My friends are the Universe: Globalizations
Protest Expand the Political.
(continued | 1, 2)
Free-Trade, a system that privileges the market, makes the multitude
subservient to its commodity value. Consider the French Shepard
Jose Boves demand that French cheese is an invaluable
treasure, not a standardized widget to be processed and shipped
away. Its existence is an expression of the cultural wealth
of the French people. A rich variety whos local textures,
tastes, odors, scents, weights, and consistencies are worth
saving from the predatory corporate brands of Velveeta and General
Foods. In effect, Boves politics demand the right for
an unquantifiable taste for exquisite, wholesome, sustainable,
and inexpensive food over cheap imported crap.
Post-colonial agricultural theorist/activist Vandana Shiva,
in a play on words, considers "postmodern de (con) struction"
the "opium for the intellectuals
blinding them to
the struggles people are engaged with in their everyday lives."
Attacking the "politics of difference" as a reductive
function of deconstruction, she offers the idea of a "politics
of diversity." Politics of difference may invest themselves
in issues of race, class, gender but they cannot account for
locations outside of these identities. Politics of diversity
are designed around promoting the radical profusion of species
rather than empirically enumerating political subjects.
All liberation movements in recent history have been partial
and exclusivist. They exclude other species and they exclude
diverse cultures. For the first time we have an opportunity
to seek freedom in inclusive ways, in our diversity, to seek
freedom for humans in partnership with other species and to
This freedom of and through diversity is the
alternative to globalization.
Shiva recognizes that the struggle over globalization is about
cosmologies. It is a struggle to recognize all forms of life
-ancient plant varieties to local economies- as unique.
"The First Intergalactic Encounter for Humanity Against
Neo-Liberalism" was held in 1996 by the armed Zapatistas
in their homes in the Lacandon Jungle of Southern Mexico. The
term Zapatismo is used to describe a global movement of folks
always in flux whom embody the Zapatistas politics of inclusion.
Hearing the calls of the spider monkeys to attend the "encuentro"
were the constituency of a sublime revolutionary movements;
union organizers, environmentalists, academics, gays, media
workers, lesbians, cyberpunks, indigenous peoples, Klingons,
and other extra terrestrials; a Zapatista after all is any oppressed
person anywhere. The poetic invitation to the meeting read:
The international of hope. Not the bureaucracy of hope, not
the opposite image and, thus the same as that which annihilates
us. Not the Power with a new sign or new clothing. A breath
like this, the breath of dignity. A flower yes, the flower of
hope. A song yes, the song of life.
Far out!! Thomas Friedman, Milton Friedman, Rennato Ruggierio
could never claim to speak for the trees.
Prefacing their battle as a fight against real extinction, the
struggles of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas are defined by
their original existence as a culture connected to the ecosystem
of Southern Mexico. This pre-conquest location for the Zapatistas
in Mayan cosmology privileges them to define politics on their
terms; it also lets them elude the characterizations of being
doe-eyed flower children. Starhawk, a well-respected figure
in the globalization movement, on the other hand is stuck with
it. She is Northern Californian witch involved with the activist
"pagan cluster" who is a member of a coven known as
What is a witch? Whats the attraction between witches,
international policy, tear gas and state violence? Why is a
witch a suitable "voice-of-a-movement?" What have
witches lost that they are now looking for? Werent all
witches burnt at Salem?
My friend Henry says, "Politics are the life-blood of the
people." Hes a Marxist and a party member to boot.
Its my suspicion that for almost everyone else, politics
are nothing but routines performed by individuals on the make
or the already minted. In the gulf between these two (dis)engagements,
the possibility of activism beckons. Activism, unlike mainstream
politics is made by the forming desires of people engaging the
immediate complexities of their lives. Therefore it isnt
sanitary like a vote. Nor is it always immediate like Britney
Spears. Since its route is active, it involves the raw experiences
and emotions of participants. These feelings are its stock and
trade- the mad as hell taxpayer raging against the bureaucrat;
the insolent youth set to trounce the status quo; the determined
worker struggling against shit-head management. Like commedia
del arte, these roles serve to contain the intangible depth
of emotion felt by the actors. The freedom to express afforded
to activists, their cultures, and the unique characters which
are created through it, are activisms affirming value
as well as a big draw for the outsider (at the same time these
can be activisms greatest political liability). Starhawk came
to my attention this way.
During the meeting of the G8 in Genoa this last summer an anarchist
identified youth, Carlo Giulliani, was killed by police who
shot and then drove over his body. That evening the Carabinari
conducted a bloody raid on a building that housed the Independent
Media Center and a second that served as an activist convergence
center. In an email I received hours after the incident, Starhawk
recounted her terrifying night. As she tells it, shed
run up five flights of stairs seeking safety underneath a table,
a sleeping bag over her head for padding in case she "got
beaten." Hiding from out-of-control police, she hears helicopters
buzzing the building, the sounds of doors slamming, and yelling.
Then a cop walks into the room shes hiding in. Terrified,
she finds herself unable to breath and begins to cough uncontrollably.
But then "(I) lay there remembering we had lots and lots
of people sending us love and protection and I was finally able
to control my breathe." Starhawk is a kind of witch who
remembers these things, and takes power from them. What is more,
her belief in the actuality of prayer makes my feelings on the
fate of G8 protestors an active element capable of effecting
change, rather than an ephemeral notion; the casual prayer,
floating in the stew of human semi-consciousness. It is a perspective
that generously acknowledges whole ecologies of previously ignored
Permaculture, the agricultural science of compassionate planting,
is a subject that Starhawk draws upon when discussing security
culture at the demonstrations around the World Economic Forum.
Abbie Hoffman was famous for practicing what he referred to
as "judo" with television. By taking a holistic view
of media, he felt that he was able to exploit its weaknesses
(predilections for sensationalism and pretty pictures) for his
sly advantage. Similarly Starhawk offers that "the problem
is the solution" when it comes to police surveillance;
cops can be fed wrong info or other wise deceived. A witch has
a systems viewpoint- one that attempts to take into account
all perspectives in an action. Hers is as an earth based religion;
responsible, responsive to, and informed by the innumerable
cycles of life and death. The Reclaiming web sight offers this
Reclaiming is a community of women and men working to unify
spirit and politics. Our vision is rooted in the religion and
magic of the Goddess the Immanent Life Force.
Witchcraft is a religion
in some ways similar to Native
American spirituality It is a modern religion, but it is partly
based on what we know about the beliefs and practices of people
in Old Europe, centuries before Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.
One of our most basic rules is: Harm no-one, and you may do
as you wish. It sounds simple, but this law requires us to consider
the consequences of our actions very carefully.
The Spirit is the Center of the Circle: it is life, which is
created by the elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. In our
belief system, life is part of a continuous circle with death.
We sing, "Air I am, Fire I am, Water, Earth and Spirit I am."
In the context of the World Economic Forum, the pagan cluster
held what it called a Brigid Ritual. Under the eye of the worlds
news in a scared and scarred New York the witches set up the
shrines of "grief, healing, rage, and vision." The
ceremony culminated with a spiral (a line of moving bodies)
that rolled through Central Parks trees amidst the curious
cameramen. Then "we wound it up, and raised power -- first
a roar of energy and then a sweet, sustained tone to feed the
forces of liberation." In another email Starhawk refers
to this tone as a "cone of power" this one was set
off in Grand Central Station.
The witches circle
has an analogous form in the globalization movement. It is the
spokes-council, a model of anarchist architecture and non-governance
used to coordinate political actions at large-scale protests.
Sometimes described as the hub on a wheel, the council is made
up of representatives from the tires spokes. The spokes
are the variegated voices of cells, rhizomes, identities, collectives,
nations, and entities, making up the contexts in which the spokes-council
is taking place. The spokes-council is not a senate where votes
are cast; its a place for understanding. Its where
individuals, empowered by their own spoke go to embody their
disparate collective. The critical issues are decided upon within
the spokes who maintain the right of autonomy from the collective
universe of the spokes-council. Power is decentralized, remaining
in the individual tribes whom have agreed that this model of
governance can best maintain their diversity- while at the same
time allow them to hold political space. It is the echoes reverberating
back from the cone of power cast off by the solid walls of individuals
claiming their own niche in the universe.
The globalization movement is much more than the witches, black
block, cheese lovers, or Zapatistas described in this short
article. They make up sub-culture groups within it. Categorically
it is wrong to describe them as definitive of a movement that
embraces perspectives both radical and rational. The movement
does create, and is in the process of creating, its own big
ecology. Within this system, the perspectives of their multiplicities
are given room to thrive.
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