I heard my ancestors from the Trail of Tears at my elbow yesterday. I was sitting in a meeting of the Planning Commission in Ortonville, Minnesota. Briefly, the Township had repulsed the efforts of a company that wanted to do aggregate mining. They didn't want the environmentally damaging project next to a State Park and wildlife area. So, the City of Ortonville decided to annex the land and let the project go forward.
My ancestors reminded me that that's been the attitude of this society for centuries. “We don't like how you use your land, so we'll kick you off and give it to someone who can make money with it.”
There are many other instances of the same thing going on, from the spectacularly newsworthy XL pipeline to “local” issues like frac sand mining or nuclear waste disposal. That word, “local,” is the problem. Yes, each instance affects the environment and people in a particular place, but until we realize that they're all of a piece we won't be able to fight them effectively. Our aggregate fight is your pipeline fight is their plutonium fight- are the voter suppression and women's rights fights.
We need to remember that Capitalism isn't the normal economic state of humankind, but an experiment only a few centuries old. It involved, for the first time in history, creating economic organizations which are considered as legal persons. These life forms have only one ethical imperative- to grow and make profits. Such luminaries as Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Teddy Roosevelt warned us that they are monsters that need to be kept in cages.
For most of US history there were enough easy resources to be had that The Monster “just” displaced Native Americans. It “just” enslaved black people, then children. The fights that brought us the 40-hour week, safe working conditions, an end to child labor, even the Weekend, are barely a century old. We're in the process of losing them again.
By all means, we need to fight those local battles. We also need to be aware of how they all link together, and back each other up.
But what we most need to do is build an alternative System, as “off the grid” of corporate control as we can. Even growing our own food is becoming illegal in some places- imagine growing a garden as being the civil disobedience equivalent to Rosa Parks keeping her seat on the bus, or to a bunch of guys sitting at a segregated lunch counter. Pushing real Local Foods could get us into that kind of trouble.
Another bit of history. There is a saying from the Holocaust, attributed to Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,They're coming for Homosexuals.
and there was no one left to speak for me.
They're coming for Liberals.
They're coming for Teachers.
They're coming for Organic Farmers.
When will they be coming for you?