The New American Century, just like the Old American Century

I’ve long respected writer/activist Arundhati Roy. Her style is something that appeals to me; clear, informative, and with a flair for the dramatic, she almost always inspires me in some way. She has a new piece in The Nation called The New American Century (also archived at Common Dreams) that is quite good.

One thing that caught my eye is her reframing of old imperialist tactics with the word “new.” The New American Century, New Imperialism, New Racism, and New Genocide all make appearances. I can’t help but think of other “new” modes of imperial oppression, for example, “The New Enclosures” term by Midnight Notes. All of these have one thing in common; the “new” strategy accomplishes the same end, but with less immediate brutality, than the “old” strategy. Roy’s use of “New Genocide,” for example, is as follows:

New Genocide in this new era of economic interdependence can be facilitated by economic sanctions. New Genocide means creating conditions that lead to mass death without actually going out and killing people. Denis Halliday, who was the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq between 1997 and 1998 (after which he resigned in disgust), used the term genocide to describe the sanctions in Iraq.

Similarly, here are The New Enclosures:

These New Enclosures … name the large-scale reorganization of the accumulation
process which has been underway since the mid-1970s. The main objective of this process has been
to uproot workers from the terrain on which their organizational power has been built, so that, like
the African slaves transplanted to the Americas, they are forced to work and fight in a strange
environment where the forms of resistance possible at home are no longer available.

So in both instances, Empire is using tried and true techniques to increase its power, but the appearance is “less brutal” than before. In New Genocide, specifically in the case of the Iraqi sanctions, the US government was ostensibly putting pressure on Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath regime to cooperate with UN demands. In reality, of course, the people of Iraq suffered. Particularly the poor; some estimates claim that the sanctions caused 500,000 deaths of children alone in that country.

Or in the case of the New Enclosures, Empire appears to be “helping” the “refugees” who are fleeing their homeland. There are undoubtedly some refugees who prefer their current lives in a new country to their old lives, but if one examines the refugee situation en masse, it is clear that a huge displacement of workers is occuring, one that capital can exploit for cheap labor.

So the methodology of Empire in expanding is becoming more subtle. It is more difficult, at least on the surface, to find out what’s really going on.

There is one other thing I want to mention about Roy’s article. At the end, she calls for “globalizing resistance”:

What Cancun taught us is that in order to inflict real damage and force radical change, it is vital for local resistance movements to make international alliances. From Cancun we learned the importance of globalizing resistance.

I agree that globalizing resistance is a necessary component of a successful struggle against Empire. However, I don’t believe Roy fully understands the impact of the Internet in this process, nor that the Internet as we know it is in danger of not existing. This argument is the essence of my Virtual Enclosures piece. The Virtual Commons, of which the Internet is part, is a revolutionary tool for activists. But there is also a counter-revolution, and the counter-revolution seems to be winning.


Today is a busy day. I’ve already used up much of my computer time in getting this website operational. I have to do lots of Domestic Errands today (read: acquire groceries) as well as get to the gym for a workout. The gym has been a bit frustrating lately, because it’s so fscking crowded, and they only have one elliptical machine, which is far and away my favorite method for aerobic exercise. I work up a good sweat without putting tons of stress on my knees and ankles. And they only have one. But hey, it’s a cheap gym for alumni. Then when I get home, I get to cook and have family time/wife time tonight. It’s quite probable I’ll write more tonight after both of my ladies are asleep.

I’d like to make this blog truly a reflection of what’s on my mind. This opens the subject matter up to a wide variety of possibilities, as I’m interested in a variety of topics. One of them is intellectual property issues, of which Linux activism is a subset. I just finished the Virtual Enclosures piece, so I invite you to print out a copy and read it. It’s the story as I see it of where we are in the intellectual property crisis, where “we” is the progressive/activist community. Though I generally don’t like to paint myself with labels, it is true that activists who may not be all that computer savvy are my target audience for this piece.

But I’m also interested in music, politics, philosophy, magic, religion, humor, fiction, movies, and many other things. This website will hopefully reflect these and other topics as I process them.

a silent voice

I’ve been very quiet on the blogging front lately, for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that I have been working on a new plan for, which will be my new website/weblog. I also installed a new monitor, a new graphics card, and Fedora Core 1. Linux, as always, keeps getting better and better, every time I reinstall, it’s a huge improvement over the older version.

Also, I’m testing new blogging software (gnome-blog at the moment). More later…

Review of StarOffice/OpenOffice

There is a really complimentary review of StarOffice and OpenOffice up. StarOffice is basically Sun’s version of OpenOffice with some extra proprietary goodies added (spellchecker, templates, etc.) and tech support. But essentially they are the same codebase.

I’ve been saying it in this space for a while now, but anyone needing basic office functionality should check out OpenOffice. It does everything I need, and many of those better than MS Office. At this point, I really hate working with MS Word.

plucking my wechter

I got a new guitar today. It’s a Wechter Pathmaker Model 3120. I like it a lot so far. The strings that came with it were horrible. I took them off and replaced them with some cheapo strings I had laying around, until I can get to the music store to pick up some Elixirs. Much better.

The acoustic tone has a lot of potential. It’s a small-body guitar, so it’s not going to have the punch of a Dreadnaught acoustically. But it has some sparkle to it, a very even, balanced (if a bit boxy) midrange, and I should be able to dial in the bass setting I need electrically. Acoustically, the low end is a bit better than my 15-year-old Alvarez WY-1. In all, I expect the guitar to sound better with age. It definitely has that “new guitar” sound. Slightly boxy in the midrange. But I look forward to recording it with some nice condenser microphones.

I haven’t plugged it in yet, but that looks to be the most interesting part about the Wechter. It has a 3-pickup system: a piezo pickup under the saddle, a magnetic pickup across the soundhole, and a condenser microphone on a little gooseneck inside the guitar. It will certainly give me a much wider tonal range than what my Alvarez provided.

The construction on the guitar is very, very solid. I expect this guitar to be much more durable than my last guitar, which I played pretty hard. To me, acoustic guitar is a percussion instrument, and while always respectful, I am not always gentle with my instruments. The neck joint is the most solid I’ve ever seen. The cutaways are actually a single, curved piece of solid wood. The assembly is very strong and vaguely shaped like a crossbow. The acoustic body is then attached to the cutaways, resulting in a very solid guitar from the neck joint up.

There was no strap button installed. I got a new drill bit and a new strap button from the store and installed it myself, according to instructions provided on Wechter’s website. Now that the strap is in, it hangs nicely and comfortably. Because the neck is so solid, and the wood in the cutaways is substantial, the guitar is very balanced in weight. If anything, it’s a little too heavy toward the neck. I look forward to playing this thing live.

There were a few small blemishes in the finish. Nothing I’m too worried about. One small annoyance is the placement of the fret markers. For most of the markers, they are placed closed to the fret itself, rather than halfway between 2 frets as on most guitars. However, the 17th fret marker is off; it is placed exactly between the 16th and 17th fret. Someone’s measurements were off slightly.

The current action is a bit too high for my tastes. I need to lower it, which will entail sanding down the bottom of my saddle. I may take it to a luthier to have it done for me.

I’ve been looking forward to having this guitar in my possession, and so far it hasn’t disappointed. It sounds good acoustically, should sound great electrically, and is durable. For the money, I don’t think there is a guitar that more closely fits my needs at present. I am grateful to be playing it.