The deep and multifaceted social/biological/political crises that characterize the 21st century are primed to intensify in the coming days, weeks, months and years. Deadly social catastrophes and explosions in train of the frankly incompetent public health response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and the right wing mob’s deadly storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, are virtually assured. It’s going to be a really rough ride.
The complexity of these confrontations, and the intensity of the underlying global/local emergencies, defy short term, simplistic solutions. They also demand urgently implemented answers from the grassroots. In a sequence conceived to address big and emergent crisis dangers first, hopefully working to long term systemic solutions and effectively using more People power options, including those opened up before us by leaderful accomplishments of Stacey Abrams and the Movement for Black Lives, here are some offered suggestions:
Dealing with Systemic Racism in the Law & in Crisis
The explosive growth in violent, racist right wing cultural civil war activities, after the debacles of January 6, 2021’s mob attack on Congress, become urgent survival and safety risks, and will probably intensify or manifest violently in some ways even after the January 20 presidential inauguration. There is a haunting new Amerikan ‘split screen’ jarring image: phalanxes of heavily armed riot-clad storm troopers facing entirely lawful BLM human rights demonstrations, compared to horrifying, structurally racist police-facilitated incompetent (or worse, designed to fail) policy and implementation responses to white nationalist insurrection on January 6. Today’s ongoing militarized manhunt and preparations for the Biden/Harris administration’s beginnings in 3 days are not merely the latest incoherent chapter in the post-Jim Crow life of the slave patrol implemented via modern police methods, they are harbingers of an inescapable reality around race, what we think of as “security”, violence and fundamental human rights, which we simply & urgently must face, completely re-think and deal with. Even more will die until we do.
In the coming times worst case scenarios encompass new domestic terror ‘civil war’. Our best futures call forth well-resourced independent government commissions and indictments all the way up the chain of accountability to disgraced ex-president Rump, with aggressive, principled special prosecutor actions to lock ‘em up!
Capitalism & the Future
In a broader and more fundamental sense, we are in real trouble with our basic economic and biological contract with each other and the planet. The obscene racial, ethnic and class disparities of death and suffering in the pandemic’s associated global economic collapse – itself a major aspect of the above structural crisis of racism, law and violence – also demands the most urgent actions for relief, reform, restructuring and revolutionary grassroots organizing initiatives, as to which one must simply ask “If not now, when?”
The lessons of the last 4 years include the need for revolutionary restructuring of a failed state society. Reinventing education. Making equity and human rights the basis of corporate and government action. The crisis and the future are here now. Speak now, and if some authority figure says its extremist or socialist or whatever, defend your position. This basic democratic habit of listening to each other and responding is no longer really optional, if it ever was.
“Free Speech” for Internet Billionaires, Vetted Lies for the Masses
The long-overdue muzzling of Rump’s twitter and other facebook-related opportunities to lie have been critiqued by many first amendment scholars, and rather than re-chew that sawdust I will simply note that the “rights” of everybody involved in the “global conversation” need to be respected. The failure of the industry’s biggest players to effectively manage the externalities and mass psychotic episodes generated by their algorithms has been duly noted. In blood. The debate about how to regulate or break up big tech will continue. Hopefully in the future the tech billionaires’ constitutional rights to curate their platforms will be matched by appropriate and adequate ethical and moral norms and safeguards, one way or another regulation.
In addition, the issue of the role of lies in first amendment jurisprudence should be reconceived, both as a legacy of Rump’s failed term, and in order to figure out what it even means to go forward. Lies have no first amendment or other positive social value. None. They may have private value, like the way Rump used lying to break America, or more legitimately the way a president lies about specific troop movements or national security secrets if it’s a matter of life and death (as it generally is argued to be). Other than such very few, narrow private value exceptions, straight up lies like the ones that got 5 or 6 People killed at the Capital on January 6 are vile, in addition to being useless. It’s not yelling “fire” in a theater that’s prohibited speech if it’s true, then it would be protected! (Think about it.)
Let’s make sure our civic approach to this long national nightmare since November 2016, whatever other aspects our hoped-for independent inquiry commission addresses, includes the question of cleansing our media platforms and educational and political discourse from its current domination by lies.
Liberals & Democrats
Tragically, the ultimate potential of all the good things that could come out of this catastrophe, and the 21st century’s human rights organizing he- and she-roes, will have to deal with Biden. Nothing in his record suggests any capacity for anything beyond serving racial capitalism’s corporate titans, aka “the market”. Corporate media op eds proliferate assessing his alleged potential to out-New Deal FDR, while the Green New Deal comes from the party’s progressive wing that he’s vanquished and frozen out of power, but it represents the only remotely realistic economic and ecological framework for dealing with the real questions posed by capitalism and the future. My lifetime has taught me never to expect much from liberals or Democrats.
Environmental Justice & the Commons
This is a time to develop, advocate and act on our most powerful visions for social justice. The old paradigms have failed and today is its own demand for our answers. I’ve tried to suggest ways to think about, discuss, organize and overcome racial capitalism, creating new anti-racist structures of ecological justice and sharing the necessities for life in common, with the preferential option for the poor encompassing universal human rights to water, shelter, food, education, clothing, political citizenship and all the necessities of life. I intend to fight for these things until I die. Fuck Covid-19!
This post was originally published on Radio Free.