OTRO MUNDO ES POSIBLE

January 19, 2013

Its been too long since I last opened this chest of worms. My fingers dont know this keyboard anymore. The inspiration was once flowing through me but towards the end of last year I lost my mojo. Finally something has rekindled the love I have for creative energy and the fire inside me burns once again.

Before I put pen to paper again, upload lost treasures and confess to all my darkest deeds, I think it is important to follow up the last article with the recent EZLN announcements made in December 2012. Whilst all you freaks where hoping for some alien intervention or apocalyptic moral cleansing, over 40,000 zapatistas descended on town squares across Chiapas in Mexico. For all you celebrity vampires out there who need that figurehead to reassure you the revolution is here. Read on …

Zapatista Occupy 2012

Communiqué from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee – General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army
Mexico.
December 30 2012.

To the People of Mexico:
To the People and Governments of the World:
Brothers and Sisters:
Compañeros and Compañeras:

In the early morning hours of December 21, 2012, tens of thousands of indigenous Zapatistas mobilized and took, peacefully and silently, five municipal seats in the southeast Mexican state of Chiapas.

In the cities of Palenque, Altamirano, Las Margaritas, Ocosingo, and San Cristóbal de las Casas, we looked at you and at ourselves in silence.

Ours is not a message of resignation.

It is not one of war, death, or destruction.

Our message is one of struggle and resistance.

After the media coup d’etat that catapulted a poorly concealed and even more poorly costumed ignorance into the federal executive branch, we made ourselves present to let them know that if they had never left, neither had we.

Six years ago, a segment of the political and intellectual class went looking for someone to hold responsible for their defeat. At that time we were, in cities and in communities, struggling for justice for an Atenco that was not yet fashionable.

In that yesterday, they slandered us first and wanted to silence us later.

Dishonest and incapable of seeing that it was within themselves that there was and still is the seed of their own destruction, they tried to make us disappear with lies and complicit silence.
Six years later, two things are clear:

They don’t need us in order to fail.

We don’t need them in order to survive.

We, who never went away, despite what media across the spectrum have been determined to make you believe, resurge as the indigenous Zapatistas that we are and will be.

In these years, we have significantly strengthened and improved our living conditions. Our standard of living is higher than those of the indigenous communities that support the governments in office, who receive handouts that are squandered on alcohol and useless items.

Our homes have improved without damaging nature by imposing on it roads alien to it.

In our communities, the earth that was used to fatten the cattle of ranchers and landlords is now used to produce the maize, beans, and the vegetables that brighten our tables.

Our work has the double satisfaction of providing us with what we need to live honorably and contributing to the collective growth of our communities.

Our sons and daughters go to a school that teaches them their own history, that of their country and that of the world, as well as the sciences and techniques necessary for them to grow without ceasing to be indigenous.

Indigenous Zapatista women are not sold as commodities.

The indigenous members of the PRI attend our hospitals, clinics, and laboratories because in those of the government, there is no medicine, nor medical devices, nor doctors, nor qualified personnel.

Our culture flourishes, not isolated, but enriched through contact with the cultures of other peoples of Mexico and of the world. Zapa occupy 3

We govern and govern ourselves, always looking first for agreement before confrontation.

We have achieved all of this without the government, the political class, and the media that accompanies them, while simultaneously resisting their attacks of all kinds.

We have shown, once again, that we are who we are.

With our silence, we have made ourselves present.

Now with our word, we announce that:

First – We will reaffirm and consolidate our participation in the National Indigenous Congress, the space of encounter with the original peoples of our country.

Second – We will reinitiate contact with our compañeros and compañeras adherents of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle in Mexico and the world.

Third – We will try to construct the necessary bridges toward the social movements that have arisen and will arise, not to direct or supplant them, but to learn from them, from their history, from their paths and destinies.

For this we have consolidated the support of individuals and groups in different parts of Mexico, formed as support teams for the Sixth and International Commissions of the EZLN, to become avenues of communication between the Zapatista bases of support and the individuals, groups, and collectives that are adherents to the Sixth Declaration, in Mexico and in the World, who still maintain their conviction and commitment to the construction of a non-institutional left alternative.

Fourth – We will continue to maintain our critical distance with respect to the entirety of the Mexican political class which has thrived at the expense of the needs and desires of humble and simple people.

Fifth – With respect to the bad governments – federal, state, and municipal, executive, legislative, and judicial, and the media that accompanies them, we say the following:

The bad governments which belong to the entirety of the political spectrum without a single exception have done everything possible to destroy us, to buy us off, to make us surrender. PRI, PAN, PRD, PVEM, PT, CC and the future political party RN have attacked us militarily, politically, socially, and ideologically.[i] The mainstream media tried to disappear us first with opportunist and servile lies followed by a complicit and deceptive silence. Those they served, those on whose money they nursed are no longer around and those who have succeeded them will not last any longer than their predecessors.

As was made evident on December 21, 2012, all of them failed. So, it’s up to the federal, executive, legislative and judicial governments to decide if they are going to continue the politics of counterinsurgency that have only resulted in a flimsy simulation clumsily built through the media, or if they are going to recognize and fulfill their commitments by elevating Indigenous Rights and Culture to the level of the Constitution as established in the “San Andrés Accords” signed by the Federal Government in 1996, which was at the time led by the very same political party that today occupies the executive office.

It will be up to the state government to decide if it will continue the dishonest and despicable strategy of its predecessor, that in addition to corruption and lies, used the money of the people of Chiapas to enrich itself and its accomplices and dedicated itself to the shameless buying off of the voices and pens of the communications media, sinking the people of Chiapas into poverty while using police and paramilitaries to try to brake the organizational advance of the Zapatista communities; or, if instead, with truth and justice, it will accept and respect our existence and come around to the idea that a new form of social life is blooming in Zapatista territory, Chiapas, Mexico. This is a flowering that attracts the attention of honest people all over the planet.

It will be up to the municipal governments if they decide to keep swallowing the tall tales with which anti-zapatista or supposedly “zapatista” organizations extort them in order to attack and harass our communities; or if instead they use that money to improve the living conditions of those they govern.

It will be up to the people of Mexico who organize in electoral struggles and resist, to decide if they will continue to see us as enemies or rivals upon which to take out their frustration over the frauds and aggressions that, in the end, affect all of us, and if in their struggle for power they continue to ally themselves with our persecutors; or if they finally recognize in us another form of doing politics.

Sixth – In the next few days, the EZLN, through its Sixth and International Commissions, will announce a series of initiatives, civil and peaceful, to continue walking together with other original peoples of Mexico and of the continent, and together with those in Mexico and the world who struggle and resist below and to the left.

Brothers and Sisters:
Compañeros and Compañeras:

Before we had the good fortune of the honest and noble attention of various communications media. We expressed our appreciation then. But this has been completely erased by their later attitude.

Those who wagered that we only existed in the communications media and that, with the siege of lies and silence they created we would disappear, were mistaken.  Zapatista Occupy 2

When there were no cameras, microphones, pens, ears, or gazes, we continued to exist.

When they slandered us, we continued to exist.

When they silenced us, we continued to exist.

And here we are, existing.

Our path, as has been demonstrated, does not depend on media impact, but rather on comprehending the world and all of its parts, on indigenous wisdom that guides our steps, on the unswerving decision that is the dignity of below and to the left.

From now on, our word will be selective in its destination and, except on limited occasions, will only be able to be understood by those who have walked with us and who continue to walk without surrendering to current or media trends.

Here, not without many mistakes and many difficulties, another form of doing politics is already a reality.

Few, very few, will have the privilege of knowing it and learning from it directly.

19 years ago we surprised them taking with fire and blood their cities. Now we have done it once again, without arms, without death, without destruction.

In this way we have distinguished ourselves from those who, during their governments, distributed and continue to distribute death among those they govern.

We are those, the same, of 500 years ago, of 44 years ago, of 30 years ago, of 20 years ago, of just a few days ago.

We are the Zapatistas, the very smallest, those that live, struggle, and die in the last corner of the country, those that do not give up, do not sell out, those that do not surrender.

Brothers and Sisters:
Compañeros and Compañeras:

We are the Zapatistas, receive our embrace.

DEMOCRACY!

LIBERTY!

JUSTICE!

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico. December of 2012 – January of 2013.

www.edinchiapas.org.uk

http://chiapas.indymedia.org/    www.narconews.com   

http://zeztainternazional.ezln.org.mx/

http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/

 

La Lucha Sigue! (The Fight Continues)

February 28, 2012

Due to a lot of interest and support for the subject matter, I have written a short essay summarizing some valid points made in my dissertation and removed those that weren´t. My final paper at Edinburgh Napier University was on the appropriation of communication and organization as a means of mobilizing the people against injustice and political corruption. This study led me to the Zapatista movement in Mexico and their collaboration with autonomous movements such as Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group who together reflect and resist against the global order of neo-liberalism.

I credit everyone that has gone to the effort of reading this essay with the understanding of such terms but will give a brief explanation of the structured implementation of the ideology now labeled ´neo-liberalism´.  Not to be confused with the bullet dodging, computer geek turned messiah in The Matrix, neo- liberalism looks good on paper; foreign investors, privatization of state enterprises, redirection of public spending, trade liberalization, deregulation and so on.

Neo-liberalism is relatively new, hence the use of neo, 25 years or so, but the ideology of free trade and competitive advantage is certainly not. Whether we call these economic policies capitalism, neo-liberalism or globalization, the theme always follows colonial administration methods of western ideologies along with the plundering of minerals and wealth. The effects of this market maneuver I am sure we are all more than accustomed to … the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The seed of neo-liberalism was sewn throughout South America, a common testing ground for oppression and cultural homogenization, but before this seed was allowed to evolve something organic emerged from the jungles and mountains of Chiapas. On January 1st 1994, the day in which the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would take effect and as the global corporations slept off another New Year celebration, an unknown military organization descended from the south eastern jungles of Mexico and into the towns of the provincial area of Chiapas. The city of San Cristobal de las Casas was captured and held under the demands of autonomony[1] against violations of human rights and the economic and agricultural exploitation of the indigenous peoples in Chiapas. The Zapatista Army of Liberation (EZLN) had formed 10 years earlier out of the suffering of the indigenous peoples inMexico. The group of sympathizers chose the dense jungles of Chiapas to train the peasants and farmers, forming a guerilla movement under the blue print of previous revolutions.

The EZLN compared the colonial enterprise of extracting natural resources at the expense of the indigenous to a major war and initially declared an armed resistance to the Mexican government if the rights of the indigenous people were not reinstated. It is the destruction of Central America´s natural resources that will result in the fragmentation and disappearance of the people´s culture. The restoration of this process becomes the primary objective of the EZLN; to stop the advance of the Neoliberal economic system in Chiapas.

Chiapas is the eighth largest state in Mexico and is one of the richest states in terms of natural resources. It produces 55% of Mexico´s hydroelectric power, 21% of Mexico´s oil and 47% of it is natural gas. Chiapas produces more coffee than any other region in Mexico, is the country´s second largest beef producer and is one of Mexico´s most important suppliers of fruits and vegetables. Despite living under one of Mexico´s wealthiest natural resources, 70% of the people of Chiapas live under the poverty line. The majority of the poor are indigenous Mayan peasants.

Large mining companies like First Majestic Silver Corp and Goldcorp occupy sacred Mayan sites in Guatemala and the mountains of Catorce, polluting their water regardless of public opposition. The World Bank and The World Water Forum (sponsored by Coca-Cola) want to privatize water in Mexico “so the poorest have access to water under price conditions that are acceptable.”[2] The people of Mexico strongly believe that water is a right and not a commodity. The proposed construction of La Parota Dam in Guerrero, Mexico will displace around 30,000 indigenous people, destroy 17,000 hectares of jungle and leave 36 towns buried under water. The capitalization of the Mesoamerican biological corridor will allow pharmaceutical companies to ´classify species´; log the chemical components of this biodiversity and create gene banks. The only people who benefit from these proposals are the corporations themselves, the local communities will have their natural resources taken away from them and the knowledge passed down from generation to generation lost in time. Tourism contracts in Chiapas and Colima have set proposals that exploit indigenous land for corporate jungle trails and hotel complexes. The Mexican government stands to make billions in an attempt to repay the debt it has with its North American neighbor with the proposed Project Mesoamerica (previously marketed as the Plan Puebla Panama)[3] . Project Mesoamerica is a massive infrastructure that will literally bulldoze its way through Mexico, Central America and Columbia in order to advance this civilization with tourism, highways, factories and energy extracting corporations. The message is clear; lost cultures are not preserved anymore just exploited for our own economic gain.

This political ideology can also be interpreted as controlling a nation under the rule of  sovereignty; that is making, executing and applying a legal system foreign to the indigenous, buying and selling resources that belong to the people, imposing and collecting taxes, and implementing these strategies through war and peace. Marketing genetically modified crops and abandoning traditional agricultural methods to make way for the ´free market´ is indeed foreign to those that only know how to harvest the land and filter the water. The colonial enterprise we are discussing goes under many names (NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA[4])  and has been carefully implemented with corporate advocacy in order to reduce immediate resistance. Terms like ´investment opportunities´ and ´established framework´[5] mean very little to the peasants of Central America and corporate investors often exploit this complicated terminology to their advantage.

Amidst this corporate trickery there are international movements and grassroots organizations that are watching every move the transnational corporations make as they tighten their grip around the world’s natural resources. By documenting this global shift we can rationalize and act upon the political coercion and injustices inflicted upon the people of Central Americain order for corporations to market and capitalize on sacred land. Our access to this knowledge and understanding is constantly clouded by media propaganda and consumerist tactics, rendering the populous as industrial figures instead of participants. Our own culture is so diluted and manufactured our legacy on this planet can be summed up by Ronald Macdonald. The EZLN have produced a wave of socio-political movements that do not want to be a part of the unsustainable global greed nor do they wish to return to slave status in a factory or sweatshop. We in the western civilization have to consider at what price do we pay in order to upgrade our mobile phone or install that new plasma screen. This issue is not regional, the suffering, repression and discrimination of indigenous peoples is international. The communities and families who sacrifice everything to be exploited by their rulers are no longer feeding their children but feeding the western world.

http://chiapas.indymedia.org/    www.edinchiapas.org.uk

www.narconews.com    www.zcommunications.org/zmag

http://ukzapatistas.wordpress.com/

http://www.beehivecollective.org/english/ppp.htm

http://zeztainternazional.ezln.org.mx/

http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/

http://sipazen.wordpress.com/author/sipaz/

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


[1] Autonomy stemming from ancient Greek: αὐτονομία autonomia from αὐτόνομος autonomos , ´one who gives oneself their own law.´

[2] Jean- Christophe Deberre, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, World Water Forum, (Mexico, 2006)

[3] In 2001, Mexican President Vicente Fox announced the launch of Plan Puebla Panama, the main objectives are privatization, attracting foreign investment, regional control ofMesoamerica and a shift from locally owned agriculture, industry and forestry to corporate-ownership.

[4] The North American Free Trade Agreement, Free Trade Area of the Americas and The Central American Free Trade Agreement

[5] North American Free Trade Agreement ; Objectives, http://www.nafta-sec-alena.org/en/view.aspx?x=343&mtpiID=122#102

Another closure on Edinburgh’s dwindling social life

February 6, 2012

Originally written for SchNEWS and published by Freedom Press, February 2012

A major setback for the people of Edinburgh as occupied social centre is closed.  So what went wrong?

The proposed centre for ´non-commercial activity´ re-opened its doors to the public on  the 30th November last year with a programme of participatory events that involved other non-profit organizations, local residents, activists and members of the Bilston Glen community. The People´s Café  website was set up and a  mission statement clearly set out their simple objective; ´Direct action has been taken to ensure that the space is not left unused but can be reopened for the benefit of the local community.´

The radical measures in place to provide a social centre for dialogue and creative space were to be short-lived as a civil motion was applied for by the administrators PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) and a court date was posted within 2 weeks of the occupation. The eviction date was set for the 21st December in order to take full advantage of the working week before the Christmas holidays. The occupiers left the premises accordingly under the surveillance of two court officials and two police officers. Other officers and vans stationed strategically on adjacent streets were not required. Contrary to the courts concerns of health and safety, the building was not damaged by the occupiers and improvements were made whilst the building was in use.

SchNEWS can reveal that although The People´s Café was offered an extension on the eviction date until February, the offer was declined on the pretense that there was an insufficient number of managerial staff  that could run the centre. The two court representatives for The People´s Café were initially involved in the Occupy Edinburgh movement and took onboard the running of the café in order to provide a premises for the three day National Occupy Conference on 16th  December. Many of those who initially showed interest in building a social centre inside the former Forest Café wanted to distance themselves from the Occupy Movement.  These activists feel betrayed by those who represented them in court and believe members of the Occupy Edinburgh movement hijacked their social centre; ´We didn´t know about the extension in court … certain individuals from the Occupy Movement destroyed The People´s Café

The steel shutters, chains and padlocks sealing the windows and doors of what was The Peoples Café in Edinburgh only serve to remind its residents of how little our councilors and politicians care for community space in Scotland. In this climate of political realization and social unrest, the reopening of 3 Bristo Place was perhaps an opportunity to expand on the people’s requirement for an autonomous space within the community. What this story highlights is not only the extreme conditions initiated in order to open up a space for dialogue and organization, but the requirement for all social movements to forget their political agenda and remember the source of this struggle; our basic human right to gather in numbers as a means of self-empowerment and solidarity.

Memoirs of a Gaijin

December 27, 2011

 

Christmas Eve in 2008, was a mild introduction to a Japanese winter in the mountains of Iwate. I had no idea how cold it can get here and how much snow can fall in two days. Living on the East coast of Scotland usually means the sea breeze keeps the snow fall to a minimum and on the rare occasion of a blizzard, Edinburgh council soon turn the winter wonderland into brown slush thanks to a rally of road gritters and mountains of  rock salt.

This is the real thing. The frosted epicenter of a C.S. Lewis  narrative. The snow has stopped but will continue into the New Year. The depth of the snow outside easily clears my waist justifying my decision to stay here for a while. Stepping through the glass doors of the ski resort, everything changes – colored fabrics, snowboots, boards and skis are racked up like armor. You choose your weapon carefully and step out of the building into an arcade of mental and physical challenges.

Skipping over to the chairlift like a new born snow leopard (only there was a distinct lack of fur on this cub), I was transported higher into the heavens of Iwate. I managed to gallantly throw myself down several of the intermediate runs without killing myself. The only injuries sustained were muscular and one of those was due to passing out on pillows filled with beads the previous night; just another of Japan´s quirky little differences. Why they fill them with plastic beads and not feathers, I will never know – perhaps it is so that stupid white men like me, injure or ´crick´ their neck.

The added bonus of this adventure – apart from the attractive manga girls luring you into the path of a high speed tow bar has to be the luxurious Japanese Onsen provided for established writers and other elderly members of society such as myself. The fear of being publicly ejected from the premises for exposing my tattoos in the communal baths has surpassed and I now proudly skip from hot tub to steam room without a care in the world. So far my beating heart has withstood the insane pressure of removing myself from a sweltering seventy degrees and plunging myself into a cool pool of around five. Not bad for an ex-smoker. Glad it´s no longer me puffing away outside the chairlift whilst conveniently leaning on another beer dispenser. Irony sits proudly on a plinth right next to heart disease, lung cancer and winter sports in Japan.

Ninety percent of the comfortably well-off that come to these resorts probably think I am romanticizing a ´dip in the pool´, but my faith in humanity clings to the ten percent that sat beside me as the hot volcanic waters evaporate into the mountains early offerings of snow. Each snowflake seems to represent the toils of modern civilization; the love lost; the sickness and the strain. As the crystalline fingertips hit the surface and melt into the warm embrace of her liquid lover, the significance of each painful memory becomes irrelevant. When we are lost in a shopping mall, wrapped in plastic and designer labels, it is hard to imagine removing our layers of armor and forgetting the superficial world we live in. Here in Japan that luxury is possible.

Thanks to these memoirs, I will hopefully never forget the feeling of being back inside the womb whilst literally a tiptoe away from the world of Narnia. An experience I unfortunately shared with no other, but one that reinforces the delicate balance, beautifully exposed in its tender moment, between man and Mother Nature. I´ll take that one to the grave.

Oyasumi nasai.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

No More Trouble

December 18, 2011

Originally published by SchNEWS, December 2011

At The People´s Cafe in Edinburgh, the fight continues to liberate the collective space previously known as The Forest Cafe on Bristo Place. The occupation that began three weeks ago has successfully kept the doors open without any major complaints from surrounding businesses or  passing policemen.  The premises is still connected with water and electricity having closed 3 months ago and the occupiers are wasting no time in connecting shower facilities, checking the electrics and fitting fire alarms with the help and advice of Lothian and Borders Fire Service. A free shop allows Christmas consumers to wander in and help themselves and if you were passing last wednesday the Alternative Christmas Fayre helped clear out the cupboards. 

However, amidst these seasonal good tidings, a petition has been lodged by the administrators PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC)  to remove the illegal dwellers before Christmas is out. The civil motion will be held in court this week and a member of the occupation is to represent The People´s Cafe. His proposals are to invest in the space as a community project as opposed to previous offers of turning the listed building into ´flats with added business space´. Profit has often obscured any possible vision of a collective organization at the cafe as allegations of bankruptcy and corruption moisten the lips of loyal disheartened artists and musicians that once frequented the venue. The old Forest Cafe management don’t want anything to do with the occupation and are still currently looking for a new premises in which they can continue their collective arts project. 

Only time will tell if the courts will listen to the occupation´s proposal for a facility that embraces ´the people´s interest´. The cafe´s legal representative said:  “we are interested in a centre for community projects – not workshops and not for entertainment.” The emphasis was on providing a space for the less privileged communities on the outskirts of Edinburgh and bringing these communities along with the inner cities, together. 

There has been some support within Edinburgh´s judicial system for an autonomous space were popular culture and a community spirit can thrive, but against a capitalist model  that operates on segregation and individualism, a collective unit is far from welcome.  PWC are ready to wash their hands on the administration, their remarks on the premises:  ”The Forest is more trouble than it´s worth”.  With these kind words from Bruce Cartwright, The People´s Cafe go into battle with a legal system that all too often supports the bistro, the banker and the building contractor before the collective force gains political strength and becomes a catalyst for social change.

www.peoplescafe.noflag.org.uk

Bring forth the Guillotine

November 27, 2011

As we engage in another festive season of unwanted gifts and frivolous spending under economically hard times, I thought it would be wise to put down some words on the current fire that is sweeping the nation and remind Christmas shoppers just why there are clusters of tents and communities staining the gothic skyline of Edinburgh and other cities around the world.

The occupation of public spaces, plazas and squares around the world was primarily associated with the homeless and generally accepted as an unwanted but unfortunate byproduct of modern capitalism. Todays occupations also consist of disillusioned, desperate and unemployed people but now include a broad spectrum of students, teachers, families, activists, poets and painters.

At the beginning of the year in Tahrir Square, Cairo, the world watched as over a million protesters demanded political change and successfully removed the Egyptian President. The previous winter seen the initial seed of revolution in Tunisia sparked by the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor who set himself on fire in protest of the coercive arm of the authorities.  I witnessed the start of the occupations in Spain as the numbers grew from 300 people to 30,000 in Madrid and Barcelona. Within months another 30  cities were occupied. Riot police battled with angry demonstrators in Athens, Tottenham and Hackney saw widespread looting and riots, Syria exposed genocide and oppression whilst  Libya dragged their former dictator through the streets of his home town. The British media finally took notice of the viral plea for freedom and an end to economic enslavery when the people of New York  occupied Wall Street and the Brookyln bridge. Contrary to the Obama administrations support for human rights and justice under the current political unrest , the New York police department arrested the protesters and used pepper spray  to disperse the crowds.

Why such a disturbance amongst civilized human beings? Could it be that civilization and the capitalist enterprises that promised everyone the world only cater for the elite and wealthy? It took a while for the penny to drop but the government bailout of corrupt financial institutions made it clear that Goldman Sachs and Phillip Morris pull the strings in this puppet show, not Tony Blair or Barack Obama.  In 2008 we woke up from our consumerist slumber and realized the money we were spending didn’t belong to us, the houses we slept in would never be paid off and the fast cars we used to pull with didn´t get us laid. The carpet has been swiftly pulled from underneath our feet whilst the big boys reveled in ´investment opportunities´ and the ´free market´. What was previously a community of strength is now a wall for corporate advertising. What was once free and abundant is now bottled and sold.

So far I have mapped out a historically common colonial manifesto that uses the corporate line and law to acquire land and resources for economic gain. The unethical issues of this practice are clear but when the common man can barely feed his family due to the level of exploitation and austerity measures what can he do? In the past, very little could be done and the feudal system continued happily exploiting the workers at the bottom of the superstructure. A new age has emerged and with it forms of communication beyond government control. Digital communication has become the most important agent of social change. Knowledge and information control revolutionary movements. What we are witnessing is a massive media defense force rising up against the corrupt, back scratching, ethical hoover we call the conglomerates or simply The Machine. The Indignados of Spain used modern technology to rally thousands of people together and successfully uproot the filtered mainstream rulebook by forcing the state propaganda machine to listen to the subaltern voice. Independent media collectives are offering revolutionary groups laptops, cameras and broadcasting equipment to build efficient communication skills that will end the isolation adherent to capitalism. The beauty of the current system is that it works through separation; television, incarceration, education, whatever means are necessary in order to avoid the collective consciousness. We have almost forgotten how to participate and empower ourselves through a collective force. Described by Cox as a ´free space – where all individuals are able to realize their own potential and develop the self-awareness that can arise from understanding one´s position´. The community can allow us access to ´sources of alternative action … similar values … similar interest in helping people learn how to defend themselves against the external power, and taking control of their lives.´ 

Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Greece, Spain, New York, Oakland, Alaska, Tokyo, London, Mexico are all rising up against the capitalist enterprises and crude materialism that is poisoning and controlling this planet. Through horizontal global organization, small groups are chosing to fight and defend the land that our forefathers died for. With a demand for a space without politicians, without political parties and without a police presence the people have started a revolution without borders. The street fighting man is back to occupy the machine. Now more than 90 cities have had enough of neo-liberal bullshit and will continue to challenge the authority that is responsible for a basic decline in human rights and resources. The result will needlessly bring more bloodshed, virginity tests, police brutality and imprisonment but when put into perspective this is nothing compared to the wars that our taxes fund and the inevitable festering and swollen beast of a planet we plan to let our children inherit.

For more information on a revolution near you check these sites out:

http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/occupywallstreet

http://www.submedia.tv/

http://www.freedompress.org.uk/news/tag/15m-movement/

http://www.avaaz.org/en/

http://www.anonymousrevolution.com/

www.roarmag.org

www.occupyworld.tv

www.democracynow.org

www.realnews.com

Tree Top Village

September 18, 2011

Originally published in Veritas newspaper in February 2010

As the planet goes into a polar cap meltdown, hurricanes destroy states, and earthquakes leave thousands dead, there are some of us in higher positions than ourselves carrying on as if nothing had ever happened. Carbon emissions? Global warming? Greenhouse gases? Who cares?

Amidst this neglect, are pockets of tree-hugging hippies with nothing better to do than tie themselves to machines, destroy public property and illegally trespass. Protests have resulted in bloodshed, arrest and deportation. On these grounds, it seems an awful lot to sacrifice ones freedom for just a few Sycamores.

After the seven month occupation of Mainshill Forest in South Lanarkshire, resulting in 45 arrests, worldwide media attention and massive support from local residents, Veritas newspaper decided it was time to round up the facts.

Unless you spend all day on Facebook, it should not surprise anyone that we are in the middle of an energy crisis. Wind power is unsightly, Solar power too radical, Oil costs lives and Nuclear power results in cancer and contamination. Thankfully our heads of state have revealed the Golden Goose- ‘Clean Coal’. As President Barack Obama declared, “We are the Saudi Arabia of Coal. We got more coal than just about anybody else”. Problem solved then. 

The technology proposed to turn this enormous, economic, venture into a technofix has yet to be invented. Carbon capture and storage or CCS technology is about as commercially viable as the Sony minidisk. So then why is the Scottish government signing over land to Scottish Coal so freeIy?

Veritas put the question to MSP for Clydesdale, Karen Gillon, who after defending Scotland’s “plethera of flaura and fauna” in the Scottish Parliament, signed the papers for the go-ahead of 18 open cast mines in the greenbelt of Midlothian.

Here are the facts as we find them: Councillor Daniel Meikle, MSP Karen Gillon and MP Jim Hood, who represent South Lanarkshire and the Douglas community, have supported every application for open-cast mining despite 650 signed petitions in opposition.  Out of a population of 1,000 residents, the town of Douglas are clearly against the environmental impacts of the Scottish government’s new energy policy.

Lord Home, a member of the House of Lords and owner of the Douglas Estate, stands to make millions of pounds out of a hand shake and will never see the destruction of agricultural and forest lands from his stately home.

Allegations from Mainshill protester, Ross Jones, stated, “There is a huge amount of local corruption in the South Lanarkshire Council and it goes to every level from councillors to the MSP to the MP and then of course to Lord Home who sits in the House of Lords. At every level there is so much collusion between Scottish Coal and the authorities, that it means communities have no hope whatsoever of having any self determination or say about what goes on in their local areas.”

So who can we turn to when Scotland’s beauty and diversity is ‘souled’ from right under our feet? Certainly not your local bobby as Veritas were informed by Mainshill Solidarity Camp;

“Strathclyde police are not as bad as a lot of other police forces and a lot of them are local cops, who don’t want the open cast either, but then as our campaign intensified and we were getting more and more successful, pissing of Scottish Coal more and more, they changed. It was obvious whom the police were working for. They were working for Scottish Coal and not the public interest.”

When we arrived at the biggest site occupation and eviction since the Manchester airport in 1999, there was little more to see than a pile of rubble. Veritas photographer, Matthew Dale, was chased off the site trying to document the aftermath. As a result of the media attention on this subject, one independent journalist was arrested for entering Mainshill Forest and the local Douglas Gazette was refused permission to photograph the eviction.

As Lindsay Addison, chairperson of Douglas and Glespin Community Council said, “We are sad to see this part of our community so forcefully taken away from us by the same people destroying our health and our countryside. Why is it not a crime to dig up and burn coal when we know that the planet and people are suffering because if it? Why would you arrest and criminalise the people trying to protect the planet? The real criminals are those making this mine happen against the wishes of the community.” 

Despite criticism, Mainshill Solidarity Camp are regrouping, ready for more action. Ross Jones left the interview with this statement;

“The eviction is not the end of the campaign, but a part of it and so we are looking for ways we can keep the level of community engagement with the locals going and looking at future sites to occupy.”

See a report written by Ecologists for a Sustainable Future here: http://coalaction.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/A-response-to-the-Environmental-Statement-Addendum.pdf

Update and information about the camp: http://happendon.coalactionscotland.org.uk   www.coalactionscotland.org.uk http://southlanarkshirecoalcil.noflag.org.uk/

Siam Rape

September 17, 2011
Originally published in Veritas Newspaper, March 2010

When I suggested to the Editor we start a Veritas guide to your most exotic travels, many of our readers clapped their hands in joy and began licking their greedy chops at the thought of vanilla milkshakes at 2p a pop, draft beer for breakfast and promiscuous evenings of debauchery like some 19th century imperialist Indiana Jones. Stop. Before you go skipping off to book your Gap Year at STA read on and think again before you start strapping up your colonial boots.

 So, here is something that the Lonely Planet guide doesn’t tell you: Cambodia or Kampuchea as it was formerly known is a shit-hole. You don’t believe me? Go ahead, be my guest. Take the first bus or train out of Bangkok, where you will have no doubt have spent your last fortnight vomiting into a bucket after playing with a pretty young girl who has a penis and cross the border at Poipet. It’s a shit-hole. I told you so. I love it how as soon as you have paid for an all luxury passage out of Aranyaprathet and into Kampuchea, your travel agent and bus driver disappears and suddenly you are surrounded by men you wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire, telling you to hand over your precious American dollars in exchange for an eight hour ride in the back of a pickup truck. It is only when you reach Siem Reap or Battambang that you realise the currency is in fact Riel and that you have just paid ten times over the odds. How does it feel to be ripped off in your first day? Don’t worry you are not the first and certainly won’t be the last.

 If you survive the journey, good luck to you. I spent six hours waiting by the side of the road after our wheel flew off. I should have known really that the rear axle would eventually give way upon high speed reckless driving where there are no roads as such, just clouds of dust on a dry, Mad Max- Beyond Thunderdome highway. You may think it’s all over when you stop at one of the many marquees set up along the side of the road for tiffin. Wrong, you have another four hours drive before you can digest dead dog or deep fried spider. I prefer the spider myself as you can close your eyes and try not to think about the jaggy hairs that slice the back of your throat and imagine it’s a Cadbury’s Cream Egg as you pop the fried shell and its bodily fluids trickle down your throat.

 On arrival at Siem Reap you nest down on a blood stained mattress and try to ignore the kid’s hand that is squeezed through the window bars pawing at your iPod. Don’t worry your holiday insurance will cover that. In the morning the first thing to do is search for ‘Boom Boom’. I know it’s a bit early for a shag, but the temples can wait and the prostitutes start early in these parts. It comes from the high demand of extra curriculum activities during the UN occupation of the late eighties and nineties. Our boys didn’t have much to do after Pol Pot executed almost every single man and woman in site and used their bones as fertiliser for the rice empire, Angkor. Oriental women are renowned for their charm and the UN boys just couldn’t resist. Cambodia is now one of the biggest Aids carriers in the world, second of course to our other colonial adventures in Africa.

 Next on the agenda is the beach. The Chinese have been paying the corrupt Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen lots of money to dump their toxic waste off the coast of Cambodia, and nature has a tendency to remind us of just what we are dumping into our seas by washing it up on our shores. We are no longer living in the Tang Dynasty of House of the Flying Daggers; China is one of the leading manufacturers in the world and produces a lot of waste it can’t get rid of. Thank god the Cambodians are open arms when money is talking. I never got around to visiting the beach, but I heard it was best to lock your hut at night.

 There are many other hidden delights that I will perhaps embellish you with another time. The Russian Mafia, the black market weapon trade in Phnom Penh and its firing range, under-age prostitution, Ketamine, political assassinations, crocodile farms and twenty foot long pythons, but I don’t want to bore you any longer so we’ll wrap it up for the night. Remember always get your inoculations as hepatitis can be a killer, protect yourself from STDs – never forget your flexible friend and don’t forget to visit Angkor Watt before the Japanese tourists turn the stone into powder with high powered flash photography. Thai Airlines provide regular flights from Bangers into Phnom Penh if you want to avoid the Sergio Leone experience and Thomas Cook are open for bookings all week from 9am till 5pm. Enjoy your Gap Year. 

Recent update on the socio-political paradise of Kampuchea:

 http://www.schnews.org.uk/stories/MASS-EVICTIONS-IN-CAMBODIA-/

The Heart That Bleeds

September 17, 2011

From the works of Daniel Defoe to online violation with anarchic cult youth magazines, a pattern emerges from a ripple created by great writers such as George Orwell, Charles Dickens, John Hershey, W.T. Stead, Hunter S. Thompson and Ernest Hemmingway. Although the grounds for literary journalism  are constantly shifting like the Earth`s tectonic plates, there are areas of recognition; the collection of facts, but no longer with little attempt at analysis or interpretation. Literary journalism is innovative and groundbreaking; the writer uses their own style and violation of past restrictions in order to peer down his or her looking glass onto the social landscape of mankind. The historical process that brought about this literary revolution can be traced from pre-modern times through to our present postmodernist society. A response to the patriarchal hierarchy and the idealogical state apparatus used to control societies in pre-modern times, (witchcraft, religion, civil law), helped facilitate a change within these social hierarchies. Writers and journalists literally pulled us out of the dark ages into the advanced and diverse cultural whirlpool we have today. History therefore shows that it is within the reaches of the media itself, that change within social values has come about. This enormous responsibility has been placed upon the shoulders of journalists and writers of the 21st century. Whether they choose to accept this role of prophet or patriot will be the basis for this discussion. The question of `civilian suffering’  or `the soft sewage of human interest`, becomes the seed of the critique within literary journalism. Of course these criticisms always depend on the individual and his or her perception of the world around them. What is important to you; war protests, assassinations, race riots and countercultural challenges or a fashion faupax on Milan`s catwalk?  Let this idea formulated by Ben Yagoda sit with you for a moment: ´By stepping out from the shadows and laying bare his or her prejudices, anxieties, or thought processes, the reporter gives us something firmer and truer to hold on to as we come to our own conclusions.´ If you read the majority of British newspapers in print at the moment you won´t have the faintest idea what he is on about.

 Let us first deal with the `soft sewage of human interest` as a means of understanding the criticisms of a literary journalistic technique. As already established, literary journalism is engaging with the reader in his or her present time, therefore it is inevitable the journalist will be faced with a moral dilemma; to chose between a web of sensationalist journalism understood as  `Yellow Journalism`  (name and shame, the royal family, `who framed Roger Rabbit?`) or whether to represent the `manners and opinions of [a] civilized society` in order to finance his or her career. There is a high demand from the target audience of today`s journalism for commercial news and celebrity sensationalism. If we can afford the luxury of reading our news on a PC or laptop or fork out the money for half a Redwood forrest`s worth of sunday supplement, then there is a large possibility one is living in a Capitalist society. Capitalism breeds consumerism, which in tail provides advertising and multimedia conglomerates a foot hold. The key phrase here is supply and demand; as society surrounds itself with more cars, more clothes and more commercial crap, the newspapers and journalists respond like robots. For many readers out there, a centre spread article on Lady Gaga is just what they are looking for on a Sunday afternoon, otherwise it would not reach the newsroom of the Sunday Times; `When she left school, she got quite heavily into drugs. She says she`s glad she did all that so young … it`s like this exorcism. ` The mere mention of `drugs` and `celebrity` has become so popular, journalists are predicting morbid fascinations `shadowed by dark appetites` before there is any conclusive evidence of any foul play. This predictive text is a sign of the times; paying massive salaries, drawing in readers and keeping the state apparatus (economics, media, politics, law, education), ticking along nicely.

 Along with celebrity culture dominating the headlines, consumer products are now becoming essential in the ebb and flow of literary journalism. Daddy has bought himself the new BMW M6 convertible, but doesn`t quite know how to drive the thing. All of as sudden the papers have a need for Jeremy Clarkson to become a literary journalist. Within this realm another subculture is born and a gap soon to be filled by literary journalists, who believe their point of view will enlighten the prospective reader.

 This process of `crafting a brand identity` with football, cars, television and stereotypical, sexist attitudes, has gradually squeezed out the element of individualism, atmosphere and substance within literary journalism. We seem to have gone full circle since the explosion of talent seen in New Journalism to produce a commercial mutation of Tom Wolfe`s criteria. Nietzsche was not so far from the truth when he envisioned this nightmare as `the rabble vomit their bile and call it a newspaper`.

 A critique of this `gutter press` was once allocated to the tabloids. One need only choose from a number of broadsheets today and this watered down `gaga` can be seen sitting proudly next to an advert for The Florida Keys. There is now a demand for this type of journalism amongst the educated classes. The Sunday Times seems to have no problem with publishing a journalist`s delusionary, sexual conquests. Is this the level of human interest we have reduced the readers to after many years of commercial exploitation, royal mishaps and political scandal? I see no reason for financially supporting a nationwide newspaper, if the only debate becomes a Neanderthal comic strip.

The influx of weak narrative and self infatuation within literary journalism, is a result of the lack of guidelines or a benchmark stating a specific code of conduct in journalism. There is an immediate assumption within this style of literature, that the readers are all going to respond to whatever primal classification one is placed under; father figure, Victorian mother, compulsive charity shopper or racing car driver. Each article in its own way playing to the reader`s narcissistic personality disorder.  Freedom of the press enables the writer to decide what is on the agenda for the week and what takes priority after the headlines. Going back to the definition of literary journalism; there are no commandments set in stone, the publication is always based on the individual point of view and what he or she classifies as world news. There will always be journalists who will consider the easiest way to justify their wages without pushing boundaries or risking liable action.

 This brings us into the current trend of autobiographical journalism. When writing about your own trivial experiences in life; whether that becomes test driving the new Ferrrari or the first time you had to change a nappy, we immediately remove the ethical code and the risk factor. Certain literary journalists have decided that the tried and tested formula of creative nonfiction will guarantee bums on seats. We are not talking about undercover reconnaissance into the malaria-infested jungles of Siam, sweating it out with the natives in order to produce an indigenous investigation into the evolution of a lost tribe. What we are dealing with is closer to George Orwell`s characterization of this watered down genre; 

 Autobiographers seemed perfectly comfortable retailing their sins and crimes, their swindles, drug abuses, betrayals, debauches, their pelvic saddle convulsions and loin spasms, even rape, murder, looting and pillaging, since all give off whiffs of excitement and bravado – whereas […] they never mention “the humiliations that make up seventy-five percent of life”.

 Or simply follow the yellow brick road, as Bernie Drew of The Sunday Times has with Confessions of a Tourist, relying on a basic Benny Hill sketch; ´It`s not often you get welcomed aboard a plane by the woman you were having wild sex with the night before.´ Perhaps even slightly embellishing upon the truth in order to avoid the real humiliation of actually being sub-division in the sack. No longer are the facts or narrative style important. As far as the reader is concerned, the embellished story could have came out of Penthouse magazine. What we are dealing with here is a simple knee-jerk reaction to the demands of a society that looks for love online. There is a thirst for broadsheet tease and a percentage of journalists pipe to this tune. As the journalist, Alma Guillermoprieto, said in The Heart That Bleeds; `and then there are the rats.`

 On the opposite end of the pendulum, there are still literary journalists who continue to inform the reader, challenging authority with factual investigative journalism. Still rejecting the limitations of objective journalism and following in the footsteps of Gonzo Journalism, innovative and experimental magazine and online warlords, Vice have taken the rule book to the incinerator and held a machine gun up to the corporate businesses dictating the future of literary journalism. This breed of ´anarchists with insight´ were described by Bono as the `punk rock for the 21st century`. The original aim for co-founders, Shane Smith, Suroosh Alvi and Gavin McInnes was to take the readers into a world unknown to most. Its target audience were not corporate businessmen but the youth of today. The original magazine was distributed for free in skateboard and record shops relying upon advertising for financial support. The company grew in popularity as an underground outlet for subcultures, drug issues, promiscuity, the criminal underworld and independent music. Amateur journalists and photographers were recruited to report on areas of depravation and murder going to countries and cultures previously shunned by mainstream journalists. As Hunter S. Thompson had shown in post- 1960s American journalism, Vice magazine began to reveal more about contemporary culture than any of its other rival magazines or newspapers.

This form of literary journalism continues to ´open new horizons` criticizing corporate quick sand and exposing power, economics and politics. As a representative of the `universality of youth culture` and social issues, Vice magazine has grown in popularity and is now distributed in eighteen different countries. A reflection of the public demand for this form of New Journalism has forced the expansion of the Vice empire into a multi-media conglomerate.  VBS.tv is the online outlet, Vice recordings have released Block Party, The Streets and Charlotte Gainsbourg and in 2008 Vice Films released the full length documentary, Heavy Metal in Baghdad. This casual acceptance of the inevitable expansion of a small independent magazine is perhaps a peep hole into the future of literary journalism. 

 Vice magazine is the antithesis to Yellow Journalism and sensationalism, providing a glimmer of hope for literary journalism today. Refusing to operate on the editors terms and taking up the pen and camera in a Do-It-Yourself ethos, has nurtured hidden talent just as punk rock did back in the seventies. If we are to believe Tom Wolfe in that `the newspaper will soon be extinct`, then journalism has to move with the matrix that expands within media technology. If the new trend exposed by Vice continues then perhaps we will continue to see literary journalism as a palate of diversity, truth and innovation. As explained by Andy Capper, editor of Vice UK, on their recent report on Swansea`s current unemployment and heroin problem;

Our style is to go and live somewhere for a couple of weeks, meet as many people as we can and tell their stories very subjectively […] It`s immersion journalism. You go right to the heart of the story. 

 

The Food of Love

November 4, 2009

 By Otis Shaw

If I learnt anything during those long, dark and lethargic lectures at my first year at Napier University, it was to tell the truth, no matter how many tempting carrots were dangled in front of me. So, if I was to be brutally honest about Edinburgh’s music scene, I would say it sucks. There is nothing on offer and hasn’t been, since The Venue closed down back in 2003. I hear cries of defence and patriotic vomit from shady, damp closes in the Cowgate, “How dare you mock the Capital’s throbbing epicentre of Rock ‘n’ Roll?” Well, I dare, and this article would be fit for nothing more than cleaning another vindaloo from the hairy crevice of Paul Gasgoigne’s rear-end, had it not been for a glimmer of light, nay, a furnace, swallowing up every bit of talent it comes across, pulling in bands from across the globe, like a black hole from Battlestar Galactica. A rabbit in the headlights of a decomposing, corporate swindled, music scene.

Henry’s Cellar Bar sits somewhere outside Edinburgh’s aptly named ‘pubic triangle’, if it wasn’t for the cast-iron railing, one could quite easily fall into her arms after seventeen pints, a good punch-up, a lap dance and the contents of your intestines mapping your adventures up Lothian Road. If you are reading this in hope that I mention one of the many electric evenings held at Henry’s, then you will not be a part of that sad stain on Edinburgh’s subculture. You will be a proud warrior of the dance-floor, a bearer of the sodden and partially ripped uniform only to be seen in the early hours of the morning. A tribe that long existed outside the norms of banking executives, family 4×4’s, electric tin-openers and stay-press trousers. You will have memories that will keep your grandchildren inspired for decades to come, smells like teen spirit and friendships built on the battlefield known only as the ‘pit’, forged like some ancient Roman gladiator before his last attempt at survival before a blood-thirsty crowd.

Many musicians have passed through the gates of Henry’s to stake their claim as another zeitgeist in a vast pool of talent, marginally hidden from the masses. The progressive, psychedelic, love-torn sounds of Jackie Treehorn, the spinal-cracking, explosive rhythms of Secta Rouge, the drunken, abrasive tones of the Happy Spastics or epileptic fits of rage from the Voice of the Mysterons. From Monday, right through to Sunday night, there will always be the warm, welcoming smile or indeed the look of terror as the venue spills over with vast numbers from French Claire, Henry’s full-time promoter and overseer. A confident and relaxed Polish security man is barely needed in the harmonious atmosphere generated on a Friday night. I hear the non-believers out there laugh with ignorance, surely a venue so close to Europe’s most violent headquarters must experience a little bit of aggravation? You are wrong my friend, a miracle indeed, but the stigmata does not end there. A bottle of beer can be purchased for under a fiver, there are cosy tables available for the more laid back connoisseur and the venue has been known to provide biblical performances – Derek from Oi Polloi has been seen walking on waters (Carslberg to be precise), 5,000 sinners have been purged by the hands of Super Adventure Club and a plague of locusts were reportedly seen by Muz of The Plastic Adults after three nights of sleep deprivation and an unknown quantity of herbal ecstasy.

Jokes aside, it is clear to myself as a keen supporter of independent music, that Henry’s provides a service that is beginning to take shape and spread across the waters of Scotland and into Europe, America and Australia. The money that Claire takes on the door, goes to the bands and back into the venue. Their reputation surpasses the likes of Glasgow’s Nice ’n’ Sleazy, The Garage and The ABC, giving a voice that has lured legends from California, Sydney, Paris and Czechoslovakia. You don’t have to do master the art of persuasion to guarantee a good night for our friends from Europe, and where else in Edinburgh will you find a Slovakian death metal band at three in the morning?

If you live in this detached, immoral and yet enlightening world of Henry’s Cellar Bar, then welcome to the life-line, the new force behind Edinburgh’s underground music scene – the last chance of a true musical erection. It would be cynical of me to assume the reader has grasped the utopian mise-en-scene cultivated in this venue, from my feeble attempts at journalism and so I will leave you to decide for yourself. Enjoy.

http://www.theraft.org.uk/

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