If you’re among those who watch peak oil events, and came to the scene after about 2007 or so, you can be forgiven for not knowing what “relocalization” means. Back in 2001 when I first learned of peak oil, everyone understood relocalization to be the best and most comprehensive response. It meant running globalization in reverse: learning to manufacture goods locally and regionally; rebuilding the networks of small businesses that made distribution of these goods efficient and provided a living for those involved; establishing barter and alternative currency schemes to make sure we all still had means of trading our goods and services with each other even in the absence of a workable national currency. It was a fantastic idea, and it still is.
But after the 2006 Local Solutions conference in NYC, relocalization fell by the wayside when its two most visible and ardent supporters, Mike Ruppert and Catherine Austin Fitts, parted company and the limelight. Into this gaping void came “Transition Towns,” a wholly different model for response to peak oil and to decline more generally. Where relocalization was American to the core, and was essentially a road map to reviving the ruins of what served us well prior to the advent of oil, Transition Towns are European in character and depend on a European view of land and property rights that harkens back to its own pre-industrial history. And while post-petroleum preppers have been importing Transition Towns to America with all their might, no one has stopped to consider that America exists precisely because millions of Europeans didn’t like the view of land and property rights to which they were subject. In America, Transition Towns are hardly more than an organic gardening club for rich, white suburbanites who have investments to worry about, sprawling lawns to permaculture, and savings enough to plunk down on hybrid and clean-diesel vehicles. It is, in other words, a complete failure with regard to preparing the vast majority of people for hard times.
I’d always assumed relocalization would happen in the United States, regardless of what the official prepper folks are doing, because that’s what Americans do — no matter how desperate the situation, somebody figures out a way to sell something people need, and then others follow suit. We would be so much farther ahead right now had those with the peak oil megaphones not pushed Transition Towns on us, not assumed that we could plug a European response into an American outlet and have it work.
But I fear now that 2012 NDAA — and SOPA, which I’ll write about over the weekend — will close the window of opportunity we’ve had to relocalize.
The language of 2012 NDAA states that:
A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces
Can be subject to:
Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force
Even if that person is an American citizen or lawful resident alien:
(1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS — The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.
(2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS — The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.
The point in the above quote is that while the military is not required to detain American citizens on American soil, it is allowed to do so.
Black Panther Party & Relocalization
Now how does this affect relocalization?
The FBI set the precent in its dealings with the Black Panther Party. While some factions of the BPP were admittedly violent, this was not the entire story by a long shot. Much of BPP’s work focused on building community-level self-sufficiency, including education, food, clothing, shelter, and security. BPP sought to drop out of a system that was profiting from its members’ misery, and to create its own network of resilient enclaves in cities across the country.
While the violent faction of BPP gave the FBI “plausible deniability” in its efforts to suppress the movement, I personally believe BPP’s real threat was its growing success in creating a parallel, independent economy. If other disaffected groups got wind of the fact that BPP could take care of its own without government or corporate intervention, it could spawn a wholesale migration of money away from the vampire squid. Perhaps worse, BPP’s success could have provided a framework for future application by wealthy whites who subscribe to a more libertarian, laissez-faire ideology. The rich producers in Atlas Shrugged did drop out, after all. We can’t have people, rich or poor, managing their own money for their own benefit now, can we?
“The Greatest Threat To Internal Security”
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover stated BPP was “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and in the post-9/11 world, the group would have been labeled terrorist. Indeed, after passage of the PATRIOT Act, former BPP members were visited by agents of the Department of Homeland Security’s Anti-Terrorist Task Force for events that occurred 30 years prior.
BPP’s self-sufficiency efforts were exactly right. This is precisely what groups focused on relocalization need to do: arrange for education, basic needs, security, and independent trade networks independent of the globalized system that is now crumbling around us. Relocalizers could learn a great deal from BPP. In fact, I would go so far as to say that BPP offers the only example of successful relocalization in recent history. In a sane world, we would all be reading The Black Panther newspaper archives to learn what we could.
But because of 2012 NDAA, the stakes now are much higher than they were two weeks ago. Any sort of community-level relocalization will necessarily look like the BPP’s self-sufficiency activities of the late 1960s, simply because that’s what relocalization looks like. But any activity that looks like this is, in the eyes of TPTB, terrorism. It hardly seems like a stretch to see that anyone engaging in genuine relocalization efforts — not the phony “Transition Town” type — is subject to the “terrorist” label, and to all the 2012 NDAA consequences that go with it.
Is it too late for relocalization? I certainly hope not. But I think it is undeniable that the leaders of the decline/collapse “community” (for lack of a better word) have led us to squander a 5+ year window of opportunity, focusing on “community building” and assorted kum-ba-ya rather than figuring out the nuts and bolts of what peak oil and financial collapse truly mean for the vast majority of us.