Friday, August 06, 2010

Less Mellow, More Harsh

I never do this, but I am posting an addendum to my previous piece "Harshing Your Mellow". I am posting this for anyone who considers my position to be somehow pessimistic (the epithets have started to flow in) or feels that small victories should be celebrated to help urge others on.


Though I often agree with the formulation of Antonio Gramsci: "I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will" I don't think the label pessimist is appropriate in this case. You call my opinions pessimistic because I am not cracking open champagne over the New York State Senate's vote in favor of an 11-month moratorium on new hydrofracking drilling permits. For you, this is a victory.

I think writing what I wrote--because someone, somewhere, may be comforted knowing there are others who see through the smoke & mirrors--is actually an act of optimism. Humankind is better than the shit we are in. It is civilization that is fucked. Witness cultures that are tens of thousands of years old interacting & surviving. I have great "faith" in humanity. Pessimist is a lazy epithet that I get over & over from people who hold me & my convictions at arm's-length, who are quicker to identify with our young culture (industrial civilization) than our ancient species. They mistake comfort for love.

Imagine, friend, that instead of soil & water & air we are discussing a person, perhaps you, perhaps your child. And instead of multinational drilling & extraction corporations we are discussing a serial rapist that you, or your child, is in some sort of relationship with.

The abuse has happened, is happening now & will continue to happen. We want it to stop, so we take our case to a judge, who rules that it must stop temporarily to study the ill effects the abuse has on you, or your child. It must stop IF a second & third judge agree. The second judge will consider this matter in a month's time. Meanwhile you, or your child, continue to be abused by this monster rapist. If the second judge rules in favor of temporarily halting the abuse (again: to study its ill effects!) a third judge will consider the matter. If the third judge agrees with the first & second judges (this could be months from now, meanwhile you, or your child, are being violated by this monster) you will have a legal respite until May. It is now August. You might have rape to look forward to in late spring.

But there will be loopholes. "Exploratory" abuse will continue. "Conventional" abuse will continue. You have friends in other states, where the laws are different, who continue to suffer from completely legal abusive relationships. The laws do not protect the victims, you see, they protect the abuser.

Drilling leases are still being signed. The abuse continues. I cannot & will not celebrate a sham victory that allows something that I love--in this case the soil & water & air--to continue to be abused. It is twisted pessimism to think so small as to celebrate, now, to think that this slap in the face is a sign of hope. Such thinking is why we're in this mess in the first place: we too often celebrate sham victories & fail to fight for substance. People around here are still drunk from celebrating Obama's campaign victory (to take one of my least favorite examples). So drunk, they fail to notice the torture chambers are still active (those are not screams of delight, friend), the bombs continue to drop (those are not celebratory fireworks), the prisons are overflowing, the deceit compounds.

If you or I were involved in a genuine struggle to prevent these multinational corporations from turning our planet into toxic swiss cheese, we would not stop to celebrate now. (I am reminded of what Bob Marley said when he chose to perform two days after being shot: "The people who are making this world worse are not taking a day off. How can I?") As I wrote yesterday, this possible moratorium, this sham victory, is written into the script for us. We decide if we want to change the script. All we have to do is wake up to the abuse that continues around us, call it what it is, & stop it.

There is so much to do & we have the power to do it. What could be more optimistic than that?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"Harshing Your Mellow"

Interesting conversation with a stranger today. Cooling off with a $1 beer on the stoop of one of my favorite locals, I was asked how I felt about the August 4th passage in the New York State Senate of an 11-month moratorium on new hydrofracking permits in the Marcellus Shale. Hydrofracking is something that I have thought deeply about, and intermittently acted and advocated against, since I first learned of the issue late last year.

(To summarize: Hydrofracking (high volume slick water hydraulic fracturing) is a particularly toxic method of natural gas extraction. The Marcellus Shale formation, stretching from northern New York State to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, has been identified as especially ripe for drilling. In Pennsylvania (and many other states) where the laws have been more lax, residential tap water has been shown to be flammable due to the effects of gas drilling. Hydrofracking uses a toxic mix of secret, proprietary chemicals (owned by the vile assholes at Halliburton, of course), sand, and millions of gallons of water to fracture gas pockets in the shale and force precious fossil fuel to the surface. In the process, a portion of the toxic fluid remains in the ground, while most of it returns to the surface. This fluid is industrial, radioactive waste that is known to cause birth defects, brain damage and cancer. And so on and so forth.)

So what did I say to the stranger who wanted my opinion? I said that the drilling continues. So-called "exploratory" drilling, which is presumably not covered by the moratorium, allows ecocidal corporations to drill without environmental oversight. But whatever. The Senate vote will first be reviewed by the State Assembly in September. Who knows how long they will discuss the matter, while current and new drill sites poison the water table. When they are done discussing, the Governor will review the issue. (The current Governor, by most accounts, appears to be a bought-and-paid-for, inept dick.) Meanwhile, if I am deciphering the insane politics correctly, the moratorium does not go into effect. At all.

The stranger who had asked for my opinion of this wonderful news countered with something about how "we did all we can" and "it worked" and the Senate vote "offers some hope." To which I responded that "we" did not do all we can. The main thrust of public effort on this issue has been political, and is moving in typical sludge-like political time. But the Earth cannot wait. I responded with the thought that "we" did all we wanted. Were we to do all we can, "we" might have slashed the throats of ecocidal maniacs willing to drill (to go to one extreme), or "we" might have set their machines on fire, or monkey-wrenched them to uselessness, or blockaded drill sites. I was not overtly advocating such behavior. I was pointing out the gulf that exists between what was done and what could be done. What was done was legal and sanctioned by the same forces ready to destroy the soil, water, and air tomorrow for a buck today. Calling for a moratorium, and maybe getting it passed (later, maybe, and perhaps with a shit ton of loopholes, why not, that's how this garbage always goes down) was already in the script.

There is a bottom line. What is it? It is clean air, clean water, and clean soil. That is the minimum requirement for species survival (our species and the various species with which we interact). The fraudulent, corrupt, make-believe, quote-motherfucking-unquote democratic process is a wholly inadequate channel for protecting the bottom line. How many tragic reminders do folks need? How many oil spills? How many "severe climate events?" How many extinctions per goddamn day? How many asthma sufferers, cancer patients, victims of brain damage? It is not a victory when the ecocidal corporatists that would readily sell your survival down the toxic river set the terms of your victory. (Hope & Change, anyone? I bet the hundreds of thousands of mothers and children killed during the Bush/Obama Imperial holocaust in Iraq are celebrating in their irradiated graves over President Peaceprize's announcement earlier today of the end of U.S. combat operations in their former Earthly home.)

Back to the stoop, and my friendly conversation. I added that there ought to be in place an "underground railroad" for heroic people dubbed "eco-terrorists", animal liberationists, monkey-wrenchers and so on. Not everyone will stand up, bodily, to the engines of war against the Earth. But when such folks do, and when they are on the run, they deserve our protection physically, legally, rhetorically, philosophically, spiritually.

The stranger, who claimed to be a 30-year veteran of anti-nuclear activism, then announced (like a perfect, left-liberal fauxgressive) that I was "harshing his mellow." Which was just fine by me. Fuck his fucking mellow. People sometimes ask me why I am so angry. I want to know why those same people aren't.