Interview With Mickey Z
I manage a restaurant in DC where I’m often baffled by the presence of people like Senator “Joe-mentum” or former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Night after night of making sure the sons and daughters of CEOs and Saudi oil barons get their grilled salmon on time can be a bitter pill to swallow. However, on two nights last week I had a subversive secret: whenever I had a moment I would sneak back to the office and tend to my email interview with my hero, and under-read American mischief maker, Mickey Z. The following is the result of our somewhat spontaneous interview.
Mickey Z. is a self-educated writer/martial artist/vegan who lives with his wife Michele in
Likes: sunsets, rainbows, and anarcho-syndicalism
Dislikes: mean people, traffic, and factory farming
His web site is www.mickeyz.net
Maxwell Black: Call me cynical, but I have a sinking suspicion that the
Mickey Z: Well, things tend to be permanent...until they end. I’m sure some confluence of events will impact the durability and/or feasibility of the
Since we acknowledge that there is certain amount of futility to the anti-war movement, would activist's time and effort be better served on other projects? I'm not saying we should abandon the cause, but perhaps it could be fought along side a broader cause like say a revived Global Justice Movement.
We clearly need new ideas, new methods, and a new focus. The most insane part about me trying to answer this question is this: If I discuss tactics that could be slightly misconstrued by the powers-that-be, I risk serious trouble. For now, I’ll suggest folks read both volumes of Endgame by Derrick Jensen.
Speaking of Jensen and "tactics that could be misconstrued by the powers that be". In his work Endgame volumes 1 and 2 he makes a great effort to smash the ideology of pacifism. One of his premises is "love does not imply pacifism." He explains that it's just the opposite--you fight for and protect what you love. He gives examples like a mother grizzly naturally protecting her cub, fighting back against domestic abusers, Indians fighting for their land and so on. If we apply Chomsky's idea of universality--that what is moral (or immoral) in one setting should be considered in other settings--do we have moral dilemma? What I mean is what if "what you love" (or think you love) is Capitalism, slavery or unearned privilege?
If I randomly walked up to a man, kicked him in the nuts, and then smashed his face down onto my rising knee, I’d justifiably be vilified as a dangerous sociopath. If that same man was brutally attacking someone I loved (or anyone, for that matter) - perhaps even with a weapon - and I came along on the scene and promptly acted out the above scenario, would I still be a sociopath? The trouble is, once you give anyone “permission” to anyone to use force, they often abuse it. No easy answers for sure. Maybe Malcolm X said it best: “We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.”
We often hear about
Well, they’re not called the “occupied territories” for nothing (insert rimshot here). Check your Cowboys and Indians history for a little context. Of course, if US taxpayers weren’t funding the Israeli war machine to the tune of multiple billions,
Latin America seems to be moving very rapidly to the Left, led in part by
I love the way Chavez mocks the
Your websites subheading, "Cool Observer," comes from a quote by Reinhold Niebuhr (I thought it was Walter Lippman.) "Rationality belongs to the cool observer" who must recognize "the stupidity of the average man" and provide "emotionally potent oversimplifications" that will keep (what Lippman did say) the "bewildered herd" on a proper course. I get an obvious sense of sarcasm and defiance with your use of it. Do you think that maybe it is possible for ordinary people, free from propaganda and coercion, to be able to think for themselves and manage their own affairs?
You’re one of few people to tell me they “got” my blog’s name. I sometimes wish I called it “Urban Caveman” but after nearly four years of drawing millions – I mean, hundreds – to my little corner of the Web, it’s too late to change the name now. As for your question: do I think it’s possible? Sure. Can I say for sure? Of course not. But after all these centuries of hierarchy and injustice and greed, wouldn’t it be fun to find out? Besides, what have we got to lose...except war, famine, religion, disease, environmental devastation, Reality TV, and all that other nasty stuff?
So the dog and pony show is now in full swing, do you intend to vote?
I might vote for Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney...just for the hell of it.
Again, this being an election year, we hear a lot of calls to "take the country back" or talk of returning to some former greatness. In the "Disinformation" anthology "Abuse Your Illusions" you argued in your "Our Back Pages" essay that not only were the "good old days" not so golden, but that the "good old days" mythology is actually somewhat dangerous to our current struggles. Can you give readers a brief taste of what you were trying to accomplish with this piece?
The danger inherent in the Good Old Days (GOD) myth is twofold. Like all myths, its mere existence makes other illusions easier to swallow. If the GOD invention is accurate, the wars fought, the businesses started and subsidized, the legislation passed, the culture created, and the leaders elected in the GOD get a free ride on its coattails. We become a nation of people gazing backward for innocence lost rather than looking ahead for lessons learned. This is the second danger of the GOD fiction: disempowerment. By accepting that "the greatest generation any society has ever produced" roamed the earth some 50 to 70 years ago, we surrender new ideas and embrace whitewashed nostalgia. The answers, we acknowledge, are found in the past; all we have to do is slam on the brakes and throw our SUVs in reverse. A valuable step in fostering a more forward-thinking approach would be to expose the GOD for what they were-a mixed bag of good and not so good-like all such "days." If we don’t buy into the mythology, it’s harder to convince us that most or all the solutions lie in the past.
You made a similar effort to disabuse readers of historical illusions about World War Two in your books "There is No Good War: The Myths of World War II" and "Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of "the Good War." In addition to busting the mythology of theses historical moments you talked about the propaganda of omission. Can you tell us why this is important and how it applies to today?
As you read this, civilians are dying in
I grew up in the northern VA suburbs and after traveling quite a bit, realize I could have grown up in thousands of suburbs all over the country and had a nearly identical experience. It turns out Joe Bageant's idea of the "American Hologram" is very accurate and uniform. You seem to have had a very different experience in "The
As much as I’m probably displaying irrational chauvinism toward my “homeland,” I genuinely appreciate having grown up in a true “neighborhood,” one in which you walk to get where you’re going and thus meet people – a staggering ethnic diversity, btw - face to face and create bonds.
You are a committed Vegan activist. Off the top of your head, what would you say to someone who is on the fence about becoming a vegan?
I would mention that 14 times as many people could be fed by using the same land currently reserved for grazing and a main reason for global rain forests disappearing is to make way to raise doomed cattle. I would also mention that because our digestive tract is too long to efficiently digest meat, that pork chop can sit there putrefying for weeks. Accordingly, Americans consume more laxatives than anyone else. Think about it: almost all our legislative, judicial, health-related and military decisions are being made by constipated old men. Yes, by going vegan, you can save the planet from constipated old men.
Not every town has a Whole Foods or a nifty farmers market and in towns with those things not everyone can afford them. What advise would you give to someone who wants to switch to an Organic Vegan diet but can't afford to do so or just isn't sure where to start?
Complex question. I’ve often heard that veganism is an elitist lifestyle but it’s really a matter of economic priorities. If you’re committed to the ethical, environmental, and health benefits of being a vegan, you’ll find ways to afford the slightly higher price of such food. Of course, if we taxpayers weren’t already subsidizing the meat and dairy industries, those death foods would be far more expensive. Lastly, those who consume the standard American diet because it seems cheaper are far more likely to be stuck with astronomical health care bills. These are simplified answers but the main point is that most Americans can go vegan tomorrow if it mattered enough to them.
I want to end with advice for activists. Your book "The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet" is a collection of testimonies by activists struggling to make ends meet in an uphill battle against seemingly insurmountable odds. Since we talked about Derrick Jensen earlier, why don't we close with this, I'm going to give you three words to do whatever you want with. Just address them to current or would be activists. Here they are: hope, despair and agency. Go.
The best (worst?) illustration of “hope” is on display every four years when those seeking social change put their capacity for critical thought on the shelf and actively support the Democratic Party. No matter which party wins, “despair” comes next as the latest figurehead of empire proceeds to do everything in his (her?) power to roadblock all avenues toward peace, justice, and solidarity. “Agency” belongs to those willing to disrupt their comfortable (sic) lives and dedicate themselves to stopping things like global warming,
There’s no shortage of hope or despair on Earth. When it comes to agency, we’re definitely in a recession.
Let’s get busy changing that. Thanks Mickey.