Progressive Calendar 11.04.11 /2
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 4 Nov 2011 00:37:01 -0700 (PDT)
                  P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   11.04.11

1. OccupyFfunch     11.04 11.30am
2. ColdwaterOccupy 11.04 4pm
3. Palestine vigil       11.04 4:15pm
4. OccupyMN          11.04 5pm

5. Robert Jensen - Occupy demands: let's radicalise our analysis
6. ed                  - The American Rule Rule  (haiku)

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From: the powers that bedevil
OccupyFfunch 11.04 11.30am

Yes! YOU can (and should/must) OCCUPY a place at the lunch table and OCCUPY
a chair directly by that place, from 11:30am on this November 4!

Show that so-and-so smarty-pants who thinks he runs Ffunch that he'd better
think again! No way! It's the partici-pants that make it! Don't let him
forget it! Show him who's the boss! Your way or the highway! Join the

First Friday Lunch (FFUNCH) for progressives.
Informal political talk and hanging out.

Day By Day Cafe 477 W 7th Av St Paul.
Meet on the far south side.

Day By Day has soups, salads, sandwiches, and dangerous
apple pie; is close to downtown St Paul & on major bus lines

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ColdwaterOccupy 11.04 4pm

Coldwater Teach-In at OccupyMN
Friday, November 4, 2011
4 to 5 PM
at People’s Plaza
downtown Minneapolis, 5th Street between 3rd & 4th avenues
Coldwater has been closed to the public by the National Park Service until
next fall. Razing the abandoned buildings and daylighting Coldwater Creek
at the top of the Mississippi bluff is universally hailed. However, the
park service refuses to acknowledge that Coldwater is a sacred site or to
meet with “concurring parties,” and plans to remove 65 mature pine and
spruce trees, plus indigenous cottonwood and box elder trees.
It’s Guy Fawkes Day—we’ll share water, the common element of all life on

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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Palestine vigil 11.04 4:15pm

The weekly vigil for the liberation of Palestine continues at the
intersection of Snelling and Summit Aves in St. Paul. The Friday demo
starts at 4:15 and ends around 5:30. There are usually extra signs

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OccupyMN 11.04 5pm

Unity Rally and Student March
Friday, Nov. 4th from 5-7pm Rally, 7pm Student and Youth March @ the
People’s Plaza (Hennepin County Gov. Ctr), Minneapolis
Join Occupy MN as we celebrate FOUR weeks of occupation with a Unity rally,
featuring music and speakers from many diverse progressive movements. Then,
join the students and youth as we march on the banks demanding an end to
student debt! Education is a right—money for schools, not for bail outs and
wars!  FFI:

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Occupy Demands: Let's Radicalise Our Analysis
by Robert Jensen
Published on Thursday, November 3, 2011 by Al-Jazeera-English

The crisis we face is caused by failed systems - replacing leaders while
keeping the old system intact will not help.

 There's one question that pundits and politicians keep posing to the
Occupy gatherings around the country: What are your demands?'Occupy'
protests have spread around the world as discontentment with capitalism has
grown. (EPA)

I have a suggestion for a response: We demand that you stop demanding a
list of demands.

The demand for demands is an attempt to shoehorn the Occupy gatherings into
conventional politics, to force the energy of these gatherings into a form
that people in power recognise, so that they can roll out strategies to
divert, co-opt, buy off, or - if those tactics fail - squash any challenge
to business as usual.

Rather than listing demands, we critics of concentrated wealth and power in
the US can dig in and deepen our analysis of the systems that produce that
unjust distribution of wealth and power. This is a time for action, but
there also is a need for analysis.

Rallying around a common concern about economic injustice is a beginning;
understanding the structures and institutions of illegitimate authority is
the next step.

We need to recognise that the crises we face are not simply the result of
greedy corporate executives or corrupt politicians, but rather of failed
systems. The problem is not the specific people who control most of the
wealth of the country, or those in government who serve them, but the
systems that create those roles.

Most chart the beginning of the external US empire-building phase with the
1898 Spanish-American War and the conquest of the Philippines that
continued for some years after. That project went forward in the early 20th
century, most notably in Central America, where regular US military
incursions made countries safe for investment. If we could get rid of the
current gang of thieves and thugs but left the systems in place, we will
find that the new boss is going to be the same as the old boss.

My contribution to this process of sharpening analysis comes in lists of
three, with lots of alliteration. Whether or not you find my analysis of
the key questions compelling, at least it will be easy to remember: Empire,
economics, ecology.

Empire: Immoral, illegal, ineffective

The United States is the current (though fading) imperial power in the
world, and empires are bad things. We have to let go of self-indulgent
notions of American exceptionalism - the idea that the US is a unique
engine of freedom and democracy in the world and therefore is a responsible
and benevolent empire. Empires throughout history have used coercion and
violence to acquire a disproportionate share of the world's resources, and
the US empire is no different.

Although the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are particularly grotesque
examples of US imperial destruction, none of this is new; the US was
founded by men with imperial visions who conquered the continent and then
turned to the world.

The empire emerged in full force after World War II, as the United States
assumed the role of the dominant power in the world and intensified the
project of subordinating the developing world to the US system. Those
efforts went forward under the banner of "anti-communism" until the early
1990s, but continued after the demise of the Soviet Union under various
other guises, most notably the so-called "war on terrorism".

Whether it was Latin America, southern Africa, the Middle East, or
Southeast Asia, the central goal of US foreign policy has been consistent:
to make sure that an independent course of development did not succeed
anywhere. The "virus" of independent development could not be allowed to
take root in any country out of a fear that it might infect the rest of the
developing world.

The victims of this policy - the vast majority of them non-white - can be
counted in the millions. In the Western Hemisphere, US policy was carried
out mostly through proxy armies, such as the Contras in Nicaragua in the
1980s, or support for dictatorships and military regimes that brutally
repressed their own people, such as El Salvador. The result throughout the
region was hundreds of thousands of dead - millions across Latin America
over the course of the 20th century - and whole countries ruined.

Direct US military intervention was another tool of US policymakers, with
the most grotesque example being the attack on Southeast Asia.

After supporting the failed French effort to recolonise Vietnam after World
War II, the US invaded South Vietnam and also intervened in Laos and
Cambodia, at a cost of three to four million Southeast Asians dead and a
region destabilised.

To prevent the spread of the "virus" there, we dropped 6.5 million tonnes
of bombs and 400,000 tonnes of napalm on the people of Southeast Asia.
Saturation bombing of civilian areas, counterterrorism programs and
political assassination, routine killings of civilians, and 11.2 million
gallons of Agent Orange to destroy crops and ground cover - all were part
of the US terror war.

On 9/11, the vague terrorism justification became tangible for everyone.
With the US economy no longer the source of dominance, policymakers used
the terrorist attacks to justify an expansion of military operations in
Central Asia and the Middle East. Though non-military approaches to
terrorism were more viable, the rationale for ever-larger defence spending
was set.

A decade later, the failures of this imperial policy are clearer than ever.
US foreign and military policy has always been immoral, based not on
principle but on power. That policy has routinely been illegal, violating
the basic tenets of international law and the constitutional system. Now,
more than ever, we can see that this approach to world affairs is
ineffective, no matter what criteria for effectiveness we use. An immoral
and criminal policy has lost even its craven justification: It will not
guarantee American dominance.

That failure is the light at the end of the tunnel. As the elite bipartisan
commitment to US dominance fails, we the people have a chance to demand
that the US shift to policies designed not to allow us to run the world but
to help us become part of the world.

Anti-democratic economics

The economic system underlying empire-building today has a name:
capitalism. Or, more precisely, a predatory corporate capitalism that is
inconsistent with basic human values. This description sounds odd in the
US, where so many assume that capitalism is not simply the best among
competing economic systems but the only sane and rational way to organise
an economy in the contemporary world.

Although the financial crisis that began in 2008 has scared many people, it
has not always led to questioning the nature of the system.

That means that the first task is to define capitalism. It is an economic
system in which:

Property, including capital assets, is owned and controlled by private
Most people must rent their labour power for money wages to survive; and
The prices of most goods and services are allocated by markets.

"Industrial capitalism", made possible by sweeping technological changes
and imperial concentrations of capital, was marked by the development of
the factory system and greater labour specialisation. The term "finance
capitalism" is often used to mark a shift to a system in which the
accumulation of profits in a financial system becomes dominant over the
production processes.

Today in the United States, most people understand capitalism in the
context of mass consumption - access to unprecedented levels of goods and
services. In such a world, everything and everyone is a commodity in the

In the dominant ideology of market fundamentalism, it's assumed that the
most extensive use of markets possible, along with privatisation of many
publicly owned assets and the shrinking of public services, will unleash
maximal competition and result in the greatest good - and all this is
inherently just, no matter what the results.

If such a system creates a world in which most people live in poverty, that
is taken not as evidence of a problem with market fundamentalism but
evidence that fundamentalist principles have not been imposed with
sufficient vigour; it is an article of faith that the "invisible hand" of
the market always provides the preferred result, no matter how awful the
consequences may be for real people.

How to critique capitalism in such a society? We can start by pointing out
that capitalism is fundamentally inhuman, anti-democratic and unsustainable:

Inhuman: The theory behind contemporary capitalism explains that because we
are greedy, self-interested animals, a viable economic system must reward
greedy, self-interested behaviour.

That's certainly part of human nature, but we are also just as obviously
capable of compassion and selflessness. We can act competitively and
aggressively, but we also have the capacity to act out of solidarity and
cooperation. In short, human nature is wide-ranging. In situations where
compassion and solidarity are the norm, we tend to act that way. In
situations where competitiveness and aggression are rewarded, most people
tend towards such behaviour.

Why is it that we must accept an economic system that undermines the most
decent aspects of our nature and strengthens the cruelest?

Because, we're told, that's just the way people are. What evidence is there
of that? Look around, we're told, at how people behave. Everywhere we look,
we see greed and the pursuit of self-interest.

So the proof that these greedy, self-interested aspects of our nature are
dominant is that, when forced into a system that rewards greed and
self-interested behaviour, people often act that way.

Doesn't that seem just a bit circular? A bit perverse?

Anti-democratic: In the real world - not in the textbooks or fantasies of
economics professors - capitalism has always been, and will always be, a
wealth-concentrating system. If you concentrate wealth in a society, you
concentrate power. I know of no historical example to the contrary.

For all the trappings of formal democracy in the contemporary US, everyone
understands that for the most part, the wealthy dictate the basic outlines
of the public policies that are put into practice by elected officials.
This is cogently explained by political scientist Thomas Ferguson's
"investment theory of political parties", which identifies powerful
investors rather than unorganised voters as the dominant force in campaigns
and elections.

Ferguson describes political parties in the US as "blocs of major investors
who coalesce to advance candidates representing their interests" and that
"political parties dominated by large investors try to assemble the votes
they need by making very limited appeals to particular segments of the
potential electorate".

There can be competition between these blocs, but "on all issues affecting
the vital interests that major investors have in common, no party
competition will take place". Whatever we might call such a system, it's
not democracy in any meaningful sense of the term.

People can and do resist the system's attempt to sideline them, and an
occasional politician joins the fight, but such resistance takes
extraordinary effort. Those who resist sometimes win victories, some of
them inspiring, but to date concentrated wealth continues to dominate. If
we define democracy as a system that gives ordinary people a meaningful way
to participate in the formation of public policy, rather than just a role
in ratifying decisions made by the powerful, then it's clear that
capitalism and democracy are mutually exclusive.

Unsustainable: Capitalism is a system based on an assumption of continuing,
unlimited growth - on a finite planet. There are only two ways out of this
problem. We can hold out hope that we might hop to a new planet soon, or we
can embrace technological fundamentalism and believe that ever-more-complex
technologies will allow us to transcend those physical limits here.

Both those positions are equally delusional. Delusions may bring temporary
comfort, but they don't solve problems; in fact, they tend to cause more
problems, and in this world those problems keep piling up.

Critics now compare capitalism to cancer. The inhuman and antidemocratic
features of capitalism mean that, like a cancer, the death system will
eventually destroy the living host.

Both the human communities and non-human living world that play host to
capitalism eventually will be destroyed by capitalism. Capitalism is not,
of course, the only unsustainable system that humans have devised, but it
is the most obviously unsustainable system, and it's the one in which we
are stuck. It's the one that we are told is inevitable and natural, like
the air we breathe. But the air that we are breathing is choking the most
vulnerable in the world, choking us, choking the planet.

Ecology: Out of gas, derailed, over the waterfall

In addition to inequality within the human family, we face even greater
threats in the human assault on the living world that come with industrial
society. High-energy/high-technology societies pose a serious threat to the
ability of the ecosphere to sustain human life as we know it. Grasping that
reality is a challenge, and coping with the implications is an even greater
challenge. We likely have a chance to stave off the most catastrophic
consequences if we act dramatically and quickly. If we continue to drag our
feet, it's "game over".

While public awareness of the depth of the ecological crisis is growing,
our knowledge of the basics of the problem is hardly new.

"World Scientists' Warning to Humanity" - issued by 1,700 of the planet's
leading scientists:

"Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human
activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment
and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices
put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant
and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be
unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are
urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring ."

That statement was issued in 1992, and since then we have fallen further
behind in the struggle for sustainability. Look at any crucial measure of
the health of the ecosphere in which we live - groundwater depletion,
topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies,
the number and size of "dead zones" in the oceans, accelerating extinction
of species and reduction of bio-diversity - and the news is bad.

Remember also that we live in an oil-based world that is fast running out
of easily accessible oil, which means we face a huge reconfiguration of the
infrastructure that undergirds our lives. And, of course, there is the
undeniable trajectory of climate disruption.

Add all that up, and ask a simple question: Where we are heading? Pick a
metaphor. Are we a car running out of gas? A train about to derail? A raft
going over the waterfall? Whatever the choice, it's not a pretty picture.
It's crucial we realise that there are no technological fixes that will
rescue us. We have to acknowledge that human attempts to dominate the
non-human world have failed. We are destroying the planet and in the
process destroying ourselves.

Hope amid a harsh future

The people who run this world are eager to contain the Occupy energy not
because they believe that the critics of concentrated wealth and power are
wrong, but because somewhere deep down in their souls (or what is left of a
soul), the powerful know we are right.

People in power are insulated by wealth and privilege, but they can see the
systems falling apart. US military power can no longer guarantee world
domination. Financial corporations can no longer pretend to provide order
in the economy.

The industrial system is incompatible with life.

We face new threats today, but we are not the first humans to live in
dangerous times. In 1957 the Nobel writer Albert Camus described the world
in ways that resonate:

"Tomorrow the world may burst into fragments. In that threat hanging over
our heads there is a lesson of truth. As we face such a future,
hierarchies, titles, honors are reduced to what they are in reality: a
passing puff of smoke. And the only certainty left to us is that of naked
suffering, common to all, intermingling its roots with those of a stubborn

A stubborn hope is more necessary than ever. As political, economic, and
ecological systems spiral down, it's likely we will see levels of human
suffering that dwarf even the horrors of the 20th century. Even more
challenging is the harsh realisation that we don't have at hand simple
solutions - and maybe no solutions at all - to some of the most vexing
problems. We may be past the point of no return in ecological damage, and
the question is not how to prevent crises but how to mitigate the worst
effects. No one can predict the rate of collapse if we stay on this
trajectory, and we don't know if we can change the trajectory in time.

There is much we don't know, but everything I see suggests that the world
in which we will pursue political goals will change dramatically in the
next decade or two, almost certainly for the worse. Organising has to adapt
not only to changes in societies but to these fundamental changes in the

In short: We are organising in a period of contraction, not expansion. We
have to acknowledge that human attempts to dominate the non-human world
have failed. We are destroying the planet and in the process destroying
ourselves. Here, just as in human relationships, we either abandon the
dominance/subordination dynamic or we don't survive.

In 1948, Camus urged people to "give up empty quarrels" and "pay attention
to what unites rather than to what separates us" in the struggle to recover
from the horrors of Europe's barbarism. I take from Camus a sense of how to
live the tension between facing honestly the horror and yet remaining
engaged. In that same talk, he spoke of "the forces of terror" (forces
which exist on "our" side as much as on "theirs") and the "forces of
dialogue" (which also exist everywhere in the world). Where do we place our

"Between the forces of terror and the forces of dialogue, a great unequal
battle has begun," he wrote. "I have nothing but reasonable illusions as to
the outcome of that battle. But I believe it must be fought."

The Occupy gatherings do not yet constitute a coherent movement with
demands, but they are wellsprings of reasonable illusions. Rejecting the
political babble around us in election campaigns and on mass media, these
gatherings are an experiment in a different kind of public dialogue about
our common life, one that can reject the forces of terror deployed by
concentrated wealth and power.

With that understanding, the central task is to keep the experiment going,
to remember the latent power in people who do not accept the legitimacy of
a system. Singer/songwriter John Gorka, writing about what appears to be
impossible, offers the perfect reminder:

"They think they can tame you, name you and frame you,
aim you where you don't belong.
They know where you've been but not where you're going,
that is the source of the songs."

© 2011 Al-Jazeera-English

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at
Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center . His
latest book is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. Jensen
is also the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White
Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity;
and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the
Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at rjensen [at] and
his articles can be found online here

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The American Rule Rule

Thou shalt do unto
others before they mayest
do it unto you.


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