Sunday, December 28, 2008

Greece: it’s not all about the economy, stupid

The riots in Greece, which have raged in Athens and university towns since the police killing of a 15-year-old Athenian boy on Saturday, have not only severely shaken the Greek government. They have also rattled outside observers.

Across Western Europe, both conservatives and radicals see the violence as a possible sign of things to come in 'credit-crunched Europe'. They argue that while the rioting might have been triggered by an act of police brutality, its real driving force is anger at the government's €28billion bailout package for failing banks. One British observer says the violence is a response to 'the fact that the government has thrown 12 per cent of the country's GDP at the banks', the implication being that 'bailout Britain' might see similar anger soon (1). A UK-based radical left newspaper celebrates the riots as an expression of 'rage' at the Greek government's 'neoliberal economic policies', and hopes that other uprisings will take place across Europe: 'Things are collapsing at the top of society, while people on the ground are in a fighting mood.' (2)

It is true, of course, that the serious political violence in Greece is about more than the killing of a teenager. And it is true that many people in Greece are deeply concerned about the country's economic predicament. This week's general strike, which paralysed Greek schools, the transport system and other services, was planned before the police killing and the subsequent riots, with the aim of protesting against unemployment and cuts in government spending on social needs (3). However, it is a massive oversimplification to label the violence in Greece as an automatic response to economic woes or a positive uprising against 'neoliberalism'. Such analyses are driven by the fears and fantasies of outside observers – and they overlook Greece's deep, historic problems of political legitimacy, alienation and thwarted aspirations, many of which are peculiar to that nation and which have made 'street instability' a fairly common thing.

The violence ultimately reveals that Greece's youthful middle classes, the main protagonists in the riots, have Western European aspirations in a country that is far from being a full or legitimate member of Western Europe. Greece may be in the European Union, and a much-valued member of NATO (by the US in particular), yet it remains very much on the outskirts of modern Europe. For historical reasons, many of the values and trends that developed in Western Europe following the end of the Cold War in the 1990s – the demise of the left-right divide; the rise of various 'Third Way' ideas; what some described as 'the end of ideology' – have not taken hold in Greece, where there remains a far more conflictual form of politics and a confrontational left-wing. The riots have exposed a ruling elite that enjoys little legitimacy or authority, and a fairly cosmopolitan middle class – many of whom have travelled abroad for work and education – who feel utterly alienated from their rulers and from Greek society. And peculiarly for modern Europe, this divide tends to be expressed in an old-fashioned language of right vs left, or authoritarians vs anarchists.

The idea that the current Greek riots, the most serious in a series of violent uprisings in recent years, might be repeated verbatim elsewhere in Europe overlooks what is specific and curious about Greece's political development. On BBC TV's Newsnight this week, a discussion between a leading British academic and a former Greek official raised concerns that 'exactly the same thing' might happen in other countries where, like Greece, there are high numbers of graduates (higher education has been expanded across Europe in recent decades) but few useful or meaningful jobs for them to do (4). However, there is much that is novel, in the modern European context, about Greece's continuing conflictual system, its high levels of distrust of the state, and the readiness of young people to take action and even riot against the police.

The intensity and the lingering nature of the political tensions in Greece – where the state tends to be viewed as a legacy of the right and where there is still a relatively thriving youth culture of anarchism and leftism – have been forged over the past 50 years. A combination of external meddling in Greek affairs and internal political ruthlessness have ensured that the modern Greek state has won little legitimacy in the eyes of great numbers of its citizens. One key element has been British and American complicity, from the Second World War through to the mid-1970s, in the isolation and exiling of the Greek left, and their support for right-wing authoritarian regimes in Athens. Much of the scene for modern Greece was set by the British Churchill government's grotesque betrayal and destruction of the left-wing forces that liberated Greece from Nazi occupation, which led to the exiling of much of the Greek left and the intensification of the deep right-left dichotomy in modern Greek politics (5).

~ more... ~

Affluenza (Hard to find PBS documentary)

Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life.

Affluenza is a one-hour television special that explores the high social and environmental costs of materialism and overconsumption.

Through revealing personal stories, expert commentary, hilarious old film clips, dramatized vignettes, and "anti-commercial" breaks, Affluenza examines the high cost of achieving the most extravagant lifestyle the world has ever seen.

Last year, Americans, who make up only five percent of the world's population, used nearly a third of its resources and produced almost half of its hazardous waste. Add overwork, personal stress, the erosion of family and community, skyrocketing debt, and the growing gap between rich and poor, and it's easy to understand why some people say that the American Dream is no bargain. Many are opting out of the consumer chase, redefining the Dream, and making "voluntary simplicity" one of the top 10 trends of the '90s.

Affluenza travels across the country to show you men and women who are working and shopping less, spending more time with friends and family, volunteering in their communities, and enjoying their lives more. A brief sampling:

In Colorado Springs, religious conservatives worry about the impact of materialism on American life, advertisements invade the local school district, and a family struggles with a potent case of Affluenza .

In Seattle, Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, authors of the best-selling book, Your Money or Your Life, help others get off the work-and-spend treadmill to find more meaning in their lives.

In Vancouver, Canada, activists known as "Adbusters" design humorous "subvertisements" that expose how advertisements manipulate us.

In Redmond, Washington, two teenagers create an award-winning play that spoofs the materialistic life of Barbie dolls.

Affluenza is hosted by National Public Radio's engaging Scott Simon. It was produced by John de Graaf and Vivia Boe, the team who produced the critically acclaimed PBS special on another American epidemic, Running Out of Time. Affluenza is a production of KCTS/Seattle and Oregon Public Broadcasting and was made possible by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

~ Click here to view videos... ~

Anti-capitalist uprising imminent?

A riot policeman is immersed in fire from a thrown molotov cocktail after a demonstration in central Athens on December 12, 2008. (Kostas Tsironis/AFP/Getty Images)

The pictures are astonishing: thousands of protesters in Greece have taken to the streets, rioting for days in response to the murder [of] 15-year-old Alexander Grigoropoulos who was killed by a Greek police officer.

But beyond the startling images of molotov cocktails exploding, cars burning and occupations of live television broadcasts there is another story, even more surprising: the rioters are acting with the implicit support of the majority of Greek society. According to the AFP, a poll conducted in Greece found that a majority of people believe the rioters are part of a “popular uprising” and not simply group of “minority activists”. That, it appears, is the truth the corporate media would like to hide.

What is going on in Greece could very well be the first hints of a coming global popular uprising. All it took in Greece was a spark to ignite the generalized dissatisfaction of the larger society. And now, the uncontrollable flames are spreading. What we are seeing is not disorganized chaos, but the intentional response of youthful spirits rebelling against the empty promises of a staid society based upon one goal: consuming more than your neighbor.

Could the same thing happen on your street? What would it take to ignite all those dissatisfied by the unfulfilled, and unfulfillable, promises of capitalism and hyper-consumerism?

Some of the most powerful imagery to come out of Greece is available at the Boston Globe website. Take a look at these pictures, and let us know your thoughts.

Micah M. White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters Magazine and an independent activist. Micah is currently writing a book of philosophical meanderings into the future of activism. He lives in Binghamton, NY with his wife and two cats.

~ Adbusters/Rethink Capitalism ~

Trip Without a Ticket

[Originally published by the Diggers, ca. Winter, 1966-67. Reprinted by the Communication Company SF 2nd Edition 6/28/67. Included in The Digger Papers, August, 1968.]

Our authorized sanities are so many Nembutals. "Normal" citizens with store-dummy smiles stand apart from each other like cotton-packed capsules in a bottle. Perpetual mental out-patients. Maddeningly sterile jobs for strait-jackets, love scrubbed into an insipid "functional personal relationship" and Art as a fantasy pacifier. Everyone is kept inside while the outside is shown through windows: advertising and manicured news. And we all know this.

How many TV specials would it take to establish one Guatemalan revolution? How many weeks would an ad agency require to face-lift the image of the Viet Cong? Slowly, very slowly we are led nowhere. Consumer circuses are held in the ward daily. Critics are tolerated like exploding novelties. We will be told which burning Asians to take seriously. Slowly. Later.

But there is a real danger in suddenly waking a somnambulistic patient. And we all know this.
What if he is startled right out the window?

No one can control the single circuit-breaking moment that charges games with critical reality. If the glass is cut, if the cushioned distance of media is removed, the patients may never respond as normals again. They will become life-actors.

Theater is territory. A space for existing outside padded walls. Setting down a stage declares a universal pardon for imagination. But what happens next must mean more than sanctuary or preserve. How would real wardens react to life-actors on liberated ground? How can the intrinsic freedom of theater illuminate walls and show the weak-spots where a breakout could occur?

Guerrilla theater intends to bring audiences to liberated territory to create life-actors. It remains light and exploitative of forms for the same reasons that it intends to remain free. It seeks audiences that are created by issues. It creates a cast of freed beings. It will become an issue itself.

This is theater of an underground that wants out. Its aim is to liberate ground held by consumer wardens and establish territory without walls. Its plays are glass cutters for empire windows.
Free store/property of the possessed

The Diggers are hip to property. Everything is free, do your own thing. Human beings are the means of exchange. Food, machines, clothing, materials, shelter and props are simply there. Stuff. A perfect dispenser would be an open Automat on the street. Locks are time-consuming. Combinations are clocks. [Check this: "locks" in the 10/66 edition?]

So a store of goods or clinic or restaurant that is free becomes a social art form. Ticketless theater. Out of money and control.

    "First you gotta pin down what's wrong with the West. Distrust of human nature, which means distrust of Nature. Distrust of wildness in oneself literally means distrust of Wilderness." --Gary Snyder

Diggers assume free stores to liberate human nature. First free the space, goods and services. Let theories of economics follow social facts. Once a free store is assumed, human wanting and giving, needing and taking, become wide open to improvisation.

A sign: If Someone Asks to See the Manager Tell Him He's the Manager.

Someone asked how much a book cost. How much did he think it was worth? 75 cents. The money was taken and held out for anyone. "Who wants 75 cents?" A girl who had just walked in came over and took it.

A basket labeled Free Money.

No owner, no Manager, no employees and no cash-register. A salesman in a free store is a life-actor. Anyone who will assume an answer to a question or accept a problem as a turn-on.

Question (whispered): "Who pays the rent?"

Answer (loudly): "May I help you?"

Who's ready for the implications of a free store? Welfare mothers pile bags full of clothes for a few days and come back to hang up dresses. Kids case the joint wondering how to boost.

Fire helmets, riding pants, shower curtains, surgical gowns and World War I Army boots are parts for costumes. Nightsticks, sample cases, water pipes, toy guns and weather balloons are taken for props. When materials are free, imagination becomes currency for spirit.

Where does the stuff come from? People, persons, beings. Isn't it obvious that objects are only transitory subjects of human value? An object released from one person's value may be destroyed, abandoned or made available to other people. The choice is anyone's.

The question of a free store is simply: What would you have?
Street event -- birth of haight/funeral for $ now

Pop Art mirrored the social skin. Happenings X-rayed the bones. Street events are social acid heightening consciousness of what is real on the street. To expand eyeball implications until facts are established through action.

The Mexican Day of the Dead is celebrated in cemeteries. Yellow flowers falling petal by petal on graves. In moonlight. Favorite songs of the deceased and everybody gets loaded. Children suck deaths-head candy engraved with their names in icing.

A Digger event. Flowers, mirrors, penny-whistles, girls in costumes of themselves, Hell's Angels, street people, Mime Troupe.

Angels ride up Haight with girls holding Now! signs. Flowers and penny-whistles passed out to everyone.

A chorus on both sides of the street chanting Uhh!--Ahh!--Shh be cool! Mirrors held up to reflect faces of passersby.

[10/66 edition:
Penny-whistle music, clapping, flowers thrown in the air. A bus driver held up by the action gets out to dance a quick free minute. No more passers-by, Everybody's together.]

The burial procession. Three black-shrouded messengers holding staffs topped with reflective dollar signs. A runner swinging a red lantern. Four pall bearers wearing animal heads carry a black casket filled with blowups of silver dollars. A chorus singing Get Out Of My Life Why Don't You Babe to Chopin's Death March. Members of the procession give out silver dollars and candles.

Now more reality. Someone jumps on a car with the news that two Angels were busted. Crowd, funeral cortege and friends of the Angels fill the street to march on Park Police Station. Cops confront 400 free beings: a growling poet with a lute, animal spirits in black, candle-lit girls singing Silent Night. A collection for bail fills an Angel's helmet. March back to Haight and street dancing.

Street events are rituals of release. Reclaiming of territory (sundown, traffic, public joy) through spirit. Possession. Public NewSense.

Not street-theater, the street is theater. Parades, bank robberies, fires and sonic explosions focus street attention. A crowd is an audience for an event. Release of crowd spirit can accomplish social facts. Riots are a reaction to police theater. Thrown bottles and over-turned cars are responses to a dull, heavy-fisted, mechanical and deathly show. People fill the street to express special public feelings and hold human communion. To ask "What's Happening?"

The alternative to death is a joyous funeral in company with the living.
Who paid for your trip?

Industrialization was a battle with 19th-century ecology to win breakfast at the cost of smog and insanity. Wars against ecology are suicidal. The U.S. standard of living is a bourgeois baby blanket for executives who scream in their sleep. No Pleistocene swamp could match the pestilential horror of modern urban sewage. No children of White Western Progress will escape the dues of peoples forced to haul their raw materials.

But the tools (that's all factories are) remain innocent and the ethics of greed aren't necessary. Computers render the principles of wage-labor obsolete by incorporating them. We are being freed from mechanistic consciousness. We could evacuate the factories, turn them over to androids, clean up our pollution. North Americans could give up self-righteousness to expand their being.

Our conflict is with job-wardens and consumer-keepers of a permissive looney-bin. Property, credit, interest, insurance, installments, profit are stupid concepts. Millions of have-nots and drop-outs in the U.S. are living on an overflow of technologically produced fat. They aren't fighting ecology, they're responding to it. Middle-class living rooms are funeral parlors and only undertakers will stay in them. Our fight is with those who would kill us through dumb work, insane wars, dull money morality.

Give up jobs, so computers can do them! Any important human occupation can be done free. Can it be given away?

Revolutions in Asia, Africa, South America are for humanistic industrialization. The technological resources of North America can be used throughout the world. Gratis. Not a patronizing gift, shared.

Our conflict begins with salaries and prices. The trip has been paid for at an incredible price in death, slavery, psychosis.

An event for the main business district of any U.S. city. Infiltrate the largest corporation office building with life-actors as nymphomaniacal secretaries, clumsy repairmen, berserk executives, sloppy security guards, clerks with animals in their clothes. Low key until the first coffee-break and then pour it on.

Secretaries unbutton their blouses and press shy clerks against the wall. Repairmen drop typewriters and knock over water coolers. Executives charge into private offices claiming their seniority. Guards produce booze bottles and playfully jam elevator doors. Clerks pull out goldfish, rabbits, pigeons, cats on leashes, loose dogs.

At noon 1000 freed beings singing and dancing appear outside to persuade employees to take off for the day. Banners roll down from office windows announcing liberation. Shills in business suits run out of the building, strip and dive in the fountain. Elevators are loaded with incense and a pie fight breaks out in the cafeteria. Theater is fact/action

Give up jobs. Be with people. Defend against property.

~ The Digger Papers ~

Vital links

Vocies of Dissent: a film about Activism and American Democracy
The Plan for the theft of the world's wealth was published in the 90's by the banksters. Missed It. You snooze. You lose.
 The Grinning Skull: The Homicides You Didn't Hear About in Hurricane Katrina
Cheney: 'I told Leahy to 'f*ck' himself because 'I thought he merited it.'
Cheney's Contempt for the Republic

Cheney's Shocking Admissions on How Close He Came to Nearly Destroying the Country
The 'Bush Legacy Project' Is Failing
The Bush Family of Secrets -- The Bush Dynasty and Who Put It in the WH
Two Dangerous Bush-Cheney Myths

Obama, the military and the threat of dictatorship
USA needs nuclear explosion to turn the world into dictatorship
Barack Obama: The Naked Emperor
 http://www.hightech harassment. com/
US Secret Government Covertly Building Tomorrow's Communities
"Class is a dirty word in that it gets close to the truth about who governs and for whose benefit."


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