Text written for oral presentation during the Life After Oil International Film Festival in Villanovaforru, Sardinia, Italy, 2023. Translated and revised with the help of Brian Tokar (Institute for Social Ecology)
We have passed the limit of livability, therefore we must apply “the art of legitimate beyondness”. Capitalism is one of the worst expressions of human arrogance [umana prepotenza]*
The time needed for understanding is delaying the radical decisions that are needed immediately. This premise is fundamental. If we wait for people to understand fully, we do not save ourselves. We do not save the planet.
We need to go back to sitting around a fire to tell ourselves how beautiful life is in its splendor and how we can become free again. We must deprive all the old myths of evil of their authority. We need to “operationally” sabotage everything that capitalism and other legacies of domination have built upon the narrative of evil. Since there is no more time, it is necessary to “interrupt the evil”. “Evil” is understood as disease and death, industrial and global. Sabotage itself, classically understood as one clog (sabot) that hinders evil—often by itself creating damage, side evils, uncontrolled spills, bad moods—does not work. We need to move on to a more refined and effective sabotage technique that I call forbisage—“forbiting” (forbitaggio in Italian)—from the Latin word scissors (forfex), but is also reminiscent of “polished tongue or style” (from the Germanic furbian—clean), i.e. the polished and scientific knowledge necessary to overthrow the false authorities (es-autorare in Italian: deprive of authority). We need to cut off capitalism and all the overpowering (pre-potenti in Italian) human practices—which we could call “human arrogance” (l’Umana PrePotenza in Italian—see endnote)—into non-communicating pieces, immediately, as soon as possible. Non-communication causes dysfunction. Only then will the flow of evil be stopped and a new, livable world will be born in the cracks of the system.
HOW TO DO IT
Here in brief is where to start:
- We need to create “forbiters” (forbitatori, a neologism in Italian). Affinity groups with scissors in hand. Mind and hands together. We need to form alliances for operational disruption now. Let them reach toward tomorrow, immediately at dawn. We need to form proximity groups that are inspired from a distance.
- We need to form an uncatchable alliance between the workers-operators and the minds/hands of the forbiters: the workers-operators can dissociate themselves from the forces of evil and—as uncatchable as they are—stop production. The interruption of production by cutting off its energy flows, including banking, is the main concept.
- We need to form an uncatchable alliance that elaborates and articulates with operational intelligence the conflict between generational paradigms, an alliance between new-paradigm operators who cannot but come into conflict with the old, dangerous positions of their forebears (whether biological or mainly ideological). New-operators can dissociate themselves from the forces of evil and—uncatchable as they are—interrupt the excessive consumption of their (literal or figurative) fathers and mothers. The interruption of dissolute consumptive practices through moral stigma and paradigmatic—generational dissociation is the most immediate way forward.
These two great alliances cross, intersect, and exchange practices and objectives. They captivate each other to achieve the common goal: TO CUT-OFF CAPITALISM AND OTHER FORMS OF HUMAN ARROGANCE. And we can extend these alliances internationally, between territories that share the same troubles, issues, and enemies, overcoming the old division between global and local. The moral commonality of territories—the “terrestrial” of Donna Haraway—has no boundaries.
We propose three types of “operational sabotage” (forbisage) both practiced and practicable:
- the conceptual-cultural interruption
- the juridical-legal interruption
- the physical-material interruption
Unlike the classically understood sabotage, which can create physical and material damage, when it is not only symbolic or programmatic—or the boycott, which causes often negligible “economic damage”—forbisage never produces significant material damage in its physical form, while it produces huge economic losses in all its forms. Forbisage therefore focuses on the economic aspects—economism is our great enemy—and its aim is to interrupt the flows of energy and money that are destroying the world.
WE MUST STOP SUPPLIES, NOT ONLY MINIMIZE CONSUMPTION
Here is a brief description of the interruptions. Level 1 is integrated into level 2, and surpassed (moved beyond) at level 3. We can practice all three, depending on the case, or choose the most suitable level as a priority in case of insufficiency of the other levels. All must be considered as viable. Our enemies know it!
- CONCEPTUAL BLOCKADES—Reputational blocks of the bank accounts of the large industrial groups that devastate the earth and all its territories through cultural actions against them (attacking from the territories against reputational attributes extraterritorially). We need counterinformation campaigns that interrupt the lies and cultural propaganda subordinated to the established powers, by activating multi-faceted structured mobilizations and periodic community assemblies, primarily convened by the new-paradigm generation, with direct application of the same concepts of moral stigma on those who continue to accept failed paradigms. Also addressing and interrupting the “mechanism of debt” which our lives are caged in (I make you bankrupt and then I save you. I make you ill and then I cure you. You must consume and then pay. I forgive you of your guilt, but only if you pay)—We must end obedience to the Great Creditor which is often the State with its ancient military legacy, still present in national identities, today in the hands of global, transnational powers. We must stop the industrial production of weapons, luxuries, sickness and death. All are planned productions and for this reason they have become global.
- LEGAL BLOCKADES—Frontal processes, radical lawsuits against multinational corporations and economic crimes, to obtain sanctions, punishments, expropriations, and arrive at a distribution of laws and regulations against unfettered economic liberalism.
- PHYSICAL BLOCKADES — Interruptions of flow lines, of supply, be they of data (hacking), of energy (strategic, controlled, intelligent blackouts through alliances with the workers), and of raw materials (transit blocks) when necessary.
All these practices must not cause damage to people (non-violence) and to things (non-destruction)—because they would all be counterproductive in terms of human relationships and ecosystem impacts—but they have to be strategic disruptions that demolish those intentions, desires, and perspectives that now make the practices attacked directly by forbisage prosper, grow and spread. One fundamental principle of discrimination is to never attack common goods, especially the primary ones and all the shared traditions, such as air, water, a painting or a sculpture of pluriversal value. The current attacks on fountains, works of art and palaces are ridiculous symbolically and counterproductive for public opinion.
It must be clear for the children: he who drives a Ferrari or wears a luxury garment must know that morally he is a “beggar”. A moral waste, regardless of the intrinsic and technological beauty of the object. The surplus value of profit earned with those items is an affront to the dignity of every living creature. The energy and the work and the illicit load of profit and real waste that a specific object carries kills thousands of living creatures and corrupts entire ecosystems. There is no beauty without justice. This is our principle. Fathers and mothers, the overpowering big landlords, and others who are similar must know that they can be attacked and deprived of their authority at any moment by their own children. And, beyond age, by their companions.
We have to attack the imaginaries of those who believe that owning an object of “excessive” value—exceeding the dignity of the production itself—is in itself a value that is transferred to the person. It will be the contrary, a stigma, a condemnation, an infamy, because behind an excess of surplus value there is always a death or a moral, social injustice. All bearers of excessive surplus values in tangible goods will have to undergo a reputational infamy, without reservations and without concessions. By becoming owners of those rare and very expensive pieces, they inevitably become—given the objectivity of the socio-environmental damage as scientific counter-proof—beggars (in Italian pezzenti from Latin). Moral beggars. Morally unacceptable people who ask (from the Latin petire, ask) their own children forgiveness for perpetuating and promoting global, systemic, planetary evil. Unfortunately the post-boom generations, who have embraced capitalism and other paradigms of excess, have failed.
Here are some general examples (for two concrete case studies see the Appendix).
- Military bases, for example, may be subject to various forms of material forbisage: we may interrupt the flow of materials, services, supplies, investments, rentals; the military community must be excluded from the life of the city. We have to convince bakers not to make bread for them anymore, plumbers not to work for them, not to rent houses and grant land, etc. etc. Therefore a boycott not like of Coca-Cola (a symbolic action against a typical U.S. brand, with little economic effect, given the spread of the drink and the strength of the hyper-capitalist propaganda), but a conviction to block the supplies that feed the same drink, such as the concession of withdrawal from the aquifers of our territories (where the Coca-Cola plants actually mine water). WE MUST ATTACK FROM THE TERRITORIES, NOT GLOBAL STORES. Interrupt supplies and proximity flows, not simply minimize or boycott specific items for consumption, which are strategically insignificant for the big globalized brands, endowed as they are with propaganda forces superior to the means available to activists.
- The same goes for large scale production and excessive estates. Luxury ships and excessive tourism must be stopped, as happened for the Great Ships (Grandi Navi) of Venice. It must be ensured that there are no longer morally safe ports in which to moor yachts. For jet skis—a luxury of the jet engine—you have to convince the children of whoever has them to take scissors and cut the ignition wires (the same for the terrible quad/dirt bikes!). Zac!, it only takes a second to leave your father’s motorbike stranded (material damage is negligible/laughable and in itself does not cause any environmental damage). Or just grab the keys to the yachts or jet skis off your parent’s or employer’s keychain and throw them in the water. No one who has a luxury good, an “exaggeration”, will have to feel safe anymore, because he knows that within his own family he will have his own forbiter. That son who stops his father will become a hero of the climate struggle who will save the world. Those “exaggerated” machines, not only in themselves, but also in terms of the money necessary for their ownership, are responsible for enormous injustices in the world.
- The same can be done with “fictitiously public” large works (such as motorways, high-speed trains, large construction sites run by private companies through inflated tenders or project financing), making sure that they are not placed in the hands of virtually enslaved, mainly immigrant labor, taken from outside the legislative framework that safeguards work in the territories. We need to interrupt their constructions by scientifically deconstructing their projects, taking away the funds they don’t deserve.
- Another field is strategic hacking as a variety of forbisage. We need to cut data flows that we consider dangerous and that produce death. For industries that produce weapons, all over the world, their banks must be the first targets of forbiters. The same banks serving the multinational companies will have to feel exposed to the scale attack by arbitrators, to the attack from nearby (from territories) by account holders who will demand transparency of the data — a forbisage in the open—of all the dirty or clean business they do.
Ours is the cutting force, which cuts. We are at the opposite extreme of violence. We use the scalpel to cut accurately and painlessly, we use the thread to sew. We are the first surgeons of politics. We are a Political Surgery Group and for this reason we are indefinable/inexplicable and uncatchable, without fixed identities, identities in motion, which we term “diventities”. We are the children, the fathers, the mothers, the unidentifiable active citizenship, we are everywhere, interstitial, intersectional, interchangeable, without hierarchies, without infantile individualisms, we are authors aware of our singularity, authorship, uniqueness. We are social ecologists, communalists, municipalists, territorialists, radical democratic confederalists, activists fighting for the common good,aware of the common evil. Let’s cut capitalism to pieces. Nothing more, nothing less. We are for sufficient ownership and post-potency. The power of our hearts and not of prejudices or forced inheritances/identities that believe themselves legitimate to dominate and destroy the world.
THE FORBISAGE is therefore the weapon of paradigmatic/generational revolt. It is the rigorous and highly civilized weapon of children against capitalist and overbearing fathers, bearers of the future against the destroyers of the present, be they young or old. FORBISAGE will be the collective inspiration to arrive before it’s too late for the “rehumanization” of society, for the revaluation of the deep common goods (deep commons), to res-comunanza, to the principle of a life where active common action has won over passive public property, corruptible by the hunger of private individuals, humans, capitalists.
Forbiters of the world unite, human arrogance will collapse.
CAPITALISM MUST BE STOPPED, NOT MODERATED
The art of legitimate beyondness—of operational sabotage—is legitimized by a logic of imprecision with two distinct dimensions. First is that of the enemy, who continues to operate thanks to his “spannometry”, an Italian word meaning science made with fraudulent approximation—inspired by the President of the Veneto Region, Luca Zaia, who became famous for his approximate expressions and actions, such as his vague hand-spans or ‘hand-waving’ limits on PFAS contamination set in 2018. Second are those perpetrated by our friends, our mates and also activists who make errors of merit and of method. These imprecisions, if they create irreversible damage (silent deaths, climatic disasters), must be faced head-on (immediately and directly). With legitimate pushes and never reductive compromise, but always on the rise. There is not only solidarity, care—our primitive principles—but also and above all frontal action: rigorous and immediate to avoid the Necrocene (as described by John P. Clark); the era of the death of the Earth built by human arrogance; a more subtle concept of the Anthropocene. These are now principles of urgency which generate the fundamental elements of struggle, of collective action.
Fundamental elements of the struggle, to be refined, will be:
- the weapon of the polished word, of critical thinking, which Capitalism cannot handle;
- the conflict/paradigmatic-generational leap, i.e. bringing young people (by age and/or paradigm) into the active field, who will form groups and assemblies of active citizenship, convened and self-managed by themselves, listening to the non-degenerate parts of the human arrogance-capital-system;
- the authorship: we are authors of our actions and we can have more authority than any authority, thanks to them;
- the concrete geography: we know and defend every inch of our land. Powered by digital portability. We must develop the proximity and transferability of our actions, thanks to the power of walking together in physical and digital territories. No one will stop us if we walk together.
We are the authors of our territories. No one will defeat us!
CAPITALISM MUST BE STOPPED, NOT REFORMED
Text written for the oral presentation
RADICAL ECOLOGIES CUT OFF HUMAN ARROGANCE/CAPITALISM
during the Life After Oil International Film Festival
Villanovaforru, Sardinia, Italy
June 10, 2023
Translated and revised with the help of Brian Tokar (Institute for Social Ecology)
* “Human arrogance” is the intraspecies and interspecies domain of man that produces overpower, overwhelm, oppression, and exploitation. This arrogance is a choice that human beings can make, more or less consciously, depending on the historical, social, family, and personal contexts. In Italian, we use a very powerful noun of Latin origin: prepotenza, composed of “pre” and “potenza”. The meaning is “power a priori”, by inheritance or by ideology or by other forms of prejudice or preventive accumulation of money, resources, and goods. Therefore arrogance is not an essential property of a unitary “human nature”, but it is a tendency: this tendency toward arrogance is based on particular histories, class dynamics, cultural evolutions, and personal choices.
Naturally in our age, the Anthropocene, where the great material and cultural powers moved by human action and thinking have undergone a strong acceleration due to the scientific and technological domination of humans over nature, and, ultimately, as social ecology teaches us, of man over man, this arrogance has taken over the dominance (pre-dominium) over a large part of mankind, producing disastrous economic and development models, such as capitalism.
We have chosen to call this trend “human arrogance”—in Italian l’Umana PrePotenza—preferring it to others, such as Human Supremacism or Suprematismo Antropico (used in Italian by us in previous writings and by the sociologist and activist Giancarlo Bettin, I tempi stanno cambiando, 172, Edizioni E/O 2022) to avoid confusion between English and Italian terms that hardly correspond in cultural meanings (in Italy there is no American-style Supremacism, but we have the racism of a fascist nature), even if the terms are equally clear in their connotations of “pre-power”.
This choice in English—leaving the Latin origin of arrogance expressed in the text, PrePotenza—should help readers and activists to dwell precisely on the “a priori” nature of this tendency, which therefore is not a unitary property of humanity, but “the choice” of a part. That we can change. Thanks to this particular nature we all—activists and thinkers—can find the particular strategies to defeat it, precisely through “critical thinking”, which is always an “a posteriori” (ex-post) thought, based on facts, on people, on concrete relationships, on respect for diversity, on nature, whether it be human nature or non-human nature. All this generates a post-power (post-potenza) with which we can fight arrogance with equal, and perhaps even better, weapons.
This text is only a first and urgent suggestion, written from the “rich” territories devastated by Capitalism, in the heart of Europe, that believes itself “civil”, making wars and chemically poisoning their own children, their own people, on a daily basis.
Appendix: Two concrete case studies
FORBISAGE OF BANKS
In the case of chemical pollution produced by the multinational joint venture MITENI—(Mitsubishi and Enichem + ICIG Weylchem)—in a specific area (Veneto, north-eastern Italy) it was possible to act by putting pressure on public opinion, in particular on account holders and directors of local banks. The banking system is a global system where small local banks are strongly intertwined with large national banks and transnational financial circuits, with stock exchanges. Among them they share not only the financial flows, but also (and above all for our purpose) the reputational credits that are transmitted from the small to the large credit institution.
Considering that: 1. all companies of the capitalist model cannot work without bank financing; 2. companies are always inserted in a territory; 3. they take as their first source of credibility the credit certificates (attestations) from the territorial banks, which give the pass (passport!) to large loans; 4. local banks are founded by account holders and local shareholders, these live in the area and are aware if a company is ethically sustainable or not or is questioned. It can be deduced that: to interrupt the flow of money, it is enough to convince account holders, even the smallest ones, to change banks if they continue to finance “death factories”. For current account holders, it makes little difference to leave one bank and enter another, the latter already prepared to welcome new customers at better conditions given the circumstances. A small loss of authoritative account holders (whether they are employees, professionals, teachers, families) can generate an endless hemorrhage thanks to the ephemeral trust that banks have today, which have become financial instruments, at all levels.
In the Miteni case, the local banks—fearful and/or threatened by account holders with the closing of their accounts—at a certain point interrupted the financing of the multinational company, creating the first insurmountable liquidity difficulties in the tight payment system on which financial hypercapitalism is based. Miteni—in the words of the CEO—was forced to close due to the loss of reputational credit orchestrated by activists through direct actions against the company. This is mainly thanks to the conceptual stigma of “environmental crime” applied to the company, in various contexts, with facts and complaints scientifically documented by activists. “Either finance the life of the territories or finance death.” This is the dilemma we have confronted bank executives with. If you finance death, all of us—citizens of the territory—will close our accounts. And we will reopen them at the bank next door. Sometimes the oversupply of financial institutions works in our favor. Capitalism has many weaknesses.
FORBISAGE OF WORK
Continuing with the case study of PFAS chemical pollution, it proved possible to interrupt the classic procedures that see work in conflict with health and the environment, i.e. the classic blackmail/dichotomy between Work and Health. How to stop it? By making it clear to those directly involved that this conflict does not exist except for the strategic use of the profits of the hyper-capitalist society in which we are submerged.
We demonstrated that you can act on two fronts, first a strictly practical and immediate one. For example, during a physical blockade of the factory by young activists (October 2017), where workers and supplies could not enter, there was a key moment when the factory workers started to offend the activists, provoking them (“we have to work, let us come in, you are idiots, sons of bitches”, etc), and urging the police to intervene. All appeared ready for violence, both the offended young people and frustrated workers.
In response, we drew a symbolic line on the ground, saying to the young people and workers and to the police: whoever is on the side of those who offend a contaminated population (you are too, workers and policemen, your children) will not get any attention from us, not even the violence that you, they, would like to provoke. Whoever will be on that side of the line for us today is an accomplice. Remember this word and this concept well; accomplice and complicity with the criminals who are beyond that gate: the owners of the company who knowingly polluted, inside and outside the factory. They polluted everyone, workers and citizens, even the police. Workers who will be on our side will be taken into consideration by our attention. We will do everything to relocate them to the healthy fabric of the territory, we will find new jobs for everyone and if necessary we will create a common fund to support the workers in this transition. WE WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU. All others will be considered accomplices. There is no need to use violence, because when you can see clearly the line between crime and civilization, you just need to know where you stand. It will be history, even criminal history, to judge you and condemn those who have sided with the crime. We will do what the unions have not done, by reneging on their original mandate. We will take care of the workers, without resorting to the usual “reconversion” of production (the classic scheme of capitalism: shifting the problem), but to interruption. Work and the environment must be and become partners in life, not in death.
This is the second front, the most difficult. Reconfigure the concept of work. Rethink it at the root. A forbisage of the concept. We’re working on it. Meanwhile the “factory of death” closed in 2018, 80% of the workers have been relocated, and the rest are under treatment or in early retirement, due to toxic work. The occupational disease due to PFAS has been recognised by Italian medical authorities this year! This happened thanks to our science activism being transferred to unions and our new alliance with workers after drawing that line.