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Self-Determination in the Cyborg Economy: The Dakota Access Pipeline September 8, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Decolonization, Technology, Uncategorized.
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I just got back from a local solidarity rally for the folks resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The action itself was energetic and utterly familiar, with all the classic rally elements: signs, speeches, chants, intersection blocking, media presence, and so on. For Albuquerque, it was an impressive turnout. I didn’t think to put on sunscreen and ended up sunburned.

To the Red Nation revolutionaries who participated in the event as well as to many other observers, the mobilization against the pipeline stands out as a shining example of Native resistance to colonialism. The pipeline, in this analysis, comes in a long tradition of resource-extraction projects that harm Indigenous peoples for the benefit of corporate elites. Opposing the pipeline then amounts to a struggle for survival, a struggle against bodily and symbolic death.

The pipeline likewise conforms to the pattern of supposed development that contaminates the environment, inflicting health problems on populations located by the development site and to some degree on the public at large. This dynamic disproportionately affects Indigenous peoples but isn’t limited to colonial encounters. Industrialism to date has myriad victims. Technological mass society has produced wonders at great cost, and these costs haven’t been evenly distributed.

While the present economy indeed requires oil to function, as numerous environmentalists argue, focusing on alternatives makes more sense than expanding extraction of fossil fuels. Proponents of the pipeline unsurprisingly emphasize immediate monetary benefits and overall economic efficiency, invoking the free market. Sadly, as sketched above, the energy market has a set record of negative externalities. Business as usual ain’t working.

The DAPL controversy highlights the tensions and contradictions of the United States as a colonial entity and of the broader industrial economy. It raises questions about property and belonging that can’t be coherently addressed without attending to the country’s settler-colonial history and present.

The standard team-sports mentality of social struggle and the complexity of the issues may well give some of y’all pause. To what extent are the protests about the pipeline specifically? To what extent are they about the representational politics of standing against colonialism and capitalism? To what extent are they about global environmental issues such as climate change, and to what extent does this map to pipeline itself?

I don’t have definitive answers to these questions. I advocate support for the folks putting their bodies on the line and for the principle of self-determination as well as for sustained curiosity about the best course forward.

You can donate to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe via their website.

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