THE BROADER PICTURE; THE SCHOOL FOR SWAMPIES

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The Independent Culture
Malibu, California: the annual Ruckus Society three-day training camp for self-improving eco-warriors. Six hundred of them have come here (by environmentally sound transport) to tough it out, sharpen up, get in the loop. Like jazzmen, they work on their chops: not scales and riffs, but abseiling, neck-locks, knotwork and passive resistance, buffing up their improvisations before they go live. They work on their names, too. Charles F Dornfelder III won't do. You have to be Stumpy, Boz, Raindance, Jezz, Ferret, Laa-Laa or Po.

It's fun. They're united, they're working hard, they're out of doors. Best of all, they're right. They know it, exulting in their selfless absolutism in the face of a greedy and relativistic society. They're right, and the executives and the soldiers and all the other flat-eyed functionaries of late capitalism are wrong.

But they're doing what soldiers do: taking risks, bonding, sleeping rough, getting filthy, digging in, making a stand. They're doing what executives do, too: putting policy into action, working for the greater good of Planet Earth Inc, whatever it takes. Whatever it takes.

Stumpy and Laa-Laa would be enraged at the comparison. Beside themselves. They'd be up a tree, festooned in bowlines, before you could say Gaia. Stumpy plaits his armpit-hair to destabilise the corporate functionaries, and Laa-Laa isn't above waggling a lank breast or two at the Sheriff's men to bring them higher consciousness. Raindance, Jezz and Ferret aren't so sure. Military tactics against the militarised forces of capitalism? Okay, sure, as long as nobody gets hurt. And Boz doesn't know. Boz's Daddy worked for IBM, got laid off at 57, died in his Laz-Ee-Boy recliner at 58 from a corporate heart attack. That's enough for Boz.

But out there, beyond the earnest bosky pack-bonding of Malibu, a harsh reality waits, burping, in its rusty white van. Pot-bellied bailiffs, snatched from the welfare line for $5 an hour and a free nylon bomber jacket. Men called Chuck, Duane and Waldo, smelling of old pizza, owing allegiance only to shrill Charlene, the kids and the trailer-park landlord. Men who are behind on the car payments. They got rights. Goddamn kids. Dykes and pansies. Scrub 'em down. Knock 'em down. Smoke 'em out. Hose 'em. Whatever it takes. They'll wait. They got time, they got smokes, they got this guy from the Company comes round, torpedo rolls, hot coffee, you name it. Ethics? Ecology? Forget about it. The road goes through, okay? Whatever it takes.

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