November 19, 2012

Courage: excerpt from Derrick Jensen's Endgame

Excerpted from Endgame vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization , by Derrick Jensen. Page 317-319.

Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

William S. Burroughs

I learned about e-bombs from one of my students—Casey Maddox, an excellent writer—at the prison. He wrote an extraordinary novel about someone who is kidnapped and put through a twelve-step recovery program for an addiction to Western civilization. The book’s title is The Day Philosophy Died, and, as we’ll get to in a moment, that title is related to E-bombs.

E-bombs are, to my reckoning, one of the few useful inventions of the military- industrial complex. They are kind of the opposite of neutron bombs, which, if you remember, kill living beings but leave nonliving structures such as cities relatively intact: the quintessence of civilization. E-bombs, on the other hand, are explosive devices that do not hurt living beings, but instead destroy all electron- ics. Casey calls them “time machines,” because when you set one off you go back one hundred and fifty years.

At one point in the novel the kidnappers are going to use a small plane to drop an E-bomb over the Bay Area. They carry the bomb on board inside a casket. The main character asks, “Who died?”

“Philosophy,” someone says. “When philosophy dies,” that person continues, “action begins.”

As they prepare to set off the E-bomb, the main character keeps thinking, “There’s something wrong with our plan.” The thought keeps nagging him as they do their countdown to the celebration. Five, four, three, two, one. And the main character gets it, but too late. The E-bomb explodes. Their plane plummets.

One of the kidnappers clutches his chest, keels over. He’s got a pacemaker. Even nonviolent actions can kill people. At this point, any action, including inaction, has lethal consequences. If you are civilized, your hands are more or less permanently stained deep dark red with the blood of countless human and non- human victims.

Long before he finished the book, Casey showed me where he first read about E-bombs. It was in, of all places, Popular Mechanics. If you check the September 2001 issue out of the library—which even has rudimentary instructions for how to construct one—make sure you use someone else’s library card. Preferably someone you don’t like.

The article was titled, “E-bomb: In the Blink of an Eye, Electromagnetic Bombs Could Throw Civilization Back 200 Years. And Terrorists [sic] Can Build Them for $400.”

And that’s a bad thing?

The author, Jim Wilson, begins: “The next Pearl Harbor will not announce itself with a searing flash of nuclear light or with the plaintive wails of those dying of Ebola or its genetically engineered twin. You will hear a sharp crack in the distance. By the time you mistakenly identify this sound as an innocent clap of thunder, the civilized world will have become unhinged.”

So far so good.

He continues, “Fluorescent lights and television sets will glow eerily bright, despite being turned off. The aroma of ozone mixed with smoldering plastic will seep from outlet covers as electric wires arc and telephone lines melt. Your Palm Pilot and MP3 player will feel warm to the touch, their batteries over-loaded. Your computer, and every bit of data on it, will be toast.”

I know, I know, this all sounds too good to be true. But it gets even better.

Wilson writes,“And then you will notice that the world sounds different too. The background music of civilization, the whirl of internal-combustion engines, will have stopped. Save a few diesels, engines will never start again. You, however, will remain unharmed, as you find yourself thrust backward 200 years, to a time when electricity meant a lightning bolt fracturing the night sky. This is not a hypothetical, son-of-Y2K scenario. It is a realistic assessment of the damage the Pentagon believes could be inflicted by a new generation of weapons—E-bombs.”

When I mention all this at my shows, people often interrupt me with cheers.

The core of the E-bomb idea is something called a Flux Compression Generator (FCG), which the article in Popular Mechanics calls “an astoundingly simple weapon. It consists of an explosives-packed tube placed inside a slightly larger copper coil, as shown below. [The article even has a diagram!] The instant before the chemical explosive is detonated, the coil is energized by a bank of capacitors, creating a magnetic field. The explosive charge detonates from the rear forward. As the tube flares outward it touches the edge of the coil, thereby creating a moving short circuit. ‘The propagating short has the effect of compressing the magnetic field while reducing the inductance of the stator [coil],’ says Carlo Kopp [an Australian-based expert on high-tech warfare]. ‘The result is that FCGs will produce a ramping current pulse, which breaks before the final disintegration of the device. Published results suggest ramp times of tens of hundreds of microseconds and peak currents of tens of millions of amps.’ The pulse that emerges makes a lightning bolt seem like a flashbulb by comparison.”

As good as all this may sound (oh, sorry, I forgot that technological progress is good; civilization is good; destroying the planet is good; computers and televisions and telephones and automobiles and fluorescent lights are all good, and certainly more important than a living and livable planet, more important than salmon, swordfish, grizzly bears, and tigers, which means the effects of E-bombs are so horrible that nobody but the U.S. military and its brave and glorious allies should ever have the capacity to set these off, and they should only be set off to support vital U.S. interests such as access to oil, which can be burned to keep the U.S. economy growing, to keep people consuming, to keep the world heating up from global warming, to keep tearing down the last vestiges of wild places from which the world may be able to recover if civilization comes down soon enough), it gets even better (or worse, if you identify more with civilization than your landbase): After an E-bomb is detonated, and destroys local electronics, the pulse piggybacks through the power and telecommunication infrastructure. This, according to the article, “means that terrorists [sic] would not have to drop their homemade E-bombs directly on the targets they wish to destroy. Heavily guarded sites, such as telephone switching centers and electronic funds-transfer exchanges, could be attacked through their electric and telecommunication connections.”

The article concludes on this hopeful note: “Knock out electric power, computers and telecommunication and you’ve destroyed the foundation of modern society. In the age of Third World-sponsored terrorism, the E-bomb is the great equalizer.”

Read more excerpts from Endgame, or purchase the book from Derrick Jensen's website.

November 14, 2012

From Radical to Mainstream

We are used to being labeled radicals, and sometimes, we use that term to refer to ourselves. But we are using the word very differently than most people do.

The root of the word ‘radical’ comes from the latin word ‘radix’, meaning ‘root’. Radish comes from the same root word.

When we say we are radicals, we are referring to a distinct political tradition that seeks to address the roots of social issues, rather than only addressing the symptoms or surface manifestations of deeper problems.

When people use that word against us, they use it to mean “Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme.” They mean we are fringe, crazy, deranged.

By asserting this, they claim the mainstream political space for themselves. They claim rationality, logic, and centrism, and in so doing they assert a great power. In order for us to be successful, we cannot allow them to claim the mainstream any longer.

This is a battle that has been conceded by many radicals for hundreds of years, and has contributed to the sidelining of movements. Many groups have faded into obscurity, complaining of alienation while divorcing themselves in every way from the trials and tribulations of average people. This is a political dead end.

Withdrawing from political engagement can take many different forms: self isolation is, unfortunately, one of the most common in radical groups. If we wish to succeed, we must buck this trend. We must remain engaged with society. We must claim that political space for ourselves.

WE are the normal ones. WE are the mainstream. The capitalists, the bankers, the CEOs, the businesspeople, and those who follow them blindly - they are the crazy ones. They are ones who occupy the political fringe, measured in both historical and commonsense terms.

This may seem like a purely rhetorical change, but by changing the narratives we act within, we take an important step toward expanding the effectiveness and scope of our work.

November 11, 2012

Organizational Structures - An excerpt from Deep Green Resistance


From Deep Green Resistance, by Lierre Keith, Aric McBay, and Derrick Jensen

Page 293-296

Within both aboveground and underground activism there are several templates for basic organizational structures. These structures have been used by every resistance group in history, although not all groups have chosen the approach best suited for their situations and objec­tives. It is important to understand the pros, cons, and capabilities of the spectrum of different organizations that comprise effective resist­ance movements.

The simplest "unit" of resistance is the individual. Individuals are highly limited in their resistance activities. Aboveground individuals (Figure 8-Ib) are usually limited to personal acts like alterations in diet, material consumption, or spirituality, which, as we've said, don't match the scope of our problems. It's true that individual aboveground activists can affect big changes at times, but they usually work by engaging other people or institutions. Underground individuals (Figure 8-la) may have to worry about security less, in that they don't have anyone who can betray their secrets under interrogation; but nor do they have anyone to watch their back. Underground individuals are also limited in their actions, although they can engage in sabotage (and even assassination, as all by himself Georg Elser almost assassinated Hitler).

Individual actions may not qualify as resistance. Julian Jackson wrote on this subject in his important history of the German Occupation of France: "The Resistance was increasingly sustained by hostility of the mass of the population towards the Occupation, but not all acts of indi­vidual hostility can be characterized as resistance, although they are the necessary precondition of it. A distinction needs to be drawn between dis­sidence and resistance." This distinction is a crucial one for us to make as well.

Jackson continues, "Workers who evaded [compulsory labor], or Jews who escaped the round-ups, or peasants who withheld their pro­ duce from the Germans, were transgressing the law, and their actions were subversive of authority. But they were not resisters in the same way as those who organized the escape of [forced laborers] and Jews. Contesting or disobeying a law on an individual basis is not the same as challenging the authority that makes those laws.'"

Of course, one's options for resistance are greatly expanded in a group.

The most basic organizational unit is the affinity group. A group of fewer than a dozen people is a good compromise between groups too large to be socially functional, and too small to carry out important tasks. The activist's affinity group has a mirror in the underground cell, and in the military squad. Groups this size are small enough for participatory decision making to take place, or in the case of a hierarchical group, for orders to be relayed quickly and easily.

The underground affinity group (Figure 8-2a, shown here with a dis­tinct leader) has many benefits for the members. Members can specialize in different areas of expertise, pool their efforts, work together toward shared goals, and watch each others' backs. The group . can also offer social and emotional support that is much needed for people working underground. Because they do not have direct rela­tionships with other movements or underground groups, they can be relatively secure. However, due to their close working relationships, if one member of the group is compromised, the entire affinity group is likely to be compromised. The more members are in the group, the more risk involved (and the more different relationships to deal with). Also because the affinity group is limited in size, it is limited in terms of the size of objectives it can go after, and their geographic range.

Aboveground affinity groups ( Figure 8-2b) share many of the same clear benefits of a small-scale, deliberate community. However, they may rely more on outside relationships, both for friends and fellow activists. Members may also easily belong to more than one affinity group to follow their own interests and passions. This is not the case with underground groups-members must belong only to one affinity group or they are putting all groups at risk.

The obvious benefit of multiple overlapping aboveground groups is the formation of larger movements or "mesh" networks (Figure 8-3b). These larger, diverse groups are better able to get a lot done, although sometimes they can have coordination or unity problems if they grow beyond a certain size. In naturally forming social networks, each member of the group is likely to be only a few degrees of separation from any other person. This can be fantastic for sharing information or finding new contacts. However, for a group concerned about security issues, this type of organization is a disaster. If any individual were compromised, that person could easily compromise large numbers of people. Even if some members of the network can't be compromised, the sheer number of connections between people makes it easy to just bypass the people who can't be compromised. The kind of decentral­ized network that makes social networks so robust is a security nightmare.

Underground groups that want to bring larger numbers of people into the organization must take a different approach. A security-con­scious underground network will largely consist of a number of different cells with limited connections to other cells (Figure 8-3a). One person in a cell would know all of the members in that cell, as well as a single member in another cell or two. This allows coordination and shared information between cells. This network is "compartmentalized." Like all underground groups, it has a firewall between itself and the above­ ground. But there are also different, internal firewalls between sections.