Author: Mickey Z.

Earthlings Unite?

“In a world where everything is living, nothing can be thrown away. Where would you throw it to?” – Clark Strand, Seeds from a Birch Tree It is the duty of the oppressor to divide, to differentiate, to cultivate and promote false distinctions and then profit from the inevitable false conflicts these distinctions provoke. It is the duty of the oppressed to resist. In that spirit, I identify myself not by gender, by skin color, by class, language, or sexual orientation. I am not the sports team I root for, the city I was born in, the religion of my parents, not even the species in which I am classified. And I certainly do not identify as a consumer, an employee, a taxpayer, or an American. In the name of holistic justice and planetary rebellion, I am an earthling. Before there were Yankee fans or Red Sox fans, there were earthlings. Before there were terrorists or pacifists, there were earthlings. Before there were Christian or Jews, gays or straights, humans or non-humans, there were earthlings. Long after all these distinctions—or even the life forms that inspired them—there will be earthlings. Earthlings include the trees being clear-cut, the marine life being fished out of our oceans, the honeybees disappearing, and the animals howling for mercy in the vivisection labs. The humans shackled at Guantanamo, dying in cancer wards, cowering in...

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Banned in Vermont: An interview with advocacy journalist and author Rosemarie Jackowski

I’ve known radical grandma Rosemarie Jackowski (RMJ) for several years now and even interviewed her in 2005 about her arrest and court case. In light of her unique story and her tireless commitment to justice, I (and others) have encouraged her to write a book for years. Well, I’m happy to say, RMJ has delivered as only she can with Banned in Vermont. A wide-ranging collection of essays, memoirs, and more, Banned in Vermont shines a light on topics the US justice (sic) system, wartime propaganda, feminism, capital punishment, GMOs, and so much more—all fulfilling the book’s cover promise:...

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5 Reasons Why Technology Can Never Be Neutral

It’s repeated so often that few of us even stop to question its validity: “Technology is neutral. It’s only as good or as bad as those using it.” Here are 5 reasons why this is far from true: 1. Technology Devours Nature Thanks to the automobile culture, for example, in the 20th century, an area equal to all the arable land in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania was paved in the US. This means highways, off-ramps, parking lots, etc.—each replacing countless eco-systems. 2. Technology Leaves Behind Lots of Toxic Waste Three million tons of household electronics tossed by Americans in 2006. There are 300 million obsolete computers in the US today, and only 50% of a computer is recycled. The non-recyclable components of a single computer may contain almost 2 kilograms of lead. Seventy percent of the entire toxic waste stream of landfills is e-waste. 3. Technology Spawns Alienation We have social media, but we’re sacrificing social skills. “With the present means of long distance mass communication, sprawling isolation has proved an even more effective method of keeping a population under control, henceforth a one-way world,” writes Lewis Mumford. To green anarchists, technology is “more than wires, silicon, plastic, and steel. It is a complex system involving division of labor, resource extraction, and exploitation for the benefit of those who implement its process. The interface with and result of technology...

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Always do the right thing (because 99 is not 100)

Da Mayor: Always do the right thing. Mookie: That’s it? Da Mayor: That’s it. Mookie: I got it. I’m gone. If every American were to make every single lifestyle change suggested in the film, An Inconvenient Truth, it would only result in a 21% decrease in carbon emissions. In fact, while the average human produces 2,500 pounds of waste per year, the average per capita waste output is 26 tons…because 97% of waste is produced by agriculture and industry. Individual lifestyle changes won’t do anything to “save the planet,” so why bother? To help answer that question, I defer to Valter, one of the catadores (pickers of recyclable waste in Brazil) featured in the excellent documentary, Waste Land. “One single can is of great importance,” Valter explained, when asked about the value of recycling, “because 99 is not 100.” My translation: Never lose sight of the big picture but always do the right thing. Who wouldn’t want to witness a major reversal of some of our current catastrophic global eco-trends? But, as the legendary journalist I.F. Stone once said: “If you expect an answer to your question during your lifetime, you’re not asking a big enough question.” Making daily—even hourly—choices of resistance isn’t necessarily about being present when the current corporate-dominated paradigm shifts (or is shifted). It’s about doing the right thing…here and now. It’s about defying the dominant...

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“America Plops and Fizzes”: An interview with poet, Andrew Rihn

Some guy named Percy Shelley once said poets were the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” So, I’m thinking maybe Percy’s been hanging out in Canton, Ohio with Andrew Rihn, author of the inventive new poetry collection, America Plops and Fizzes from sunnyoutside press. #8 Sometimes the best things in life are broken. Rihn’s no Ivory Tower purist or coffeehouse boor. Sure, he’s the got the English degree from Kent State and six chapbooks to his name but as he told me, “My politics are reflected in my writing. Much of my writing deals with working class issues.” Putting his values into practice, Rihn has run creative writing workshops in a domestic violence shelter and currently volunteers reading manuscripts for a non-profit (Reentry Bridge Network) that connects prisoners with the performing arts. (Reentry Bridge Network publishes four books per year of prisoner’s writing.) #33 Tests are more meaningful without answers. “The concept of ‘responding’ is a central one in my writing and activism,” explains Rihn and the 50 poems in America Plops and Fizzes, to me, read not only as “response” but also as a provocation to respond. Described as deviating to the “edge of formlessness,” Rihn’s latest collection (and the excellent, complementary artwork by David Munson) seems to build a momentum as you read through it—the poems sneaking up on you, gaining steam, daring you to stop and contemplate…and...

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Why are you so negative? (and other FAQ)

FAQ: Why are you attacking me for my way of life? MZ: That’s easy: Our way of life is really a “way of death” and is directly responsible for the current global crises I write about. We also might want to agree to save the word “attack” for, say, those living under the US taxpayer-funded predator drones, cruise missiles, and depleted uranium shells. Let’s save it for countless victims of child abuse. Let’s save “attack” to describe the reality of one rape every 46 seconds in America. Okay? FAQ: Why don’t offer any step-by-step solutions? MZ: Way too many people imply that unless a critic expounds a specific strategy for change, his/her opinion is worthless. This remarkably unsophisticated reaction misses the essential role critical analysis plays in a society where problems—and their causes—are so cleverly disguised. When discussing the future, the first step is often an identification and demystification of the past and present. Besides, what value would my “solutions” hold while we are still in the midst of myriad global crises? I like to imagine that if we began detaching ourselves from a system designed to destroy us (and all life) and began dismantling that system, we’d create a space in which we could recognize paths and options currently invisible to us. FAQ: Why do you always focus on the negative? MZ: Becoming an activist can be an...

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“We need to stop this culture before it kills the planet”

As you begin reading this interview, take a look at the nearest clock. Now, dig this: Since yesterday at the same exact time, 200,000 acres of rainforest have been destroyed, over 100 plant and animal species have gone extinct, 13 million tons of toxic chemicals were released across the globe, and 29,158 children under the age of five died from preventable causes. Worst of all, there’s nothing unique about the past 24 hours. It’s business as usual, a daily reality—and no amount of CFL bulbs, recycled toilet paper, or Sierra Club donations will change it even a tiny bit. As you do your best to convince yourself of the vast chasm between the two wings of America’s single corporate party, I suggest you listen carefully to hear if even one of the politicians mentions any of the following: Every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic Eighty-one tons of mercury is emitted into the atmosphere each year as a result of electric power generation Every second, 10,000 gallons of gasoline are burned in the US Each year, Americans use 2.2 billion pounds of pesticides Ninety percent of the large fish in the ocean and 80 percent of the world’s forests are gone Every two seconds, a human being starves to death This is just a minute sampling, folks, and sorry, but your hybrid ain’t helping. That...

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Downsize or Modify? A Conversation with Noam Chomsky

While Noam Chomsky surely needs no introduction, as they say, that doesn’t mean interviewing him has to follow a blueprint. So, after seeing him in a video called “Are We Running Out of Oil?” I decided to initiate a conversation about the future…or perhaps lack thereof. What will happen if activists don’t kick things up a few thousands notches and provoke massive changes in the way humans currently live? Chomsky and I, of course, agree it’d be best to create such change and learn the answer to that question. On a few other points, we didn’t agree. Our discussion went something like this… Mickey Z.: I recently watched a video on climate change in which you were one of the featured interviewees. You talked quite somberly about the recent elections being a “death knell” for humanity and us “kissing our species goodbye.” I’ve read your work for decades but can’t seem to recall you using such language in this context. In your view, have we humans waited too long to take action? Do you believe we can/should downsize our industrial culture before it downsizes itself? Noam Chomsky: If I said the elections are a death knell, I went too far. But I think it’s fair to say that they do threaten that outcome. Even the business press is concerned. Bloomberg Business Week reported that the elections brought into office...

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Self Defense for Radicals: Collective Soul + Activist Heart

In his book, Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats, author Gwynne Dyer presents a series of scenarios that could potentially play out (soon) as climate change advances, e.g. several million dying in cyclones and floods in Bangladesh, the US building a mined fence to stop “climate refugees” from the South, tens of millions of Chinese dead in droughts…and then things get truly catastrophic. Such so-called “gloom and doom” is often greeted with either denial or mockery but staring dead-on into the reality we’ve all helped create is the first step in the following outline for personal, intellectual, and global self-defense. 1. Accept our role We’re not victims (remember: victims are helpless) but we are volunteers. Due to our compliance and/or silence and/or inaction, we’ve played a role in bringing our culture to the brink of social, economic, and environmental collapse. We’re not being “attacked” for our choices. For the record, I prefer to save the word “attack” for, say, those being targeted by American predator drones (subsidized by our tax dollars). We’re not being judged as guilty. It’s a little too late for that. We’re not being judged as innocent either. We’re all participants and/or witnesses (see above). We may think it’s not “fair” that we’re the generation that has to change everything about the way we live…but to paraphrase Clint Eastwood in The Unforgiven:...

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