“The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be “free” because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction.” ― Julian Assange
Will Potter is a journalist who has been writing about animal rights and environmentalism for years. He keeps a blog called Green is the New Red that catalogs the growing momentum of corporations and government creating policy in order to imprison activists. I’ve been a follower of his blog for a couple of years now and his book, also titled Green is the New Red, has been on my reading list for some time. Since I follow his work, I thought that most of the content of the book would be old material that I was familiar with. In fact, it was much more detailed and much more close to the subject than his blog.
In the early and mid 2000’s the government cracked down on environmentalists. Arrests were made, people were imprisoned and new laws were passed. For its likeness with the communist-fearing era in the United States, people began to refer to this as the “Green Scare“. Green is the New Red is Potter’s personal account of the Green Scare, as it began to unfold.
This book should be required reading for anyone who thinks of themselves as political in anyway. I became disenfranchised with politics at a very young age when I saw, experienced, and felt on a deep level the enormity of impossibility of change within civilization. While most of my life has been apolitical (although many others have dubbed me an anarchist or a nihilist–neither of which I would agree with), there was a time when I still believed in the dynamics of grassroots change of the political structure–a story I’ll share another time.
At the end of my time in politics, I came to the this conclusion: what we think is a democracy is a charade, and those in power, those with the money, they make up the rules and they really don’t care what your opinion is–unless it threatens them. Green is the New Red shows us that if your words and actions do happen to threaten those in power, they will silence you. Nowadays, this means lobbying the government to change laws and policy so that the wealthy can charge you with terrorism for things that you say, even if you never committed an actual crime (just ask the SHAC7), and put you away in one of their new secret political prisons.
The stories that are told in Green is the New Red are not surprising to me, but it still has a profound emotional effect. I have viewed the collapse more like a math problem: civilization is unsustainable and is collapsing. 1 + 1 = 2. Books like Potter’s, that chronicle the specifics of the collapse of empire (Not sure if Potter would recognize his work in that way), conjure the emotional reality that this is really happening. It feels like I imagine it would feel to watch my house burn to the ground. I know that I can’t stop the fire, but each new room the flames move to makes me realize just what I am losing. I know that we never actually had rights like freedom of speech. It was only a matter of time before the psychopaths bought them back from us. As the collapse of industrial civilization intensifies (yes, it’s already begun), we will see more and more of these corporations drawing out their deaths with the last of their wealth. Before the global economy tanks, these businesses, and the psychopaths who run them, will spend their last dollars wreaking destruction upon the earth and torturing the people who try to stop them. We’ll just have to grab whatever things we can from the burning building, salvage what is left after the fire, and move on to build ourselves a new home.
The beacon of hope is that once the fire reaches the point of diminishing returns, it becomes easier and easier to put out. Just as there was a positive feedback loop in the growth cycle of civilization, there is a positive feedback loop in its collapse. The Green Scare is the attempt by empire to curb the movement they know will inevitably be their ruin. As the environment and economy continue to collapse, the people in power will lose more of their wealth, which means they lose the ability to maintain control through violence, which means that resistance groups will become more and more effective; there is a Green Dawn rising. I just hope that it hasn’t come too late.