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Kangaroos Against Civilization

Blog posts are the work of individual contributors, reflecting their thoughts, opinions and research.
Rock Wallaby in the South Australian desert
Rock Wallaby in the South Australian desert
Thousands march for Aboriginal sovereignty in Canberra
Thousands march for Aboriginal sovereignty in Canberra

I've been in Australia now for a little bit over a month touring with my film END:CIV, and my brain is full. I've learned so much in my short amount of time here, that it goes to show how lived experience can pack in more education than books ever will.

On my second week here, I took part in the 40th celebration of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, the capital of Australia. The short story is that four aboriginal activists set up an beach umbrella in front of the parliament building, to protest the government's refusal to acknowledge aboriginal sovereignty. Forty years later, and the embassy (which is now a small structure) and the sacred fire are still there. The anniversary celebration was timed to coincide with "Australia Day" or more appropriately "Invasion Day" or the day Captain Cook arrived in the land down under and unleashed the 200 year plus wave of violence against aboriginal people and the natural environment here. You see, the British didn't consider the aborigines to be people, they considered them part of the fauna and declared Australia "Terra Nullius" or empty land. You can watch an interview I did with aboriginal activist Robbie Thorpe speaking about the embassy here.

According to some scientists, aboriginal people have been inhabiting the Australian continent for 40,000 years, although new evidence suggests that they may have been here for over 120,000 years. Regardless, aboriginal land management practices were sustainable, but with the arrival of civilization, deforestation, game farming, agriculture, cities and mining have destroyed many ecosystems. Extractive industries are the darlings of the Australian government, or more accurately, they run Australia, so unless a serious culture of resistance is organized here, these mechanisms will continue to gobble up the continent's natural "resources."

END:CIV has been extremely well received here. At the screening in Adelaide, long time anti-mining activist, Uncle Kevin Buzzacutt said the film had fired him up and gave him more energy to continue fighting. Uncle Kevin belongs to the Arabunna Nation and has been working to shut down the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, which extracts copper and uranium. Even though the mine is not in Arabunna territory, BHP Billiton, the owner of the operation, extracts over 35 million litres of water a day from Uncle Kevin's people's land.

Yep, the Olympic dam mine is in the desert, and I went to visit the area to shoot video for the next dispatch of "Stop the Flows." Uncle Kevin's nephew, Peter Watts was kind enough to guide us through the outback and show us the water sources that are being depleted. The Australian bush is gorgeous. Even at 44 degree temperatures (around 112 Fahrenheit) plants and animals abound in this arid landscape. I saw kangaroos, emus, dingos, crows, lizards and magpies. Peter also treated us to several types of "bush tucker" (food) that grows wild in South Australia. As you can imagine water is in short supply, and the desert can't sustain both a mine and it's local inhabitants. In other words the mine has to go.

The mine itself is massive. The first two nights we camped in its vicinity, and the glow from it's floodlights lit up the sky all night long. We bought tickets to the tour of the mine and were told that video and photos were prohibited. But we were able to record the entire spectacle using a hidden mobile phone video camera. As expected, the tour guide told us of BHP's commitment to the environment and to safety, but when asked if he knew that uranium from their mine was used to fuel the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, he claimed ignorance. The fact is that it's true. It was also revealed that BHP pays nothing for the water it uses to operate the mine. To make matters worst, the Australian government recently approved the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine and if not stopped it will become the largest open pit mine in the world. Expect a full video report in the next few weeks. I'm still raising funds to help pay for this report, so if you have a few bucks to spare, click here.

While I've been traveling, emails have been piling up in my inbox asking me about the ant-black bloc column by Chris Hedges entitled: "The Cancer of Occupy." People want to know what I think since I've been staunch supporter of the tactic, but also because Derrick Jensen is quoted in the article. I will not write a full retort, because aside from being about two weeks too late, there's been plenty of thoughtful responses that I can get behind, mainly David Graeber's "Concerning the violent peace-police: an open letter to Chris Hedges." But I'll throw a few thoughts in for good measure.

I've rarely experienced the collective solidarity that I witnessed in Toronto during the anti-G20 "Get off the Fence" march. The black bloc in that march thwarted a 1 billion dollar security apparatus and smashed up the financial district and shopping districts of a major north American city. Proving that even under the watchful eye of the state, extraordinary actions can be accomplished and shattering the myth that the police are unbeatable.

Furthermore, if you take a look at Egypt's Ultras, they were instrumental in the street fighting that eventually forced Hosni Mubarak to resign. The Ultras are soccer hooligans who cut their teeth fighting the cops after matches during Mubarak's reign. How else is someone to gain experience engaging security personnel, blockading roads and disabling infrastructure? People who engage in black bloc tactics get "on the job training" and learn decentralized organization, working within affinity groups, security culture, de-arresting comrades and counter surveillance among other things. Have black bloc tactics brought down civilization? Certainly not. But they have been useful tools for propaganda, morale raising and promoting militancy, as well as the things I mentioned above.

What I do agree with is Jensen's assertion that our movements should be strategic about how and when tactics are used. Having a long term goal informs how we deploy tactics and helps us prioritize the risks we take. If our actions increase the risk of getting comrades jailed, it better be worth it, otherwise we are simply sacrificing people and community resources to actions that don't make a dent in the infrastructure of civilization.

Finally, I find it hard to swallow that many people are willing to write off Jensen completely, because they don't agree with his stance on the black bloc. That is simply intellectual laziness and political purism. Of course we are not going to agree with everything a person says or writes, as I know many people who view my videos don't agree with all my opinions. But many have chosen this as opportunity to attack and attempt to discredit one of the best and bravest writers we have, and I'm not talking about Hedges. Like I said a few years ago of Naomi Klein, just because she said some things I found problematic in Copenhagen and in Toronto, doesn't make "No Logo" or "The Shock Doctrine" invalid. With that said, I'm off to Melbourne tomorrow, then on to Wollongong and concluding the Australian tour in Brisbane. Stay tuned for more angst from the road.

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Comments

Thanks so much for all this inspiration !

That is an amazing article from a very inspiring travel. Thanks Stim for all your great work ! Love you so much !

Jensen's comments in hedge's

Jensen's comments in hedge's article are, to put it bluntly, bullshit, as is hedge's article overall.  jensen's real falling out with radicals, including the 'black bloc' anarchists, was when he called the FBI seeking protection after death threats were made against him via the internet (several months ago). At this point he lost credibility as a proponent of radical resistance and this explains his willingness to help Hedges in his effort to undermine the black bloc tactic.  The quotes used by hedge in his slanderous article will only ensure jensen's further decline. 

Jensen's end civ crap is, well crap

The real problem with Jensen is that his foundational beliefs are (or were) a bunch of extreme vanguardist crap. He spent years spouting off about the need to eliminate all 'industrial' products - stuff like the bicycle. He was very clear that this would not gain much support, people tend to like stuff like bicycles, so small elite groups would have to do it for the ignorant masses - who would die off opening the way for the new stone age utopia. Strangely, people bought his books and took him seriously - he is a very good writer and can make the weirdest shit sound cool.

Now Jensen seems to be starting to shift to much more reasonable positions, like focusing on degrowth rather than advocating bikeageddon, that might just gain some popular support. So his positions on tactics also seem to be changing.

It would be great to have such a talented writer working to build a mass movement for positive change. People have a right to change their minds, and leave their old ideas behind, and I hope Jensen will tale advantage of that right.

Let me qualify my following

Let me qualify my following statements with a few facts: 

 

I am new here.  I identify politically as a left leaning, fairly normal citizen.  I don't work for any government agency, though I'd be shocked if there weren't CSIS members who've cozied up to some of you.  I am not an anarchist, radical, or politically active beyond voting.  I'm here because I'm interested, and honestly, I'm just ambitious with my arguing (I'm crap at dancing and I can't hold my drink*).  I'm conflicted about modern life because I hate corporate behaviour, but I love the benefits such activities reap.  I'm a big fat hypocrite, and I don't give a shit if using adjectives like 'fat' disqualifies me from joining your club.  If my criticism isn't welcome, you're with Vic Toews and the internet pedophiles (or something like so).

 

Grammatical errors aside, the following paragraph couldn't have been penned by anyone who hasn't suffered cranial damage a la Gilligan**:

 

"I've rarely experienced the collective solidarity that I witnessed in Toronto during the anti-G20 "Get off the Fence" march. The black bloc in that march thwarted a 1 billion dollar security apparatus and smashed up the financial district and shopping districts of a major north American city. Proving that even under the watchful eye of the state, extraordinary actions can be accomplished and shattering the myth that the police are unbeatable."

First off, the grandiose declaration that black bloc marchers thwarted security is straight bullshit.  Sure you may have broken some windows and wrecked some shit, but you're the first folks to bitch about the 1100+ individuals who were placed in custody during the protests.  It seems to me that you can either choose to complain about the detainment of protesters, or claim victory over the police.  You can't have both. Smashing some glass, spray painting slogans on walls, and burning cop cars isn't exactly a coup.  It's not a knife in the heart of big business.  It's just a minor inconvenience carried out by kids who never outgrew the tantrum phase, whose folks and other working class people will end up footing the bill for, either in tax dollars or price increases.  There's no myth about police being unbeatable.  Time after time we see stuff in the news about regimes being overthrown.  Chairman Mao was right when he contended that political power grows from the barrels of guns.  As right as that postulation may be, Gandhi's method of non-violent protest seemed to work too.  I don't remember any effective political movement which gained success from burning a few cars and breaking some windows, so you can ditch the self congratulation.  

 

I also find it hilarious that other comments have mentioned that the author is anti-industry to the point of wanting to bring it all back to the stone age. He also brought up environmental issues when visiting the uranium mine.  I can only assume that he didn't swim to Australia, or walk around the country when he got there.  As with any other religious zealotry, the hypocrisy and self aggrandising displayed is overbearing. 

 

Realistically, there are seven billion people here who want or need products which require  minerals, petroleum products, and human labor (and all the stuff that needs).  There are going to be mines.  There is going to be oil exploration.  We need industrial scale farming.  Those are facts which aren't going to go away, unless we can all be convinced to join the Church of Euthanasia.  I can't take issue with any of those industries based solely on their existence.  That doesn't mean I don't abhor corporate behaviour, but I'm old and wise enough to know that there's no stopping it.

 

All the burning cars and smashed glass in the world aren't going to change the ways corporations behave.  In fact, it seems counter-intuitive for an self professing environmentalist to be so wasteful considering the resources it takes to build a car and make glass.  Screaming in someone's face will rarely endear you to them, and making your voice louder will not make them hear you.  You can create change by spending money on products created sustainably, by making sure your investments (if you have them) are with responsible companies, and by voting in a way you think will work.  On a planet of seven billion, anarchy is a pipe dream.  Hell, it could be three people here and there'd still be a boss.  It's animal instinct to develop dominance.  There's no saying that the boss can't be gently persuaded to do things properly, but when you use violent acts to gain dominance over a perceived oppressor, you've become an instrument of oppression yourself.  

 

When I was younger I had a raging hard on that I wanted to stick to the man too.  I understand the way this kid feels, but I don't get the hypocrisy and masturbatory back pats.  Back in my day, we used to wank in private.  

 

*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T5NUB1vyu4

 

**episode 4.1- "Gilligan, Meet Gilligan"- Gilligan gets a coconut in his head, and starts to become light-headed, even moreso than before.

Nobody cares about your use of adjectives

But your predictable yuppie reactionary crap regarding property destruction in Toronto and your laughably naive alternatives don't make for very interesting arguments.

Most of the folks here wish they had a nickel for every time, etc ...

Incidentally, there are quite a few vibrant resistance movements around the world that fall somewhere between mao's gun and gandhi's pacifism. Or the type of pacifism that you see in Canada, which is generally more of an excuse for doing little-to-nothing. 

Of course, there has to be a whole spectrum of resistance between armed revolution and walking around in circles chanting, or else how would you get from one to the other?

If definitely doesn't flip like a switch.

"Yuppie Reactionary Crap" Standard "Left-Wing" Fare

"Whatsmyname's" "yuppie reactionary crap" and "laughably naive alternatives" are, unfortunately, standard fare in what passes for the "left" today in Canada.

A while back I was having a conversation with a veteran trade union activist who identified as a "Socialist."  I always thought that "socialism" meant putting the working class in power, but that's apparently not what he meant.

"One class over-throwing the other doesn't work," he explained.  "The form of 'socialism' I support believes that the classes should work together."

"I suspect this would be permanent," he concluded (Ya think!!!).

So there you have it: since there is "no stopping corporate behavior," we may as well just learn to live with it.  Perhaps if we ask them nicely, our oppressors will take one boot off our necks long enough to allow us to breathe?

The fact that this liberal horseshit is peddled by many who consider themselves "left-wing," even "socialists," partly explains why "the left" (or what many consider to be "the left") inspires nobody.

At least the right-wing has a vision (albeit a reactionary and dystopian one).  The only thing the mainstream left in this country offers is a warmed-over version of social democracy that stopped being relevant over 30 year's ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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