Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Last 29th of September 2010 we were thousands. Youngsters and adults, students, workers and unemployed, migrants and “locals”, meeting up in the street, empowering the picketers, facing the cops, attacking the symbols of Capital, of misery and luxury… Making our rage to be respected.
Now, the same ones who generated this rage, the same ones who organise our daily anxiety, those who produce unemployment and labour exploitation, those who fill up the neighborhoods with raids and police abuse, those who military occupy other countries, torture and deport, are pointing on us and accusing ourselves of being “violent”.
But we answer to this saying: “THE MOST VIOLENT ACT WAS GOING BACK TO NORMALITY”. It wasn’t the police attacks, nor the burning barricades, nor the shop lootings, nor the squatting of the bank… The hardest, most traumatic thing, was having to be back to the routinary submission after one day of revolt. Because for one day we stop putting our heads down in front of their abuse, we got united and demonstrated that together WE CAN, that if we move with strenght, the world they’ve built on our backs starts trembling.
For one whole day we tasted the flavor of rebellion… AND NOW WE WANT MORE.
Poster found on the walls of Barcelona few days after the riots
Reasons for a General Strike
In the last three years unemployment in Spain reached historical numbers: according to the last official report from January 2011, there are already 4.696.600 unemployed (20,33% of the working population) and 1.328.000 homes where none of the active members of the family has a job. Institutional studies calculate an estimated “relative poverty” rate of 20,8% of the total population, meaning an oversaturation of all charity and social help systems.
Since the start of this new capitalist crisis in 2008, the spread of precarious working and living conditions, the increasing of prices from basic goods and services, the generalised political corruption scandals, the massive evictions of defaulted families (200.000 homes in two years) and the police repression against political and social movements has grown as never before in the history of Spanish “democracy”.
When the so-called “socialist” Spanish government approved a new labour reform, aimed to destroy workers’ rights while empowering employers’ liberty to exterminate job places even more, finally the two main countrywide unions (the ass-licking sell-outs of CCOO and UGT) decided to react calling for a General Strike on the 29th of September. That was, for the singularity of the event, the perfect day for all the exploited and opressed sectors of society to show their unrest in their own way.
From the Assemblea de Barcelona to the Moviment del 25-S
The 29th of June of 2010, two weeks after the labour reform was presented, the Assemblea de Barcelona was born in a citywide open meeting for all social and alternative movements in an attempt to create a resistance tool to answer the social cuts imposed by the government. Composed by neighborhood associations, grass-root unions, workers’ comittees and individuals meeting up in public squares and giving voice to many different people, collectives and political ideas, one of the outcomes of the Assemblea was the call for a pre-Strike warming up demonstration in the center of Barcelona on the 25th of September.
Today at 20h the old headquarters from the Banco Español de Crédito have been liberated as a way of stating that the strike of the 29th of September has to be the start of a continued fight cycle aimed to stop with the abuses we are suffering from banks, government and the unions CCOO and UGT. The banner hanged on the facade makes it very clear: banks suffocate us, employers exploit us, politicians lie to us and CCOO and UGT sell us out.
Excerpt of the first press release of the Moviment del 25-S (25-09-10)
Around 2.000 people marched in this demonstration, declared illegal by the police, and participated in the squatting of the building of the Spanish Bank of Credit during a very carefully planified action that took authorities by surprise. Empty for more than five years and located in Plaça Catalunya, the main economical and touristic core of the city, the Banco de(s)crédito opened its doors to diverse cultural and political activities for five days. What was called the Moviment del 25-S managed to concentrate lots of different people, bringing back hope to the social struggles and creating a big expectation for the coming General Strike of the 29-S.
This is an invitation to fight together, wild and social STRIKE
This is not crisis, it’s called Capitalism
Banner and graffiti on the facade of the squatted bank
29-S: La vaga general
We’ve seen a huge cloud of black smoke [...] I tell you, a city out of control today, in hands of vandals [...] They are throwing rocks on us and calling me fascist... [end of transmission]
Live report in the center of Barcelona from Intereconomía tv channel journalist (29.09.10, 19.59h)
The 29-S, Spain was facing its seventh General Strike in history since the transfer from a fascist dictatorship to a democratic one in 1977. Starting from 28th of September’s night, all over the territories of the State groups of picketers tried to stop and shut down all economical activities during 24 hours while encouraging “esquiroles” (strikebreakers) and precarious workers without rights to leave their jobs and join the actions.
A picket of 80 people closes down the establishments of El Born.
A picket is proceeding to close works that were still open at this time around Barcelona’s Born market. They make graffitis and throw firecrackers while shouting “Strike, Strike, General Strike”.
Web teletype from the Agència d’informació 29-S (29.09.10, 00.06h)
In Barcelona, thirty neighbourhood pickets, organised through local assemblees de barri and coordinated in the Assemblea de BCN, managed to shut down in most part of the city the business that were still open and not supporting the walkout. Groups of strikers cut main streets and roads with flaming car tire barricades, sealed doors of offices and shops, occupied universitarian campus and carried out other sabotage actions during the first hours of the General Strike producing clashes with police and strikebreakers. In the quarter of Gràcia, the well known nazi book shop Europa was looted, smashed and closed down by morning picketers.
Thanks to the effort made by independent media collectives, counter-information websites and pirate radios all around Catalunya, the united information agency of the 29-S managed to keep a live radio stream during the whole day, updating their website through an online teletype system and defying the complete silence from the mainstream media about what was going on in the streets.
Barcelona, La Rosa de Foc
Graffiti found on the walls of Barcelona (29.09.10)
Surrounded by strong police presence, the Unitarian Picket planned by the Assemblea de BCN at 12.00h in Plaça Catalunya gathered around 8.000 people in front of the squatted bank. While waiting for all the neighbourhood pickets to make their way through the city and the massive riot squad lines, the occupiers of the bank cut the street with barricades and closed the doors of the building: a very controversial decision taken to avoid a possible eviction of the place based on “hosting suspects of comitting illegal acts”.
Finally the demo started moving through the center of the city leaving barricades, spraypainting shops and attacking bank offices and other symbols of corporate Capitalism. After few hundred meters of march, a clash with a police line that was trying to prevent people from going through a main commercial street ended up with cops fleeing away and leaving behind a car that was immediately set on fire by demonstrators.
We heard some really distressing communications from colleagues asking to be taken out from there.
Declarations by a BRIMO Mosso d’Esquadra (Catalan riot police) published in the newspaper La Vanguardia (06.10.10)
By two in the afternoon, all over the center of the city groups of protesters from all ages and social backgrounds were engaged on fighting back cops, setting barricades on fire and attacking the main commercial shops that were still open thanks to police protection and threats to the workers. Waves of tourists running away in panic and the big numbers of the mobilisation contributed to overcome the response from authorities.
Barcelona was in chaos; meanwhile, mainstream media reports were still talking on tv about a “general failure” of the strike and “total normality and order” in the streets.
From first hour in the evening, the Mossos d’Esquadra have started the eviction of the old headquarters from Banesto in the square of Catalunya of Barcelona, squatted the last weekend by a group of “antisistema” and according to police being used as a shelter for people that caused riots in the General Strike day.
Excerpt from La Vanguardia newspaper (30.09.10)
Around 15.30 h, the squatted bank was illegaly evicted by riot police taking advantage from the fact that most protesters were dispersed working as picketers, resting for the coming demonstrations of the day or just going around to expropiate food and water from the few business that were still not supporting the strike. During the eviction, 19 people were arrested and subsequently beaten up by cops.
With six more demonstrations convened by different unions and social movements to take place during the evening, the riots went on simultaneously in big part of the city until almost midnight. The official balance after a whole day of struggle was of 43 arrested in Barcelona (out of 121 in all Spain) and hundreds of protestors injured all over the State, both by police or strikebreakers trying to get to their job places.
Media aims, the State pulls the trigger
The vandalic acts recorded in the Catalan capital have been provoked by “antisistema” elements outside the main demonstrations and the action of the informative pickets.
[We are] Sick of this daddy’s boys without any other job than creating shoddy riots, assaulting the streets, destroying everything they find and violating society! Sick of their stupid behavior, their revolutionary speech over the top, their thug looks and their bland bravery! Sick of Barcelona being transformed in a paradise for the “antisistema” that swarm around the planet, happy from finding such a friendly city!
Mossos didn’t shot a single rubber bullet [in Barcelona] during the 29-S
[...] police officers have shot rubber bullets under the astonished gaze of dozens of tourists. The shots have been answered with the throwing of stones and glass bottles.
However, all police services asked agree that those violent “antisistema” don’t have an organised structure.
During last day riots there was people giving orders and commands to the rest about where to go and what to do.
Barcelona’s City Hall proposes to close down the websites from those alternative collectives that “advocate violence”.
Excerpts from press and tv mainstream media during the weeks after the General Strike
For almost one month after the 29-S, media kept on blaming those “antisistema” for being violent while no further comments were made about a labour reform and a whole system that represents an extreme attack over population’s life and dignity. State’s propaganda machine started a massive campaign of daily calls in favour of a wider repression and control both in the streets and internet while demanding jail sentence for the arrested strikers and trying to isolate them, showing its fear to the spread of insurrection and unrest in a socially explosive country like Spain.
Now we understand it, that veteran, with glasses and gray hair, that first look askance at the flaming stark and then added a cartboard to whip it up: he was an antisistema. Those adolescents that parked their bikes and help breaking the windows from the Diocesan museum (the one from the cheaters and abusers) were also antisistema. From the Pakistani beer street dealers we already suspected, since nobody payed them attention, they took the chance to start fires as well. The ones holding the banner on the picket at 12 h: “Against Capital dictatorship, General Strike” also were. Also the ones stealing jeans, and the ones burning them, more of the same. The ones using the chairs from the pizzeria to build barricades as well. All antisistema.
[…] We know that if we would come out again with transforming Ritz in a popular kitchen and Aragon large estates in agricultural collectivities [like in 1936], State will answer us with guns. That’s why we have in mind that in an insurrection we’ll have to use something more than stones to defend ourselves. First of all we hate the daily violence from Capital, the one that kills with its wars and famines or the one that administrates death in its working and studing places.
[…] A huge hug to all those who, after the 29-S, walk the streets with a smile… shhht! when you’ll pass next to a cop try to look serious, they are still looking for us.
Excerpts from the anonymous text Antisistema smiles, written few days after the riots
Legal situation of the arrested
From the 43 arrested in Barcelona, 7 of them got “freedom with charges” and 2 stayed in prison for some days (according to the judge, because there was “fleeing risk” since both were foreigners) while most of the rest it’s still waiting to testify before the court.
For now three courtcases were made with the judge forced to drop the charges in two of them because of lack of evidences and the fantastic made-up statements made by police, and having to archive the last one (possibly due to irregularities in the detention files).
To ease the consequences of what will be a long, hard and very expensive process, a solidarity support group for the arrested was created with many benefit events being organised in the last months across Catalunya. As the social and economical situation will just get worse in the future, we can expect new waves of repression as the struggle goes on, with solidarity becoming our strongest and most essential tool to resist Capitalism and State authority.
We should not leave alone the people arrested that day, because the 29-S, we all took over the streets to defend a future beyond the crisis.
29-S support group
A LETTER TO UK UNCUTTERS FROM THE "VIOLENT MINORITY
We're writing this to you to try and prevent the anti-cuts struggle being split up and weakened by the media.
We are anarchists (well, anarcho-syndicalists, technically) – a word that is much misunderstood and misrepresented. We are also students, workers and shop stewards. We co-organised a 'Radical Workers Bloc' on the South London feeder march. The aim was to provide a highly visible radical presence within the workers movement of which we are a part, advocating strikes, occupations and civil disobedience.
Saturday's demonstration was far bigger than anyone expected, and saw thousands go beyond a simple A-B stroll to take direct action. The UK Uncut actions on Oxford Street and in occupying Fortnum and Masons provoked harsh treatment from police, including mass arrests.
When we reached Trafalgar Square, we headed for Oxford Street for the 2pm actions to put some of these words into action (anarchist and UK Uncutter were not mutually exclusive on the day!). When we arrived, we met up with other anarchists who had had the same idea. Wary of being kettled, we chose to stay mobile, causing disruption on Oxford St and the surrounding area, including to UK Uncut targets which were closed and guarded by riot police. Subsequently, several banks, the Ritz and other buildings were damaged or hit by paint bombs. There were some minor scuffles with police. There is a valid debate to be had over tactics - which ones further the anti-cuts movement or are counter-productive - and many of us would favour mass direct action over property destruction. Let's have that debate within the anti-cuts struggle, and not let the media divide us.
But think about it from the store owners' point of view: a broken window may cost £1,000. A lost Saturday's trade through a peaceful occupation would cost many times more. Perhaps this helps explain the harsh police response to the UK Uncut occupation: it hits them where it hurts, in the pocket. Traditionally, workers have used the weapon of the strike to achieve this. But what about workers with no unions, or unions unwilling to strike? What about students, the unemployed? UK Uncut actions have been very successful at involving such people in economically disruptive action – and this seems to be on the right track in terms of forcing the government to back down on its cuts agenda. More and bigger actions in this vein will be needed to stop the cuts (in France, they call these 'economic blockades'). Like those in UK Uncut, we recognise that just marching from A to B or waiting for the government to be fair is not enough. The government, rich and tax avoiders will continue to seek to make the poorest in society pay for the defecit unless we make doing so the more expensive option. As UK Uncut announced on the demonstration 29th January "If the economy disrupts our lives, then we must disrupt the economy".
The press coverage since Saturday has gone into a well-rehearsed frenzy of 'good protestor/bad protestor'. Some UK Uncutters have expressed outrage at being lumped in with the 'bad protestors', (correctly) stressing the peaceful nature of the F&M occupation. We think the whole idea of dividing 'good' and 'bad' protest serves only to legitimise police violence and repression. As we saw on Saturday, repression is not provoked by violent actions, but by effective actions – there is a long history of peaceful pickets and occupations being violently broken up by police, from the Chartists to the Miners Strike. Indeed, UK Uncut have frequently been at the blunt end of this in recent memory yourselves, with police responding to non-violent occupations with pepper spray and violent arrests.
In this light, we would say keep up the good work. Let the mass arrests strengthen your resolve not deter you. And let’s not fall into the divide-and-rule tactics that are the oldest trick in the rich’s book. If we can help or offer any practical solidarity to the arrestees, please get in touch. We’ve previously hosted legal advice and training sessions with Fitwatch and the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group – we’d be happy to do this again. Or if the arrests are causing problems with employers, we'll help arrestees organise against victimisation. On Saturday most of the arrestees were UK Uncut activists. Next time it could be us. We – those of us fighting the cuts – are all in this together.
Signed, Brighton Solidarity Federation
Plus individuals from: Northampton, North London, Manchester, Thames Valley, Liverpool and South London Locals (our federal democratic structure means statements can only be issued in the name of a group if the group has had the opportunity to discuss it, and time is against us!)
Friday, 25 March 2011
FUCK THE WELFARE STATE!!, ANARCHY NOW!!
Welfare state was not established due to philanthropic reasons but as a powerful weapon against people's freedom and real social justice. It was created to dismantle the old worker's movement and its practice of self-management, autonomy and open struggle against the state and capitalism.
Welfare state changes nothing substantial in our lives, quite the opposite. Its real function is to make our daily exploitation more bearable and to humanise the state, making it look like a sort of “saviour of the poor” rather than what it is in reality, the absolute enemy of freedom, real human community and life.
In practical terms welfare state is designed to keep us all well tied to the chain of wage slavery, providing monetary “assistance” to the unemployed in exchange for their absolute submission. This creates a lot of social stigma towards those in the dole who are treated like rubbish in job centres and other institutions in a regular basis and have to accept undignifying and fascistic policing.
Welfare state has turned all of us into lazy, ignorant and degenerated individuals, totally unfit to carry out any struggle and organise ourselves. Entire generations, from grandparents to grandsons have grown accustomed to live out of the pittance they receive from the state, losing any tradition of self-organisation and anti-state, anti-capitalist fight. Here we are all responsible for our own negligence, not just “the system”.
Welfare state has allowed the left to grow to a huge extent. Social workers, NGO's, charity organisations, trade unions, left political parties, dubious “independent groups”... all of them work together to keep our lives and this shitty society unchanged. They are the first enemy, before even the cops, politicians, bankers and the military. They pretend to be in our side only to keep us under control and appoint themselves as our “representatives” in the negotiation table. These eternal reformists will always refuse to understand that a few legislative reforms can never make any real difference in our shitty lives. They must be attacked and done away with in the very first place.
Through welfare state the state, capitalism and representative demo-fascism manage to justify themselves as the “less bad” of all the political and economical systems on offer now a days. The reality is quite the opposite for what is called democracy is nothing but the most sophisticated and subtle dictatorial system human race has ever known. In this dictatorship the necessity of brute force as a means of repression has been reduced to a minimum thanks to the efficiency of mass media 24/7 brain-washing (along with other measures of “social engineering”) to turn people into policemen and policewoman of themselves (and the others) as well as collaborators with the elites who actually run this regime.
There will not be any return to the Welfare state simply because it is expensive to maintain, it generates a massive bureaucracy and so the states have to keep borrowing money from international banking institutions to keep it going. Besides we all know that wage labour is most of the time something every sane person should try to avoid at all costs. Such a realisation normally results in the huge rate of “benefit theft” and petty fraud involving the lowest social classes concomitant to every version of state and capitalist system that tries to display the “humanised” “charity”, Fabian appearance in its “public relations” with the workers and the poor.
A few months ago everyone hated Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and the Labour Party. Now everybody hates the Liberal-Tory coalition... what is going on here?, are too many MTV video-clips actually affecting our short/mid term memory?. what is the alternative after this then?, voting the SWP or any other into rule?... this would be utterly ridiculous of course for the problem is not in who is in office in a given moment but in the whole fucking system from top to bottom. In this thing that some call democracy the real, factual power figures (the army, the financial elites, the high profile civil servants) are not, (they just cannot be) elected by any of us and those who actually are do nothing but being the puppets of the former. Eventually the real power of this “democracy” falls in the weapons of the army even if this had to act against its “own people”, that is the truth about those who are so keenly regarded as “heroes” by the media propaganda.
Having seen all this we can just conclude the following:
THE REAL SOLUTION: SELF MANAGEMENT AND LIBERATED ZONES IN EVERY NEIGHBOURHOOD, COORDINATED NETWORKS OF LOCAL ASSEMBLIES OPEN TO EVERYONE AS DECISSION MAKING ORGANS, DO NOT DELEGATE POWER IN ANYONE, ALL THE POWER TO THE ASSEMBLIES/COUNCILS, IF DELEGATES ARE NEEDED LET THEM BE,TEMPORAL, ROTATIVE AND RECALLABLE AT EVERY MOMENT. FORMATION OF ARMED LOCAL MILITIA IN EVERY VILLAGE, BOROUGH AND TOWN, ORGANISATION OF FOOD SUPPLIES AND BASIC SERVICES (HEALTH ETC) BY LOCAL COLLECTIVES.
WE DON'T WANT THEIR FUCKING JOBS!!!
WE DON'T WANT TO BUY MORE OF THEIR SHIT!!
WE SPIT ON THEIR “CHARITY”!!
(One among many other street gangs with an analysis)
WE DON'T WANT YOUR FUCKING JOBS, WE DON'T WANT TO BUY YOUR SHIT, WE SPIT ON YOUR CHARITY... FUCK WELFARE STATE, ANARCHY NOW!!
"If we sack the banks, it's because we have recognized money as the central cause of all our unhappiness.
If we smash the windows it's not because life is dear, but because commodities prevent us from living at all costs.
If we break the machines it is not because of a wish to protect work, but to attack the slavery of salary.
If we attack police it's not to get them out of out neighborhoods, but to get them out of our lives.
The Spectacle wished to make us appear dreadful.
We intend to be much worse."
LONDON'S CALLING BABIES...
LET'S BURN THIS FUCKING CITY TO THE GROUND
Friday, 18 March 2011
The stuttering course of the capitalist economy, accompanied as ever by the alternating tales of disaster and reassurance that make it distortedly visible to the spectator, has now, in Britain, reached the stage of cuts in government spending. What choices do we have in the face of this turn of events? We are told there are just two: submit to the cuts in order to restore the health of the economy or fight them so as to preserve existing public services. These are the choices held out to us in newspaper articles, politicians’ speeches, news programmes, management pep talks, advertisements and other pronouncements rained down on us by the dominant society. These are the choices we have taken up in our own thought and conversation. But like all the rest of the choices that are made public by the dominant society, they happen to be false.
The Coalition government and its allies tell us that the cuts are necessary. They promise us that things will eventually get better. They urge us to acquiesce. It has to be said that this is a course of inaction many of us are tempted to take. It is what we have done in previous economic crises and we have not done much to shake off the habit of resignation since. We have also found that submission has its rewards. If the past is any guide to the future, public services will not be completely decimated. Our earnings will not plunge relentlessly downwards. Only a small minority will be made unemployed, and most of those will eventually secure alternative employment, albeit at somewhat lower wages than they received before. Even those who fail to find another job will be kept alive, after a fashion, by the state. In any event, we are hardly suffering at the moment. Our real wages may have fallen back to where they were in 2005, but most of us were not poor in 2005. We may not have as much money as we would like, we may worry about our debts and the prospects of our children and parents, and we may have had to cut back a little here and there. True. Yet we are far removed from anything resembling profound material poverty. We do not need to take to the streets to secure bread, for we do not live on bread alone and such bread as we need we can still afford to buy at the supermarket. Besides, it is so very easy to go on plodding through one’s everyday life in the way one always has. Families, friends, homes, jobs, cars, holidays, nights out, shopping, sport, there is always something clamouring for our attention; always something to swallow up our time and draw us down those all-too-few (and all-too-deep) ruts that define our lives. Our sense that there is nothing we can do to change things only makes this slide into submissive resignation easier. So too does our penchant for easing our isolated bitterness by blaming the whole sorry mess on immigrants, benefit claimants, civil servants, greedy bankers or some other scapegoat we have found dangled in front of us.
Perhaps it is true that, if we give those in power a free hand, most of us will find ourselves in a few years’ time more or less back where we were when the recession started. After all, the doomsayers have always been wrong before. But is that enough? Doesn’t the recession tell us something rather terrible about our condition? Doesn’t it clearly and cruelly demonstrate how very little control we have over our lives? The economy within which we work is no more under our direction when it is growing than when it is contracting. During good times and bad, we are subordinated to its dictates. Of course, we would like to believe that we are not unfree in our work because we exercise some choice as to which jobs we apply for and we have some discretion over what we do while we are at work. But a forced choice between wretched options is not liberty; and trapped as we are between intrusive monitoring by managers, vexing performance targets, a wider organization of work over which we have no say, and a global economy that does our bidding to roughly the same extent as the weather does, our prized autonomy in the workplace seems the most threadbare of illusions. And what does the threat of redundancy tell us about our work? Our position has not suddenly changed. Despite all those friendly chats with management, and the team work and camaraderie, we have all along been disposable tools of our employers. All day and every day, we are nothing more than the means by which they realize their ends. When we can no longer perform that role, we are discarded as surplus to their requirements, which is what “redundant” means. The fact that our bosses may be reluctant to impose redundancies, preferring instead to retain surplus staff or introduce part-time working, takes nothing away from this analysis. We are merely being shown the same concern that a farmer displays for his prize livestock. He will put them down only when he has to.
The economic crisis also reveals unhappy truths about other aspects of our lives. Perhaps we have grown used to a pleasant chat with someone who works at a business or office we frequent. When bankruptcy, restructuring or redundancy strikes, our acquaintance vanishes. We never see or hear of her again. For all the pleasantries that may have passed between us, the only real relation we had was that between a supplier of goods or services and a buyer. When that was gone, precisely nothing was left. We shared no other activity and decided nothing else together. It is the same with the vast majority of our connections with people. They are relations of exchange, mediated by commodities. As we pass through the public world, who do we encounter but strangers hurrying by in separated indifference and the self-effaced, masquerading for wages? How often do we do anything more with those we meet than discuss and pay for commodities?
But perhaps you will say that all that may be true about the wider world, but the real meaning and richness of our lives lies in our private worlds? We know that work is shit. We know that politics, the economy and the environment are all going to the dogs. Nonetheless, you say, we can find some real happiness and fulfilment with our families, our friends and our leisure. Unfortunately, we cannot separate our private existences from the alienated world in this way. Our families, friendships and leisure are not refuges that somehow exist apart from the dispiriting processes of capitalism. On the contrary, they have been created by and for capitalism and share the same alienation that bleeds through every other aspect of the capitalist world. We are creatures of capitalism. Our domestic worlds, our intimate lives and our free time have all been adapted to the needs of capitalism. All have been shrivelled and shrunken down to the desperately narrow dimensions that the system permits. The family, for instance, is merely the domestic unit that happens best to serve a society that isolates individuals from each other, separates them from the management of the society, and requires them to submit to the world order it presents to them. In the soothing name of privacy, the family abandons history to its capitalist masters. In this jealously-defended isolation, we encourage children who have been reduced to dependence falsely to recognize themselves in the roles, the values, the pleasures, the activities and ultimately the jobs the society makes available. We mould them to accept and adhere to imposed and domineering collectives, starting with the family itself. For ourselves, we strive to find our greatest fulfilment within the small web of social relations and the tiny resources to which the family gives rise. None of it goes smoothly, for it is never easy to force the living into shallow graves. But we do our best. We temper our expectations of happiness. We create family occasions over and over again in which the unstated rule is that we profess our mutual love and contentment and convincingly play the happy family. We fiercely embrace a transcendental notion of love that hovers in disembodied abstraction above the resentment, division, abuse, punishment, incomprehension, blackmail, mediocrity and confinement that make up the actual lived experience of family life. In these and so many other ways, we would have ourselves believe that the image of familial contentment we have been given by our society is the defining reality of our lives.
Our friendships and leisure are hardly better. Of course, there are pleasures and adventures in our friendships, but they are much too small. We share so little with our friends. We have too little at our disposal. Through the work that we all do, we create the very world we live in. Everything around us is put there by us. But we do not create it for ourselves. We do not create it with our friends. When we come together, all we have are the paltry time and money left to us by work and the alien world our work has produced. We are reduced to chasing desultory diversions amongst the ruins. Our games are petty. We could build a very world with and for our desires. We end up going on vacation.
In public and private, we are colonized. We live by occupying the ideas of happiness, normality and the cool the commodity society brings to us, haunting its promises like ghosts roaming the corridors of a ruined mansion in search of a long dead love. We deny it, of course. We are our own men and women, we say. We pride ourselves on not believing the stupid claims of the adverts and the politicians, even as we spend each and every day living out the fundamental notion of consumable happiness that each advertisement and each politician conveys. We are sure that we each have our own individual styles, even as those styles uncannily coalesce around a bare handful of models in each era. We are mistaken. We can see this quite clearly when we look back at old photographs of ourselves. We insisted on our irreducible individuality then too. Yet the records show that we were entirely of the time. No matter how absurd the fashions and tastes may have been, our hairstyles, clothes, houses, cars, reading habits, musical tastes, and ideas in general duly reflected them. When this comes to our attention, we laugh, perhaps, and feel a little embarrassed. But we learn nothing and take no action. We blame it all on the follies and gullibility of youth. We waive away the staggering truth that everything about us has been dominated from afar without giving more than a moment’s thought as to how this state of abjection came to be. We retreat into that amnesia and indifference which seems to be necessary if we are to go on as we are. We sift nostalgically through the snapshots of carefully-staged displays of spontaneous contentment we have taken at the many occasions that seem to have no other purpose than to allow such photographs to be taken. We create the ground for the next disaster by forgetting what is essential about the ones that have gone before.
Is this really enough? Is this all that we desire? Are we content to sit tight under the insults of government and economy in the hope that we may one day return to the slightly-more-affluent alienations of yesteryear? Are we too scared, too timid, to take on the society whose very intimidating immobility testifies to how little it is ours and how little we are? If the answer is yes, well so be it. But do not be surprised if you struggle to remember what you have been doing during all these years, as you drift with scant attention behind the disappointing person and disagreeable habits you have become. Do not be surprised if you one day find yourself staring at the exhaust pipe you have fed through the passenger window, wondering where it all went wrong. It always goes wrong, my friends, when it is rotten from the start.
Merely enduring the cuts is not the only option we are given. We are also presented with clamorous calls to defend our jobs and public services against the cuts. We are given to understand that something valuable is being taken from us. We are even sometimes told that the victories of past generations of working people are under threat. All this, I would suggest, is quite preposterous.
The rulers of society and their supporters were once quite candid about the ends they hoped to obtain from good conditions and services. In 1837, Leonard Horner, a factory inspector, said:
“Independently of all higher considerations, and to put the necessity of educating the children of the working classes on its lowest footing, it is loudly called for as a matter of police, to prevent a multitude of immoral and vicious beings, the offspring of ignorance, from growing up and around us, to be a pest and a nuisance to society; it is necessary to render the great body of the working class governable by reason.”
When speaking in the House of Commons on 17 February 1870 in favour of the Elementary Education Bill 1870, W. E. Foster argued that “the speedy provision of elementary education” would allow the state to secure “our industrial prosperity” and remove “that ignorance which we are all aware is pregnant with crime and misery, with misfortune to individuals and danger to the community”. Moreover, “if we are to hold our position among men of our own race or among the nations of the world we must make up the smallness of our numbers by increasing the intellectual force of the individual.”
A more modern note was struck in Winston Churchill’s explanation of the idea behind the introduction of unemployment insurance (one of the forerunners of modern social security benefits), as reported by the Daily Mail in 1909. In Churchill’s view, the purpose aimed at by the reform was:
“to increase the stability of our institutions by giving the mass of industrial workers a direct interest in maintaining them. […] [This] scheme […] will help to remove the dangerous element of uncertainty from the existence of the industrial worker. It will give him an assurance that his home, got together through long years and with affectionate sacrifice, will not be broken up, sent bit by bit to the pawnshop, just because […] he falls out of work. It will make him a better citizen, a more efficient worker, [and] a happier man.”
The ends aimed at by modern public spending include similar objectives. But since these statements were made, the capitalist economy has grown in size and sophistication. The extension of a relentless consumer culture to the vast majority of the population has also become a key motor of its growth and its sole claim to legitimacy. The roles performed by public services have changed accordingly. New environments, new abilities, new attitudes, and new levels of public health are now created, not just directly to meet the new needs of business and government but also as new incentives and new rewards for our submission. For example, it is no longer enough to give the mass of the population an elementary education that merely instils “order, discipline, cleanliness, deference to authority, and the tolerance of boredom at work” (in the words of one historian). These remain important goals of the education system, but today’s education must go beyond them. It must now manufacture people who have the personalities, skills and willingness to do what is required of them without being told (deceptively referred to as “initiative” and “the ability to work by oneself”) that modern service industries and high value businesses demand. It must now, by means of its organs of “higher” education, produce the specialised workers and the specialist knowledge that allow the dominant society to produce its technological and cultural commodities, to shape its world and the individuals who serve it, and to mystify everything. And, to bring all this about, it must help foster the misunderstanding that the new education and the work to which it leads constitute desirable opportunities for individuals and welcome progress for the society. No more noble purposes are served by contemporary education. Indeed, no very different purpose is served by any of the public services. Without exception, they are mechanisms for reproducing an alienated society. They seek to integrate the majority into a life of alienated labour and abundant consumption and disarm the minority left to a more meagre survival on the margins of society. They are an unrelenting assault on the possibility of authentic and self-controlled life. They always and everywhere damage or destroy us as individuals. There is nothing victorious in this. In the very few instances where a public service or a legal right arose out of our struggles, it represented the defeat and not the victory of those struggles, the moment when the goal we pursued slipped out of our hands and became one more uncontrollable, external process pressing down on us.
This is not to say that public services do not provide us with facilities that are valuable within the context of the existing society. Without doubt, central government, local authorities and the bodies they fund can and do supply services that allow separated individuals who have surrendered their powers of world-creation to persist more easily in that separation and surrender. But I come back to the question of whether this is enough for us. Are we content with libraries that allow us to while away our free time with a novel about a missing swimsuit model or the autobiography of an entertainer (the most commonly borrowed fiction and non-fiction library books)? Do we want know more than an opportunity to grind our way through 16 years of submissive study of falsified knowledge and emerge with a degree and a job in property development, renting, business, research, education, health or social work (the most common graduate employments)? Can we think of nothing better than to have strangers to whom we are inevitably just another job of paid work dress and wash us so that we can spend the rest of the day staring at the television or gossiping about ever less? Would it be cause for jubilation to have a social security system that paid enough to allow its recipients to participate fully in the time-wasting futility of seeking a worthwhile life through commodity consumption? Need I go on?
The call to defend jobs, education and public services is, in effect, propaganda in favour of the existing way of life, one of many eulogies of the dominant society that take the guise of dissent. There is no qualitative difference between life as it was before the cuts and life as it will be afterwards, between public services and private services, or between employment and unemployment, even if one is a slightly more comfortable form of eviscerated life than the other. We are not obliged to confine ourselves to the false choices and tiny distinctions that the dominant society magnifies into fundamental conflicts and real progress. No matter how urgent and profound the crisis for which they claim to be the remedy, pseudo-critiques that take for granted the fundamental features of our alienated world (such as alienated labour, alienated consumption and the state) serve only to dissipate our discontents, refine this society’s depredations, and trap us just where we are. If we are ever to escape our already-insufficient lives, we must, I think, point-blank refuse them.
Those who sincerely participate in the anti-cuts movement out of a genuine disgust at what the government is doing may wish to consider the fate of one of its precursors, the anti-Poll Tax movement. The movement was successful. But what were the practical consequences? The movement itself, having obtained the only objective it had set itself and removed the only misery it had objected to, lost everything that held it together and disintegrated. Its participants returned to the isolation and alienation of a daily life that was very little changed. Everything they won drifted away from them. The Poll Tax was abolished and Margaret Thatcher deposed. But the Poll Tax was merely replaced by the Council Tax, another remote bureaucratic and legal procedure devised by central government, administered by local authorities, enforced by the courts and bailiffs, and completely out of the hands of ordinary people. Margaret Thatcher was also replaced, with John Major becoming the new leader of the Conservative Party. He proved more palatable to voters than the hopelessly unpopular Thatcher and led the party to victory in the General Election of 1992. The Conservatives remained in power until 1997. Capitalism has, alas, persisted for far longer. The fact that one of its governments was forced to develop a fairer and therefore more acceptable form of local taxation has probably only helped it to endure.
How often have we said of late (and how often have we heard others say) that what we need in this country is a revolution like those in Tunisia and Egypt? But they are only words. We avow in easy abstraction the need for revolution yet we do precisely nothing about it. We can barely conceive of an autonomous project on such a scale. Our capacity to think and act by and for ourselves, to step beyond this society’s cowering norms, is undernourished to the point of starvation. Well, we shall just have to create what we need. We might begin by bringing to the practical project of revolution at least as much time, effort and passion as we have been want to lavish on our jobs, families, pastimes and vacations. We might also develop the habit of viewing and treating our enemies as enemies. No part of this society is for our benefit, no part of it serves our best interests. Indeed, everything that this society allows might usefully be taken as a personal attack upon us. Its goods, its services, its visions of the good life, its models of deviance, its cities, its politics, its protests, its moralities, its high culture and cheap thrills, its gaudy fashions for young women and its drab uniforms for middle-aged men, its good jobs and shit work, everything that its media, its politicians, its domesticated critics, its teachers, its researches, its manuals, its managers, its celebrities extol to us, all of it, quite without exception, always and everywhere tends to confine and disfigure us, to make us into the kind of people that the separate economy and the separate power of that state needs in order to survive. So, a parent-teacher meeting, for example, is not an opportunity to help your child develop his or her knowledge, maturity and independence but an invitation to collaborate in the destructive process of implanting the falsified and tamed knowledge, the limited aspirations, and the acceptance of established authority and mores which contemporary capitalism expects of its producers and consumers. Equally, for the teacher, such a meeting is not part of an authentic vocation but is simply a facet of a process of alienation in which all of his or her time, thought and effort as a teacher is sucked into procedures and a curriculum imposed from above. Here and elsewhere across everyday life, the question is: what can we (parent, teacher, child) do to stop this expense of spirit in a waste of shame? Perhaps we can see nothing we can do today. If so, the question renews itself tomorrow and the day after as a fresh challenge to our cunning and ingenuity, our ability to publicize our discontent and seek out potential partners in the dance of revolution. Does this sound like a dreary life of unbroken militancy in the service of a political cause or party? If it does, think again. There is no cause. There is no party. There is only the creative, enriching and entirely practical task of defeating by ourselves our own unhappiness and our own subordination, of overthrowing a social arrangement that is unfit for us as individuals and creating a better one by and for ourselves. We must develop a theory and practice that precisely prevents the emergence of ideas, procedures and leaders that dominate us.
The Coalition’s cuts are shrouded in a lying ideology of liberation. According to David Cameron’s speech at the 2010 Conservative Party conference, his “big society” will bring about a shift “from state power to people power”. This is arrant nonsense. For the past forty years or so, the Right has secured its political power by offering us a mirage of personal transformation, a twisted reflection of our confused desire for freedom and change. In point of fact, the abridgement of the state the Right has brought about is minimal and its neglect of the power held over us by employers and the economy has been total. But even the suggestion of an attack on the state terrifies the Left. We need not be so concerned. The state is not a friend. The problem is not that the state is being attacked but that some part of it will be left standing. The problem is not that the Coalition is too bold but that its project of the emancipation of the individual is a pathetically timid and incomplete farce that fails to embrace the totality of alienated life and is conducted by the very state it purports to savage. Perhaps it is time to talk less about opposing the cuts and more about accelerating and extending them beyond any control but our own. Perhaps now is the moment to wrest the project of individual and social emancipation away from our masters and set it loose for real in our homes and places of work, our schools and universities, our minds and bodies, and all the rest of our public and private worlds. What do we really have to lose? The careering absurdity of our world is not worthy of us; and neither are the lives of loud satisfaction and quiet desperation we lead within it.
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The author may be contacted at email@example.com.
Thursday, 17 March 2011
The permanent war against biological entities that build, regulate and keep life in our Planet is the most serious symptom, of an insane civilization so far removed from reality that it is heading towards its own self destruction.
The two primary works that constitute the theoretical-philosophical basis of the contemporary occidental way of thinking, of reality, society and life conception, that have been decisive in human relationships, both with each other and with Nature are "The Wealth of Nations" from Adam Smith and Charles Darwin's "On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life". The conception of nature and society as a battlefield in which abstract strengths, natural selection and the market's invisible hand rule "competitors" destiny, has resulted in the degradation of not only human relationships, but also in those that humans hold with nature, with no precedents in our history that is placing humanity on the brink of ruin. The rift between countries which have been colonized and those European countries which have colonized them is increasing, the dozens of permanent wars (which are always a result of shady economic interests), the unstoppable destruction of the sea and earth environment... can only drive Humanity to a dead end.
The great pharmaceutical industry can be considered, taking this destructive process into consideration, a clear exponent of the application of these principles and their disastrous consequences. The human organism and health are seen as a marketplace, a business objective. This factor, alongside the reductionist and competitive view of the natural phenomenon has resulted in a distortion of the function which is, supposedly, proper to it, and that could constitute an additional means of triggering the catastrophe. A dramatically instructive example of the dangers of this conception is the alarming increase of bacteria resistance to antibiotics, that could become a serious threat for worldwide population, leaving it defenseless to infections (Alekshun M. N. y Levy S. B., 2007). The origin of this problem can be found in the aforementioned concepts, illustrated by the abusive antibiotics which are used to fight the slightest of symptoms, as well as their massive use in commercial activities, such as the fattening up of cattle, and their evident commercial profit motive, but overall, by the consideration of bacteria as pathogens, "competitors" that must be eliminated.
This conception could have been justified by the way in which bacteria were discovered, inexistent before. The fact that their scene entrance was due to their pathogenic aspect, linked to the Darwinist conception of nature according to which, competence is the bridge that joins the gap between all its components, branded the microorganisms producers of diseases that, heretofore, had to be eliminated. However, recent discoveries about their real character and their fundamental functions in our planet's life have radically transformed the ancient ideas. Bacteria were fundamental to the appearance of life on Earth, creating a suitable atmosphere for life as it is nowadays known by the photosynthesis process (Margulis y Sagan, 1995). They were also responsible for life itself: cells which compose every organism were formed by different kinds of bacteria fusions from which genetic sequences can be identified in actual organisms (Gupta, 2000). Nowadays, they are the main sea, earth and air food chain elements (Howard et al., 2006) and are still essential in life support: "They purify water, detoxify harmful substances and recycle waste products. They restore carbon dioxide to the air and make the atmosphere's nitrogen available to plants. Without them, continents would be deserts - home to little more than lichen, and not much of that".(Gewin, 2006), even inside and outside organisms (in humans their number is ten times higher than their component cells). Most of them are still unknown and their total bio-mass has been calculated to be bigger than vegetal earth bio-mass. This data show evidence of their minority pathogenic character, that is actually due to alterations in their natural running caused by some kind of environmental aggression to which they react interchanging what is known as "Pathogenicity islands" ( Brzuszkiewicz et al., 2006), a reaction that, is actually an intensive reproduction to face environmental aggression. In fact, it has been proved that antibiotics are not really antibacterial "weapons" but communication signals that, in natural conditions, are used, among other things, to control their population "What researchers know about antibiotic-producing microbes comes mainly from studying them in high numbers as pure cultures in the lab-artificial conditions compared with the numbers and diversity found in soil".(Mlot, 2009). Despite all that real data it can be proved how pharmaceutical industry keeps searching for "new weapons" to combat bacteria (Pearson, 2006).
Viruses have followed, though somewhat delayed, the same path as bacteria, because of their late discovery due to their small size. Discovered by Stanley in the "tobacco mosaic disease", they were, logically, with a competitive vision of nature, included in the "enemies to eliminate" list. It is obvious that some of them cause diseases, some of them terrible, but, won't the origin of them be due to some process similar to that which actually seems certain in bacteria?. Let's see the most recent data concerning that aspect: The estimated number of viruses on Earth is twenty five times higher than bacteria. Their appearance on Earth was simultaneous to bacteria (Woese, 2002) and the part of the eukaryotic cell characteristics not present in bacteria (messenger RNA, lineal chromosomes and the separation of transcription and translation) has been identified to have viral origin (Bell, 2001). The activity of virus in marine and earth environments (Williamson, K. E., Wommack, K. E. y Radosevich, M., 2003; Suttle, C. A., 2005), are, like bacteria's, essential. In the ground, they work as communication elements between bacteria by horizontal genetic transference (Ben Jacob, E., et al, 2005). In the sea they have really noteworthy activities such as these: In the surface of the sea water there are about 10.000 million (average) virus kinds per liter. Their density depends on the richness in water nutrients and in the deepness, but they are still in huge quantities in abyssal waters. Their ecologic role consists of an equilibrium maintenance between the different species that compose marine plankton (and as a consequence, the rest of the food chain's) and the different kinds of bacteria, destroying them when their number is excessive. As virus are lifeless, and they spread passively, when their specific "hosts" are too plentiful, they (virus) are more susceptible to infect them. Thus they avoid bacteria and algae excesses, whose huge reproductive capacity could cause serious ecologic imbalances, managing to cover great marine surfaces. In the same hand, organic material freed after their hosts destruction, provides nutrients enrichment to water. Their biogeochemical role is that, the sulfurous derivates produced by their activity, contribute... to cloud nucleation! In the same hand, virus are controlled by sun light (mostly by ultraviolet rays) which spoil them, and whose intensity depends on the water depth and the surface organic material density, so all the system is self-regulated. (Fuhrman, 1999). Up to the 80% of virus and bacteria genetic sequences are unknown in any animal or vegetal organism. (Villareal, 2004). According to their activity in organisms, the data which are being obtained make them become the life construction essential elements. Besides the eukaryotic cell characteristics absent in bacteria which have been identified as original from virus, it is more significant the fact that the great majority of animal and vegetal genomes are constituted by endogenous virus which are expressed as constitutive part of them (Britten, R.J., 2004) and mobile elements and repeated sequences, both derived from virus, which have been wrongly considered as "dust DNA" thanks to the "scientist contribution" from Richard Dawkins with his pernicious book "The Selfish Gene" (Sandín, M., 2001; Von Sternberg, R., 2002). Within those contributions, the fundamental homeotic genes, responsible from embryo development, whose disposition in chromosomes as tandem repeated sequences reveals a certain origin in retrotransposons (able to amplify themselves with the genome help), in turn derived from retrovirus (Wagner, G.P. et al., 2003; García-Fernández, J., 2005). One of the most striking functions is the developed by endogenous virus W, whose task consists of the placenta formation, the "syncytio-trophoblast" fusion and the maternal immunosupression during the pregnancy (Venables et al., 1998; Harris, 1998; Mi et al., 2000; Muir et al., 2004). But the amount, not just of genes but of essential proteins from eukaryotic organisms (specially multi cellular) absent in bacteria and acquired from virus could be endless (Adams y Cory, 1998; Barry y McFadden, 1999; Markine-Goriaynoff et al., 2004; Gabus et al., 2001; Medstrand y Mag, 1998; Jamain et al., 2001), although, occasionally, the same discoverers, following the Darwinist interpretation consider them as "enigmatically emerged" ("randomly") in eukaryotic and acquired from virus (Hughes & Friedman, 2003). These are accused of kidnapping, sabotage or imitators (Markine-Goriaynoff et al., 2004) without taking into consideration that virus in the free state are completely lifeless, and that it is the cell which uses and activates virus components (Cohen, 2008). Because of this, the accusations used to hear, about virus which mutate to evade the host's defenses, turn out to be ridiculous. Mutations are produced during the integration processes in DNA because viral retrotranscriptase is not able to correct "the errors in copying".
To sum up, and independently from the incapability of comprehending the important functions of virus in the evolution and life processes, encouraged by the reductionist and competitive oppressive conception of the dominant ideas in Biology, data are available in already sequenced genomes. Between 90.000 and 300.000 sequences derived from virus have been identified in the human genome. The variability of the numbers is due to its dependence on that, complete virus or partial sequences derived from virus are whether considered or not. That is to say, they are inside us too, and they carry out indispensable functions for life. But it is also known that endogenous virus can be activated and malignized due to environmental aggressions (Ter-gri gorov, et al., 1997; Gaunt, Ch. y Tracy, S., 1995).
So, despite of the dominant conception of nature, which seems to be wished to be imposed by those who fight against it, describes a sordid battle field swarming with "competitors" which must be eliminated, reality shows a truly complicate nature in which all its components are interconnected and are essential for life maintenance. These are the natural conditions breaking-offs, many of them caused by this reductionist and competitive vision of life phenomenon, which are leading to turn the unbalanced nature into a certain battle field in which we have everything to lose.
The dangerous advance from bacteria resistance to antibiotics can be considered the most clear evidence from competence and market irruption in nature, but there is another consequence from this attitude that could enlighten a clue for how far it could be reached if this way was followed: From 1992 until 1999, the journalist Edward Hooper followed the AIDS appearance trail up to a laboratory in Stanleyville, El Congo, Belgian by that time, in which a scientist team directed by DR. Hilary Koprowski, produced a vaccine against Polio disease using chimpanzee and macaque kidneys as substrate. The test of the active vaccine took place between 1957 and 1960, through a very common method "in those days": the vaccination of more than one million children in several colonies on the area. Children whose life conditions (and so, health conditions) were not the most suitable. In a debate where the journalist exposed his data, Hooper was publically slated by a scientist commission that rejected outright such relationship, although any vaccine samples could be found. It seems understandable that scientists do not even want to imagine that possibility. Since then, rigorous studies have been published relating AIDS origin to African markets in which monkey "meat" was currently sold, or, more recently, "delaying" the appearance date until the XIX century by a supposed "molecular clock" based on virus genetic sequences comparison. Neither Hooper nor Koprowsky did know that all mammals contain endogenous virus that are expressed in lymphocytes and that they are responsible for the maternal immunosupression during the pregnancy. Nowadays, Koprowsky is one of the scientists who owns more patents within his name.
The barriers between species are a natural obstacle to evade the virus jump from one species to another. Some extreme environmental stress conditions are needed for this to happen. All this takes to the inquiring of many concepts amply assumed, that, as professionally away from the medicine field, I just dare to raise with the experts in question means so that it is them who consider their relevance.
If it is considered that the genetic sequences from endogenous virus and their derivates are involved in embryo development processes (Prabhakar et al., 2008), if they are expressed in all tissues and in many metabolic processes (Sen y Steiner, 2004), immunologic processes (Medstrand y Mag, 1998), Which is the real relationship between viruses and cancer or with "autoimmune" diseases? Are they the cause or the consequence? That is, are there any cancer or arthritis epidemic or are the affected tissues those which emit viral particles instead (Seifarth et al., 1995)?
If we consider that immunity is a natural phenomenon which has its own processes to guaranty the equilibrium with the environment microorganisms (outside and inside the organism), the artificial introduction of attenuated microorganisms (or parts of them) in the circulatory system jumping the first immunitary barrier, could not it produce a natural mechanisms distortion including a possible immune system weakening which could favor the later susceptibility to different diseases?
And, finally, if we consider that the existence in nature of "recombinant viruses" from two different species is so strange that it is possibly inexistent due to the extremely virus specificity, where do those strange viruses with sequences coming from pig, birds and humans come from?
In the hypothetic case that pharmaceutical industry real interests were economic benefits, illness would become a business, but vaccines would be, without any doubt, the best business. In this dissertation it has been shown how far the two main industries, which with pharmaceutical, constitute the markets which "generate" more money in the world: the petroleum and weapon/arms industries. It would be a hard crash for citizens (convinced that they are "under good hands") to find out that the health industry, which apparently intends to look after the health of citizen, it is actually just another sinister money storage machine able to take part in the shady plots of their ranking mates such as, for example, controlling captivating international organizations to smile just on their own interests.
The Nature conception based on the economic and social patterns with random as variation source (opportunities) and competence as changing engine (progress) imposes the necessity of "competitors" (imaginary or created by us) and it is seriously damaging the natural equilibrium which connects all living entities. But Nature has its own rules where everything, including the smallest microorganism and the last molecule, are involved in the maintenance and regulation of life over the Earth and has a wide recovery capacity towards the worst environmental catastrophes. The permanent attack to the essential elements in this regulation, the assault to the "life net", could have consequences that, sorry to say, we will only be able to validate when Nature recovers its equilibrium.
TRANSLATION: Laura Medialdea Marcos
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Sunday, 13 March 2011
The fact of the matter is, capitalism treats animals horribly. While many civilizations have normalized abusive behavior towards animals, capitalism tops them all in the intensity, frequency, and invisibility of apathetic exploitation mixed with repeated moments of sadistic cruelty. And while many civilizations have also destroyed their local environments, capitalism, as a global system with an unprecedented level of technological power, is the first to carry ecocide to a global scale. Sheerly in underspoken quantitative terms, the biodiversity and biomass of Planet Earth today is the lowest it has ever been in human history. There is obviously a connection between capitalism's abuse of animals, its destruction of the environment, and its oppression and abuse of humans.
Because a large portion of the abuse of animals is caused by the meat industry, many concerned people automatically respond with a prohibition on the consumption of meat. A lack of history, of knowledge of the diversity of human societies, of understanding of capitalism—even of what consumption is—and lingering Christian morality, have fiercely conflated a concern for animals with veganism. But a vegan diet is not the only logical response to ecocide and animal abuse, while veganism as a political position is often blinding and counterproductive.
The crux of the matter is, veganism is a consumer activity. It is ultimately an attempt to change capitalism and human civilization through the exercise of one's privileges as a consumer. This is an impossible approach. To understand why, let's first define the problem.
Meat production as it exists in industrial capitalist society is inherently cruel. It cannot be made otherwise. Any time an animal must be transformed into a product and processed according to market logic, the most heartless and unfeeling kinds of exploitation will be utilized as a matter of course, as a business necessity, while simultaneously the workers in this industry will lash out in frequent moments of sadism—this is the inevitable psychological response of humans who must act as machines.
Thus, a vegan diet may be seen as a sensible response by people who want to minimize their involvement with the meat industry in an industrial capitalist society. But this is not a universal context, whereas veganism markets itself as a universal solution. PETA has declared that you can't be a meat-eating environmentalist, and most vegans believe this line or toe it explicitly. What vegans have failed to think out is that industrial capitalism has not existed forever, nor have human societies always been ecocidal or abusive towards animals. In fact, to avoid eurocentric conclusions vegans must admit that the first and the very best environmentalists eat meat. I refer to a number of indigenous societies, past and present, that have the best track record of living in harmony with the environment and seeing other species as their extended families. Especially since vegans put so much emphasis on the impacts of an individual's lifestyle, they (being nearly all residents of wealthy countries) are deluding themselves and the broader communities to which they advertise their image as the preeminent environmentalists, considering that these omnivorous non-capitalist societies had a much lower ecological footprint and a much deeper affinity for animals than anyone socialized in an industrial society can ever gain in their lifetimes.
A few vegans have pointed out in their literature that in fact some indigenous societies living in harmony with nature have practiced a vegan diet, therefore... This is the sort of ignorant statement that makes one want to bang his head against a wall. (For one, I've never seen evidence to back the claim up, and it could easily be another of the spurious factoids that some vegans disseminate). What the proponents of this view fail to understand is that a lifestyle is not (until recently, in some parts of the world) a consumer choice. In eco-harmonious societies, lifestyles or economies (including diet) derive from different ways of relating to the natural environment that prove to be sustainable over time. In other words, outside of consumerism, possible lifestyles vary according to local environmental conditions. In most parts of the world, a vegan lifestyle is simply not sustainable: foods, fuels, and materials for clothing and tools would have to be imported. This is to say, in most parts of the world it is more ecologically sustainable for humans to kill animals. Beyond hunter-gatherer economies, horticultural and agricultural systems are also often healthier with the integration of animals.
Another vegan argument that makes sense in an industrial capitalist society but not in an ecologically sustainable society is that meat consumption contributes to world hunger and destruction of the environment because domesticated animals require a huge amount of resources to feed them. A vegetarian requires x number of acres to meet her dietary needs whereas a meat eater requires x times ten. This is absolutely true in the idiotically organized system of industrial agriculture, but not necessarily true in other circumstances. On a permaculture farm in many climates, for example, integrating chickens into the farm enhances rather than diminishes the food supply. While a factory farm would require hundreds of acres of, say, soybean crops to feed the thousands of chickens they keep locked up, a few dozen chickens on a small permaculture farm are a part of the ecosystem. A tiny portion of the produce must be devoted just for chicken food, but the vast majority of their nutrition comes from the food waste of the human inhabitants of the farm (the compost) and especially from the farm itself. After the harvest of a particular vegetable bed, the chickens are turned loose in it. They eat all the scraps, the parts of the plants the humans don't eat, and they eat the bugs, meanwhile scratching up (aerating) the soil and pooping in it (fertlizing), increasing fertility and thus increasing the total amount of food, which is further supplemented with their eggs and, potentially but not necessarily, their meat. A farm is healthier when it is tended and allowed to develop as a miniature ecosystem (and these methods of farming will constitute the agriculture of the future if humans are to have a future) and ecosystems are not complete without animal involvement.
Vegans, and all of us, should be more aware that it is very easy to farm a piece of land to death with only corn, or wheat, or any other monocrop. On land that has been farmed to death, as well as much arid land in the world, the only thing that can grow is grass. Farming is practically impossible. But one farming practice that can restore the health of the land is cattle farming. Herd animals are native to arid grasslands, and with the guidance of permaculture practices, cows or other herd animals can be raised without damaging the environment, and if we are talking about over-farmed land in a temperate, moist climate, sustainable cattle farming can heal the land to the point where vegetable farming can again take place. For another writing project, I interviewed an ecological cattle farmer in western Virginia whose family had gotten some land that had been farmed to death, and after a few decades of sustainable cattle farming using herding practices that mimick grazing patterns in a state of nature (as well as a philosophy that he was a “grass farmer,” i.e. growing healthy grass that would sustain the cows rather than producing cow meat as conventional farmers view it), earthworm growth and levels of organic matter in the soil reached superlative levels, while several ravines that had been caused by erosion naturally filled in. In the end, ecological animal herding can reverse desertification, increase the total amount of arable land available, and increase the total food supply.
There is no coherent morality or ethics rooted in nature that can view the killing and eating of animals as wrong. In nature, killing and eating something is a respectful, intimate activity, and a necessary part of natural cycles. Viewing this as wrong is nothing but a shockingly alienated, civilized view that domesticates animals at a metaphysical level by reducing them to quasi-citizens in need of rights. Fuck that shit. Humans and all other animals are much more free and full outside of legal frameworks, without rights, only needs and desires.
Humans have evolved as ominvores. In many parts of the world, humans are a natural predator in the native ecosystem. This is a natural role we have relinquished, often to disastrous effect. In my home, the mid-Atlantic region of North America, the overpopulation of deer is destroying what remains of the forests. Native species of trees, which they generally find the tastiest, cannot regenerate, because all the saplings get eaten up in the winter. I myself have tried to reforest part of a watershed in suburban Virginia which I personally protected from lawnmowers, only to have the deer destroy the trees and preserve the reign of monoculture grass yards. The lack of forested areas along river valleys is a major factor in killing the Chesapeake Bay, which is one of the most important breeding grounds for marine life in the North Atlantic. My grandparents live on the Chesapeake, and they and many of their friends used to harvest small amounts of crabs, oysters, and fish, mostly for their own diet. Many of these aquatic populations have collapsed in recent years. Human consumption was a stress on the ecosystem, but the major cause of the death of the Chesapeake is pollution and runoff coming from the suburbs (where many people rich enough to consume enlightened diets douse their not-so-enlightened lawns with fertilizer and pesticides). It should be no surprise that the fishermen were some of the more vocal defenders of the Chesapeake Bay. It must also be remembered that the Chesapeake used to be literally thick with fish and shellfish, which made up an important point of the ecologically sustainable and animal friendly diet of the indigenous inhabitants.
Returning to the deer, in many parts of eastern North America their only natural predators are wolves, cougars, and humans. A few places can still support wolf and cougar populations, and these should be defended fiercely wherever they remain or are attempting to reintroduce themselves. But given human population levels on the east coast, it is impossible in most areas for wolves or cougars to take up residence. That only leaves humans. We currently have no practical solution for the high human population, though the struggle to abolish the car culture is a vital step in reducing the impact of that population. In the meantime, the ecosystem can't wait. If we did have any influence over the diets of a significant portion of our society, the best thing to do on the east coast would be to cut out consumption of tropical fruits, soy, hell, all non-local produce, and sharply reduce meat to a little bit of chicken and beef from local organic farms, and, importantly, deer, that we preferably hunt ourselves. This would be the most ecologically sustainable diet in the short term for the bioregion I live in. The vegans almost get it right on one point—the amount of meat eaten there on average is way too high—but they completely ignore another point, conveniently leaving out how much damage they are doing by the quantity of tofu and bananas most of them eat.
Veganism is a consumer choice within present day capitalist society. Stripping it of its moral universality, we can better evaluate its appropriateness, if an honest evaluation is what we actually desire.
As a political strategy, is veganism effective? (Significantly, I rarely hear vegans pose this question to themselves). I know of no general, unlimited boycott, in the long history of the boycott tactic, that has been able to eliminate an entire industry at the magnitude we're talking about, nor do I know of any partial victories that suggest it may be possible with improved efforts. Targeted boycotts can be effective, especially when backed by sabotage actions, but when the boycott is not levied against a specific target—a product or company, but against an entire industry and huge class of goods, it simply cannot work. A great example of a successful international boycott was the campaign against Shell Oil for South Africa divestment, and its most effective component were the many attacks on property. We should note that this campaign did not require participants to abstain from oil consumption, which is impossible in a capitalist society.
As an ideology, veganism fails to understand capitalism and ecology. It is incontestable that to save animals and the planet, capitalism must be abolished. Emphasizing the dubious power of consumer choices sabotages the fight against capitalism and ecocide. Existing as consumers, which is a role involuntarily imposed on all of us, is not compatible with nature, and in the long run the vegan diet is not the same as an ecological diet. The most important factors are not the presence or absence of meat, but if the food is local, and if it is sustainably produced. Today, only a limited number of people can achieve this lifestyle. The point is not to be one of those people, it is to abolish capitalism and develop ecological perspectives within anti-capitalist movements (and anti-capitalist perspectives within ecological movements, which are not one in the same only because of short-sightedness in each movement). Many vegans have done vital work spreading environmental consciousness (as have many omnivores). But as a whole veganism tends to spread a false consciousness. It misrepresents what means are capable of creating an ecological society and what lifestyles an ecological society could sustain. Vegans have spread the lie that you can't be a meat-eating environmentalist, and suppressed the truth that you can't be a capitalist environmentalist.
Instructive is the ease with which capitalism has accomodated vegan consumer choices in many countries—how easy it is now to shop vegan in the UK, Nederland, and most of the US. This encourages us to imagine, what if veganism succeeded? What if everyone or nearly everyone in wealthy countries adopted a vegan diet? The meat industry would collapse, but other industries and capitalism as a whole would continue, leaving us with the contradiction of a vegan society liberating animals in the limited sense understood by the critique of factory farming, but destroying the environment nonetheless, and all the animals with it.
Vegan or non-vegan consumers cannot destroy capitalism and save the planet, nor does veganism necessarily prefigure an ecological society. We will destroy capitalism and save the planet outside our involuntary role as consumers. Veganism as a boycott does not work. Within capitalism, a decrease in demand can lower prices, and increase total consumption. Those treacherous reformists who spread the lie of energy efficient lightbulbs and so forth have helped energy consumption skyrocket. Throughout the 80s and 90s, greater energy efficiency lowered energy prices and allowed the major consumers—the factories and shopping malls—to consume much more. Similarly, while the number of vegetarians and vegans in the US exploded from almost none to a sizeable minority in the last decades, total meat consumption did not decrease, in fact it increased. Let's be blunt. Y'all talk about saving animals but you haven't made a dent. It's much easier to be a vegan these days, capitalist production has created a niche for you, but no fewer imprisoned animals are being slaughtered in the factory process. Doesn't that highlight a need to reevaluate strategies? Or is veganism something other than an attempt to liberate animals? (More on this in the next section).
I have not seen vegans spread the awareness of the capitalist market that their strategy requires, nor engage in the amount of self-evaluation that is compatible with an honest desire to save the planet. The typical posture seems more like being on the side of the good guys as everything goes to hell.
...and a moral highground approaching religious proportions
For this reason, I think it is fair to point out the ways that veganism is more similar to a religion than to a liberation strategy. I think it's great for people to decide, as a personal choice, not to consume meat, especially if they could never bring themselves to kill or slaughter an animal. I personally was vegetarian for eight years, and came much closer to veganism in the last part before suddenly becoming an omnivore again in response to racist exclusions I witnessed from some white vegans. Currently, I do not consume the meat of domesticated mammals (noting that scavenging and stealing are not consumption in the capitalist sense). At a strictly personal level, I do not want to raise an animal with whom I can develop an emotional relationship, for the purpose of killing it. I could kill a bird or a fish to eat, and I have, because I do not think they are capable of recognizing me or any other individual, and therefore I cannot form an emotional relationship with them that is not narcissistic or one-sided. I also think that hunting a wild animal for food is respectful and emotionally healthy. That's just me.
Veganism dismisses personal and emotional considerations by declaring what is acceptable for everyone. This is a religious characteristic. Secondly, veganism takes moral prohibitions that are not logical within nature but only within a specific historical context and universalizes and mystifies them. Thirdly, veganism is missionary. As a fairly deserved generalization, y'all try to convert. Having been a vegetarian, I know that people in the mainstream who have never developed enough of an ecological consciousness to do so little as change their diet try to convert, marginalize, or mock veggies a whole lot more, so we can see this as a defensive reaction. But then, perhaps Christian self-righteousness also originally came out of their persecution. In the end, it doesn't matter much.
Spreading information about animal cruelty, about the meat industry, about the destruction of the environment, is admirable and necessary. Spreading the idea that there is only one way to salvation, that people need to mimic your strategy and lifestyle, is Christian. It's especially embarrassing when, as we have seen, the moral and strategic grounds aren't so well thought out.
I think the quasi-religiousness of veganism explains why I've so often encountered vegans who defend their position in an illogical, dishonest way—as a matter of faith. There's the matter of false propaganda. For one, the PETA milieu anti-fastfood rumour that KFC stopped referring to themselves as Kentucky Fried Chicken because the crap they serve doesn't even qualify as chicken anymore and they would risk lawsuits if they alleged otherwise (since when has advertising in honesty been so strictly enforced?). Actually, it's because, with the health craze, "fried" food got a bad name, hence the retreat to the initials KFC. These sort of meme attacks, while they may be very effective in the short term, damage the credibility of a movement in the long-term.
I've also had the argument with vegan and vegetarian friends who say that thanks to their diet they are not responsible for killing animals. Even after I pointed out the fallacy, they continue to chant this article of faith, though they know full well that their consumption of industrially farmed vegetables, their use of plastics, their dependence on petroleum-fueled transportation, their dependence on coal- or wind- or nuclear- or hydro- or even solar- (think mining for panel and battery construction) powered electricity kill a shitload more animals than meat factories. You cannot live in a capitalist society without killing animals and destroying the environment. We are all in this together, and the division between vegans who don't kill animals and the rest of us who are responsible for enslaving animals and destroying the environment is stupid and self-righteous.
The way many vegans respond to the embarrassing heresy of freeganism (only eating animal products if they are stolen or dumpstered) also illuminates religious illogic. How eating dumpstered or stolen meat supports the meat industry, if not on a metaphysical level, escapes me. Supposedly, stealing meat contributes to killing animals, because when meat gets taken off a supermarket shelf, they order more to replace it. However, stealing is a low-level attack on the industry, that does not contribute money to its proft margins. Stealing, unequivocaly, is not consuming. Furthermore, most supermarkets log data through the cash registers on exactly what products are purchased, thus they also can collect statistics on what products are most frequently shoplifted. These products might be attached with security tags, lowering profit margins, or they might be put in a less accessible spot, which lowers the frequency of purchase (shopping being a largely compulsive activity). It is not unheard of for a product that is robbed too frequently to be entirely removed from a supermarket's inventory.
The idea that stealing meat contributes to the industry is not only poorly thought out, but contradictory. If supermarkets use the money they receive to restock a pre-selected range of products (including meat), then that means that the money vegans spend buying lettuce also goes to buying more meat. Thus, the supermarket industry is integrated with the meat industry, and the only way to get food from supermarkets without sending your money to support this industry is to steal, which has the added benefits of undermining the imposed consumer role and putting you in conflict with capitalist society. Concomitantly, vegans who go shopping are not really vegans. How far do we take the analysis? Do the banks they put their money in invest in any supermarkets or any other industries integrated with the meat industry? Do any of the companies they work for or shop from? To great effect, the SHAC campaign has illustrated just how wide a company's economic involvements are.
Because of these missionary and universalizing tendencies, veganism creates a number of problems within a diverse anticapitalist movement. These problems are especially volatile when it comes to race, owing to a few coincidences: people of color are more likely to require meat for a healthy diet, to have a more ecologically friendly tradition of eating meat, as well as a food culture that is more rooted, less undermined by consumerism, and thus one with which they identify with more strongly. For all these reasons, vegans can come off as particularly insulting and racially exclusive when they insist that a vegan diet is healthier for everyone (not true, some people are healthier when they eat some meat) or when they propagate the peculiar mathematical view of food that a vegan meal, as a lowest common denominator, is the only dietary option that is inclusive to everyone. This is often justified with the argument that "people need to learn that a meal does not need to include meat" as though it were just some ignorant habit and not a fully developed food culture in its own right. A culturally inclusive compromise is not a vegan meal, but a meal with vegan as well as omnivorous options. Predictably, veganism misses out on the merits of pluralism in favor of a decidedly absolutist worldview.
Is animal liberation an oxymoron?
I don't think that animal liberationists believe they are going to end the vivisection and meat industries by rescuing imprisoned animals any more than anarchists believe we are going to abolish the state with the current level of activity we are capable of. So let me be unequivocal in stating the many strong points of animal liberation actions. These actions are brave, and more than anything today people need to be inspired. These actions are passionate, another revolutionary necessity. Even though the liberations will save a tiny number of animals from the conveyor belts of a vast death machine, each individual animal is worth saving. Such non-quantitative logic is valuable in a struggle for an anarchist world free of domination. Thirdly, the animal liberation movement has developed important tactical innovations that have spread to adjacent milieus and movements. They are also important for spreading consciousness of the viciousness of our civilization towards other living things.
My criticism of animal liberation is a minor one, and mostly meant as food for thought. Unlike veganism, animal liberation is, in my view, an important part of a full anarchist movement. As a separate movement, it faces the danger of falling into repetitive, fetishized activity carried out only for its internal moral values rather than working in conjuction with more long-term strategic approaches, but I think there is enough interchange between animal liberationists and other types of radicals to wed animal liberation to the necessity to abolish capitalism.
More problematic is animal liberation's relationship with false visions of solidarity that already predominate in many activist circles, especially more privileged circles. Technically, though at first the point seems almost petty, animal liberation is an oxymoron. Liberation, unless we mean it the way George W. Bush does, can only be accomplished by its subject. In other words, people must liberate themselves. Animals, on the other hand, cannot. Unfortunately, from here to eternity animals will never organize a social force capable of ending capitalism or even vivisection. Animals will never write letters or raise bail money for imprisoned animal liberationists. In a democratic sense, humans and animals are not equal because they cannot be co-participants in civil society with equal rights and responsibilities. But then, fuck democracy. Autonomy is a more coherent concept, and all living things deserve autonomy and control over whatever choices they are capable of making. (This does raise a moral question regarding domestication, as many animals have participated in their own domestication as an evolutionary adaptation, and well treated, especially free grazing domesticated animals will not run away, even if they have seen their broodmates slaughtered. Instead they choose to stick around with their human companions. What then do we make of their equality or autonomy?)
Animals will not liberate themselves, they must be saved. The planet must also be saved, but this does not mean these are hopelessly missionary projects, as by "save" we basically mean we must stop torturing and destroying animals and nature. Through this necessity, animal liberation promotes a false idea of solidarity that creates a very patronizing, often racist model when activists who get their feet wet with animal liberation activities attempt to work together with other human groups in struggle, if through reasons of privilege they might also be able to imagine themselves as saviors. This is not an inevitable weakness of animal liberation, just a potential consequence within revolutionary circles where animal liberation activity is much more developed and emphasized than international or cross-racial solidarity. In other words, animal liberation is obviously not responsible for the missionary impulse that is culturally ingrained in whiteness. Rather, animal liberation may be so attractive to many white radicals because it does not challenge but may promote the missionary approach to solidarity, in which a more powerful being saves an innocent but helpless being from harm.
On an individual level, many vegans have engaged in vital work raising environmental consciousness, and they have experienced their diet as a means of reaching ethical consistency and self-discipline. But their diet has not been an asset in the struggle. For many of us it is important to live in a way we consider ethically consistent, and to attempt to prefigure the world we are struggling to create. However, an absolutist veganism is not necessary to either of these tasks, and instead impedes an accurate understanding of ecology and capitalism, while discouraging a united, pluralistic movement against capitalism.