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Sat Dec 27, 2014, 05:28 PM

 

Things seem like they'll never get better, they can't get better -- and then they do. It's up to us.

To use Le Guin’s language, physics is inevitable: if you put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the planet warms, and as the planet warms, various kinds of chaos and ruin are let loose. Politics, on the other hand, is not inevitable. For example, not so many years ago it would have seemed inevitable that Chevron, currently the third biggest corporation in the country, would run the refinery town of Richmond, California, as its own private fiefdom. You could say that the divine right of Chevron seemed like a given. Except that people in Richmond refused to accept it and so this town of 107,000 mostly poor nonwhites pushed back.

In recent years, a group of progressives won election to the city council and the mayor’s seat, despite huge expenditures by Chevron, the corporation that also brought you gigantic oil spills onshore in Ecuador and offshore in Brazil, massive contamination from half a century of oil extraction in Nigeria, and Canadian tar-sands bitumen sent by rail to the Richmond refinery. Mayor Gayle McLaughin and her cohorts organized a little revolution in a town that had mostly been famous for its crime rate and for Chevron’s toxic refinery emissions, which periodically create emergencies, sometimes requiring everyone to take shelter (and pretend that they are not being poisoned indoors), sometimes said — by Chevron — to be harmless, as with last Thursday’s flames that lit up the sky, visible as far away as Oakland.

As McLaughin put it of her era as mayor:

“We’ve accomplished so much, including breathing better air, reducing the pollution, and building a cleaner environment and cleaner jobs, and reducing our crime rate. Our homicide number is the lowest in 33 years and we became a leading city in the Bay Area for solar installed per capita. We’re a sanctuary city. And we’re defending our homeowners to prevent foreclosures and evictions. And we also got Chevron to pay $114 million extra dollars in taxes.”

For this November’s election, the second-largest oil company on Earth officially spent $3.1 million to defeat McLaughin and other progressive candidates and install a mayor and council more to its liking. That sum worked out to about $180 per Richmond voter, but my brother David, who’s long been connected to Richmond politics, points out that, if you look at all the other ways the company spends to influence local politics, it might be roughly ten times that.

Nonetheless, Chevron lost. None of its candidates were elected and all the grassroots progressives it fought with billboards, mailers, television ads, websites, and everything else a lavishly funded smear campaign can come up with, won.

If a small coalition like that can win locally against a corporation that had revenues of $228.9 billion in 2013, imagine what a large global coalition could do against the fossil-fuel giants. It wasn’t easy in Richmond and it won’t be easy on the largest scale either, but it’s not impossible. The Richmond progressives won by imagining that the status quo was not inevitable, no less an eternal way of life. They showed up to do the work to dent that inevitability. The billionaires and fossil fuel corporations are intensely engaged in politics all the time, everywhere, and they count on us to stay on the sidelines. If you look at their response to various movements, you can see that they fear the moment we wake up, show up, and exercise our power to counter theirs.

That power operated on a larger scale last week, when local activists and public health professionals applied sufficient pressure to get New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation banning fracking statewide. Until the news broke on December 17th, the outcome had seemed uncertain...

http://www.salon.com/2014/12/27/rebecca_solnit_the_age_of_capitalism_is_over_partner/

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Reply Things seem like they'll never get better, they can't get better -- and then they do. It's up to us. (Original post)
NewDeal_Dem Dec 2014 OP
Beartracks Dec 2014 #1
NewDeal_Dem Dec 2014 #2
Quantess Dec 2014 #3
NewDeal_Dem Dec 2014 #4
Quantess Dec 2014 #5
NewDeal_Dem Dec 2014 #7
Quantess Dec 2014 #11
lovemydog Dec 2014 #6
Bluenorthwest Dec 2014 #8
NewDeal_Dem Dec 2014 #9
Bluenorthwest Dec 2014 #10

Response to NewDeal_Dem (Original post)

Sat Dec 27, 2014, 05:46 PM

1. I certainly hope this represents a growing trend. n/t

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Response to Beartracks (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 27, 2014, 06:09 PM

2. Me too. But I like to publicize such stories because when people give up hope that things will or

 

can change, they lose.

And I'm hearing a lot of that in this supposedly democratic forum -- whether it represents peoples' real feelings or whether it's propaganda from those who'd LIKE people to give up.

The democratic party should be the party of hope for ordinary people, not the party of FUD.

"The existing system is built out of fear of each other and of scarcity, and it has created more scarcity and more to be afraid of. It is mitigated every day by altruism, mutual aid, and solidarity, by the acts of individuals and organizations who are motivated by hope and by love rather than fear. They are akin to a shadow government—another system ready to do more were they voted into power. Disaster votes them in, in a sense, because in an emergency these skills and ties work while fear and divisiveness do not. Disaster reveals what else the world could be like—reveals the strength of that hope, that generosity, and that solidarity. It reveals mutual aid as a default operating principle and civil society as something waiting in the wings when it's absent from the stage."

"A world could be built on that basis, and to do so would redress the long divides that produce everyday pain, poverty, and loneliness and in times of crisis, homicidal fear and opportunism. This is the only paradise that is possible, and it will never exist whole, stable, and complete. It is always coming into being in response to trouble and suffering; making paradise is the work we are meant to do. All the versions of an achieved paradise sound at best like an eternal vacation, a place where we would have no meaning to make. The paradises built in hell are improvisational; we make them up as we go along, and in doing so they call on all our strength and creativity and leave us free to invent even as we find ourselves enmeshed in community. These paradises built in hell show us both what we want and what we can be."


http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/772894187?book_show_action=true&page=1

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Response to NewDeal_Dem (Original post)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 04:19 AM

3. Some good news would be nice.

K & R

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Response to Quantess (Reply #3)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 04:30 AM

4. didn't i post some in the OP? for that very reason.

 

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Response to NewDeal_Dem (Reply #4)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 06:53 AM

5. You sure did, and that's what I meant.

It didn't come out right, that's all.

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Response to Quantess (Reply #5)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 01:04 PM

7. sorry i misread you.

 

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Response to NewDeal_Dem (Reply #7)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 11:26 PM

11. No big deal.

It's a thread worth kicking in any case.

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Response to NewDeal_Dem (Original post)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 07:14 AM

6. Thank you NewDeal_Dem.

This is good news. The more people reject the views expressed in big oil advertising campaigns, the better for all of us.

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Response to NewDeal_Dem (Original post)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 01:10 PM

8. This OP calls for my favorite Howard Zinn quote:

 

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

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Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #8)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 01:13 PM

9. "If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something."

 

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Response to NewDeal_Dem (Reply #9)

Sun Dec 28, 2014, 01:33 PM

10. Yes, which is why the current equation of cynical dispair with insightful wisdom is a toxic thing.

 

nt

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