Archive for the ‘Inspiring Moments in Resistance’ Category



Two hundred of us blocked all the entrances to the New Zealand Petroleum Conference for five hours yesterday.

Some great video footage at the Greenpeace website below.

Source: The People’s Climate Rally – 21st – 23rd March 2017

Walden and Civil Disobedience

By Henry David Thoreau

Penguin Classics (1983)

Introduction and Endnotes by Michael Meyer

Book Review

Self-described as a “mystic, transcendalist,* and natural philosopher to boot,” Thoreau published Civil Disobedience in 1849 and Walden in 1854. Both are works of social criticism. Surprisingly most of his critiques of mid-19th century American society ae still applicable to 21st century post industrial capitalism.

In Civil Disobedience, for example, he maintains that a “standing government” is as dangerous to true democracy as a “standing army.” He is particular critical of slavery and the war against Mexico (opposed by the majority of his contempories), which he describes as “the work of a few individuals using the standing government as their tool.”

He also asserts that voting is not enough when men of conscience oppose the “wickedness” government carries out in their name. He argues that people are obliged to transgress unjust laws “rather than waiting until we persuade the majority to amend them.” He adds that  [jail] “is the only house in a slave state that a free man can abide with honor.”

In July 1846 Thoreau was arrested for failing to pay his poll tax, owing to his refusal to recognize the authority of a government “which buys and sells men, women and children at the door of the senate house.” He only spent one night in jail, after an acquaintance “interfered” and paid his tax for him.

I was unaware, prior to reading Walden, that Thoreau also popularized the concept of voluntary poverty. The philosophy he elaborates in describing his two years in the woods at Walden Pond is highly critical of the upper middle class society he was born into. He observes that a “laboring man has no time for true integrity – no time for anything but to be a machine.”

He views his time at Walden Pond – where he built his own cabin and furniture and grew most of his food – as an experiment to help him reduce his life to the absolute basic necessities and the most expedient way of procuring.

He asserts the wealthy classes spend so much time cluttering their lives with useless luxuries that they lose their ability to think clearly about what they really believe him. He also decries the lack of freedom associated with the accumulation of material wealth: “Luxury enervates and destroys nations which have accumulated dross but can’t get rid of it . . . [they] have forged their own golden or silver fetters.”

He’s also high critical of what he describes as the “factory system” – which is “not meant to ensure mankind is well and honestly clad but for corporations to get enriched.”

*Transcendentalism was a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in the eastern region of the United States. The movement was a reaction to and protest against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality in American society.

The oil industry has scarpered to Taranaki for their annual conference and it’s our job to disrupt it. Join The People’s Climate Rally: New Plymouth, Taranaki on 21st – 23rd March 2017.

The ‘People’s Climate Rally’ at the 2017 Petroleum Conference in Taranaki will include peaceful protest, workshops and entertainment for people of all ages and backgrounds who support a world without fossil fuels.Every year at its annual conference in Auckland or Wellington, the oil industry has faced growing opposition. In March 2016, over 200 people blockaded the conference and shut it down for several hours through peaceful civil disobedience. Let’s make 2017 the biggest showdown yet.Now they’ve run, but they can’t hide. Just as no one can hide from climate change – the oil industry cannot hide from the global movement that intends to make sure that this is the generation that ends oil.
The ‘People’s Climate Rally’ is being organised by Taranaki locals and other groups working on climate change, fracking, oil and gas drilling, and social justice. Organising groups include Climate Justice Taranaki, Frack Free, Oil Free Wellington, Greenpeace and 350 Aotearoa.

The Honey at the Top

Directed by Dean Puckett (2016)

Film Review

The Honey at the top is about the 30-year battle the indigenous Sengwer are waging against the World Bank and the corrupt Kenya Forest Service (KFS). The latter are trying to evict the Sengwer from their ancestral Embobut Forest. The Kenyan government seeks to use the forest in a lucrative carbon trading scheme.

Although the Kenyan courts have ordered the KFS to desist from harassing Sengwer families, the former continues to launch periodic raids in which they beat up women and the elderly, set fire to their homes and arrest entire families – demanding bribes for their release. The World Bank funds these KFS activities.

Both the World Bank and the KFS declined to be interviewed for this documentary.

Click the cc tab for English subtitles.


* Carbon trading is the scandal ridden scheme of buying and selling permits and credits to emit carbon dioxide. Despite being a central pillar of the EU’s efforts to slow climate change, there is no real evidence it has successfully reduced carbon emissions .

The following is an eye-opening presentation for Martin Luther King Unity Day. In it, long time political activist Angela Davis explores the roots of the electoral college and the death penalty in slavery. Unlike more mainstream liberals, she doesn’t catastrophize about Trump’s recent electoral victory. Instead she faults both Trump and Clinton for failing to mention even once during the campaign the working class, inequality or climate change.

She goes on to emphasize that it isn’t Martin Luther King as an individual we celebrate, but the thousands of people in the civil rights movement who did the real work. She then highlights the myriad of movements Americans have formed to resist the oppression experienced by the working class Americans. She devotes special focus to the movement to abolish prisons in a country that incarcerates more people (in absolute numbers) than any other country in the world. In her view, the majority of inmates in US prisons have been deeply traumatized in childhood. All incarcerating them accomplishes is to irreparably re-traumatize them.

The goal of the prison abolition movement is to replace prisons with a system of restorative justice,* starting with youth prisons.

Davis starts speaking at 1:09.

*Restorative justice is a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. New Zealand, which has no youth prisons, relies on a restorative justice process to deal with juvenile offenders.


Zaher Baher, who visited Rojava in May 2014, has posted a report of his findings on  It’s his view that that Syrian Kurds, in founding the self-governing province of Rojava, have taken a distinctly positive route in contrast to other Middle East and North African countries that participated in the 2011 Arab Spring. The story of Rojava has been largely ignored in the corporate media.

Various commentators have favorably compared Rojava’s experiment in direct democracy to the self-governing communes Spanish Republicans formed during the Spanish Civil War (see Workers Self-Management Committees) or to the self-governing communities the Zapitistas have formed in Chiapas (see The Zapatistas are Building the World We Ask For

The citizens of Syrian Kurdistan believe that the revolution must start from the bottom of society and not from the top, that it must be a social, cultural and educational as well as political revolution and that final decision making responsibility must rest with the people themselves at the community level.

The Structure of Rojava Self-Governance

In January 2014 the Rojava People’s Assembly established a Democratic Self Administration in all three cantons of Kurdistan (Al Jazera, Kobany and Afrin). The DSAs, which are autonomous, are charged with implementing the decisions of the “House of the People” and overseeing administration in the local authorities, municipalities, education and health departments, trade and business organizations, defence and judiciary systems etc. Each DSA is made up of 22 men and women and organized to enable people from all backgrounds, nationalities, and religions to participate.

In Syrian Kurdistan, there is also strong support for the WPJ (the Women’s Protection Units), which have been created to fight the traditional women’s oppression (manifested in high legal tolerance for rape, domestic violence, underage and forced marriage, and honor killings) that characterizes most of the Middle East. For more information about the WPJ, see The Women’s Revolution in Rojava

The Communes are the smallest and most active cells in the House of the People. Communes form on the basis  of direct participation of people in the villages, on the street and the neighborhoods and the towns. Their role is to build agricultural and commercial cooperatives and to discuss and solve issues of education, security and self-defense. They meet weekly and decisions are made by all commune members over age 16. Each Commune has their own representative in the House of the People and in the neighborhood, village or town where they are based.

 The Role of Established Political Parties

 In his article, Baher expresses reservations about the role of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), United Democratic Party and PKK (in Kurdistan Democracy Movement) in driving the mass democracy movement in Syrian Kurdistan. As political parties, all three groups operate as hierarchical organizations with orders and commands issuing from party leaders to the grassroots. He sees Tev-Dem (Tevgera Civaka Demokratîk), the multi-ethnic coalition that established the Peoples Assembly, as holding the opposite view – that revolution must start from the bottom. Many members of Tev-Dev movement have never been members of the PKK or PYD and do not believe in state powers and authority. As the Communes and TSAs grow and develop, Baher believes the power of the organized political parties is diminishing.

Rights of Non-Kurdish residents of Syrian Kurdistan

The population of Al Jazera (over one million people) is 80% Kurdish, with the rest of the population consists of Arabs, Christians, Chechens, Yazidis, Turkmens, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Armenians. 80% percent of the population is Kurdish. In Al Jazera, there are more than twenty political parties. The majority of non-Kurdish parties oppose the PYD, the Tev-Dem and the DSA for their own reasons. Nevertheless they have total freedom to carry out their activities without any restriction. The only restrict they face is a ban on fighters or militias under their own control.

International Support

At present, there is no support for the DSAs or Tev-Dem from China, Russia or from the US and their allies – despite the fact Syrian Kurds are the  main opposition fighters against ISIS in Syria.

People can follow the ongoing development of Rojava as a self-governing direct democracy at Rojava Report

Photo credit BijiKurdistan, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons



The Official Guide to Tactical Urbanism

City Lab (2012)

Free PDF: Tactical Urbanism 2

Book Review

The Official Guide to Tactical Urbanism is an encyclopedia of tactics employed by community activists (worldwide) to reclaim city streets from cars and corporations. The goal: to create more public spaces to facilitate community engagement and interaction.

Young people in the US and other industrial countries have been abandoning cars for public and active transport. Yet city authorities (plagued by budget problems since the 2008 financial crash) have been extremely slow to undertake the infrastructure upgrades necessary to facilitate a transition to car free neighborhoods. Many activists, fed up with the futility of lobbying municipal authorities, are employing guerilla tactics to undertake these infrastructure upgrades themselves.

This publication offers a detailed history (dating back to the 1500s) of  “unsanctioned” uses of public space, most of which go on to be legitimatized by local authorities. Among many other tactics, The Official Guide to Tactical Urbanism describes the creation of

  • Play streets – in which neighborhoods make their own signs and designate streets car free to create play areas for kids (and parents)

play-streetA London play street


Jackson Heights (NYC) car free play space

  • Guerilla gardening – in which activists garden on public or private land without permission


  • Pop-up cafes – tactic to promote public seating in the parking lane and to promote local businesses

pop-up-cafeTrading parking space for outdoor seating improves the public realm

  • De-paving – removing pavement to reduce storm water pollution and increase the amount of land available for habitat restoration, urban farming, tree planting, native vegetation and social gathering.

depavingDepaving in action

  • Chair bombing – creating impromptu public seating to improve the social well-being of
    neighborhoods, both by salvaging waste and activating the public realm.

chair-bombingChairs placed adjacent to Brooklyn’s Blue Bottle Cafe

  • Intersection repair – repurposing community intersections for community space rather than vehicle traffic.

intersection-repairAn intersection repair project in Los Angeles

  • Reclaimed setbacks (aka lawn liberation) – creating a more engaging streetscape by activating the space between the street and structures.