Monday, November 4, 2013

Frantic Powers Blink and We Fight On

Is it just me or are the powers that be coming down especially hard on activists?  Two cases make me wonder.  One Russian and one American.

I'm not surprised about the Russians, and I'm an idiot for being surprised about the Americans.

We know the Russians are hardcore and not in a good way.  They still hold a young female rock band behind bars for criticizing the government.  A few days ago, the Russians crushed a multi-nation proposal to set aside part of Antarctica, including the fantastically wild Ross Sea, from inevitable exploitation.

Meanwhile, 30 Greenpeace activists, known as the Arctic 30, are locked up in a Russian prison in the grey coastal city of Murmansk.  They say it's cold in their cells and are let outside only one hour a day.

They could spend 7 years in a Russian jail.  That's 7 years for...trying to climb an oil platform and unfurl one of their trademark banners.  For trying to protect the Arctic, one of the last relatively untouched commons, from even more human destruction.

Is it just me or is the Russian government's reaction wild overkill?

Back in the land of the free and home of the brave, Tim DeChristopher was released from a federal prison last April.  He's making the rounds across the US.  The anti-fracksters and climate change activists treat him like a rock star.  As well they should.

He's the one who was locked up for two years -- two years in jail -- for making fake bids at a land auction in Utah.  He accepted bids for 22 parcels with no intention to pay them.  He was protesting the sale of the public land to fossil fuel companies.   

I think the message here in the land of the free and home of the brave is: you're not as free as you think and don't be brave about anything that might expose the dirty money exchanging hands between the US government and Big Oil.

People who care about a livable planet are locked up for seemingly small infractions.  For speaking their mind.  For acts of civil disobedience of the sort the United States was founded on.

But I'm optimistic for two reasons about both the Russian and U.S. cases.  The overreaction from these powerful governments is really an expression of  insecurity -- that people are starting to see through their scams and are sick of eating the costs of pollution.  These are acts of desperation on the federal level; they know they are losing the all important battle of hearts and minds and this problem is not going away.

It's a classic reaction from those in power and frantic to stay so:  Come down extra hard and set an example.  Which brings me to reason for optimism number two.  That never works for long.  They have only emboldened people.  People's fears and suspicions about the powers that be, especially in the U.S., appear dead on and they look at it and say: we have to fight for the future.

As Tim put it at his trial, "the power of the Justice Department is based on its ability to take things away from people.  The more that people feel that they have nothing to lose, the more that power begins to shrivel.  The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today."

Footnote: Sea Shepherd's founder is currently defending himself against civil lawsuits from Japanese whalers.  He is being called a terrorist and a pirate by the whalers and at least one U.S. circuit court agrees.

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