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Culture Change

Resisting the war machine and U.S. ecocide

by Jan Lundberg

This is a time of massive denial of the destruction of both the planet's biosphere and non-mainstream cultures by governments, corporations and the average consumer.  A call for resistance, then, is never more appropriate.  So, what are the possibilities, and what kind of world do we want to build? 

The dual challenge: war and consumption

One wouldn't know from TV news or major newspapers that U.S. energy use, representing a disproportionate one quarter of the world's consumption warming the globe with fossil fuels emissions — is completely unsustainable.  It is not a mistake through lack of awareness; it is ecocide.  

Neither is any admission made by the mainstream media or the government, or even by the large environmental groups, that overpopulation has been attained not only globally but within the U.S.  The beginnings of understanding about oil extraction peaking globally is entering the public's consciousness slowly, but the full implications are not yet being faced.  (This column has addressed this issue and will soon publish the report "Exiting the Oil Age with Resolve.")  Petroleum's contribution to floating countries' huge populations is swept under the rug.

Ecocide is needless, but not in the minds of the perpetrators when we consider their psychology as driven by their culture.  The biosphere's rapid degradation is carried out by the individual polluters as if there is no other way to approach life, because of the materialistic insecurity in the minds of society's greediest and most fearful members.  Waiting for them to wake up and join the human race, instead of continuing to hide behind their comfortable property and self-serving laws, uses time that humanity no longer has the luxury of wasting.

A new international study states that populations of almost half of the known amphibian species are in decline; 32 per cent of amphibians are threatened with extinction.  Twelve per cent of birds and 23 per cent of mammals are in the same position.  Extinctions are increasingly "enigmatic" which means a general trend is on the loose that can't be stopped by improved policies except in the very long term.  The U.S. leads the way in fostering species extinction, when one also considers destructive "development" and "aid" the U.S. has promoted globally for corporations..

The role of resistance

In light of the unacceptable loss of life caused by both ecological destruction and the war machine — offering the biggest consumers "endless" gluttony — resistance is on the rise.  It may not figure as powerful as the twin, awesome effects of a collapsing global economy and the backlash of nature, but there is a role for resistance in the long run.

The home-grown U.S. resistance movement takes various forms, yet there is no clear leadership. There will not be such a leadership in the foreseeable future because the process of change at this point in history is not about traditional revolution.  Nor is there any social movement fueling much change, compared to the 1960s' U.S. civil rights movement or the radical student movement.  However, resistance exists and takes the form of lifestyle change, boycott and direct action.  As always, resisters try to expose the corporate-government line of propaganda. 

The role of resistance is unclear, but its potential is enormous.  The World Trade Organization is almost on the run globally, in some respects — such as in public opinion — because resistance and protest have been effective.  People could not anticipate the success of demonstrating against the Seattle and Cancun meetings the WTO held in 1999 and 2003, respectively.  The question is whether the antiglobalization movement is ready for cultural revolution.

The war machine was never dismantled

The systematic genocide of Indochinese in the 1960s and early 1970s by the U.S. government and its mercenaries was — thanks to resistance in Indochina and in the streets of America — opposed and stopped.  But not forever: with a change of political winds in Washington and the military's role not to be denied, aggression was resumed and kept up on a smaller scale.  Now we have seen two Middle Eastern countries attacked and still occupied.  (Palestine is under similar attack and occupation.)  The bloody rationales have been discredited.  Resistance by the international community and millions of U.S. citizens has been strong and clear.

In the U.S. one can scarcely express solidarity with those abroad fighting U.S. imperialism and corporate oppression, except for the occasional protest and letter-to-the-editor.  So, in between times one attempts to keep informed and talk up the issues.  We also sing the songs of freedom and resistance, if not aloud then in our hearts.  Meanwhile, Iraqis die daily from U.S. bombardments and from the consequences of invasion: depleted uranium everywhere, having to resist the unbearable occupation, and/or get caught in the crossfire. 

Much misinformation on the Iraq war is fed to the American people by the imbedded U.S. reporters stuck in the Green Zone of Baghdad.  But word is getting out that the Iraqi peoples are united in universal opposition to the U.S. occupation, thanks to the foreign press and Dahr Jamail, the one independent U.S. reporter roaming all over Baghdad and beyond.  The war of occupation has been lost by the U.S. as previously envisioned, and it is long past the point that the average Iraqi could entertain the possibility that some good came from the invasion.  At least 13,000 and possibly over 15,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by mostly indiscriminate U.S. firepower as of mid October 2004 since the invasion.  Even car bombings that kill scores of innocent civilians per month are blamed by the average Iraqis on the American presence, according to Jamail. 

You can be an enemy of the U.S. government but not an enemy of the country and the people of the USA.  Among U.S. residents and citizens are such examples as John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jane Fonda.  Millions of Iraqis stand for the same thing those leaders wanted:  the U.S. military out of a country it invaded.  Today it is primarily Iraq that the U.S. must vacate along with its stooges (such as its CIA connected interim prime minister).  

This opposition is on the political level, although all but Jane Fonda paid the cost in blood.  In her case, supporting the Vietnamese people was, in effect, to take the side of ":the enemy," but the war of aggression against the Vietnamese had erased any moral rectitude of the U.S.  So it was entirely moral and courageous for people such as John Kerry to reject the Vietnam policy most publicly and throw back medals of valor won in an illegitimate war. 

Nonviolent resistance in daily U.S. life

On the economic level of daily life here in the U.S. — including the physical/ecological realm — people who pursue an alternative to wasteful energy use and other forms of materialism are trying to pull like minds together and support each other. There is some success and much failure in that attempt, as the dominant culture dictates that only having property and cash can allow us to participate in current modes of survival.  Meanwhile, hard-core activists, communitarians, anarchists, sustainable living advocates, co-housing practitioners and other stripes of Homo Ecologus(?) get down to mutual aid, growing their own food, while participating in alternative news media and the arts to wake up the somnolent consumer population. 

It is becoming widely known that these are the last days of plentiful, affordable petroleum — "ancient sunlight" — because of the global peak in oil extraction and out-of-control demand.  CNN has now referred to current oil prices as geologically driven.  

Despite peak oil, we see the longed-for alternative energy systems, car-free living and better land use barely pursued, even by those in the know.  As long as the system of cash & petroleum provides short-term goods and services, no alternative can get a major foothold.  

This does not mean that social movements are useless; to the contrary, people need to resist and think for themselves when the government's role is to lie as it props up the status quo.  However, the ultimate purpose of living a life of resistance is to provide social, economic and ecological models of sustainability for the post-petroleum future.  Our rewards come later and are for the common good, making our current efforts a major sacrifice due to lack of support.

One must follow one's best inclinations in expressing solidarity with the Iraqi peoples, with corporate slave laborers, with dispossessed indigenous peoples, and with the cancer-ridden population of U.S. consumers.  There are many ways, but it requires digging, study, collaboration and adventure.

Most U.S. Americans seem to labor under the supposition that technology and "our democracy" will see us through the planetary crisis of climate distortion, overpopulation, resource exhaustion, and toxic/radioactive poisoning.  Elections are a part of exercising self-determination, but without a strong movement in the streets, elections only ratify the existing power structure.  Therefore, each of us does what we can: draw political cartoons, depave a driveway, or join a collective household (necessary if members of blood families are isolated consumers). 

My own latest gambit is a song, part of a repertoire of resistance songs in praise of nature and human liberation.  

Resisting the Oil Machine Rag 

(An excerpt, the parts sung similarly to "Halls of Montezuma," the U.S. Marine Corps theme song—but with a minor chord inserted.)

From the napalming of Vietnam to the toxics in our seas 

This new song shares the same bouncy 2/4 beat as "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" by Country Joe and The Fish.  I intend to record "Resisting the Oil Machine Rag" with—apart from vocals and guitar—a kazoo, a la Country Joe and The Fish's rag.  

That masterpiece against the Vietnam War is still funny and moving today.  I hear Country Joe lives nearby in the San Francisco Bay area where I'm staying these days, and perhaps after hearing it he would encourage me on my way to tour, with such songs, the continent: from the redwoods to Maine to the Everglades.  As I have been trying without success to find the right job in Berkeley or Oakland, or to set up an office to fight plastics and spread Culture Change; perhaps hitting the road with my guitar and my anti-petroleum message is the answer for me to contribute to the resistance against the war machine and U.S. ecocide. 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

- "Depaver" Jan Lundberg

PS:  I enjoyed playing several of my songs at the Berkeley Unitarian fellowship last Sunday as an opening act for Dahr Jamail's slide show presentation.  


Independent Iraq war dispatches and photos from Dahr Jamail

Civilian slaughter in Iraq:

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