Saturday, March 28, 2009

Left of the left in the arid zone

By John

Train across was uneventful, though I managed to get quite a bit of writing work done. I am still disturbed by my encounters and confrontations with shooters the weekend before. As the train passes a relatively short distance from Maralinga, I am reminded why one has no choice but a life of resistance. Travelling less these days, and by land and sea, I am reminded how protest is something best achieved locally. It’s how you eat, how you shop (or don’t), how you live and conduct your life. The most effective form of protest is surely to reduce the hypocrisies of your own terms of existence.

By midday Monday, I’ll be a relatively short distance from Roxby Downs, one of the cores of the uranium mining industry in Australia. One of the factors I find defeating in cadre political gestures is that one is counted out of a protest equation if one is not on the line with others who are defining a moment of protest.

Protest needs to be holistic, ongoing, and reflect in the life-choices we make. Roxby Downs should be the site of an ongoing Greenham Common-type presence of protest, or people should entirely abandon any product, no matter how indirectly, that comes out of that mining source. Exporting uranium for the energy industry (aside from what gets consumed by the arms industry, whether admitted to or not), means that goods from software to computers to clothing and foodstuffs have been produced in countries utilising nuclear power as an energy source, and that in purchasing them one is supporting such usage. It is the most indirect forms of consumption that are the most insidious.

My point about cadre protesting – the confirmation of one’s presence is not enough when the material usages of those making the protest support (however obscurely) the things they’re resisting. A means to an end? I am not convinced, and those who are least consuming the products of marketplace economies (always dictatorships, be it through so-called elected government or so-called single-party states or corporate interests), are those we don’t hear from, unless their action is local, and they are acting on their home space, and we see them incidentally on the media.

For those protesters doing as I am doing (and I promise, will stop doing soon), and using a computer in any way, you are acting neither locally nor with impunity in terms of culpability. Your protest against environmental degradation collapses before it begins; the ravagers of environment hide behind their lies of sustainability and/or brute force or legal and political sinecures -- such protest is hobbled by its irony and feeds into the perpetrators’ hands.

Mobile phones are the biggest irony of all. Consider what goes into the making of them, never mind the implications behind their use. Statements like this make those of the left you have associated with over decades, by way of agreeing in difference regarding tactics and ultimately aims (my aim is for small communities acting on consensus and with an ecological respect rather than larger centralised majority-rules outcomes) – seek to deny you or to separate you off from the left.

Where does that leave you? Not with the right who try to shoot you for being part of the ‘loony left’! As an anarchist, I am happy to be placed outside everything, though the socialist underpinnings of a strand of anarchism I have long been interested in, necessitate my conversing in a spirit of co-operation with the socialist left. But I am as anti-Marxist as I am as anti-fascist. Which is not to say I don’t read and apply Marxist epistemologies to my reading and thinking (and writing), as I do, but doctrines of Marxism are as far from anarchism as anything else.

And it doesn’t suffice for those of the left to separate those in university enclaves from those living in inner city squats. A lot of us have ‘been there’. And if you’re there and starving and drug-addicted, you don’t want to be there. (I do entirely support inner-city squatter culture, though.) Let me make it clear, universities are systems, and all systems need resisting and undoing. And yes, I do believe working from the inside out is effective. And I do have to help feed a family. I have reduced to half-time in order to plant trees, grow vegetables and change the dynamics of my life. Not as some ‘life-change’ scenario – I lived without any amenities and outside all ‘acceptable’ societal conditions for years on end when I was younger – but as a statement of refusal and also to reduce my impact on a very fragile and abused land.

I sit writing this in a hotel on the edge of the desert – a lot of those staying here come from the mines and secret weapons facilities. The room probably glows. My hosts asked if I’d fly over Roxby Downs in a small plane – I said not only have I given up flying, but I would never go near a uranium mine. Poem after poem against the nuclear industry, anti-nuclear protest after anti-nuclear protest (including one of my arrests which was conducted by an old school-colleague from Geraldton), and belief that all large-scale mining is wrong (my father worked on mines and my great-grandfather on my mother’s side died of dust-on-the lungs managing the South Champion gold mine at the now-ghost-town of Kookynie); all this is a life’s protest.

Protest has many faces: none should be denied, the implications of all should be considered. None is more ‘pure’ than the others, but the most effective is when we make least use of the ‘benefits’ of what we’re protesting against. Travel makes use of so many 'resources' (that most deceptive of words).

1 comment:

Dr Michelle Frantom (aka Dr Mad Fish of Mad Fish Designs) said...

Being someone who never bought 'the package' either, I have also tried to moderate my way of living. I work half a job, have only owned 2 mobiles and one computer, drive a 1992 diesel van, buy 95% of my clothes from op-shops (mainly because it is more fun to hunt for interesting items) and my partner and I are building our own house (to keep costs therefore mortgages therefore emloyment down to a minimum) There is so much more I could be doing but I have come to the realisation in middle life that as you say, my life can be a protest - unnoticed perhaps - but the best I can do to minimise my impact on a country I love.