Bulletin #199



22 September 2005
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

Classes have resumed at Stendhal University-Grenoble 3, and already a rock concert is scheduled this weekend as an anti-war benefit.

An international student movement seems to be brewing this autumn, and in Item
A. we learn from graphic artist, Joanna Learner, that in Michigan high school students are among those who are revolting against the war. Here the issue is the new military recruitment campaign targeting the most vulnerable students across America. The loss and the mutilation of loved ones serve as constant reminders that imperialist wars are a social class phenomenon, and international solidarity is the only method available for working people to end this grim cycle of violence.
To down load information about the growing resistance to this war, along with a powerful video message on why and how  to resist, please visit :


In Item B. Professor Richard Du Boff has forwarded us a copy of the speech made by Mahathir  Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia, at Suhakam's Human Rights Conference on September 9, 2005. This speech was ill-received by several deplomats present who stages a walkout. You will understand why when you read "People with blood-soaked hands". . . .

C. is a reminder, sent to us by our friends at ZMag, that private property and the private profit motive remain the essential engine forces that are propelling the present system toward an abyss [and perhaps taking us along with it]. Neo-liberal ideologues for years have tried to obfuscate the self-destructive nature of possessive individualism, but the successful resistance in Iraq has once again awakened the majority of Americans to seek their own social class interests above the interests of capital. This is the subject of John Hepburn's presentation at The Other World's Conference, "
Reclaiming Commons Old And New".

Finally, in Item
D., community organizer, Byron Morton, from San Diego, California, shares with us the looming popular discontent with George W. Bush, felt now by a majority of Americans.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research

from Joanna Learner
Subject: Injured Iraqi Vet
21 Sept. 2005

Hello Francis,
I am sending a letter I just wrote for our local paper - it will come out tomorrow.  Everything seems to be falling apart in the world with  the combination of natural disasters and man made ones. It is hard to focus on the positive things  with such a broiling mess around us.
I will send some photos and a letter soon.  Give our love to your family.

P.S. I am submitting the following for the Enquirer Opinion page [in Battle Creek, Michigan]..

The Injured Iraqi Veteran

He was seated there in front of  Starbucks; leaning back with his face to the sky  on this  beautiful September day in Ann Arbor. We crossed the street and as we drew closer we saw a young man with most of  his face blown away - raw, bloody and  unrecognizable.
People passing  by him averting their eyes and he sat there quietly watching them pass.

The haunting image of this tragic person stayed with me - who is he and  how did this terrible accident happen?  I called Starbucks to ask if they know who he was and if he is getting help.  They said he was frequently there and that he  was a Veteran  injured in the Iraqi War . They assured me that he is receiving treatment. But one can see that the damage is so extensive that he will never have a face again.

Thousands of young men and women serving  in the U.S. Military are returning home with similar combat  injuries - loss of limbs, permanently  damaged bodies and minds.  They, along with the hundreds of thousands of  injured and dead Iraqi men, women and children, make up  the growing number of victims of this evil and unjustifiable war.

Many of our young people  in local high schools are at risk of being recruited and sent into combat . The No Child Left Behind Act includes a provision that requires high schools to release students private information to military recruiters or risk losing federal funding. The recruiters are doing everything that they can to entice the often naive young students into  military service.  Parents  have the legal right to prevent their students  from being recruited. They can submit a written request  that the high school not release information to military recruiters. To down load information go to : www.leavemychildalone.org

This weekend over a million people will gather in Washington D C for a Peace Demonstration. People are  traveling from all over the nation to once again stand together and demand an end to our occupation of Iraq. Two- thirds of our country now thinks the  War in Iraq is wrong and that we should withdraw our troops. Will the leaders in Washington listen to the voice  of the majority or will they continue  justifying their agenda with lies and deception? How  many more men and women will return home with severe injuries like the young man in Ann Arbor

from Richard Du Boff
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005 14:09:48 -0400
Subject: People with blood-soaked hands

The following is the text of a controversial speech by e walkout of a number of diplomats and made news all over the world.

People with blood-soaked hands
by Mahathir Mohamad

 09/16/05 ICH -- -- I would like to thank Suhakam for this honour to address you on a subject that you have more knowledge and experience than I do.

 You are concerned with human rights or hak asasi manusia. And it is only right that as a civilised society and nation we should all be concerned with human rights in our country and in fact in the world.

 But human rights should be upheld because they can contribute to a better quality of life. To kill 100,000 people because you suspect that the human rights of a few have been denied seem to be a contradiction. Yet the fanaticism of the champions of human rights have led to more people being deprived of their rights and many their lives than the number saved. It seems to me that we have lost our sense of proportion.

 With civilisational advances it is only right that the human community try to distinguish itself more and more from those of the other creatures created by God which are unable to think, to reason and to overcome the influence of base desires and feelings. Submission to the strong and the powerful was right in the animal world and in primitive human societies. But the more advance the society the greater should be the capacity to think, to recognise and evaluate between right and wrong and to choose between these based on higher reasoning power and not just base feelings and desires.

 The world today is, in the sense of the ability to make right choices, still very primitive. For example those who claim to be the most civilised still believe that the misfortune which befall them as a result of the actions by their enemies are wrong but the misfortune that they inflict on their enemies are right. This is seen from the concern and anger over the death of 1,700 US soldiers in Iraq but the death of a hundred times more of Iraqis as a result of the military invasion and occupation of Iraq and the civil war precipitated by the imposition of democratic elections are not even mentioned.

 There is no tally of Iraqi deaths but every single death of a US soldier is reported to the world. These are soldiers who must expect to be killed. But the Iraqis who die because of US action or the civil war in Iraq that the US has precipitated are innocent civilians who under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein would be alive.

 You and I read reports of the death of Iraqis with equanimity as if it is right and just. You and I do not react with anger and horror over this injustice, this abuse of the rights of the Iraqis to live, to be free from terror including state initiated terror.

 Prior to the invasion of Iraq on false pretences, 500,000 infants died because sanctions deprived them of medicine and food/ Asked by the press, Madelene Albright, then US secretary of state, whether she thought the price was not too high for stopping Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, she said it was difficult but the price (death of 500,000 children) was worth it.

 At the time this was happening where were the people who are concerned with human rights? Did they expose the abuses of Britain and America? Did they protest against their own governments? No. It is because they, the enemy, are killed. That is acceptable. But their own people must not be killed. To kill them is to commit acts of terror.
 Yet what is an act of terror. Isn't it any act that terrifies people? Are not the people terrified at the idea of being bombed and killed? Those who are to be killed by exploding bombs know they would have their bodies torn from their heads and limbs. Some will die instantly no doubt. But many would not. They would feel their limbs being torn from their bodies, their guts spilled on the ground through their torn abdomen. They would wait in terrible pain for help that may not come. And they would again experience the terror, expecting the next bomb or rocket. And those who survive would know the terror of what would, what could happen to them personally when the bombers come again, tomorrow, the day after, the week or month after.

 They would know that they could be next to have their heads torn from their bodies, their limbs too. They would know that they would die violently or they would survive in horrible pain, minus arms, minus legs, maimed forever. And yet the bombings would go on. In Iraq for 10 years between the Gulf War and the Iraq invasion, the people lived in terrible fear. They were terrorised. Have they any rights? Did the people of the world care?

 The British and American bomber pilots came, unopposed, safe and cosy in their state-of-the-art aircrafts, pressing buttons to drop bombs, to kill and maim real people who were their targets, just targets. And these murderers, for that is what they are, would go back to celebrate 'Mission accomplished'.

 Who are the terrorists? The people below who were bombed or the bombers? Whose rights have been snatched away?

 I relate this because there are not just double standards where human rights are concerned, there are multiple standards. Rightly we should be concerned whether prisoners and detained foreign workers in this country are treated well or not. We should be concerned whether everyone can exercise his right to vote or not, whether the food given to detainees are wholesome or not, indeed whether detention without trial is a violation of human rights or not.

 But the people whose hands are soaked in the blood of the innocents, the blood of the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Panamanians, the Nicaraguans, the Chileans, the Ecuadorians; the people who assassinated the presidents of Panama, Chile, Ecuador; the people who ignored international law and mounted military attacks, invading and killing hundreds of Panamanian in order to arrest Noriega and to try him not under Panamanian laws but under their own country's law, have these people a right to question human rights in our country, to make a list and grade the human rights record of the countries of the world yearly, these people with blood-soaked hands.

 They have not questioned the blatant abuses of human rights in countries that are friendly to them. In fact they provide the means for these countries to indulge in human rights abuses.

 Israel is provided with weapons, helicopter gunships, bullets coated with depleted uranium to wage war against people whose only way to retaliate is by committing suicide bombing. The Israeli soldiers were well-protected with body armour, operated from armoured tanks and armoured bulldozers, to rocket and bomb the Palestinian and demolish their houses while the occupants were still inside.

 Israel has nuclear weapons but it was provided with bombers to bomb so-called nuclear research facilities in other countries. And as with American and British actions, the Israeli bombs and rockets tore up the living Palestinians, Iraqis and soon Syrians and Iranians, without the slightest consideration that the people they killed have rights, have human rights to their lives, to security and peace.

 Then there are other friends of these terrorist nations who abuse the rights of their own people, deny them even the simplest democratic rights, jailing and executing their people without fair trial but are not criticised or condemned.

 But when countries are not friendly with these great powers, their governments claim they have a right to expend money to subvert the government, to support the NGOs to overthrow the government, to ensure only candidates willing to submit to them win. Already we are seeing elections in which candidates wanting to stay independent being rejected while only those ready to submit to these powers being allowed to contest and to win.

 There was a time when nations pledged not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. As a result many authoritarian regimes emerged which committed terrible atrocities. Cambodia and Pol Pot is a case in mind. Because of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of countries, two million Cambodians died horrible deaths.

 There is a case for interference. But who determines when there is a case? Is this right to be given to a particular superpower? If so, can we be assured the superpower would act in the best interest of the country concerned, in order to uphold human rights.

 Saddam Hussein was tried by the media and found guilty of oppressing his people. But that was not the excuse for invading Iraq. The excuse was that Iraq threatened the world with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Specifically Britain was supposed to be threatened with WMD capable of hitting it within 45 minutes of the order being given by Saddam.

 As we all know it was a lie. Every agency tasked with verifying the accusation that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction could not prove it. Even the intelligence agencies of the US and Britain said that there was no weapon of mass destruction that Saddam could threaten the US or Britain or the world with. And today, after months of thorough search without Saddam and his people getting in the way, no WMD has been found.

 Yet the US and UK took it upon themselves to invade Iraq in order to remove an allegedly authoritarian government. The result of the invasion is that many more people have been killed and injured than Saddam was ever accused of. Worse still, the powers which are supposed to save the Iraqi people have broken international laws on human rights, by detaining Iraqis and others and torturing them at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

 So can we accept that these big powers alone have a right to determine when to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries to protect human rights?

 Malaysia is concerned about human rights within its borders. It does not need the interference of foreign powers before it sets up Suhakam, a body dedicated to overseeing and ensuring that there are no abuses of human rights within its borders.

 People in Malaysia seem to be quite happy. They can work and do business and make as much money as they like. There is no restriction on the freedom to move about, to go abroad even.

 They have political parties that they are free to join, whether these are pro-government or anti-government. They can read newspapers, which support or oppose the government. While the local electronic media is supportive of the government, no one is prevented from watching or listening to foreign broadcasts which are mostly critical of the government.

 Foreign newspapers and magazines are freely available. In fact many foreign papers, like the International Herald Tribune and Asian Wall Street Journal are printed in Malaysia and are freely available to Malaysians. Then there is the Internet which no one seems able to stop even if libelous lies are screened.

 Periodically, without fail there would be elections in Malaysia. Anyone and everyone can participate in these elections. The campaigns by both sides are vigorous and hard-hitting. And the results show quite clearly that despite accusations against the government of undemocratic practices, many opposition candidates would win. In fact several states were lost to the opposition parties. Not one of the winning opposition candidates has been charged in court and found guilty of some minor breaches of the election procedure and prevented from taking his seat in Parliament as happens in a certain country.

 But all these notwithstanding, Malaysia is accused of having a totalitarian government during the 22 years of my premiership. That I had released detainees on assumption of office as prime minister and I had used the ISA sparingly does not mitigate against the accusation that I was a dictator, an abuser of human rights.

 And not using the ISA, not detaining a person without trial would not help either. And so when a former DPM was charged in court, defended by nine lawyers and found guilty through due process, all that was said was that there was a conspiracy, the court was influenced and manipulated and the trial was a sham. So you are damned if you use the ISA, and you are damned if you don't use the ISA.

 In the eyes of these self-appointed judges of human behaviour worldwide, you can never be right no matter what you do, if they do not like you. If they like you, a court decision in your favour, even on laughable grounds, would be right.

 Those are the people who now seem to appropriate to themselves the right to lay down the ground rules for human rights and who have appointed themselves as the overseers of human rights credentials of the world.

 And now these same people have come up with what they call globalisation. In the first place who has the right to propose and interpret globalisation? It is certain that globalisation was not conceived by the poor countries. It was conceived, interpreted and initiated by the rich.

 The globalised world is to be without borders. But if countries have no borders surely the first thing that should happen is that people would be able to move from one country to another without any conditions, without papers and passports. The poor people in the poor countries should be able to migrate to the rich countries where there are jobs and opportunities.

 But it has been made clear that globalisation, borderlessness are not for people but for capital, for currency traders, for corporations, for banks, for NGOs concerned over so-called human rights abuses, over lack of democracy, etc. The flow is, as you can see, only in one direction. The border crossing will be done by the rich so as to be able to benefit their business, banks, currency traders, their NGOs, for human rights and for democracy.

 There will be no flows in the opposite direction, from the poor countries to the rich, the flow of poor people in search of jobs, the NGOs concerned with human rights abuses in the rich and powerful countries where the media self-censors to promote certain parties, where dubious voting results are validated by tame courts. There will be no flow of coloured people to white countries. If they succeed they would be apprehended and sent to isolated islands in the middle of the ocean or if they manage to land, they would be accommodated behind razor-wire fence. It is all very democratic and caring for the rights of man.

 If we care to look back, we will recognise globalisation for what it is. It is really not a new idea at all. Globalisation of trade took place when the ethnic Europeans found the sea passages to the West and to the East. They wanted trade, but they came in armed merchantmen with guns and invaded, conquered and colonised their trading partners.

 If the indigenous people were weak, they would just be liquidated, shot on sight, their land taken and new ethnic European countries set up. Otherwise they would be made a part of empires where the sun never sets, their resources exploited and their people treated with disdain.

 The map of the world today shows the effect of globalisation, as interpreted by the ethnic Europeans in history. There was no US, Canada, Australia, Latin America, New Zealand until the Europeans discovered the sea passages and started global trade.

 Before the Europeans, there were Arab, Indian, Chinese and Turkic traders. There was no conquest or colonisation when these people sailed the seas to trade. Only when the Europeans carried out world trade were countries invaded, human rights abused, genocide committed, empires built and new ethnic European nations created on land belonging to others.

 These are historical facts. Would today's globalisation not result in weak countries being colonised again, new empires created, and the world totally hegemonised. Would today's globalisation not result in human rights abuses?

 In today's world 20 percent of the people own 80 percent of the wealth. Almost two billion people live on one US dollar a day. They don't have enough food or clothing or a proper roof over their heads. In winter, many of these people would freeze to death. The people of the powerful countries are concerned about our abuses of human rights.

 But shouldn't we be concerned over the uneven distribution of wealth which deprived two billion people of their rights to a decent living, deprived by the avarice of those people who seem so concerned about us and the unintended occasional lapses that has resulted in abuse of human rights in our country.

 We should condemn human rights abuses in our country but we must be wary of the people who want to destabilise us because we are too independent and we have largely succeeded in giving our people a good life, and despite all the criticism, we are more democratic than most of the friends of the powerful nations of the world.

 The globalisation of concern for the poor and the oppressed is sheer hypocrisy. If these people who appears to be concerned are faced with the situation that we in Malaysia have to face sometimes, their reactions and responses are much worse than us. At Guantanamo detention camp the detainees, some of whom are not even remotely connected with terrorism, are tortured and humiliated. At Abu Ghraib, the most senior officers actually sanctioned the inhuman treatment of the detainees.

 When forced by world opinion to take action against those responsible for these reprehensible acts, the culprits were either found not guilty or given light sentences. They were tried by their own courts under their own laws. Their victims were not represented. The countries where the crimes were committed were denied jurisdiction. Altogether the whole process was so much eyewash. Yet these are the countries and the people who claim that Malaysian courts are manipulated by the government, that abuses of rights are rampant in Malaysia. And Malaysian NGOs, media and others lapped it up.

 We must fight against abuses of human rights. We must fight for human rights. But we must not take away the rights of others, the rights of the majority. We must not kill them, invade and destroy their countries in the name of human rights. Just as many wrong things are done in the name of Islam and also other religions, worse things are being done in the name of democracy and human rights. We must have a proper perspective of things. Two wrongs do not make one right. Remember the community have rights too, not just the individual or the minority.
 We have gained political independence but for many the minds are still  colonised.

ZNet | Activism
19 September 2005

Reclaiming Commons Old And New
Presentation to the Other Worlds conference
by John Hepburn; September 15, 2005

The law will jail the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common

But leave the greater villain loose

Who steals the common from the goose


I was lying in bed the other morning, listening to the radio news. On came the soothing and comforting voice of our Prime Minister, John Howard. In amongst his posturing about some issue or another, he said Nothing is ever free and nor should it be. It rolled off his tongue like a truism. Sure - nothing is ever free and nor should it be. Actually, lots of things used to be free and some things still are. Others should be. Theyre called commons.


One of the first and the best books that Ive ever read about the global environmental and social crisis is a book called Whose Common Future by the publishers of The Ecologist. It is a scathing response to the Brundtland Report titled Our Common Future which resulted from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development).


There is a quote from the book that sticks in my mind as one of the best summaries of the essence of commons, and of the struggle to defend them:


The best that can be said for the Earth Summit is that it made visible the vested interests standing in the way of the moral economies which local people, who daily face the consequences of environmental degradation, are seeking to re-establish. The spectacle of the great and good at UNCED casting about for solutions that will keep their power and standards of living intact has confirmed the scepticism of those whose fate and livelihoods were being determined For them, the question is not how their environment should be managed they have the experience of the past as their guide but who will manage it and in whose interest.


The key question remains who makes the decisions and in whose interests and for me, this speaks to the essence of what is important about commons.

A common is a resource (be it physical, spatial, conceptual) that is managed by the community, for the community. The contentious question then becomes who is the community. The answer invariably depends on the resource in question.


There is a widely held, and somewhat romantic myth that commons, by definition, have no boundaries, and are open to all. However, if we look at the most commonly celebrated example of commons, we see that this wasnt generally the case. In the common lands of England, the common was managed by the community for the community. But the community didnt extend to everyone in the world, or even to everyone in England. It was a common for a particular geographical community of people. The management of common was mediated by the social relationships between the people within the community. Everyone in that community benefited from the common, and they therefore had a stake in its management. But people were accountable for their use (or mis-use) of the common through the social relationships in the community in which they lived.

Commons are fundamentally about people being able to access resources and to make decisions about those resources to the extent that they are affected by those decisions. If you arent going to be impacted by a decision, then you have no right to participate. If you are impacted, then you do have a right. In this way, commons are a very real embodiment of direct, participatory democracy and of self-management.

The vexing problem that commons pose to capitalism is that commons are not owned by anyone. If something isnt able to be owned, how can you put a value on it? If something doesnt have a market value, how can you steal it? Or more to the point, why would you want to steal it if you cant sell it to somebody else later at a higher price? If it can be said that capitalism has an essence, then the vast body of empirical evidence over the past century points to that essence being the appropriation of wealth from the many by the few. Of course, appropriation is just a polite word for theft. And the process of theft is necessarily preceded by a process of enclosure of putting boundaries around, and values upon resources.

The enclosure of the commons in England has been widely documented. In order to undo the system of commons that supported so many rural communities in England, the aristocracy introduced a series of enclosure bills that effectively put boundaries around or enclosed land in order that it could have a defined value and be redistributed as private property.

So if youre interested in predicting where the next big transfer of wealth from public to private hands is going to happen, you need to look for processes of enclosure. In 17th and 18th century England it was the enclosure of common lands. Today, the enclosure of commons, and the defense of commons looks very different.

Many of the important struggles over commons today relate to cutting edge technologies in information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology. In times gone by, land was the primary basis of economic wealth. Hence the importance of controlling land. Today, the basis of wealth in our economy has shifted and continues to shift. We moved from the Agricultural revolution in the 18th century (accompanied by the enclosure of common lands) to the industrial revolution in the 19th century (accompanied by the development of a patent system for intellectual property), to the information revolution in the 20th century (with an expansion of the patent and intellectual property system) and now the biotechnology and nanotechnology revolutions accompanied by patents on life and now patents on matter.

As the basis of economic wealth has become more mobile and more global, the struggle over the commons has also become more global. The global nature of information and trade, as well as the emergence of global environmental problems such as climate change and the hole in the ozone layer, create another layer of complexity and abstraction in terms of the management, enclosure or defense of commons.

When we think of defending the commons today, the first image that springs to mind is a historically rooted one of the landless people of Brazil occupying private farms to reclaim them for food production. But a lot of the key contemporary struggles are far less romantic than this - and the politics less obvious.

The internet is a newly created common the most celebrated part of which is the open source software movement. This is a common that is under threat in a variety of ways that technological illiterates such as myself can only barely understand.

Broadband and radio frequencies? Who gets to define who has access to these common resources and at what price, and in whose interest? Large corporations didnt get virtually exclusive access to the airwaves by osmosis. They did it by establishing rules, defining boundaries by a process of enclosure that has resulted in exclusive access rights for the already powerful media conglomerates.

The biotechnology revolution has been hyped up to be the next industrial revolution and it was preceded by the development of patents on life. Like other examples, the enclosure happened without much media fanfare, most people didnt hear about it and many still dont know about it now.

The idea of patents and of intellectual property has been around for a very long time. Galileo received a patent in 1594 for his horse-driven water pump. Cooks were granted one year monopolies over new recipes in the 7th century B.C. The right to a copyright or patent is the only right included in the body of the US constitution (the Bill of rights was adopted later as a separate document).  What is new is the degree to which patents (monopolies) have been extended.

The boundaries were gradually pushed. In 1873, Loius Pasteur was awarded US patent No.141,072 for a strain of yeast the first of several patents for life forms. However the patent was for the use of the organism within a process, not just the organism itself.

In 1972, a researcher with General Electric filed for a patent in the US on a genetically engineered soil micro-organism that was useful for cleaning oil spills. Finally, after various rejections and appeals by the parts of the US patent office, in 1980, the US Supreme court, in a 5:4 ruling (Diamond vs Chakrabarty), affirmed that a living, human-modified organism is patentable[1]. In 1988, the first patent was granted on a living animal the Harvard Oncomouse[2].

The extension of patents to cover living organisms and parts thereof has laid the groundwork for the next big heist. The biodiversity that the capitalist industrialist system has spent the last 100 or so years trying frantically to destroy, is now regarded as the basis for the next industrial revolution and is rapidly increasing in value. The framework for enclosure is in place and our genetic heritage the biological diversity that is and that sustains the richness of life on planet earth - is now up for grabs. Research teams of some of the worlds largest corporations are scouring the surface of the earth for potentially valuable genetic property and taking patents on anything from cell lines from indigenous people in Papua New Guinea, to seeds of staple food crops.

Food is an interesting example. Most people dont really think of food as a common. To be truthful, most people in our culture dont really think about where their food comes from at all. But most of the basic foods that we eat today have been developed over thousands of years by peasant farmers in different parts of the world. Its true to say that food grows on trees, but most foods didnt just develop by accident they were actively bred. The genetic diversity of our foods is really a common. It has been managed through reciprocal relationships between farmers for millennia growing, developing and sharing seeds.

The combination of plant breeder rights and patents on life has enabled food to be at least partially enclosed and privatized. The development of genetically engineered foods and in particular, terminator technology (breeding sterile seeds) is the extreme example.

But the process of enclosure and commodification of food is also strongly supported, and in some ways even led by a process of enclosing our imagination of shifting our desires and the way that we think about food.

Wholefoods are part of our common heritage they are difficult to enclose (notwithstanding the aggressive attempts to do so) because they grow freely on trees and in the earth. However, if corporations can create a demand, indeed an addiction, for processed, synthesized foods that cannot be replicated easily by everyday people they can be trademarked or have some other form of monopoly protection. So the process of enclosure of our food commons proceeds not only through the increasing monopoly control over seeds but also through the social control of how we think about food and the kinds of food that we want to eat by limiting our collective imagination.

For example, many people are no longer willing to eat fruit with blemishes, or vegetables with worms. Indeed fruit and vegetables themselves are off the menu for an increasing number of people whose sustenance derives almost exclusively from highly processed industrial foods. A similar shift is also evident in countries such as India where the majority of people currently exist outside of the formal food economy (ie they grow their own food, and trade within their community) but where corporate marketing is being used effectively to encourage people to abandon traditional food systems and adopt much more passive roles as consumers of industrial food.

Our current industrial food system represents an unprecedented human experiment, whereby virtually an entire generation will grow up with only a cursory understanding of where their food comes from, and will be largely unable to produce their own food. As time progresses, the limiting of our imagination will be reinforced by the limiting of our lived experience and our skills, ensuring the effective privatization of food through either legalized monopolies or through, as Vandana Shiva would say, monocultures of the mind.

The latest frontier is the patenting of matter of the building blocks of our universe in order to pave the way for investment in the nanotechnology revolution. There are already existing patents on elements (Americium and Curium granted to Glenn Seaborg) and it is commonly agreed that you can secure patents even on an existing element.

Scientists are manipulating matter at the nano scale (one billionth of a metre) and finding that common materials assume radically different properties. Much as with genetic engineering, they argue that nano materials are new and different in order to secure patents, but then argue that the materials are in fact the same everyday stuff weve been using for millennia in order to avoid regulation and safety testing. So far this strategy seems to be working.

The launching pad of the global nanotechnology industry is being built with around 3,000 new nanopatents a year around 90% of which are applied for in the USA. If previous technological revolutions are anything to go by, the nanotechnology revolution will once again result in the wholesale transferal of wealth from the many to the few as further commons are enclosed and appropriated.

The struggle of commons against enclosure is an ongoing, historical struggle. The terrain is shiftingfrom land, to ideas, food, waterto the very building blocks of life and matter.  Amongst the new enclosures, however, there is a resurgence in the creation of new commons of creative commons and networks of resistance. The open source software movement has defied critics and emerged as a potent economic and political counter to Microsoft and other monopoly patents. And like the fence jumpers and squatters of the physical world, the cyber world has given expression to thousands of creative ways of undermining intellectual property.

Our challenge is to resist the enclosure of our imagination.to imagine new ways of reclaiming and creating commons. For the commons are not static. There is no fixed quantity of common. They are created and renewed endlessly by people in communities the world over. Woven like an endless, shifting tapestry. We need to be bold enough to remember our common heritage. We need to look for emerging enclosures and name them for what they are theft. And we need to imagine not only our common futures, but also our future commons.

As a celebration of the resistance that is already happening, Id like to share a poem that captures the spirit of the creative commons an open source poem

This poem is copyleft,

you are free to distribute it, and diffuse it

dismantle it, and abuse it

reproduce it, and improve it 

and use it

for your own ends

and with your own ending 

This is an open source poem

Entering the public domain

Here's the source code, 

the rest remains

for you to shape, stretch and bend

add some salt and pepper if you want

share it out amongst your friends

Because I didn't write this poem, I molded it.

picked up the lines out of a skip and refolded it

as I was walking on over here, 

rescued  leftover ideas,

on their way to landfill,

found screwed up fragments

and found them a use. 

Because, think about it

I can't tell you anything truly new.

There can only be few more new ideas to be thought through. 

So should we treat them as rare commodities, high value oddities?

Probe the arctic reserves and other sensitive ecologies

for new ideas buried deep beneath the permafrost?

hunt them out of the cultures till the cultures are lost?

then suffocate them with patent protection?

No! we should re use and recycle them

Pile our public spaces high with ideas beyond anyone's  imagining..

So I steal a riff here and a rhyme there, 

a verse here and a line there

pass them on around the circle,

roll the words, add a joke

here go on.. have a toke,

does it get you high?

This poem is indebted to Abbie Hoffman, Gil Scott Heron, Jim Thomas and Sarah Jones,

This poem is indebted to all the words I've read and the voices I've known

This poem is a composite of intellect, yours and mine.

This poem is RIPPED OFF! every single time

Because intellectual property is theft 

and piracy our only defence left against the thought police.

when no thought is new

its just rewired, refined, remastered and reproduced

The revolution will be plagiarised 

The revolution will not happen if our ideas are corporatised.


Take it and use it 

for your own ends

and with your own ending

This poem is copyleft,

All rights are reversed

(stolen from Claire Fauset)

[1] Diamond vs Chakrabarty, 477 U.S. 303 (1980)

[2] U.S. Patent No. 4,736,866 (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

from Byron Morton
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005 06:14:10 -0700
Subject: Fw: Bush Photos

I can't believe this guy is the President.

Presidential Missteps Raise Questions

First, there was the note asking Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice if he could take a bathroom break during the UN Summit, now, photgraphic evidence  that the Leader of the Free World couldn't get his shirt buttoned right for one of the most important speeches of his Presidency.



Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal
Grenoble, France