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Long as and less coherent than I wanted it to be - Tactical Ninja

Sep. 23rd, 2011

10:09 am - Long as and less coherent than I wanted it to be

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OK so apparently the Dow dropped a bunch of points yesterday/today/whateverthefuck the time is over there. Apparently so did everything else (everything that counts, that is - you'll not the NZSE50* isn't on there. I tried to find out what was happening here but could not make head nor tail of the charts).

To be honest, I have no idea what this means. It seems to be happening on a regular basis and I've kind of lost track of what I'm supposed to be afraid of. I'm guessing it can't be good. ;-/ I know it meant our dollar dropped four cents against the US overnight, just at the moment a US company decided to charge my debit card on an order I've had in for over a week, and thus my card was declined. I hate that - it's been a very long time since I got declined for anything - but if that's the worst of the immediate effects I guess I'm thankful? Fucked if I know. I really don't get how the US doing badly makes our dollar drop against theirs. Any Forex experts on here care to explain?


As some of you know, I started thinking about withdrawal of consent seriously about the same time I was studying crimes of globalisation. Actually I had thought about it before, but never in terms of withdrawing consent. I spent years of my life living in the boonies, growing my own vegies and raising my own livestock in an attempt to withdraw consent - but I didn't call it that, and the experience of doing that made me understand how hard it is to withdraw that consent. Because unless you own the land you're living on, you are simply giving money to someone else who hasn't withdrawn consent for the right to live there, and the fact of having to do this keeps you in poverty. $9000 a year for 10 hour days of hard manual labour kind of poverty. That's how I ended up ten years later living in the centre of our capital city, working a top-tax-bracket job and being a wanky middle-class latte drinker, because I realised that in order to truly withdraw my consent, I had to play the game until I was in a position to do otherwise.

I know not everyone has this privilege - but I'm not those people, I'm me, and this is what I did. This is how I have chosen to withdraw my consent.

I'm an idealist. I would like to see mass uprising, even in our own country never mind worldwide, against the oligarchies that focus the majority of the wealth in a very small part of the population, then work to keep it there regardless of the impact on the less fortunate. Hell, I'd be happy if a rally in New Zealand could attract more than a few hundred people. There are lots of reasons why this doesn't happen, and after my post yesterday and the responses to it, it's becoming more and more obvious to me that in Western countries at least, this is an unrealistic dream. The practice of shooting down anyone that tries to raise awareness through public displays of solidarity ensures that that avenue is seen as undesirable.

And yet, nearly everyone I talk to agrees that the system is broken and that it's getting worse not better. The majority of people seem to want change, but are seemingly unwilling or unable to see how to create that change. Many people aren't prepared to take the risk with their livelihood/life, or don't have the time, or are too lazy, or are not in the financial position, or don't understand the true issues, or feel that because they don't have a plan to fix it shouldn't be complaining, or think that it's all too big, or any one of a myriad of reasons why people don't get involved in large scale activism.

Now we could write people off for not dedicating their lives to improving the world, or we could think about ways of being active despite those myriad of reasons.

This is where the concept of microactivism is becoming increasingly interesting to me. I'm calling it that as a bastardisation of 'microprotest', because protesting and activism aren't the same thing. The idea is, what kind of activism can your average person** participate in that is low risk, low effort, low time, low commitment. As hep pointed out yesterday, there are many forms of activism that people could be participating in - lobbying, letter writing, withdrawal of funds from banks one disapproves of. Money talks, right? So if you have it, place it according to your ethics, and withdraw it from organisations/people who do not align with your ethics.

Those petitions that go round from Avaaz and Change.org? Do you sign them? Because they seem to be having a modicum of success in creating change in specific areas. Those organisations are run by people more dedicated than you, who are willing to do the donkey work of collating and presenting the petitions, of writing legible and logical letters on behalf of the cause. And adding your signature to them, you are actually lending some weight to what they're asking. When I first started doing it I wasn't sure whether it was worth it - and I'm sure sometimes it doesn't work, but sometimes it does.

I'm all for pinging off emails to organisations and politicians about issues as well. Sometimes they are successful (see: public outcry about Paul Henry's racism), sometimes they are not (see: me gettting patted on the head by my MP and assured that our legislative process will ensure the TPPA is fair to us all). But if people don't do this 5 minute thing, there's no registered objection at all to the things we don't like.

It becomes more difficult when deciding what to do with your money. It's almost impossible to live without a bank account, and which bank do you choose? They are all pretty much the same deal (at least in this country). Likewise hey hey, I just got a mortgage! This means I'll be paying compound interest and supporting the endeavours of some investment bank that may or may not be one of the evil ones - I don't actually know. What I do know is that the mortgage I got was ethical. My means were tested, I had to demonstrate ability to service, and I had to come up with a deposit that ensures that if I do get foreclosed, it's likely I'd come out of it debt free and with some money left. I am not being placed in a tenuous position and it's unlikely anyone's going to be betting against me honouring my debt. And, looping back to up there, eventually I will own something, at which point I'm much better placed to withdraw my consent more fully.

Other money-related things that spring to mind - avoid debt where possible. Credit is how those with money make more money, and it's one of the ways that those with little money stay poor. Step one, that I harp on about a lot, is to get rid of the credit card and replace it with a debit card. Avoid HP (installment plans) where possible, unless they are interest free ones. And when making large purchases (oh god I sound like my Mum), if it looks like you'll need to get credit for it, consider whether a) you actually need it and b) you need it right now.

Being able to choose ethical purchases is a privilege - just go have a look in the supermarket at the egg section. You pay at least $2 a dozen more for free range eggs, $1 a dozen more for barn eggs, and the cheapest ones are cage eggs. Partly this is because it's cheaper to produce cage eggs, but there's a factor in there that supermarkets know those who can afford it will pay more to feel ok about their egg purchase. If I'm spending more on eggs to be ethical, I want to know that money's going to the ethical chicken farmer, not to some supermarket executive.

(here there's a voice in my head going "But Tats, if we reduce the profits of the supermarkets, won't they charge more to those who don't have the choice in order to shore themselves up? Or worse, close down and stop bringing a variety of staple foods to places where those who don't have a choice actually live?" I don't know if this voice is accurate or just my policy brain in action).

Anyway, that kind of moves me on to the other ways of withdrawing consent that were suggested by thesecondcircle in another post:

* Organizing a grassroots campaign to generate support for third-party candidates in local elections.
* Creating and distributing alternative currencies that support local economy (see BerkShares).
* Withdrawing tax consent by creating underground barter networks.
* Rebuilding the apprentice model for hands on jobs through alternate paths for some high-school students.
* Starting a group to facilitate food sovereignty through:
- gardening classes / guerrilla gardening
- harvest networks (see http://portlandfruit.org/)
- free cooking classes base on 'real' foods
- coordinating healthy food delivery to 'food desert' neighborhoods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert)

Did you know Wellington has community gardens?

And finally, from Happy - think about ways to take control of the means of production. Not in a revolution kind of way, but in the way of thinking about who made the thing you're buying and whether you could have more control of that process by going about getting it in different ways. Like making your own clothes or growing some spinach on your balcony.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to doing more of my shopping at farmers' markets. I can't honestly say whether the farmers markets are full of local produce - I somehow doubt it because out-of-season vegetables are available there. But I'm liking the idea of giving my money more directly to the people who produce my food. I would prefer to produce my own food, but again with the system having enough of a stranglehold on me that I can't yet afford to produce my own food in a significant way.

Anyway, I could go on and on (no really Tats? You?) - but what I'm getting at is that there are loads and loads of things people can do to withdraw consent in small ways. My thing is that I dislike the system in which corporations and governments are able to act unethically in ways that increase inequality and damage the environment. So when I'm thinking about microactivism, I'm thinking about what small things I can incorporate into my life to withdraw consent from being part of that.

I really hope other people are also thinking about this. I got very disheartened yesterday hearing people talk about how the #OccupyWallStreet protestors are Doin It Rong because of

a) how they aren't protesting everything ever
b) how they don't have a comprehensive plan to fix capitalism
c) how their cause is too narrow
d) how their cause is too broad
e) how they are white and middle class so nobody will listen
f) how they aren't wearing suits and important so nobody will listen

And I'm going "Well OK then, if we're all going to sit here and criticise them for what they're doing while agreeing with their point, maybe we can come up with ways in which we can battle their point in individual, small ways that don't require us to stick our neck out like they have."

Got any?


But there's still part of me that thinks a big bunch of people yelling and screaming is an important part of making people realise they aren't alone. I just wish us Westerners didn't have this ingrained neoliberal aversion to solidarity.

Apparently something happened on Facebook that people aren't happy about. I'm kind of glad I'm not involved in any of that stuff. Same goes for Google+ - I actually think my life is better for using neither of these networks. I feel less angsty and have less online arguments, and once I got over the "I might be missing something" feeling, I haven't missed them. Hmm..

* When did it become 50? All my life it's been NZSE40. Is this some method of making us think we have growth?
** Yes, I know there's no such thing. I also know that some of the things listed won't be accessible to some people. If you know of things that are accessible to those people, please add them rather than tearing down my list as some kind of privilege-fest.

Comments:

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From:thesecondcircle
Date:September 22nd, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC)
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For the sake of full transparency, I should say that I'm not personally doing all those things I suggested up there. Here's what I am doing to withdraw consent (in my small way):

1. We are changing from a giant bank to a community credit union. Here in the US there is a difference.
2. We pay more for food that's local, ethical, fair trade, etc. We try to cultivate relationships with local producers.
3. We do not pay for commercials on TV. We pay for Netflix which includes TV shows, but we do not pay for cable or satellite (even though basic cable would cost us no extra money on top of our Internet service). We have an antenna and do watch TV -- just for free.
4. I do sign the Change.org petitions and I occasionally email or call a commercial or government representative (is there a difference?) when I'm passionate about something. Recently I spend time calling every single member of a state government action committee to pass a measure that I felt strongly about (and it passed!).
5. I avoid marketing surveys and when I choose to fill out a survey (maybe they have a prize I really do want or there's some payoff) I fill them out in a completely random and inconsistent manner.
6. I work for an ethical company (this is more an accident and not many people, including myself get to CHOOSE where they can find work... but I give this job a lot of loyalty because of their ethics).
7. We are actively working to pay off our debt (very hard and a long slog).
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From:tatjna
Date:September 22nd, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I think it's unrealistic to expect anyyone to do everything listed, or even everything they're capable of - the idea of this is more for people to realise what they can do, and to feel good about the ways they do take action. And to share ideas because your post and Hep's both had things in them I hadn't thought of.

My microactivism thing for today: making public the complete lack of response from Netflix to my query about why they advertise on NZ websites but don't actually provide a service here.



Edited at 2011-09-22 11:32 pm (UTC)
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:September 23rd, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
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Yeah my disclaimer was more to forestall any criticism that "well, you don't do all that so really what you're suggesting isn't feasible for the average person." Of course now they will read what I actually do and say "oh please, your little things aren't going to really change anything... you're not committed!" So then I will go to a protest and people will say "you and your middle-class privilege are just an activist dilettante who's harming our cause!" So I will quite my job and go broke and be poor and protest all the time and then people will say, "unwashed smelly hippie without a job -- how can the rest of us take you seriously? -- get a job and a suit and then you can protest!"

Of course I'm not really going to do all that. But this just shows how every choice you make is criticized and devalued so you don't even talk about it and you think you're the only one who feels this way and we're divided and angry and afraid of one another. And sometimes you think "maybe I should just give up and buy-in to the dominant consumer culture and fuck it all."
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From:tatjna
Date:September 23rd, 2011 06:42 pm (UTC)
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Hehe, yep.

Which is why I hate our ingrained Western neoliberal aversion to solidarity.

I am old enough to (only just) remember a time before we started getting fed the 'individual everything' rhetoric - at least in this country, I think it's been going on much longer in the US - and studying social policy history for the last 30 years it's very easy to see how this 'tear it down' attitude to collective action has been very deliberately cultivated in Western cultures, particularly the US, the UK and NZ.

And since we haven't actually had the authorities shooting at us or people starving to death*, we have complacently accepted the encroachment of corruption because "what right have we to complain?"

* I'm not actually sure this is true of the US.
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From:khaybee
Date:September 22nd, 2011 11:58 pm (UTC)
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Your local farmer's market with local food is the Hill Street market in Thorndon. It's in the parking lot of the cathedral on Saturdays.

http://www.hillstfarmersmarket.org.nz/

The cheese guy is only there fortnightly.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 23rd, 2011 12:10 am (UTC)
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Good to know. Thank you!

My nearest will be Willis St but based on previous experiences, that isn't a local food one. I've never been to Chaffers Park one but it has been recommended by other people.
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From:khaybee
Date:September 23rd, 2011 12:23 am (UTC)
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Neither of those is a local food market. They are importer's markets. Go to Hill Street, I think you'll like it.

It is MUCH more expensive, and selection is much smaller, but the growers will talk to you about what they do and how. Sometimes we even get an invite back to the farm for a look around!

Best of luck, I know how judgy people can get about whether your attempt to do the right thing is up to their standards. Sometimes I think the loudest detractors are people who don't try too hard.

It seems to me that responsible living is much like responsible parenting and has to do with attempting to make decisions based on the long run effects, not the current convenience. Although challenging, you have proven that it's something you're good at.
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From:t_c_da
Date:September 23rd, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)
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The cheese guy is only there fortnightly.

but if he's the same guy that popped up at the Upper Hutt farmers market while it was on, he has some lovely cheeses...
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From:khaybee
Date:September 23rd, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
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It is Kingsmead, and it's great. Their Brie is the best I've ever tasted and they have a ewe's milk havarte that is great as well.
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From:t_c_da
Date:September 23rd, 2011 01:31 am (UTC)
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there wer occassions when he wouldn't have the Brie because "it wasn't right", the sign of a true craftsman, IMHO.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 23rd, 2011 01:31 am (UTC)
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I don't think you are, but I think you're doing the same thing people are accusing the Wall Street protestors of - being long on large vague goals and short on small, achievable specifics. Hence my post. ;-)

However, I'm not an expert on economics so I'm still trying to get my head around the repercussions of a whole lot of people reducing their spending on manufactured or processed goods, and whether those repercussions would be different if it were a long term process or a short sharp one.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:September 23rd, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
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It's difficult, because as a society we're all connected. When you buy from a farmers market, they are probably using a tractor that was built by a corporation, or they bought fertiliser from another corp. There are organic methods, and you could by an ox/horse instead of a tractor, but then you go down the road of becoming Amish (in lifestyle if not belief).

Instead I think of money as voting power. I buy the things from organisations I think are responsible. In essence, when I give them money, I am saying "I approve, keep doing that". If an organisation starts doing things I don't approve of, then I change my vote. I disapprove of Apple (both their manufacturing and vision for Jobsian dystopia), so my next laptop is very unlikely to be a macbook. I also partly stopped eating meat for that reason, since the machinated killing of slaughter houses is somewhat barbaric, and is also why I bought free range eggs when I could afford it.

If you pull out of the system completely, then arguably you'll have less influence on the system. We might hope that if enough people do so then a new system will replace that, but I think any new system will also fall into the same traps so it's worth trying to fix the system instead of deciding not to play the game anymore.

This is why I'm a fan of openness and transparency. If you don't know anything about how a product was made, it's hard to judge. I guess this is why they have various groups that try to certify products as conforming to certain practices.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 23rd, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
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Yep. So buying the thing at the farmer's market becomes a different type of consent-withdrawal, in that while you're still supporting Massey-Ferguson (or more likely Kubota or John Deere these days), you are not also giving money to price-gouging supermarkets or middle men who get money for producing nothing. You're supporting local production rather than long distance transportation of produce. And you're likely, as khaybee says, to be able to quiz the farmer on their practices.

Just a note, having worked in a large scale freezing works, a home kill butcher and done my own on-farm killing, I'd have to say the most humane method would be the freezing works in terms of pain and suffering to the animals. However on-farm you are more likely to be able to take the 'they suspect nothing' approach so they don't have any fear before they die.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:September 23rd, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
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I guess that depends on where we attribute value. Supermarkets handle logistics of getting goods near people, and I've read (don't have the reference though) that it's actually more efficient to be centrally coordinated, in that way and in terms of petrol/energy, than having the local growers all drive their individual produce to the farmers market every week (and having all the consumers drive to the market, instead of picking something up at the local supermarket). That isn't trivial work, and you could always frame farmers in such a way that "well, it's the plants themselves that are doing all the growing and the farmers are just handling the logistics of where and when to put the seeds"! (I know there's a lot more to it than that, but there's also a lot more to coordinating the mass movement of food.

If we look at all the people we know, how many of us are doing things of absolutely necessary value to humanity? I often feel like my research is so detached from reality that I don't understand why I can get given money for it... which is why I daydream about being a builder, because providing shelter to people is an obvious human necessity and it produces concrete (or wooden har har) things.

There's some local startup in Wellington (http://www.buckybox.com/) that coordinates deliveries of local food and connecting local growers to consumers, I think this has promise due to the potential to coordinate the logistics in a way that matches the efficiency of supermarkets.

I think we always have the option of buying local local. I used to pick NZ oranges over Californian and others, even if the NZ ones looked manky and were in a less obvious spot than the international produce.

--
You're right about the freezing works, but you still hear horror stories of the stunning/killing of the animal not working and then them get skinned/boiled alive. Maybe these are urban legends and the tech is far more effective now, but there's always be the question of treating them like products on an (dis)assembly line and the consequent blase attitude many now have to eating that product.
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From:tatjna
Date:September 23rd, 2011 02:59 am (UTC)
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The farmers' market that khaybee recommended has a service attached to it that seems to be trying to get around the problems you've identified.

I'd be likely to walk to the market though, BECAUSE I CAN! o.O
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:September 23rd, 2011 03:04 am (UTC)
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Cool! And, after living in HK, the prices don't look particularly expensive either ;-)
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From:pythia
Date:September 23rd, 2011 06:22 am (UTC)
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"Meanwhile, I am looking forward to doing more of my shopping at farmers' markets. I can't honestly say whether the farmers markets are full of local produce - I somehow doubt it because out-of-season vegetables are available there."

Our Farmer's Markets here are all South Island produce, preferrably Canterbury. I know at one you had to prove that you were local. Mmmm, Farmer's markets.
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From:richdrich
Date:September 24th, 2011 01:37 am (UTC)
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IANAFXX, but the reason the NZ dollar tends to drop on "market uncertainty" is basically this:
- minor currencies like the NZ dollar are seen as inherently more unstable than major ones. For instance, when Air NZ buys a new plane, that actually impacts the currency that day (in the days of exchange controls, they would actually have to go to the central bank and make a plan to manage that kind of thing).

- to compensate, NZ interest rates are higher than overseas.

- an option for non-NZers (e.g. Japanese people, who have low to negative interest rates on yen) is to put money on deposit on NZ dollars. This is risky, because if the NZ dollar drops against the yen, they lose money.

- when general scariness is seen to increase in the market, people move away from risky "investments". So they (on aggregate) withdraw NZ dollars, and the currency falls.

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From:tatjna
Date:September 24th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC)
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Ah, yes, that makes sense. Thank you!
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From:maholic
Date:September 24th, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC)
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the flight to safety is going on, only the USD is liquid and large enough to 'store' the wealth of capitalism... hence right now

EVERYTHING, is going down, and the USD is going up

it should stop early next year when most stock markets are back at their 2008/2009 lows...

then the real fun starts :)

till then, interest rates should be dropping, floating mortgages will do even better... our currency is likely to drop back t0 60c to the usd, oil to $50 a barrel in USD, and the musical chairs can all start over again

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From:maholic
Date:September 24th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
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http://stockcharts.com/h-sc/ui?s=$USD

pretty serious rally

this is not USA doing badly (the media may suggest this, but its all europe)

europe is the problem, they need to let greece and half the countries default on their debts already

and politicans needs to stop fcking around with things they have no comprahension about
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