Challenging the Lack of Imagination of the Last Empire: The Big Picture of the Treesit
“Imagination is more important than knowledge;
knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the World.”
by Francisco “Pancho” Ramos Stierle and Adam Wight
Berkeley, CA, January 6th, 2008. When the ruling oligarchy of a leading University shows lack of imagination to resolve a problem (i.e. respect an urban forest and construct a new gym for our age-long-forgotten-oppressed-woman athletes), we, the Earth Community, have creative-nonviolent ways to protest and to suggest alternatives. What about 400 days of civil resistance/disobedience living in the tops of redwood and oak trees to save them from destruction? What about students jumping the fences to clean the site and give provisions to our courageous siblings? What about an army of brave grandmas bringing food and water on Thanksgiving? 1 Even better, we think outside of the bomb: let’s imagine old redwoods and new sports centers coexisting; let’s imagine the UC hiring a construction company other than war profiteers; let’s imagine the UC not manufacturing new atomic bombs and not supporting the proliferation of nuclear weapons; let’s imagine the UC and its affiliated laboratories completely dedicated to constructive scientific research and an understanding of the social implications of their work.
The Committee on Grounds and Buildings of the University of California met on December 5th, 2006 to approve the design of the controversial Student Athlete High Performance Center on the Berkeley campus. The minutes of the meeting reveal that, “a private project management consultant, URS of San Francisco, will manage the project.” Students, faculty and community members came together with many interests, to form the Phoenix Coalition with the shared goal to “Free the UC,” and to express their concerns about this corrupt deal: URS Corp. is a war contractor. In March 2002, Richard C. Blum (married to United States Sen. Dianne Feinstein) was appointed (not elected) by Gov. Gray Davis to a 12-year term as a regent of the University of California. For the next three years, both URS Corp. and Perini (another mercenary company making money in Iraq) benefited from construction contracts awarded by the Regents. Feinstein got Blum war contracts during her role as chairperson of the Senate’s Military Construction subcommittee, MILCON.
Blum, who first invested in URS Corp. in 1975 and who was a majority owner of both URS and Perini from 1997 through the end of 2005, is the current Chair or the Board of the UC Regents. To many UC students, Blum’s former stake in the URS and Perini corporations is clearly a conflict of interest. On May 26, 2005, fifty UC Berkeley students interrupted a meeting of the Regents to protest the Blum-URS- Los Alamos corruption. In November 2005, Blum resigned from the board of directors of URS and also divested his investment firm of about $220 million in URS stock. In April 2006, the Feinstein-Blum family made a $15 million “gift” to UC Berkeley. The Haas school of business will expand to house the Richard C. Blum Center for Developing Economies, with the dubious aim of encouraging students to study the effects of global poverty upon political radicalism.2
It is time to neutralize the power of the kleptocracy by exposing their lies, hypocrisy, methods, and imperial agendas. It is not merely the plutocracy’s corruption and lies that are offensive. The revenues it brings to the war profiteers is not the only cost to the Earth Community. In parallel, and more important, we can share our food sovereignty, permaculture and other constructive programs. We can spread every direct action combined with constructive work. Let our siblings of the planet know that we are different: our means are our ends.
The administration of the UC, in all of its structural violence, is embracing the veil of proto-intelligence that precludes seeing a Universal law: order that is imposed by brute force can only be ephemeral. Sleep deprivation; wasting energy in the era of global warming; constructing triple fences to starve protesters; stealing libraries and art supplies; harassing ARTivists and other free souls; arresting students for “trespassing” on UC property; sending students to prison for giving food; arresting faculty for providing water; converting a recreational/inspiring place into a jail; investing resources to promote relationships of oppression; prosecuting students with charges of “disrupting the peace” while they were meditating will be seen (by our generation and the future ones) as an act of gross ignorance.
We assist an administration most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. A proto-intelligent administration never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it would mean partaking of the wickedness. Paraphrasing Gandhi: “One of the lessons a planetary community yearning for Collective Intelligence needs to learn is to shed the fears of losing their title, wealthy position, the fear of imprisonment, of bodily injury and finally, death”. We are the Great Generation catalyzing the evolution of our species: the Grand Human Family. Our tools are respect and love; we have witnessed how hatred dissolves in the presence of love.
As Zachary RunningWolf, a Native American elder of the Blackfoot Nation and one of the two bold souls who started the tree-sit 400 days ago, says: “Everybody is welcome to Indian land, you just have to follow the book of Respect. Start by respecting the place where my ancestors are buried.”3 When, for decades, this “book of Respect” is read with contempt (or ignored), it is easy to understand why, last Christmas, the Lakotah people withdrew from all agreements and treaties with the US to form the Republic of Lakotah.4
Radical nonviolent movements are all over the globe; the entrails of the Last Empire are not the exception. As long as there is a law attacking human rights or violating human dignity or endangering the magnificent biodiversity of our planet, there will be responsible citizens, satyagrahis, willing to break that law again and again to show its incongruence; compassionate critical thinkers will break these laws again and again until such laws disappear, and, why not, will accelerate the arrival of restorative justice. That’s what civil disobedience and nonviolence is all about. It doesn’t matter if it is the Berlin wall, or the Spain-Morocco wall, or the Palestine-Israel wall, or the Mexico-US wall, or the UC Berkeley fence(s), the human spirit will jump those walls because with our astronomical wings of freedom we can fly to places that only can be imagined, conceived, perceived and so lived by citizens of the World.
We are moving towards a scientific-artistic-rational-humanitarian society. We shall hope the young peoples of the Earth Community have the wisdom and strength to withstand every temptation and provocation to violence, an old dying paradigm. Whether our opponents like it or not, the new paradigm of partnership and cooperation is emerging. If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.
2 “Blum’s Plums” and “Senator Feinstein’s Iraq Conflict” by Peter Byrne
3 For information on the Native American burial ground, “Burials Prompted First Tree-Sitter” by Richard Brenneman. Berkeley Daily Planet, Sept 18, 2007