Saturday, February 22, 2020


It is obvious from arguments about the Wet'suwet'en and other issues before, that a lot of people are taken in by propaganda from the fossil fuel companies, the MSM and the far-right. They are taken in because they cannot differentiate between propaganda and factual discourse. There are techniques of propaganda which I will now expose;
* The Straw Man – Here the propagandist makes an absurd caricature of a position taken on an issue and tries to make this as the real position. Eg. Environmentalists seek to PHASE OUT fossil fuel usage over several decades as alternatives become viable. This is straw-manned as seeking to out off all fossil fuel usage right now, which is silly.
* Innuendo – This is where innocent comments are twisted into something unfavorable or an innocent situation is turned into something sinister. Eg. When Elizabeth May made an off-hand comment about how Lavalin should be forced to pay for clean water on FN reserves, this was corrupted into May being in favor of water privatization, something Greens deeply oppose.
* Demonization – A progressive that catches the eye of the media is attacked using violent language and is accused of despicable behavior. In this technique the moderates are always singled out. The theory is, that if you discredit say David Suzuki, the real radicals automatically are placed beyond the pale. Eg, The right wing has attacked the non-violent Wet'suwet'en Land Defenders as criminals, hooligans and anarchists. (The latter, in the right-wing authoritarian mentality being seen as arch-demons)
* Cherry Picking Information 1 – An analysis of a situation may be broadly correct, even if some of the information that it is based upon might be incorrect or interpreted in a different way. The propagandist seizes on those little doubtful morsels and then fallaciously claims the whole thesis is wrong.
* Cherry Picking Information 2 – Here the propagandist deliberately leaves out or minimizes crucial information – information that undermines their perspective on the issue. Eg. The three demoted Wet'suwet'en women chiefs are treated as pure victims of the other chiefs. Ignored or minimized is the fact they took $60,000 from CG – they may have been innocent of bribe-taking, but it isn't hard to see why this act might be interpreted as a conflict of interest.
* Conspiracy Theories – Nothing is allowed to be what it actually is, ie, citizens wanting to do something about the climate crisis or First Nations wanting to defend their territory. No, behind these struggles has to lie a sinister plot. Eg. Through Cherry Picking information the propagandist finds some NGO that has donated a few dollars to a cause, and Bingo! A crazy fantasy George Soros is funding climate activists for the US oil industry. Another favorite - and hoary with age – going all the way back to the Abolitionist movement – are the “outside agitators.” Here, Innuendo twists solidarity and mutual aid into a devilish plot by outsiders to takeover what was until now a bucolic situation. Of course, struggles that are isolated are much more easy to defeat, hence the attempt to demonize solidarity.
* The Big Lie Technique – A bald-faced lie about a group or individual is repeated over and over again. With repetition, a certain number of people will, if they do not fall for the lie, at least believe part of it, or have doubt about those who are slandered. It also serves to waste the victim's time defending themselves. Eg. The aforementioned conspiracy theory about environmentalists working for George Soros or the Tides Foundation, has been repeated over and over again by right-wing politicians and right-wing media.
So why do they lie? – for that is what these propaganda techniques are – different forms of lying. They lie because they have no alternative. When reality is not on your side and you insist on maintaining an erroneous world view, what other choice do you have? You simply cannot make a rational, evidence-based argument against climate science. Nor can you justify gross inequality, injustice and cruelty in a rational way. You are left with changing your opinions (too painful to contemplate) or continuing to engage in self-delusion, for that is exactly what the propagandist is doing.

Friday, February 21, 2020


Climate crisis denier types seem to have a real difficulty wrapping their heads around the concept of technological transition. Whenever you criticize the use of fossil fuels, some genius in their own mind pipes up with “So you want to turn off the taps, how are you going to travel, heat your house, etc har de har har.” Bringing up transition usually the silences them, but I suspect not in a good way, they have simply gone into deep passive-mode denial. Others will merely scoff, “Oh, that will be a long time in the future, no green energy future yet, we still gotta keep the oil flowing for many years.” Not really, transitions can be very quick, as you will see.

I have deliberately chosen the auto industry as the example of transition, since that industry required a massive amount of public infrastructural costs, as compared with other quick transitions, such as the digital camera and the home computer. The green transition, like the transition to the auto will require huge pubic expenditure. (With the digital camera, it took only five years from the introduction of the device to the obliteration of the film camera, and ten years for the home computer)

In 1905 12,000 autos were sold in the USA. The machine was a toy for the rich. By 1920, a mere fifteen years later, 1,500,000 autos were produced. It had gone from a toy, to an essential part of life for many people. Only five years later, in 1925, 3,600,000 were built, and now just about everyone who wanted a car had one. TWENTY YEARS!

It is important to ascertain the tipping point in the introduction of the automobile, for this truly shows how quickly a transition might occur. By 1910, 130,000 autos were made, but four years later in 1914, the figure had leapt to 410,000. This year is the tipping point, for hereafter production rose to over a million and continued to rapidly increase until the Great Depression killed car sales.

!905 to 1914 is only NINE years. It's like nine years ago it is still the 19th Century with horses and oxen and bang you are in the 20th with cars, trucks and buses everywhere. So where are we in terms of green energy, electric cars and such? We are certainly beyond “our 1905” but are we near the tipping point? Or have we reached it already? To answer that would require research into the state of these industries, for which I do not have the expertise. So hopefully someone more knowledgeable than myself can provide us with the answer. Whatever the result, change can come about very rapidly and that is cause for hope.

Thursday, February 20, 2020


In 1215 a gathering of nobles made King John “an offer he could not refuse” and he signed the Magna Carta
* A century later the Lollards rose against the Catholic church and the beginnings of the Protestant revolt began
Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for illegal scientific views contrary to Church dogma.
* In 1640, Parliament rose against the dictatorial King Charles and had him executed.
* In 1689, King James 2, learning nothing from the fate of his grandfather, was overthrown by Parliament and the compliant William of Orange was installed as king. (Both revolts established the priority of parliament over the monarchy)
* In 1776 the American colonists rose in arms against Britain and established the United States.
* In 1780 the Anti-Slave Trade Movement began. Slave revolts, the capture of slave ships by Africans and the illegal encouragement and protection of fleeing slaves, gave force to this movement. The slave trade was made illegal in 1807.
* In 1800 only 5% of the British population could vote. A movement arose to extend the franchise, riots ensued and Britain seemed on the verge of revolution. In 1832 the franchise was extended to the bourgeoisie.The workers, unhappy with their betrayal started the Chartist Movement. Strikes and riots ensued, and in time, the franchise was gradually extended.
* Meanwhile, in Canada the government was controlled by a tiny clique, government was neither democratic nor responsible. In 1837 Canada rose in revolution, but was defeated. But the pressure was on the British and responsible government was established in 1841. Thus began the process that was to lead to independence in 1867.
* In Britain it was illegal to form a trade union. People did nonetheless, and those caught could be shipped to Botany Bay. Finally, in 1824 trade unions were legalized.
* After the abolition of the slave trade, people sought to abolish slavery itself. By the 1830s the movement was strong in the United States, but it was illegal to help slaves and the Abolitionist leaders were considered criminals in the South. Slavers and Abolitionists began to fight in the 1850s leading to civil wars (before the Civil War) in the states of Kansas and Missouri. Armed groups led by Abolitionist John Brown slaughtered slavers at Ossawatami and then tried to launch an armed slave revolt at Harper's Ferry in 1859.
* Women Abolitionists began to think about THEIR situation, and so the Women's Movement was launched in 1846. Later this became oriented into a demand for the right to vote. As the governments were completely intransigent, by the 1900s women began campaigns of window-smashing, arson, bombing, and non-violent civil disobedience. By 1919 they had the vote.
* While trade unions were now legal in North America, the bosses still treated workers as criminals to be gunned down. After being set upon by goons, workers responded with their Winchesters, Colts and dynamite. There was a virtual war in the mining districts. Bombings and massive property destruction ensued. The railways, mines and crafts were organized, but the big factories proved difficult. In the mid-1930s workers occupied the factories and fought pitched battles with the cops. But they won, the factories were organized, and the high wages that ensued post WWII, gave rise to the so-called middle class living standard.
* The potlatch was made illegal in order to destroy Indigenous culture. First Nations elders were jailed and much regalia stolen by the state. But the people persisted in their art work and secret potlatches. The law was repealed in 1951.
* Fed up with being treated as sub-human, African Americans began organizing in the 1950s. Segregation was perfectly legal in the South, so this Civil Rights movement began breaking these laws by sitting in the front of the bus, eating at segregated lunch counters etc. The Civil Rights marches like at Selma were also deemed illegal by the state. In 1964, the Civil Rights Bill passed in Congress.
* In the 1960s First Nations were being arrested for hunting and fishing, in spite of the fact these rights were supposed to be guaranteed. Fish-ins were organized and the hunting cases pursued in court. The First Nations won their right to hunt and fish.
* Abortion – and earlier on birth control information – was illegal. Women committed civil disobedience, illegal clinics were set up. Then abortion (and before that birth control) were legalized.
* It was illegal to be gay. But, inspite of the law, people persisted, underwent all sorts of persecution and in 1968 homosexuality was decriminalized.
* In 1971 developers wanted to build a huge hotel complex right next to Stanley Park in Vancouver. Most people opposed this, but it seemed to be going ahead anyway, when about a hundred young people occupied the site. They stayed there for a year. Result-no hotel.
* In 1986 attempts were made to log the old growth of Lyle Island, Haida Gwaii. The Haida resisted and many were arrested blocking the logging road. Then Lyle Island was made part of a park and saved.
* In 1990 a small town mayor tried to turn a Mohawk sacred pine grove into a golf course. Thus began the Oka stand-off that pitted armed warriors against the Canadian army. The result in the short term was no golf course, in the long term, the Federal Government became less ham-fisted in its dealings with conflicts such as these.
* The NDP BC Government in 1992 wanted to alow the logging of the old growth of the Clayoquot. 1200 people showed up to block the logging operations. 900 were arrested . The Clayoquot was preserved.
* Cannabis was made illegal – along with the opiates - in 1907. But people insisted in enjoying their reefer. By the late 1960s illegal cannabis users had become a mass movement. By the 1980s illegal cannabis shops were opening. Thousands of people were arrested over the years, but the movement could not be stopped. Cannabis was made legal in 2017.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

WHY THEIR FIGHT IS TRULY OUR FIGHT – Indigenous Struggles and Overcoming the Settler's Damaged Being.

Liberal “sympathizers”, let alone the haters, do not realize that the victory of any Indigenous struggle is a victory for all of us, Indigenous or not. To explain what I mean by this statement, it is necessary to review the situation that we all face, no matter our origins:

There is the on-going, ever-advancing climate crisis and the unwillingness of our governments to do anything about it. We really have no say over how resources and the land are used. This is the purvue of the provincial governments, who inevitably serve corporate interests. There is the housing crisis, speculators and overseas hot money driving prices though the roof and the building of affordable housing a mere drop in the bucket. Ironically, in a part of the world where there is nothing but vacant land and trees! A major source of these problems is the crisis of democracy. Governments are elected which do not carry out their promises, and use their power to bully the populace into accepting their corporate welfare schemes.

Indigenous people point the way out of this morass. For them, the land and resources belong to their traditional territory and their use is determined by stewardship. The fight is to maintain that stewardship in the face of the corporate desire to plunder these lands. When they regain control over the traditional territories, any development will have to be approved by the stewards. This will mean a much more environmental approach and an end to money-guzzling, destructive megaprojects. The idea of community control and stewardship need not be limited to First Nations either. Stakeholder-based, democratic control of land and resources ought to be something adopted at the regional-municipal level. NIMBY could thus be harnessed in a progressive, ecological way.

Community ownership of the land base completely changes the picture when it comes to housing. Indigenous territory is owned in common, and if you are a member of the group you are entitled to some ground to build a dwelling. Imagine this done at the municipal level – whole areas set aside as land trusts for coop and non-profit housing. Taking the land mass out of the hands of the provincial governments and regionalizing/municipalizing control could also lead to the development of new towns, rather than continuing the existing ecologically destructive suburban sprawl.

Traditional First Nations governance involves participation and consensus. While every individual may not be directly part of this process, a consensus of all the groups that make up that society is needed. In our system, there is no attempt at consensus. Governments force though policies that negatively impact significant minorities of the population – or as we have seen, even majorities of the population. This gives rise to social anomie and unceasing conflict. While pure consensus could not work with a large population, most of whom are strangers to each other, a modified version would solve these problems.

Most aspects of daily governance are not controversial – paying bills, adding a cross walk etc. You don't need to develop a consensus in these areas. Modified consensus would be used in a situation where some significantly large minority of the population might be harmed by proposed legislation (example – severely curtailing day care) Unless those effected are on board, such legislation could not pass. As a result, conflict would be greatly reduced and government actions would more closely reflect the desires of the population.

But there is more to gain. We, the settlers are a damaged people. A thousand years of serfdom and wage slavery, cruel religions, child abuse and genocide, all of these crimes our ancestors have faced. As a result, we are a people totally alienated; from each other, from our long-suppressed traditions and from nature. We have no respect; for ourselves, for each other, for the elders, for the learned - everyone and everything is treated with contempt. We must look back to our earlier selves, before authoritarian religion and empire – back to our communally owed land, our village-based communities, our tribal gatherings, our nature spirituality. We must also connect with our centuries-long resistance – the peasant revolts, the Luddites, the syndicalists, I say this, not with a desire to artificially recreate the peasant “pagan” world, or romanticize past struggles, but merely to reconnect with that deeply hidden aspect of ourselves which has so much in common with the Indigenous way of being. When we purge ourselves of the authoritarian poison within us and become fully human again, then, and only then, can there be Reconciliation, and we will live as brothers and sisters on the land.

Sunday, February 02, 2020


Colonialism functions by dividing the colonized into factions. The old “divide and rule” tactic. The traditional system of governance based on consensus was an obstacle to colonial rule. For one thing, a unified opposition made it more difficult for the colonizers to seize land and plunder resources. The traditional system had nothing in common with both the monarchical and elective systems of European governance. The band council and chief system was IMPOSED upon the Indigenous peoples.

While a village council is not a state, it has an embryonic aspect of a state, and as we have seen these societies were stateless. If the people do not obey the regulations made by the village council, forces of repression (police and army) can be called upon to make them concede. The population is also divided into winners and losers in the electoral game, and this too is something at odds with the traditional system. If we look at electoral politics generally in our system, and not just band councils, the people who run in elections may also be people of respect, the natural leaders, but as often they are not. “Respect” may be purchased with promises and media hype and this same media is used to denigrate opponents. Once again, methods foreign to traditional ways.

This does not mean First Nations people should be criticized when using the council system to further their struggle, or that we settlers should demand restoration of the traditional system of governance. These decisions are not up to us, but the purview of Indigenous people themselves. To act otherwise, would simply replicate the colonial mentality, ie, “We know what's good for them.”

The band councils have jurisdiction only over the “reserves” - those areas set aside for Indigenous people by the colonizers. The traditional – and in the case of more than 90% of British Columbia, unceded territories, are still within the jurisdiction of the traditional clan chiefs, something that even the Federal government has conceded. So what we have is two systems of governance, one traditional, and one imposed, on two sets of territory. Someone not knowing this could be forgiven for not understanding the Wet'suwet'an struggle.

So are the band councils “democratic” and the clan chiefs “autocratic”, as some claim? To answer this question, it is first necessary to understand what we mean by democracy and further explore the notion of consensus.

Our contemporary system of government was the result of an evolution out of the oligarchic system of elected representatives power-sharing with the monarch. At the beginning of the 19th Century, maybe 5% of the population had the vote. During this period democracy was an anathema, sort of like “communism” in the 20th. Democracy was seen, as it had been since the Athenian polis, as DIRECT democracy, that is, the populace directly passed legislation in assemblies and selected delegates to carry out this legislation. This system, also practiced in Switzerland and the New England town meeting, was quite rightly seen as a threat to oligarchic power.

Great pressure arose from the bourgeoisie and the working classes to extend the franchise. Fearing both the democratic impulses of the people and a possible French-type revolution, the oligarchs conceded, gradually extending the franchise until 1919, when all adults finally had the right to vote. By the late 19th Century democracy was no longer a swear word, but the pride of Anglo Saxon society. However, the notion of democracy had changed. In an old trick, the goal posts were moved. Direct democracy was replaced by party rule and REPRESENTATIVE democracy.

The people were not to rule directly, but though representatives, who contradictorally, prided themselves on their independence from the voters. Parties, at first loose collections of the similar-minded, became disciplined parties with power concentrated at the top.(And as a nod to the “English disease”, this discipline was called “whipping.) Governments, in turn, began to concentrate power at the Cabinet level. Voters and party rank and file had little input into the reality of government. To make matters worse, the “winner-take-all” First Past The Post electoral system was used throughout the Anglosphere. This meant that in a multi-party system, few if any governments were actually majority governments – as little as 36% of the vote could create a “majority” government. Using the power of the state apparatus, the minority could, and did, bully the majority into obedience. This is not a democracy, but an “elective dictatorship.” But this was the source of the system imposed upon Indigenous people, as being somehow more democratic than the traditional one.

Is consensus undemocratic? A little background. The Society of Friends (Quakers) most likely picked up the idea of consensus from the Indigenous people they encountered when settling in Pennsylvania. Anarchists, beginning with Proudhon, criticized majority rule as simply a new form of authoritarianism, but it was not until the 1950s that consensus became part of the social movements. Today, most mass movements share a “horizontalist” approach, which involves consensus-oriented assemblies.

Time for another thought experiment. Let's think about what our present society would be like if it had a consensus-type of governance. But before we do that, a qualification must be made. Consensus may work for small groups, but how can you run an entire country? Of course, you can't, if every aspect of governance at all levels had to be decided that way, all we would ever do is attend meetings. However, there are a host of issues that are neither controversial, nor an imposition upon some group, that could be resolved by simple majority democracy. You could, instead, have a “modified consensus” - a consensus would only be needed if proposed legislation in some measure harmed or threatened to harm a significant minority of the population. Essentially, all the stakeholders in a particular situation would have to agree to any changes that might negatively impact certain of those stakeholders. (And I do mean harm. Raising taxes on billionaires is not harm, even if three-quarters of their income went in taxes, they would still be fabulously wealthy. However, a working class person would genuinely suffer if the government made affordable housing difficult to obtain.)

What might the results be if we project a modified consensus on say, the last 50 years? First off, there would be very few wars, and any that did occur would be truly defensive in nature. Since Trans Mountain and other pipelines and CO2 producing mega projects simply could not exist, we would be much further ahead in green energy. Cannabis would have been decriminalized 50 years ago, and much suffering averted. There would be no cut-backs in health care and public education and the privatization and partial privatization of public services and the resulting deterioration of these services and rising costs, would never have happened. The mentally ill and the homeless now wandering the streets would be institutionalized or housed. This would be the case, since in all the issues listed, significant minorities, (sometimes even majorities) opposed war, cutbacks etc. With the “elected dictatorship” they were simply ignored. This would not be the case with modified consensus.

Our “democratic” system is rocked by protests, strikes and riots. This happens because governments ignore/abuse significant minorities, and indeed as we see in France and Chile, even the majority is being bullied by the state. With a more consensus-oriented approach, these revolts would not exist. As a matter of course, the problems raised would be rectified.

So which is autocratic and which is democratic? I would suggest that our so-called democracy is quite autocratic and we could all do with a good dose of consensus to make it more truly democratic. To call the traditionalists “undemocratic,” is the pot calling the kettle black and a misunderstanding of a consensus-based system of governance.
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