Editors’ note: We publish posthumously this article by Giulio Regeni, an il manifesto contributor who was based in Cairo while researching his doctoral thesis. On Wednesday, his tortured body was discovered in a ditch in the city. Because independent trade unions are a contentious topic in Egypt, Regeni asked us to publish this article under a pseudonym, as we have done in the past. Today, we publish this last dispatch under the author’s real name.
Read also —> All the truth. Our editorial about the murder of Giulio Regeni
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presides over Egyptian Parliament with the highest number of police and military personnel in the history of the country, and Egypt ranks among the worst offenders with respect to press freedom. Yet independent trade unions are refusing to give up. The Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS), a beacon of independent Egyptian trade unionism, has just held a vibrant meeting.
Although the largest room at the center has 100 seats, the meeting hall could not contain the number of activists who came from all over Egypt for an assembly that was extraordinary in the current context of the country. On the agenda was a recommendation from Sisi’s ministers for close cooperation between the government and the country’s only official union, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, with the explicit order to counter the role of independent trade unions and to further marginalize workers.
Although today the CTUWS is not representative of the complex galaxy of Egypt’s independent trade unionism, its summons was heard, perhaps unexpectedly, by a significant number of unions. By the end of the meeting, there were about 50 acronyms that signed on to the closing statement, representing various sectors from all over the country — from transportation to schools, from agriculture to the large informal sector, from Sinai to Upper Egypt, from the Delta to Alexandria to Cairo.
Movement in crisis
The government’s policy represents a further attack on workers’ rights and trade union freedoms, greatly restricted after the military coup of July 3, 2013, and so has been the catalyst of widespread discontent among workers. But until now, the unions have found it difficult to turn their frustration into concrete initiatives.
After the 2011 revolution, Egypt experienced a surprising expansion of political freedom. It saw the emergence of hundreds of new trade unions, a true movement, of which the CTUWS was among the main protagonists, through its support and training activities.
But over the past two years, repression and co-optation by the Sisi regime have seriously weakened these initiatives, so that the two major federations (the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress and Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions) have not convened a general assembly since 2013.
Virtually every union acts only on its own, within its locale and industry. The need to unite and coordinate efforts, however, is deeply felt. That accounts for the great participation in the CTUWS meeting, as well as the many attendees who lamented the fragmentation of the movement and called for the need to work together, regardless of affiliation.
Comments from attendees came in by the dozen, concise, often passionate, and with a very pragmatic approach: The purpose was to decide together “what to do by tomorrow morning,” an appeal repeated like a mantra during the meeting, given the urgency of the moment and the need to draw up a short- and medium-term action plan.
Notable was the presence of a large number of women, whose actions were sometimes among the most appreciated and applauded by the predominantly male audience. The assembly concluded with a decision to form a committee, as representative as possible, to take charge of laying the groundwork for a national campaign on issues of labor and trade union freedom.
The idea is to organize a series of regional conferences that, every few months, would convene in a large national assembly and possibly a unified protest. (“In Tahrir!” offered some of those present, invoking the square which was the scene of the revolutionary period of 2011-2013 but for more than two years has been off limits to any form of protest).
The agenda seems very broad but includes an underlying objective to counter Law 18 of 2015, which has recently targeted public sector workers and has been strongly contested in the past few months.
Meanwhile, in recent days, in different regions of the country, from Asyut to Suez to the Delta, board workers in the textile, cement and construction industries, went on strike for as long as they could. Mostly their demands concern the extension of wage rights and indemnities to public companies.
New wave of strikes
These are benefits that workers have ceased to enjoy following the massive wave of privatizations during the last period of the Mubarak era. Many of these privatizations after the 2011 revolution have been brought before the courts, which have often nullified them, noting several cases of irregularities and corruption.
Strikes against the revocation of benefits are mostly unrelated to each other, and largely disconnected from the independent trade unions that met in Cairo. But still they represent a significant development, for at least two reasons: For one, albeit in a manner not entirely explicit, they challenge the heart of the neoliberal transformation of the country, which has undergone a major acceleration since 2004, and which the 2011 popular uprisings and their slogan, “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice,” have substantially dented.
The other aspect is that in an authoritarian and repressive context under General Sisi, the simple fact that there are popular and spontaneous initiatives that break the wall of fear is itself a major spur for change.
The unions’ defiance of the state of emergency and the regime’s appeals for stability and social order — justified by the “war on terrorism” — signifies, even if indirectly, a bold questioning of the underlying rhetoric the regime uses to justify its own existence and its repression of civil society.
–> Originally published in Italian at il manifesto on Feb. 5, 2016
By Edward M. Gómez
It has been said that when gods fall, the earth shakes.
Yesterday night, the news broke that the Alabama-based African-American artist Thornton Dial had died on Monday at his home in McCalla, just southeast of Birmingham, at the age of 87. A master of what label-loving art historians and merchants might refer to as post-Cubist assemblage or postmodern appropriation, not to mention of his own variety of unaffected expressionism and a fluid style of draftsmanship that was both lyrical and semi-abstract, Dial was an artist whose ideas and creations fit into all and none of those establishment-dictated categories at the same time. As with the most innovative, most remarkable self-taught artists of any time or place, both his worldview and the evidence of his artistic achievement were and remain unique and, ultimately, unclassifiable.
In an international art world whose mainstream institutions and market celebrate cynicism and superficiality, and are fueled by ego and hype, the bell tolls for Dial today more softly than it should. (Always quick to trumpet the new, banal, high-priced baubles of Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, the New York Times offered no obituary this morning — for major cultural figures, such pieces are normally prepared well in advance — although the Associated Press weighed in with a brief report.) However, for those familiar with the accomplishments of this visionary American artist of the 20th and early 21st century period, the tremor they’re feeling upon the news of Dial’s death is one that rocks canonical modern-art history to its very foundation.
Dial was an art-maker who, like Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Louise Bourgeois, and Anselm Kiefer, dared to take on themes that were as big as his technical skills were refined. In his art he examined slavery, racism, the struggle of the oppressed for their rights and freedom, war, the abuse of women, nature’s inexplicable forces — and hope and beauty, too. Its maker experienced many hardships and challenges in his lifetime, from poverty to the ugly, institutionalized racism of his native region, but instead of taking a bitter, cynical turn, Dial’s art was shaped in large part by his abiding faith in the redemptive power of aspiration — of keeping hope alive — and of looking for the unsinkable good in even the darkest episodes of history or the most discouraging expressions of the human spirit.
That might have been because Dial, like many of the most singular autodidacts, made his work primarily for himself, not for any market or public. Dial instinctively aimed for something alien to and bigger than any concern of the established market: truth. Just a few years ago, in early 2011, on the occasion of an exhibition of his work opening at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Dial observed:
All truth is hard truth. We’re in the darkness now and we got to accept the hard truth to bring on the light. You can hide the truth but you can’t get rid of it. When truth come out in the light, we get the beauty of the world.
Not to press the point too finely (although because in today’s world so much art product is made not by artists themselves but rather by contracted fabricators, it really cannot be emphasized enough), but Dial was one of those artists who actually made things— that is, with his own two hands. It is impossible to fully appreciate his art without grasping that essential aspect of all of his oeuvre. Then again, Dial’s work proclaims its creator’s technical proficiency, and his sheer delight in the handling of his materials and his discovery of their expressive power, in every twist of a metal rod or splash of paint on a scrap of fabric or thrust of a color-saturated line that gives shape to his mixed-media constructions or pictures on paper.
There was no room in Dial’s aesthetic vision for the rejection — so celebrated by certain theory-driven, too-cool-for-school (or just too schooled?), “professional” modern and contemporary artists — of the visible touch of the art-maker’s hand in their creations. Dial’s art was unabashedly hands-on and heart-full from the start — and deeply rooted in personal experience.
Dial was born in 1928, in east-central Alabama, to a family of sharecroppers who had long eked out a meager living picking cotton. His unwed teenage mother gave her child to relatives to bring up when he was still an infant, and by the age of six, Thornton found himself working in the fields. He was in the third grade when his formal education came to an end. In interviews with the Atlanta-based art historian and collector William S. Arnett, a longtime champion of Dial’s work who founded the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in 2010, the artist recalled:
A midwife delivered me to my mama in a little country house in the field, one of them kind you can lay down and look up through the ceiling and see the sunshine. … We picked cotton when we got big enough to walk. … I was just a little bitty something but I had to earn my way.
In 1941, Dial, who was still a teenager, moved with his half-brother to Bessemer, an industrial city near Birmingham, where, he told Arnett, he was instructed, “Learn to figure out your money and write your name: That’s as far as a Negro can go.”
In Bessemer, Dial did odd jobs — highway construction, brick loading, pipe fitting, house painting — and became an employee of a Pullman railway-carriage factory, where he worked for many years and learned to weld. At home, he used found metal and wood scraps, and other materials to make decorative objects — in effect, the prototypes of what would evolve into his later artworks. Those early concoctions, like all of his art, were steeped in the tradition of African-American “yard art,” which itself was rooted in the African spiritual practice of crafting talismanic objects to protect the home or body. Such piles or agglomerations of rusty machine parts, wire, wood, empty cans, and other repurposed materials are directly linked, formally and thematically, to Dial’s art.
By contrast, as a young man, fresh out of college, Arnett traveled to Europe and briefly lived in England. After taking in the architecture of many European cities and the treasures of their famous museums’ collections — he savored everything from ancient antiquities to modernist masterpieces — Arnett returned to the US, eventually opened a gallery, and then eased into his own independent work as an art researcher. In time, his encounters with the artistic creations of self-taught black artists of the Deep South changed his understanding of what art could be — and express.
Last year, recalling his discovery of the works of such artists in the region as Dial, Lonnie Holley, Joe Minter, Ronald Lockett, Charlie Lucas, Mose Tolliver, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Emmer Sewell, and the quilt makers of the hamlet of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, among many others, Arnett told me, “It was there, in plain sight.” He was referring to “yard art” in particular and to the aesthetic that informed it and all of these artists’ creations in general.
Thornton Dial, “The Last Day of Martin Luther King” (1992), wood, carpet, rope carpet, wire screen, metal pans, broken glass, and broom, 80 x 113.5 x 4.5 inches (photo by Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio, courtesy Souls Grown Deep Foundation) (click to enlarge)
In 1987, Holley introduced Arnett to Dial (who was then 56 years old). Arnett became Dial’s main patron, collected his work in depth, and enthusiastically promoted his talent and vision. But the art establishment was reluctant to make room for an uneducated, black, self-taught artist from rural Alabama in its canon of 20th-century masters and resisted rewarding Dial’s work with the critical attention it deserved. (There is much more to this part of the story, but it is, alas, another complex one, involving various kinds of self-interest, media misrepresentation, and art-market machinations.)
Remembering when he first met Dial, Arnett has remarked, “I knew I was witnessing something great coming out of that turkey coop. … I can’t think of any important artist who has started with less or accomplished more.”
Despite the obstacles, in time Dial’s work did break through, and over the years noteworthy, well-documented exhibitions of his art have been presented at museums and commercial galleries in New York, Houston, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and many other cities. Just a few months ago, Manhattan’s Marianne Boesky Gallery announced that it had taken over representation of Dial’s oeuvre; its first exhibition, of a selection of the artist’s works on paper, ran through mid-December. Most notably, just over a year ago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that nearly 60 works of art from the William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, including 10 of Dial’s, had been donated to the institution, whose curators had played a direct role in choosing them. A selection of works from this donation is scheduled to go on view at the museum later this year.
There is almost nothing Dial did not use to make his freestanding or wall-mounted constructions, including scraps of old clothes, mattress coils, metal-can lids, plastic twine, wire, epoxy patching compound, enamel, and spray paint.
Several months before the autumn 2005 opening of Thornton Dial in the 21st Century at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, accompanied by Arnett, I visited Dial at his home near Bessemer, to speak with him about his life and art-making, and about the themes of the works he was planning to present in that large exhibition. It was a stressful time for “Mr. Dial,” as everyone referred to the artist, with admiration and respect, for his wife Clara Mae’s health was in decline, and he had just returned home after visiting her in a nearby hospital. (She died in 2005.) After showing me his workspaces — a garage-like structure packed with works in progress, tools, and assorted materials; a patch of hard ground that stretched out in front of it; and even some scraggly bushes adorned with hand-painted odds and ends — the artist led me into his kitchen, where Arnett and two of Dial’s adult children were seated, chatting.
“I want to show you something I just did,” the artist said, handing me a stack of used file folders he had slit in half with his pocketknife to create small, single sheets. “I made these while I was waiting to see Clara Mae. I ran out of paper, so I asked the nurse for something, and this is what she gave me.” (Dial spoke in a thick, rich, local Alabama dialect, which I cannot easily transcribe.)
I looked through the pile of pencil drawings on light-blue and light-green file-folder paper with interest. In them swirled the faces of Dial’s familiar women, the forms of birds, and his proud, emblematic tiger, which in his art serves as a kind of alter ego, as well as a reference to the spirit of the jungle and the combination of perseverance and cunning that African-Americans have long instinctively employed in their struggle to survive in a hostile society. Also among the drawings were several depicting big wiry blobs, complete abstractions that exuded an energy at once ferocious and calm. I asked him: “What do these pictures represent, Mr. Dial? Moses’ burning bush?”
“Could be,” he replied as he examined his handiwork. “Could be. Or maybe they’re just life. They just life.”
If Dial’s work endures — and it will, and in death it is quite likely that appreciation of his achievements will exceed what the artist ever witnessed while he was alive — it will do so not only for the inventiveness and raw creative energy it expresses in every piece. And not just because, as an unfettered expression of one attentive, empathetic black American’s experience, it dares to bear witness and to reach. It will resonate and last because, with not-so-quiet defiance, in an age of exasperation and cynicism, Dial’s art emphatically reaffirms life.
For some people, that’s something that might really shake them up.
A woman carries buckets to fetch water from a public tap in a slum area in New Delhi, India, Jan. 17, 2016. The wealthiest 62 people own as much as half the world's population, as the super-rich have grown richer and the poor poorer, according to international charity Oxfam.
The wealthiest 62 people own as much as half the world's population, as the super-rich have grown richer and the poor poorer, according to international charity Oxfam.
Five years ago, 388 people owned as much as half the world's population.
While the wealth of the poorest half of the world's population, more than 3.6 billion people, has fallen by a trillion dollars, or 41 percent, since 2010, Oxfam says the wealth of the super-elite has risen by around half a trillion dollars.
The group released its report before the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Almost half the super-rich individuals are from the United States, 17 from Europe, and the rest from countries including China, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
"World leaders' concern about the escalating inequality crisis has so far not translated into concrete action.The world has become a much more unequal place and the trend is accelerating," Oxfam International's executive director, Winnie Byanima, said in a statement accompanying the report.
Though acknowledging that dealing with inequalities has become a part of discussions in Davos, Oxfam said it is time for leaders to do more than just acknowledge the problem, especially if they want to hit poverty-reduction targets.
"We cannot continue to allow hundreds of millions of people to go hungry while resources that could be used to help them are sucked up by those at the top," added Byanima, who will again attend Davos, having co-chaired last year's event.
Tax havens, she said, are at the core of the rigged system that allows big corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax.
Ensuring governments collect the taxes they are owed by companies and rich individuals will be vital if world leaders are to meet their goal to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals set in September, Oxfam said.
Oxfam believes about $7.6 trillion of individuals' wealth sits offshore, around 12 percent of the total, and that around $190 billion could be made available for poverty-fighting initiatives if tax were paid on that wealth.
If I asked you what most defines Donald Trump supporters, what would you say? They’re white? They’re poor? They’re uneducated?
You’d be wrong.
In fact, I’ve found a single statistically significant variable predicts whether a voter supports Trump—and it’s not race, income or education levels: It’s authoritarianism.
That’s right, Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it’s very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow.
My finding is the result of a national poll I conducted in the last five days of December under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Running a standard statistical analysis, I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.
Authoritarianism is not a new, untested concept in the American electorate. Since the rise of Nazi Germany, it has been one of the most widely studied ideas in social science. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.
Not all authoritarians are Republicans by any means; in national surveys since 1992, many authoritarians have also self-identified as independents and Democrats. And in the 2008 Democratic primary, the political scientist Marc Hetherington found that authoritarianism mattered more than income, ideology, gender, age and education in predicting whether voters preferred Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. But Hetherington has also found, based on 14 years of polling, that authoritarians have steadily moved from the Democratic to the Republican Party over time. He hypothesizes that the trend began decades ago, as Democrats embraced civil rights, gay rights, employment protections and other political positions valuing freedom and equality. In my poll results, authoritarianism was not a statistically significant factor in the Democratic primary race, at least not so far, but it does appear to be playing an important role on the Republican side. Indeed, 49 percent of likely Republican primary voters I surveyed score in the top quarter of the authoritarian scale—more than twice as many as Democratic voters.
Political pollsters have missed this key component of Trump’s support because they simply don’t include questions about authoritarianism in their polls. In addition to the typical battery of demographic, horse race, thermometer-scale and policy questions, my poll asked a set of four simple survey questions that political scientists have employed since 1992 to measure inclination toward authoritarianism. These questions pertain to child-rearing: whether it is more important for the voter to have a child who is respectful or independent; obedient or self-reliant; well-behaved or considerate; and well-mannered or curious. Respondents who pick the first option in each of these questions are strongly authoritarian.
Based on these questions, Trump was the only candidate—Republican or Democrat—whose support among authoritarians was statistically significant.
So what does this mean for the election? It doesn’t just help us understand what motivates Trump’s backers—it suggests that his support isn’t capped. In a statistical analysis of the polling results, I found that Trump has already captured 43 percent of Republican primary voters who are strong authoritarians, and 37 percent of Republican authoritarians overall. A majority of Republican authoritarians in my poll also strongly supported Trump’s proposals to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, prohibit Muslims from entering the United States, shutter mosques and establish a nationwide database that track Muslims.
And in a general election, Trump’s strongman rhetoric will surely appeal to some of the 39 percent of independents in my poll who identify as authoritarians and the 17 percent of self-identified Democrats who are strong authoritarians.
What’s more, the number of Americans worried about the threat of terrorism is growing. In 2011, Hetherington published research finding that non-authoritarians respond to the perception of threat by behaving more like authoritarians. More fear and more threats—of the kind we’ve seen recently in the San Bernardino and Paris terrorist attacks—mean more voters are susceptible to Trump’s message about protecting Americans. In my survey, 52 percent of those voters expressing the most fear that another terrorist attack will occur in the United States in the next 12 months were non-authoritarians—ripe targets for Trump’s message.
Take activated authoritarians from across the partisan spectrum and the growing cadre of threatened non-authoritarians, then add them to the base of Republican general election voters, and the potential electoral path to a Trump presidency becomes clearer.
So, those who say a Trump presidency “can’t happen here” should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity. And the institutions—from the Republican Party to the press—that are supposed to guard against what James Madison called “the infection of violent passions” among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or are asleep on the job.
It is time for those who would appeal to our better angels to take his insurgency seriously and stop dismissing his supporters as a small band of the dispossessed. Trump support is firmly rooted in American authoritarianism and, once awakened, it is a force to be reckoned with. That means it’s also time for political pollsters to take authoritarianism seriously and begin measuring it in their polls.
All Hollowed Out: The lonely poverty of America’s white working class (Reposted - via Jodi Dean - from The Atlantic)
For the last several months, social scientists have been debating the striking findings of a study by the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton.* Between 1998 and 2013, Case and Deaton argue, white Americans across multiple age groups experienced large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse—spikes that were so large that, for whites aged 45 to 54, they overwhelmed the dependable modern trend of steadily improving life expectancy. While critics have challenged the magnitude and timing of the rise in middle-age deaths (particularly for men), they and the study’s authors alike seem to agree on some basic points: Problems of mental health and addiction have taken a terrible toll on whites in America—though seemingly not in other wealthy nations—and the least educated among them have fared the worst.
Meanwhile, other recent research has piled on the bad news for those without college degrees. A Pew study released last month found that the size of the middle class—defined by a consistent income range across generations—has shrunk over the last several decades. In part, this is because high-paying jobs for the less educated are vanishing. The study builds on other recent research that finds that almost all the good jobs created since the recession have gone to college graduates.
The workers I interviewed after the recession for my book on unemployment—less-educated factory workers—offer some tentative clues about what might be driving the disquieting trends described by the Case and Deaton study. This is one of the groups hit hardest by the rising inequality and greater risk of unemployment and financial insecurity that have become features of today’s economy, and their experiences put in concrete terms how the economy and culture have become more hostile to workers not lucky enough to be working in posh offices on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley.
One man I talked to was 47 years old, the son of a Detroit factory worker who headed into the plants himself. (As is standard in sociology, my interviewees were promised confidentiality.) He told me how he recently lost his $11-an-hour job: He was driving a forklift at his company’s plant when he accidentally crashed into a ladder. No one was hurt and nothing was damaged—but he was an at-will worker at a company with no union, and he was fired. Shortly afterward, his wife, who was making $8 an hour at a cleaning company, decided to leave him. The stress of failing to find a job and being alone made him too depressed to eat, and he started taking antidepressants.
When it comes to explaining American economic trends, it is important to remember how critical a role manufacturing and unions have played in the building—and now dismantling—of a strong middle class. For generations, factories provided good jobs to people who never went to college, allowing families—first white ethnic immigrants, and then others—to be upwardly mobile. Bringing together large numbers of people under a single roof, factory jobs were also relatively easy to organize. As the sociologists Bruce Western and Jake Rosenfeld have argued, unions at their prime helped create a “moral economy” in which wages rose both in firms with unions and those without them, and in which the average worker had a notable voice—however compromised back then by nativism and other exclusionary tendencies—lobbying on their behalf in Washington.
But in the late ’90s—the beginning of the crisis period that Case and Deaton identify—the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. dropped dramatically. Intensified by free-trade deals such as NAFTA, the hollowing-out of American industry then was much greater, in terms of the absolute number of jobs lost, than what the country experienced during its first wave of deindustrialization.
Twenty years ago, union membership—in decline since the ’60s—fell to a level not seen since the Great Depression. For various reasons, it became much harder to pursue the sorts of collective action that unions once cultivated throughout the economy—that is, banding together to convince companies and governments to treat employees better. Free trade and automation undercut the bargaining positions of the working class. Political leaders, bankrolled by the wealthy, rolled back the interventionist policies of the New Deal and postwar period. Corporations, once relatively tolerant of unions, tapped a cottage industry of anti-union consultants and adopted unseemly tactics to crush any organizing drives in their workplaces.
As organized labor in this country has withered, an extreme individualism has stepped in as the alternative—a go-it-alone perspective narrowly focused on getting an education and becoming successful on one’s own merit. This works well for some, but for others—especially the two-thirds of Americans over the age of 25 who don’t have a bachelor’s degree—it often means getting mired in an economy of contract work, low pay, and few, if any, benefits. These prospects suggest that this is an age of diminished expectations for the working class.
Certainly, it cannot be said enough that African Americans and Latinos continue to fare significantly worse than whites in terms of their overall rates of death and disease, even if the racial gap has narrowed. Indeed, the broader story that many commentators seem to have neglected in recent months is the decline of the working class as a whole. In the decades after World War II, racial minorities were denied many of the jobs, loans, and other resources that allowed the white majority to buy homes and accrue wealth. If the gains of economic growth have gone largely to the rich in recent years, in that earlier period the white working class could count on hefty rises in living standards from generation to generation, and they grew accustomed to that upward trajectory of growing prosperity. When the labor market turned against them, they had the hardest fall.
Many in the working class are going without marriage—a form of social support.
Any explanation of the ominous trends in the Case and Deaton study is, at the moment, speculative. More research is needed, as social scientists like to say, and there are numerous caveats. For example, while the disappearance of high-paying jobs for those with little education is a large part of the overall story of a shrinking middle class, it can’t wholly account for the uptick of mortality identified in the Case and Deaton study. After all, other countries have not seen similar hikes in deaths, even though manufacturing and (to a lesser extent) union membership have crumbled abroad as well.
Likewise, the groups that have been affected most viciously by these market trends in the U.S., African Americans and Latinos, have not suffered the dramatic increases in death by suicide or substance abuse that whites have. It may be that changes in the economy have affected these workers in different ways. For instance, whites are more likely to be employed in the declining manufacturing sector than African Americans or Hispanics—and for that matter, they’re more likely to live in the rural communities devastated by this most recent, post-NAFTA era of deindustrialization. Furthermore, whites are less likely to be union members than African Americans (though not Asians or Hispanics).
Yet there is clearly more to the despair of the working class than empty wallets and purses. Patches of the social fabric that once supported them, in good times and bad, have frayed. When asked in national surveys about the people with whom they discussed “important matters” in the past six months, those with just a high-school education or less are likelier to say no one (this percentage has risen over the years for college graduates, too). This trend is troubling, given that social isolation is linked to depression and, in turn, suicide and substance abuse.
Middle-Aged White Americans Are Dying of Despair
One form of social support that many in the working class are going without is marriage. I’m reminded of another worker I interviewed, a jobless 54-year-old white woman who used to work at a Ford plant. Her husband left her, she says, when the paychecks stopped coming. “Jesus Christ,” she told him once. “I didn’t think that our relationship was based on the amount of money that I brought in.” Unable to pay her mortgage, she lost her home and had to move in, as she puts it, with a “man friend.” She is depressed, unable to sleep at night, and constantly worried about falling into poverty. “I’m a loser,” she says.
As scholars of family life as politically distinct as Andrew Cherlin and Charles Murray have stressed, college graduates and the less educated have greatly diverged in terms of when and how they partner up and have kids. Nowadays, well-educated couples are much more likely to marry, stay married, and have children within marriage than those with less schooling. The white working class in particular is seeing sharp drops in these indicators—again, not to the levels of nonwhites, but a drastic reversal all the same, and one that has intensified over the last few decades.
A large part of the explanation for this must be that society’s attitudes about the sanctity and permanence of marriage have changed. But it’s important to note that there is an economic dimension to these trends, too—as the frequent separations and divorces I saw among the long-term unemployed made plain to me. Those struggling financially are less likely to follow the traditional path of first comes marriage, then comes a baby. And if they do choose to get married, there is little room for unemployment. As the Detroit man who lost his job told me, he and his wife split up “because she’s working, and … I don’t have any money coming in.” They had been fighting over finances even before he lost his job, he points out, but the arguments grew more heated afterward. In a lone-wolf economy, as sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas have argued, why take a chance on a partner down on his luck when you’re just barely surviving yourself?
The waning of religious belief may be another trend aggravating the modern malaise of the white working class. Since the ’90s, the number of Americans who declare no religious preference on surveys has almost tripled—from 8 percent at the beginning of that decade, to 21 percent in 2014. Whites fall disproportionately into this camp. The religiously unaffiliated are not necessarily secular in their outlook. Many of them are spiritually inclined but skeptical of organized religion—especially its intrusion into politics. However, in the absence of any other source of social support and collective meaning (say, unions), there’s less in the way of psychological protection from the slings and arrows of American society.
This sort of isolation was common among the people I talked to. Many said their faith was helping them get through their ongoing troubles, yet they rarely or never went to church. Some felt ashamed to be around people because they were out of work. For others, their religious belief was somewhat a source of self-help, rather than a source of community. For example, one of the workers I interviewed said that being out of work for so long had filled him with a constant rage. To calm his mind, every night he would pick up his Bible and read a dozen verses. He had given up on the church and what he described as its superficial ways. “I want to go to hear the Word—I don’t want to go to see what you’re wearing,” says the man, 53 and from Flint, Michigan. The other way he copes is going outside for a smoke.
For this man and many like him, there is no one to talk to, no one to rely on. “Nowadays, you got people you really can’t trust, man,” he says. “You can’t call everybody your friend.” As the ties that bind them to others have unraveled, the working class has become an ever lonelier crowd.
Policies to keep people from sinking into poverty and long-term unemployment could make a huge difference.
The larger context of this isolation and alienation is America’s culture of individualism. It, too, can worsen the despair. Taken to an extreme, self-reliance becomes a cudgel: Those who falter and fail have only themselves to blame. They should have gotten more education. They should have been more prepared. On this score, too, the U.S. deviates from other wealthy nations. America’s frontier spirit of rugged individualism is strong, and it manifests itself differently by race and education level, too. White Americans, for instance, are more likely to see success as the result of individual effort than African Americans are (though not Hispanics). The less educated, particularly less-educated whites, also share this view to a disproportionate degree.
In Stayin’ Alive, his powerful history of the “last days” of the working class, the historian Jefferson Cowie describes how the proud blue-collar identity of previous generations disintegrated during the ’70s. “Liberty has largely been reduced to an ideology that promises economic and cultural refuge from the long arm of the state,” he writes, “while seemingly lost to history is the logic that culminated under the New Deal: that genuine freedom could only happen within a context of economic security.” As working-class solidarity receded, an identity built on racial tribalism often swept in.
With that in mind, it’s interesting that Americans tout the importance of getting an education—an inherently individualistic strategy—as the pathway to success. This view was the ideological backbone of the Clinton administration policies put forth in the ’90s, with their individual training accounts and lifetime-learning credits. To this day, the supreme value of education remains one of the few things that Americans of all persuasions (presidential candidates included) can agree on. But this sort of zeal can lead to the view that those who have less education—the working class—are truly to blame for their dire straits. While many of them will go on to obtain more education, many others will not—because they can’t afford it, aren’t good students, or just (as some of my workers said) prefer working with their hands. But if they don’t collect the educational degrees needed for today’s good jobs, they are made to feel that they have failed in a fundamental way.
Some of the analysis of the Case and Deaton article has focused rightly on recent developments in this country’s drug crisis — namely, the surge in abuse of prescription opioids, and the resurgence in heroin use, notably among whites. There is clearly a pressing need to deal more vigorously with this drug problem and the epidemic of fatal overdoses and liver disease that has affected the poor and working class in particular.
At the same time, it should be said that risky individual behaviors are shaped by broader social conditions. As the researchers Bruce Link and Jo Phelan have argued, effective health interventions need to consider the underlying factors that put people “at risk of risks”—specifically, socioeconomic status and social support. Seeing this big picture is important because blocking one pathway to disease or death—say, opioid abuse—may just lead to people to opt for another deadly means of coping with the pain of their poor life prospects.
One parting observation, then, is that policies to keep people from sinking into poverty and long-term unemployment can make a huge difference. In advanced industrial nations that have stronger social safety nets, the working class is not experiencing the rising death rates that Case and Deaton identified. Abroad, many of the working-class unemployed benefit from a financial backstop of sorts that keeps them from hurtling into the deepest forms of desperation. Here in the U.S. they would too, if only there were such a thing.
Among other things, "I Stand with Linda Sue Beck: The Attack on Science at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge" (This isn't the only reason I despise - no, hate - the Bundys and everyone like them)
Linda Sue Beck. It is at her desk that Ammon Bundy, leader of the group of armed anti-government religious fanatics occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, has set up shop. As a federal biologist, like my father was for decades, she works to steward the resources that are held in common trust for all Americans. My stomach turned as the report came through the radio today — approaching a week into the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — and I heard the descriptions of the Bundys picking through her belongings and ridiculing her work.
“She’s not here working for the people,” Ammon’s brother Ryan is quoted as saying. “She’s not benefiting America. She’s part of what’s destroying America.”
The occupiers of the refuge poke fun at Beck, her research on fish, and the normal trappings of a research station, including a dried bird in a storage area.They incredulously claim that the bird is “what they’re going to kill people over.” Presumably “they” is the federal government, and they mean to convey that Nature — the birds, the fish, the land — has no use or value.
These sentiments run counter to American history of conservation and scientific land management. The wildlife refuge system was started because the visionary Teddy Roosevelt could see that the continent risked losing its iconic wildlife if every species and every place was fair game to be hunted. Malheur was one of the first wildlife refuges, established in 1908, and became part of the growing field of scientific wildlife management that came to fruition in the United States.
Science and the National Wildlife Refuges are intertwined, with an entire model of species conservation and management emerging from regulated hunting and fishing with wildlife refuges at its core. National Wildlife Refuges are places where pathbreaking scientific research has taken place that has led to the great breakthroughs of wildlife management: research on the impacts of lead shot and its replacement by steel shot, the effects of DDT and its subsequent ban, and of course the impacts of harvest on fish and game populations. I know; refuge names were etched into my adolescent vocabulary as my father’s research sites. Patuxent. Missisquoi. Moosehorn. National Wildlife Refuges are secular shrines to wildlife science and scientific management. Do politics and consensus play a role in their management? Certainly, but the National Wildlife Refuges and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are built on the bulwark of the science of wildlife and fisheries sciences.
The armed takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is, therefore, not just an attack on a federal property. It cuts deeper than that. It is an attack on the modern science-based approach to land management and it is an attack on the value and worth of science and scientists in the United States. This should not come as a surprise. The armed occupiers are extremist Mormons — one of them identified himself as “Captain Moroni” (a figure from the Book of Mormon) and Ammon Bundy describes his actions as the result of consultation with “the Lord.” The occupiers are photographed kneeling in prayer at the refuge. In Linda Sue Beck’s office. Attacks on science from those with extremist religious views are now an unfortunate part of the American political landscape.
Swirling around the Bundys is a maelstrom of conservative malcontents that trace their roots back to the “wise use” movement of the 1980s with its decidedly anti-intellectual and anti-scientific take on the management of public lands. Set aside the ownership of the land — Bundy and the self-styled “patriot” militias of the West fundamentally question the scientific basis for land management.
Unfortunately, the ill-informed reporters sent to cover the slow-motion catastrophe in Oregon fall into the rhetorical trap of the Bundys and their anti-scientific talk-radio enablers. When the occupiers blithely talk of putting the land “to use” again (as if scientific research, recreation, hunting, fishing, education, and all manner of public access were not “use”), the CNN reporter mindlessly repeats the trope, implying that the occupiers have a legitimate demand in wanting to work the land, as if it were some sort of de Tocquevillian tragedy that one of the most productive migratory bird stopover sites on the Pacific flyway was not being overrun with cattle by the ranchers from Utah. No, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge does not need to be worked, and CNN should have reporters that know better than to take the claim at face value.
So I stand with Linda Sue Beck and all of the federal scientists who serve to research, protect, and manage our federal lands. I stand with the scientists, who are under siege, by anti-intellectual know-nothings in the halls of Congress, by vapid inciters on talk radio, and now by armed religious extremists in their very offices. It is time for America to stand up as well.
Travis Longcore, Ph.D.
January 9, 2016
January 8, 2016—The poet and civil activist Hila Sedighi was arrested at Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 7, 2016, as she and her husband returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned.
Sedighi’s arrest appears to be in connection with a sentence issued against her in absentia by the Culture and Media Court, a court established by the Iranian Judiciary to try media and culture-related crimes. There has been no comment as of yet from government or judicial officials on the reasons for her arrest or where she is being detained.
“Artistic expression is under unprecedented assault in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “The Iranian Judiciary is incapable of tolerating the peaceful expression of its own citizens, seeking instead to intimidate and silence them with arrests and imprisonment.”
Sedighi, 30, co-recipient of the 2012 Hellman/Hammett prize for free expression, was a campaign worker for reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in 2009 and she recited poems in public gatherings in support of the Green Movement.
The Green Movement arose in opposition to the outcome of Iran’s 2009 presidential election, which resulted in the widely disputed victory of the hardline Ahmadinejad presidency. The peaceful protests that swept Iran after the election were violently put down by the state.
On December 9, 2010, Intelligence Ministry agents searched Sedighi’s home and took away a number of her personal belongings. She was then summoned and interrogated numerous times by the Intelligence Ministry. On August 16, 2011, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court condemned Sedighi to four months in prison, and the sentence was suspended for five years.
In recent months there has been a surge in the crackdown on members of the artistic community. In October 2015, poet Fatemeh Ekhtesari was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison and another poet, Mehdi Mousavi, was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Revolutionary Court. In addition, both were sentenced to 99 lashes.
The documentary filmmaker Keywan Karimi was sentenced to six years in prison and 233 lashes for “insulting the sacred” and “illegitimate relations” while three music producers, Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, were sentenced to six years in prison for “propaganda against the state”.
In addition, the poet and lyricist Yaghma Golrouee was arrested at his home on November 30, 2015, and later released on bail, and the poet Mohamadreza Haj Rostambegloo was arrested on December 16, 2015, and bailed out two days later.
The crackdown, which has also targeted journalists and individuals associated with reformist groups in Iran, has intensified as the country approaches critical Parliamentary elections in February 2016. Hardliners are anxious to maintain their dominance in the domestic sphere and beat back any potential political gains of the Rouhani administration and more moderate factions.
“The mounting arrests of young artists in Iran is yet another indication of the suffocating domination of security and intelligence agencies over the Judiciary,” said Ghaemi. “These young artists are national treasures; now they are behind bars.”
Hila Sedighi’s latest poem:
The Wind Blew Your House Away
The wind blew away your house
And, you still worry about the wind blowing in my hair?!
The myth of which cave’s sleepers has you intoxicated so?
Why are you sleeping?
A hundred tribes go to ruins while you sleep
The scandal about the kingdom’s thieves is everywhere
But, with your two hands, you still hold on to the two ends of my shawl
You are asleep behind this worn out curtain, and I,
with this same ‘forbidden’ hair of mine
will weave a ladder as tall as the sunrise
to bring out the sun
And you are asleep and water passes over you
And you never saw
how in the forest, pine trees were cut down, night after night,
in place of poplar trees
And there were no tigers when
mythological Damavand Mountain
was hanged from the loin
And for every grain of rice that had come to our table through hard labor,
in the rice paddies,
they planted iron, bricks, and walls
And you are sleeping,
and water thirsted for Hamoon Lake,
blood of Zayandeh River clotted,
and the breath of Hoor Wetlands’ humid nights
were buried under mud
The wind blew away your house
The scandal about the lootings has broken out
With your claws, you grab on to my night’s hair
Lest the famine-stricken nights of our dinner spread
reveals the emptiness of your fists
Lest anyone sees your temper
I am veiled
but not veiled according to volition of my own free body
I am veiled because of your spoiled body and mind
You are asleep behind this worn out curtain, and I,
with this same ‘forbidden’ hair of mine
will weave a ladder as tall as the sunrise
to bring out the sun
Source: Enlace Zapatista
January 1, 2016
GOOD EVENING, GOOD DAY COMPAÑERO AND COMPAÑERA BASES OF SUPPORT FROM THE ZAPATISTA ARMY FOR NATIONAL LIBERATION, COMPAÑERO/AS MILICIANOS AND MILICIANAS,[i] INSURGENTS, LOCAL AND REGIONALRESPONSABLES,[ii] AUTHORITIES FROM THE THREE LEVELS OF AUTONOMOUS GOVERNMENT, COMPAÑERO/ASPROMOTORES AND PROMOTORAS[iii] OF THE DIFFERENT WORK AREAS, COMPAÑEROS AND COMPAÑERAS OF THE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL SIXTH, AND ALL WHO ARE PRESENT.
Compañeras and compañeros, today we are here to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the beginning of the war against oblivion.
For more than 500 years we have endured the war that the powerful from different nations, languages, colors, and beliefs have made against us in order to annihilate us.
They wanted to kill us, be it through killing our bodies or killing our ideas.
But we resist.
As original peoples, as guardians of mother earth, we resist.
Not only here and not only our color, which is the color of the earth.
In all of the corners of the earth that suffered in the past and still suffer now, there were and there are dignified and rebellious people who resisted, who resist against the death imposed from above.
January 1, 1994, 22 years ago, we made public the “ENOUGH!” that we had prepared in dignified silence for a decade.
In silencing our pain we were preparing its scream.
Our word, at that time, came from fire.
In order to wake those who slept.
To raise the fallen.
To incense those who conformed and surrendered.
To rebel against history
To force it to tell that which it had silenced.
To reveal the history of exploitations, murders, dispossessions, disrespect and forgetting that it was hiding behind the history of above.
This history of museums, statues, textbooks – monuments to the lie.
With the death of our people, with our blood, we shook the stupor of a world resigned to defeat.
It was not only words. The blood of our fallen compañeros in these 22 years was added to the blood of those from the preceding years, lustrums, decades, and centuries.
We had to choose then and we chose life.
That is why, both then and now, in order to live, we die.
Our word then was as simple as our blood painting the streets and walls of the cities where they disrespect us now as they did then.
And it continues to be:
The banner of our struggle was our 11 demands: land, work, food, health, education, dignified housing, independence, democracy, freedom, justice, and peace.
These demands were what made us rise up in arms because these were the things that we, the original people and the majority of people in this country and in the entire world, need.
In this way, we began our struggle against exploitation, marginalization, humiliation, disrespect, oblivion and all of the injustices we lived that were caused by the bad system.
Because we are only of service to the rich and powerful as their slaves, so that they can become richer and richer and we can become poorer and poorer.
After living for such a long time under this domination and plunder we said:
ENOUGH! THIS IS WHERE OUR PATIENCE ENDS!
And we saw that we had no other choice then to take up our arms to kill or to die for a just cause.
But we were not alone.
Nor are we alone now.
In Mexico and the World dignity took to the streets and asked for a space for the word.
From that moment on, we changed our form of struggle. We were and we are an attentive ear and open word, because from the beginning we knew that a just struggle of the people is for life and not for death.
But we have our arms at our sides, we have not gotten rid of them, they will be with us until the end.
Because we see that where our ear was an open heart, the Ruler used his deceptive word, and ambitious and lying heart against us.
We saw that the war from above continued.
Their plan and objective was and is to make war against us until they exterminate us. That is why instead of meeting our just demands, they prepared and prepare, made and make war with their modern weapons, form and finance paramilitaries, provide and distribute crumbs taking advantage of some people’s ignorance and poverty.
These rulers above are stupid. They think that those who were willing to listen would also be willing to sell out, surrender, and give up.
They were wrong then.
They are wrong now.
Because we Zapatistas know full well that we are not beggars or good-for-nothings who hope that everything will simply resolve itself.
We are people with dignity, determination, and consciousness to fight for true freedom and justice for all.[iv] Regardless of one’s color, race, gender, belief, calendar or geography.
That is why our struggle is not local, regional, or even national. It is universal.
Because the injustices, crimes, dispossessions, disrespect, and exploitations are universal.
But so are rebellion, rage, dignity, and the desire to be better.
That is why we understood that it was necessary to build our life ourselves, with autonomy.
In the midst of the major threats, military and paramilitary harassment, and the bad government’s constant provocations, we began to form our own system of governing—our autonomy—with our own education system, our own health care, our own communication, our way of caring for and working on mother earth; our own politics as a people and our own ideology about how we want to live as communities, with an other culture.
Where others hope that those above will solve the problems of those below, we Zapatistas began to build our freedom as it is sown, how it is constructed, where it grows, that is to say, from below.
But the bad government tries to destroy and bring an end to our struggle and resistance with a war that changes in intensity as it changes its deceptive politics, with its bad ideas, with its lies, using the media to spread them, and by handing out crumbs in the indigenous communities where Zapatistas live in order to divide and to buy off people’s consciences, thus implementing their counterinsurgency plan.
But the war that comes from above, compañeras, compañeros, brothers and sisters, is always the same: it only brings destruction and death.
The ideas and flags may change with whoever is in office, but the war of above always destroys, always kills, never sows anything other than terror and hopelessness.
In the middle of this war, we have had to walk toward what we want.
We could not sit and wait for the understanding of those who don’t even understand that they don’t understand.
We could not sit and wait for the criminal to repudiate himself and his history and convert himself, repentant, into a good person.
We could not sit and wait for a large and useless list of promises that will be forgotten a few minutes after they are made.
We could not wait for the other, different, but with the same pain and rage, to look at us and in looking at us, see.
We did not know how to do it.
There was no book, manual, or doctrine that told us what to do in order to resist, and simultaneously, to build something new and better.
Maybe not perfect, maybe different, but always ours, our people’s, the women, men, children and elders who, with their collective heart, cover the black flag with a red star with five points and the letters that give them not only a name, but also a commitment and destiny: EZLN.
And so we searched in our ancestral history, in our collective heart, and through the stumbles, through flaws and mistakes, we have been building that which we are and that which not only keeps us going with life and resistance, but also raises us up dignified and rebellious.
During these 22 years of struggle of Resistance and Rebellion, we have continued to build another form of life, governing ourselves as the collective peoples that we are, according to the seven principles of lead by obeying, building a new system and another form of life as original peoples.
One where the people command and the government obeys.
And we see, from our simple heart, that this is the healthiest way, because it is born and grows from the people themselves. It is the people themselves who give their opinions, discuss, think, analyze, make proposals, and decide what is best for them, following the example of our ancestors.
As we will be explaining in more detail later, we see that neglect and poverty reign in the partidista [political party followers] communities, they are run by laziness and crime and community life is broken, now fatally torn apart.
Selling out to the bad government not only did not resolve their basic problems, but gave them more horrors to deal with. Where before there was hunger and poverty, now there is hunger, poverty, and desperation. The partidista communities have become crowds of beggars who don’t work, who only wait for the next government aid program, that is, the next electoral season.
This doesn’t of course show up in any federal, state, or municipal government report, but it is the truth and can be seen in thepartidista communities: peasant farmers who don’t know how to work the land anymore; concrete block houses with aluminum roofs that are empty because one can eat neither concrete nor tin; communities that only come together to receive government crumbs.
Perhaps in our communities there aren’t cement houses, or digital televisions, or brand new trucks, but our people know how to work the land. The food on their tables, the clothes they wear, the medicine they take, the knowledge they learn, the life they live is THEIRS, the product of their work and their knowledge. It isn’t a handout from anyone.
We can say this without shame: the Zapatista communities are not only better off than they were 22 years ago; their quality of life is better than those who sold out to political parties of all colors and stripes.
Before, in order to know if someone was Zapatista, you checked to see if they had a red handkerchief or a balaclava.
Now it is enough to see if they work the land, if they take care of their culture, if they study science and technology, if they respect the women that we are, if their gaze is straight and clear, if they know that it is the collective that rules, if they see the job of the autonomous Zapatista government in rebellion as a service and not a business; if when you ask them something they don’t know they respond “I don’t know…yet”; if when someone mocks them saying that the Zapatistas no longer exist or are very few they respond, “don’t worry, there will be more of us, it may take awhile, but there will be more”; if their gaze reaches far in calendars and geographies; if they know that tomorrow is planted today.
We recognize of course that there is much left to do, we must organize ourselves better and organize ourselves more.
That is why we must make an even greater effort to prepare ourselves to more effectively and more extensively carry out the work of governing ourselves, because the worst of the worst, the capitalist system, will come back at us again.
We have to know how to confront it. We have 32 years of experience already in our struggle of rebellion and resistance.
And we have become what we are.
We are the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
This is what we are although they do not name us.
This is what we are although through silence and slander they forget us.
This is what we are although they don’t see us.
This is what we are through our step, on our path, in our origin and our destiny.
We look at what was before, and what is now.
A bloody night, worse than before if that is possible, extends over the world.
The Ruler is not only set on continuing to exploit, repress, disrespect, and dispossess, but is determined to destroy the entire world if in doing so it can create profits, money, pay.
It is clear that the worst is coming for all of us.[v]
The rich multimillionaires of a few countries continue with their objective to loot the natural riches of the entire world, everything that gives us life like water, land, forests, mountains, rivers, air; and everything that is below the ground: gold, oil, uranium, amber, sulfur, carbon, and other minerals.
They don’t consider the land as a source of life, but as a business where they can turn everything into a commodity, and commodities they turn into money, and in doing this they will destroy us completely.
The bad and those who carry it out have a name, history, origin, calendar, geography: the capitalist system.
It doesn’t matter what color they paint it, what name they give it, what religion they dress it up as, what flag they raise; it is the capitalist system.
It is the exploitation of humanity and the world we inhabit.
It is disrespect and contempt for everything that is different and that doesn’t sell out, doesn’t give up, and doesn’t give in.
It is the system that persecutes, incarcerates, murders.
At the head of this system there are figures that emerge, reproduce, grow, and die: saviors, leaders, caudillos, candidates, governments, parties that offer their solutions.
They offer recipes, as one more commodity, to resolve problems.
Perhaps someone out there still believes that from above, where problems are made, will also come solutions.
Perhaps there is still someone who believes in local, regional, national, and global saviors.
Perhaps there are those who still hope that someone who will do what we must do ourselves.
That would be nice, yes.
Everything would be so easy, comfortable, not requiring too much effort. It would mean just raising one’s hand, marking a ballot, filling out a form, applauding, shouting a slogan, affiliating oneself with a political party, and voting to throw one out and let another in.
Perhaps, we Zapatistas say, perhaps, we think, we who are what we are.
It would be nice if things were like that, but they aren’t.
What we have learned as Zapatistas, and without anyone or anything except our own path as teacher, is that no one, absolutely no one is going to come and save us, help us, resolve our problems, relieve our pain, or bring us the justice that we need and deserve.
There is only what we do ourselves, everyone in their own calendar and geography, in their own collective name, in their own thinking and action, their own origin and destiny.
We have also learned, as Zapatistas, that this is only possible with organization.
We learned that it is good if one person[vi] gets angry.
But that if more people, many[vii] people get angry, a light ignites in one corner of the world and its glow can be seen, for a moment, across the entire surface of the earth.
But we also learned that if these angers organize themselves… Ah! Then we have not just a momentary flash that illuminates the earth’s surface.
Then what we have is a murmur, like a rumor, a tremor that begins quietly and grows stronger.
It is as if this world was about to birth another, a better one, more just, more democratic, more free, more human… or humana… orhumanoa.
That is why today we begin our words with a word from awhile ago already, but one that continues to be necessary, urgent, vital: we have to organize ourselves, prepare ourselves to struggle to change this life, to create another way of living, another way to govern ourselves as peoples.
Because if we don’t organize, we will be enslaved.
There is nothing to trust in capitalism. Absolutely nothing. We have lived with this system for hundreds of years, and we have suffered under its 4 wheels: exploitation, repression, dispossession, and disdain. Now all we have is our trust in each other, in ourselves. And we know how to create a new society, a new system of government, the just and dignified life that we want.
Now no one is safe from the storm of the capitalist hydra that will destroy our lives, not indigenous people, peasant farmers, workers, teachers, housewives, intellectuals, or workers in general, because there are many workers who struggle to survive daily life, some with a boss and others without, but all caught in the clutches of capitalism.
In other words, there is no salvation within capitalism.
No one will lead us; we must lead ourselves, thinking together about how we will resolve each situation.
Because if we think that there is someone to lead us, well we have already seen how they lead during the last several hundred years of the capitalist system; it didn’t work for us, the poor, at all. It worked for them, yes, because just sitting there they earned money to live on.
They told everyone “vote for me,” “I will fight for an end to exploitation,” and as soon as they take office where they can earn money without sweat, they automatically forget everything they said and begin to create more exploitation, to sell the little that is left of the riches of our countries. Those sell-outs are useless hypocrites, parasite good-for-nothings.
That is why, compañeros and compañeras, the struggle is not over, we are just barely getting started. We’ve only been at this for 32 years, 22 of which were public.
That is why we must better unite ourselves, better organize ourselves in order to construct our boat, our house—that is, our autonomy. That is what is going to save us from the great storm that looms. We must strengthen our different areas of work and our collective tasks.
We have no other possible path but to unite ourselves and organize ourselves to struggle and defend ourselves from the great threat that is the capitalist system. Because the criminal capitalism that threatens all of humanity does not respect anyone; it will sweep aside all of us regardless of race, party, or religion. This has been demonstrated to us over many years of bad government, threats, persecution, incarceration, torture, disappearances, and murder of our peoples of the countryside and the city all over the world.
That is why we say, compañeros, compañeras, children, young people [jóvenes and jovenas]: you new generations are the future of our people, of our struggle and our history. But you must understand that you have a task and an obligation: to follow the example of our first compañeros, of our elders, of our parents and grandparents and all those who began this struggle.
They have already laid a path; now it is our job to follow and maintain it. But we can only achieve this by organizing ourselves generation after generation, understanding this task and organizing ourselves to carry it out, and continuing this until we reach the end of our struggle.
You as young people are an important part of our communities; that is why you must participate in all levels of work in our organization and in all areas of our autonomy. Let each generation continue to lead us toward our destiny of democracy, freedom, and justice, just as our first compañeros and compañeras are teaching us now.
Compañeros and compañeras, all of you, we are sure that we will one day achieve what we want: everything for everyone, nothing for us—that is, our freedom. Today our struggle is advancing little by little. Our weapons of struggle are our resistance, our rebellion, and our honest word, which no mountain nor border can block. It will reach the ears and hearts of brothers and sisters all over the world.
Every day there are more people who understand that the cause of our struggle against the grave situation of injustice we live is the capitalist system in our country and in the world.
We also know that over the course of our struggle there have been and will be threats, repression, persecution, dispossession, contradictions, and mockery from the three levels of bad government. But we should be clear that the bad government hates us because we are on a good path; if it applauds us we have detoured from our struggle.
We must not forget that we are the heirs of more than 500 years of struggle and resistance. The blood of our ancestors runs through our veins, it is they who have passed down to us the example of struggle and rebellion, the role of guardian of our mother earth, from whom we were born, from whom we live, and to whom we will return.
Compañeros and compañeras Zapatistas
Compañeros and compañeras, compañeroas of the Sixth:
Brothers and sisters:
These are our first words for this year that is beginning.
More words will come, more thoughts.
Little by little we will show you once again our gaze, our collective heart.
For now we will finish by telling you that to honor and respect the blood of our fallen compañeros, it is not enough to remember, miss, cry, or pray, rather we must continue the work that they left us, to create in practice the change that we want.
That is why, compañeros and compañeras, this important day is the time to reaffirm our commitment to struggle, to going forward at whatever cost and whatever happens, without letting the capitalist system destroy what we have won and the little that we have been able to build with our work and our efforts over more than 22 years: our freedom!
Now is not the time to retreat, to get discouraged or to tire; we must be even firmer in our struggle, to maintain the word and example that our first compañeros left us: to not give in, not sell out, and not give up.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.
Mexico, January 1, 2016.
[i] A member of the EZLN’s civilian militia or reserves.
[ii] Literally “responsible,” but used as a noun to refer to a person in charge of a particular area of work.
[iii] Zapatista bases of support chosen by their communities and trained to work in the autonomous health and education systems.
[iv] The text uses “todas, todos, todoas” to give a range of possible plural gendered pronouns including male, female, transgender and others.
[v] See iv.
[vi] The text uses “uno, una, unoa” to give a range of possible versions of “one,” including male, female, transgender and others.
[vii] The text uses “muchos, muchas, muchoas” to give a range of possible plural versions of “many” including male, female, transgender and others.
[WHITE] Armed group's leader in federal building: 'We will be here as long as it takes' [NOW IMAGINE HOW LONG THIS STANDOFF WOULD LAST IF THE PEOPLE INVOLVED WERE MUSLIM OR BLACK ... HINT: 2 SECONDS, A LA TAMIR RICE]
By Ashley Fantz and Holly Yan, CNN
Updated 11:41 AM ET, Sun January 3, 2016 | Video Source: CNN
(CNN)Armed anti-government protesters have taken over a building in a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, accusing officials of unfairly punishing ranchers who refused to sell their land.
One them is Ammon Bundy, the 40-year-old son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who is well-known for anti-government action.
He spoke by phone to CNN on Sunday at 8 a.m. ET. Asked several times what he and those with him want, he answered in vague terms, saying that they want the federal government to restore the "people's constitutional rights."
"This refuge -- it has been destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area," he said.
"People need to be aware that we've become a system where government is actually claiming and using and defending people's rights, and they are doing that against the people."
Armed protesters rally to support Oregon rancher
The group is inside part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns after gathering outside for a demonstration supporting Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son ranchers who were convicted of arson.
Prosecutors said the Hammonds set a fire that burned about 130 acres in 2001, to cover up poaching. The father and son were sentenced to five years in prison.
The Hammonds said they set the fire to reduce the growth of invasive plants and to protect their property from wildfires, CNN affiliate KTVZ reported.
CNN law enforcement analyst Art Roderick, a retired U.S. marshal who investigated anti-government militias for years, warned that Bundy's call for supporters to join him might "turn into a bad situation."
"What's going to happen hopefully (is) ... we don't go out there with a big force, because that's what they're looking for," he said. "The last thing we need is some type of confrontation."
He said that over the years, law enforcement has learned how to handle a situation like this; one that hasn't erupted in violence and in which a law may be broken, but there's no immediate threat to anyone's life.
The best approach now, Roderick said, is to wait the group out and to figure out how to bring a peaceful end to the standoff.
After the march Saturday, the armed protesters broke into the refuge's unoccupied building and refused to leave. Officials have said there are no government employees in the building.
"We will be here as long as it takes," Bundy said. "We have no intentions of using force upon anyone, (but) if force is used against us, we would defend ourselves."
Ammon Bundy said that the group in Oregon was armed, but that he would not describe it as a militia. He declined to say how many people were with him, telling CNN on Sunday that giving that information might jeopardize "operational security."
The elder Bundy drew national attention last year after staging a standoff with federal authorities over a Bureau of Land Management dispute.
"We are not terrorists," Ammon Bundy said. "We are concerned citizens and realize we have to act if we want to pass along anything to our children."
He wouldn't call his group a militia, but others are.
"I don't like the militia's methods," local resident Monica McCannon told KTVZ. "They had their rally. Now it's time for them to go home. People are afraid of them."
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representative said the agency and the Bureau of Land Management are aware of the armed protesters.
"While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee safety, and we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident," the representative said. "We will continue to monitor the situation."
When asked what it would take for the protesters to leave, Bundy did not offer specifics. He said he and those with him are prepared to stay put for days or weeks.
Cliven Bundy's ranch west of Mesquite, Nevada, on April 11, 2014, was the site of a tense standoff between him and the federal government. Bundy and other ranchers have been locked in a dispute with the government for decades over where they can graze their cattle and how they use the land. Click through the images to see what set it off.
"We feel that we will occupy this as long as necessary," he said.
"We are using the wildlife refuge as a place for individuals across the United States to come and assist in helping the people of Harney County claim back their lands and resources," he said.
"The people will need to be able to use the land and resources without fear as free men and women. We know it will take some time."
He did not explicitly call on authorities to commute the prison sentences for the Hammonds, who are scheduled to report to prison Monday. But he said their case illustrates officials' "abuse" of power.
"Now that people such as the Hammonds are taking a stand and not selling their ranches, they are being prosecuted in their own courts as terrorists and putting them in prison for five years," Bundy said.
He said the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has taken over the space of 100 ranches since the early 1900s.
"They are continuing to expand the refuge at the expense of the ranchers and miners," Bundy said.
He also said Harney County, in southeastern Oregon, went from one of the state's wealthiest counties to one of the poorest.
CNN has not independently corroborated Bundy's claims.
"I want to emphasis that the American people are wondering why they can't seem to get ahead or why everything is costing more and you are getting less, and that is because the federal government is taking and using the land and resources," Bundy said.
"And if it is continued, it will put the people in poverty."
Acting U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of Oregon gave a starkly different perspective on the arson case.
His office declined to comment on the situation at the wildlife refuge Saturday, but it cited an opinion piece written by Williams in the Burns Times Herald last month defending the federal prosecutors' actions in the Hammonds case.
"Five years ago, a federal grand jury charged Dwight and Steven Hammond with committing arson on public lands and endangering firefighters," Williams wrote for the newspaper. "Steven Hammond was also found guilty of committing a second arson in 2006."
The prosecutor said witnesses saw the Hammonds illegally slaughter a herd of deer on public land.
"At least seven deer were shot with others limping or running from the scene," Williams wrote.
He said a teenage relative of the Hammonds testified that Steven Hammond gave him a box of matches and told him to start the blaze. "The fires destroyed evidence of the deer slaughter and took about 130 acres of public land out of public use for two years," the prosecutor wrote.
Williams also disputed the notion that the Hammonds were prosecuted as terrorists, as Bundy suggested.
"The jury was neither asked if the Hammonds were terrorists, nor were defendants ever charged with or accused of terrorism," Williams wrote. "Suggesting otherwise is simply flat-out wrong."
CNN's Evan Perez, Kevin Liptak, Kevin Bohn, Joe Sutton and Jackie Castillo contributed to this report.