Every day, many horrible things happen in many different places. Occassionally I am sufficiently outraged to write about them. This is one such moment.
I write as governments and scientists gather in Copenhagen to utterly fail to address or remedy the hurts industrial civilization has carved in our global climate.
I write when an acceptance speech for a peace prize can be delivered by a man who hastens to defend war rather than its victims.
I write while architects of neo-liberal agendas strip farmers of their land and wilfully leave countless people to starve.
I write while "Predators", armed drone aircraft, circle high over towns in Pakistan or Afghanistan. I write while dignity is denied those under occupation in Palestine and Iraq.
I write while unknown species go extinct, disappear forever, behind the smokescreen of human progress and its attendant energy needs.
I write while oceans are poisoned, rivers are killed, mountaintops are removed, children are enslaved in sweatshops and brothels, mammals are tortured and slaughtered in factory farms, the innocent are incarcerated, and the guilty are driven around in their limousines.
Outrages, all. So what about these pianos at a small, private, American liberal arts college?
What an unconscionable act of aggression towards the act of music making and the young music students preparing their final exams! But there's more: What a terrible waste of energy!
Ithaca College is located here in Ithaca, New York (from where I now write). The city is at the heart of opposition to an evil plan to subject much of the region to a new form of gas drilling. The plan is simple: ethically vacant companies offer folks with land seemingly attractive financial incentives to drill, despite the abundant evidence that 'hydrofracking', the method of extraction heavily reliant on secret Halliburton technologies, will toxify the water, land and air for hundreds of miles.
The damage hydrofracking will cause is truly incalculable and irreparable. But because cash rules (both for the people in the economically depressed communities where the leases are being made as well as for the politicians failing to safeguard the environment from the nasty corporations they bow and pray to), there is little likelihood that conventional--and 'legal'--means of resistance will suffice.
Unlike many of my friends, I see no advantage to declaring one's ideological opposition to violence when faced with violence. I have written about this before. It is right, I think, to at least consider the use of force as an appropriate and effective counter to violence. And violence can be done against one's immediate person, against one's environment, against one's livelihood. When you guarantee your attacker you will not fight back, you give him leave to always have the upper hand, the last say. I don't advocate violence as the first mode of conflict resolution, but neither do I deny it its proper place when it is the most appropriate response.
Someone punched Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the face yesterday! Some may think it was a pot shot. I think it was a warning and, given the grievances, a generous one at that.
The hydrofracking issue in Central New York State reminds me of this passage from Derrick Jensen's Endgame :
I just got home from talking to a new friend, another longtime activist. She told me of a campaign she participated in a few years ago to try to stop the government and transnational timber corporations from spraying Agent Orange, a potent defoliant and teratogen, in the forests of Oregon. Whenever activists learned a hillside was going to be sprayed, they assembled there, hoping their presence would stop the poisoning. But each time, like clockwork, helicopters appeared, and each time, like clockwork, helicopters dumped loads of Agent Orange onto the hillside and onto protesting activists. The campaign did not succeed.
“But,” she said to me, “I’ll tell you what did. A bunch of Vietnam vets lived in those hills, and they sent messages to the Bureau of Land Management and to Weyerhaeuser, Boise Cascade, and the other timber companies saying, ‘We know the names of your helicopter pilots, and we know their addresses.’”
I waited for her to finish.
“You know what happened next?” she asked.
“I think I do,” I responded.
“Exactly,” she said. “The spraying stopped.”To the local would-be killers of pianos and marimbas: you have made some folks angry, sure. And you have inconvenienced some. But you have left them all even more determined to fill their world with music. You are despicable. The students are inspiring.
Take your aggression out where it counts. There are people gunning for your clean air, your clean water, the very land you walk on. They are not music students. They have addresses. As do you.