The Intelligentsia

People think that our sole object is to amass gold. No one believes what we say. Like insolvent tradesmen we are without credit. – Pope Pius II, 1460i

The very justified resentment against science as a classist system of control and manipulation is being used as propaganda by the same corporations and politicians who used science as a tool of oppression. With the necessary public examination of science and academia has come an anti-elitist backlash where people are encouraged to trust no one: not science, governments, media, politicians or any authority. While misleading information will encourage people to act against their own interests, no information will immobilize them or encourage them to follow demagogues. This rejection of expertise has been used repeatedly in recent democratic votes to encourage the rise of uninformed or dishonest demagogues globally. The rise in misinformation and demagogues has in turn encouraged calls for even tighter control over information and official channels.

Now science itself, like journalism, is struggling to be heard over the demagogues and struggling even more for the trust of the classes below them. The trust and faith of the jaded and confused public is the most fought over resource today, with billions or trillions spent annually to procure it. Scientists and journalists understand even more than most that the very existence of humanity is in the balance. The corporate demagogues are (correctly) depicting intellectualism as bourgeoisii and (incorrectly) telling the public that ignoring experts is the same as overthrowing the elite and refusing to be manipulated. This blocks even the prior filtered access to knowledge the public used to receive and leaves people at the mercy of personality based governance and demagogues. Even ideas are conflated with ideology and people are discouraged from thinking about ideas because of previous massacres in the name of ideologies.

“Ironically, while this work should serve to improve the quality of scientific medicine, it is being used by some cranks to attack the scientific basis of medicine.” – Dr. Steven Novella, Are Most Medical Studies Wrong?

When a force which should be productive is under attack by a force which is certainly destructive, it is a natural feeling to delay criticism which may be used by the forces of destruction and to insist that now is not the time to suggest improvement. In the case of science and academia, immediate critique is not only necessary, it is crucial and urgent, but critique alone is not enough. Every time scientists and academics have taken a stand against power, they are threatened, expelled, imprisoned or executed. It is almost impossible for scientists and academics to reach the public directly without media and politically vulnerable appointments. Science can be undermined by demagogues because demagogues control communication between science and the public. We have to establish direct communication between epistemic communities and the wider public in order to remove power from demagogues. We have to build a protective network for knowledge preservation, auditing and dissemination. A time when knowledge is already under assault is the best time to establish this network.

In this era of no traditions, science in particular and information in general control our actions. Our true governance is through information. We will destroy humanity or save it based on information. Governance by the people requires knowledge as a societal right and a global commons. It should be the duty of all members of a self governing society to audit and share knowledge and promote and support its development. The ponzi schemes of academia and science shun anyone not in the citation circle and block access entirely to ideas and critique from outside of their class. Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook and Google all serve as propaganda control for states and corporations. Our collective knowledge should not be directed by corporations or exclusively available to a tightly guarded class, either for access or for contribution. We live under a supranational empire. We do not need secrecy over borders to protect knowledge from our enemies. The classes on top are the enemies of those below and they are maintaining their positions by the secrecy and idea ownership we allow them.

The solutions being recommended to the lethal ignorance of the public are headed in the wrong direction, towards more corporate control and a more accredited expert class. Journalists are wanting the internet reconstructed to give themselves credit and funding for each piece of information posted while they still grant neither to their subjects or sources. Scientists are encouraging even more secrecy and delayed publishing and less communication with media, much less the public.

The scientific class encourages those admitted into it to listen to their peers ahead of their patients and listen to local and unsanctioned knowledge only to steal credit. Science encourages binary division and branding of people and nature as mad / sane, dangerous / harmless or normal / abnormal according to the needs of industry and the powerful and to the detriment of the public. Science, academia and the media together encourage a cult-like devotion to pronouncements of one truth at a time instead of reflecting the nuance and uncertainty inherent in most research. Science views everything through a lens of corporate interest. Elite knowledge is still a product of wealth, leisure and access.

While the world has now amassed a vast quantity of knowledge and progression of that knowledge has grown exponentially since science and academia began, there is no reason to believe the creation of a scientific class brought the growth instead of the slope of progression we were already on. If instead of a closed class of scientists we had created open, permeable, epistemic communities, it is hard to not believe we would have made far less mistakes and far more progress in directions more beneficial to all of humanity. If the epistemic communities were open to the people, our information would not be so easy for demagogues and corporate interest to intercept and manipulate. Canada teaches mining to children as a ‘sustainable resource’ and bans scientific research as ‘anti-oil’ opinions. This and other Lysenkoism and educational propaganda is only possible if we do not all have direct access to all expert information through transparency and knowledge bridges.

Oral history taught us that people can accumulate knowledge in the collective mesh network of their brains and retain it with detailed accuracy for thousands of years. Guilds attempted to hoard that knowledge away from other stratas for their own enrichment and power. The new intelligentsia has often tried to be open and evolve but failed miserably because of a hierarchical classist structure that blocks input or access from the lower classes and puts knowledge in service to a tyrannical corporate empire. From the first age we can learn that if people have information they own, they will happily spread it, preserve it and use it in their daily lives. The second age guilds taught us that knowledge is power and if it is not shared, it is a recipe for tyranny. The third age has taught us that the public has no trust in information outside of their own class strata and they are justified in that lack of trust.

Whenever knowledge has helped secure an economic advantage it has been a source of conflict. Even old family recipes or other skill that might improve marriage possibilities have been guarded as tightly as guild secrets. Methods of preserving food, fishing spots and the ability to sew and maintain mukluks have in other times and places been as valuable to their possessors as silk, ermine or tulips. These secrets are no longer necessary for the survival of any person, just corporations.

Artists and all creative or knowledge based professions have fought to criminalize their audiences since copyright was invented. All recording technology since the player piano has had to fight artists who insisted their professions would be ruined by it. Rap deejays were the first to force mainstream acceptance of using other artists’ music in a mashup, opening up a huge pool of creativity that is still fighting for legal acceptance. As soon as people in both the free software movement and social media, started freely sharing their knowledge, industry found itself too dependent on the open source commons material to maintain their exclusive control. In all cases, the removal of exclusivity and knowledge gates brought an explosion of work and far greater diversity and expertise. Instead of responding to the obvious societal good in removing copyrights and patents, as the reasonable time for either has shortened, the time of ownership has been lengthened under international law.[cite]

There have been many suggestions for science to follow the lead of open source communities.iii In 2009, The Tropical Disease Initiative and several others attempted to encourage unpatented, open source drug discovery. Some initiatives such as Sci-Hub, an open access library of scientific papers established by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, have had better success by just ignoring the intellectual copyright laws and allowing the public access.1 Lately, the Open Science movement has been gaining traction, especially in the European Union with projects such as Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research (FOSTER) and various other initiatives and calls to action. The problem with all of these movements is they only involve publishing scientific data. Knowledge is not accessible unless the public can understand it. Epistemic communities require knowledge bridges to communicate with the public.

Science and journalism must evolve into systems for producing open, transparent, verified knowledge, free of powerful influence. Academia and journalism must become fully open, transparent methods of transmitting verified knowledge.

Our industrialized society has given us a backwards world where ideas are owned and personal data is not. While societal knowledge is held away from the public by gatekeeping laws and institutions, the personal details of the public is a product being examined and manipulated for politicians and the trade economy. The current goals of knowledge based capitalism continue the progression of supranational empire. The billionaires of silicon valley, like the financial and commodity industries, exist to create a new corporate ruling class overseeing a new age of corporate empire. What they produce is in service of empire, not greater society. The financial and commodity industries were set up to rob resources and enslave the rightful owners. The technology industries have created a global governance system designed around control and manipulation of information.

Academia is the primary institution where people are sorted and taught to sort each other, where the class systems are created and perpetuated. Those that decry the anti-intellectual tendencies of those on the bottom refuse to acknowledge the class system behind the hostility. It isn’t knowledge these people disdain, it is the class of people who refuse to allow them input or entry into the halls of debate. Knowledge and certification are hoarded behind a series of obstacles, only accessible after years of hazing to determine whether the recipients are suitable for entry into a homogenized class. Academia, like science, is a knowledge dictatorship. The wider public are barred from seeing the source of knowledge and expected to accept the filtered and packaged versions as truth. They are expected to acknowledge the superiority of the keepers of knowledge, when that superiority was granted by an external authority with no mandate from the people to create a superior class. This is not the same as an epistemic community that the people promoted themselves.

Academia is not a member of the communities it dictates to by virtue of the class floor built between them. Academia is used to bar people from the organizations which profess to speak for them. Human Rights Watch and many other organizations protecting the rights of those on the bottom demand a PhD for applicants seeking employment with them, barring entry to most of the people they are speaking for. Academic standing is used not just to bar people from economic classes and knowledge. Most borders are also open or closed depending on academic credentials and the laws dictating that were created by political and legal academics. Academia provides the majority of the visas to the supranational classes and so acts as the bureaucracy for a global eugenics program. While massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been an amazing development in bringing knowledge to the wider public and creating concentric circles of expertise and knowledge bridges around epistemic communities, the accreditation is still withheld by institutions and accessible only to those with money and time.

Not only does academia categorize students, it also spends far more time on assigning ideas and actions to categories or Great Men than it does in initiating or evaluating either. Students are rarely given ideas to audit and test and translate to action. They are instead given ideas to attribute by Great Man and categorize by ideology. They debate with sources and quotes instead of opposing ideas and actions, encouraging a public which follows personalities and ideologies instead of testing ideas and creating action. They are taught to worship solitary geniuses instead of being taught mass collaborative processes and how to use them. Academia is conducted like religious study, focused on what the great men said and meant instead of whether or not they were correct. The printing press created a rigor mortis for debate which the Internet should have cured, but academia slogs on in its old path with the same methods.

We no longer live in a world dominated by resource capitalism or industry. We live in a world dominated by information capitalism and information control. Industry had a direct source of conflict between workers and owners. Information simply has manipulation at the top and those at the bottom are largely unwitting and passive consumers. The intelligentsia is depicted as a meritocracy, a victimless elite as opposed to the industrialists victimizing factory workers.

Science hoards knowledge and uses it against the people and for the profit of corporations. Academia acts as gatekeepers to allow filtered streams of knowledge to a selected few. Journalism acts as a marketing agent for information which benefits the powerful. Academia sorts the people for future valuation by the trade economy and the law punishes those they deem without value. None of these institutions are by and for the people as they are all imposed by an outside class. None have a right to the confidence of the people and they receive none.

A people with no confidence in either their epistemic communities from the scientific class or their knowledge bridges from the academic and journalist classes is a people with no belief in ideas. With no ideas to follow in confidence, people will become cults following personalities which will become demagogues.

Societies do not transcend classes. If all knowledge is removed to a higher class, the lower classes will neither trust nor follow it. Without reliable knowledge, action will follow class demagogues.

1 Go to sci-hub.cc if you have difficulty finding any scientific papers cited in the endnotes of this book. Also consider supporting Elbakyan and the site in any way you can, she does not receive nearly the support or recognition deserved for her brave and extremely important work.

 

Excerpted from Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Citations will be transferred when I get a minute.

 

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There are no nation states

Nation has always been a fuzzy term. Even in times when distance, mountains and rivers posed insurmountable barriers to assimilation, when nations were divided by language, dress, laws and beliefs, both the customs and the populations of these nations were constantly evolving.

States have no resemblance to nations. States are created by the highly militarized partitioning of societies into economic markets and property ownership completely regardless of who the people in those states are or how the creation of the state divides and restricts our nations.

While nations are living and fluid and variable depending on context and perspective, states are an attempt to freeze one official historical viewpoint for all time. States preserve culture to prevent it from living, keep it steeped in formaldehyde unable to breathe and grow. Nations as defined by states are inviolable, to suggest change is sacrilegious, to question perspective or boundaries is deemed intolerable.

The reality of layered and overlapping nations, of intersections, of cooperation and flexibility is denied by the rigid borders and uniformity of states. Traditions of fluid property custodianship, sharing and merging are rejected for one tradition of rigid ownership clamped down and made law for every region on earth. Ethnic and societal realities of no fixed lines between groupings are ignored for false categorizing. While nations are gathered for community, cooperation and sharing, states are imposed for segregating, competing and allocating.

Nations create Us, states create the Other.

While nations reveled in their diversity, states decree a homogenized sameness, a world where everyone wears the same grey suits, international law assures uniform belief systems worldwide, the trade economy is the one god all must serve to survive. Like agricultural crops, people are raised in the manner most efficient for industry, the same worldwide. Nations are people, states are corporations.

States insist partitions between identical blocks of people are necessary for safety. States seek to divide and categorize. Diverse nations already do live together and overlap peacefully everywhere. Nations have fought over resources many times in the past. The problems associated with trade economy are applicable whether ownership is international, national, regional or private and will only be addressed by addressing trade economy. It is no less awful for people to be killed by a foreign corporation pillaging resources than by competing local nations. States did not bring peace to these problems, they brought totalitarian rule by global resource mafia. People in different nations sometimes oppose each others values to the point they wish to shun each other. International boycotts such as the BDS campaign against Israel prove this solution does not require states and indeed, states only boycott for economic interest, not human rights.

Nations are ideas and traditions which exist across borders and generations and they cannot be killed. States are tied to the property they control and they die without militaries and coercive laws to keep them in power. States attempt to present themselves as prefab nations, as if control of property and written laws and constitutions can be applied to populations and everyone in a geographical region will suddenly become bonded with national identity. Everywhere in the world nations such as the Kurds, Kachin, Catalan and many others refuse assimilation and states such as the five eyes prove they will never be anything but corporations.

Kill the states. Let the nations breathe.

Omar Khadr: War criminal, child soldier… or neither?

 

Previously published on VICE


Frames from Omar Khadr’s interrogation. via Flickr.

Omar Khadr made his first appearance in a Canadian court on Monday. After an 11-year journey from Bagram to Guantánamo to Canada’s Millhaven Institution, the Toronto-born man is now in Edmonton’s federal prison. He was 15 when he was captured and tortured at Bagram. He turned 27 last Thursday.  

If you’re not familiar with the case it goes loosely as follows: When the Americans first arrested Omar in Afghanistan, he was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American solider. For eight years he maintained his innocence, until he signed a plea deal in 2010 that got him out of Guantanamo. Omar was then convicted of five counts of war crimes for his actions, which were not recognized as such anywhere else in the world including Canada.  

Omar’s case is wildly complex. While the American solider he is accused of killing was certainly killed by a grenade, there is no evidence showing that Omar ever had or threw one. While Omar certainly did confess to these crimes, it was after eight years of torture and given his option to either insist he’s innocent and stay in Gitmo, or confess to the crimes and see a judge in Canada, it certainly sounds like the terms of his confession were problematic at best.

All of this is important to note, especially in light of the recent Hamdan appeal in the US—which refers to the case of Osama Bin Laden’s former driver whose terrorism charges were thrown out—that pointed out war crimes tried by the Commission must be internationally recognized. This verdict may end up being leveraged effectively in the Omar Khadr case.

The Canadian Supreme Court has even ruled that our government violated Omar’s rights, but left the remedy up to the Harper government who of course declined to provide any solution.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been making strong statements on the preferred outcome on the day of the trial, in an apparent attempt to influence the court proceedings. Harper has vowed to fight the case “vigorously,” and used almost the same phrasing as that of Steven Blaney, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety.

Omar’s counsel, Dennis Edney, was in court to argue that he should be transferred to a provincialinstitution from a federal institution due to his age when the alleged crimes took place. In a confusing instance of legal doublespeak, the Crown’s prosecutors are arguing that Omar has not really been sentenced to eight years, but rather to five eight-year sentences served at the same time. Associate Chief Justice J.D. Rook has reserved judgment to a currently undetermined future date.

Heather Marsh, a journalist, was at Omar’s trial on Monday and wrote about it for us.


The media swarming Khadr’s lawyer outside of Monday’s hearing.
 Photo by the author.

On Monday, the court was filled with what seemed to be exclusively supporters of Omar Khadr. Many were wearing orange or orange ribbons and I spoke to several of them. There was a high school student who said she was done for the day, students from several different universities skipping class even though they had exams next week, and people of all ages and ethnic groups. After the media were moved to the jury box and people were encouraged to squeeze up, 120 people were in the court room and a live feed was set up for more in an overflow room.

A security guard told Omar’s counsel that Omar would be available to talk to them in a private interview room outside—but Edney insisted it was an open court and Omar could appear. After a brief altercation he was allowed to be present.

Contrary to earlier media reports depicting him as a “giant,” Omar is an average sized man with a soccer player build and a neatly trimmed beard. When he came home last year he wrote to Seger M., an 11-year old supporter, “I play soccer too, but I don’t think I’m as good as you. I usually play defense or goal keeper.” He looks it, although since he came home he has been almost entirely in solitary confinement instead.


The author discussing the insanity of the crown’s arguments with Omar’s former chief prosecutor from Guantanamo.

Omar wrote to me when he was finally transferred back to Canada last fall, “At least we have a proper legal system,” and he told another correspondent this week that this would be his first appearance in “a real court.” He seemed composed and happy throughout the proceedings, smiling frequently at people. Most of the discussion I overheard during the breaks was regarding his appearance and demeanor, not the legal arguments. Omar and the gallery of supporters seemed equally amazed that they were finally meeting after 11 ½ years of hearing about each other.

During the afternoon, a man interrupted proceedings to rip off his shirt and say “Enough! He was 15,” and object to the endless paper shuffling and statute citing. He was escorted out with no acknowledgement from Omar or the rest of the court room. At the end of the day, after the judge had left and as Omar was being led away there was a spontaneous outburst from the room with people waving and calling “Good job, Omar!” and “Stay strong!”

After the hearing Edney met with media outside and told them Omar’s chances of parole would be much greater in a provincial institution as he would have access to the programs and the society he needs to rehabilitate himself. “If he remains in a federal penitentiary, where he doesn’t get any programs, where he spends most of his life locked away, where his life was threatened, he’ll never get out.”


An Omar Khadr protester in 2009. via WikiCommons.

As long as Omar is in federal prison he will probably be in solitary as necessary protection. As he wrote a friend last February about Millhaven, “My new place is different definitely. People are generally nice, but with a lot of bad habits. Life here compels you to live like an animal because it is like a jungle. I have to change a little to defend myself, but not lose my humanity and who I am.”

In order to be eligible for parole, Omar must prove he can thrive among those our society has deemed most unacceptable. During his trial the point was repeatedly made that he could not be released as he had been supposedly “marinated in jihad” as an inmate of Guantanamo and Bagram during his formative years. The catch-22 continues.

Canada famously violated Omar Khadr’s rights by interrogating him for the US when they knew he had been subjected to three weeks of severe sleep deprivation torture and other ‘softening up techniques’ prior to questioning. They also refused for eight years to provide even a pair of glasses to preserve the vision remaining in his one good eye or to provide any education for him to rehabilitate himself. After receiving no formal education past elementary school, he recently passed Ontario’s Grade 10 high school equivalency exams with more than 90 percent in all subjects, English, math, history, geography and science.

Solitary confinement is widely recognized as torture, and many years of studies have shown the permanent damage that can result. After over 11 years of almost entirely solitary, Omar appears to be one of the exceptions. He can even find benefit in the deprivation of experience, education and companionship. In April he wrote to Aaf Post in the Netherlands, “Usually we don’t appreciate the small things. We take them for granted. Once you lose these things like opening your window in the morning and taking a breath of fresh air or seeing a bird chirping, you really appreciate these things. Even though I’m in prison there are still a lot of small beautiful things around us. Seeing the sun rise or set or to see the snow fall.”

“Being back in Canada is, as you said, a wonderful thing. As big or difficult as change may be, it’s worth it. There are too many good things in this life (as hard as it might be) to worry or even care about the bad things. Things are what we make out of them. Prison can be a deprivation of freedom, or a time to enlighten ourselves. For me it is the latter.”

 

The author would like to thank the Free Omar Khadr group for research assistance. 

Follow Heather on Twitter: @GeorgieBC

The Rohingya movement, as seen by a journalist in Burma

Children at an unregistered Rohingya refugee Camp in South East Bangladesh. Photo by no_direction_home.

Previously published by VICE

Heather Marsh is an activist working within the #RohingyaNOW movement.

Last Sunday, the Internet was temporarily shaken up by a campaign designed to highlight the plight of the Rohingya people of Burma. On Twitter, the hashtag #RohingyaNOW was aworldwide trend for more than two hours, peaking at the top spot. Two in-person demonstrations were held (and livestreamed), one for several hours in front of the CNN building in LA. Plus, an article about the campaign made the front page of Reddit.

Most dismissed it all as a cute trick, a one-day initiative amplified by the Anonymous and Occupy collectives and human rights activists around the world wanting to raise awareness. Instead, it was a milestone in a campaign that has been running for many months, an idea we have had for years and an introduction to our next phase.

Since the second Rohingya massacre in October, the Burmese people have watched the world ignore or misrepresent what many experts are calling a genocide. President Thien Sien has been on a world tour where he has been met with open arms, receiving a 21 gun salute in Australia and $5.9 billion of international debt cancelled. Canada has opened its first ever Burmese embassyand multinational resource corporations are queuing for contracts. No one is in the mood to bring up genocide, even when a third massacre was openly planned for this month.

The difference social media can make in public awareness was highlighted last fall as violence in Gaza was covered in great detail, and violence in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burma almost not at all. The activists behind the latest campaign believe in grass roots journalism where everyone speaks their own story. If a population of 800,000 people are in refugee camps and villages that look like concentration camps and are completely cut off from communication, what then? They die silently? Not if the Internet can help it.

On March 10, we started a crowdsourced campaign to help boost grassroots journalism from Burma. We have used crowdsourced funding to purchase airfare for two established independent journalists familiar with the Rohingya story. They flew there and we are now working to get as many long distance interviews with locals set up as possible. In the last week, the campaign for the Rohingya has expanded against violence in the rest of Burma as well.

I spoke with journalist Assed Baig about why we felt it was necessary for him to go to Burma in person and what he has seen.

“As a ‘westerner’ I have certain privilege and protection,” says Baig. “I am working with local journos. Using their expertise and crediting them without landing them in jail. We need to report in context, socially, historically and take in the balance of power. We shouldn’t wait for death to take place before we report, we should shine a light on shit that is going to go down. Call power to account. Be the voice of the voiceless. Sounds cheesy, but it is true.”

Baig says he is “of Kashmiri origin, working class background, had to work damn hard to get where I am today. My mum still doesn’t speak English!” and he has experienced media bias. It is important to give people their own voices. “They report themselves and we listen. They are not ‘poor brown people’ these are real people, with names, lives, feelings, and they have a right to be heard.”

Baig is referring to Meiktila refugees who fled to Mandalay to escape the violence. He was given pictures of the massacre in Meiktila by people who were there, from their own cameras. “There are pictures of charred remains. People driving and walking past. Their family members have fled so there is no one to bury them or even identify them.” Baig also spoke to a fourteen year old who saw people beaten to death, and then burnt, as he and others hid in some houses and watched the slaughter.

A 17 year-old student told him about running for his life in Meiktila. He told him: “We saw the younger children falling over, the older kids had to help them. “I’m not sure where some of my other friends are.” Baig showed him the pictures he had from a local journalist. Some were teenagers. Two had massive gashes on the back of the neck, as if hit by a machete. They all had been lying out for three days before someone took the picture. The boy touched the screen and struggled to speak. “That’s my friend,” he said “and this one, those are Osama and Karimullah.” The rest of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition.

These are the stories we set out to tell, but Baig has found others. A convoy led by monks has set out from Yangon and is en route to Meiktila. On board are students and others, Muslims and Buddhists together, bringing food, water and good will to the displaced people still camped in the Meiktila stadium and elsewhere. Buddhists and student groups from Mandalay city launched a rescue operation saving hundreds of lives in Meiktila when the violence started. People who have lived peacefully side-by-side for years are helping each other and standing up against extremism and intolerance.

Rights organizations and witnesses have accused the military of complicity or participation in the last two massacres. Many sources in Burma have worried the violence is being incited to justify a return to military rule, a spectre which reared its head this week with martial law surrounding Meiktila. Baig quotes a Muslim in Yangon who said: “the military want to assert their power, and want to prove they are the ones that can restore order. They are using us as to prove their point.”

Follow Heather on Twitter: @GeorgieBC

Follow Assed Baig on Twitter: @AssedBaig

An economy for all

This article is part of a series: ‘Stigmergy: Systems of Mass Collaboration’.

What we are taught to think of as ‘the economy’ began as the acquisition and use of goods for the household [Aristotle, Topics, 350 B.C.E.], and expanded to focus on the employment of a small niche group of society who made the accumulation and trading of assets their life’s work. ‘Productive’ labour which adds to the value of materials was recognized, but “The labour of a menial servant … adds to the value of nothing.” [Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776] After the Industrial Revolution, Karl Marx popularized the inclusion of labour as a commodity when it was expended for the benefit of capitalists and exchanged for a wage. It was separate from the labour of daily life as “Life for him begins where this activity ceases, at the table, at the tavern, in bed.” [Marx, Wage Labour and Capital, 1847]. Marx pointed out that the exploitation of waged labour was the ultimate source of profit and surplus value in capitalism.

While it was recognized at this point that workers and slaves in capitalist industry were important parts of the economy and were exploited by capitalism, all work done in support of the household and community became invisible. The exploitation of the household and community labourer was the ultimate source of profit and surplus value in waged labour. The exclusion of this labour was perhaps understandable as able bodied, free men were both the backbone of waged labour and the members of the public with political power. According to what Mary Wollstonecraft called “the divine right of husbands” [A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792], women were said to be created for a man’s pleasure and service, his children were his property and women were not persons; their labour was considered rightfully his and their increased labour in his absence not worthy of notice. Marx’s masculinist definition of both labour and capitalist exploitation has continued to define both.

The removal of waged labourers from the household increased both labour and isolation for the unpaid workers at home and entrenched inequality and patriarchy in households. While it was acknowledged that working for capitalists was exploitation, women in traditional roles were doing what they had always done so it was said to be natural to them. Exploitation in a marriage and the worker as a capitalist was not considered. Women were taught to be grateful they were shielded from the exploitation of capitalism when they were unpaid workers at home. Equality activists in the 1970’s fought briefly to have household work paid by western governments as an acknowledgement of its role in supporting capitalism, but the parallel fight for women to be more widely included in the waged working class was far more immediately successful. Political choice in the west now tends to promote free trade capitalism, nationalist capitalism, or capitalist workers. Any support for society is presented as charity, a luxury not part of an economic system.

Removing women from their role as household and community slaves ought to have created a more balanced and enjoyable society but instead it brought far more of the world into the trade economy once occupied by only a small group. As the work in creating and supporting society has rarely been acknowledged and never been valued, we have gross overproduction and gluttony in trade and extreme poverty in service. Some look at the overproduction in trade goods and speak of a post-scarcity economy, where no one will have to work. Work is not scarce, and never will be. There is always an elderly person to visit and support, a child to care for, a garden to tend, art to create, a world to study or a discussion to participate in. There are homes and communities to be created, other people to advocate for, and goods to create for necessity or pleasure. For some, survival is a full time job while others need assistance to survive. The time of leisure those working in trade refer to will never exist for those creating and supporting society.

Some feel that the dysfunction caused by a society given over to trade and support of trade will be remedied by including more women in these careers. These people assume women are inherently more caring, giving people, and if, for instance, women were in the military, killing would be a kinder, gentler pastime. This is absurd, as is proven every time women achieve those positions. Men have also proven constantly that they are just as capable of creating and nurturing a society as women are and prior to the industrial revolution, those were natural roles for them as well. The answer to the dysfunction is not gender balance, but recognition and promotion of the roles that create a rich and rewarding society. Gender balance should be provided by the basic human right to choose one’s life’s work but balance will not change the anti-social nature of a trade economy.

Every society is a continuum of dependencies. With the removal of the labour that was supporting this continuum, dependency became another commodity for exploitation by capitalism. People were taught to disregard the societal debt owed for care received at the beginning of their lives, partly as it was not labour with an acknowledged value. As it was formerly the ‘natural role’ of a wife to provide free labour for a husband, it is still the ‘natural role’ of a parent to provide free care for their children. Adults were now considered dissociated from their origins; the propaganda taught that since they ‘didn’t ask to be born’ they owed nothing to society.

Oddly this lack of obligation for things one didn’t ask for did not extend to aging, sickness or disaster. Now it was incumbent on each labourer to hoard the assets they would need for ‘independence’, a state where they were dissociated from the assistance of society. This ‘independence’ filled lives with fear, uncertainty and doubt and fed massive insurance and charity industries which provide no real service at all. These industries provide an illusion of independence by blocking and allocating access to societal support that has been present all along such as medical care and assistance from society in emergencies. The independence is false, but the dissociation serves to make some feel entitled and others not.

While trade economy is only possible if the rest of society is doing the creation and support work, society can exist quite well without trade. We have conducted society as a trade relationship to an intolerable degree since international trade became widespread until trade now defines every aspect of society. Capitalism has progressed to the point where only a few control the lives of most of the world, an unsustainable imbalance. We can rewind economy based on trade relationships to a point where many will again benefit from it, by debt jubilee, financial collapse or other, or we can create a new post-industrial economy that benefits all members of society and supports the roles society needs.

Decentralized trade economies

society

Peer-to-peer trading is being increasingly explored as a method to cut out corporate control of the trade economy. Peer to peer trading looks like the diagram above. People can trade directly with each other, or through a network, eliminating the central hubs that control distribution and block access of goods. An alternative distribution is the gift economy which follows a similar diagram but does not involve direct exchange; instead goods are given and it is hoped that equivalent goods will be returned. A common model to discourage freeloading in a gift economy is to require a certain level of contribution from each member.

The peer to peer-to-peer / gift economy structure is encouraged as a form of trade suitable to a non-hierarchical society. That depiction is based on an incorrect picture of the society those trading nodes belong to. The difference between a trade relationship and a society with dependencies is obvious to those dependent or unequal in society. Anyone unable to trade an object or act of direct value to a person in power will be left out of a trade network and dependent on charity as shown in the diagram below. The peer to peer model eliminates the corporate hierarchy but leaves the patriarchy alive and well.

Peer-to-peer and gift economies do not allow for society’s input to be inherent in the trade transactions. The value of goods traded is rarely created solely by the trader. Some production builds on previous work, some makes use of assets from the commons and some is produced at the expense of work left for others. Some products may violate human rights of others or damage the environment or the society. Trade relationships relate only to negotiations between individuals and do not reflect impact on an entire society.

Power in peer to peer and gift economies is retained by those that control assets. Not only does this not benefit all of the people who historically don’t benefit in capitalism, it is easy in the diagram below to see how the cycle will progress right back to where we are today as wealth will again concentrate in those who hoard assets and avoid caring for dependents. Peer to peer trade relationships are simply decentralized capitalism. Bringing that system back to its origins with no change will certainly produce the same result over time which it has produced now.

society

In the diagram above, the two traders who have pooled their resources and have no dependents are the most powerful. The one with six dependents is working far harder and obliged to divide their assets by seven. The disabled individual all by himself, and the one supporting twelve children and two elderly parents cannot participate in the trade economy at all and are dependent on charity. Their needs are not inherent in a trade economy.

For every member of society who has something of outside value to trade, there are dependents who have nothing and others doing the internal society building work. All trade must benefit those powerful enough to reciprocate. People providing palliative or geriatric care, working with the mentally ill or children, or with criminals not participating in the economy, will have no means of survival except charity or a resurrection of the institutional structures described in Society vs Dissociation. Those whose own survival takes all of their available resources because of illness, disability or age, those investing years in a long term project with no observable output, or those working in research and other thought based fields also have no inherent value in a peer to peer structure and must have their needs tacked on as a charitable addendum or debt obligation.

A few months ago, an article appeared in a Canadian newspaper. It told the story of a very young woman in Uganda raising six children, all the product of rape, after being abducted at 13 to become a child soldier. The photojournalist gave her a camera and sold the photos she took with it. When he gave her the money, he said “This isn’t a handout. This is money you’ve earned.”

Consider that for one minute. Raising six children she did not ask for while still a teenager herself, being pregnant or recovering for six years, breast feeding all of these children for however many years, providing food, shelter, clothing, safety, medical, educational and other care, all 24 hours a day, seven days a week while in extremely dangerous and uncomfortable conditions and recovering from severe trauma, with no societal support and in fact in danger from society, was not worth payment. She is expected to sacrifice her health and risk her life for a job that was not worth payment. Surviving all the trauma of her life did not entitle her to support from society. Trading a picture was considered providing something of value and contributing to society. This is a society conducted as a trade relationship; she cannot sell her children, therefore her work for them is of no value. It would however be illegal for her to let them die, so she is legally slave labour. Slavery of caregivers and others in this and many other instances is the only reason societies under capitalism can survive.

There are many groups today advocating living a money free existence by using barter, scavenging, peer-to-peer trade and gift economies. Women have been living a money free existence for most of history. Women devote a year of their lives to each pregnancy and recovery period and still do by far the most society building and caregiving work worldwide; in trade economies they have to add additional labour on top of this to create some product of exchange that will appeal to a person in power or they and all of their dependents will be at the mercy of those in power. The peer-to-peer barter or ‘gift’ economy required for many to survive has been called the world’s oldest profession: prostitution in an endless variety of forms, many called marriage. Trade economies are rigged against women in traditional roles and anyone else creating or supporting society. The answer for equality in this system has been for everyone to reject support roles and embrace trade economies.

Peer-to-peer networks provide no improvement for the rights of the weak as shown by a history full of peer-to-peer extortion gangs, paedophile networks and brotherly revolutions which became tyrannical immediately upon seizing power. Peer-to-peer is a survival of the fittest structure which ensures slavery of the weak. The persecution of the weak found in societies without inherent protection is frequently followed by a guardian coup d’état as when women are legally barred from bending over in Swaziland, sitting astride motorbikes in Indonesia or owning cell phones in rural India for their own ‘protection’. In a society with a trade based economy, currency and centralized power offers more protection to the weak than a peer-to-peer structure. This has been seen by the improvement in women’s lives when they have the right to vote and work for pay, and protection is provided (however theoretically) by the state.

When asked how they would allow for dependencies, advocates of peer to peer or gift economies speak of being ‘generous’, ‘giving’ food to the less able, and nearly always also mention condemnation for anyone having more children than they can provide for themselves, addictions, etc. In fact even one child puts the pregnant, nursing and responsible parent at a huge disadvantage and causes them to have to work far harder, for far less, and then need to divide their earnings. A number of dependents like six or more makes it difficult to survive. Many people around the world have far more than six children as well as care for other dependents in society. Even if the birth rate were reduced, every state in the northern hemisphere is experiencing an explosion in the elderly population, and disasters, environmental harm and other factors can cause sudden huge increases in dependents.

The decentralized capitalist structures treat this ‘problem’, in very much the same way as their corporate capitalist predecessors, with a begrudging charity or more hostile superiority and blame for those disadvantaged by their system. The value attached to trade versus creation and support of society is evident in every part of life, from obnoxious business travellers and others treating child caregivers as an untouchable caste to the removal of the elderly and less able to a dependent, burdensome role instead of recognizing the contributions and effort they are still providing or could. The nostalgia for a time before rampant corporate capitalism took hold, when ‘everyone’ benefited from peer-to-peer trade is an entirely masculinist view with a very narrow definition of ‘everyone’. As the male role in society has expanded to include far more caregiving, a trade economy suits no one.

Exploitation of dependents as a commodity

In a world where everything is bought and sold, the weak become the product.

The elderly are taught to live in fear of outliving their rights to care or even a home and food, and the pressure to hoard everything for the time when they can no longer work hangs over the lives of every worker. Since no one can know when they will become ill, when they will die, or what the vagaries of the financial system will bring, this stress colours the lives of everyone in society and makes generosity with any current surplus unlikely.

Insurance corporations which provide nothing of real value to society have sprung up for every eventuality and advertise potential calamity incessantly. The fearful society then buys insurance instead of using their surplus to help others experiencing a current disaster. Sometimes this protection racket is mandated by law, and it is impossible to drive a car, mortgage a house or other activities without paying an insurance company selling fear.

Sickness is controlled not only by the insurance companies but by the health industry which controls choice. The wealthy can afford real health solutions in the form of healthy lifestyles and expensive testing, counseling, therapy and remedies. The poor are either denied health care or fed the most harmful and invasive quick-fix pharmaceuticals and procedures with little to no after care or general wellness assistance. Poor health is an individual responsibility despite frequently or usually being caused by societal pollution, poor nutritional options, unsafe environments, etc.

Caregivers are threatened with no hope for their child’s future if they are not provided with an endless array of products and services tiered by income to determine future status in society. The education caregivers are convinced is necessary for a child to succeed is only necessary to perpetuate the trade economy. The poor are streamed to schools which teach the futility of resistance and the reality that elite options will never be available to them. The wealthy are taught to excel in arts, athletics and academics to no purpose except to appear accomplished in the manner of the old aristocracy. Character and how to benefit the society they are born into, the topics which may be expected to be the only necessary topics for a state education, are almost never taught.

Young adults are persuaded they must mortgage their futures before beginning them by entering overwhelming debt agreements for education which benefits the trade economy. Jobs in labour are frequently sold in the same manner. Governments or agents charge fees for emigrating labour which ensures they will be enslaved by the purchased job for years. This ensures workers can never leave the trade economy as they are indentured for years, captured first by paying for the privilege of working, second by fears for retirement.

However reasonable a legal system may seem, lawyers and an arbitrary system of judicial discretion ensure that the laws work against the poor. It does not matter if the law is on the side of the poor if a rich opponent drags the process out for years and bankrupts them, or ensures they cannot keep up with the legal process or they do not have the expertise or time to fight. Civil courts have succeeded for years in destroying the lives of those the law should have protected by protracted lawsuits and exorbitant fees; now many countries are seeing pre-trial detentions abused in the same manner and prisoners denied their rights to a speedy trial.

Once in prison, people become part of a huge predatory industry. Taxes pay private or state owned corporations set up to warehouse prisoners not rehabilitate them. Many prisons worldwide have the added feature of penal labour where prisoners are paid far below minimum wage and their services sold to other corporations at a great discount. Taxpayers pay to feed and house people who are forced to work as slaves for corporations. There is no incentive in a trade economy to not build and fill as many prisons as possible.

Disasters which require voluntary assistance are preyed upon by NGO’s who build powerful empires by standing between those in need and the society willing to help them. ‘Rebuilding’ efforts are typically an opportunity for multinational corporations to come in and exploit the disaster site with offers of ‘creating jobs’. Disaster NGO’s use money provided by people around the world to support huge industries of developers, security, and disaster relief.

Political unrest supports the global war industry. Once a peace agreement generally meant disarmament. Now when ‘peace’ finally arrives to a region, after extended media advertisements of all the war equipment being used, extensive new mass killing equipment is purchased to ‘ensure peace’. The end of a war, like every other disaster, is a signal for the ‘rebuilding’ efforts of NGO empires and exploitative multi-nationals.

Wide spread and growing human trafficking is a product of a society built on trade relationships. Preying particularly on the weakest members of society, human traffickers also frequent disaster areas looking for those who will not be easily traced. People are captured and sold for paedophiles, prostitution, slavery, military and even ritual killings where their body parts are said to bring wealth and power to the purchaser.

The poor are exploited by capitalism through uncountable fees, fines, and price gouging. When they receive money it is subject to a vast array of charges from the financial industry, for cashing cheques, fines for missed payments, interest on debt, and a wide assortment of tiered services such as credit cards which are impossibly expensive for the poor but provide benefits to the rich. Stores will raise the prices of essentials on days when benefits are paid to ensure the poor pay more. In many cases poor people are expected to ‘volunteer’ in exchange for food or lodging in yet another form of modern slavery. Frequently the lifestyle forced by poverty leaves no legal choices and forces them into the prison system.

In a trade economy, dependency is a product to be exploited and sold to society for maximum profit.

Approval economy

To benefit all of society, an economy needs to be based on service to all of society. In today’s economy, service is bought and sold as a good; instead goods must be provided as a service. An economy benefitting all of society should include service to ourselves, service to others and service to society at large. An elderly person who keeps themselves healthy and fulfilled or an addict working to conquer their addiction may be giving only to themselves but both are making society a much better place and lessening the work for others. To create a giving economy instead of a gift economy, currency is not exchanged between two trading partners but societal approval is awarded from all of society to the giver. Societal approval and trust then entitles each member of a society to receive benefit from that society, through a living and immediate social contract. As a reputation economy allows you to participate in trade, an approval economy allows you to become part of a society.

Trade economies attempt to symbolically represent societal approval by possessions. As monarchs were formerly held to rule by divine right, trade economies insist wealth is due to virtue. While hoarded possessions have been used as a symbol of acceptance, they do not fulfill the real social need for acceptance. The wealthy are instead resented and isolated, shunned by the society they supposedly are the elite members of. Underlying every patriarchal society is the idea that caregivers, children and dependents should be grateful as trade economies see them as burdensome. Those who see a disparity in labour for the family and community are not at all grateful. Family wage earners resent not gaining love and approval for their work in trade, but because trade economy derides unpaid service, they receive no respect for support and creation of the family either. In a trade economy, the currency exchanged separates the giver and receiver; because the currency entitles the receiver to the gift they are not grateful. The human need for social and familial approval is almost never adequately met in trade economies.

As possessions in a trade economy include the service of others, those who do not work for the benefit of others are the powerful. An economy based on societal approval equates not working for others with being excluded or shunned. In an approval based economy, control of assets does not bring power. Assets are not assigned worth until they are contributed to the society. Internal support contributions are not valued less than external trade contributions.

Work in an approval based economy provides society and affinity groups; it is less stressful to be part of the society than to be isolated. Gifts are bonding, both within family and friends and at a community level. In an approval economy gifts are not a tax or state confiscation which leaves nothing; wealth is created by giving. Acceptance by society is based on actions instead of assets. Those dependent in society for some things also have gifts to give, acceptance and approval being the most valuable. Politicians propped up by military and corporate interests hated by the people are the antithesis of societal approval as the mark of acceptance. The dissociation of power in society from service to society provides fertile ground for sociopaths to seize power.

Those creating and supporting society should not need charity, they should have power. An inclusive society does not leave some dependent on the charity of others, or make some work far harder for the same ends. Where there is inequality there will always be tyrants; giving birth, aging or accepting responsibility for another should not be equivalent to accepting a slave role. ‘Women’s issues’, the elderly, the youth and the less able cannot be special problems to be dealt with on the fringes of society. Care for dependents of society is the responsibility of all, and dependents should have power to gift approval to those who assist them. Economy cannot be rigged to favour one special interest group. The solutions for all of society must be inherent within the economic system.

Approval

In an approval economy, effort to benefit society is recognized and acts against society are penalized. Approval is related to assessment of fairness, not the value of the gift. The work of an elderly person talking to a child, a scientist conducting research, a maker providing goods, a child learning and a mentally less able person gardening have no value differences, though the effort expended might. In the chart above, the person with a score of 91 has decided to be a pillar of their society. They probably belong to few other societies, and devote formidable energy to providing for this one, belonging to many working and discussion groups and making themselves available and responsible for the wellbeing of others. The people scored 58 and 52 may be just visiting or may belong to many networks or perhaps they prefer to spend their days on the beach, doing only the basic amount necessary for good standing. They may be entitled to basic essentials like food and lodging but not community resources such as cars and maker labs without additional barter. 55 and 50 expend effort, but also cause harm. Perhaps they are struggling with addiction or mental illness, Their effort is recognized by continued support but at basic levels to restrict their ability to harm others. The person scored at 15 is probably completely shunned by the society, perhaps even imprisoned.

An approval economy is the economy people rely on when they do not use direct coercion, the one typically seen in families and unfunded cooperative and volunteer groups. What the approval ratings mean in terms of benefits earned and whether there are formal values at all varies by society. Being part of a society may require more effort at some times than at others. For instance, not assisting to put out a fire or provide emergency aid to another may be considered an act against society rather than simply a failure to contribute. The benefits of belonging to a society will dictate how motivated people are to contribute to it.

Acceptance and shunning

Acts which cost society should reduce the standing of the destroyer and their access to benefits. Theft reduces the thief’s approval which is their wealth. Acts of aggression against society is reflected back to harm the aggressor’s standing and remove power and privilege. Extreme aggression in violation of the social contract results in shunning, or removal from the benefits of society. Law enforcement (shunning) is inherent in a system of trust networks. In dissociated trade economies, criminals are allowed to fully participate in society until a point when they are completely removed from society. Societal approval and rehabilitation have nothing to do with punishment in a trade economy. Far from being shunned, many criminals are media celebrities.

Acceptance or reintegration into society in an approval economy is a product of subsequent good behaviour and effort expended to increase approval. A person who has lost their good standing would be forced into a trade economy relationship to receive any benefits and have to ‘pay up front’ rather than have the rights of a member of society. Shunning would ensure that laws were true reflections of popular opinion, though shunning must never be used to remove the rights in a social contract by mob rule.

Societies can join in expanded networks which may agree to trust individual reputations across the network. These networks can also agree to shun other societies they do not approve of or assist those they do. Those societies that do not join expanded networks do not receive the benefits of them. People that have good standing across multiple networks can increase their standing in each by providing referrals and knowledge or some networks might agree to blend rankings to create an overall reputation. In this way people who do not work locally can still access the essentials they need locally. An expanded network would also provide an avenue of appeal if a person felt their local society was shunning them unjustly or they were having their basic human rights violated.

The trust networks and reputations which make up an approval economy are part of the daily life of all societies already. The people you invite to eat a dinner you have provided are typically people who have earned your trust and approval. They will usually provide similar benefits to you if they are able, and if they consistently do not they may begin to receive less invitations. We care for grandparents who are unable to reciprocate because we recognize ourselves as part of a continuum of family obligation which cared for us when we were young and will hopefully do so again when we are old. When we ask the identity of an absent group member, their reputation and approval rating is frequently implied in the answer, and sometimes we ask for referrals outright. Even as anonymous participants on some internet sites our input is ranked and voted up and down, contributing to our reputation. Sometimes our internet reputation is already used to introduce us to wider societies providing basic needs, such as couchsurfing.

Approval economies are the natural economies of human society. We separated power from societal approval and exchanged society for trade relationships so long ago most cannot imagine an alternative, but it is still there in the most basic units of society. Economies based on trade relationships with financial systems as tools of coercion and control cannot coexist with peaceful and just societies. Power will be concentrated in able bodied traders and hoarders as long as we continue using trade economies.

2011-03-05 Amnesty alert for Qatari blogger, arrested, held incommunicado, at risk of torture

Amnesty has requested urgent action be taken in the case of Qatari blogger Sultan al-Khalaifi, who was arrested on March 2 and is being held incommunicado. Amnesty is concerned that he is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

Amnesty is requesting people to write

Urging the authorities to ensure that Sultan al-Khalaifi is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, and is allowed prompt and regular access to a lawyer of his choosing, his family and any medical treatment he may require;

Asking for details of any charges he faces to be made public and calling on the authorities to ensure that any legal proceedings against him conform to international fair trial standards.

Human rights organization Alkarama reports the arrest of three other Qatari nationals as well and says at nine o’clock at night on March 1, “a number of state security agents” raided Khulaifi’s Doha residence and car and took him away. An officer informed his wife that the agents were sent by the Attorney General, but they had no judicial warrant.

Alkarama feels the arrest is a result of Khulaifi’s human rights activities. He had served as Secretary-General of the Alkarama Foundation until the beginning of 2010, before leaving to found a new organization for the defense of human rights and he had contacted them recently regarding three cases of arbitrary detention which Alkarama then appealed to Qatari authorities about. The three individuals incarcerated are: Abdullah Ghanem Mahfouz Muslim Jouar, Salim Hassan Khalifa Rashid Al Kuwari and Hamad Rashid Al-Marri.

Alkarama reminds that human rights defenders and others who collaborate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, are particularly protected by the United Nations and indeed the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 12/ 2 on 1 October 2009 “Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights” to protect human rights defenders active both inside and outside their countries.

Alkarama calls on the Qatari authorities to respect their obligations under this resolution and requests that they immediately release Mr Sultan Al Khulaifi and those arrested with him or immediately put them under the protection of the law, ensuring full respect for their human rights.

Khulaifi’s blog was also highly critical of Qatar’s secular approach to governing and tolerance of Israel and the west. Previously, WL Central reported a Qatar protest day planned, rumours of an attempted coup against Emir Hamed Ben Khalifa, and an alleged declaration, signed by 66 political opponents as well as Qatari personalities and ruling families, including 16 figures from the ruling family, in which they announced the non-recognition of the legitimacy of the Emir. Key issues stated were western and Israeli tolerance or leanings by the emir.

2011-03-05 Mugabe issues a ‘major clampdown’

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Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have stepped up thecustomary rampage over human rights in Zimbabwe. Amnesty has issued an alert stating that with over 60 currently held in detention and many allegedly tortured, activists are facing a major clampdown.

Previously on WL Central we reported on the arrest, imprisonment, and torture for some, of Munyaradzi Gwisai, the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) general coordinator, and 45 others on February 19. They were charged on the 23rd with treason, which carries the death penalty, or subverting a constitutionally elected government, for which the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment, for watching a video of the uprising in Egypt. More activists have been arrested in Bulawayo and Manicaland province.

SW Radio Africa reports a man in Bulawayo was arrested over a Facebook comment he posted on February 13. Vikas Mavhudzi of Old Magwegwe, is being charged with “subverting a constitutional government” after posting a message on a Facebook page allegedly belonging to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “I am overwhelmed, I don’t want to say Mr. or PM what happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to dictators around the world. No weapon but unity of purpose worth emulating, hey.” He was arrested on February 24th and accused of “advocating or attempting to take-over government by unconstitutional means”. He has been refused bail and was remanded in custody till March 9th.

Meanwhile there are signs that the Mugabe regime intends to increase its ability to spy on innocent civilians. As we reported on SW Radio Africa this week, the government is allegedly moving at a ‘very fast pace’ with the construction of a secret electronic eavesdropping complex just outside Harare. A trusted source said that the Chinese, who are building the complex, have a system that enables most security agencies to ‘spy at will’ on emails, website visits, social networking sessions, and telephone calls made over the internet on a massive scale.

Mugabe has also been fighting back against sanctions on the country, threatening this week to boycott western products and seize companies from countries that have imposed sanctions against him.

The Zimbabwe Mail reports the “shaky coalition government clashed in furious scenes on Tuesday. Indications are that the contentious issues such as targeted sanctions, the media, external radio stations, hate speech, the rule of law, land audit and so on are unlikely to be resolved at the next Cabinet meeting as planned.” Zimbabwe will hold elections this year or next in the hope of replacing the current government. “Human rights lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, said in Johannesburg Friday that Mugabe and his party – both out of favour with the electorate due to their failed governance during the past three decades, had once again resorted to violence to try and coerce Zimbabweans into voting them back into power.”

Rumours about the 87 year old president’s health were widely reported this week, as he underwent medical examinations while on holiday in Malaysia. The rumours have been a frequent occurrence, prompting Mugabe to state last September, “I don’t know how many times I die, but nobody has ever talked about my resurrection. I suppose they don’t want to, because it would mean they would mention my resurrection several times and that would be quite divine an achievement for an individual who is not divine. Jesus died once, and was resurrected only once, and poor Mugabe several times. My time will come, but for now, no.” His party has denied the rumours again, calling them “naked lies”.

Other rumours this week report commando troops from Zimbabwe being flown in to aid Gaddafi forces in Libya, and the possibility of Gaddafi escaping to Zimbabwe if he is run out of Libya.