Culture Change e-Letter #76
Resisting the war machine and
by Jan Lundberg
This is a time of massive denial of the destruction of both the
planet's biosphere and non-mainstream cultures by governments, corporations and
the average consumer. A call for resistance, then, is never more appropriate.
So, what are
the possibilities, and what kind of world do we want to build?
The dual challenge: war and consumption
One wouldn't know from TV news or major newspapers that U.S.
energy use, representing a disproportionate one quarter of the world's
consumption — warming the globe with fossil fuels emissions — is
completely unsustainable. It is not a mistake through lack of
awareness; it is ecocide.
Neither is any admission made by the mainstream media or the
government, or even by the large environmental groups, that overpopulation has
been attained not only globally but within the U.S. The beginnings of
understanding about oil extraction peaking globally is entering the public's
consciousness slowly, but the full implications are not yet being faced.
(This column has addressed this issue and will soon publish the report
"Exiting the Oil Age with Resolve.") Petroleum's contribution to
floating countries' huge populations is swept under the rug.
Ecocide is needless, but not in the minds of the perpetrators
when we consider their psychology as driven by their culture. The
biosphere's rapid degradation is carried out by the individual polluters as if
there is no other way to approach life, because of the materialistic insecurity
in the minds of society's greediest and most fearful members. Waiting for
them to wake up and join the human race, instead of continuing to hide behind
their comfortable property and self-serving laws, uses time that humanity no
longer has the luxury of wasting.
A new international study states that populations of almost half
of the known amphibian species are in decline; 32 per cent of amphibians are
threatened with extinction. Twelve per cent of birds and 23 per cent of
mammals are in the same position. Extinctions are increasingly
"enigmatic" which means a general trend is on the loose that can't be
stopped by improved policies except in the very long term. The U.S. leads
the way in fostering species extinction, when one also considers destructive
"development" and "aid" the U.S. has promoted globally for
The role of resistance
In light of the unacceptable loss of life caused by both
ecological destruction and the war machine — offering the biggest consumers
"endless" gluttony — resistance is on the rise. It may
not figure as powerful as the twin, awesome effects of a collapsing global
economy and the backlash of nature, but there is a role for resistance in the
The home-grown U.S. resistance movement takes various forms, yet
there is no clear leadership. There will not be such a leadership in the
foreseeable future because the
process of change at this point in history is not about traditional revolution.
Nor is there any social movement fueling much change, compared to the 1960s' U.S. civil rights movement or the radical student movement.
However, resistance exists and takes the form of lifestyle change, boycott and
direct action. As always, resisters try to expose the corporate-government line of
The role of resistance is unclear, but its potential is
enormous. The World Trade Organization is almost on the run globally, in
some respects — such as in public opinion — because resistance and protest
have been effective. People could not anticipate the success of
demonstrating against the Seattle and Cancun meetings the WTO held in 1999 and
2003, respectively. The question is whether the antiglobalization movement
is ready for cultural revolution.
The war machine was never dismantled
The systematic genocide of Indochinese in the 1960s and early
1970s by the U.S. government and its mercenaries was — thanks to resistance in
Indochina and in the streets of America — opposed and stopped. But not
forever: with a change of political winds in Washington and the military's role
not to be denied, aggression was resumed and kept up on a smaller scale.
Now we have seen two Middle Eastern countries attacked and still occupied. (Palestine is under similar attack and occupation.) The
bloody rationales have been discredited. Resistance by the international
community and millions of U.S. citizens has been strong and clear.
In the U.S. one can scarcely express
solidarity with those abroad fighting U.S. imperialism and
corporate oppression, except for the occasional protest and
letter-to-the-editor. So, in between times one attempts to keep informed and
talk up the issues. We also sing the songs of freedom and resistance, if
not aloud then in our hearts. Meanwhile,
Iraqis die daily from U.S. bombardments and from the consequences of invasion:
depleted uranium everywhere, having to resist the unbearable occupation, and/or get caught in the
Much misinformation on the Iraq war is fed to the American
people by the imbedded U.S. reporters stuck in the Green Zone of Baghdad.
But word is getting out that the Iraqi peoples are united in universal
opposition to the U.S. occupation, thanks to the foreign press and Dahr Jamail,
the one independent U.S. reporter roaming all over Baghdad and beyond. The war of occupation has been lost by the
U.S. as previously envisioned, and it is long past the point that the average Iraqi could entertain the
possibility that some good came from the invasion. At least 13,000 and
possibly over 15,000
Iraqi civilians have been killed by mostly indiscriminate U.S. firepower as of
mid October 2004 since the invasion. Even car bombings that kill scores of
innocent civilians per month are blamed by the average Iraqis on the American
presence, according to Jamail.
You can be an enemy of the U.S. government but not an enemy of
the country and the people of the USA. Among U.S. residents and citizens are such examples
as John Lennon,
Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jane Fonda. Millions of Iraqis stand for the
same thing those leaders wanted: the
U.S. military out of a country it invaded. Today it is primarily Iraq that the U.S.
must vacate along with its stooges (such as its CIA connected interim prime
This opposition is on the political level, although all
but Jane Fonda paid the cost in blood. In her case, supporting the Vietnamese
people was, in effect, to take the side of ":the enemy," but the war of aggression
against the Vietnamese had erased any moral rectitude of the U.S. So it was
entirely moral and courageous for people such as John Kerry to reject the
Vietnam policy most publicly and throw back medals of valor won in an
Nonviolent resistance in daily U.S. life
On the economic level of daily life here in the U.S. —
including the physical/ecological realm — people who pursue an alternative to
wasteful energy use and other forms of materialism are trying to pull like minds
together and support each other. There is some success and much failure in that
attempt, as the dominant culture dictates that only having property and cash can
allow us to participate in current modes of survival. Meanwhile, hard-core
activists, communitarians, anarchists, sustainable living advocates, co-housing
practitioners and other stripes of Homo Ecologus(?) get down to mutual aid,
growing their own food, while participating in alternative news media and the
arts to wake up the
somnolent consumer population.
It is becoming widely known that these are the last days of
plentiful, affordable petroleum — "ancient sunlight" — because of the global peak in oil
extraction and out-of-control demand. CNN has now referred to current oil
prices as geologically driven.
Despite peak oil, we see the longed-for alternative energy systems, car-free living and better land
use barely pursued, even by those in the know. As long as the system of cash
& petroleum provides short-term goods and services, no alternative can get a
This does not mean that social movements are useless; to the contrary,
people need to resist and think for themselves when the government's role is to
lie as it props up the status quo. However, the ultimate purpose of living a
life of resistance is to provide social, economic and ecological models of
sustainability for the post-petroleum future. Our rewards come later and
are for the common good, making our current efforts a major sacrifice due to lack of
One must follow one's best inclinations in expressing solidarity
with the Iraqi peoples, with corporate slave laborers, with dispossessed indigenous
peoples, and with the cancer-ridden population of U.S. consumers. There are
many ways, but it requires digging, study, collaboration and adventure.
Most U.S. Americans seem to labor under the supposition that technology and "our
democracy" will see us
through the planetary crisis of climate distortion, overpopulation, resource
exhaustion, and toxic/radioactive poisoning. Elections are a part of exercising
self-determination, but without a strong movement in the streets, elections only
ratify the existing power structure. Therefore, each of us does what we can: draw
political cartoons, depave a driveway, or join a collective household
(necessary if members of blood families are isolated consumers).
My own latest
gambit is a song, part of a repertoire of resistance songs in praise of nature
and human liberation.
Resisting the Oil Machine Rag
(An excerpt, the parts sung similarly to
"Halls of Montezuma," the U.S. Marine Corps theme song—but with a minor chord
From the napalming of Vietnam to the toxics in our seas
This new song shares the same bouncy 2/4 beat as "Feel Like I'm
Fixin' To Die Rag" by Country Joe and The Fish. I intend to record
"Resisting the Oil Machine Rag" with—apart from vocals and guitar—a kazoo, a la Country Joe and The Fish's rag.
That masterpiece against the Vietnam War is still funny and
moving today. I hear Country Joe lives nearby in the San Francisco Bay
area where I'm staying these days, and perhaps after hearing it he would
encourage me on my way to tour, with such songs, the continent: from the
redwoods to Maine to the Everglades. As I have been trying without success to
find the right job in Berkeley or Oakland, or to set up an office to fight
plastics and spread Culture Change; perhaps hitting the road with my guitar and
my anti-petroleum message is the answer for me to contribute to the resistance
against the war machine and U.S. ecocide.
I look forward to hearing from you.
- "Depaver" Jan Lundberg
PS: I enjoyed playing several of my songs at the Berkeley
Unitarian fellowship last Sunday as an opening act for Dahr Jamail's slide show
Independent Iraq war dispatches and photos from Dahr
Civilian slaughter in Iraq: www.iraqbodycount.net
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