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8273Re: [CF] If You Recycle, It's Peachy Fine To Otherwise Kill The P lanet

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  • De Clarke
    Oct 1, 2003
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      Fitzsimmons, Diane (dcfitzsimmons@...) wrote:
      > One acquaintance on a progressive-minded list-serv suggested that our bike
      > was stolen because the thief needed it and that is the price we must be
      > willing to pay for our conspicuous consumption.

      the local cops tell me most bikes (at least where I live) are stolen
      as a business proposition, not for personal use -- they're parted out
      overnight and the parts sold in a neighbouring city or reassembled into
      new bikes which are sold elsewhere. maybe where you live, a needy person
      might succumb to temptation while walking through a more affluent 'hood
      and grab an unguarded bike, but around here most bikes are stolen by
      pros working out of pickup trucks, equipped with bolt cutters etc.
      around here bike theft is "nothing personal, it's strictly business."

      > It is not OK to drive a Hummer. It is not OK to vandalize. (Besides the
      > moral ramifications, I feel it is an ineffective protest unless one is
      > willing to vandalize every such vehicle in your community.)

      now that would be a project <whew> there are a LOT of FUVs where I live.

      I personally would prefer leafletting or bumper stickering.

      > I think being willing to respond to an injustice with violence puts me in
      > the same philosophical camp as those who shoot abortion doctors, pilot
      > passenger planes into buildings and bomb countries out of a hidden agenda
      > for oil.

      here I think there is a conflation which I can't endorse: all the actions
      listed here involve harming or killing human beings, whereas scratching some
      paint on an expensive car merely annoys the owner. if anyone suggested
      sabotaging the brake lines on FUVs I would call that "violence" -- and
      stupid violence too, as it would quite likely result in death or injury
      to some totally innocent ped or cyclist or dog -- and I would condemn
      it without reservation. but I think when we conflate mere superficial
      property damage with violence to living critters (including our own
      kind) we come perilously close to investing inanimate artifacts with
      human qualities, making property as important as people. "harassment"
      might be a more suitable word for property damage directed specifically
      at personal property and expressing political anger -- egging a window
      where a sign is displayed w/which one strongly disagrees for example.

      but there is also a question of numbers and power: supppose you're the
      only Black family in town and some whiteboys burn a cross on your lawn,
      that's definitely harassment -- but it's also terrorisation because of
      your vulnerable position, because of the pre-existing climate of racism
      and racist violence, etc. -- it would be reasonable to interpret this act
      as a threat of real violence to come. it would be very intimidating,
      not merely annoying. it would be a threat from power to vulnerability
      (like a SUV bullying a cyclist on the road -- the bullying is backed up
      by lethal force).

      if you're a multinational corporate chain and someone writes an animal rights
      slogan on your front window in spray paint, the power relationship between
      you and that lone vandal is quite different -- it barely makes a penny-sized
      dent in your bottom line and your existence is in no way threatened. nor
      (imho) is a corporation a human being, no matter how insane US law may be
      on this point. having your window egged because of an antiwar poster would
      not be scary if you live in a very progressive town where the pro-war contingent
      is in the minority; but if you were the only person who didn't vote for
      Bush II in the entire town, it might make you real nervous, and constitute
      frightening harassment rather than mere nuisance. if the only other known
      anti-war bigmouth in town had recently been savagely beaten, the trivial
      incident of egging would be terrifying, and could reasonably be interpreted
      as an imminent threat of violence.

      even the law, grudgingly, admits that gross differences in physical strength
      and size should mitigate our interpretation of such legal concepts as ADW
      vs 'mere' battery -- if you're built like Arnold, your fists and pecs
      are at least as deadly as a 2x4 in the hands of, say, an elderly lady.
      so an elderly lady who uses a 2x4 or frying pan to defend herself against
      a much larger and stronger attacker should not be charged with ADW as
      an equal-sized opponent would be if in a "fair fight" he resorted to
      such tactics.

      as of today I think the balance of power, physically (on the road) and
      politically and financially, is firmly tilted (to an extreme angle) in
      favour of the FUV owner -- and hence trivial vandalism of a FUV does not,
      to me, have the feel of scary harassment, but more of minor nuisance.
      [whereas (speaking as one cyclist who has to share the road (what little
      they leave me of it) with these things, driving a FUV does represent an
      imminent threat to others.]

      if there were a history of FUV drivers being dragged from their cars and
      beaten to death by angry mobs, or assassinated in their homes, then having
      an anti-FUV graffito scratched on the door would be terrifying (and imho
      more comparable to violence, because it would evoke the very real threat
      of violence). as it is, it's the snook-cocking of the disempowered at
      their invulnerable, arrogant masters. ROMANI EUNT DOMUS, as it were :-)

      there is OTOH a documented history of FUV drivers killing and wounding others
      in greater proportion than the drivers of less monstrous vehicles; I think we
      could without gross exaggeration consider a "self defence" or mitigation model
      for weighing the ethics of anti-FUV property damage.

      as to whether harassment merely stiffens resolve -- I think this all depends
      on the nature of the activity being criticized. if a person is holding
      steadfastly to a point of principle, such as displaying an anti-war sign,
      then harassment may inspire them to "stick to their guns" because their
      self-respect and core beliefs are at stake. if the FUV owner associates
      his FUV with his patriotism, let's say, then he may feel (this seems insanely
      warped to me, but I know there are people who do feel this way) that by
      driving his FUV he is making a statement about loving his country and being
      proud of it. in that case, harassment might make him all the more determined
      to stick to his FUV. a more pragmatic approach might be to try to convince
      him that wasting precious energy resources is the reverse of patriotism, and
      makes his country more vulnerable rather than stronger.

      OTOH, a lot of people just do whatever is convenient or strikes their
      fancy or (most importantly) is fashionable and "chic" at the time.
      FUVs are popular far outside the demographic of people who stick US
      flags on everything they own -- they are also a fad, a social blip,
      the product of a successful marketing hype-event, like the Hula Hoop.
      for large numbers of Hula-Hoop type consumers, if they sense that they are
      ridiculed or considered uncool for driving a FUV -- especially by "young"
      or "hip" persons -- then the attraction of the product may wear off and
      the lifetime of the fad be shortened. which could only be a good thing.
      recent achievements like a reduction in the acceptability of racism
      and homophobia are partly realised by sober, plodding appeals to facts
      and fairness; but to be honest (and this is discouraging), they are
      also realised by a shift in pop culture that makes overt racists and
      homophobes into buffoons and figures of fun in entertainment media.
      being racist becomes 'uncool' and that helps to discourage people from
      asserting their racism in public (which, short of total mind control,
      is about the best one can hope for). Kalle Lasn and the gang would say
      we need to "uncool" the FUV.

      the argument can always be made that by vigorous opposition to some
      offensive behaviour, or by mockery and sarcasm, one only strengthens
      it -- at the extreme edge of this philosophy is the advice that women
      should never try to fight off a rapist because "it will only make him
      angry and he will hurt you worse." [btw police stats instead indicate that
      vigorous resistance is strongly associated with successful escape.]
      in less extreme forms the argument counsels "keeping your head down" and
      "not offending people" in order to win hearts and minds. unfortunately,
      at some point it may become impossible to avoid offending people w/out
      silencing oneself entirely.

      this tension between being "too offensive" and being "assertive and
      visible", has caused infighting, division, and much bitterness among
      activists for at least 3 centuries of Western political life. the first
      gay people who "came out" were accused by closeted friends and family
      of "just making things worse" and "endangering all of us". those who
      engaged in civil disobedience (Stonewall et seriatim) were often chided
      for "giving us all a bad name". but my reading of history is that
      concessions are not won from people in power without open confrontation
      and struggle; and that while being nice is a worthy goal, being too
      nice for too long gets you nothing but an unmarked grave. at some point
      it may become neceessary to go to the barricades or dump the tea in the
      harbour or block motor traffic, in order to protest or prevent far greater
      wrongs. exactly where that point is, is difficult to determine. waiting
      too long to determine it can sometimes be literally fatal.

      well, here we go round that same old mulberry bush again :-)

      we may be advised not to bear a grudge, to turn the other cheek and not
      to return evil for evil [and I for one solemnly promise never to drag
      any SUV drivers over the asphalt and crush their torsos with my mighty
      bicycle]... but we are also advised to bear witness, even when it puts us
      into direct conflict with the dominant culture. whether keying FUV doors
      is an appropriate method of bearing witness is debatable -- I don't love
      it as a tactic -- but I wouldn't put it in the same league with mass
      murder or even targeted assassination.


      :De Clarke, Software Engineer UCO/Lick Observatory, UCSC:
      :Mail: de@... | Your planet's immune system is trying to get rid :
      :Web: www.ucolick.org | of you. --Kurt Vonnegut :
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