Looming Shocks – Part 3: theft of Indigenous land underlies our shock-susceptible racial hierarchies

Referring to increasing “right-wing nationalism, anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and straight-up white supremacy,” Naomi Klein says the following in her recent article:

“The only way to justify such barbaric forms of exclusion is to double down on theories of racial hierarchy that tell a story about how the people being locked out …deserve their fate, whether it’s Trump casting Mexicans as rapists and ‘bad hombres,’ and Syrian refugees as closet terrorists, … or successive Australian prime ministers justifying those sinister island detention camps as a ‘humanitarian’ alternative to death at sea.

This is what global destabilization looks like in societies that have never redressed their foundational crimes — countries that have insisted slavery and indigenous land theft were just glitches in otherwise proud histories …all of it taking place on the violently stolen indigenous land on which North America’s wealth was built. And now the same theories of racial hierarchy that justified those violent thefts in the name of building the industrial age are surging to the surface as the system of wealth and comfort they constructed starts to unravel on multiple fronts simultaneously.

Trump is just one early and vicious manifestation of that unraveling. He is not alone. He won’t be the last.”

Klein alludes to a connection, here, that is noticeably absent from most conversations about current violence, racism and dehumanization: the connection between ongoing military occupations of stolen Indigenous land and the violence and racism that surfaces in various ways in Canada and the United States of America.

Folks often act shocked or surprised by present-day manifestations of violence and racism here in North America, yet our Settler nation-states were founded on white supremacist notions of terra nullius and the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, casting Indigenous people as sub-human in order to justify our own settlement and occupation of the land.

Canada and the USA, as Settler-colonial states, are houses actively haunted by the ghosts of colonial treachery, and are currently occupied by the descendant beneficiaries of that violence. Why then, do we think we are not going to be affected when we refuse to pay attention to that history and refuse to presently return stolen land to the Indigenous people who continue to exist?

I think the answer is this: it is inconvenient and uncomfortable and would require each of us to give up things we think we own.  That’s no fun, so we figure we’re better off feigning confusion or surprise every time the white supremacist foundations of our land ownership rear their heads again and again in the form of racially charged violence.

As long as we, as Settlers, remain committed to ignoring the ongoing military occupation of Indigenous land in Canada and the USA, our attitudes and hearts likely will not undergo the necessary transformation toward respecting the dignity of all people.

Klein describes the work of righting past wrongs and repairing our relationships with one another as “work that is the bedrock of shock resistance.”

-Bjorn

Looming shocks – Part 2: two disasters, the direct and the imposed

As described in a recent Naomi Klein article, disaster are not only disasters because of the immediate havoc and destruction they wreak, but also because of the strategic opportunity they provide for well-prepared people in positions of power to force undemocratic policy changes on a population during the disaster’s ensuing state of shock.

These two dimensions of disaster – the primary or direct disaster and the auxiliary or imposed disaster – may be similar in the disastrousness of their felt effects, but they differ in our ability to anticipate them. The imposed disaster that comes from opportunistic policies shoved through in a time of population-wide shock are now possible to anticipate with fairly high certainty.

Naomi Klein has documented the pattern extensively in her book “The Shock Doctrine,” and the favorite policies of the wealthy and powerful are eye-rollingly predictable and even clichéd: privatizing education and infrastructure, imposing states of emergency to supersede democratic processes, and austerity measures to curtail public spending and cut corporate taxes. So this stuff should be even easier to ‘disaster-plan’ for than storing supplies, practicing emergency drills and scenario-planning for weather events that happen at relatively random intervals and locations.  How could communities be ‘disaster-planning’ more strategically for the imposed/auxiliary disasters that regularly follow in the wake of primary/direct disaster?

To me, it is preparation for the onslaught against community autonomy when faced with a catastrophic disaster that prompts our fore fronting of survivor-driven community recovery.

My next post will discuss the same article’s connection between colonial violence/land theft and the violence of current racial hierarchies.

-Bjorn

Looming shocks – Part 1: two-tiered disaster relief

The June 10th 2017 Naomi Klein article that I introduced in the previous post articulates a noteworthy trend in disaster response. The powerful believe it is in their interest to create a two-tiered system for disaster relief. The wealthy who can afford it become members of private clubs that offer services of helicopter-extracting members from the chaos of disaster, leaving less motivation on the part of those with all the pesos to support broadly accessible publicly funded mechanisms to protect and assist populations in crisis.

In California, private firefighters are dispatched with protective fire retardant to the wildfire-threatened homes of the wealthy. The result is a palpable devaluing of the lives of those who are not wealthy. Naomi Klein says, “a significant cohort of our elites are walling themselves off not just physically but also psychologically, mentally detaching themselves from the collective fate of the rest of humanity.”

Walling themselves off from the masses, however, also means potentially walling themselves out of the type of connected and thriving community necessary for true resilience in disaster. Neighbors and community members respond first through efficient relational networks. There’s no price on that, nor should there be. Living relationally – in a community – is a wholly different paradigm of existence where supporting fellow people can matter more than achieving personal comfort and perceived financial certainty.

My next post will discuss this same article in relation to the existence of two faces of a disaster:  an initial direct disaster as well as an auxiliary imposed disaster that is experienced when the former is used as a shock opportunity to advance an agenda.

-Bjorn

Looming shocks – article introduction

An article published yesterday by “Shock Doctrine” and “This Changes Everything” author Naomi Klein cautions about the various looming opportunistic and predatory policy implementations that are likely to be coming from Mr. Trump and other corporate and political elites as various disasters and system shocks inevitably arise.  I intend to highlight a few important insights made in the article over the course of a series of three blog posts in the coming days, but will begin by linking to the full article. My next blog post will discuss this article’s concern about two-tiered disaster relief.

THE WORST OF DONALD TRUMP’S TOXIC AGENDA IS LYING IN WAIT – A MAJOR U.S. CRISIS WILL UNLEASH IT – by Naomi Klein (published June 10th, 2017 in The Intercept)

BBS-469

Three Word Address

What do you think of this system that has now been adopted in some regions? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38262877 The three word system for precisely identifying every 3m by 3m location in the world seems like it could have some advantages particularly in disaster situations where the infrastructure of any former address system based on road names will like be destroyed, hampering attempts at a quick response. It also seems like the system is still heavily technology-dependent. In the context of broken infrastructure post-disaster it would potentially give an advantage to outsiders over locals in assuming authority for action if the outsiders where the only ones with working GPS devices to locate exact addresses. What might be other implications, positive or negative, for survivors of a catastrophic disaster in a region using this three word address system?

Bjorn

You’ve got to ride it to believe…

The link below is a short excerpt from a cute documentary that tells the story of the company that popularized the cargo bike in America. What Xtracycle came up against in trying to promote their cargo bike is the same phenomena that we’ve come up against and which Joe Partridge pointed out to us, which is that most folks have a hard time seeing the bicycle as a tool for cargo and for transportation and instead see it as a toy or a piece of recreational equipment. https://youtu.be/uWMd6yyYs8E

Bjorn

Disaster resilience tied to neighborhoods’ “social infrastructure”

Check out this excellent article in Wired if you get a chance. Here’s a great excerpt from it:

“Throughout the city, the variable that best explained the pattern of mortality during the Chicago heat wave was what people in my discipline call social infrastructure. Places with active commercial corridors, a variety of public spaces, local institutions, decent sidewalks, and community organizations fared well in the disaster. More socially barren places did not. Turns out neighborhood conditions that isolate people from each other on a good day can, on a really bad day, become lethal.

This is important, because climate change virtually guarantees that, in the next century, major cities all over the world will endure longer, more frequent, and more intense heat waves—along with frankenstorms, hurricanes, blizzards, and rising seas. And it’s inevitable that cities will take steps to fortify themselves against this future. The first instinct of urban leaders is often to harden their cities through engineering and infrastructure, much of which is indeed pretty vital. But research keeps reinforcing the lessons of Englewood and Auburn Gresham.”

-David

Aid to Haiti masking active foreign military occupation?

This article, reprinted from Counterpunch, ends with this:

the lesson of the 2010 earthquake is that aid and reconstruction must be directed by Haitians and for Haitians. Otherwise, this latest disaster will only aggravate the long disaster of big-power intervention into the country. That, not inevitable storms and seismic events, is the largest obstacle facing Haiti in its struggle for development and sovereignty.” 

Putting survivors of a disaster event in the drivers seat of the recovery effort is not really a very radical idea. Any of us would expect to be allowed that courtesy by others when experiencing the vulnerability of recovering from such devastation. But it seems to be far from the current practice when opportunists use tragic events as open doors for advancing particular agendas.

-Bjorn

Disaster Relief Trials – bikes as essential tools in disaster

In the spirit of challenging perceptions of the bike as a toy and encouraging folks to see how bikes can play a key role as a tool in survivor-led disaster recovery, what other cities do you think might be interested in hosting an event like the Disaster Relief Trials in Portland, Oregon? They’ve also started it now in Eugene, Oregon, Memphis, Tennessee, Boulder, Colorado, San Francisco, California and Seattle, Washington. Victoria, BC has done something similar, too. Where else might a municipal disaster management office want to partner with bicycle advocacy groups in a “preparedness” program in anticipation of the day when the big earthquake, tsunami, or flood hits? Consultant and bike advocate Joe Partridge of Portland, Oregon was involved in getting the Disaster Relief Trials set up in Portland, so if folks in other cities are interested, Mr. Partridge would be a great person to talk with.

-Bjorn

On disaster pornography

On page 246 of this 1994 article by Erica Burman there is a discussion of the concept of Disaster Pornography which is “the gruesome fascination with depicting, and commercially benefiting from people’s suffering and degradation.” The ‘pornography’ parallel is as follows: “bodies are represented as parts, devoid of subjectivity, and rendered available for use and consumption, with no regard for consent or participation.” In trying to understand fundamental principles that are important for an appropriate, just and dignifying approach in disaster response efforts, we keep coming back to the importance of putting survivors first and allowing space for survivors to lead in the recovery effort. This concept of disaster pornography points in a vivid way to the absolute necessity for survivor-driven recovery, which includes allowing survivors to make decisions around how the disaster itself is depicted in media and in aid organizations’ calls for funding of relief efforts.

Burman, Erica, (1994) “Innocents abroad: Western fantasies of childhood and the iconography of emergencies” from Disasters 18 (3) pp.238-253

http://core.roehampton.ac.uk/repository2/content2/subs/d.steedman/d.steedman1882/Burman%20(1994)%20Innocents%20abroad.pdf

-Bjorn