Thursday, September 25, 2014

Let Them Eat Pizza

I would have gone to the People's Climate March in Manhattan, even though, as a permitted Sunday parade, I didn't expect it to amount to anything more than tilting at windmills (ha!) - but I had already missed all of first daughter's competitions this season, and her last show for the year, in Saugerties, NY was scheduled for the same day.  I had a lovely weekend with her and was very glad I went, especially as she took two firsts. 
Thus, I was happy having learned there was to be another protest on Monday that I could join, #FloodWallStreet, especially because the plan was for mass civil disobedience and arrests.  I met up with a Wit's End reader, Lucas, who had come all the way from Hawaii and was willing to serve as jail support for me.
However, the march from Battery Park to the Stock Exchange was deflected, and the big banner buckled backwards around the barricaded Bull while we watched, incredulous, as the organizers negotiated with police.  Apparently the Mayor informed them that there would be no arrests, and we could have the street space AROUND the Bull, but were blocked from approaching Wall Street.  Astonishingly, the organizers informed the crowd that they had made a decision to stay obediently in place, and...declare victory!  Whatever happened to consensus?  There was no discussion, no mic check, we were just informed that rather than exercising our rights, we were to behave just like the Sunday Paraders and, as one commenter phrased it, whimper in a fucking free speech zone.
At one point they encouraged us to sit and thump our chests like our beating hearts, I'm not sure why.

Reactions to the capitulation ranged from indifference to mild surprise to utter fury.  Luckily I had come across a friend from the Age of Limits Conference, Cameron Kelly, who also had traveled a great distance at non-trivial expense to take part in the mass civil disobedience.  She was decidedly in the latter category.  We pointed out to the organizers that the action was presented as mass CD - and the response was that if we still wanted to get arrested, we were free to dive over the barricades flanking the Bull.  However, if my goal was to be arrested for a single personal criminal act, I would rather choose my own symbolic icon...and it wouldn't be about capitalism.  When I pointed out that the action was titled #Flood WALL STREET, and we were stymied at Broadway and Morris, I was informed by several indignant organizers that we actually were *on Wall Street*  - since the financial district and Wall Street are synonymous.  So they conveniently redefined the very meaning of the words "Wall Street"...uhhhh, but what about this MAP they handed out to the marchers (that Camus so rightly wishes to chew up into mush)?   Do you see the arrow for the 12 PM ACTION pointing directly to the NYSE on the actual WALL STREET??

Apparently to mollify the disgruntled, we were informed that 100 free pizzas were being delivered, and that we would sing and dance.  Finally one courageous fellow named Sparks who, having come all the way from Fridley, Minnesota was not about to slink meekly away, bellowed "MIC CHECK" and urged the boisterous but confused assembly to move along to Wall Street.  Here he is with the famous firecracker Cameron, having finally made it to the intersection.
Even after we arrived though, other than a short tussle over the barricades leading to one incident of pepper spray, the pizza party continued in place for hours unmolested, presided over by glowering phalanxes of billyclub-wielding and mounted police.   Not wanting to wait hours more for the order to disperse and having long trips home, Cameron and Lucas and I left around sunset.  It wasn't until after darkness had fallen that finally about 100 people were "allowed" to relinquish their freedom, and were cuffed and bussed to jail.   The Sans Culottes must be rolling in their graves at this pathetic excuse for a revolution.  I don't suppose we'll ever know why the protest turned into a cheesy picnic - whether the organizers were outsmarted by the Mayor, lost their nerve, or are completely intoxicated with ego gratification from media attention - "...oh, we're on the front page of HuffPo right now!" one told me, by way of explaining that no further action on our part was necessary.  Actually, some of the slick promotional material makes the project smell suspiciously of funding, which makes me wonder if the Sunday and Monday events, despite their ostensible differences, aren't both just mirrors of each other's deliberate ineffectiveness, like the two political parties in the USA.

The climate activist insiders were in short-lived heaven following the huge turnout for the PCM in New York and other cities around the world.  (Short-lived because nobody has the vaguest idea what to do next and the UN meeting is being widely denounced as a useless corporate festival.) Privately they are rejoicing what they see as the triumph of the climate movement over the environmental movement, something they been trying to eclipse for years. To put the rosiest perspective on this, you might say that they have shunned any association with holistic ecology simply because they believe that being tainted by tree-huggers is detrimental to progress - since hippies have a bad reputation for extremism and dirty toes.
To look at it in a slightly more cynical way, you might conclude that the motivation stems from two pernicious influences...first, that climate change in theory lends itself to continued growth via a technological fix (if you ignore the fact that it's too late to avoid catastrophe, which virtually all activists and scientists do), which leads to the second motivation, a corollary to the first...there is oodles of money from corporate foundations, governments, book sales and speaking engagements for research and political activism in climate "solutions", as long as none of them include reducing population and consumption.
This strategy has always struck me as an epic failure, since climate change is only one symptom of a more general, lethal overshoot.  The single-minded focus on carbon emissions over other issues, such as pollution, habitat destruction, and overextraction of everything from lumber to fish to minerals simply enables more of the same destruction to proceed even as it pretends to challenge the status quo, Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges notwithstanding.  In fact their supposedly more radical critique of capitalism is a red herring, and an insidious deflection of the true dimensions of the tragedy of the commons that has ensnared humans into ecocide.  Underlying their exhortations to change or even dismantle the economic system is the false belief that "green energy" will ensure free pizza forever.  While chants like "We are Unstoppable, Another World is Possible" and "Put up Your Fist, Resist, Resist" are rousing good fun, really, as Candide would say, we ALREADY are in the best of all possible in, it ain't gonna get any better than this...and there is no obvious way to resist OURSELVES.  Here's all you need to see of Naomi Klein and her own special brand of bullshit.  (Well, hey, it sells books, apparently.)  [update:   OMG this is too funny.  This video has been taken down - in it, Klein is interviewed on HuffPo saying that so many people have reacted to her book by saying IT'S TOO LATE.  I guess that message was too scary so the record has been deleted.  TOO hilarious!]

Here's a screenshot from the video that has been removed, and here is a link to the clip still up.  This quote from John Gray's Straw Dogs sums up why the narrative she peddles is so wrong:  "The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industrialisation, “Western civilisation” or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. Throughout all of history and prehistory, human advance has coincided with ecological devastation."

It seems like this cohort of so-called activists, whether prancing in costumes for Sunday's celebrity climatepalooza photo-ops or moaning ineffectually about capitalism on Monday, is persuaded that all we have to do is WANT things to be different (you know, close your eyes and say I DO believe in fairies!  I DO!  I DO!) which is really just an extension of everything that is wrong with the very consumerist society we are urged to reject.  Mention the word "sacrifice" and the entire spectrum frowns.  When I was on my way to the city I was thinking about how many in the doomer community (invariably white middle-class) appropriate the culture of indigenous peoples and claim affinity with their supposed peaceful, sustainable, harmonious and spiritual relationship with nature when actually, most if not all hunter-gatherers (other than those who were defeated by overshoot, natural disaster or neighboring tribes) were proud warriors who trained boys from an early age to be fierce, and to defeat enemies.  The accumulation of ancient weapons, armor, fortifications, skeletal remains and artifacts testify to this universal human attribute.  Contemplating arrest with its very real potential for bodily injury is nerve-wracking, to say the least, and I took comfort from thinking about how tribal people prepared for conflict with an infinite variety of rituals to embolden them.  Too bad this willingness to confront harm isn't the inspiration taken by so many who claim to be "fighting" climate change by tapping on their computer keyboards or designing posters and t-shirts.  Hell, most of them can't even be inconvenienced, let alone put their safety in jeopardy (Tim DeChristopher being a shining exception).  I don't know if it is iphones or football or Cheetoes, but something has turned us into spineless wimps.
Following are some pictures of trees and leaves around Wit's End.
Remember the trees?
They are supposed to hit peak autumn color around the third week of October hereabouts.
Instead the leaves are falling off even earlier than they did last year, and those that remain look terrible.
The Virginia creeper lit by the setting sun into a bright scarlet from a distance actually looks dreadful close up.
The world is dying all around us, and most people still think there is time, if they think at all.

Let Them Eat Pizza!


  1. I agree with your political analysis completely but not with your disappointment over being prevented from committing principled civil disobedience. CD has its legitimate and justified uses but ONLY when there is an explicit
    objective! In the case of the march and the flood Wall St. protests, there is no unified objective. That was the problem from the beginning, shored up by the belief of thousands that they all shared them, when I would wager that the vast majority have no desire (yet) to substitute socialism for capitalism, or give up their second car or, most pertinent, pay more for energy in the form of a carbon tax (fee and dividend..which should have been the
    objective of the march but McKibben's mouth is sewed shut on anything that might be identified as a platform). There were arrests at the DC protest against Keystone and coal, including McKibben's and Hansen's but that was at least targeted to coal and shale oil. This march was merely an amplification of Occupy Wall St. No demands, no agenda, no goals. A big fat zero. Anyone who thinks a movement to curb climate change or make any of the necessary radical changes will come out of this march is smoking something from the Big Bong. Back to Business as Usual. First let's dethrone McKibben and stop pretending he is a leader. Second, defect from the
    Democratic Party. Third, do something useful like supporting the Citizens Climate Lobby and the Carbon TAx Center to put a LARGE price on carbon and seriously reduce energy demand. Then let's see what happens.

  2. Lorna Salzman,
    I notice that since last week's announcement that the Rockefeller Foundation would be divesting from Fossil Fuels, the stock market has been steadily falling. Maybe the tactic of divestiture really works. (When the stock market is up the exploiters are in full force, a falling market will be a step in the right direction.) This is a move that I encouraged since first learning that burning fossil fuels is causing the end of our reign on earth.

    So it would seem that if Big Media (the 5 media giants) are yet another part of our problem, making it difficult to of uncaring people that the deniers have been lying all along and our ecosystem is in danger of total collapse, a similar divestiture might be another step worth taking.

    Divest from Big Media!
    Stop burning fossil fuel.
    Think globally, act local .
    Plant a garden.
    Invest in sustainable, non-exploitive energy.


    1. making it difficult to convince uncaring people

  3. They say apathy is running rampant in modern civilization, but who cares?

    It's far too late for any political action to "work" because the system is so corrupted by wealth and money that any attack on the status quo is labeled, pigeon-holed, shouted down by the media, co-opted and derailed before it can even be a threat. Anything that gets past that gets a more violent response, and they're not above disappearance, torture and death.

    Likewise with regard to any scientific or engineered climate hacking solution - it would undoubtedly make matters worse, speeding up our demise. We've already let the genies of radioactivity, disease, climate chaos and methane out of their respective "bottles" and now they've teamed up to become the Avengers of Mother Earth - and she's just gettin' warmed up (okay, pun intended).

    This situation we're facing took centuries to slowly unravel, so it isn't going to be "fixed", even by the planet, for probably at least thousands of years (if ever).

    Use the time you have left "wisely." [After a comment by Michele from Montreal, "enjoy" is no longer in the lexicon unless you're a sick human that refuses to see what's clearly happening and are only pursuing personal reward for being 'so special.']


  4. Great post, Gail, and I am very pleased that you spent some quality time with your daughter instead of participating in that laughable 'exercise' in NYC over the weekend. By all means, do more of that, much more, even if it means you don't post here (or comment anywhere) as much as you would 'like.' Alas, I also wasn't surprised by your recap of the "Flood Wall Street" fiasco on Monday. "Tilting at windmills" indeed! Perhaps my observation that 'we' have all been programmed, pigeon-holed and played is becoming more poignant. Toward furthering that 'understanding,' a commentator (Robert Callaghan, who I perceive as one of the sharper pins in the cushion), on NBL, embedded "Part 2" of another outstanding Adam Curtis piece, "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace," which I highly recommend. The entire series is as profound, if not more so, than "The Century of the Self" but, if your time is 'limited,' that 2nd part may just be a real 'eye-opener' for the attentive viewer. Speaking of "...a more wretched hive of scum and villainy," another video you may find of 'interest' (tho' I found it somewhat 'revolting,' too) is "Traders: Millions By The Minute."
    On a different(?) note, and I've yet to investigate further, earlier today my wife told me that on TWC she heard Richard Branson say he would be allowing any/all of 'his' employees to take as much vacation time as they wished, whenever they wanted!! Perhaps tomorrow (or over the weekend) I'll try to find his 'exact' quote but, in the meantime, I can only see this as an 'omen' that the 'jig is about up.' However, on the other hand, he is as adroit with 'mixed,' self-contradictory messaging as any billionaire 'player.'
    I also found it 'interesting' (in the HuffPo video) that Naomi actually said most of her 'feedback' was along the lines of "It's too late, nothing can be done." She certainly didn't say, or even allude, such when she was on with Colbert a couple nights ago. Well, I guess I'm just going to have to get my ass in gear and start selling a bunch of 'stuff' the wife and I have accumulated over the years while there are still 'suckers' out there that will buy it! :)
    Lastly, our Buckeye tree here in northern OH, not 20 miles from Lake Erie (ewwww!) is almost totally bereft of leaves and the Lilacs aren't far behind! Please, do not allow yourself to be incarcerated due to an act of utter futility. The 'majority' are just gonna' keep on keepin' on until they can't.

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments. It is far, far too late for a political solution so whether there are demands in a demonstration matters not. Today I have been reading about famine, which was appallingly common around the world throughout history and is on the horizon for all of humanity with no outside relief. The frequency, causes, and response to famine are instructive. Typically populations grow when food is plentiful and then, often because a drought comes along, there is a shortage and the result is starvation. As anyone with a pea for a brain should know, in addition to widespread droughts (and floods), lakes, rivers and fresh water aquifers are disappearing and being polluted, which is also going to contribute to a reduction in the food supply dramatically and soon (to say nothing about overfishing, seafood being a primary source of protein for many). For one example among countless others, in Europe: "...Starting with bad weather in the spring of 1315, widespread crop failures lasted until the summer of 1317, from which Europe did not fully recover until 1322. It was a period marked by extreme levels of criminal activity, disease and mass death, infanticide, and cannibalism." This is how people react, and it's not with cooperation or rational planning: "...When scarcity of food became apparent to peasants, they would sacrifice long-term prosperity for short-term survival. They would kill their draught animals, leading to lowered production in subsequent years. They would eat their seed corn, sacrificing next year's crop in the hope that more seed could be found. Once those means had been exhausted, they would take to the road in search of food."

    This also led rather comically to the legend of Wendigo (or Wetiko), a concept which is tediously presented by white middle-class subscribers to the WooWoo as the Native American peoples' diagnosis of the White Man's endless evil greed and overconsumption. Turns out that actually, the Wendigo monster pre-existed contact with Europeans and was a cautionary mythical figure to deter the indigenous people from resorting to cannibalism in time of famine. So much for sustainability. "The most frequent cause of transformation into a Wendigo was if a person had resorted to cannibalism, consuming the body of another human in order to keep from starving to death during a time of extreme hardship, for example in hard winters, or famine....

    Among northern Algonquian cultures, cannibalism, even to save one's own life, was viewed as a serious taboo; the proper response to famine was suicide or resignation to death. On one level, the Wendigo myth thus worked as a deterrent and a warning against resorting to cannibalism; those who did would become wendigo monsters themselves."

  6. Dear Gail, I marched (walked) on Sunday with my family, for many complex reasons and desires, not all of them come true, but some, yes. So I was happy to have gone. I nearly threw up with anger the day after when a friend sent me the "amazing" movie "What's Possible, " which was made for the UN Summit and is now inextricably linked to the March (and me and my family co-opted). How much prozac are people taking?? Morgan Freeman will make THIS happen for all 7.3 billion of us? Disgusting Hollywood claptrap and people just suck it up like candy. I wouldn't feed this drivel to my nine-year-old!

    1. Yep, "...nearly threw up with anger the day after when a friend sent me the 'amazing' movie..." was also my reaction to that abject propaganda piece! Just so I am clear, it has been abundantly clear to me for a long time that every actor, director, 'producer,' musician, 'professional athlete,' politician and most doctors, lawyers, accountants, business owners, etc. are nothing more than self-serving whores and anything they say or do has no more, and probably less, merit than the excrement from the south end of a north-bound pig! When Freeman says "our," I am certain he refers primarily to himself and his fellow 0.1% parasites. Yes, all the rest of 'us' have to 'sacrifice' as much as possible so scumbags can inherit the Garden of Eden. Alas, the really sad part, Anonymous, is aptly described in your penultimate sentence. :(

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