The Xtremes: Subversive Recipes for Catastrophic Times

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CommonDreams.org

The Xtremes: Subversive Recipes for Catastrophic Times

"In just a few short months, we’ve witnessed people power in action. From the Middle East to the Midwest, movements have risen up to overturn tired dogma and challenge entrenched power. Many of us were inspired by these events. And many of us were surprised. Perhaps we were growing skeptical that people power could still work. Maybe we had forgotten a vital fact about our world: that bold citizens, united around a common mission, can still come together to create major change against enormous odds." - 350.org (April 7, 2011)

"Even when people are willing to take action in concert to redistribute the pie, whether by Gandhian mobilization or use of force, this may resonate falsely, for the pie is disintegrating. Its recipe and ingredients are obsolete. And freedom attained in harsh austerity, characterized by intense competition for food, will be doubtful or of little comfort." - Jan Lundberg (“Social Justice Activists Must Take Into Account Ecological, Cultural, and Economic Transformation”)

After seven generations of industrial Business as Usual—burning up fossil fuels, waging war on nature and public health, and discharging greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow—we’ve peaked. Distracted by know-nothing climate change deniers and betrayed by cowardly politicians, we’re suddenly face-to-face with the Xtremes: Peak Oil, relentless heat, cold, droughts, blizzards, floods, pestilence, crop failures, and evermore deadly “natural” catastrophes, including hurricanes, tornados, forest fires, typhoons, and earthquakes. Held hostage by out-of-control energy corporations, make-believe terrorist threats, and indentured politicians, we lurch from disaster to disaster. Last year the BP oil spill, this year the Fukushima meltdown. 

Checking our gauges for oil, food, water, topsoil, clean air, climate stability, ethical business practices, and democracy, we’re running on empty. Economic depression, nuclear meltdown, extreme weather, catastrophic oil spills, crop failures, contamination of aquifers through natural gas fracking and oil sands extraction, dirty coal and mountaintop removal, genetically engineered “Frankenfoods” and agrofuels, endless wars for oil and strategic resources, and deteriorating public health--welcome to the New World Order of 2011. Bend down for the New Global Lords, our planetary Board of Directors: 1200 billionaires, 10 million millionaires, and 1000 giant multinational corporations. 

Out-of-control corporate globalization and hyper-consumerism have pumped so much carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere (390 parts per million of CO2; and 438 ppm of CO2, CH4, and N20 combined) that we’re fast-tracked for disaster. Melting glaciers and polar ice caps; thawing out the 1,600-gigaton permafrost methane time bomb of the Far North; burning up the tropical forests of the Global South, we are hell-bent for catastrophe. Leading climatologists such as Dr. James Hansen and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have delivered the final warning: either turn away from unsustainable energy practices; drastically reduce fossil fuel use by 90% by 2050 (starting immediately); and restore the natural greenhouse gas (GHG) sequestration capacities of our soils, forests, farmlands, and pasturelands through conversion to organic management practices—so as to safely bring CO2 levels in the atmosphere back down to 350 ppm and all combined GHG back down to 393ppm—or else prepare to live in climate hell.  

In the planetary past, when volcanic eruptions, meteorites, changes in the Earth’s axis, or other mega-disasters oversaturated the atmosphere with greenhouse gases (GHG), the oceans, living soils, plants, and forests were able to sequester billions of tons of greenhouse gases and re-stabilize the climate. Unfortunately these climate stabilizing carbon sinks or sequestration centers are now being destroyed by the Business as Usual practices of the transnational corporations and a crazed narcissistic culture of hyper-consumerism. 

We are careening toward the final precipice. Either we join the global grassroots uprising to overthrow the Global Lords and their Military-Industrial Fossil Fuel Empire, either we downshift our energy-intensive culture and practices, and re-localize our economy, or else…  

Although billions are still asleep at the wheel or dozing in front of their TVs…

Although the majority are still brainwashed or else mentally and physically broken down, a critical mass of enrages across the world are waking up and taking action. A new Green Internationale is spreading its roots in local communities and regions across the globe. 

A growing corps of global citizens and organizations in hundreds of thousands of communities are turning their attention and ire toward the real source of the Crisis, the Corporate Elite and the National Security State, and starting to work on building sustainable alternatives and resilient communities that can survive the coming economic and energy collapse. The outlines of this new decentralized Green Commonwealth are slowly but surely becoming visible: community supported organic food and farming; open source media and communications; holistic health care, alternative schools and education; renewable energy, housing and transportation; relocalized commerce, bartering, sustainable finance, and participatory decision-making. 

But why aren’t we all rising up, given the Xtremes?  

Damage to the Body Politic 

A suicidal Business as Usual still predominates in much of the developing world, and in the industrialized nations as well, because billions of us, the Underclass, are struggling with the nearly impossible task of trying to survive and support our families in a profoundly non-sustainable economy and society, often deeply in debt, living on minimum or starvation wages. Other would-be rebels, indeed a large percentage of the world population, are held in check by the understanding that, if they step too far out of line, they will be brutally repressed. Another huge segment of the body politic are physically ill, drug-addicted, malnourished, or psychologically incapacitated.  

In the workaholic, media-saturated culture of the industrialized nations, now spreading to the developing world, an army of lonely and alienated couch potatoes remain distracted, drugged, or hypnotized by rampant consumerism, political charlatans, and fake-Messiahs (such as Obama). Brainwashed and programmed to believe you can’t “Fight City Hall” or the big corporations, why not just jump in your car and go to the Mall, or sit down and turn on the TV or the computer? Drink another beer, pop another prescription pill, stuff your face with junk food, kill the pain? 

Timid and Divided Single-Issue Movements 

Unfortunately as we move to confront the Xtremes, more often than not, we find civil society divided and disempowered by single-issue silos and tunnel-vision identity politics; or else mystified and mislead into believing that everything will turn out all right, if we just nudge the politicians and the corporations a little bit more.  

Although it’s obvious that we will never have a sustainable energy, housing, agriculture, health, or transportation system in the U.S. without transferring hundreds of billions of dollars a year from military spending into building a full employment green economy, the peace movement is over here, while the alternative energy, climate, organic, and green jobs movements are over there, each marginalized in their own respective corners or silos.  

Similarly we’ll never be able to fund a global green economy, or provide universal healthcare, or offer a living wage for workers, until we force the rich and the corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, democratize the media, take away the legal fiction, so-called “rights of corporate personhood,” and get special interest money out of politics. And yet we have a tax reform movement over here, a single-payer healthcare reform movement over there, a media reform movement in that corner, a union movement over there, and a vast array of isolated local and state movements (Wisconsin, Michigan, California and a dozen other states) trying to fight corporate-driven cutbacks and giveaways.  And of course none of these life or death reforms will be possible until we get over our fear of confronting and taking down the 800 pound gorillas in the room: The Corporate Elite and the National Security State. 

It’s time to come together, unite our forces, and address the fundamental root causes of the Crisis. It’s time to get over our fears of being called radical or utopian and offer real solutions. It’s time to broaden the discussion, link the issues, expand our coalitions, and fight the Xtremes. 

The Global Uprising: Is It Already Too Late? 

People in increasing numbers are connecting the dots, standing up and fighting for their rights and the rights of the future generations. Many of us now realize that it is extremely unlikely that things will ever return to “normal.” The energy, cultural, political, and socio-economic System that we’ve grown accustomed to—based upon cheap fossil fuel energy and a predictable stable climate, is headed for collapse. The urgent priority is to channel this coming collapse (think of it, hopefully, in terms of a descending stairway, rather than a plunge off a cliff) into a mass movement and a national community building process. Before collapse metastasizes into panic and martial law, we still have time to lay down the foundations for a new Commonwealth.  

But before we can rise up as a subversive and creative force, a critical mass needs to be prepared, both psychologically and politically. Only individuals with deep self-respect and communities with profound self-confidence will be able to move beyond halfway measures, so-called liberal, progressive, or libertarian solutions, and address the radical root causes and solutions to the Crisis. We must be strong enough and confident enough to face, with brutal honesty, the current situation, and have the courage and fortitude to “tell it like it is.” The irreplaceable prerequisite for a democratic revolution and a sustainable society are healthy, resilient individuals with a high-degree of consciousness and self-respect, and energized resilient communities with a high degree of self-confidence and solidarity.

No Pasarán (They Shall Not Pass): Stand Up and Fight 

Through decades of activism, extending from the anti-war and counter-culture movement of the 1960s, to my current role as director of a nationwide activist network, the Organic Consumers Association, and a national campaign, called Millions Against Monsanto, I’ve been anxiously waiting for a critical mass of Americans to stand up and fight. From Johnson to Nixon, Ford and Carter, from Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr. to Obama, along with so many others, I’ve fought the good fight, participated in all the frontline movements and protests, voted for the best candidates, greened up my lifestyle, and never lost hope — even as powerful forces of evil hijacked democracy, wrecked the environment, and destabilized the climate.  

But basta ya — enough is enough. We have reached the outer limits of democracy, climate stability, energy resources, and indeed human survival. It’s time to stand up, unite our forces, and fight for power—or else surrender.  

After decades of sucking up to liberal foundations and funders and lesser of two evils politicians who keep telling us to “tone it down,” and “stick to what’s practical,” we stand on the crowded deck of the USA Titanic. Amid the bedlam, and a growing sense of panic, our options are severely limited. We can keep arguing among ourselves about how to arrange the deckchairs—whose issue is more important, which magic bullet reform will save us, which candidate or corporation is slightly better, or who is the most oppressed.  We can make a run for the lifeboats — even though most of us, especially our children and grandchildren, won’t make it. Or we can unite our forces, storm the captain’s quarters, and turn the ship away from the Xtremes. 

I’m sick and tired of a thousand different single-issue campaigns, identity politics, wimpy liberals, progressive infighting, armchair philanthropists, and limited-focus mobilizing. I’m terminally weary of just “fighting the good fight”  against a corporate Goliath who always seems to win, or voting for alternative candidates who usually lose. I’m sick of lobbying hopelessly corrupt politicians to be a little more humane, and pressuring corporate criminals to be a little less greedy. And finally, I’m horrified to ponder the thought that my teenage son may have to struggle for sheer survival in a brutal, ecologically devastated, martial law state. 

Minor political reforms and corporate “greenwashing” at this stage of history are too little, too late. The lesser of indentured evils in the White House is not going to save us. Increased market share for organic, green, and Fair Trade products will amount to little or nothing in the closing era of the Xtremes. What we need is a bold determination to carry out regime change and build a new green and egalitarian society, inside the deteriorating infrastructure of the old. What we need are supercharged and inspired “networks of networks,” online and on the ground; mass-based multi-focus campaigns and electoral insurgencies, led by Live Wire organizers who bring together and frame the burning issues and popular passions of a critical mass of the majority Underclass. What we need is a massive new synergy between strategic sectors of the presently fragmented progressive/radical rainbow, supercharging a new wave of positive solutions, structural reforms, community building, survival planning, and electoral insurgency. On the personal level this means breaking with deeply ingrained habits and ways of thinking, and integrating our daily lives and practices into the building of a new transformative and revolutionary Movement.  

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the relative desperation of your situation, objective conditions for a grassroots global uprising are quickly ripening. The current ruling junta has overextended themselves, and a powerful conflagration of disasters is waking up a critical mass of the global grassroots. We now have a political opening in the United States that has not existed since the Watergate Era and the fall of Richard Nixon in 1974. But time is of the essence. 

At the risk of stating the obvious, let’s keep these basics in mind: 

  • The Republican and Democratic parties are both totally controlled by all-powerful corporations at the national levels (if not yet always at the lower levels).  
     
  • The mainstream media is controlled by corporations that suppress real information and cynically manipulate the public. 
     
  • U.S. elections are controlled by corporations and rich donors (with the direct support and involvement of the major parties) who buy the candidates and restrict access to the press by new or upstart candidates. Electronic voting machines and optical scanners (as opposed to hand-counted paper ballots) enable elections to be stolen, on a regular basis, by hired hackers and Black Box computer technicians.  
     
  • The root causes of the Great Recession are "free trade" globalization policies, tax evasion by corporations and the rich, a trillion-dollar war machine, and the looting of the nation by the big banks and Wall Street speculators
     
  • Until we are willing to overthrow the corporate and military-industrial dictatorship, we will not be able to deal with the fundamental power imbalances, injustices, and crises of the nation. 
     
  • Climate change is real and getting worse. We are literally standing on the eve of destruction. Radical energy conservation, reducing fossil fuel use by 90%, retrofitting the nation’s 50 million buildings; retooling our transportation system, rebuilding our electrical grid to run on solar and wind, and restoring the carbon sequestration capacity of our billion of acres of farmland, pasture, and forests through organic land management, are absolute priorities. 
     
  • We need to create a framework for a massive local to national alliance for survival that addresses the life-or-death issues head-on and is open to all methods of action, from legislative insurgency, to direct action, to civil disobedience. 

 On the individual level: 

  • Walk your talk. Stop bowing down to business as usual and the dictates of the ruling class. Nurture your health and self-respect and, at the same time, nurture the collective self-confidence of all the rebels and visionaries in your circle of friends, family, and community. Align yourself with people and organizations you can trust and rely upon. 
     
  • Stay informed. Open your eyes to what’s going on. Stay in touch with the daily evidence circulating on the Internet that a global grassroots revolution has begun. Pay attention to the housing, transportation, health, and food and farming alternatives that are already being built, even if many of our sustainable alternatives currently exist only in embryonic form. 
     
  • Keep in mind that the Xtremes are likely to get worse, not better, and that most of our elected public officials, especially on the federal level, are bought and sold by the corporations, and therefore are hard-wired for destruction. Don’t hold your breath for Obama, or any other national politician to change things. Go local with an emphasis on community building and local public policy change. Focus on building crash-resistant institutions: organic food and farming systems, re-localized commerce, holistic and preventive health practices, and an urban and rural green jobs infrastructure with a low carbon footprint. 
     
  • Stay inspired. Stay in touch with the fact that the technological, economic, political, and social alternatives we need to survive and prosper are already being put into practice. Find examples of these across the nation or the globe and in your local community and join up.  
     
  • Stay vigilant. Stay positive. Stay strong. Prepare for the worst, as well as the best. Those who hold the power are not going to give it up without a tremendous fight. The fossil fuel System is going to collapse. Revolutions bear little resemblance to polite disagreements at a dinner party. The mass media can and is being manipulated. People’s fears and prejudices are being engineered. Elections based upon “black box” computer-controlled electronic voting machines and optical scanners can and are being stolen. The only elections that cannot be stolen are those based upon hand-counted paper ballots, where the ballots are tallied at the precinct level in clear public view immediately after the polls close.
     
  • Keep the faith. Revolutions never seem possible until objective conditions ripen, until serious splits develop among the ruling class, and until a critical mass of people decide they won’t take it any more. Look at Egypt. Look at Tunisia, Look at Yemen. Look at Wisconsin. Look in the mirror. Ready to lead the Uprising in your local community? Send me an email.

All power to the people!

Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins is a veteran activist, author, and organizer. He is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica. http://www.organicconsumers.org; http://www.viaorganica.org

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