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Remembering Spain’s 15-M Movement, Occupy’s scrappy precursor

Banners at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol plaza during the 15-M occupation. Photo by David Schnur.

Remembering Spain’s 15-M Movement, Occupy’s scrappy precursor

By MARKE B. SEPTEMBER 20, 2021 (48hills.org)

As the US looks back a decade later, a necessary reminder that Occupy was a reverberation of a global movement.ByMARKE B.SEPTEMBER 20, 2021 l

In May and June of 2011, I traveled with my photographer husband to Tunisia and Morocco to document the cultural transformations taking place as the “Arab Spring” unfolded, dictators were toppled, and people throughout the Mediterranean and beyond protested for democracy. On our way, we stopped in Spain to witness the 15-M aka “Los Indignados” Movement that had occupied Madrid’s main square and elsewhere in the country, which like many was suffering from economic collapse, corruption, and massive unemployment. (The 15-M protest movement was directly inspired by San Francisco’s own protest history and iconography.) Soon, the Occupy Movement in the US would seize headlines, but as we observe that movement’s 10th anniversary, it’s good to be reminded that behind Occupy was a global movement for change. You can read more about Occupy and five centuries of protest in my book, Into the Streets: A Young Person’s Visual History of Protest in the United States, now in its second printing from Lerner Books. The story below was originally published to the Bay Guardian’s website on May 25, 2011.

“Yes We Camp,” “Toma la Plaza!,” and “I can haz democracy … for realz now?” signs blanketed Madrid’s enormous Puerta del Sol plaza, as what started as a demonstration by a politically disenchanted few (“los indignados”) on the Sunday before the May 22 regional and municipal elections has grown into a full-fledged, round-the-clock, generalized protest movement, attracting tens of thousands here and in other Spanish city centers.

A calico patchwork of Quechua brand tents and sun-diffusing tarps fans out from the vibrant and loud main speaker/assembly arena, as dozens of perfectly scruffy, mostly half-naked (and from what we saw over two days, mostly white but pretty well-mixed age-wise and gender-wise) people beat the current heatwave while making Sol home. At night, the plaza roils with sympathizers — but a conscious effort to tone down the hard-party aspect without diminishing the festival atmosphere seems to be surprisingly successful.

The scene at the speaker circle in Puerto del Sol. Photo by David Schnur

The takeover also transcends the superficial: protestors here in Sol have in effect set up a functional utopian “leaderless” community, with separate committees of volunteers directing communications, sanitation, nourishment (vegetarian options available), feminist representation (“No Photos!” read the banner at the committee’s HQ), language usage, diversity and inclusivity, community outreach, and camp security (the role of which has been broadened under its new name as the “Respect Committee,” Comisión de Respeto).

The only official government reaction to the ongoing demonstrations has been to allow them to continue as long as they stay non-violent. And the current mainstream media narrative is a breathless comparison to the uprisings of the Arab Spring. (More on that below.) On Tuesday, the 24th, we made our way through the “movimiento del Sol,” dubbed the May 15th Movement, or 15-M (www.spanishrevolution.net), to get some idea of what the current protests — or, in the more poetic Spanish term, “manifestationes” — were all about.

A speaker rails against capitalism. Photo by David Schnur

BIRTH OF A MOVEMENT

“On the 15th, a group of about 30 of us decided to gather here, it wasn’t too serious, just have a beer or two—and then we were like ‘Let’s stay here!’ ‘Oh, alright.’ Just like that.” Pablo Prieto, spokesperson (portavoz) with the Communications Committee told me. “And from there it was spontaneous, it grew to this point.”Help us save local journalism!Every tax-deductible donation helps us grow to cover the issues that mean the most to our community. Become a 48 Hills Hero and support the only daily progressive news source in the Bay Area.Learn more

Along the way there was a clash with the police that generated nationwide attention. “On Tuesday morning of the 17th, around 5 or 6am, there were about 200 of us camping in the square, the police came and took us away violently,” Prieto, a wry, intellectual thirtysomething in thick glasses, said. “So after, we met at a certain place, had an assembly, and decided to come back and try again, and it worked. We grew quickly into the thousands. At that point we realized we needed some organization, so we formed the committees and became more of a community. We wanted to form a template so this could be replicated in other cities.”

Pablo Prieto, spokesperson with the 15-M communications committee.
A list of politicians “charged” with corruption and failure, most from the conservative Christian Peoples’ Party. In 2018, the party was found guilty of operating an illegal accounting and kickback scheme, in a case dating back to 2009.

But what exactly is “this”? Spain has been one of the European countries that has been hardest hit by the global recession, and even though it has begun to recover slightly, its unemployment rate, at more than 20 percent total (44 percent among youth), is the highest in Europe. The protests have no official demands yet, but some of the issues that spring to mind are lack of opportunity for educated youth, a wealth of corruption charges within the two major national political parties, a feeling that the European Union and European Central Bank heads are issuing economic directives (like pressuring Zapatero to cut government services) without any democratic recourse, and the new vocal confidence that the Internet gives young people without a corresponding, direct-democratic result in the real world. The May 22 elections slammed the ruling Socialist party, but the protestors have bigger fish to fry.

“In the beginning, the media says that this is mostly about government corruption or only about unemployment,” Prieto said. “But it’s not against the government. It’s against the entire system, the globalized system. And we think we can only fight it with a globalized movement, it’s not just for one particular country. It’s about the global financial system and the deeper roots of the crisis. I realize that sounds a little hopeful, and as a movement right now we don’t have any official goals. Everyone here has issues that they feel should take importance, that they are not being heard enough, and so right now we are just at the stage of everyone getting a voice and using the assembly and direct democracy to find the direction we will take. We are right now in the communications stage, trying to get to one common point, but that is farther than we have felt we’ve been before with the current system.

Anti-police and pro-democracy messages plastered the plaza. Photos by David Schnur

“I think that is what we’re about,” Prieto continued, “we’re not just protesting against something, we’re proposing an alternative. Everyone has a right to speak, a voice, and everyone has exactly the same power. There’s no leaders, no hierarchy at all, and we believe that’s the way democracy should work. We have continued staying here after the elections — and are planning to stay here through next Sunday, after which we will take our message to other communities — because we aren’t just about this moment. And although the Internet has been crucial to this movement, we need to go beyond that. Once we were in the papers and talking to people we began to reach older people and people with different economic means, people who are offline.” The movement is no mere Facebook page.

ICELAND, NOT ARABIA

Using classic, small-scale anarchist techniques like direct democracy and full-participatory assemblies to overthrow an entrenched global system is a trick not even the best minds or biggest movements have been able to pull off in the past, Internet or no. (And jettisoning representative safeguards against mob rule is probably not very comforting to anyone in a minority. “We realize that this movement is not wholly representative of some sectors of society,” Prieto said, “and that’s why we are making a conscious effort to correct that and to take this into the neighborhoods.”) But the 15-M movement does indeed have some immediate concerns and models, though not the ones you might expect.

At night, the plaza was absolutely packed with protestors. Photo by Marke B.

We had just come from Tunisia, the source of the “Arab Spring” that saw the overthrow in January of dictator Ben Ali, but where continuing economic woes and pre-election angst had begun to render post-revolutionary hopefulness slightly bitter. Tire-burning protests and Al Qaeda presence had closed off some cities in the south already swamped with refugees from the Libyan war, and gangs of disaffected young men from the Berber hills were setting up random roadblocks out of frustration. In the capital, too, protests continued against the ongoing influence of the old guard in the interim government, even though everyone we talked to glowed with pride and confidence in their newly won autonomy.

So it was curious that papers around the world were heralding 15-M as the Spanish wing of the Arab Spring. Setting up an alternative utopia under a Socialist prime minister is a lot different from risking being shot in the street to overthrow a dictator. There are some commonalities, of course, like high unemployment and a surfeit of young people with no opportunities. Prieto welcomed some of the comparisons, but also balked at being lumped together with the events unfolding to the south and east.

The entrance to the Sol Metro station was covered in handmade messages. Photo by Marke B.

“I think the more complete comparison would be to Iceland,” Prieto said. “We have the energy of the Arab Spring, but we are more like Iceland’s revolution, when they refused to pay back the money or accept the austerity measures imposed by the banks. That was really standing up to power.”

The Iceland connection, a reference to the recent reaction against a complex financial restructuring plan, came up again when I spoke to Manuel Verastegui, an exuberant young man on the Comisión de Respeto security committee, who definitely channeled the positive energy and fervor of the Arab Spring. He came from the nearby city of Rivas, about 15 kilometers away, to live in the plaza.

Manuel Verastagui, a volunteer with the 15-M security committee. Photo by David Schnur.

“Your media probably didn’t cover it, but the protests in Iceland were very influential to us,” he said. “I think that’s what we are taking as inspiration. But that’s just the start. We are tired of being treated like numbers or commodities. The way the present system stands is completely ridiculous. We are given a ‘choice’ of someone to vote for, when each side is horrible. We are told what to do with our money, when why shouldn’t I have a say in how that money is spent? The whole financial system is weighed against the individual.

“For instance, in Spain if you can’t pay for your house, they take your house away from you, but you still owe the money on the house. Why? They want to make sure you can never survive financially, because it is in their best interests. It is the same with jobs. Why is the government getting rid of jobs and services when the rich people are making more money? We have had enough of this, so we are starting our own society here to show what it can be like.”

KEEPING THE PEACE

Verastagui, looking exhausted but still hip in a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, a constantly buzzing Motorola two-way radio glued to his hand, also gave me some insight on the formation of his Respect Committee. “At first, after the police were violent with us, we decided that we needed a committee of ‘security against the police,’ but then we realized that this was maybe not a good reference. We do not want to answer violence with violence, we have in mind Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

“Also, we began to see that there needed to be some mediation within the camp as well, to help defuse some of the tensions and disagreements — sometimes a small fight — between members. We are all working so hard for this, we are sleeping maybe three or four hours a night. Sometimes these little things get bigger. We try to ensure that no one is disrespectful, and give everyone an opportunity to either work things out, or discuss things in the assembly. We even give out hugs to anyone who asks!”

(As I talked with Verastagui, a vote about organizing a children’s space was ending in the assembly area, and a discussion about establishing a “spirituality committee” was being taken up. An elderly hippie-ish man in vaguely Native American dress was at the microphone saying in English: “We are at the turning point of human history, which is why this movement is happening now. Humanity can go either this way, or that way.”)

A volunteer in the 15-M communal kitchen. Photo by David Schnur.
Taking a break from occupying in a heatwave. Photo by David Schnur

I talked more to spokesperson Prieto about the cultural implications of 15-M, explaining that in the United States, anger against the recession had bred not a utopian youth movement but a crochety old Tea Party, and that a protest community like this one forming in Washington D.C. seemed impossible in my mind. “Everyone thought this was impossible in Spain as well, but we don’t care about impossible,” Prieto told me. “Improbable, probably, but never impossible. And yet look what is happening. Our main concentration now is to spread this into all the neighborhoods and suburbs, and then beyond, which is already taking place.

“There are movements like this in every major city in Spain now as well. And one of our biggest inspirations has always been the protest movement of San Francisco. So don’t say it can’t happen again there.”

Marke B. Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

Iraq War Vet Disrupts George Bush During Live Speech

The Rational National Iraq war veteran and filmmaker Mike Prysner disrupted a George Bush speaking event, and it was amazing. Subscribe to Empire Files: https://www.youtube.com/c/EmpireFiles === Support the show at http://TheRationalNational.com/Join Donate Directly at http://PayPal.me/daviddoel Tip at https://streamlabs.com/therationalnat… ‘Join’ on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo9o… Follow David Doel at http://twitter.com/DavidDoel Follow The Rational National at http://twitter.com/TRNshow Follow on Twitch at http://twitch.tv/TheRationalNational Follow on Facebook: https://facebook.com/trnshow === Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-taJ… (original video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL992… (Mike Prysner in 2011) https://www.youtube.com/c/TheHumanist… (Humanist Report)

DEB HAALAND, A LIVING TESTAMENT

The path to becoming the nation’s first Native interior secretary

By Jenni Monet | Sep 15 2021 (sierraclub.org)

Deb Haaland

Photo by Shane Balkowitsch

SHAYAI LUCERO watched Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing from her flower shop on the Laguna Pueblo. She knows Haaland and her extended family. The floral business Lucero runs out of her converted garage used to belong to Haaland’s sister.

These relationships are as typical as any across the reservation—a sprawling community about 50 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, comprising six small villages, a colonial mission, and the now-parched lagoon that inspired the pueblo’s Spanish name.

In the flower shop, a laptop played C-SPAN’s live­stream of the proceedings.

Haaland arrived at the Dirksen Senate Office Building with her arms fully loaded. On one side, she held a big white binder at her hip. On the other, she cradled an ornately painted Pueblo pottery bowl like a baby. The New Mexico representative wore a charcoal-gray pantsuit, a basic black top, and strands of chunky turquoise stones around her neck. Tacked to her lapel was a congressional pin. It was February 23, 2021—mere weeks into her second term.Becoming “Madam Secretary” has catapulted her to the status of an Indigenous icon. She’s a meme. She’s a GIF. She’s some artist’s latest beadwork.

Haaland gifted the pottery to Don Young, a House Republican from Alaska. He had agreed to give a rare endorsement at the start of Haaland’s Senate hearing despite their disagreements over drilling for fossil fuels. Affectionately calling his colleague “Debbie,” the senior statesman explained to the gathering of mostly white and male lawmakers how he and Haaland had become fast friends. “It’s my job to try to convince her that she is not all right, and her job is to convince me I’m not right,” he said. “She will listen to you.”

John Barrasso, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, noted Haaland’s epoch-making hour. “If confirmed, she would be the first Native cabinet secretary,” he said. “For that reason, her nomination is historic and deserves to be recognized.”

He nodded gentlemanly toward the cabinet nominee, flipping a page from his script. “At the same time,” he said, sighing, “I am troubled by many of Representative Haaland’s views—views that many in my home state of Wyoming would consider as radical.”

At 60, Haaland has a face that reflects a lineage of Pueblo matriarchs. In 2018, she became one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress, along with Ho-Chunk Democratic representative Sharice Davids from Kansas. Her nomination for secretary of the interior largely came about because Indigenous activists had a wild idea, tested it, and lobbied President Joe Biden to follow along.

Deb Haaland, wearing a bright-colored dress, has one hand on a bible and one palm in the air. All six people in the photo are wearing face masks.


Deb Haaland is sworn in as the nation’s first Native interior secretary. | Photo by Lawrence Jackson/White House

Haaland greeted lawmakers in Keres, the language of the Káwáigamé, or People From the Small Lake, Laguna. “Guwadzi hauba,” she said, introducing herself by clan: Turquoise. Then she spoke of summers spent in Mesita village. “It was in the cornfields with my grandfather where I learned the importance of water and protecting our resources—where I gained a deep respect for the earth.” She encouraged Republicans, Democrats, and independents in the committee to consider their shared love for the outdoors.

But Republican senators wanted none of that. Barrasso worked to set the tone: a grilling.

“I’m an orthopedic surgeon,” he told Haaland. “And just a couple of months ago, you tweeted, ‘Republicans don’t believe in science,’ a pretty broad statement.”

“Senator, I . . .” Haaland gently waved her hand, searching for a response. “Yes, if you’re a doctor, I would assume you believe in science,” she said.

Science. The word came up frequently during the proceedings, revealing the cultural divide over whether to trust expert analyses on current issues like the corona­virus and climate change. For two days, oil-backed Republicans took turns expressing their frustrations. Senator James Risch of Idaho stirred tensions when he repeatedly pressed Haaland about the Keystone XL Pipeline—never mind that the energy project is determined by presidential permit and not by the Interior Department. Senator Steve Daines, the most vocal of Haaland’s critics, raised concerns about energy-sector job losses for his Montana constituents. Barrasso, meanwhile, insinuated that the congresswoman was a drug peddler for proposing cannabis cultivation to offset oil and gas revenues. At every turn, Haaland responded with inscrutable poise.”We must shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past, no matter how hard it will be.”

On March 15, the Senate gathered to vote on whether she would become the first Native person to lead the Interior Department. It was a historic day.

Lucero was again at work, placing bright marigolds into a perfect ring, a wreath that would lie on the grave of a young tribal member. It had been one year since Laguna Pueblo had closed its reservation borders in response to the pandemic; the coronavirus had hit the community particularly hard. The grieving she’d seen as the only florist on the reservation weighed on her.

Lucero is a wife and a mother, a daughter and an entrepreneur. She’s also a former Miss Indian World, a title she preserved in a collage of decorative pins, ticket stubs from memorable events, and photographs of her travels, hanging near her dining room. The year she reigned, in 1997, she journeyed to Japan, performed at Lincoln Center, and made stops across Indian Country, including an Iñupiat blanket toss in Alaska. Unlike other pageants, Miss Indian World is less about outward beauty and more about deep cultural ties. For the traditional talent competition, Lucero delivered a presentation about Pueblo plant medicines.

As the Senate vote got underway, Lucero’s mother, Cecelia, gave an enthusiastic play-by-play. “Murkowski for Haaland,” she said while her daughter focused on her sympathy wreath.

When the voting stopped, Lucero put down the marigolds and joined her mother at the laptop. The final vote was 51 to 40—confirmed—with most Republicans voting against Haaland. Lucero marked the moment by snapping a screenshot. She looked at her mother, expecting to see her beaming. Instead, she saw tears.

Photo of Laguna Pueblo shows several rows of brown and beige stone buildings. Behind them is a white church and snow-covered mountains in the background.

Laguna Pueblo, where Haaland grew up. | Photo by Christian Heeb/laif/Redux

“I just keep thinking about all those Indian leaders who trekked from their homes to try to get the government to listen to them,” Cecelia told her daughter. “Centuries of chiefs and tribal leaders.”

Lucero’s mother might have been referencing any number of Native delegations who for over two centuries and during almost every presidential administration had visited the White House, and specifically the Interior Department, to advocate for themselves—their sovereignty, their land, their right to pray. So often these trips were futile. A rare exception came in 1922, when the All Indian Pueblo Council stopped a bill that would have seized some 60,000 acres of Pueblo land and disrupted their ceremonies.

“People in Indian Country, it just seems, we have this sense of relief,” Lucero said. “We’ve been ignored for so long.”


ALMOST EVERYONE CALLS Debra Anne Haaland “Deb.” Native millennials go further—to them she is “Auntie Deb.” Becoming “Madam Secretary” has catapulted her to the status of an Indigenous icon. She’s a meme. She’s a GIF. She’s some artist’s latest beadwork. Across social media, one of her most famous lines is now hashtagged on a regular basis: “Be fierce.”

Her appointment as the first Native American to lead the Interior Department is more than riveting considering the department’s legacy and documented abuse of Indigenous people. In 1851, two years after the department was created, President Millard Fillmore appointed Oliver M. Wozencraft as an Indian commissioner to form treaties with California tribes. Gold diggers had been scouring the Sierra Nevada foothills as militias carried out state-sponsored Indigenous genocide. There was a maniacal mood in what California’s first governor called a “war of extermination.” Wozencraft deceived tribes into signing 18 treaties—land negotiations that he knew Congress would never ratify. Interior Secretary Alexander H.H. Stuart helped break these pacts, writing a series of letters to Fillmore justifying the abrogation.

One hundred and seventy years later, Haaland quoted Stuart in a speech upon accepting her nomination. “This moment is profound when we consider that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed his goal was to, quote, civilize or exterminate us,” she said. “I am a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.”

Haaland was sworn in on March 18 wearing a rainbow-striped ribbon skirt and tall calfskin moccasins, her initiation in joining the most diverse cabinet in US history. Only six of the president’s 15 secretary picks are straight white men—the lowest number in any administration.

Indigenous people have inhabited the North American continent for millennia, since well before European explorers arrived in the late 1400s. Despite what followed—calculated land dispossession by way of massacre, removal, and ethnic cleansing—some 3 million people are citizens of today’s 574 federally recognized Native nations. With barely 1 percent of the US population, Indian Country is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood communities in America. According to a 2015 report in Theory and Research in Social Education, 87 percent of state history standards do not mention Indigenous people after the year 1900. That could explain why many Americans’ knowledge of Indigenous history is so limited or, in the case of former senator Rick Santorum, rife with ignorance. “We birthed a nation from nothing,” Santorum said in an April 23 speech before the conservative Young America’s Foundation. “I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

Deb Haaland wears jeans, hiking boots, and a baseball cap as she climbs up a rock. A man follows behind her.

Haaland hikes in Bears Ears National Monument with tribal leaders and Utah politicians. | Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP

For many, Haaland is the most visible reminder that Native people are still here. As the leader of the $12.6 billion Interior Department, she is a beacon of progressive policymaking, responsible for overseeing nearly a fifth of the nation’s public lands across 11 agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Secretary Haaland is now poised to prioritize, for the first time in this country’s history, Indigenous affairs. Even before she came to Congress in 2019, the Pueblo politician had spoken out against fossil fuels. In 2016, she drove from Albuquerque to Standing Rock, North Dakota, to stand with water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. At the beginning of her first term, Haaland joined other progressives—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar—at a press conference introducing the Green New Deal.

By the end of Haaland’s first term, five of her signature bills had become law, all but one of them related to Indian Country. The Not Invisible Act is now being implemented in the Interior Department. This law and its companion legislation, Savanna’s Act, were signed by President Donald Trump last year. Together they call for enhanced policing to curb the dramatic rate at which Indigenous people are disappeared or found dead. A decades-long grassroots effort to address the “missing and murdered” was galvanized in 2017 after the horrific murder of Spirit Lake mother Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind. Investigators in Fargo, North Dakota, bungled the job, revealing the subtleties of police bias. In her second week at the Interior Department, Haaland established a Missing and Murdered Unit to help carry out these two laws.

“We’re looking at systems as a whole to be fundamentally delegitimized, so it’s a powerful moment,” said Sam Torres, director and researcher for the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. “In a way, we’re starting to scratch the surface on correcting injustices that have been hundreds of years in the making.”

Torres has been examining cycles of violence in Indian Country triggered by the 1819 Indian Civilization Act, a federal policy designed for the cultural genocide of Indigenous people through a network of Indian boarding schools. The most notorious of these forced-assimilation programs was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Its stated mission: “Kill the Indian, and save the man.”

In her 2018 campaign blog, Haaland wrote that her Laguna Pueblo great-grandfather had been sent by train to attend Carlisle in 1881. In a 1995 essay for New Mexico Magazine, she said that her grandparents had been similarly separated from their families when they met as children at a boarding school in Santa Fe.

In June, before hundreds of tribal leaders attending the online National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference, she announced the first-ever investigation into the US boarding school policy, the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. Haaland confided to them that her role as Madam Secretary was one of the most important challenges of her professional life.

“I come from ancestors who endured the horrors of Indian boarding school assimilation policies carried out by the same department that I now lead, the same agency that tried to eradicate our culture, our language, our spiritual practices, and our people,” Haaland said. “We must shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past, no matter how hard it will be.”


BEFORE THE RAILROAD arrived in the 1880s, men in the village of Old Laguna would travel five or so miles to a jutting mesa where cornfields and fruit trees flourished in the summer. The farmers lived in makeshift camps until it made sense to permanently settle there. Today, Mesita village is a patchwork of roughly 40 homes, a Catholic church, a plaza, and a meeting hall. The occasional train passes along a northern sandstone bluff. To the south, a steady stream of 18-wheelers, RVs, and cars roll by on Interstate 40.

Helen Steele, Haaland’s grandmother, was raised in Mesita. At age 18, she married Tony Toya, a young man from the nearby Jemez Pueblo. He was courting her the day railway recruiters offered him a job some 200 miles west in Winslow, Arizona. The young couple moved there and settled behind a roundhouse, where a colony of Laguna workers had formed. They lived in homes converted from castaway boxcars. They spoke Keres and baked bread in handcrafted hornos, or mud ovens, just as they did back home. The Toyas, who were determined to maintain a connection to Mesita, took advantage of free train rides and returned to the reservation often, especially to tend to summer crops. Haaland was born in Winslow, and these experiences of her grandparents became a defining part of her upbringing.

In 1974, Haaland was a freshman at Albuquerque’s Highland High. Before then, she had bounced among more than a dozen schools, the sheltered daughter of two military parents. John David “Dutch” Haaland, a marine officer, had saved six lives during his two-year tour in Vietnam, for which he was awarded the Silver Star. Mary Toya, Haaland’s mother, served in the US Navy and kept a home with floors so clean you’d slip on them. As the war played out on TV, Haaland said, some days the news reports would bring her father to tears.

After graduating high school in 1978, Haaland packed her bags and moved with a friend to Los Angeles. Her ambitions were straightforward: “Just to meet some movie stars,” Haaland told me. Beyond that, they didn’t have much of a plan. Going broke brought her back to the popular Albuquerque bakery where she’d been working since age 14.

For Haaland, understanding her Indigeneity began in adulthood when she entered the University of New Mexico (UNM). She was 28, and her guides were Native authors and poets exploding onto the national scene. Today’s US poet laureate, Joy Harjo, who is Muscogee, was on her roster of instructors. Haaland read books with plot­lines about characters returning to the reservation with “feet in two worlds.” Back then, Indigenous studies programs hardly fit the rubric for higher education, but Native literature and poetry laid that foundation. And it spoke to Haaland, who had been dancing on ceremonial feast days and Christmases since she was a young girl. “Sometimes I’d be the only one out of my family dancing,” she said. “Nobody else would dance.”

On graduation day in spring 1994, a very pregnant Haaland wore UNM’s red cap and gown. Four days later, at 33, she gave birth to a child she named Somàh. Single motherhood would alter the trajectory of their lives. “It was a choice I made to be a single mom,” Haaland said in a campaign video in 2018.

When Somàh turned two, Haaland started her own company, Pueblo Salsa, as a way to spend more time with her child. She worked out of a commercial kitchen and sourced some of the most sought-after red chilies in northern New Mexico. She sold jars that were stocked at local grocery stores and other small businesses statewide. But she struggled. When not making salsa, she was delivering it to her customers. In between, she traded preschool duties for Somàh’s free tuition while filing the occasional magazine essay as a freelance writer.

By 2002, Haaland had become drawn to political organizing. That year, South Dakota senator Tim Johnson eked out a narrow reelection victory, by 528 ballots, largely credited to Lakota voters. “When I saw what the Indian vote had done in South Dakota, I said, I bet we can do that here,” Haaland recalled.

She applied to law school, sold her company, and returned to UNM in 2003. But these ambitions threw her finances into tumult. Living away from New Mexico for a short stint had made her ineligible for in-state tuition. Haaland describes those years as lean—a diet of pinto beans and tortillas. Yet, when she sought emergency food stamps for the first time, she was denied. She had “too many assets,” she was told. She walked away feeling too poor to feed her tiny family but not poor enough in the eyes of the government. It took a brush with homelessness—essentially, couch surfing among friends—for her to become eligible.

Years later, Haaland’s efforts began to pay off: She was hired by President Barack Obama’s campaign to secure the Native vote. She became the state Democratic Party’s Native American caucus chair. She ran for lieutenant governor of New Mexico in 2014, lost, then circled back to the state Democratic Party as its first Native chairperson.

When Haaland was scoping out locations to kick off her For Congress, For Us campaign in 2017, a former professor at UNM Law School, John Feldman, offered up his juke joint. Two years later, he hosted the launch of her reelection campaign. “She’s a team builder,” Feldman said. “And not just everybody has that. That’s what I’ve seen all along.”


SHAYAI LUCERO REMEMBERS the day in 2004 when Haaland the canvasser came knocking on her door. Haaland had studied the data and noticed that Lucero rarely missed an election. Haaland asked her if she would mind driving Lagunas to the polls. “That was her grassroots effort, to get people to realize the importance of our vote,” Lucero said. “And the history of Miguel Trujillo.”

After World War II, Native veterans like Trujillo returned as heroes, but to a country that disenfranchised them. Across New Mexico, Native Americans did not secure the right to vote until 1948, through a lawsuit that Trujillo filed and won. But it took time for Natives in New Mexico to trust the electoral process, even in the 2000s, when Haaland canvassed area pueblos. Trujillo’s legacy was mostly suppressed in obscure history books until Haaland kept mentioning his name. She’d reserve Pueblo recreation halls, bring pots of green chile and a stack of tortillas, and register Native voters.

The night Haaland became one of the first two Native women elected to Congress, she acknowledged—who else?—Miguel Trujillo. “Seventy years ago, Native Americans right here in New Mexico couldn’t vote,” she said to her supporters. “Today we all came together, and we said we still believe in the American dream, and American democracy, and in hope.”

The room roared.

Across the 19 Pueblo governments in New Mexico, top leadership roles are mostly reserved for men. For Lucero, that fact has deep personal roots. “As a young woman, I always told my dad, ‘Oh, I would love to be governor,’” she said. “And he would always have to burst my bubble: ‘You’re never going to be governor.’”

Many Pueblo women see Haaland’s interior secretary appointment as a turning point.

“We need to be giving her our support,” Lucero’s mom said. “She’s going to be protector of our Mother. We need to support the woman who’s going to protect Her.”


HAALAND’S ENTOURAGE ZIGZAGGED up the Moki Dugway on a morning so clear and golden you could see why tourists love Bears Ears. The tawny earth and sandstone bluffs were only the beginning of a seemingly unbroken landscape.

Less than a month after being confirmed as interior secretary, Haaland was ascending a snakelike road up to Muley Point that was chiseled into Cedar Mesa for the Happy Jack uranium mine 70 years ago. She passed a few guardrails that don’t hide the fact that the occasional vehicle has gone over the edge. Eventually the silhouettes of two buttes, Bears Ears, came into sight.

It was quiet on the mesa during a prayer. As the top administrator of the nation’s public lands, Secretary Haaland had come to Utah to update President Biden on an American controversy: the making and breaking of a monument. For more than a century, the state’s southeast corner has been a resplendent backdrop for the racism that provoked the dispute over protections for the area. The mostly white, mostly Republican majority in Utah favors the loosest federal restrictions over the region, while many others—Natives, scientists, and environmentalists—say it is deserving of so much more.

Looting by locals has been a key catalyst for such contention. The decades-long pilfering of Indigenous holy objects got so bad that it led to unprecedented crackdowns by the Bureau of Land Management. One sophisticated sting in 2009 exposed looters’ houses stuffed with artifacts, including an unearthed cradleboard with an umbilical cord.

“They call it pot hunting, but it was grave robbery, really,” former interior secretary Sally Jewell told The Washington Post in 2019. Jewell was the head of the Interior Department when President Obama created the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in 2016. For conservatives across Utah, the designation felt like federal “overreach.” And they let President Trump know it after he succeeded Obama in the White House.

In the three years since Trump shrank Bears Ears, the threats to this treasured ecosystem have mounted, according to stakeholders who demand that the monument be restored. The hazards, aside from prolonged plunder, range from vandalism and over-visitation to unmonitored off-roading. More politically charged issues are linked to uranium mining and oil and gas drilling—all on a site considered a sanctuary to Native Americans.

“It is much like the Mormon temple up in Salt Lake City,” Clark Tenakhongva said at a press conference during Haaland’s visit. The vice-chairman of the Hopi Tribe is also co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. “If you desecrate, destroy our shrines, our temples down here, basically you’re destroying our culture, our religion, our lifeline.”

The land here is sacred to many of the region’s Native Americans, including a Pueblo diaspora who lived among these sunburned mesas about 1,200 years ago, before a megadrought forced their migration to the banks of the Rio Grande. It’s because of this that Haaland describes herself as a “35th generation New Mexican.” And it’s why her first act as a representative was drafting legislation to restore the protections to Bears Ears undone by Trump. That bill failed, making it unfinished business in her first official tour as interior secretary.

In the afternoon, Haaland hiked Butler Wash with Tenakhongva and other tribal leaders, along with Utah Republicans and the state’s governor, Spencer Cox. Conspicuously missing was senior senator Mike Lee, who had pestered Haaland about Bears Ears on both days of her confirmation hearing. Lee had invited Haaland to Utah, but now that she was there, he wasn’t.

If such treatment bothered Haaland, she appeared to have brushed it off. At one point, she stood in the center of a selfie snapped by Governor Cox; his long right arm stretched far enough to frame the shot with Senator Mitt Romney, who leaned in, off to the side. They smiled behind their masks. Romney and other Republicans want Haaland to tell Biden to back off, to let Congress decide the future of the monument.

“I think this is an opportunity to find common ground,” Romney said. “No pun intended.” And he promoted a “working together” approach, though the lawmaker, along with Lee, had been among the 40 senators who had voted against Haaland’s confirmation.

In a report sent to the White House in early June, the interior secretary advised Biden to reinstate the original boundaries at Bears Ears as well as Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Utah is now poised to sue.

“Sister,” Tenakhongva, a former radio DJ, said to Haaland from the podium during the press conference. He then addressed his opponents’ gripes about government “overreach”: “Wait until you become a brown-skinned person and a Native American,” he said, his tone filled with frustration. “That’s when you will talk about overreach of the American government.”

Tenakhongva was crestfallen when Trump reduced Bears Ears. In December 2017, on his first day in office as the Hopi vice-chairman, he sued the president. The lawsuit is on hold pending Biden’s review. Tenakhongva explained to Haaland what it meant to have Obama designate a monument that, for the first time ever, honors traditional knowledge rooted in the land—the plants, the water, and the spirits of their kin. “It took years of hard work for us to get to that point,” he said. “It’s never been fair.”

While lobbying by at least one uranium company bolstered Trump’s decision to shrink the monument, the sense industry-wide is that mining the mineral is too expensive. Meanwhile, the Utah Geological Survey reported in March that all 255 oil and gas wells situated within Bears Ears have been abandoned since 1992.

Still, a recent uranium reserve included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan raises speculation. Last year the same uranium company that lobbied Trump, Energy Fuels, coordinated campaign contributions for members of Congress who supported the creation of a $75 million federal uranium stockpile for its conventional mill near Bears Ears, the only one operating in the United States. In its press release, Energy Fuels applauded the reserve. And it thanked a single senator by name: John Barrasso.

On her hike to Butler Wash, Haaland found herself at the edge of a rare perennial spring, a lifeline to the arid mesa. It glinted at her. Tenakhongva and other Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition members burned earth medicines and offered them to the water. For the second time that day, in the home of her ancestors, Haaland acknowledged the land with gratitude and prayed. “The earth holds so much power,” she said as the desert light started to wane.

Hands shoved in pockets, a medicine bundle dangling around her neck, Madam Secretary stood in the Valley of the Gods as sundown gave shadow to the land.

This article appeared in the Fall quarterly edition with the headline “A Living Testament.”

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MORE STORIES ABOUT: indigenous communitiespoliticspublic landsSee all storiesPublished in the Fall 2021 issue of Sierra Magazine

Jenni Monet is a journalist and founder of the weekly newsletter, Indigenously: Decolonizing Your Newsfeed. She is a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna.

THIS IS WHY YOU CAN’T TRUST BIG PHARMA

Russell Brand The FDA is funded by the same Big Pharma & Corporations it regulates. What are the issues of the potential conflict of interests within this current system? #FDA#BigPharma#Corruption Elites are taking over! Our only hope is to form our own. To learn more join my cartel here https://www.russellbrand.com/join and get weekly bulletins too incendiary for anything but your private inbox. *not a euphemism Listen to my Luminary Original podcast, Under The Skin, to hear from guests including Edward Snowden, Jonathan Haidt, Jordan Peterson, Naomi Klein, Kehinde Andrews, Adam Curtis and Vandana Shiva. Subscribe to Luminary at http://apple.co/russell My NEW weekly meditation podcast, Above the Noise, is available now only on Luminary. SEE ME LIVE! Check out my live events and buy tickets here https://www.russellbrand.com/live-dates/ My Audible Original, ‘Revelation’, is out NOW! US: http://adbl.co/revelation UK: http://adbl.co/revelationuk AU: http://adbl.co/revelationau CA: http://adbl.co/revelationca For meditation and breath work, subscribe to my side-channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/AwakeningWi… Instagram: http://instagram.com/russellbrand/ Twitter: http://twitter.com/rustyrockets

Occupy San Francisco – October 15th, 2011 rally

Russell Ward My experience of attending the October 15th rally and talking to supporters of Occupy San Francisco. Occupy Wall Street. Some estimates and my best guess put the number attending at over 10,000 people came to raise their voices

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WHAT IS ‘THE WEST’?

What is ‘the West’? | Aeon

While the West belonged to a European geography, its name meant something. Now it is a vague invocation, laden with fearThe Jaipur A and B teams, who competed in the Prince of Wales Cup tournament in Delhi, India, 27 February 1939. Photo by Fox Photos/GettyFaisal Devji

is professor of Indian history and fellow of St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, where he is also the director of the Asian Studies Centre. His latest book is Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea (2013).

Edited bySam Haselby

20 September 2021 (aeon.co)

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When asked what he thought of Western civilisation, Gandhi apparently responded that he thought it would be a good idea. While this celebrated statement is taken to be an ironic dismissal, Gandhi had in fact given the matter of Western civilisation much thought. In his manifesto of 1909 called Hind Swaraj or ‘Indian Home Rule’, the future Mahatma had described imperial Britain’s desire to spread Western civilisation not as hypocritical so much as suicidal. For he thought that this civilisation was threatened by the very effort to replicate it using the means of industrial capitalism, in much the same way as European commodities were mass-produced for colonial markets. ‘It is a civilisation only in name. Under it the nations of Europe are becoming degraded and ruined day by day,’ he said. ‘Civilisation seeks to increase bodily comforts, and it fails miserably even in doing so.’

What Gandhi called the modern civilisation of industrial capitalism sought to multiply the manufacture, desire for and consumption of its commodities the world over:

They wish to convert the whole world into a vast market for their goods. That they cannot do so is true, but the blame will not be theirs. They will leave no stone unturned to reach the goal.

The purely mechanical expansion of this process, Gandhi argued, would destroy Western civilisation in the very effort to spread it. Why? Because capitalism belonged to no particular people or history, and could be owned by anyone. Modern civilisation, in other words, was a kind of parasite that would grow strong and spread via its European host. Europe would enable it to globalise and attack other parts of the world. Its driving logic was not European domination: that was just a means to an end.

Other Asian and African thinkers upheld the distinction between Europe’s particularity and the universal history of modernity. They claimed modern industrial capitalism as a human inheritance for which the West was merely a midwife. This allowed them to adopt it without any sense of civilisational risk or inferiority, and in Gandhi’s day such men often pointed to Japan as an example of the fit between an Asian culture and modern civilisation understood in a technical way. After Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, modernisation theory, now delinked from European civilisation, continued to promote capitalist development. More recently, the ferociously anti-Western Ayman al-Zawahiri, who led al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden, made the same point in 2008 when justifying his use of modern technology.

The Mahatma, however, considered the apparent universality of modern civilisation to be its most dangerous form. He wrote that ‘there is no end to the victims destroyed in the fire of civilisation. Its deadly effect is that people come under its scorching flames believing it to be all good.’ Gandhi saw Japan as being in thrall to the very forces of violence he thought were undermining Western civilisation, claiming that it might as well be the British flag flying over Tokyo. His compatriot and contemporary, the philosopher and poet Muhammad Iqbal, sought to rescue the European ideals both men often associated with Christianity from the destructive grip of capitalism. For Iqbal, these included Christendom itself as an arena for the universal ethics of Jesus.

Gandhi suggested that colonised countries should not achieve their freedom copying or adopting the technological prowess and institutions of the West. Instead, they should repudiate the path of the United States and Japan in favour of the true idealism of a nonviolent struggle. If they did so, the freedom of the colonised world might even redeem the West by returning it, through the force of Asian and African example, to a better way of life. Therefore, rather than following the European or American example, as in modernisation theory, the nonviolent struggles of colonised peoples should inspire the West to recall its own lost ideals. In other words, the Mahatma was not arguing for the superiority of Asian as opposed to European civilisation, but thought that the former could liberate the latter into its own truth. Indeed, apart from the Japanese who imitated Europe’s modernity, the West has never faced any foe identifying itself as belonging to the East.

The problem with modern civilisation and its vision of universality was that it inevitably escaped the West’s own grasp, as the expansion of Japan’s economy and empire demonstrated in Gandhi’s own day. Europe’s imperial powers understood the risk posed by the universality of their claims, since they routinely denied their colonial subjects had achieved modernity by arguing that they were not yet ready for self-government by reason of their poverty and illiteracy as much as customs and mutual antipathies. This was the argument the British used to deny India self-government even within the empire from the end of the First World War until the close of the Second, when the decision was taken out of their hands. The colony, for Europe, thus became a school of civilisation to which non-Europeans must be enrolled in perpetuity.

Anti-imperialists recognised the hypocrisy of this reasoning but often sought independence only so as to complete the destruction of native society. Jawaharlal Nehru, for instance, who went on to become India’s first prime minister after independence, argued that Britain was incapable of modernising India because it was too reliant upon the support of Indian aristocrats and other conservatives who had no interest in it. Only a democratic government, he claimed, would have both the determination and legitimacy to extend education, reduce poverty, abolish noxious customs and bring internecine conflicts to an end. In this way, he and other newly independent leaders proved Gandhi’s point about how anyone in the world could, in principle, fulfil modern civilisation’s universal promise.

If European imperialism represented the first effort to spread Western civilisation abroad, preceded though it sometimes was by Christian missionary activity, it also signalled the first crisis of the West as an idea. Imperialism made the West into a mobile figure for the first time, by expanding its geography well beyond Europe to include settler colonies in the Americas and Australasia.

The ‘ship of state’ was not merely a machine but mobile and replicable

Describing the way in which the British Empire became de-territorialised in its expansion, the German jurist Carl Schmitt quoted the Victorian prime minister Benjamin Disraeli’s recommendation in one of his novels that the Queen move to India should Britain be threatened. For, in doing so, she would only follow the precedent of the Portuguese crown, which moved to Brazil during the Napoleonic Wars. Schmitt saw such mobility as being made possible by the industrial technology that Gandhi had recognised as lying at the basis of modern civilisation.

In his book Land and Sea (1942), Schmitt reflected on the way in which the ship, as the most important technology of Britain’s maritime empire, represented modern civilisation in miniature. The ship, he pointed out, subordinated all its crew’s relations and activities to technical or instrumental ones. It could tolerate no principle but pure functionality, with all other ideals reduced to lower forms. The imperialist expansion of the West, therefore, entailed the diminution of its own historical and spiritual ideals in as suicidal a way. Like Gandhi, Schmitt had understood that the aptly named ‘ship of state’ was not merely a machine in which individuals were reduced to cogs, but that it was mobile and replicable, and so could never be the inalienable property of any one people or history. In this sense, the strength of national identity in such states represented nothing more than a desperate attempt to possess the country as a distinctive piece of collective property. But, like all capitalist property, its alienation was always possible in an economy defined by the universality of exchange.

As long as the West belonged to a European geography, its name possessed some meaning. But with its globalisation in empire, terms such as the ‘East’ and the ‘West’ had to be reinvented. Schmitt saw the implications of the West’s globalisation in his book The Nomos of the Earth (1950). European empires brought settler colonies in different parts of the world into the fold of the West, but it was the US that made the West into a properly political category. Empires like Britain’s, which were scattered across the world, had no geographical integrity, and so could not be politically divided into Eastern and Western domains.

Instead, with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, an American president split the globe in half to place one hemisphere under his country’s undisputed sway. Called the Western Hemisphere, this domain had the Americas at its centre and excluded Europe along with its Asian and African empires as part of the Eastern Hemisphere. For the first time, Europe was displaced from the West and separated from its former American colonies, in whose affairs it was no longer permitted to interfere.

First enunciated in President James Monroe’s 7th annual message to Congress on 2 December 1823, the doctrine distinguished a despotic and monarchical Europe forever engaged in internecine and colonial wars. The new home of freedom was in the Americas. Monroe claimed that ‘the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonisation by any European powers.’ He described Europe in much the same way as its imperial powers did their Asian and African colonies, albeit with the promise not to interfere in their internal affairs. The US also took on an imperial role in South and Central America.

The rise of the US led directly to the West’s crisis, to its doubling and displacement both as a geographical location and a political or civilisational category. This crisis has since been integral to the idea of the West. It is always in crisis and flux, and often in motion.

The end of the Second World War and the decolonisation in Asia and Africa required changing the meaning and location of the West again. It now included both ends of the Northern Atlantic Ocean, to exclude the Soviet Union and its Asian allies as part of the East in a new, Cold War division of the globe into rival hemispheres. And so the West was now NATO-claimed sovereignty, while the East was the Warsaw Pact.

Politics would reappear in battles defined by culture and civilisation that were not controlled by states

Francis Fukuyama’s book The End of History and the Last Man (1992) signalled the latest crisis of the West with the end of the Cold War. The West had emerged victorious against communism. The grand conflict, and therefore the ideological as well as the civilisational narratives of historical rivalry, had come to an end. Henceforth, all politics would become a kind of internal mopping-up operation within a liberal world order no longer divided into East and West and so made safe for capitalism. Politics was to be subordinated to economics, and the global triumph of neoliberalism represented this vision of the world made safe for the market and its mechanisms. Eastern Europe’s colour revolutions notably made no calls for equality. It was as if Gandhi’s vision of the parasite taking over its host had been fulfilled.

There was something paradoxically Soviet about Fukuyama’s argument, which seemed to mimic Vladimir Lenin’s idea about the victory of communism leading to the replacement of politics by what, citing Friedrich Engels, he called the administration of things. This notion was part of Lenin’s theory about history ending with the withering away of the state as an instrument of capital to be replaced by popular self-governance. However, Fukuyama’s move from political history to neoliberal governance simply foregrounded the problem posed by the newly internal, rather than traditionally external, enemies of a new world order no longer divided into East and West.

In his bestseller The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996), Samuel Huntington argued against Fukuyama that this enmity, and so politics or history, was unlikely to vanish into the problems of governance. Rather, politics would reappear in battles defined by culture and civilisation that were not controlled by states. In this new iteration, the West, newly reattached to its religious roots in Judaism and Christianity, was engaged in a civilisational struggle with forces such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Here, states and even geographies would play a lesser role.

With the terrorist attacks on the US of 11 September 2001, Huntington’s focus on non-state actors and religion took on urgent meaning. The French historian Michel Foucault had written extensively about the devolution of power from the sovereign and top-down politics to everyday institutional procedures of discipline and regulation that normalise children, students, soldiers, prisoners or patients into good citizens. He showed how, in this genealogy, the enemies of society were not foreign countries but internal foes such as sexual deviants, criminals and, of course, religious fanatics and terrorists.

In our own day, it is terrorism and Islam that play the role of such an enemy, one that is threatening because, like the race or class enemy of old, it is both internal and external to Western societies. Attempts are made to deny the interconnections between the West and its new enemy by externalising the latter through wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, restrictions on immigration, the surveillance of mosques and the criminalisation of practices such as veiling or ritual slaughter. Yet Islam is internal to Western societies not through immigration or conversion but because the varied trajectories of non-state militancy disallow us from defining it geographically as belonging to the non-West. The terrorist’s familiarity with jihad in Syria can coexist with his ignorance of that country and its language, while being quite at home in Europe. There is no foreign power to which he can betray the West in which he belongs. Having been smashed with the closing of the Cold War, it is no longer possible to put the Humpty Dumpty of bipolar conflict between East and West back together again.

If Islam has appeared as a new kind of civilisational foe in the 21st century, that is also because it can no longer play the role of a geopolitical rival. Dispersed among groups and individuals all over the world, it takes as its target not countries, but a global arena defined by flows of finance, commodities and migration. This post-Cold War world can be understood as a marketplace that has turned politics into a set of competing efforts by states and other actors to regulate or deregulate it. The goods subjected to such competition range from natural resources such as oil and fish, manufactures such as weaponry and nuclear technology, and individual rights such as that to life, privacy, free speech and the liberty of movement.

Like their enemies if also against them, Muslim militants want to regulate some of these goods and deregulate others for a global marketplace. But rather than defining their activities in the economic terminology of self-interest, they seem willing to sacrifice both their bodies and societies in death and destruction to achieve their ends. Islamic terrorism poses no existential threat to any state; rather, what makes it important is its promise of civil strife as an internal threat. Even the ‘Islamic state’ founded by ISIS in Iraq did not serve to define its war geographically since militants continued to attack targets in different and disconnected parts of the world. Its militancy crucially includes the apparently nihilistic repudiation of self-interest as the economic rationality that governs human behaviour.

From Turkey and Russia to India and China, the war on terror is no longer a Western project

The sacrificial form taken by Islamic militancy has led not just to attempts at opposing it but also to surprising imitations of its ethic. Among these is the return of the West as a civilisational category now set explicitly against Islam. But rather than representing the universalisation and technical rationality of modern civilisation that Gandhi had criticised, the West, as Huntington had argued, has returned in a specifically cultural and even theological incarnation. Pioneered in the war on terror, this can now be seen in the populist or ultranationalist repudiation of a universal, ‘rules-based global order’ with its freedoms of movement and standardisation. Growing in strength all over Europe and the US, this view constitutes nothing less than a refusal of the West itself in its neoliberal incarnation as a free market for goods and labour.

Brexit illustrated this form of sacrifice or repudiation. Its votaries are willing to accept economic and other losses to regain what they see as their sovereignty from the European Union as if imitating the struggles of their own former colonies. While not explicitly rejecting the principle of self-interest, they have stepped away from a vision of the post-Cold War world as a neoliberal marketplace of goods and ideas in which it can flourish. This sudden if disavowed identification with colonial subjects from Britain’s own past has been repeated all over Western Europe, where Right-wing parties and governments claim to be fighting for their sovereignty and culture against the EU as much as the colonising potential of immigration, Islam and other forms of globalisation. Does this strange historical reversal represent a perverse fulfilment of Gandhi’s prediction that the civilisation of modern capitalism would be decoupled from the West?

Like the modern civilisation Gandhi had criticised, the West’s effort to achieve global hegemony in the war on terror has been overtaken by the universalisation of its procedures, which have legitimised authoritarian states all over the world. From Turkey and Russia to India and China, the war on terror is no longer a Western project but has been deployed to join market-friendly economics with political repression. And so, the last project to reconfigure the West has also escaped its reach. Concomitantly, we have seen a tearing apart of the West’s institutional forms, whether in Donald Trump’s departure from alliances and agreements, or with Brexit and the reimposition of border controls in parts of the EU. These fraying bonds, however, have been complemented by a veritable rediscovery of the West as a civilisational entity, as if by way of compensation. Or are we indeed seeing a return of the West as a spiritual, rather than political or economic, phenomenon?

Political philosophyNations and empiresPolitics and government

DSA SF: Conflict in China: 1949 to Now

DSA SF September 20, 2021 Recording of panel discussion hosted by the DSA SF Education Committee that took place on September 18th 2021. This panel explores the social and political conflicts that have driven China’s history since the 1949 Revolution and the current situation in the PRC today. Speakers include Yige Dong, Yueran Zhang, Ralf Ruckus, and Christopher Connery. In addition the panel, the DSA SF Education Committee has released a reading list on China to help further education, discussion, and debate on China. The reading list includes writing from the speakers and others and is available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1n6re…

2021 UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY – DAY 1

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