGoingDown.org here: https://itsgoingdown.org/spreading-strike-solidarity-actio…/
6. Educate! Learn more about the strike, and tell others, share it on social media through #EndPrisonSlavery, #PrisonStrike, and prisonstrike.com. Find tons of articles and information at SupportPrisonerResistance.net, where people can also endorse the strike, join this mailing list, and find organizer contacts in your area.
7. Volunteer! There are dozens of easy, but time-consuming tasks involved in maintaining this support infrastructure. If you have any interest in helping out with checking emails, maintaining websites, transcribing letters, handling media people, answering calls or mail, please please please reply to this email prisonerresistance@gmail.com and we’ll plug you in. Thank you.

Everyone reading this can at least do one of these things. Do it and see how it feels–that stretching of yourself into solidarity.

 

Matt Stannard is policy director at Commonomics USA.

 

Public Banks as the Antithesis of Neoliberalism

I’m for public banks because people have a right to share in sustainable abundance, such abundance is relatively easy to achieve structurally and democratically, and neoliberalism’s reliance on the private sector to get us there is foolish.

by Matt Stannard

The Commission on Social Development is a sub-body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. In 1995 the Commission hosted a Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, which the United States attended—sending a contingent led by then-Vice President Al Gore. All participating nations at the Summit signed its set of conclusions, the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. The Declaration held that the Commission’s task was “to address both [the] underlying and structural causes” of poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion, and “their distressing consequences in order to reduce uncertainty and insecurity in the life of people.” The agreement wasn’t law, it wasn’t enforceable even by the limited standards of international law, but it established a public and agreed-upon moral framework among its participants, good enough to at least inform a conversation on economic policy in these troubling and rapidly-changing times.

The Declaration was riddled with the contradictions of bourgeois political economy—contradictions that have heightened a lot in the 20 years since the Summit. Although the document argued that economic and environmental insecurity were intimately related, it clung to “economic growth” as a prerequisite to “social justice,” albeit in the context of sustainable development. Classical models of productivity ran through the rhetoric, from lamenting the “ineffectiveness in the functioning of markets” to utilizing the language of “opportunity” – complete with availability of credit as a model solution. “Productive employment and work” was similarly unreflective. The “liberalization of trade and investment” were assumed to be necessary for “sustained economic growth and the creation of employment.”

Today we know that there is plenty of work, but much of it no longer fits (if it ever did) into Fordist models of structural employment. In the developed world in particular, we know that the elites don’t even want everyone to be employed, that artificial scarcity is necessary to justify the continuation of whole categories of financial practices, and that traditional employment is vanishing while working people’s financial obligations are not. However imperfect, the 1995 Declaration contained seeds of hope that, when planted in the soil of a New Economy, could produce far better fruit than the bitter trees of neoliberalism. It insisted that people “are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with the environment.” And it recommended social expenditures for the poor in language that didn’t suggest “workfare” or other exploitative shams.

Vice President Gore’s statement at the Summit, on behalf of the United States, showed much more concern for environmental reform (which Gore has always filtered through the lens of corporate capitalism) than economic reform. Restructuring was necessary for environmental solvency, Gore’s rhetoric seemed to imply, but he framed poverty along very neoliberal lines. His articulation of the foundational poverty question of the Summit was: “What can be done to lift the poorest of our citizens into productive lives?” And he viewed humans, from healthy and productive to sick and uneducated, as “unrealized economic and social potential.” Potential for what? The answer would come in his administration’s NAFTA push, and something even worse. In his statement, Gore said:

We [the Clinton administration] are working now to create a more vital relationship between the government and the people. We cannot succeed if we treat the poor solely as passive recipients of assistance — whether for welfare, food stamps or medical care. We are instead designing an approach that empowers people to be active partners in the management of their own fates. We have to find new links to our own people — with a government that works better and costs less, and focuses on results.

The new “approach” Gore was talking about was the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, a devastatingly awful piece of legislation that bought into the twin false narratives of economic scarcity and poverty-as-personal failure and outflanked the Republicans by driving millions of people into material desperation. In a 2012 article, Jason DeParle articulated the devastation:

. . . much as overlooked critics of the restrictions once warned, a program that built its reputation when times were good offered little help when jobs disappeared. Despite the worst economy in decades, the cash welfare rolls have barely budged . . . Even as it turned away the needy, Arizona spent most of its federal welfare dollars on other programs, using permissive rules to plug state budget gaps. The poor people who were dropped from cash assistance here, mostly single mothers, talk with surprising openness about the desperate, and sometimes illegal, ways they make ends meet. They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners — all with children in tow.

. . . Poor families can turn to other programs, like food stamps or Medicaid, or rely on family and charity. But the absence of a steady source of cash, however modest, can bring new instability to troubled lives.

. . . if the rise in employment was larger than predicted, it was also less transformative than it may have seemed. Researchers found that most families that escaped poverty remained “near poor.” And despite widespread hopes that working mothers might serve as role models, studies found few social or educational benefits for their children. (They measured things like children’s aspirations, self-esteem, grades, drug use and arrests.) Nonmarital births continued to rise. . . . the number of very poor families appears to be growing.

The United States’ participation in the Copenhagen Summit, and its signature on the nonbinding Declaration, raises the question of what governments are supposed to do to domestically enact the soft norms they’ve officially and ceremonially agreed are important. At least two United Nations experts have weighed in on the role of income distribution and poverty in the enactment of international human rights norms. José Bengoa, Special Rapporteur to the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities wrote in 1997 that it was reasonable for human rights monitors to note

when situations are occurring where the high concentration of wealth in a few hands is producing devastating social effects with consequences so serious as to threaten the ‘social integration’ of the society in question, or at the international level, the balance of a given region . . . From a human rights perspective, it is generally felt that [extreme inequality and wealth concentration] would entail violation of the economic, social, and cultural rights of the population, incurring permanent discrimination and violation of the fundamental rights of individuals . . . Poor income distribution constitutes a specific type of discrimination that very often aggregates with other discrimination . . . and has as a consequence the new forms of poverty that are the scourge of the world today.

And, scholar A.M. Lizen, an expert on the Commission on Human Rights, explained in 1999 that the most appropriate domestic implementation of socioeconomic rights is structural, listing “infrastructure targeted for low-income communities,” “access to basic social services for all,” and “sustainable livelihoods for the poor, including access to productive assets such as credit.”

Talking about a human right to economic security, by the way, isn’t outlandish or hyperbolic. It’s far less incendiary than what the current pontiff is saying:

Referring to businesses that hire employees on part-time contracts so they don’t have to provide health and pension benefits, Francis said Thursday (May 19) that was akin to sucking the blood from their workers’ veins, leaving them “to eat air.” “Those who do that are true leeches, and they live by spilling the blood of the people who they make slaves of labor” . . . “We thought that slaves don’t exist anymore — they exist,” the pope said. “True, people don’t go and get them from Africa to sell them in America anymore, no. But they exist in our cities. And there are traffickers, those who use people through work without justice.”

That moral posturing, combined with the recognition that material deprivation is a form of discrimination and constitutes a violation of human rights, is historically appropriate. Put together, Lizen and Bengoa’s analysis suggests that there is a human right to economic security, in the absence of which people suffer acute discrimination; and that the best way to execute that right is through structural reforms aimed at material accessibility.

Which brings us to public banking—everything from large-scale infrastructure and business lending (if we actually want to make market economies work for everyone, or if we want to experiment with alternatives, public banks to finance those alternatives), to postal or other banks to lend credit and even facilitate direct cash transfers or basic income as it becomes increasingly clear that old models of business and productivity do not account for new economic realities, from labor-saving innovations to the ecologically necessary transition away from extraction and exploitation.

Public banks work. They fund public goods, they can be engineered to facilitate sustainable economies, they can be made 100% transparent and democratically accountable, and they have no institutional incentive to gamble on misfortune and misery. Utilizing them would shatter the illusion that there is some kind of fiscal scarcity that functions in the same way as the scarcity of natural resources. The very existence of public banks capable of democratizing the creation of money refutes false scarcity and clarifies what we don’t have enough of (and must therefore manage) and what we have an abundance of (and must therefore share).

One can and should read the literature for and against public banking, the variety of methods to implement it, and the experiences of those groups around the United States who have been pushing for several years now to get public banking bills out of committee and onto legislative floors. One should observe how vociferously and vacuously opponents of public banking—so very often supported by big private financial interests—churn out bad arguments against it. But if you don’t have time to study all of that, the foundational justification for public finance is simple: Although material resources are scarce, money is a social construct. That doesn’t mean we ought to create money carelessly, but it does mean we create money. So the only questions are who ought to control that process, and how to prioritize the applications of its power. The people should be in control, and private interests making money from money is socially destructive.

The Clinton administration didn’t understand this in the 1990s. The Bush administration that followed didn’t even understand that it didn’t understand it, and the Obama administration, in continuing a weak approach to Wall Street regulations, while pushing “managed” private health care and neoliberal trade agreements, and demanding energy transitions with only half-measures of economic security for energy workers, has been disappointing. Both parties have thoroughly bought into monetarism and neoliberalism, allowed Wall Street to steal hundreds of billions of dollars from municipalities, and maintained a narrative (albeit occasionally standing on distinct sides of it) that assumes people only deserve economic security through hard labor that adheres to a capitalist business model and that the transition to ecological sustainability, like the transition to universal health coverage, must be filtered through the demands of big capital. The idea that a corporate-bred thuggish “strongman” in the executive office can somehow solve all of this is also frustratingly hilarious.

But do we need the federal government to implement this particular iteration of socioeconomic rights and economic democracy? Maybe not. States and municipalities are great sites for public banks, because they are where the most effective resource management decisions can be implemented, and they are where human needs and cooperative economic solutions are most readily apparent. Consider the damage done by irresponsible financial marketization of city budgets, underfunding and deindustrialization of major cities, and the gentrification that occurs when cities begin to thrive.

Public banks can help municipalities create and fund work-spaces for nontraditional work reflective of the new economy. They could do so if they took their money out of Wall Street banks and created their own North Dakota- or German-style public banks. Some communities are already experimenting with cooperative and sustainable economies that reward, rather than punish, residents who only want to (or can) work part time. There are housing alternatives that would fit more small-scale and sustainable models. The case for funding all of this rather than relying on neoliberalism’s repackaged trickle-down economics is strong.

Matt Stannard is policy director at Commonomics USA and a member of the board of the Public Banking Institute, and a longtime economic justice advocate. A version of this post appeared today at the Public Banking Institute blog

What I’d Say at the Vatican’s Economic Conference (if I were Bernie Sanders)

by Matt Stannard

Bernie Sanders will speak at an April 15-16 conference at the Vatican: “Centesimus Annus 25 Years Later.” It’s rather important that a primary presidential candidate who began as an insurgent and who has no overt religious political agenda would be speaking at such an event, but before assessing this, it’s important to understand the significance of the conference: It’s a soft repudiation and re-thinking of the Catholic Church’s institutional anticommunism.

Pope John Paul II, a staunch anti-communist, wrote Centesimus Annus in 1991, against the backdrop of the collapse of Stalinism in the USSR and Eastern Europe. It strongly defends private property rights but also defends labor unions. It equates socialism with capitalist consumerism, in that both deny the dignity of the human person. It basically calls for welfare capitalism. It blames atheism for class struggle, but also admits that free markets don’t satisfy many human needs. Importantly, it points out that there may be other economic models besides capitalism and socialism.

But the encyclical conflates socialism with Stalinism, and its condescending attribution of class struggle to nonbelief and misdirected indignation seem historically and morally obsolete after (a) seeing the human costs of the former Soviet states’ transitions to market economies, and (b) ignores the actual history of “socialism” as a multifaceted movement that both precedes and, in some people’s opinions, pre-empts bolshevism (at least, there is a conversation to be had there, and John Paul II was reactionary on these questions).

The April 15-16 conference acknowledges that much has changed since 1991, and hints without coming out and saying that John Paul II’s perspective may have been limited by its historical context.

. . . it is eminently appropriate for the Pontifical Academy of Social Science to organize a symposium on the 25th anniversary of Centesimus annus. Remaining faithful both to St. John Paul’s own intellectual preparations for the document and to the Academy’s own charter, this gathering will not be a commemorative event but a serious academic discussion. Papers and the conversations they generate are not intended to be confessional or fideistic or simply celebratory of past insight in either tone or content. The symposium will focus on two major questions. The first concerns the changes in the world situation – economically, politically, and culturally – over the past 25 years. The second will investigate how Catholic social teaching has engaged the world in order to ask how best the Church can do so in the coming years and decades.

And, of course, the conference is self-conscious of the role of Pope Francis in promoting a far more egalitarian, anti-capitalist religious treatment of the economy than Catholics or other major Christian churches have put forward in recent memory. And the Pope, says the conference web site, is intimately involved with the planning of this conference.

Sanders is in a position to articulate a uniquely American, secular moral vision of economic justice. Indeed, the moral, value-laden essence of Sanders’s stump speeches and various media artifacts eclipses public consciousness of his actual policy positions (although it is silly to suggest, as some have, that Sanders doesn’t understand economic and finance policy or is making only vague promises–see this and this and this).

For those of us in the economic justice movement, the Sanders campaign has simultaneously been an exciting and frustrating test case for whether conventional American politics can give so-called “democratic socialism” a seat at the table which it arguably hasn’t had since Michael Harrington visited the White House. It’s been exciting because, after the last 24 years–8 years of right-wing Democratic Party neoliberalism, then 8 years of all that was George W. Bush, and 8 more years of Democratic Party neoliberalism–even a social democrat getting a hearing on the American stage, and a moral conversation about economic inequality and insecurity, have tremendous promise for energizing the ongoing, multifaceted economic justice and sustainability movements.

It’s been frustrating because we aren’t discussing some of Sanders’s most powerful ideas and allies. Sanders calls for postal banking, has sponsored legislation on enabling worker-owned enterprises, wants more transparency (and presumably is open to a reconceptualization of) the Federal Reserve, and when asked about the Bank of North Dakota, described it near-perfectly and said he loved it. But little of that has come out in his campaign, not just because the mainstream media is ignoring it, but because Sanders is ignoring most of it. He came on strong on postal banking, but while he’s continuing his messages about breaking up big banks and tax equity, his earlier “new economy” proposals just aren’t part of his campaign formula.

I’m not naive about the constructed political reality of elections, but with thousands of policy initiatives, cooperatives, intentional communities, grassroots economic initiatives, defining the real landscape of economic activism today, I know what I would say at the conference at the Vatican next week, even from the perspective of being Bernie Sanders. I’m sure whatever Sanders says next week will be decent (my utralefty friends, I apologize), but this is what I would say if I were him–emphasizing the parts of his own policy and organizing history I wish Sanders would fearlessly emphasize now.

1. Economic justice requires restructuring, not only redistribution

It’s easy to see why redistribution is the dominant paradigm among establishment leaders concerned with economic justice. But the politics of redistribution, like the politics of philanthropy, ultimately depend on, and maintain, the hierarchy between the haves and have-nots that is the foundation of economic and ecological injustice. Tens of thousands of groups worldwide are engaged in building a new economy based on cooperative economics and non-hierarchical modes of production and distribution. This is the foundation of true, sustainable economics.

2. Markets are not necessary to manage essential resources, are tools at best, and work better when tightly regulated, not fetishized

The work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom, and countless historical and living examples, shows that neither markets nor central governments are necessary to manage common resources. Although many in the sustainability movement call for “parallel” economies, markets alongside common management, history shows that markets tend to consume the commons rather than exist in symbiotic relationship with them. Proponents of market distribution have a seat at the table, but should have to answer critical questions about externalities and inequality if they want a voice in building a just and sustainable economy. They shouldn’t enjoy special presumption.

3. Privatization of the Commons must be resisted

Privatiztaion has mostly been a disaster for communities around the world–not just because privatization privileges financial shareholders over material stakeholders, but because the vision of privatization alienates us from our universal stake in the heritage of our Commons. Whether conceived of as the stock of a divine creator, or the fountain of all living beings, economic justice begins by recognizing the source of all value in the Commons.

4. Climate egalitarianism is essential to human survival

We must stop the artificial heating and destruction of our planet, and must do so in an economically just framework. To ignore the plight of working people in a panic-stricken rush to deal with the causes and impacts of climate change is both unnecessary and counterproductive. Likewise (and this is another problem with single-minded redistributive strategies), to eliminate poverty by standardizing and subsidizing ecologically unsustainable practices is incredibly dangerous. Both half-strategies ignore the principle that exploitation the planet and its human and nonhuman inhabitants are an interrelated whole.

I realize I’m pushing the envelope in relation to the Bernie Sanders of the presidential campaign, but Sanders has fellow-traveled with grassroots economic justice, even if he hasn’t always led with it. He gets why worker cooperatives are more successful and moral than traditional capitalist enterprises. He gets why people embrace socialism (however precise its definitional parameters) even though it’s . . . complicated. Although he’s a mess and to the right of the Pontiff on foreign policy, they have more in common than not on economics, particularly concerning an imperative of solidarity.

Of course, this was just a thought experiment. I’ll be contemplating and sharing my four arguments above this weekend at the “Materializing Empathy” webinar, which in conclusion I’ll shamelessly plug.

Matt Stannard is Policy Director at Commonomics USA and a member of the Board of the Public Banking Institute.

Clinton, Classism, and Arendt’s Zinc Box Error

The errors and toxicity of anti-class politics

by Matt Stannard

The case for Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee and likely the next President includes the argument, explicit or not, that the interests of multinational finance capital and those of people making less than $100,000, $50,000, or $20,000 a year, and the interests of this planet’s ecology, are all compatible. Systemically speaking, there is no evidence to support that assumption, nor any evidence favoring either Clinton’s “let’s work with ‘em, regulate ‘em a little but on good terms” or, for that matter, Bernie Sanders’s “let’s beat the hell out of ‘em” approaches. Both are based on a philosophy of contingent redistribution and regulation, which, along with reliance on philanthropy, is insufficient for economic and ecological justice, and in the present condition may even delay it.

Sanders, however, brings to the table the promise of immediate, focused relief for the poor, unemployed, and the economically insecure–the latter a category that includes half of the country, along with an aggressive environmental policy—and it’s critical that a synthesis of environmental and economic justice become the new policy norm. But Sanders brings an additional, more systemic message: Because multinational corporations and finance capital have colonized our political system, pushing back against that needs to be our highest priority–again, not through any material revolution, but by limiting, through judicial and legislative fiat, the power such corporations and wealthy individuals have on our political process. If the rich have the power to stop anything good from happening, we need to check that power first.

Although they are unlikely to succeed, Sanders’s proposals and arguments enrage moderates and liberals who believe either in the Clintonian compatibility assumption or have resigned themselves to accepting the dominance of money in politics. They appear to bother Hillary Clinton herself, who has gone so far as to level an explicit critique against them—one that sounds like a simplified academic debate argument against Marxism. Her rhetoric is striking in its explicit repudiation of class politics, as well as its straw-person characterization of socioeconomic concerns as reductionism:

“Not everything is about an economic theory, right?” Clinton said, kicking off a long, interactive riff with the crowd at a union hall this afternoon.

“If we broke up the big banks tomorrow—and I will if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will—would that end racism?”

“No!” the audience yelled back.

Clinton continued to list scenarios, asking: “Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

It’s interesting that Clinton said “overnight.” Why would she need to say that? Because some part of her is aware that the long-term effect of increased economic security and material cooperation really is a more welcoming society—a more gentle, empathetic, and progressive society where the marginalized and disempowered are welcomed into community. But she dare not dwell on that thought too long. Instead, she reverts to the straw person—that anyone, least of all Sanders, is arguing that breaking up big banks would magically end identity oppression.

Of course, on the other side of the mainstream political aisle is a fascistic thug, and since a part of 1930s Germany seems to have beamed into 2016, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the universe guided me, in researching my introductory essay to my new book of poetry based on the work of Bertolt Brecht, to a fascinating artifact, a 1948 review by Hannah Arendt of a book of Brecht’s poetry. Arendt has much to praise in Brecht, particularly for his prioritization of social over personal diagnosis. She also seems to enjoy his eclectic poetic style–really a free roaming across styles. Arendt’s discomfort with Brecht’s poetry increases in proportion to the growing blatancy of his socialism.

Specifically, Brecht wrote a poem in 1936 called “Burial of the Agitator in a Zinc Coffin.” The agitator is clearly a socialist or a communist, and the Nazis buried dissenters they killed in zinc coffins to send a message to families and citizens that they could be next.

Here in this zinc box
lies a dead person
or his legs and his head
or even less of him
or nothing, for he was
a trouble-maker.

He was recognised as the root of all evil.
Dig him in. It will be best
if his wife goes alone to the knacker’s yard with him
because anyone else going
would be a marked man.

What is in that zinc box
has been egging you on to all sorts of things:
Getting enough to eat
And having somewhere dry to live
And feeding one’s children
And insisting on one’s exact wages
And solidarity with all
who are oppressed like yourselves. And
thinking.

What is in that zinc box said
that another system of production was needed
and that you, the masses of labour in your millions
must take over.
Until then things won’t get better for you.

And because what is in the zinc box said that
it was put into the zinc box and must be dug in
as a trouble-maker who egged you on.
And whoever now talks of getting enough to eat
And whoever of you wants somewhere dry to live
And whoever of you insists on his exact wages
And whoever of you wants to feed his children
And whoever thinks, and proclaims his solidarity
with all who are oppressed –
from now on throughout eternity
he will be put into a zinc box like this one
as a trouble-maker and dug in.

 

Irritated more than critical, Arendt accuses Brecht of ignorance, of letting his Marxism run wild, ignoring the true nature of Nazi oppression, political repression.  Brecht, Arendt writes,

deals with this subject as though it were simply the case of an agitator who “has agitated in favor of many things: for eating-your-fill, for a-roof-over-your head, for feeding-your-children,” etc. The point is, that an agitator with such slogans would have been so ridiculous in 1936 that nobody would have needed to put him out of the way.

This criticism is factually shaky and extremely unfair to the poet and playwright, himself a victim of Nazism. As John Simkin points out, there were still one million people unemployed in Germany as of 1937, and those in the working class who were employed were miserable–not merely as politically repressed subjects of Nazism, but uniquely as workers. The Nazis controlled trade unions and severely punished independent union activity. Wages were very low and did not increase with productivity.

So there was much for a socialist or communist agitator to fight against in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. There was Nazism itself, which the far left did a much better job of both explaining and pushing back against than the centrists ever did. But there was also widespread exploitation of labor—from the slave labor that began to build the war machine to the conditions of the working class itself, conditions which, regardless of what the materially privileged Arendt thought, were pretty awful. If you were anti-capitalist and anti-Nazi, you were doubly marked, and it seems foolish in retrospect to suggest that agitation against poor wages and working conditions, and the unemployment of a million people, on top of the triumph of fascism, would have seemed ridiculous or that no such materialist agitators would be put out of the way. Tens of thousands of leftist political prisoners were put out of the way between 1933 and the end of the war. Arendt’s denial of this is criminal. She’s better than that.

Brecht figures strongly into a philosophical discussion of the way some liberals save their nastiest derision for socialists, and one needn’t be a Marxist or even a socialist to examine this. In Threepenny Opera, Brecht writes: “Food is the first thing, morals follow on.” Stripped of an understanding of class, identity politics often drifts into a morality-based critique of power, and while values are undeniably important (perhaps more important than orthodox Marxists admit), Ioan Davies’s interpretation of Brecht’s line in Threepenny expresses the hazard of morals that ignore materiality:

The struggle to be “good” is frequently stressed, but it is a fatuous struggle if it is not linked with the struggle to live . . . No matter how much individuals aim to be just, justice and morality are only possible if the social conditions are just. In fact the attempt is only worthwhile under such conditions: otherwise it becomes blind to the injustice of others.

I think that most of the public discussion about Clinton, Sanders, identity politics, class politics, sexism and emancipation conflates optics and policy. Clinton apologists also conspicuously erase the mainstream Democratic Party’s (and their candidate’s) synthesis of political liberalism and economic neoliberalism. It’s a dangerous thing, thinking that legal protections and moral inclusiveness are enough to check the abuses of the inegalitarian economy. It’s at least as dangerous as what Clinton apologists accuse the left of doing, assuming economic egalitarianism can, by itself, adequately address illiberal, racist, sexist, and other exclusionary cultures.

Clinton apologists are right: socialism alone, by itself, can whitewash identity oppression. But they stop there. One longtime friend recently described to me their excitement in hearing Clinton call for a society where more women and people of color inhabited positions at the top of corporate, academic, and political hierarchies. This friend dismissed my question about the injustices of the hierarchies themselves as “unrealistic” and “unpragmatic,” the latest form of classism and red-baiting that has been hurled at Sanders (who’s really not very red at all) by Democrats and Republicans alike.

In Germany in the 1930s, liberals who shied away from socialism were absolutely helpless to fight against Nazism. I fear that the current centrism of the Democratic Party establishment shares this inability. Because the standard-bearers of the Party support military intervention, tolerate coups in Central America, and support neoliberal free trade agreements that allow multinational corporations to supersede public interest and environmental laws, it has become very easy for Donald Trump to outflank his likely Democratic opponent and be a true populist—just like the Nazis did. Fascists always flirt with isolationism, criticize big corporations, and promise a few economically egalitarian policies. I already hear naïve Greens and others on the independent left cautiously praising Trump for attacking Clinton on her Iraq war vote. I hear them shrugging their shoulders and pointing out that his economic nationalism isn’t that far from Sanders’s, and that Trump is a more credible opponent of bad trade deals than Clinton.

Of course, Donald Trump isn’t a credible anything. He’s an incipient fascist and a narcissist with the tone of a domestic abuser, forging a politics of interpersonal violence that, regardless of his lies otherwise, will be scaled up to brutal militarism when, as President, he realizes he can’t verbally abuse other nations into submission. He’ll crush free speech, and labor, and anything in his way—just as he already has. In order to beat Trump, Clinton will need to go left. In order to beat Trumpism, we all will, and that means recognizing the standing of economic domination and the necessity of an ecologically sustainable economic justice. Economic justice, not liberalism-in-cooperation-with-multinational-corporations, is the antithesis of fascism. Nothing I have seen in the optics or policy universe of the Democrats indicates they can do this.

In this election cycle, I’ve stayed away from telling people how to vote. I’m chiefly concerned about the outcome of the Democratic primary race because of what it says about America’s attitude towards the economically disadvantaged, our propensity towards building sustainable economic justice, and our resistance to the colonization of the public sphere–and all life–by profit-driven corporations and the forces of finance capital. I believe we do, in fact, have to fix that “first,” although not necessarily temporally first. If corporate money can block all good ideas, this means it will block all of your candidate’s good ideas. This is a pretty devastating admission because it means you can’t leverage the power of any of your candidate’s good ideas back over it. It reduces your candidate’s policy positions to those that can co-exist with the needs of multibillion dollar corporations and extremely wealthy individuals. Number one on their agenda is stopping real progress on carbon-induced climate change, the long-term impacts of which are apocalyptic. Many of the injustices we are rightly concerned about across the entire array of identity-based oppression happen to a large percentage of the population every day simply because they are poor.

Pointing this out is dangerous—maybe not as dangerous as it was in 1930s Germany, but if a thinker as sharp and astute as Hannah Arendt had a blind spot on classism then, it certainly explains the active and passive red-baiting going on among otherwise progressive people in 2016 America.

Matt Stannard is policy director at Commonomics USA and director of the Materialized Empathy project. He provides research and communications assistance to the Public Banking Institute, speaks and writes on economic justice, and is the author of Love and Production and The American Commons, both of which will be published in 2016.

The Poisoning of a city and it wasn’t done by international Terrorists

(Originally at Cat Watters’s blog)

by Cat Watters, AwakeRadio

An UNELECTED emergency “manager” appointed by Gov. Snyder switched the water supply from the Detroit system they had been using for half of a century to the toxic Flint river to try to save $5 million. Right after the switch the residents of Flint started complaining about the foul odor and discolored water that, also, caused a variety of health issues. Initially, the water was infested with bacteria until the city added chlorine which created trihalomethanes or TTHM’s, a cancerous chemical by-product. Legionaires disease, born from the contaminated water, spread to the Flint residents that killed 10 people and left many others ill. The corrosive water was damaging Flint’s aging pipes creating lead contamination most prominently in the children.

Gov. Snyder and other “officials” ignored then covered up the complaints from the residents, for a year and a half, who started fighting back with protesting, citizen journalism, a new elected mayor and a resident lead testing project.

“In 2011 Gov Snyder signed into law the emergency manager law”, said Claire McClinton of the Flint Democracy Defense league who’s been challenging “emergency managers” for years. Under the guise of being fiscally responsible, EM’s were sent into city’s and school districts they deemed in fiscal crisis who were majority African American. They were privatizing services and selling off the assets. The garbage collection was privatized and the parks were sold off. “There’s a coordinated, aggressive effort to privatize our water system which is how we came to this poison water catastrophe”. The people were told that the Detroit water was too expensive and they were going to “cheaper water”. Claire McClinton said it was the GM plant that contaminated the Flint river dumping all their toxins in it, which was the “cheaper water” for the interim. “We don’t just have a water problem, we got a Democracy problem. We got a dictatorship problem”. Flint was the first city to elect an African American mayor. “We’re not the type of people that’s used to being walked on”.

Another resident who needed clean water for her grandson said, she paid a bill of $109 to stop a water shut off.

I do not understand this at all. She was going to have the poison water shut off and she paid $109 to keep it from being turned off. That makes no sense. Don’t pay it! Why would you pay to keep poison water running in your house? I did an interview last night with Sherry Peel Jackson, former IRS agent, CPA and certified fraud examiner on her book, Stick it to the IRS. She did time in jail standing up to the IRS and now teaches others about the fraudulence of the IRS. She said people give all their power over to the IRS and they end up getting screwed, losing their businesses and even their lives from break downs and suicide. She teaches people to own their power and stop giving it away to institutions that take total advantage of the naietivity of people. This is what happens when people give up their fitness and their connection to nature and their gut in exchange for a fake, nam-made system. I’ve tried telling this to people for decades. Now more people are seeing that it’s true. That the system in this country is a total fraud.

Stand UP! Fight back! I was shamed and guilted as a young person and a teen for standing up to and calling out abusive and neglectful “parents by neighbors and relatives. THEY WERE WRONG and I was the one doing the right thing. Every “adult” around me was training me to bow and live with little dignity. I was literally beaten into walking around this planet with such little self worth. Real family should be raising their child and teaching them to defend themselves, stand up for themselves. Its the most basic thing to teach a child. Instead< i was learning the exact opposite, to feel bad for standing up for myself and not bowing to who, I knew in my gut, were not real family.

People are totally brainwashed to bow and they learn it IN the “Home” by “parents” who are followers. I was smart enough at an early age to speak truth to power and I was backed by no one. People do not know their rights and they were passing down the same mentality to me and I was aware enough at an early age and felt it. Had people supported me and come together we would not be living in this kind of world. This is why we’re where we are today. I had doing the right thing beaten right our of me by ignorant people. Taking the way nature and health work and rewiring it so I would be easier to control. It ended up blowing up right in my mother’s face. How can people not recognize the right thing when it’s right in front of them? Talk about a health crisis.

“I respect him because he’s the Gov. of Michigan”, said Kawanne Armstrong of Flint, the woman who came to ask for help getting water for her grandson. People deserve respect when they give respect. People do not deserve respect automatically because they’re in a “power” position. Gov. Snyder is Not treating the residents of Flint with even minimal respect and doesn’t deserve it in return. Period.

Due to growing up in such a broken, chaotic environment standing up to abuse of power instinctually kicked in early in my life. It was healthy and natural to stand up to corruption even at “home”. The body is never wrong. The body and it’s signals are what we should be aligning with, not destroying.

I have to speak out because what I’ve tried to wake people up to decades ago that no one wanted to listen to and take seriously, is now, a much larger problem and getting worse. From living in a completely incompetent “family” with “parents” who were incapable of, or had no plans to do their job and take responsibility and were more than happy to pass down their irresponsibility onto those who deserved it the least, their own children. It’s totally CRIMINAL what happens and what is happening to children in their own “families” and there’s no where for the to turn and No one to be an advocate for them. The more parenting gets eroded and diluted over time, like is the trend since everything is about $, just like the environment, soil erosion and animal slaughter, living things that are speaking up but, are just not speaking up in English. Nature speaks a more clear language that cannot be denied, But, Sociopaths find a way.

The reason I feel it necessary to write about the abusive/dysfunctional ‘family’ system is because that is the source of how and where people learned to be sheople. With all the corruption from the Powers That Be and the Flint water crisis that was an Inside Job and everything else that’s happening in the world, not enough people are taking a close enough look at the source of where they learned to be the way they are in life. Be someone perpetrator, abuser of power, or the one being abused, it important to look at your own part in the ‘relationship’. Just like in a marriage gone bad, if both parties involved don’t look at how they contributed to the failed relationship, it just ends up continuing. The problem comes from the fact that it’s usually the one being short changed that complains and wants to see changes. Many times it could be both parties who are equal contributors whether they’re the perp or the aggressor. It\’s usually the aggressor that refuses to look at how they contribute to the problems. One person, the aggressor usually, is the person who conveniently has a blind spot and doesn’t want to look at and take responsibility for their contribution to the problems.

This is what we are living in LARGE SCALE‎. I did my best decades ago when I was young to get people to see how they were perpetuating their own demise. When and where I was ‘growing up’ it was right in your face that the family system is falling apart, there is no community, there is no one there for the youngest and most vulnerable. The very people who need the most protection, the very people who should be the reason for stepping up and making a better world end up being those who are used to dump all the garbage and emotional excuses onto and get away with it.

These problems with the water crisis in Flint is literally the Macro of the Micro. Amy Goodman asked Melissa Mayer of Water We Fighting For,‎ a Flint resident who’s 3 boys, she says, are now anemic and have other health problems from the lead contaminated water. Melissa said they were A students and now suffer brain ‘fog’, bone pains and compromised immune systems. Melissa, herself, has a host of illnesses including diverticulosis, seizures and liver problems. “The by products in the water are all neurotoxins, copper, lead, aluminum, tin chromium, things that our bodies can’t handle”.

This is the exact same issue I tried raising on my own as a child to the “adults” around me that were supposed to be protecting me! I was being subjected to stress and emotional torture that a child is not equipt to handle and had my health permanently compromised from it. Who is going to admit that what is being handed down to future generations is betrayal when the ones who should be protecting are the ones doing the betraying like Gov Snyder? To this day we don’t hear anything about the abuse of children in the home. I wonder why that is?

Speaking about Governor Snyder, Melissa Mays said “he needs to removed from office. he just doesn’t show any real concern”, she said. “He hasn’t put any real effort into actually making up for the failures of his agencies”. It’s like hearing my words come out of someone else’s mouth. The words I tried so many times as a CHILD to express to the “adults” around me who just couldn’t be bothered because then, they would have had to actually DO something. Imagine being a child and having to deal with a crisis like the people in Flint are dealing with? Imagine being a child and those who are in the position of power showing no concern for the people they’re entrusted to protect? If it’s like this for adults dealing with abuse of power, imagine what it’s like for a child with their own “parents” and neighbors?

Melissa is bringing forth the very same concerns I, myself, was forced to bring up as a young child to the very people making me sick. The ‘family’. You were born because it was against the Catholic Church to have an abortion, and you’re treated like it was your own fault you were conceived and exist. I was treated like I was some unwanted visitor who was criminalized for being healthy and needing ‘parents’ to do their job and protect my health and help me to grow. Doesn’t this sound like Debt? Doesn’t this sound like the signs and symptoms of “Social Climate Shift?” The passing down of the debt and pollution to the very people who should be inheriting a healthy planet, love and respect?

Amy Goodman then brought up being from NYC where 911 attack on the World Trade Center attack took place and the Pentagon in DC, then said, “the Government said after that the biggest fear is that an international terrorist would poison the water supply of a major city. Well, AN INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST DIDN’T DO THIS and a major city’s water supply has been poisoned. The Michigan Government, the Governor, Rick Snyder is involved in this”.

Melissa Mays’ reply was to say that in times of war under the Geneva Convention, a country cannot contaminate a cities water supply. “We’re not in war but, guess what, it seems like it because a whole city’s water supply was poisoned by our state government and allowed to continue. They knew in October of 2014, when GM said they couldn’t use the water anymore, that it was corroding the car parts. If it’s not ok for car parts, how is it ok for citizens?”

More people are finding out what an abused child feels like in their own home. More often, it’s an inside job. When you have to stand up and fight for yourself AGAINST the VERY people who should be protecting and supporting you and instead, Fault you for pointing out to them that they are the ones making you ill, that should be seen as a very serious environmental concern but, of course, it isn’t. ‎

I’m simply looking at math and facts. I was living in utter TERROR as a child and throughout my entire young, and even older, life. I pulled my eyelashes out from the 2nd through the 5th grade and other self mutilation not to mention emotional self mutilation. The problem only gets worse when there is no one to turn to who is a Real adult and would actually admit that you’re being harmed by the very people entrusted to care for you the most. I tried telling neighbors and others who can clearly See what was happening. But, you’re surrounded by low- bar, ignorant people that have no idea that they should be responding and stepping up to the plate. Neighbors and everyone around minimize it all because most people are in on the dumbing down of children who are going to be the ‘future’ so they will be easy to control by the Powers that Be. Those around me were threatened by me and the built in instincts and health that automatically gets brought out when something healthy is subjected to something unhealthy.

Instead of the unhealthy admitting that they’re the unhealthy and irresponsible and moving towards healthy, they make the healthy, innocent child the Bad guy and criminalize them for being too healthy. They make nature wrong instead of using nature as the guideline to move towards fitness which is a normal activity when people learn to walk or ride a bike.  ‎

Nature is being desecrated in more ways than people realize. Their moral health is being eroded by fake, GMO $ like the pipes in Flint by the lead contamination. I got on this path before I realized how bad things truly were. I had no idea when I started teaching myself about mental/emotional health that I would end up feeling like a criminal. ‎It’s extremely clear that $ is at the expense of community and healthy relationships. Not just Globally but, in people’s homes and marriages.

The world is going, at a rapid pace, in the opposite direction I’ve been going in all my life. Growing up in domestic violence, divorce and abuse forced my body, naturally, to move towards healing, relationship skills, conscious communication and the desire to cultivate healthy relationships that can only give us the nutrition we need by following nature. Skipping over any of nature’s process will simply bring us GMO relationships and poor nutrition. Who doesn’t want to be healthy? Really sick people. Really mentally sick ‎people who have the entire Globe rigged. Not necessarily in their favor because, in reality they’re sick addicts who are destroying themselves too. Those who’ve rigged the system want to keep people confused as to what’s real, healthy and truly satisfying in this world. Because they’re addicted to fake wealth they want everyone to be.

Cat Watters can be heard every Tuesday at 6-8pm EST on Organic News on AwakeRadio 

Materializing Antifascism

​Worried about Trump and right-wing extremism in general? You should be. But however you choose to fight it nationally, the true answer to the fascist worldview is cooperative, sustainable economies and community solidarity.

by Matt Stannard

If I were giving this essay as a sermon at a Unitarian Universalist fellowship, the accompanying children’s story at the beginning of the service would be about fighting back against bullies in a world where everyone feels afraid and insecure, and learning that standing up together not only pushes back the bullies, but eliminates bullying. What does economic justice have to do with bullying, you ask?

Violence

We seek what bell hooks calls “the fierce willingness to repudiate domination in a holistic manner.”

For a year and a half I aided victims of domestic violence in the courtroom asking for injunctions against their abusers and in the “system” asking for resources to gain independence. For the last several months watching Donald Trump and his new loyalist Chris Christie, I’ve noted the spot-on similarity of verbal outbursts of both men and the behavior and abuse patterns of respondents in domestic violence injunction hearings. “Sit down and shut up.” “Are you stupid?” “Beat him up.” “Bomb the shit out of them.” Vulgar sexist jokes. Narcissistic and disproportionate self-justification. Those are words victims, in their petitions, report hearing.

Statistically, the incidents and impacts of domestic abuse cluster most heavily in poverty. I just read another article explaining that link, this one by Helen Nianias at Broadly, a Vice channel. There cannot be too many of these articles written or read. The thesis is that lack of access to material security like rental property worsens domestic abuse, traps victims with their abusers, and exacerbates all interpersonal violence.

And I submit, in all seriousness, that the way domestic violence victims interact with their abusers and our economic system tells us a lot about the real context of Donald Trump’s incipient fascism, and why economic injustice is unjust. For millions, American life and politics are an intersection of trauma, material insecurity, and dependence on abusive systems and people. So now we have public behavior from leading political figures –one who may become president— that would be dispositive in a domestic violence injunction hearing.

We Are Material 

Well, we certainly have some things to deal with now, don’t we? And unfortunately, we don’t make our history any way we please. The other night I picked up my old copy of Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy, an essay written in response to a certain strain of utopian socialism, but which also contains spot-on criticism of mainstream economics. Grace Lee Boggs, the revolutionary of Detroit who died last year at age 100, read Marx as she read Jesus: urging us, on multiple levels, to shed our fetishization of wealth, seeing a relationship between that fetishization and systems of brutality. My takeaway from The Poverty of Philosophy is that human relationships don’t occur between abstract political subjects, but between human beings immersed in their material conditions. This isn’t hard determinism. It’s simply a humbling reminder that matter exists, we are in it, and we are often overwhelmed by it.

Professional economists tend not to live in or understand that overwhelm.The divisions Marx makes in The Poverty of Philosophy between these mainstream theorists very much resembles the respective economic approaches of the 2016 Republican field, Hillary Clinton’s neoliberal centrism, and Bernie Sanders’s strong redistributivism and old labor politics. Marx writes of the fatalistic conservative economists who see poverty as “the pang which accompanies every childbirth, in nature as in industry” – essentially the economic philosophy of the Republicans, enforced through a combination of now-undead trickle-down economics and apocalyptic Christian exaltation of suffering. He writes of the humanitarians, seeking to ease the pain and conflicts of inequality by calling for concessions and cooperation on both sides—a charitable but fair description of the Clintonian, DNC-guided corporate welfare state. He writes of the philanthropic economists—“den[ying] the necessity of antagonism,” and wishing to turn us all “into bourgeoisie” with no such class conflict at all—a possibility envisioned by Sanders and numerous (but by no means all) “new economy” proponents. A large section of what is now considered left-of-center economic thought now posits that wealth can be used for good, and that we can create structures within the market economy that eliminate involuntary poverty. Almost all of these approaches assume at least a certain amount of good will (or at least cooperation) from the world’s most powerful economic interests. That such good will might be replaced by violent repression (as historically valid as that concern is) does not occur to most humanitarian or philanthropic policy advocates. They should think about it now.

Marx doesn’t stop there, but I will. We don’t need to be “Marxists” to beat back fascism, or build economically just institutions. Sanders’s philanthropic capitalism is not impossible. Nor, even, is Clinton’s capitalism-with-a-human-face (I’m going to ask some tough question about how to achieve sustainability and justice under it, but I’ll listen to the answers). Fighting for those visions is not dishonorable, insincere, or even foolish. Nor are those people foolish who say those fights don’t go far enough and risk too much compromise—those socialists and Greens who raise their heads in interest at the Clinton-Sanders debate, while forging ahead building what they see as a necessary, new politics and economics.

But in what comes from the right, we face a categorical antagonist to any humanistic political economy at all. It is material power reasserting itself as unmoored irrationalism, brutality, and actual interpersonal abuse as politics. How can we adequately respond to that if we have different views of the ultimate good?

Well, we can.

Close Enough

What is it, anyway?  I’ve read several articles and analyses about fascism over the last twenty years, and several articles and short social media posts recently about whether Trump(ism) is (a) fascist/ism. Perhaps I should be more meticulous, perhaps the characterization is hyperbolic or violates one or another scholars’ demarcations, but such hair-splitting is a luxury for those who have time, and I think we don’t have much. What is happening on the right side of American politics is close enough for me. Jim Wolfrey’s decade-old review of Michael Mann’s Fascists and Robert Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism lists what I see as decisive: simultaneous anger at, and alliances with, economic elites; bedazzlement of power; incapability of conventional political structures to deliver stable social goods; the shifting of “social frustration onto the symbols of nationalism and violence”; a space for racism and sexism through a methodology of interpersonal violence. Such tendencies are fueled by anti-rationalism. There is no need for internal consistency, so Christianity compliments rather than critiques calls for hate. Whatever ideological tools at hand will do. Does it provide visceral satisfaction? Make you feel like it’s okay to feel anger and hate and belonging and pride? It’ll do. And I don’t care what you call it. Our inability to resolve our deepest insecurities, tied together on a beam of economic and social inequality and an extractive, exploitative model of collective life, summons it into being.

Fighting by Building

Whether the Democrats’ hybrid humanitarian-philanthropic capitalism triumphs over the Republican’s hybrid thugfascist Christian politics of antiempathy is certainly  the defining question of the 2016 presidential election for many. But my concern is how proponents of economic justice and materialized empathy move forward regardless of that outcome. By all means, we should still be active in influencing that outcome, in whatever way our own consciences dictate. But what we actually need to do to create a world where narcissistic billionaires can’t threaten to pull us into their pathetic universes is much more focused and direct. There is a rapidly growing movement for actual economic justice—not mere redistribution, certainly not austerity, but materialized empathy: institutions, laws, and practices that hardwire economic justice, from sustainable and democratic financial practices to provide a material basis for fairness—a basis which, when missing, disempowers us socially and personally, as the sad facts about poor victims of domestic violence illustrates.

And so, when the Berkeley City Council this month joined other cities around the country increasing support for worker-owned cooperatives—tax and land-use incentives, educational programs, devoting city procurement to cooperative businesses, and discounting its bids to make cooperatives more viable in the bidding process—the city not only helped build a sustainable, prosperous, and cooperative economy. In building and incentivizing local economic cooperation, Berkeley also fought fascism.

Materialized Empathy, the Commonomics USA project I direct, assists local leaders and grassroots organizations in building economies of solidarity and security. Many other valuable organizations are engaged in similar efforts. Each local structure we help build makes us stronger opponents of hate and extremism. Commonomics USA also educates Americans about basic income (I’m hosting a live chat about it on March 4) and postal banking, national programs made necessary by the real state of the economy, a perspective miles outside of the Republicans’ ballpark.

Local activism overcomes internal splits too. Tired of your friends in the Sanders and Clinton camps yelling at each other on Facebook? Invite them all to demand public banks in their cities or to shape municipal ordinances supporting community agriculture. Suspicious of the white privilege of many progressives? Study the work of African-American and Latina/o-run cooperative economy projects and intentional communities around the country—and stand in solidarity with them. None of our political standpoints are complete, and none alone can fight the monsters American excess has created. Everyone has a candidate and everyone’s got blueprints. What we need is love—not just in our hearts, but in our policies and—especially—in our economies. That’s how we fight fascism.

In Case I Missed Anything

There is a chance I’ve left something out of this analysis and call to action. If so, unless it says we should be mean to each other, not live sustainably, or not create economically just institutions, it’s compatible with what I’ve been trying, however imperfectly, to say. Join us.

MattBrickWallMatt Stannard is policy director at Commonomics USA and director of the Materialized Empathy project. He provides research and communications assistance to the Public Banking Institute, speaks and writes on economic justice, and is the author of Love and Production and The American Commons, both of which will be published in 2016.