Hacking Oppression:

Programming the Language of Utopia

Only after the last tree has been cut down; Only after the last fish has been caught; Only after the last river has been poisoned; Only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten.

-Cree Indian Prophecy

Fragmented Resistance in an Empire of Disorder:
Many groups holding nature as sacred are finding their spiritual practices targeted in the onslaught of an economic theory that justifies ecological destruction for profit. Their connection to the surrounding bioregions is further deteriorated by the incursion of government and corporate theft that appropriate and exploit the sustenance of the local resource base. The effect of industrial society’s imposition on vital ecosystems forces displacement and cultural devastation, whereby civilization ends up demonstrating pathogenic properties:

“A cancerous tumor continues to grow even as its expropriation of nutrients and disruption of vital functions cause its host to waste away. Similarly, human societies undermine their own long-term viability by depleting and fouling the environment…” (MacDougall, Humans as Cancer, pg. 82)

Yet even as the living world collapses under the systematic control of international capitalistic tendencies, the exploding popularity of peer-to-peer networks is undermining and subverting this dominant paradigm.

The assessment that government and the global marketplace are unrepresentative of one’s cultural values allows for the initiation of alternative visions of social justice that demand civic action. Unfortunately, the problem itself may be structurally built into the system we operate within, whereby the monetary system (and namely the medium of exchange) is subject to perturbations in personal desire for property and capital accumulation that function at the expense of social and environmental wellbeing. The eco-activist and anarchist Edward Abbey writes, “Money attracts because it gives us the means to command the labor and service and finally the lives of others—human or otherwise. Money is power.” (Abbey, Theory of Anarchy, pg. 25) This is certainly evident as when corporations dump toxic waste in running water, electing to spend their resources on the damage they do to ecosystems rather than take costly measures needed to avert such natural catastrophes in the first place. Those that subscribe to nature spirituality on the other hand do not conceive of nature’s monetary value but instead recognize its intrinsic worth, commonly communicating with nature intelligences and engaging with the wider community of living beings they consider sacred. (Harvey, Animism Today, pg. 81) The impending upheaval instigated by corporate interests can then be seen to threaten native peoples who are forced to mobilize, sometimes violently, in what can only be described as a global insurgency to mitigate the hazardous effects of an ideology imposed exclusively for profit.

The extreme nature of such resistance is many times linked to terrorist, or eco-terrorist activity, as sub-national groups like the Sea-Shepherd Conservation Society, responsible for the halting of the Japanese whaling fleets, or the Environmental and Animal Liberation Fronts, (among many others) are condemned for perpetrating the millions of dollars in property damage, defending their militant rhetoric by pointing out that animals and natural systems are innocent and must be rescued by any means necessary (even violently) if excessive violence is avoided, and then only after all nonviolent alternatives have been exhausted. (Regan, How to Justify Violence, pg. 233) Those adverse effects of industrial society’s institutionalized degradation and structural violence, which consequently destroy the sustaining environment on which it depends, are responded to by radical active resistance, organized to engage the root cause of such devastation while simultaneously enacting an alternative social system. Sabotage, terrorism, violence, and general opposition to oppressive forces in the name of social and environmental wellness can then be seen as a symptom of a greater sickness, so that revolutionary and anti-institutional risk cultures ultimately represent the “somewhat rational response to political and economic conditions that limit the effectiveness of state-sanctioned forms of protest,” challenging current paradigms. (Laurendeau, pg. 180)

Challengers to State Supremacy:
Even as these controversial tactics are condemned by the authorities often targeted by the radical action employed by this “Green religion,” the accusation that these groups should be uncritically dismissed as irrational terrorists exposes the hypocrisy prevalent in the state’s own utilization of power. Take for example the United States of America’s denouncement of Iran’s nuclear program as a violation of good intentions (even as the Western powers each enjoy a thriving nuclear program), added to the fact that the computer worm Stuxnet, widely credited as originating in U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies, was found to have undermined Iran’s nuclear program. (Ackerman, 2011) While this style of industrial sabotage is certainly more humanitarian than the murder previously perpetrated against several Iranian nuclear scientists, (Spencer, 2010) the precedent set by national governments should at least make any critic of similar tactics used by radical environmental groups hesitant in making disparaging comments, since both are done in defense of survival (in theory at least).

Likewise, in the absence of governmental transparency, heralded by governments as fundamental to a free and open society, when the group WikiLeaks published the U.S. State department’s internal memos to the Internet, disregarding their classification statuses, international governments denounced the act as cyberterrorism. Even so, the effect fueled resistance efforts in Tunisia (after extreme wealth discrepancies were made public), and spread later to Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iran, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Albania, and elsewhere, assisted by social media web sites. In a seeming reversal of its initial stance on the effect of open connection technologies, the U.S. State Department later issued a statement regarding its promise to defend the openness of the Internet with a venture capital investment project aiding hacktivists living in repressive regimes.

One of these hacktivist groups in particular, appropriately named Anonymous, did much to foment the Middle Eastern revolution, attacking the Tunisian government after it blocked cables that referenced the country as a totalitarian police-state, (Toor, 2011) while targeting American company sites like Paypal, Mastercard, and Amazon, that had withdrawn material support from WikiLeaks, disrupting the flow of their internet traffic. Indeed, as the Middle East expressed its desire for democratic reform as a vehicle to rectify economic inequality, Anonymous likewise set its sights on Bank of America after the company began to strategize as to how to discredit WikiLeaks, who claimed to be in possession of 5GB that exposed an “ecosystem of corruption,” sending Bank of America’s stock price down by 3% as a result. (Webster, 2010) Anonymous hacked the email account of one of the data intelligence firms charged with discrediting WikiLeaks, publishing more than 44,000 emails to the world wide web. The emails showed the developed proposal discussed the legal action that could be taken against WikiLeaks, proposing to sue the group and put an injunction on releasing any data. Moreover, not long after Kamal Abbas, the general coordinator of the CTUWS (an umbrella advocacy organization for independent unions in Egypt) expressed solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin who were protesting the stripping of their collective bargaining rights, (Jilani 2011) Anonymous declared in a communiqué its next operation would target the Koch brothers, chronic industrial polluters and long-time funders of conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity, for attempting to usurp American democracy. (Wing, 2011)

140 years after the Paris Commune uprising, Anonymous, an activist collective free of any hierarchical leadership structure, continued to promote freedom of speech and human rights, standing with those citizens of the world fighting against what is widely contended to be an abuse of government authority seeking to destroy and repress the solidarity and power of the working class. Like the earlier commune, Anonymous is considered by its detractors to essentially demonstrate extremist and terrorist tendencies, operating with the anarchistic ideals perhaps similar to Republican Spain, Woodstock, or the Free and Open Source computer programming communities that offer cooperative self-determination as a means to construct, restore, and encode through technology an ecotopia of sorts. Where active organization and civic engagement ensures a vibrant society will overcome systemic scarcity and government repression, hacktivists, supporting the struggle of the working class in its mobilization against political dominance, are structurally transforming civil society and facilitating revolutionary social change through their own operation as a modern resistance network.

Idealizing and Encoding a Utopia:
The transnational social insurgency represented here engages in radical civic voluntarism with the intent of restructuring civil society, attacking the dystopian vision of a global economic system enforced by a hierarchical politics of corruption. Whereas industrial society as a system of oppression institutionalizes and enforces the exploitation of labor and systemic injustice through corporate-sponsored environmental devastation, activists are able to confront and destroy the implicit colonial project that controls and commands the potential of collective power, abolishing the literal prisons they find themselves in by using the power of language, computer and otherwise, to produce ideal culture. As this freedom of expression is instituted to infuse social justice movements with creative dissidence, the repudiation and thorough replacement of an established political system can be realized as those who were once governed find cultural representation through new social play, taking the form of reflexive games that are finally given precedent:

“Considered as a cultural environment, a game plays with the possible erasure of [its internal mechanisms and experiences] and therefore plays with the possibility of its own existence.” (Salen and Zimmerman, pg. 587)

In this respect, as humanity interacts in new ways to form new systems (through new games), political and social change mirrors philosophic application insofar as the new consciousness is, or will be, developed in its ideal form. This then is the single and most encompassing purpose we might consider: what shall we do, when we have declared our independence from what others have in mind for us to do? Secondary to this consideration is the question of how to realize that particular directive. To these ends, I can only offer what many have repeated before: seek freedom, of course!

A revolution literally implies a freedom of movement; so to identify instances where movement is hindered or outright prohibited is to clarify circumstances in which freedom is absent. These particular points of reference allow a subject to critically engage and craft alternatives to oppressive conditions; for instance, anarchism may replace marketplace oppression, as productive power is organized to rival political power. Industrial society may give way to local governance that takes tenets of bioregionalism or permaculture into consideration. In this way, solutions are offered when problems warrant their formulation, so that transforming the world macroproblem consists of perceiving how the entire pattern is defective, assuming that “the dilemmas have their satisfactory resolution only through change in the dominant paradigm.” (Harman, pg. 131) This shift most likely consists of infinite proposals to rectify socially destructive tendencies, for instance in Riane Eisler’s conception of a partnership society, the IWW’s long-term goal of abolishing the wage-system, Jeremy Rifkin’s empathetic civilization, or Christopher Manes’ flavor of radical green neo-tribalistic anarcho-primitivism, to name a few. Yet despite the multivariable forms humanity’s ecotopian visions may take, the general consensus remains that the current system is untenable and true environmental awareness is needed for our collective survival, with social and environmental crises necessitating the consideration of possible future scenarios (Peak Oil and Climate Change among others) in which the rising costs in production undermine social stability. James Speth similarly speaks to the need for a post-economic growth plan:

“The new environmental agenda should expand to embrace a profound challenge to consumerism and commercialism and the lifestyles they offer, a healthy skepticism of growthmania and a redefinition of what society should be striving to grow, a challenge to corporate dominance and a redefinition of the corporation and its goals, a deep commitment to social equity and justice, and a powerful assault on the materialistic, anthropocentric and contempocentric values that currently dominate in our culture.” (Speth, A New American Environmentalism, pg. 19)

It is then in the spirit of reconsidering our current dominant paradigm that I have formulated my own action project to operate as a pivotal attack on the oppressive culture that systematically imprisons, murders, destroys, and attacks the freedom of a particular community. The effect, it is hoped, would initiate the dismantling of such an overbearing force by cutting into the allocated funds set aside to further the directives of hazardous procedures instituted by an unrepresentative system of malignant control.

Growing For a Common Cause
By legitimizing the cannabis culture within the larger industrial society that currently prohibits its production, a return to agricultural practices and healthy living standards can normalize the convening with nature again. While the marijuana legalization movement has certainly had incredible infighting leading to the defeat of earlier campaigns, the developing organization of the movement is formulating an Oregon Cannabis Business Association so as to lobby legislators to set industry standards. The federal government outlaws much of the research of marijuana (unless it is to prove that marijuana is addictive or destructive), even as cannabis has become the fastest growing industry in the United States. What’s more, those studies that have been conducted conclude that the medicinal properties in cannabis destroy cancer and tumor cells, potentially reducing healthcare costs while significantly contributing to green sustainable industry as a superior source for nutritional supplements, essential oils, medicines, food, paper products, textiles, molded plastics, body care products, construction materials, livestock feel and bedding, etc.

Marijuana prohibition was instituted for primarily racist reasons and is currently propagated for business interests. When alcohol prohibition ended and the task force charged with enforcing the policy needed to find another substance to take its place, else face liquidation as an agency, the department head partnered with the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who had much to gain from cannabis prohibition, (as he owned many acres of trees that hemp may have outcompeted as a viable source for paper, and had a general dislike of Mexicans who were widely believed to be the drug’s primary distributer) to promote an anti-cannabis propaganda campaign that is still in effect today: after the Seattle Times recently ran an editorial in support of cannabis legalization, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske called the editorial staff to schedule a meeting in an apparent effort to pressure the paper to oppose legalization, or at least quiet its support. (Holden, 2011)

Cannabis is scheduled as a type 1 drug, meaning there are no known medicinal effects. This is blatantly untrue as documented by the research done by the Corvallis-based group m-Research, which is developing an effects-based classification system that connects growers, doctors, patients, dispensaries, and legislators together in order to understand and contribute knowledge to a widely misunderstood field, bringing together multiple perspectives so as to more effectively collaborate in the future of cannabis research. (Mansur, 2011) The Oregon Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2012, a proposed bill that would allow research-based input as to cannabis-related measures, would further facilitate this goal. Yet this particular bill represents a minority position in terms of positive developments to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, which is under threat of being dismantled by over twenty other proposed bills—for instance H.B. 2982, which would strip patients of their legal status to use medicine if found guilty of a prior felony, a status attributed to the possession of more than an ounce of cannabis in the first place.

Ultimately, a legal distribution system is necessary for patients to safely access the most effective medicine available to them. As the laws criminalizing the plants this medicine derives from are based on lies to begin with (though the Drug Enforcement Agency allows pharmaceutical companies to sell Marinol, or synthetic THC, for high profits), I structured my project to focus on 4 different aspects of resistance efforts:

-Signing any and all relevant petitions while contacting representatives
-Attending an activist protest against H.B. 2982 to network and collaborate with stakeholders
-Educating young persons at the Boys and Girls Club as to the “other side” of the effects of marijuana in a national program (since the program only offers information on the negative effects of the substance)
-Beginning to construct a website that embeds legal distribution within the greater context of resistance efforts, establishing a green anarcho-syndicalist e-commerce business model, complemented by an anarchist education academy where voluntary labor for restoration projects are freely established (Blueprint can be found at www.deathofcivility.wordpress.com while the proposal will be posted at elance.com, guru.com, odesk.com, and vworker.com)

Through the consolidation of the non-profit sector as a church with which to baptize, marry, and preside over the death of corporate personhood (instituting a mechanism to promote sustainable practices), marijuana can be donated to an Earth-based Healing Religion so that agriculture is processed and redistributed for tax-deductions in a thriving industry, diminishing the social burden of industrial society as workers’ syndicates self-organize and take over government duties.

In this newly founded Green Anarchism, the establishment of a cyber-commune can work to promote social prosperity in direct relation to the surrounding ecology as a new sacred space, mobilizing communities to restore a sense of environmental ethics in the decentralized local praxis each community member critically engages in. As seed exchanges further the promotion of new education and research concerning agriculture and green industry, growing communities can not only disengage from harmful practices that destroy the earth, but develop and expand the patient advocate network to include all others as well. The effect would provide social services with material support through increased revenue, as participants voluntarily enter new social contracts where play is an essential component that flourishes in a fun and meaningful culture so that festivals, games, and cultural exchanges “go viral.”

By radically dismantling the current system of industrial oppression which profits off of the destruction, imprisonment, wasteful spending, and artificially inflated prices of prohibition, violent tendencies of a disaffected population seeking to eliminate and overcome unrepresentative authorities simultaneously decrease, effectively monkey-wrenching the capitalist logic of global oppression by boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning the capitalist arena and living within an alternate community based primarily in agriculture and a compassionate connection to the rest of the natural world, now able to properly engage in the political process through civic republicanism:

“The presence of an active civil society works to decrease governmental corruption, reduce state terror, and minimize the impetus for anti-governmental demonstrations and riots. In other words, the presence of a robust civil society holds governments accountable, protects its citizens, and provides a suitable outlet for people to voice their concerns and be heard.” (Forbis, pg. ii)

Global Insurgency through E-narchy:
This paper has argued that corrupt or unrepresentative bureaucracy can be eliminated for encoded patterns in which the work of a critical mass is designed to contribute to a common cause. In the proposal outlined above, money can be rendered obsolete and irrelevant as a medium of exchange when interdependence is accounted for by languages programmed to distribute enlightened consciousness. As Earth’s resources increasingly become considered common heritage of the natural life processes, air, water, food, land, and social capital can be recognized as a common asset on which to restructure our principles and communities. Anarcho-syndicates can produce biodegradable goods and focus on providing services rather than manufacturing material products, achieving a partnership society as a viable alternative to western industrial globalization and its discontents:

“Beginning with the two modes of immediate organization and control, namely organization and control in the workplace and in the community, one can imagine a network of workers councils, and at a higher level, representation across factories, or across branches of industry, or across crafts and on to general assemblies of workers councils that can be regional and national and international in character.” (Chomsky, 2005 pg. 137)

The Internet is the ideal instrument by which to initiate that transformation, as it was constructed as a decentralized network of communication. A worldwide collection of computer networks that transfers and exchanges data, using common standards, can provide for an alternative means of exchange no longer limited by the finite, quantifiable sum implicit within monetary system. Thus the anarchistic nature of a collaborative communication network, utilized in a biocentric framework that promotes fair bioregional consumption to be maintained through local federations of conscientious citizens working for a common purpose (i.e. fulfilling every level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) allows Anarchy to be reconsidered as its online equivalent—“E-narchy.” Dialogue and collaboration can include valuable insights that craft common liberation praxis, facilitated by an education infused with green values that seeks to maintain unity while taking into account its effect on the surrounding ecology.

Through universal communication; a superior organizational method; and biocentric ideals that maintain the common kinship of humanity; a global insurgency is well-suited to take place through a method of E-narchy to manifest a free society. In this way, conflict and inequity can be confronted and resolved in a new global marketplace seeking as its purpose the abolition of prison, war, and general discontent through the production and harmonization of social content. As praxis is applied, civic participation can alleviate terrorism and encode justice within society’s very nature. This intentional “community of communities” can then serve as an outward manifestation of ecological activism, where those feeling alienated in mainstream society might find refuge in the universal availability of a uniting structure that constructs a meaningful world order for them. In so doing, these communities are able to

“form the institutional settings for the practice of lives rooted in the belief that simplicity and conscious, compassionate living is preferable, and one can have the faith that choosing a life in community will lead to a better world for all.” (Baumann, pg. 351)

As legalization efforts give way to programming culture through the use of language (as legalization implies an outside authority okaying one’s personal intent), social connection occurs through the implicit religiosity of a shared sacred worldview. Eco-magic in the marijuana movement, as the conscious manipulation of relevant energy forces, can then offer the possibility of willing the surrounding landscape to protect a community seeking simply to live freely and without persecution.

Technology, as an extension and catalyst of personal intent, facilitates this expression, as when protest singer Willie Nelson’s offhand comment that there should be a Tea Pot Party to engage in the political process for marijuana legalization drove the formulation of such a group on Facebook; or when the OKLEVUEHA Native American Church of Hawaii sued the DEA for infringing upon their right to use cannabis as a sacrament within the framework of an indigenous Earth-based healing religion. In either case, while perhaps not technologically determined, in that Facebook, the Internet, or the Legislative process cannot by themselves cause a revolution, these tools certainly offer the potential for hackers to condition the social environment in which they reside, ensuring a successful campaign that overcomes the oppression and hindrances to the free access of movement. Their ability to encode social change through the transformation of technology and digital media is, in the opinion of the author, ultimately justified as they force into public discussion the reconsidered effect of “humanity’s relationship to technology, from whether there are determinations or not to constantly developing sets of determinative affordances in computer and network socio-technologies.” (Jordan, pg. 140) Thus as a global community of activists mobilize, organize, resist, and find themselves socially empowered to operate self-sufficiently, the language they utilize to program new expressions of dissent may redirect our cultural narratives through a new folklore of activism.

Outside Readings:
Ackerman, Spencer (2011) “With Stuxnet, Did the U.S. and Israel Create a New Cyberwar Era?” Wired. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/01/with-stuxnet-did-the-u-s-and-israel-create-a-new-cyberwar-era/

Baumann, John (2001) “Radical Simplicity: intentional community as environmental activism and nature religion.” PhD dissertation for the UC Santa Barbara

Chomsky, Noam (2005) Chomsky on Anarchism. AK Press: Oakland, CA

Forbis, Jeremy Scott.(2008) “Organized Civil Society: a cross national evaluation of the socio-political effects of non-governmental organization density on governmental corruption, state terror, and anti-government demonstrations.” PhD dissertation for Ohio State University

Harman, Willis (1998) Global Mind Change: the promise of the 21st century. Berrett-Koehler Publishers: San Francisco, CA

Holden, Dominic (2011) “White House Requests Meeting with Seattle Times to Bully Against Pro-Pot Editorials.” Salem News. http://www.salem-news.com/articles/february282011/seattle-pot-kerlikowske.php

Jilani, Zaid (2011) “Leader of Egyptian Unions to Wisconsin Protesters: ‘We Stand With you As you Stood With Us.’” Think Progress. http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/21/leader-egyptian-unions-wisconsin/

Jordan, Tim (2008) Hacking: digital media and society series. Polity Press: Cambridge, UK

Laurendeau, Jason (2007) “Mutiny and Sabotage in Defense of Mother Earth: risk cultures, radical environmentalism and ecotage.” PhD dissertation for the University of Calgary

Mansur, Keith (2011) “The First Step: M-Project May Well Revolutionize Medical Marijuana’s Acceptance.” Oregon Cannabis Connection. http://issuu.com/occonline/docs/0201_whole_paper?mode=embed&layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flight%2Flayout.xml&showFlipBtn=true

Salen Katie and Eric Zimmerman (2004) Rules of Play: game design fundamentals. MIT Press press: London, England.

Spencer, Richard (2010) “Iranian nuclear scientist ‘killed by Mossad or the CIA.” The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/8168693/Iranian-nuclear-scientist-killed-by-Mossad-or-the-CIA.html

Toor, Amar (2011) “Anonymous Attacks Tunisian Government, in Defense of WikiLeaks.” Switched. http://www.switched.com/2011/01/03/anonymous-attacks-tunisian-government-wikileaks/

Webster, Stephen C (2010) “Flashback: Wikileaks chief said he has 5GB of secret docs on Bank of America.” Raw Story. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/11/30/flashback-wikileaks-chief-5gb-dirt-bank-america/

Wing, Nick (2011) “‘Anonymous’ Hackers Take Down Koch Brothers-Backed Americans For Prosperity Website.” Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/28/anonymous-koch-americans-for-prosperity_n_829056.html

1 comment:

firestarted said...

From a macroscopic perspective, a systemic revolution that successfully applies energy, information, and time will birth a new cultural vision that must be ecosocially educated in order to facilitate the emergence of new values concerning our relationship to nature.