(or other places to find my writings from the mundane to the supermundane)
The Magic of Yellowstone
A sample of Jim's writings
Buffalo Allies of Bozeman
- Name: Jim Macdonald
- Location: Bozeman, MT, United States
Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.
View my complete profile
The DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) Weekly Action Group chose on Tuesday night to go to Wheaton, MD, in order to show solidarity with day laborers who often face harrassment from a new branch of the Minuteman Project that has sprung up in Montgomery County.
On the corner of University and Veirs Mills, we had information that the Minutemen often come on Mondays and/of Fridays to harrass day laborers. Acting in solidarity with Casa de Maryland
, and at their welcome, we occupied the side of the street opposite the center from 6:30 AM this morning (Friday) until after 8:00 AM with signs that said ¡Nadie es ilegal! (No One is Illegal!) and a couple other pro-immigrant signs. At first, as you can imagine, some people gave us looks as though we might ourselves be minutemen, but after reading our signs, we received many thumbs up.
Some people reported others who some speculated were minutemen scouts based on the fact that cars of caucasian people sat parked looking at us for a time before driving off, but this is speculation. We were thankful that the minutemen didn't arrive. The working group had chosen not to publicize this, which I think was a mistake, since the idea is to keep the minutemen from showing up at all. But, it worked out this time, and we received almost nothing but positive shows of support from commuters driving by and the laborers themselves.
On April 10, immigrants rights groups will be marching, and a feeder march for non-immigrants showing solidarity is being planned for 3PM that day. We hope that you will get involved. Some individuals are planning other actions around that time to show solidarity with immigrants; so stay tuned for them.
And, remember to join us for the homeless service tomorrow at 9AM outside the Canadian Embassy at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the World Bank direct action scenario meeting at 4PM at the Flemming Center, as well as the Saturday evening action targeting Mayor Williams (and Condoleezza Rice...that could change on the ground, since she won't be home) that begins at 8:30 PM outside the Foggy Bottom metro station.
A location, date, and time for the organizing is set! Come out to organize for the IMF-World Bank protests in DC. We will meet at 4PM on Saturday April 1, 2006 at the Flemming Center Community Room (9th and P Streets NW in DC)
. Organizers meeting for direct action against the IMF – World Bank meetings this April Saturday April 1, 2006 people interested in organizing direct action will come together and plan for the April 22-23 meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. An ad hoc group of individuals, The Farragut Squares, has obtained a convergence space for the organizing. The meeting will take place at The Flemming Center starting at 4pm.
We urge you to come out and help organize for these historic protests against the World Bank and IMF. Paul Wolfowitz, the President of the World Bank Group and one of the architects of the War in Iraq, will be convening the biannual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), bringing together at the table the two capitalist tools of global exploitation — the wars of military might with the strangleholds of economic imperialism.
The World Bank and the IMF, which have been the principal players in the economic devastation of the Global South through Structural Adjustment Programs (currently referred to as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers), will meet again in downtown Washington, DC to schmooze with the private sector, laugh in the face of the world's poor, and live off the fat of other people's land.
This year, however, we are going to force them to see the resistance that is alive in our hearts, in our minds and across the globe. Seeing our faces, or ours masks as the case may be, will be a requisite part of their weekend activities. We will be at their doorsteps, behind their limos, at their parties and in their yard. From blockades to home demos, interruption to disruption, we'll be there, following their every move.
We urge everyone to come to Washington, DC the weekend of April 21-23 to take part in these historic protests against the World Bank and IMF. Say no to Capitalist globalization and yes to the power of the people and the power of direct action!
This call is brought to you by the Farragut Squares Collective, a local ad hoc group of individuals fed up with the Bretton Woods Institutions and capitalist globalization. We fully support a collaborative, open, and non-hierarchical organizing relationship with all who wish to join us in taking action. Send any inquiries or shows of support to email@example.com.
For more information, join the DC activeRESISTANCE listserve at http://lists.activeresistance.org/mailman/listinfo/dc
Now live http://worldbank.activeresistance.org
March 24, 2006
Dear National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance:
I am writing to share with you many of the thoughts I have had about the March 20, 2006 action you all coordinated at the Pentagon. Much of what I write will be critical and hopefully lead to an open dialogue between us. Before I start, however, I want to state a few things that I hope will set the tone of the discussion. Many of you I consider friends or people I highly respect. I admire the way that NCNR organizes from a ground up, grassroots process that should be the envy of other national organizations. I admire your commitment to nonviolent resistance and am sincere in saying that I believe these criticisms that shall follow are the criticisms of a friend who dearly hopes that what I write can generate a dialogue that will only be healthy for the movement and for each of us who participates in this dialogue. It is for that reason that I make this letter public rather than private, since I hope that the dialogue can flourish inside our activist community.
Furthermore, please know that I write this only from my own perspective. Nothing I write should be construed to represent the views of the DC Anti-War Network, the Washington Peace Center, or any other affinity group I belong to. This comes from me alone.
Okay, let’s get into this.
Last September 26, I witnessed more than 40 people arrested at the Pentagon in an action put on by the local New York City chapter of the War Resisters’ League. In that action, small teams of activists sat in front of entrances to the Pentagon to disrupt those entrances and draw attention to the war in Iraq. Though arrests were swift, the action had its intended disruptive effect. The Pentagon blocked its own main entrance for more than an hour, and for a short time the Pentagon Metro station had been shut down. Using creative tactics of nonviolent resistance, a small group of committed activists managed to do a truly symbolic action, symbolic I say because it was able to speak both to passersby and to the Pentagon itself.
How were they able to do this? The War Resisters’ League was able to take action against the Pentagon because it is accessible to the public. The Pentagon Metro Station exits right by the main Pentagon entrance, and there is a very large bus stop with multiple lines passing through which are also very near the main entrance to the Pentagon. It is not hard to get to the Pentagon for anyone riding a bus or taking the subway.
When some of us witnessed this scene and talked to Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house (who hold vigil there every Monday morning and have been arrested there for actions in the past) about the legal ramifications of protest at the Pentagon, we knew that this was an ideal location for an action of nonviolent direct action or resistance. In the autumn, my friend Malachy Kilbride wrote up a call that I helped him to edit that was adopted by the DC Anti-War Network, which called in part on people to confront the war machine by taking nonviolent direct action at the Pentagon. While NCNR did not endorse the call per se, it endorsed the spirit of the call by organizing action on March 20 at the Pentagon. I was heartened to hear representatives of NCNR encourage other affinity groups to take action at the Pentagon and even suggest imaginative ways of doing so. In that spirit, I participated in an affinity group that seriously talked about actions in and around the Pentagon. We ultimately chose to confront the war machine through a direct confrontation of the war profiteers, though we also chose to show solidarity with the Catholic Worker vigil as well as the NCNR action.
I attended the meeting the day before the action at the Potter’s House. One thing that struck me listening to people in the room were the disagreements over tactics and noticing a significant number of voices who honestly wanted to have some chance of delivering the coffin and the message to Donald Rumsfeld’s office. While I can think of better ways of doing this than trying to get a coffin through Pentagon security, I know that there was a much greater chance of succeeding in that aim if it had been organized in almost any other fashion than the way it had been. Wouldn’t it have been in the interest of organizing to let people know that there were other logistical options for getting close to the Pentagon than by walking at it from the marina? While I realize that you did not know if the Pentagon was actually going to stop you by erecting a fence line in the parking lot, it was highly probable. For those facing that probability, some were wondering what other options they might have to take the coffin to Rumsfeld’s office or have the opportunity for empowerment by a more direct confrontation with the Pentagon. I think it would have been helpful to give people that information. For those of us in our affinity group who had been at the Catholic Worker vigil earlier that day, it felt very strange to leave the Pentagon to go to an action that was supposed to be at the Pentagon.
That is a relatively minor criticism, as far as these things go, but I felt it should be raised, since it is important for affinity groups to have options and to understand the range of choices. While the Pentagon set up one arbitrary barrier in your way, they left other ones open to you. In good faith, if there can be such a thing as “good faith” with the Pentagon, why not try the ones that were still open to you? Why were these not considered right from the start, or at least offered to people as an option?
At the site of the arrest, I understand that many people were moved and empowered by the experience. I am thankful for that, but as an individual witnessing it, I have to admit that I was not moved in any good way and was in fact horrified by what I was witnessing. Watching person after person climb and go under this arbitrary fence line into the waiting arms of the Pentagon Police left me wondering if everyone in the action had undertaken the action simply to be arrested. It seemed there was a great rush of enthusiasm toward climbing the fence. As I watched, and looked off at the distant Pentagon, I felt that months of hoping for this day had gone down the drain.
What I saw looked like two colonial era armies facing off in the field. In a gallant rush, the army of the resistance ran right into the slaughter like some of the romantic paintings of the time. Forgetting for a second how needless this was, it was also a slaughter without a sense of justice. Who were these people that we chose to run into? They were low level policemen, mostly people of color, who had almost nothing to do with the policies that they were enforcing. Granted, I have little sympathy for people who can choose not to follow orders of oppression but do so anyhow, but what this looked like was a staged class battle organized by those in power. You have poor people of color used to arrest a group of mostly middle class white people parading around with an assortment of puppets. This battle takes place in a manner that looks like two old-fashioned armies facing off. The dead die in a direct and manly assault, as though going forward is the only honorable way to go.
I hope that this is not what you mean by “soul force,” “truth force,” Satyagraha, the nonviolence of the strong, is it?
It was hard for me to have sympathy for anyone being arrested, though in truth I understand that some were going through this process the first time, that it was difficult for many to do, that there was definitely something courageous in these actions. So, I realize that what I was upset with was the manner of the organization and the misapplication of the theory of Satyagraha.
At the very least, what we are after is an end to the war in Iraq. Most of us are in these actions for much more than that, but at the lowest common denominator people participating in the action want an end to the war in Iraq. We are armed with the most powerful weapon of all, which is the truth that this war is unjust.
The question, though, that is pertinent to this protest is who we are speaking this truth to and how can they be spoken to. The aim of the protest was to reach Donald Rumsfeld. Of course, activists know where Rumsfeld lives, where he goes to church, and probably could easily determine on any given day where Rumsfeld is. If we wanted to reach Donald Rumsfeld, why did we feel it was necessary to have so much ceremony before going the long way to an office we could in all likelihood never be able to reach? Who were we speaking truth to? Did we go through all that trouble to put on a display for a small section of the Pentagon police force? If so, why didn’t we say that from the start? And, if we are speaking to them, why didn’t we aim from the beginning to deliver them the coffin? Didn’t we avoid such a tactic because what we are after is an end to the war in Iraq and that we believe that Donald Rumsfeld has some power in making that stop?
It seems to me that what happened on Monday was generally a display of vanity and not Satyagraha. We chose a route and a course of action that was least likely to reach Donald Rumsfeld and chose instead to put on a spectacle, one carefully negotiated with the same law enforcement people who you chose to defy at the end. While the ending point of the action was not defined, the fact that a group claiming to be in nonviolent resistance against the military was not at all likely to be welcomed by any military, let alone this military, should not be denied.
Perhaps, it was a media event, but what did it expose? Was it new? For all the media that showed up, I was not surprised by the relatively small amount of coverage of the event. Was this a grand show of resistance rather than the real thing, a staged place for a staged confrontation with little consequences for anyone involved in the action? If Satyagraha is supposed to change the hearts and minds of the oppressor through the cheerful suffering of the oppressed, I wonder who had soul force on either side of the fence. It seemed that the police officer standing solitarily and doing his job quietly while standing in the face of verbal abuse seemed to have at least as much of the spirit of a satyagrahi, at least on this day. And, as someone who believes that the prisons should be emptied and that it should be criminal to be a police officer, that is saying something! Is that why some people were driven with all sincerity to thank the police for the job they were doing? And, if we had less soul force than the police, that is a sad state of affairs.
In short, this was not a symbolic action. Many actions are derided for being merely symbolic, but I challenge that view in many respects. All actions aim to speak at those we think are perpetuating injustice, and so any action that is worthwhile is in some sense symbolic. Actions that are called “merely symbolic” are often not symbolic at all because they do not speak to their intended targets. They are like letters that don’t spell up a word, or noises that are incoherent. You have heard the philosophical riddle about whether a tree that falls in the forest with no one around to hear it makes a sound; one can say the same about actions like this. And, while some of us heard it; while some in the Pentagon heard it, it did not really make a sound that anyone could understand.
There perhaps was a day when we could march to the sea to make salt and someone would hear us, when the strong action looked like the battle scenes of old. The problem is that we have not understood who we are speaking to and whether they can be made to listen this way anymore. We have not understood the full implications of the truth that we hold (in part because we do not seem to understand that this truth goes well beyond Iraq and into a classist system of oppression that infects even our most basic relationships with each other and with the environment – do not forget that the cow is also sacred), and that to speak that truth force means that we must recognize what the situation is.
It is not necessarily nonviolence of the weak to go to someone’s home and disturb them, or to run into a building and run out making noise, or even to reject the very concept of property. The truth of the matter is that any action of this type exposes the fact that people are not listening, that the system is not listening, and that there are precious few places in which to disrupt the silent complicity of our lives. Until we recognize the vast absurdity of our lives, of our actions, of almost every interaction in this tainted world, we will not possibly understand that we cannot reduce any truth, even one as daunting as the war in Iraq, to a sheer moment of confrontation between the forces who we hope will be convinced by our truth and us who take nonviolent action in order that they cannot resist us any longer. It is not reducible to that because the world of complicity that we are all a part of is much murkier than that. And, so the truth is murky, is not ascetic or pure, and we must be willing to engage that world on murkier terms.
Getting us back to the ground, I do not understand the use of permits. I do not understand the enforcement of a permitted march route on a sidewalk but the failure to enforce that route on the bicycle lanes where commuters are trying to get to work. I also do not understand the scope of the resistance. Who sets the terms of our resistance? The police? The peace marshals?
I understand that there is desire to create a safe space for people not willing to risk arrest and that we must respect the contribution that anyone can make toward our efforts to end the war in Iraq and the conscientious decisions that we all have to make on our own and within our various affinity groups. And, yet, wasn’t the action on Saturday intended on being just that sort of action? If we are to say that what happened on Monday in the permitted portion of the action were for those who wished to mourn, then I don’t understand the dichotomy between mourning and resistance? I did not understand it when people said, “Now is the time for mourning,” and then, “Now is the time for resistance,” as though those were two distinct kinds of times and that when one did one it was to the exclusion of the other. What ultimately happened by dividing the two was a detriment to the organized resistance, and because of that, I am not sure the “time of mourning” was as profound as it should have been.
What I am getting at with all of these criticisms is the hope that we can draw ourselves into a discussion that challenges us to consider the scope of Satyagraha and whether we are merely imitating the Satyagraha of the past, rather than actually practicing it on the ground today.
To what extent are we actually practicing soul force? To whom does it apply? I have come to believe over the last couple of years that it might look extremely different than has ever been practiced. I sometimes think that Gandhi’s own asceticism got in the way, but that’s for another time.
I would urge that you all go back to the Pentagon soon but that this time you actually help people get to the Pentagon, that in organizing that we are careful to open up possibilities for people who are speaking to different kinds of actions, whether that’s getting nose-to-nose with an officer, or whether it is finding another entrance into the Pentagon. I am not saying that one should emulate the War Resisters’ League action, but I think there are crucial differences in the manner of the two actions which are the difference between an action that uses soul force and one that only seems to be using soul force. They did not ask for a permit; they put themselves in positions where they would force people to question what was going on, and despite limited resources succeeded for a time in their aim in confronting the Pentagon. All of those things carried out often enough with enough creativity and love can in fact change the people who make policy. On the other hand, this sort of action here seems to help prop up the Pentagon’s way of doing business and created a confrontation where it was hard to tell who deserved greater sympathy. The powers that be managed to insulate themselves well, and we instead took action against people who had little to do with our complaints. Later that day, some of us took an action that in at least one instance was guilty of the same thing, when we went into the lobby of Bechtel and confused and possibly frightened a poor security guard without actually doing anything to disrupt the people who work and make decisions for Bechtel. We learn, and we adjust. There were reasons for the lack of success there, where a similar action at Halliburton minutes before was far more effective in disrupting the actions of those who make policy. Many would criticize the actions we took as actions of the weak, acting like mice running in and running out before the big cat got us. Such a criticism is superficial and fails to understand why people do not always need to act like a knight on a horse in order to be gallant in the fight against injustice. In fact, we are all mice in a cage, like mice in a cage, and our view of mice is all too ridiculous. Mice are not weak. Simply because they are small and use different means of surviving, they are not therefore weak. They speak to the truth of their situation in their own way. In a world of giant buildings, and giant weapons, and giant repression, where the giant passes as the strong, are we not upholding that lie to build for events simply on the strength of numbers, or numbers willing to risk arrest, or by holding fast and steady to a set of pre-imposed rules of engagement? Aren’t we adding to a lie about human interaction and relationship and spirit? We are small, but our truth is large, and that force can be irresistible. Let’s act appropriately. Of course, there is no one way to act appropriately. In fact, there are infinitely many ways to act appropriately. And, talking about this action with the broad brush I have is unfair to the many individuals in many contexts who take actions like this. As I said from the start, the great hope is that people have been empowered and emboldened by the experience that you as organizers have given them. That is a great accomplishment. I guess what troubles me is that we have so narrowly focused what Satyagraha is or can be that some other activists who use different tactics or use different interpretations have been ostracized or not given help in exploring those avenues. Here I am drifting further beyond NCNR but not by much based on the way some activists were treated at the protest for having unpopular signs or doing things that might be off of some people’s script. So, I felt it became necessary to challenge the very ground of the action. I am tired of many of my friends telling me that they feel very uncomfortable with the term “nonviolent” and react almost with vitriol against pacifism. I believe this has happened because “nonviolence” has been pigeonholed by many into something it surely isn’t and has been used in a way that seems to make it more passive rather than active. Of course, nonviolent resistance is meant to be entirely active and anything but passive. Yet, I understand how my friends come to that view when observing an action that took a passive attitude toward law enforcement, except in the strange end, and even then seemed to take a passive attitude toward the fate of arrest, perhaps because that arrest was probably going to be very limited in its consequences. Can’t we take actions which show nonviolent resistance as active and strong? In the short term, I hope we can talk about these criticisms in an open and respectful manner as friends. In the long term, I hope that we can work together on actions that respect and enable diversity, which are truly symbolic actions, and which consider justice outside of the narrow atomic truth that we need to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. I think a failure to do all three well enough led me to have the personal aversion I had to watching all of those people jump over that fence to their arrest and the surprising lack of empathy I felt inside my gut. We need to move beyond these chauvinistic encounters to a smaller, but stronger ground.
***I wrote this to the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) but thought many of you might find this interesting as it relates to Spring actions, which are not over***
As many of you know, 51 people were arrested at the Pentagon in the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) action, but what many of you may not know were that there were at least 3 other direct actions taken that day by an affinity group, many of the people in that group are DAWN participants. This affinity group took direct action against the war machine by entering the lobbies of the buildings that house war profiteers Halliburton, Bechtel, and the Carlisle Group. In the case of Halliburton, many of the employees directly witnessed the action. In the case of the Carlisle Group, we had a conversation with a PR person while presenting their company the names of Iraqi dead we believe that they are in part responsible for.
I don’t have time to adequately give our day justice or to talk about all the actions we participated in. We joined the Dorothy Day Catholic Workers at their vigil outside of the Pentagon very early in the morning; we read poems and sang resistance songs in the Metro; we joined the NCNR action from beginning until end; and then we took part in these 3 actions on Monday afternoon. In the end, some of us found time to take in the DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency action at Dupont Circle.
We suffered no arrests; we did not have the media attention that the other action had, but I believe that at least in the Halliburton action, we were effective in letting the war profiteers know that we are willing to take the protest all the way to their doors if we have to. You have to realize that this is Halliburton’s Government Relations office; these are the people who lobby, the ones who help craft policy. They are the ones who are forced to explain why they charge so much money for their services or how they lose taxpayer money. I know that they got the message, but they will only start to take us seriously when we come back again and again and again.
At Carlisle, we spoke with a PR official in their very colonial-style offices, who was happy to talk with us and explain that Carlisle only has about 1% of their hundreds of millions of dollars in the Iraq war. You see, they aren’t so bad. And, he was sure to tell us that he would send along the names of Iraqi dead through their hierarchy (probably on a bulletin board in their office or in what we call here at the office I work, the “cylindrical file” – you can guess what that is!) What negotiation is there in such a farce? The next time I think if we resort to anything so dignified we should throw in the towel. I found that to bethe worst and yet most enlightening of all the experiences.
I found the day to be extremely empowering and not simply because we were able to take direct action that I felt was effective. I found it to be empowering because I was able to share it with a group of people that constantly amaze me and who I feel empowered and exhilarated just to be around.
One of the best things about the day, even, was when sitting down later by the White House (where we had another small action), we talked to a man from Vermont who came down for the weekend. We started enumerating all the actions we had done just in the past few months, and it was staggering. I must admit that before our weekly actions started happening, I was feeling drained and worn out by the process. Now, being in the streets, living out a variety of kinds of actions, from direct action, to teach-ins, to community service projects, I now feel revived by meetings again. I feel good that we in DAWN are developing a sustainable culture of resistance.
There are plenty of criticisms, for sure, of our action, of all the actions that happened throughout the weekend, but I know we’ll find plenty of times to fight those battles out. Right now, I’d prefer to talk about what we did well, and I thought it might be helpful to give a glimpse into our experience. It’s inadequate, but it’s all I have time for right now.
I’ll see many of you tonight, and please join us in the weekly action working group as we plan the next set of actions, including direct action at the World Bank, as well as our continuing service of homeless starting from outside the Canadian Embassy.
I joined the local anti-war movement in the months before that dreadful evening when we saw parts of Baghdad
burst into flames.
At a point that was a beginning for me, that same point became an end for so many others.
How disempowering it was to see that the government could and would ignore millions of people marching in the streets against a particular policy.
The government ignored people in the streets because it could, because they banked on the fact that very few people ever intended on doing anything more than marching down a few streets waving signs. The system of government that James Madison and others devised is so clever that the process of electoral politics naturally defuses and diffuses almost any social movement that dares to use that process for its own political ends. Electoral majorities are forged from the lowest common denominator, and those denominators often involve implicit contradictions. In this country, those denominators are represented by the Democratic and Republican parties, and both of those parties are heavily funded from most of the same corporate interests. Yet, even if you resist the lure of the lowest common denominator, is it enough simply to have the right ideas if all you intend to do is walk down the street with a sign?
I was drawn into this phase of my activism by the war in Iraq, but I must admit that that is a little embarrassing for me. A careful study of American history shows a relentless brutality by the privileged classes against the underprivileged, whether we are talking about the American Indian, the African American, the immigrant, the Latin American, the religious and political minorities, the woman, the worker, and the land, plants, and animals who live inside the artificial boundaries of the United States. Most social movements have risen to combat these privileges have been squashed or re-absorbed into the political fabric. For example, we saw an end to slavery in the South only to find wage slavery throughout the country and a new era of repressive racism. We saw laws to protect unions and workers, but we saw the corporatization of those very same unions and new laws to make many of their previous tactics moot. Today, we have a law against torture, and yet it goes on all the same in Guantanamo Bay, and almost anyone can be locked up in the name of national security. We supposedly have free speech, but the World War I era Espionage Act is still on the books, and almost any of us in the anti-war movement are in some sense guilty of it and could face penalties of up to 20 years in prison. Even before the war in Iraq, I was aware that the United States and every other nation state in the world is in a very real sense built illegitimately, and yet I was under the disempowering illusion that I could do nothing about it and should only work to try and make the best of a very bad situation.
However, that was no way to live.
In spite of the fact that the anti-war movement has failed miserably to have any noticeable effect on the war in Iraq, on militarism in general, and in the U.S. has done an abysmal job of connecting the issues of war with the other evils of society which share their causes in the oppressive natures of patriarchy and capitalism, I can think of no other place that I would rather be. What the anti-war movement has given me is a community of support that allows the freedom to reject the cynical view of the world I had before the war in Iraq. That sounds remarkable given that in Iraq alone hundreds of thousands of people have died over the last 15 years; how can I be less cynical? What I mean is that being in a community, especially the local community I share in the DC Anti-War Network, has allowed me the freedom to understand the world’s situation to its logical conclusions. Where I once simply understood and acquiesced to the horrors of the world, I now must confront the connections every single day of my life. And, rather than confining me, such knowledge frees me to understand that every action we take has consequences in more directions than we can possibly understand. It helps me understand that there are no pure actions, nothing that we can possibly do that in some way does not touch the rest of the universe. Seeing the ways that our actions tend to make a mess in almost every direction has led me to believe that enough is enough, that until we convince humans to stop trying to make a better world, that we will not have a better world. In other words, a world cannot be “made”, cannot be “constructed,” cannot be the product of our sheer vanity that we know better. We simply do not know better, and all we know is that other human beings who are acting as though they know better do not since they all rest on the same fallacy that we can understand the consequences of all our actions.
Yet, far from paralyzing me from action, that knowledge has given me a sense of a set of directions we need to go, namely that we must dismantle and resist anyone who purports to know better, whether it is knowing better for the Iraqi people, or for the poor, or for the environment itself. I find myself as suspicious of good government liberals as I am of rightwingers who offer corporate solutions. I am suspicious of solutions except the one that is deconstructive and dissenting, a voice that says loudly, “No!” And, yet, such a “No!” is not a pure negative, as though there is anything we could ever desire that’s pure in the world, as though there was only one worthwhile color in the world, whether that be the color of a person’s skin, or the color of a flag. In that “No!”, we find a different kind of impulse that is very positive. In other words, how we say “No!” contrasts markedly from what we find ourselves resisting against. When we for instance take action against the war in Iraq, what in fact are we doing? We are marching, we are singing, we are blocking traffic, we are giving aid to the wounded on all sides, we are meeting in the open air, we are strategizing, we are disagreeing, we are knocking our heads, we are feeling frustrated or alive or energized or demoralized or at a loss or in mourning. We are doing all these things and more; that is, we are resisting a particular policy by re-creating a diverse culture of resistance, one whose only answer is in the analysis of the tension of between our process and action and that to which we are resisting against. Do we make decisions from the top like the generals do? Do we oppress those we act with in ways similar to war mongers? Do we profit off of our own resources and thus objectify and demean the world?
On February 15, 2003, more than 3 years ago, we marched in New York and across the globe, and we felt almost as empowered as people felt disempowered just over a month later. A few days before the war started, we held another mass march in Washington, most of us already deflated by the prospects of an oncoming war. Unlike so many, I could not understand the disempowerment, perhaps because I never believed that what we were after was stopping this war, or because I never believed that what we were doing was hardly enough to stop this war but that we should take heart from the new community of resistance forming all around us. And, yet, in the 3 years, the movement has undergone in many respects a deterioration with only pockets of inspiration. And, yet I have never felt so much opportunity for empowerment as I do today.
Why is that?
I believe that we have never fully committed to actions which can successfully turn back the fear and disempowerment that keep so many people suffering, and I sense that people are finally beginning to have a conversation about taking steps that go beyond a commitment to parade with signs in the street. I see that local empowerment is spreading, and that groups are more inclined to see that their fate rests in their own hands. Fighting against the war goes far beyond fighting against the policies of your own government; it goes to fighting oppression everywhere, especially when that oppression exists within your own movement – United for Peace and Justice and ANSWER take note.
Years of activity and networking and making connections both with issues and with people across the country have helped us in the movement develop not only a class consciousness but a concrete consciousness of each other. Resistance has a face, and by that I don’t mean Cindy Sheehan. There are growing numbers of us who are beginning to understand not simply that we are not just after an end to the war in Iraq but that we are after an end to the corporate patriarchal capitalist system that exists everywhere, and nothing is going to scare us from stopping it. You may throw us in your prisons, but we will organize there as well. And, if you dared to kill us, we believe that we are now strong enough to raise new numbers to fight back.
I see it in the people power campaigns that are developing to destroy Caterpillar and Halliburton; in the willingness of demonstrators to go to the homes of those who aid war criminals; in the willingness to accept the fact that we are all culpable in this war and that no person, least of all us in the movement, are immune from criticism and ultimately direct action to make things right. If the troops must face a moral culpability for firing shots that they could refuse to take, we face a moral culpability for sitting at home and doing nothing or marching in the streets under the pretense that we are “doing our share.” Our failure to take direct action to fight against human pretentiousness is the worst kind of complicity of all. We have no right to be disempowered.
Of course, any direct action will create consequences we could not possibly fathom, many of them undoubtedly negative. So, what makes our action different? What is so great about giving up the pretense of making a better world if we will ultimately do things whose effects we cannot possibly understand. Our actions are different and better in at least one crucial respect, in that given the two visions, one with a clear focus and one that is so out of focus (we are the ones who are out of focus and seeking to smash the lenses of humanity), it is we who have the only possibility at all of affirming lively interaction, since we no longer seek to control our resources and our outcomes, but merely to destroy those things that cause us to think we can lord over resources and outcomes (when that’s impossible). That is, we are one step closer to the sheer complexity of reality, and if we are asking why that is so good, we have asked ourselves a question that is self contradictory from the start. But, rather than go into that now, let’s phrase it as a choice. Would we rather act as brothers and sisters, or would we rather have a parental relationship, even knowing that there’s no hope of controlling the children you raise? Isn’t there something fundamentally better about giving up the fiction of control when you can have the reality of myriads of one-on-one relationships?
I may have seemed to have drifted from the anniversary of the war in Iraq, but I have only resisted the urge to focus exclusively on Iraq. People are still dying. They are dying in as great a numbers now as they have when the war first began, whether we define that war as beginning in 2003, 1991, or before the beginning of human history. The suffering there is real; I cannot fully appreciate it. I cannot understand what it is to have my head blown up, or my legs ripped apart, or my families destroyed, or to lack basic needs, or to be scared that every step I take might be my last. I live with so much privilege that I can describe this war and this movement in the terms that I have. Yet, all of that leads me to one place, that we must destroy this privilege as soon as possible. People here in DC will be marching, they will be taking direct action, and they will be trying to make the connections through community service actions. All of that ultimately will lead to questions about how effective we are. I am glad that we are asking those questions. Now is the time to remember, to empathize with the suffering, and to get to know each other better so that we can think hard about the steps we need to take so that the government can no longer ignore us, so that they try to repress us and ultimately fail at that repression. We have to see this occasion in those terms if we are to stop the forward progression of our brutal history. In all we do, let’s think about how we can stop war, and what we can do to say, “No!” There is no better world, no peace, and no art until we think hard about how to destroy the pretense of a better world, peace, and beauty. That’s the very positive message I will take to the streets as we take our next steps together this weekend. Jim Macdonald
***The DC Anti-War Network is also supporting the substance of this call and will be actively working on direct action during the spring meetings of the World Bank/IMF***
This Spring, Paul Wolfowitz, the President of the World Bank Group and the architect of the War in Iraq, will be convening the biannual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
, bringing together at the table the two capitalist tools of global exploitation — the wars of military might with the strangleholds of economic imperialism. The World Bank and the IMF, which have been the principal players in the economic devastation of the Global South through Structural Adjustment Programs (currently referred to as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers), will meet again in downtown Washington, DC to schmooze with the private sector, laugh in the face of the world's poor, and live off the fat of other people's land.
This year, however, we are going to force them to see the resistance that is alive in our hearts, in our minds and across the globe. Seeing our faces, or ours masks as the case may be, will be a requisite part of their weekend activities. We will be at their doorsteps, behind their limos, at their parties and in their yard. From blockades to home demos, interruption to disruption, we'll be there, following their every move.
We urge everyone to come to Washington, DC the weekend of April 21-23 to take part in these historic protests
against the World Bank and IMF. Say no to Capitalist globalization and yes to the power of the people and the power of direct action!
This call is brought to you by the Farragut Squares Collective, a local ad hoc group of individuals fed up with the Bretton Woods Institutions and capitalist globalization. We fully support a collaborative, open, and non-hierarchical organizing relationship with all who wish to join us in taking action. Send any inquiries or shows of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) continued its service to the
homeless outside of the Canadian Embassy. The numbers are very small, but
those there are very appreciative. We see some of the same residents every
We'll be back there next Saturday, though perhaps at a different time.
After that, a group of us per a decision in Tuesday's working group meeting, went
by car to McLean, VA, to the home of Richard L. Rainey. Who is Richard Rainey?
Richard Rainey is an intellectual property lawyer with Covington & Burling. Huh?
Covington & Burling is a law firm that receives a large chunk of money from
Halliburton to lobby and work on its behalf - see
Rainey is one lawyer who has done work for Halliburton. He has also done work
on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline (associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences), as well
as pharmaceutical companies, defending their patents and intellectual property
(in one case keeping a scientist from getting a job with a generic pharmaceutical
company). See his bio (and find his contact information) at
In Rainey, so many connections existed before us, we felt that it deserved a visit
to his home, which happens to be in McLean.
If you have never been in McLean, it's worth a visit. The concentration of wealth
is absolutely enormous and unsettling.
Our trip to Rainey's was brief. We didn't even need our pots and pans. Within
seconds of chanting, his neighbors came out to complain, and we could see
plenty of activity inside of Rainey's home. There's a lot less noise pollution in
McLean, so it got very loud, very fast.
We decided that our point was made and being on a dead end street, we felt it
might be safer for us to get out fast, seeing no other purpose to being there
(having delivered our message that it is unacceptable for people to do business
with Halliburton - not to mention working on behalf of pharmaceutical companies
to protect their patent rights - rights that hurt many people who need medicine
throughout the world, as well as puppy killers.
So, we left, and we went back to the mayor's house. He was home and was
watching us through the window, but I guess he got the last laugh this weekend
(after the stadium deal passed).
Our group will be proposing soon to DAWN a Halliburton divestment campaign so
that actions like the ones we've been taking have more strategic bite. We will
be convincing people not to do business with Halliburton, if this proposal passes.
This hopefully was the first action in that campaign.