There have been terrible terrorist attacks against the city of Paris and everyone knows about it. The mainstream media (MSM) is jumping on tragedy the way they are fantastically capable of and everyone in the US who is even near a television knows all about it. Almost.
We know about it in the context of a corporate controlled media. We know all about how innocent the victims were. We know that French President Hollande is promising a “pitiless” war in response to the attacks. And we know because the attackers are terrorists and the victims are innocent and the French President is promising a vicious response, that starting this French war against ISIS is justified. Except we are wrong.
France is not starting a war with ISIL because of these recent attacks on Paris. France has been at war with ISIL for over a year, bombing them in Iraq for that entire time and, two months ago, it started also bombing suspected ISIL sites inside of Syria. Except it has not really been a war because, having learned from the US, the French were perfectly happy killing members of ISIL and countless surrounding Syrian and Iraqi civilians using airstrikes without ever being exposed to a hostile response from ISIL. Here is the sentence you will never see in the MSM reporting of the Paris attacks:
By attacking Paris, ISIL is retaliating against French attacks on Arab civilians and ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria.
But this background information is critically important if you are trying to understand what is actually happening with these attacks. It gets worse.
Recently declassified US Intelligence documents indicate that the US and western allies, including France were hoping and supporting extremist Islamic resistance to the Assad regime as recently as 3 years ago. This western supported resistance became ISIS.
We have seen this before in the US around the 9/11 attacks. If you ask most US Americans if the 9/11 attacks on the US were unprovoked, they will assure you they were. If you asked them why bin Laden organized these attacks, you will get muddled answers, including gems like, “They hate our freedom”. Before 9/11 bin Laden had outlined the reasons why he was retaliating against the US:
- US military presence in Saudi Arabia (despite significant protests)
- US sanctions in Iraq that killed 600K children
- US support of Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestine
One can argue about whether these were good enough reasons to launch the 9/11 attacks, but it is hard to argue either that they were unprovoked or a surprise.
Back to Paris. The day before the Paris attacks there were similar attacks in Beirut, which got basically no MSM attention. Why no attention? One could claim that Beirut has been in some state of war for many years. But i believe the reason is deeper. We see over and over that the US MSM does not care about terrorist attacks unless the victims are white.
Do i condone these attacks on Paris? Certainly not. But what i feel an extraordinary need to condemn is the willful ignorance of why these attacks are happening and how the systematic nationalism and racism of the US media helps to insure that they will keep happening.
Other good critical sources on asymmetric reporting on terrorism and failed US policy in the middle East:
We cannot properly honor the deaths of Parisians killed in these terror attacks without analyzing our governments’ understanding of the subsequent radicalization that has followed invasions and airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria; drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries; and the American bombing of the Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in October.
We cannot bring ourselves to say JeSuisBeirut. White supremacy does not allow us to imagine ourselves in the lives of people of color. We cannot see our humanity, our pain, our fears in the eyes of the Sunni Muslims who were terrorized as they mourned the loss of a loved one.
An excellent and accessible article from the Nation on interviewing ISIL prisoners.
At the end of the interview with the first prisoner we ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” For the first time since he came into the room he smiles—in surprise—and finally tells us what really motivated him, without any prompting. He knows there is an American in the room, and can perhaps guess, from his demeanor and his questions, that this American is ex-military, and directs his “question,” in the form of an enraged statement, straight at him. “The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”
CommonDreams.org assaults the US and western approach to conflict in the middle East in the article called Paris: You dont want to read this.
But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.
I am still getting a fact check on this article about how the Bush Administration was instrumental in building he foundation for ISIL. The second point of the 5 is quite weak, and does not support the thesis. But the other points appear to make the case reasonably well.
- ISIS leaders’ training as part of Hussein’s regime gave them the knowledge they’ve needed to be deadly:
Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.
They have brought to the organization the military expertise and some of the agendas of the former Baathists, as well as the smuggling networks developed to avoid sanctions in the 1990s and which now facilitate the Islamic State’s illicit oil trading.
Here is an informative piece on the controversy over the name ISIS/ISIL it’s proposed replacement and how acronyms are quite exotic in Arabic.
The main misapprehensions about the word currently circulating [Daesh] in our media boil down to the following list:
- That daesh is an Arabic word in its own right (rather than an acronym) meaning ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others’
- That it can be ‘differently conjugated’ to mean either the phrase above or ‘to trample and crush’
- That one of the words in the acronym also means ‘to trample or crush’
- That it is an insult or swearword in its own right
- That is has different meanings in the plural form
An excellent Guardian piece on how the US prison in Iraq at Bucca was the training camp for IS and US prison relations with Baghdadi helped him rise to power and build ISIL
“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”
Brittany ran to me as i was walking through the Ash Street gardens of the Baltimore Free Farm. She was clearly excited to see me.
“I am so glad there is an old person here now!” was the first thing she said to me
I cracked up laughing. She explained that the party was full of 20 somethings and she thought my experience would be a grounding effect. Most people don’t find me grounding, but i was still totally flattered.
Many folks say they are busy, but you make time for what is important to you. I really wanted to go to StrangeFolx, the Baltimore Free Farms anniversary celebration. I wanted to go because i had missed the protests that BFF had played an amazing supportive role in. I wanted to go because i am regularly impressed with daring, tenacity and street smarts of these punks. I wanted to go, because i wanted a big, political party that someone else had organized.
On the way to the event i stopped at a roadside stand and got a flat of strawberries. I was handing them out to the perhaps 100 people who were already at this event by 1 PM. I walked by Billy who was pumping out pizzas.
As i approached the oven, there was a metal stake sticking up in the middle of the steps which dozens of people would soon be walking. “Fix that!” i barked at Billy pointing to the offending stake, in the way busy organizers sometimes dispense with pleasantries. A nearby anarchist reminded me, “You could fix it.” Billy soon put a purple cup over the stake and pronounced it fixed. Safety isn’t first with this crowd, otherwise they would not be rioting with the police.
Billy suggested that i change my thinking about pizza. Moving away from the idea that it would be a point in time in which one might have pizza, to more of a continuum or infinite span of pizza. And he made quite good on his promise to deliver unending pizza. Recently toughened up by the tremendous cooking effort done to support protesters of police violence in Baltimore, the Free Farm kids prepped for this 8 hour long anniversary party of a few hundred people. GPaul asked for a vegan pizza, and in moments it was there. The advantage of these real pizza ovens is they can cook a full pizza in just a couple of minutes.
When Billy finally took a break he greeted me warmly and gave me an illegal piece of riot swag. I was touched and i looked at him curiously. “We could not have done it without your cooks. It was amazing to have all this help and we desperately needed it.” When Baltimore exploded, Billy called me. He asked me to put out the call to Action: Baltimore needs cooks. So i blogged about it, copied it to few facebook pages and crossed my fingers. I got great reaction, with cooks responding to the blog post wanting to help. Many had minor logistical problems (like little money and no car). I cobbled together ride shares and other minor logistics, but folk were resourceful and wanted to get to Baltimore. In the end about a dozen cooks ended up volunteering at BFF. And i felt some pride around networking effectively.
But as though my ego were on some type of zen roller coaster, shortly after this i got schooled by Brittany on how unworkable my clever plans were to try to build coalitions with people of color (POC) activists. She was clear and firm in telling me that the internship scheme i was proposing would not fly culturally.
Instead Brittany and Billy agreed that the best thing for white allies to do these days is be consistent in providing the type of food services for protesters that BFF and Food Not Bombs have been providing. And be patient.
I live in a world that is slightly inconceivable to most people. I do a lot of work, almost all of it stuff I am super pleased to do. And I don’t get paid for it. Instead the communities I live in (Twin Oaks and Acorn) cover most of the costs of my living: Food, shelter, clothes, education, entertainment, medical insurance, dental insurance, and most of my travel.
Instead of getting paid in money, besides the services listed above, I accrue labor credits. For each hour I work, I get one labor credit. My labor obligation is 42 hours a week. It makes little sense, however, to compare this work quota to most people’s straight jobs. On the rare cases when I commute (like to a college speaking gig or a craft show) I get “paid” for my time traveling. I get labor credits for voting and going to the doctor, and some small fraction of the time I spend taking care of my son Willow is labor creditable. All the time I spend with Willow on home schooling, including the prep is labor creditable. When I clean our collective dishes, I get labor credits. If I were to cook for more than 7 people (which I never do) it would be also be creditable.
Some of the stuff I do is hard. I do mediation between people who are furious with each other. I work to stop nuclear power plants. I am trying to start income sharing communities in NYC, where couples committed to each other for life find it easier to not share income. I help find consensus when there is sharp disagreement. With some regularity people thank me and appreciate the difficulty of this work. When I am feeling clever or exhausted by my efforts I say, “That is why I make the big labor credits”, a silly knock off on the phrase “That is why I make the big bucks.”
Silly, because all labor credits are exactly the same size. One hour is one credit. It does not matter how hard I work in an hour to the accounting system (though other members certainly appreciate and celebrate anyone’s hard work). The labor credit I get for an hour of preparing space for a party is the exact same size as the one I get for hour I spend getting a drunk and belligerent guest out of the party. The labor credit I get for folding mail in the sun while talking with charming visitors is the same size as the one I get for counseling and talking down a manic or suicidal member.
I don’t need to get a bigger labor credit for the harder work. Turns out when my basic needs are met, I am pretty well off. The communities are poor. The people who live there have legitimately calculated taxable income below the poverty line (or at least in the case of Twin Oaks–Acorn is higher but still below the national average income). What this radical sharing we deploy does is to permit us to live like kings (or at least like the upper middle class), while we live in technical poverty.
If you are thinking to yourself “Wait why doesn’t everyone do this? We could eliminate the awful effects of living in poverty without having to make any more money,” you would be on to something. Besides stopping climate change, we would be saving millions of lives from the sharp edge of poverty.
What stops us is we don’t trust each other enough to share what we have, almost all of which is sitting idle almost all the time.
Post Script: I should clarify this thing about traveling, since it has sparked a bunch of questions. Perhaps half of these trips are paid for by the communities i live in. These include craft fairs trips with Hawina, college speaking gigs, hammocks sales trips and almost monthly trips to DC/Baltimore and NYC for the Point A Project, With the possible exception of Ira from Acorn, no one at either Twin Oaks or Acorn travels even close to this much. And i travel more than this.
I visit my mother at least two or three times a year, often in Florida, and she pays for this travel completely. I also travel with the Star family (my family of choice) and i pay for this out of money i earn outside of the community. I am also fortunate to have romantic intimates who pay for me to come and see them in all manner of curious or exotic locations.
As regular readers of this blog know, we are trying to start urban based income sharing communities in cities in the Northeastern US, specifically NYC, Washington DC, Baltimore and Richmond VA. We have different strategies in all these towns and friendly competition between the organizers as to what the best approach is to get these new communities off the ground.
In NYC, where we knew fewer people who were interested in this lifestyle, we have been doing public events for the last year. We have one coming up the weekend after this one called Community Matchmaking. Please consider coming if you are excited about intentional community in the NYC area.
In Washington we have a group of people who are willing to seriously investigate this style of living. Cities make things more complex and for the last year this DC group has been working on its agreements, strengthening its social fabric and doing the first round of recruiting to people inside our networks. DC is now ready to step up its outreach efforts and is having its first public outreach effort on March 24th. If you are in the Washington DC area and have a strong interest in intentional communities, this is certainly the place to be. Dinner and introductions start at 6PM.
What you should know about this ambitious DC group:
- The plan is to launch this new community within a year.
- There are 6 to 8 people planning on being income sharing members and another dozen and a half who are considering it.
- Most of these folks are currently living in group houses in the DC area.
The event on Tuesday is reaching out to people with collective living experience. Later events will focus differently and reach out to different audiences. Do you find collective living enriching and strengthening? Want to talk about ways to make collective living a lifelong option for more people rather than the transitional living situation that it so often is? Want to talk about ways to accentuate the positive and ameliorate the negative of living with a bunch of people in close community? Come out on Tuesday and join the discussion!
Names have power. I spent years going to a summer environmental youth festival in Europe called “Ecotopia”. Regular participants consider themselves Ecotopians. We talked about “Ecotopian Principals”. When things went well, we marveled at the “Ecotopia spirit”. It was originally the title of a book by Ernest Callenbach, who coined it in his 1975 popular classic, which was a prophetic tale of the Northwest region of the US succeeding and reversing industrial capitalism. But the name quickly went on to mean much more to many people. If we had, for example, called it Summer Green Fest, we would have identified with it less deeply and it might well have died a decade sooner. Some of the best names are ones which occur organically. I remember when we were designing an all womens anti-nuclear office in Prague which was staffed by internationals. Emily said “Why don’t we just call it the Prague International Anti-Nuclear Office?” I said “don’t you think that is a little long?” She said “We would call it PIANO for short, the acronym.” Instantly there was no other choice, we just started calling it Piano from that day on. The Point A project wrestled a bit initially with what to call ourselves, we wanted a good name. But the more we talked about it, we realized that the communities that the project created would have their own names, identities and origin stories – so a good name would be nice, and i like Point A, personally. But it is not a brilliant name. Busy people compress things. Your goodbyes are shorter, repetitive tasks get shaved by seconds where you can and multi-word names you have to type repeatedly become acronyms. Point A has a growing number of specific urban sub-projects (including currently DC, NYC, Baltimore and Richmond). So i started writing Point A – NYC and then PA – NYC and finally PANYC. omg what a great name. We are often told “don’t panic”, not just in the context of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, but to maintain order. From where i sit, if we follow this strategy the chances for the planet to survive are vanishingly small. The people who want us to stay calm are often the same ones who think Climate Disruption is not a thing. They think business as usual is the way to go and they most certainly think that we should respect the powers that be and the current authority structure.
I could not disagree more. We need to be panicking. We need to be doing things dramatically differently. Business as usual is suicide, convenient and lucrative for a tiny fraction of the population, certainly. But no less suicide for the planet and everyone we care about. Well see if the other folks in the project are as excited as i am by this name and the implications. But i have a spring in my step just thinking about it.
I have always wanted to hang a jury. I have been fortunate that all my court appearances (except the Acorn Arson) have been elective – I chose to get arrested. But I have never had a real chance to hang a jury, until today. I have been guilty of dozens of trespass charges against me and I have never argued that point. To hang a jury I need to get at least one positive answer to the question “Has the injustice I am fighting directly impacted at least one member of the jury intimately?” For nuclear power or a pending war the jury is usually quite removed from these issues.
Today I was on trial for our highly publicized arrests at the UVA fraternities last November protesting their support and participation in rape culture. Someone on this jury has been touched by this crime. Some sister or daughter or dear friend has been sexually assaulted and this juror has watched helplessly as their loved ones’ life unraveled.
I desperately wanted to remind this juror of their pain and their frustration with the broken legal system which oppressed their intimate and generally ignores this crime. I wanted to beg them, in the name of their friend, to see past the trivial trespass and instead see how this court, police and culture helps perpetuate this problem. I wanted to call for the system to be put on trial, not me.
Tragically, the odds would be heavily in my favor. Statistically, with twelve jurors, my chances that at least one of them would have gone through this ordeal are nearly 100%. Sexual assault is endemic in the US and the powers that be are mostly uninterested in addressing it in any meaningful way.
Sadly, I did not do it today. Fighting in the courts is a long and time consuming process. Judges are quite resistant to cases looking outside the specifics of the charges before them. And the court fees associated with a failed not guilty plea would exceed $1000 because the defendant must pay the jury stipend. This is a chunk of change on the commune stipend. Instead, like my co-defendants I plead guilty and was given 44 hours of community service. At the trial I read the following statement:
For our non-violent protest against rapes at UVA we were swiftly arrested. Yet repeated reports of sexual assaults on campus are ignored by the university and Charlottesville police department. I plan to do my community service for an organization which is working to address this injustice.
The first time i got arrested I made friends with an impressive man named Louis Corn. He was in his 70s and had been arrested many times for protest. When I asked him why, he said “Well, this body is not much good for hard work no more. But I can still throw it onto an unjust state.” I don’t do that much hard physical work, but I am looking forward to the day when I can take the chance my inspiring old friend did regularly and try to hang a jury and embolden others to fight for justice.