July 2002
volume 1, issue 1


My friends are the Universe: Globalization’s 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 Bove’s 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 who’s local textures, tastes, odors, scents, weights, and consistencies are worth saving from the predatory corporate brands of Velveeta and General Foods. In effect, Bove’s 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 seek freedom…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 et all… 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 "Reclaiming".

What is a witch? What’s 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? Weren’t all witches burnt at Salem?

My friend Henry says, "Politics are the life-blood of the people." He’s a Marxist and a party member to boot. It’s 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 isn’t 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 activism’s 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, she’d 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 she’s 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 actions.

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 information:

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 world’s 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 Park’s 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 tire’s 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; it’s a place for understanding. It’s 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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