A Guest Blog by Simón Sedillo
Patriarchy and white supremacy have been the forerunners and continue to be the underpinnings of the economic, military and political system of U.S. imperialism, which is devoted to making money by any means necessary, including brute force and the legitimized use of violence. Its imposition is exposed by those who have money, power, and influence and those who do not. The price of things, places, food, labor, and people are all glaring pieces of evidence exposing the cruelty of a failed global economic model and the decline of the U.S. Empire.
We live in a military-political economy that has consistently overvalued the lives of white men above all other lives. As a matter of fact, the natural resources that are extracted from this earth to maintain white and male dominance over the planet, are considered more valuable than all lives. Most human life has become just another disposable variable in this economic equation.
If you are not contributing to white wealth and power, then you are considered disposable. If you are creating real alternatives to the wealth and power of white supremacy and patriarchy, then you are considered a threat. The military-political economy under which we exist, is classist, racist, patriarchal, fascist, and genocidal at its core. People of color, native communities, women of color and native women have been living under a constant colonialism built upon humiliation, torture, slavery, and genocide. White supremacy is absolutely nothing new. This did not start with Donald Trump, though it is important to recognize that his openly fascist government has unleashed and will surely continue to prompt more attacks against people of color, Muslims, women, and immigrants.
The United States has been living on a manufactured political pendulum, which supposedly swings left and right. That pendulum, however, has only swung left far enough to force it to swing to the extreme right over and over again. That left swing is and always has been a lie, because it has always continued to maintain a military political economy through white supremacy; yes even with a black president, who continued to drop nearly three bombs an hour on people of color for eight years, and deported more undocumented people that any other president in history. All presidents and their political parties are nothing more than managers of a store owned by very powerful corporate and banking mafias.
Absolutely no type of reform or political party is ever going to end this.
The American people need to start building real alternatives to electoral politics and institutionalized governance in order to find a path towards community-based self- determination. Americans have to stop talking about turning to, and looking for the approval of, political parties or their presidents. All sides of that limited spectrum of society are just puppets of a corrupt global economy.
The truth is that regardless of political parties and presidents, we (everyone, everywhere) have been living in a global system dominated by a military, political economy under the lethally devaluating effect of white supremacy. While the entire planet is affected by it, Americans and Europeans, yes including liberals, have been complicit in this system, mainly because it has given them and their families relative peace, tranquility, and comfort.
The only real contribution to social change by the institutional left is the non-profit industrial complex and the global NGO (Non Governmental Organization) phenomenon. The primary function of most non-profits and NGOs is to provide a false sense of peace, tranquility, and comfort, while never actually offering dignity, justice, and liberty. Colonialism has always justified itself through ingenuous attempts at “saving savages” from themselves. The primary method of “saving” communities has come about through different types of acculturation and assimilation. The non-profit industrial complex locally, and non-governmental organizations globally, have been telling us that they are saving us, (mostly from our savage selves) without ever actually giving us the means for self-liberation, much less for self-determination and autonomy. It’s time to start taking what is ours, and to stop asking permission from anybody.
Arundhati Roy said it best in her book Public Power in the Age of Empire:
…It’s important to turn our attention away from the positive work being done by some individual NGOs, and consider the NGO phenomenon in a broader political context…
…Their real contribution is that they defuse political anger and dole out as aid or benevolence what people ought to have by right. They alter the public psyche. They turn people into dependent victims and blunt the edges of political resistance…
…in the long run, NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among. They’re what botanists would call an indicator species. It’s almost as though the greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs. Nothing illustrates this more poignantly than the phenomenon of the U.S. preparing to invade a country and simultaneously readying NGOs to go in and clean up the devastation….
…Eventually – on a smaller scale, but more insidiously – the capital available to NGOs plays the same role in alternative politics as the speculative capital that flows in and out of the economies of poor countries. It begins to dictate the agenda.
It turns confrontation into negotiation. It depoliticizes resistance. It interferes with local people’s movements that have traditionally been self-reliant. NGOs have funds that can employ local people who might otherwise be activists in resistance movements, but now can feel they are doing some immediate, creative good (and earning a living while they’re at it). Charity offers instant gratification to the giver, as well as the receiver, but its side effects can be dangerous. Real political resistance offers no such short cuts.
The NGO-isation of politics threatens to turn resistance into a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job. With a few perks thrown in.
Real resistance has real consequences. And no salary.
White supremacist, military-political economies have dominated the planet for so many centuries that white Europeans and Americans of any gender and on all sides of the political spectrum continue to benefit from and perpetuate them. Financial institutions and transitional corporations have the most economic and political power and control over the future of our earth and societies. Corporate dictatorships have taken control globally. While their brand of political and economic fascism has a socially responsible face in advertising, it is still based upon ruthless capitalist imperialism: the taking of land, labor, and resources, by force, and for profit.
It has long been time for communities of color in particular, but communities in resistance in general, to build absolute alternatives to these various versions of the same system and start fomenting strategies and practices for community-based self-determination, self-defense, autonomy and the re-appropriation of our neighborhoods and communities into our own hands. We need our own community-based security, public education, businesses, and our own restorative justice system. The survival of our communities depends upon it. Without these things in our hands, the deck has been and will continue to be stacked against us.
A first step to collective liberation in this sense would be to stop believing that we are incapable of governing ourselves.
We have to use our historical memory to understand that the greatest threat to this white supremacist, global, military-political economy has never been communism, terrorism, or narcotics, but rather the greatest threat to all forms of capitalist imperialism has always been grassroots community-based organizing for self-determination, self-defense, and autonomy. This was the threat posed by Native Americans during the occupation of the Americas by Europeans. This is the threat that was posed by slave rebellions. This is the threat posed by the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords, the Latin Kings, the Chicano movement, Puerto Rican Independentistas, women’s liberation groups, LGBTQ organizing, anti-fascists, anti-racists or any organized group of people of color, farm workers, women, territorial defenders, workers, or any community or neighborhood struggling for their own self-determination.
Again, if you are not contributing to white wealth and power, then you are considered disposable. If you are creating real alternatives to white wealth and power then you are considered a threat. To engage in strategies and practices for grassroots community-based self-determination is to expose yourself to repression, and state sponsored violence. Most communities of color in the world are struggling for self-determination and autonomy, and therefore they have always been considered a threat. These communities are treated as enemy combatants in a war of social and political control based on white and male supremacy. Therefore a logical step towards building and maintaining community-based self-determination anywhere, is community-based self-defense. If you are going to organize for self-determination then you better damn well be ready, willing, and able to engage in self-defense.
Yes self-defense does include training and preparing for physical self-defense, this should go without saying. However there are so many other elements to community-based self-defense that must also be considered. Community based education and providing a living memory of our diverse community-based resistances is part of self-defense. Strategies for meeting, organizing, and coming to consensus about community self-determination are all part of self-defense. Teaching humility, respect, responsibility, discipline, and dignity are all part of self-defense. Teaching and practicing camaraderie, cooperation, conflict resolution, and coexistence are all parts of self-defense. Teaching anti-fascism, anti-patriarchy, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia, anti-sexism, anti-racism is part of self-defense. All of these things in conjunction with the preparation and training for physical self-defense can begin to guarantee a possibility for building real self-determination and autonomy. When push comes to shove, as it has for a very long time now, the right of communities to organize their own strategies for self-defense must be respected and supported.
One of the greatest barriers to community-based self-defense has been a very powerful shift towards pacifism and non-violence as a primary means of political expression in Europe and the USA. We should all be open to diversity of tactics, and we cannot expect everybody to show up in the same way as everybody else. Not everybody has the same possibilities to take the same risks as everyone else. Non-violent direct action is a valid form of political resistance. However, the dilemma comes about when proponents of non-violence and pacifism criticize, prohibit, and criminalize community-based self-defense as violent. We must understand that non-violence comes from a position of privilege wherein its practitioners have a choice in the matter, while so many other people on the planet exist in choiceless situations wherein non-violence could and does very well mean death. Pacifists who put their lives and liberty on the line have all my respect, but we have to recognize the difference between pacifism and passivity. We must begin to understand that self-defense is non-violent. Self-defense is valid and a key element of self-determination. It is a tool for survival, not for violence.
To this end, the geopolitical importance of Mexico in the face of US imperialism cannot be stressed enough as a resource for resistance in the USA. Mexico´s geographic, political, social, cultural, economic and military proximity to the USA gives Mexicans a profound awareness of all aspects of the global economy. However this is not to say that Mexico is merely a product of, or a reaction to, US foreign policy in Latin America. Mexico is its own woke and rebellious self despite the USA, its policies, or its politics. Mexico is in fact a major threat, not only to the USA, but to the white supremacist, military-political economy. This is particularly true of Mexico´s indigenous communities, which have continuously not only resisted and opposed colonialism and global imperialism, but have also built millennial structures for self-determination, self-defense, autonomy and self-governance, and have seriously challenged age-old patriarchal practices.
In a twist of fate, it would seem that Americans who wish to build grassroots, community-based organizing for self-determination, self-defense, and autonomy have a very powerful teacher in the Mexican people, from the civilian Good Governance Councils created by the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Chiapas to the 25,000 person community of Cherán, Michoacán that successfully rose up against the narco-government that had taken a stranglehold over their lives, to any Oaxacan with a low income who has had to figure out how to survive in the face of this global system of white supremacy, to the hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who refuse to accept the state-sponsored disappearance of 43 rural education students from Guerrero, to women combatting the ever-rising number of feminicides. If you pay attention, there is a long list of lessons that Mexican history and the Mexican present continue to teach us all the time:
We absolutely are capable of governing ourselves, of defending ourselves, of taking care of one another.
Enough people willing to risk their lives and freedom for community liberation is the most powerful form of political power in the face of tyranny.
Self-determination, self-defense, and autonomy are all natural rights that must be exercised in order to be free.
Individual independence is not freedom.
Freedom is collective liberation.
None of us can be free if any of us are not free.
My freedom depends on your freedom.
Your freedom depends on my freedom.
If we are not trying to free one another, than we are not trying to be free at all.
Regardless of Trump, I hope that you will take time to talk to your neighbors, to your communities, to your friends, and to your family about how to start taking better care of ourselves and each other. Each place and situation is different, and the different circumstances call for different strategies. What will work in one place will probably not work in another, but if you don´t start talking to each other about how you can build grass roots, community-based self-determination, self-defense, and autonomy together, then nothing is ever going to change. My main hope out of all of this is that this frightening shift towards legitimized white and male supremacy in the public sphere does piss you the fuck off enough to do something about it NOW.