JOURNAL OF THE 24TH YEAR
Japan's Fukushima Disaster
The Shura Case
Death Row Inmates Exonerated
NUGGETS FROM THE NUT HOUSE
From Netanyahu to Mladic
Edward S. Herman
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Veterans Support Manning
Double Dip Recession
Iara Lee's Culture of Resistance
Len Weinglass (1933-2011)
Michael Steven Smith
Checkmate In The Great Game
Nicolas J.S. Davies
The Colonial Predator Legacy
Against Corporatocracy Rule
Bruce E. Levine
The Mideast & South Central Asia
Bin Laden and the Arab "Awakening"
From Poppies to Fentanyl Lollipops
The Lacandon Jungle and the Carbon Market
Displacing People for Profit
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Filmmaking As An Act of War
M.A. Littler is a maverick, a pirate, a poet, an artist and, most prominently, a filmmaker. He is not yet a household name, but that doesn’t make his films any less important. I first became aware of him after seeing his incredible documentary Voodoo Rhythm: The Gospel of Primitive Rock ‘n’Roll. Jump forward five years (and a few films and videos) and his forthcoming The Kingdom of Survival almost defies any standard explanation.
“The Kingdom of Survival is an odyssey,” says Littler. “On the surface,” he explains, “it’s one man’s journey: 7,400 miles, 23 states, 29 days on a zig zag route from the American East Coast to the West. It’s also a journey into the history of American dissident culture from Thoreau to the Beats and from punk to radical politics.” Littler admits it is also a spiritual film that “seeks visions that challenge the status quo in a world that seems more and more like a ship sailing across oceans of fire, where the haves do as they please and the have-nots suffer as they must.” Eat, Pray, Love this ain’t.
When asked why such a film needs to exist, Littler, who also brought us The Folk Singer and The Road to Nod, is fairly blunt: “Because my team and I wanted it to exist. In a way it was ‘willed’ into existence. In this particular case we felt that someone needed to raise the black flag. Someone from within. The current globalized capitalist system is failing or let’s say it’s working quite well for a minority and it is not working at all for the majority of the six billion plus people on this planet.”
For Littler the issues in his film are so important that he had no choice but to make the movie. “I often hear there are no alternatives to the current system and I disagree. History has taught us that there a multitude of potential systems that operate outside of this greed and exploitation-based interpretation of capitalism. And when a filmmaker disagrees, he [sic] ought to harden the fuck up, quit whining, and get to work. I didn’t want to make a picture about complaining. I wanted to assess the situation and seek out concrete alternatives.”
One of the things you first notice about the film is the wide variety of people interviewed who seemingly have little in common.
“For the most part,” he says, “they believe in self-governing their lives, mutual aid, avoidance of the international monetary system, avoidance of mainstream media, and they all believe in not blindly consuming a prefabricated culture, but instead creating your own culture.”
The obvious question for Littler then is whether there is a mainstream anymore? Magazines, websites, cable channels, satellite radio, and the like target niche markets and actual “mainstream phenomenon” (like the Twilight book series or “
He doesn’t see the central problem with the mainstream being an issue solely of consumerism, however. The real problem, Littler says, is “a mainstream way of thinking, of accepting things you’re fed as truth, of being non-critical, passive, blind. That leads to your life being directed as opposed to directing it yourself. You’ve got around 70 years. That’s not a whole lot. You might as well make those 70 years yours. Then there’s the people who only talk the talk and I feel they’re almost worse because they don’t put theory into action.”
Are the people who thrive on films like The A-Team going to want to watch this? How can you make them want to watch it? “It’s a film for anyone who thinks there may be more to human existence than wage labor, down payments, taxes, supermarkets and remote-controlled citizens,” the director explains. “For everyone who thinks there must be a better way. If that’s the converted, so be it. However, I suspect they may soon become the majority. Do you enjoy being governed by people you’ve never met and will never meet, who come from a social class you only know from TV, but that decides the rules of the game? A class that directs the majority of wealth into the pockets of a selected few? If so, by all means avoid this film. You will not enjoy what you see. Remember that there is intentional ignorance. Waking up can hurt.”
Wanting a population that is less “remote controlled” is a good goal for any society. That said, a filmmaker creates a film to have a message and to inspire. With that in mind, I wanted to know what message Littler intended his audience to receive.
“We’re challenging how most people live and think. Fact is, there are alternative ways of living for those who are interested. Here’s a scenario: I got a job, a wife, a down payment on a house, but I feel like death. Why? Because your coordinate system may be ill-adjusted. What can I change? Everything. The change from within is the biggest thing you can experience and it’s all up to you. It’s about awakening and self-empowerment. You don’t need therapy or pharma- ceuticals. You need to realize that you have a conscience and that you are the master of that conscience. A spirit can’t be jailed unless you jail it yourself.”
A film with a transforming message is nothing if one doesn’t have the skills to back it up. Littler, as evidenced by his other films, has shown nothing but skill. His work comes across as a combination of story, art, and life. He makes audiences feel as if the subjects on screen are people they’ve known all their lives—for better or worse. The word that would best describe the feeling in his films is “intimate.” When it came to The Kingdom of Survival, however, the director went through a new and different process in its creation. For him, the act of making the film was symbiotic with the actual film. “I’ll have to connect the filmmaking process with the actual film—they’re inseparable,” he explains. “As far as relevance goes, the film asks some of the necessary questions and offers some answers or perhaps alternate routes. If you compare it to the highway, we’re exploring the back roads. In this post-post modern age, that is almost a romantic concept, that there actually are answers. But I think the people we’ve met supply some real nuts and bolts knowledge—perhaps even wisdom—that anyone can apply to his or her life and increase their personal and spiritual freedom.”
This mindset ties in with the director’s filmmaking process as he describes it. “It gets wilder and wilder the older I get,” he states. “Lack of money is a breeding ground for outrageous behavior and peculiar situations. Try traveling 7,400 miles with nothing but a pistol and a prayer and ending up at MIT with Professor Chomsky looking like Pike Bishop after he took on the bandits. Another key difference is my new producer, Alex Hebert. He’s a real pirate. So now there’s two of us raising the black flag. He’s the charm and I’m the hydrogen bomb.”
When I first talked to Littler about his film, he told me that filmmaking wasn’t a dinner party, but an “act of war.” “My brand of filmmaking is inspired by John Cassavetes and Sam Fuller, two filmmakers who considered the personal vision holy. To me, filmmaking is a way of life, not a fashion statement or a way to get praised or receive social acceptance. Filmmaking is having an opinion, always educating yourself, resisting temptation and compromise, accepting that you’ll get a bloody nose and others may get a bloody nose because of you. It’s being a pirate, a revolutionary, a friend, and part of the solution not part of the problem. It’s zen anarchist pirate cinema.”
The fact that Littler holds filmmaking in such high regard leads to the question, Is there a place for films that are nothing but pure entertainment in this world or are they missed opportunities by filmmakers who end up squandering their cinematic power in order to give the audience what it wants?
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting a vacation from reality,” Littler answers. “French Connection is entertainment and a good film.
All of which brings us back to The Kingdom of Survival, maverick cinema with a message. The times it was created in were bad and getting worse. Some of the subjects Littler interviewed have been saying such things for years. Because of that, you would think any individual or group with an axe to grind over the current state of the world would be more than happy to be included in the film, but I found out that wasn’t the case at all.
“Radical right-wing preachers and African American radicals such as the New Black Panther Party,” Littler replies, when asked whom he wanted to include in the movie but didn’t. “The ones I wanted accused me of being part of the Jewish media conspiracy—pretty amusing considering I’m German-South African and the so-called media avoids me like the plague. In their world I’m like the cousin with tattoos on his face [who] doesn’t get invited to family reunions. The ones [who] wanted to talk to me were intellectually not what I was looking for. My intention was to show a wide array of alternative visions without discrediting certain views and I felt some would have discredited their view without any help from me, so I let them be and moved on.”
His answer touches on something quite interesting when it comes to Littler and his films. His work has generally been well-received by film critics and journalists, but he is still not well-known, not even in film circles. And while he will never be one of those faces you see on the E! Network, I wondered if that lack of recognition from the more mainstream outlets was important to him and whether he paid any attention to the critics. His answer is surprising.
“Hey,” Littler says, “everyone likes to get a pat on the back, especially if you’re making films without a safety net. When you get down to it, it feels good when a friendly voice tells you you’re on the right track. When the bank calls, the doubt creeps in and another friend sold out—you’re getting real close to dark places. In those times, kindness is the light switch.”
“I don’t hold critics in higher regard than so-called ordinary folks,” Littler continues. “I also don’t demonize critics. A good critic can be very helpful. I do believe that in order to apply constructive criticism one must have worked in the field one criticizes—one must have gone through the process of making a film.”
One thing is certain, critics and audiences can keep a film relevant and alive forever. Rightly or wrongly, it is why Citizen Kane keeps popping up on lists of the greatest films of all time. When it was made, the world was a different place than it is now, but the film still resonates with people. I asked Littler what he thought the reaction to his films would be like 20 years from now. What would they be a testament to?
“I don’t care much for nostalgia or my legacy,” Littler states frankly. “I ride this black wave the best I can and I try not to die a corrupt asshole. The rest is not in my hands. If the world heads where it’s heading now, my reputation will be the least of my concerns. My prognosis is bleak, but I believe you can create islands of joy and freedom inside a dark world that’s been sold. The mystic philosopher Hakim Bey calls it ‘Temporary Autonomous Zone.’ Once you get past the adolescent feelings of self-importance and realize your insignificance, you’re liberated. And let’s be clear on one thing: It’s been a hard ride so far, but a wild and joyous one, too. If I kick the bucket tomorrow, I was still blessed and have no reason for complaint. We’re making these films with next to nothing. But what we have is wild courage, insanity, brass knuckles, and a pure heart on our side. These films, as flawed as they may be, are proof that you can operate outside of the system.”
The Kingdom of Survival is not the last the world will hear from Littler. He has plenty of ideas and projects he can bring to the table. Like any competent artist, he is not content to rest. “I’ve got a number of projects written,” Littler says. “One is a cinematic ballad of sorts, I call You Can Never Go Back Home. Another is a film called The Last Hotel. We might also add episodes to The Kingdom of Survival and turn it into a series. There are simply so many alternative visions out there that intrigue me. Perhaps we’ll go to South America or
Indeed, that situation doesn’t look to be changing any time soon. Littler’s films are varied enough to prove he is no one-trick pony. This new feature, however, may just be what people need to see exactly when they need to see it. With healthcare reform’s failure, the BP disaster, the Tea Party, and record glacier meltdowns still fresh in everyone’s mind, this could be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in many people’s lives. At the very least, it will be testimony to let people know another way is possible and I’m sure Littler wouldn’t have it any other way.
Doug Brunell writes for several magazines and websites, including Film Threat, Tattoo Savage, Panache, Pagan Palaver, Eye, and Gray Areas.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.