Autumn 17 Discussion Board: After U.S. Empire

Please feel free to share any reflections, ideas, or resources based on our dialogue this season. This is also a site for sharing relevant dreams, visions, observations, etc.

Also, here’s a study guide for the film Reel Bad Arabs Study Guide if any of you ever host a film night about it or want supplementary resources around the film’s topic.

War Made Easy studyguide

Blood & Oil Study Guide

That Film About Money

18 thoughts on “Autumn 17 Discussion Board: After U.S. Empire

  1. What’s your interest is in this season’s topic?
    What’s your relationship with militarism? (personally, within your family, etc.)

    My interest in this season’s topic…

    To arm myself with knowledge and community to more effectively dismantle the military industrial complex….
    To better perceive the way in which militarism infiltrates all places and spaces, particularly as a U.S. citizen who has been subject to the militainment industry – the way the Pentagon and other federal agencies as well as private corporations sanitize the blatant death caused by the myriad wars they wage. Wars that as a U.S. citizen I have been complicit in. To get right.
    To end omnicide. To have more informed answers to folks who believe that the earth will heal without human intervention to human-caused destruction, violence, pain, death, harm.
    To better practice the transmutation of intense grief and fear to rage and action and deep, unabiding love with accountability.
    To create wickedly potent media to raise awareness of others who’ve been complicit in the MIC so we can all be better informed and more capable of taking strategic action against wars overseas and right here – in our cities, communities, blood, hearts, minds…
    To better defend the earth against globalized capitalism that is in bed with transnational militarism that doesn’t understand that the earth is a living being and we are intimately connected.
    To expel the toxins of the gas lighting that those of us who feel this collective violence so deeply are up against. To heal. Collectively.
    To practice unapologetic brilliance. So we all get more shiny and uphold each other’s wellness.

    My relationship with militarism…

    Partially, see above…

    And also…

    A woman gets off a train in northern Czechoslovakia. She is young, maybe 16 years old. She is with her younger sister and her mother. Her father and brother are not there. The Nazi guard towering before her points for her mother to walk away, to a different line, to a different camp, to a different fate. This woman, girl, 16-year-old, stands before the Nazi guard and tells him, “No.”

    I do not know what was said or in what language. Nana spoke many. But my grandmother stood before a Nazi guard and refused to let her mother be taken from her. I do not know if she knows that her mother was being sent to a death camp. But I know that in that moment, Nana won. Her mother and sister stayed together. They survived.

    There are many details I still do not know. And many more stories to be told. But if my relationship with militarism can meet the “No” of my grandmother before that Nazi guard, then I am doing her legacy justice.

    • Hi everyone,

      I am sad to be missing this first class, and especially because of all of the violence and heartbreak on the news and in my psyche today after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. My body is overwhelmed and I decided to stay in tonight instead of pushing myself. Here are some of my intentions for this season:

      So much to say, but since my interests veer towards psychology and the body, I am very interested in how militarization has messed with my/our internal sense of safety and the illusions and truths that surround the question of safety. At a base level, war seems to always have “safety” or protection as a rationalization. This can be used to manipulate and it is also a very normal human yearning to feel safe. Yet, is it even possible? And how can this basic need be so twisted to rationalize murder (for example) which is the very opposite of safety?

      I have spent much of my life feeling unrealistically safe and unrealistically unsafe. Right now I am fascinated by the concept of safety and how it might be experienced, created or “ensured”.

      As a younger person I would take risks and lived my life with the attitude “I can get myself into and out of any situation”. Maybe this came from being the granddaughter of a marine general who abused his son who abused me as a child. Maybe surviving violence at a young age made me a “fighter” I don’t know. As a teenager, I believed that adults perceived me to be innocent particularly because of my blond hair and white skin and so I took lots of risks and got away with a lot. I also got really hurt. Either way my attitude was to fight. After being sexually assaulted repeatedly for years, I started to feel unsafe everywhere. I have felt jumpy and sensitive in my skin, afraid of random people in public places, and afraid of people who are supposed to feel “safe”. Intimacy has felt terrifying and being in groups has also felt unsafe. Again, it has cultivated an instinct to fight, be defensive, be offensive. I have experienced a lot of conflict.

      Now, I am practicing cultivating a sense of safety on purpose in my own body so that I can be a safer person to be around. A lot of questions have come up around this practice. There are times when I take for granted that I am safe (when maybe I’m not actually) and other times when I am feeling unsafe when maybe I am! I am wanting to get more real w myself around what I actually mean by this.

      After hearing Anjali introduce the term last season I’ve stopped using the term “safe space” to describe the classroom environment where I facilitate movement and started to use the term “brave space”. I know that safety can be an impossible cue for trauma survivors and that folks who have experienced interpersonal violence and oppression are aware of this every day. Today, in particular, the heartbreaking murder of so many lives is yet another reminder that safety is no guarantee for any of us.

      So what is this illusion that we should feel safe and how might that fear/yearning be manipulated by the government/military?

      More and more I’m living into the understanding that safety as I’ve always thought of it (a guarantee of external physical safety) is not a thing. So when I hear the words “ensure safety” (as I’ve been hearing in the news today) my inner bs meter goes off.

      How can the police, the government, the administration, your therapist, your lover or anyone in the world “ensure” your safety?

      There is already so much cognitive dissonance to sort through in this culture, I want to get honest about safety.

      Some questions…
      – How do we withstand the discomfort of living in a world that is truly unpredictable and where safety cannot be guaranteed? (and does this have to do with living in a death-phobic culture?)
      -What would safety feel like as a sensation in my body?
      -To what extent do I have access to the experience of safety in a given moment?
      -How might my access to a sense of safety shift after being attacked in some way or experiencing oppression?

      I believe that living in such a violent culture is impacting my body. Right now my “safety practice” is moment to moment. I am noticing when my body can relax and let go in an environment. This feels like it might be safety in the present moment. I’m noticing how it changes as I move, feel and relate.

    • Miss T! Thank you for your incredible reading of my share. #DroptheMIC and/or #MICdrop need to be audio segments/cultural production immediately. ON IT. (Nicky, where you at?!)
      <3 <3 <3

  2. I look forward to our conversation in the coming weeks. Since my dad worked for both a transnational corporation and the United Nations while I was growing up, I am a beneficiary of the so-called “Pax Americana.”

    I published the linked piece in 2009. It was written with two audiences in mind, the World Association of International Studies where I remain a “fellow,” and the readers of the Black Commentator, an online leftist
    Black nationalist publishing space.

    http://www.blackcommentator.com/324/324_war_ed_womens_equality_afghan_pakistan_torok.html

    I hope it is clear I do not subscribe to the ideal of equal access to militarisms for women (except tactically for the same reason that gays and lesbians have fought for such access) as I am something of a
    Berkeley hippie peacenik type. That is, I am against militarism and militarization. That said the linked piece is commentary on the hypocrisy of the US national security state claiming a feminist position for the
    purpose of marketing war.

    peace, love, and solidarity,

    John

  3. Dear Liberation Spring,

    I’ve been observing how each season is like a seedling in and of itself. The theme and our collective intentions take root. The unfolding transformation responds in magical time for each of us.

    The seed of intention for this season feels really potent.

    Listening to class #1 was an immense pleasure.

    I watched Militainment, Inc. for the first time last September, in the living room with Nana one afternoon while she napped. I remember that week so clearly.

    As I prepare to leave for two weeks, I have not re-watched the film. But the impact of my initial viewing last year has remained.

    I was watching TV this weekend and saw two ads on CBS for two new TV shows. One called S.W.A.T. which glorifies the LAPD. The star of the show is a strong-bodied, black male cop. An American hero??? CBS weaponizing identity politics to justify the maintenance of a police state. The other show is called SEAL Team, which conveys Navy seals as unsung heroes who risk their lives for the good of humanity.

    If only the general public, CBS viewers, knew about the militainment industry. It makes me think of the NFL, which only operationalized the singing of the national anthem in 2009 and got paid lots of money by the Pentagon to do so.

    I’ll be thinking of you all while I’m away, and observing the rooting of this seasons seedlings on my journey.

    FYI – #DroptheMIC has already aired on KPFB. I’ve yet to upload episode one of We Rise radio hour, but will do so soon! Ask Nicky for details. 😉

    lots of love,
    Cat

  4. Hi everyone, I wanted to share some media related to this season’s topic.

    Ruby Ibarra’s album that just came out a week ago, CIRCA91 addresses U.S. Imperialism and it’s influence on the Philippines: https://rubyibarra.bandcamp.com/album/circa91

    Playbill$ is really good…https://rubyibarra.bandcamp.com/track/playbill

    …also The Other Side, Welcome: https://rubyibarra.bandcamp.com/track/the-other-side-welcome

    Ruby Ibarra is a spoken word artist and local to the bay area, both Cat and I have been sharing this video lately, “Hate” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gB1RVzP3Z-4&t=5s

    She’s also part of a production group called Beatrock Music – all Filipino rappers from L.A. to the bay who make socially conscious music. Plenty of content for inspiration there, including Odessa Kane “GPT”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=DD8Xpb0xgV8

    My interests in this season is deeply rooted in the fact that the U.S. empire has a huge influence on my ancestors – it is the reason I am here. It is the reason I speak english, it is the reason my grandparents immigrated, it is the reason my parents met, it’s why I was born on this land. The influence of U.S. militarism on the Philippine islands has been violent, it has forced our people to forget who we are, it has impressed ideologies and values that are damaging to ourselves – such as capitalism – it has created a divides among us – internally and externally. I am interested in deepening my knowledge of U.S. imperialism so I can better understand how to undo it’s violence – both here – in solidarity with indigenous people – as well as in my mother islands. The invitation to imagine what comes after U.S. empire is truly powerful and already creating inspiration for the work that needs to be done. I look forward to exploring this more with all of you.

  5. Hi everyone!

    Here are my reflections. They are a bit long, as it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to participate. And I’ve been giving this material lots of thought. Thanks to all of you for continuing to show up and create space for this conversation!

    From Blood and Oil: “CENTCOM” then “Africa Command Center”… I had never heard of these things! There are U.S. “control centers” dotted throughout major oil wells on the planet. It is not surprising. But eye-opening to know they exist.

    I really appreciate this film. Listening to Democracy Now! this morning, the headlines about Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia made more sense. I have more context for the story that is unfolding in the region.

    Leading up to this season, I knew the U.S. government was corrupt and oil-hungry, but I didn’t know any of the critical details for just how exactly it goes about achieving its desires. So now, a major question I have is why aren’t more of us knowledgable and familiar with these details of U.S. corruption (i.e.: just how it goes about lying through its teeth in order to steal oil from land it has no right to and mindlessly killing astronomical numbers of innocent lives in the process – human and otherwise)?

    The materials in this season are helping to answer this question, of course. The U.S. government is hell-bent on insuring our ignorance and complicity in going to war. They knowingly, intentionally, strategically lie to us all. I am really interested in the decolonial, feminist critique of this. How are women and people of color situated in these stories? In these documentaries? I’m not asking to criticize the filmmakers or scholars in the least. Nor to superficially engage in identity politics. Rather, to use Tierra and myself as examples: we watched Blood and Oil together last night and had to keep pausing and re-watching segments to ensure we understood all the details. Granted we were tired. Still, Tierra and I are intelligent beings, and we’ve been paying attention to systemic injustice and critiques to the status quo for a long time. Why then, did I (so as not to speak for you, T) not know in full how Bin Laden came to be so feared by our government? And how that played into the story they told to go to war with Iraq? I am not willfully ignorant of this. I have been intentionally excluded from the discourse and decision making processes.

    (As an aside, I would LOVE to see a film like this about the last decade so as to better understand our war with Afghanistan, which is as I understand it, the longest war in U.S. history.)

    Another example of, in particular, the way women seem to be intentionally rendered ignorant about war comes from something that caught my attention in my interview with Jay about his experience and knowledge as a left-wing military historian. (Hi Jay!) He knows a lot about the details of war. His mother, a war refugee from Latvia, wrote a memoir about her experience. Yet, when writing her memoir, she called on him for historical facts and details. Yes, he is a historian. But Jay, the way you told your story, even your comment about being a teenage boy who was drawn to military history because of the drama, to me paints a gendered image of how modern war is constructed, and who is and is not intentionally included in the conversation. It’s not that your mother is stupid for not knowing the facts of a war she survived. Not at all. (And I don’t mean to imply that you said that!) But, why are these facts and figures of war more alluring, even accessible, to you and not her? Beyond the specifically personal, I mean.

    It may have been in Militainment, Inc. where there is a display of just how sexualized military weaponry is. Phallocized missiles, the control stick that sits between men’s legs as they fly military aircrafts. Even the predominantly white male reporters who get off talking about MOAB (the Mother of All Bombs). It’s a disgusting and transparent display of the illness in U.S. culture that can be named, in part, as heteropatriarchy.

    To return to the theme of storytelling that justifies U.S. war in the region they call the Middle East: I took two courses in undergrad taught by a rad professor. The first was called Intro to Islam and the second Islam and Iran. These courses provided me a basis of understanding about the dichotomization of the so-called West and the so-called Middle East. We read Said and watched Reel Bad Arabs. It made sense to me that governments and political leaders in that region would despise and mistrust the U.S. It makes sense that Bin Laden would use lethal force to protect his homeland and his people from U.S. theft and unabashed violence.

    What I want to know, is how to flip the script? Broadly. Widely.

    I suppose the issue is not only shifting dominant perspectives of U.S. citizens, but also better understanding the true nature of U.S. government. More and more, it is apparent how anemic our alleged democracy is. Fascism is more and more the clear status quo.

    Anjali has said many times, in line with the military theme of this season, that we must fight the battle on all fronts. I don’t feel overwhelmed or hopeless, and I hope my thoughts don’t encourage those states of being for any of us. Rather, I’m eager to get creative. To see with more clarity than ever before how power is functioning in the world, and how our creative collaborations and cultural production can make a serious shift in these dynamics.

    In my journaling lately, I’ve been reminding myself not to be afraid of my own power (power, in part, in the sense of Audre Lorde’s definition of erotic). And, more and more, to be profoundly kind to myself. What is the relationship between power and kindness – personally, politically? I’m reminded of Dr. Margo Okazawa-Rey’s remarks about creating genuine security (check out that Feral Visions episode if you haven’t!): militarism does not create security. It breeds mistrust and danger for all. How can we use our power to create genuine security for ourselves and our communities?

    Looking forward to listening to tonight’s class.
    Cat

  6. I couldn’t help but think of veteran (no pun intended) LS participant Kris when I heard the reporter use the phrase “The Bush Push” when talking about GWB’s push to go to war with Iraq.

    I continue to be irritated, mildly embarrassed, and mostly just pissed off about how little I know about the details of this country’s militarism.

    Some questions and observations:

    1) Are we going to talk about whether 9/11 was a set-up? I want to get beyond the white noise and know the truth. A truth that starts slightly prior to where this film picks up the investigation. I get that the Bush regime used 9/11 as an excuse to start a war with Iraq. But how much did our government have to do with the actual airplane crash in NYC?
    2) Is there a film that links the PIC with the MIC?
    3) OH! I had not connected the dots about increased military spending under Bush launching the intense debt of the last decade-plus. The U.S. dollar is the reserve currency all over the world…can we talk about that!? I got SO ANGRY during that part of the film.
    4) This morning on Democracy Now! Amy Goodman spoke with Jerry Brown about oil. Sort of. Some protestors spoke out during his speech at COP23 about fracking. They said “Keep it in the ground!” And he said “Keep YOU in the ground.” Absurd. He went on to tell Amy that we can’t ban fracking because it is dangerous to import oil, and we can’t get off oil because Californians won’t give up cars. Can we disrupt this logic, please? Cast an alternative spell?
    5) I loved Vandana Shiva’s commentary about great leaders inspiring fearlessness and hope. I am shamelessly re-reading Harry Potter right now and am moved by HP’s courage. He so often just does what needs to be done, unfettered by fear. He feels fear, to be sure, but he doesn’t get stuck there. I would argue Dumbledore encourages fearlessness and hope 🙂 Who or what in your life reminds you of your own capacity for courage and hope? How can we nourish these things, people, etc?
    6) Finally, I’m in the middle of watching the documentary based on Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine.” It’s incredible. Devastating. Relevant to this season. Similarly to the point about the relationship between war and debt, it links up some dangerous ideology that spread about so-called democracy and economics (deregulated capitalism.) On the theme of “shock and awe,” the film addresses the role of manufactured shock on the path to imperial domination. One line that jumped out is: “What keeps us out of shock,” says Klein, “is knowing our history.”

    I hope I’m able to listen to tonight’s class! It sucks missing these dialogues. I’m really looking forward to connecting this weekend!

  7. Hi All,

    Taking a break from birthday celebrations for Sunny to post some thoughts on HIJACKING CATASTROPHE.

    I’m amazed at the power of awful analogies. The Axis of Evil was made up, a fictional alliance that was compared to the Axis of the Second World War. The differences between these nations and their regional interests and actions and traditional enemies should make the analogy with Germany, Italy, and Japan ludicrous and in some quarters it was derided at the time.

    Yet it was only one part of a vast media campaign from the Bush administration to create a sense of fear and dread for American security after 9/11 that, according to the documentary, served an agenda established by neo cons in the 1990s (the so-called Wolfowitz doctrine). To speak to Cat’s point, I wish more people had been vehement in denying the legitimacy of this analogy and nullify the power of historical validation it was meant to evoke. But it seems fear, and anger, and hate, won.

    Fear often makes us reach for safety in ideas and concepts without as much critical thinking on their validity. And reality needs to be defended against the “relentless spin” that many of us have seen in the past three or so weeks. A quote, attributed to Karl Rove, spoke of the meaninglessness of reality to those who would prefer to create their own illusions to serve their own ends (this is from 2002). When asked if he studied reality, Rove was reported to reply: “That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality-judiciously as you will- we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . And you, all of you, will be left to study what we do.”

    Another challenge, the so called “myside” bias that many of us have: even when we are shown evidence that demonstrates our opinions and arguments aren’t wrong or have no basis in reality, we tend to resist the new information and instead hold on to our old views. Admitting we aren’t right (or have been lied to) and having to rethink is hard for everyone (especially the privileged who have entire systems built to validate their world view).

    I don’t have a profound answer as far as countering these messaging (if you do, please send links!). But two tools I find important are empathy and skepticism. They are often sworn and mutual enemies, but when used to investigate reality and who is selling it we may be able to see how awful the signal to noise ratio may be (the doc did a great job with how facts were turned into a story that sold a war that at least some were pining for since the 1990s . . . reminds me a little of German war plans in the early 20th century . . . but that’s a cure for insomnia so I’ll sign off!)

    Best to all.

    JSR

    • Wooooow. That Rove quote is illuminating and a call for stark oppositional action. Thank you so much for sharing that. I’d love to discuss this further (or listen to y’alls discussion from Monday!).

  8. Here’s a brief description of NAFTA’s Ch 11: https://www.citizen.org/our-work/globalization-and-trade/naftas-chapter-11-corporate-cases
    “The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) includes an array of new corporate investment rights and protections that are unprecedented in scope and power. NAFTA allows corporations to sue the national government of a NAFTA country in secret arbitration tribunals if they feel that a regulation or government decision affects their investment in conflict with these new NAFTA rights. If a corporation wins, the taxpayers of the “losing” NAFTA nation must foot the bill. This extraordinary attack on governments’ ability to regulate in the public interest is a key element of recent and proposed NAFTA expansions like the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and agreements with Peru, Panama and Colombia.

    NAFTA’s investment chapter (Chapter 11) contains a variety of new rights and protections for investors and investments in NAFTA countries. If a company believes that a NAFTA government has violated these new investor rights and protections, it can initiate a binding dispute resolution process for monetary damages before a trade tribunal, offering none of the basic due process or openness guarantees afforded in national courts. These so-called “investor-to-state” cases are litigated in the special international arbitration bodies of the World Bank and the United Nations, which are closed to public participation, observation and input. A three-person panel composed of professional arbitrators listens to arguments in the case, with powers to award an unlimited amount of taxpayer dollars to corporations whose NAFTA investor privileges and rights they judge to have been impacted.”

  9. It was really wonderful to listen to the CR session from last week. I woke up yesterday (having listened the day before) with a few ideas:

    1) Does there exist somewhere a short video (like 10 min), somewhat akin to the brilliant Pinky Show, detailing the MIC and its tentacles? I imagine the video offering a definition of the MIC, naming U.S. military bases worldwide, addressing the militainment industry, naming the various ways the MIC induces trauma, introducing some rad organizations and communities doing anti-military work, and offering a few ideas for next steps and self/community care once viewers have watched the video – and/or questions as invitations to deepening awareness, praxis, and sharing the information. I love the Pinky Show frame (like the Hawaii one we saw) because it breaks things down to fundamental terms, offers engaging visuals, names important facts and figures – it’s unapologetically brilliant and creative. If this doesn’t exist, we certainly have the skills and capacity within this group to create such a video. Could be a We Rise production… Would love to hear your thoughts.

    2) While this first idea is particularly appealing to me, another idea that arose is to create something like #DancersAgainstTheMIC to follow #DancersAgainstDAPL from a year ago… This idea arose based on a conversation Wanjiro and I had last week about continuing to weave dance into our shared creative projects. Of course, the two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Thanks for considering. All feedback super appreciated. Sending love and warmth to you all.

  10. I opted to watch 3 films detailing the impacts of U.S. militarism in the last 3 days. I felt furious. Ready. Focused. My face tear-streaked. Heart and stomach clear and strong.

    At the moment I feel hungry and exhausted.

    I have many observations and reflections, but right now they feel distant. Still being digested. When they come flooding out I will be sure to share them, perhaps for next week’s closing class.

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