Wars against the people: A Web Portal

The “Wars Against the People” web-portal project is an initiative of The People, Yes! Network (TPYN), an attempt by a core group of grassroots activists to foster a more effective global movement of systemic change by nurturing an infrastructure of networking, strategizing and cooperation among left and progressive groups worldwide.

Periodic anti-war demonstrations led by a number of peace organizations have long been associated with the left/progressive camp, but in actuality we know little about militaries, weapons systems, strategies of control and the powerful emerging technologies they are able to harness, or of the militarization of local police. Framed as counterinsurgency operations against “bad guys” or securitization against terrorists, weapons and agencies of repression in the hands of governments in fact serve more or less visible state and corporate interests, whether at home or abroad. The military and security industrial complex has grown into a two and a half trillion dollar a year industry. It profoundly distorts the global economy and societies – the poorest countries being either the victims of conflict or major arms consumers themselves – while posing fundamental challenges to civil liberties in the Global North. Yet the impact of the military/security complex is not fully appreciated by either activists or the general public, nor do we know much about technologies of securitization.

Moreover in their generally localized struggles for social and environmental justice, grassroots groups often lack the Big (Critical) Picture, and thus strategies and campaigns for attacking the systemic sources of injustice and unsustainability. What, after all, is the nature of the capitalist world order within which we all live, that determines every aspect of our lives, and that in the end breeds many of the ills from which we suffer, whether in our local communities or globally? Given the fact that it exploits yet excludes so many people while destroying the very conditions of sustainable life, how does global capital work and enforce its hegemony over our lives? Ultimately, what needs to be done to replace it with a world system based on human needs and environmental sustainability rather than on capital?

“Wars Against The People,” the web-based “portal” into the terrain of global conflict proposed here, offers activists a critical and accessible entry point into the ways in which transnational capitalism enforces its hegemony. But it is more: the portal will inevitably evolve so that many of the issues with which civil society is engaged – issues which are organically related yet often treated as separate entities – will be presented in a holistic and comprehensible fashion. As a primary resource, the portal will be constructed so as to enable grassroots groups and analysts alike to upload their materials, to compare notes with other activists, and to cultivate political relationships that give rise to collective strategizing and effective on a global scale. All with an eye toward generating a broad-based movement of fundamental, progressive systemic change.

Wars Against the People Web “Portal”

Properly planned and executed, on-line portals are capable of conveying complex issues and information accessible, visual and engaging ways – even provocative subjects that challenge prevailing world-views. The portal proposed here, entitled “Wars Against The People” (after the title of project coordinator Jeff Halper’s latest book) focuses on the new forms that war is assuming, securocratic wars arising from resistance to an unsustainable, exclusivist and violent capitalist world order, of policing, discipline and control rather than of victory over interstate foes.

The Wars Against the People portal will be composed of five “layers” that will accommodate different uses of and approaches to the site as well as the presentation of a wide range of issues and situations:

Layer 1

An initial “pathway.” The portal opens with a journey into the terrain of global conflict, a guided tour of warfare, securitization and pacification graphically presented in video, text, still photos, audio, 3-D UX graphics and interactive experiences. On the pathway visitors encounter not only the the range of conflict and the cutting-edge technologies behind modern weapons systems, but the systemic logic of exploitation and control behind the conflicts, the interests served as capital enforces its hegemony. The “pathway,” presented below, revolves around six Stations, each introducing a key component of global conflict:

Each station will feature a variety of learning experiences conveyed through interactive technologies and multi-media. These might take the form of informational displays or exhibits (the interactive map of the global arms trade, for example, or a presentation of future weapons systems), or visual presentations key concepts. Visitors will encounter actual players via podcasts and on-line interaction: refugees, asylum seeks and migrants; residents of favelas in Brazil undergoing “pacification”; children in Gaza under Israeli bombardment; individuals trying to survive and cope in the Congo; workers living under repressive conditions in China and Indonesia; young people living in the mayhem of Syria, as well as military people, police and corporate executives. Throughout their visit the site will pose critical questions and present key underlying issues, so that the learning and experiencing can be focused and reflected upon.

Station 1

Station 1 opens the portal with a visual and interactive presentation of the terrain of global conflict, showing the range of conflicts throughout the world and categorizing them to that some pattern can be seen. An overall distinction is made between conventional inter-state wars, hybrid wars or asymmetrical conflicts, “new wars” akin to identity-based civil conflicts, and securocratic wars concerned with the domestic policing of societies.

Station 2

Station 2 contextualizes war in all its forms within the capitalist world system whose ruling classes and economic interests it serves by ensuring a social order conducive to profit and consumerism as well as a political-geographic order that assures the smooth flow of resources, products and capital – both functions related more to policing than to actual warfare. The ultimate aim is pacification, the elimination or suppression of opposition to a point where resistance is impossible.

Station 3

Station 3 develops the notion of war-as-policing by tracing its evolution from colonial warfare (e.g., the Opium Wars, Algeria, Kenya) through the neo-colonial forms that emerged after WWII (looking, for instance, at “development,” “peace-keeping” and militarized humanitarianism) and on to wars of the neoliberal era (Latin America in the 1970s and ‘80s, Iraq and others).

Station 4

Station 4 asks the fundamental question: How is it done? Focusing more on what have been called “weapons of repression” than conventional weapons of war, this section nevertheless exposes the visitor to the technologies of modern war and policing that pose genuine threats of pacification, the ultimate goal of capitalism, on a global scale. This section attempts to inform those who oppose war and securitization of newly-emergent technologies of control (such as nanotechnology or digitalized surveillance systems) of which they are not fully aware.

Station 5

Station 5 focuses on securitization as represented by the Security State, a model common to the Global South but increasingly visible in the Global North as well, in which concerns over security overwhelm democratic processes and protections. A significant part of securitization has to do with language and its role in framing issues in ways that domesticate and manufacture consent – “occupied language,” as one participant put it. Finally,

Station 6

Station 6 poses the challenge: Where do we go from here? Issues of what “peace” actually means (particularly a just peace, but also considering the role of conflict in the world system) are surely primary, as are strategies of anti-securitization. Other key issues enter here as well, such as resistance both to and within the military. This section will eventually feed into the challenge of towards formulating the outlines of an alternative, more human-centric world systems, a task of the wider GlobalScapes project.

Layers 2-3

Delving more deeply. The pathway is, of course, only an introduction. At particular junctures the pathway – certainly at every Station and perhaps linked to key subjects within a Station – visitors will be given the opportunity to explore issues more deeply. A second level will present in greater detail specific issues and situations presented in the pathway, while a third will examine those issues according to geographical areas. The ability to enter deeper layers from any point on the pathway will enable visitors to examine in greater detail particular issues of interest to them, especially important if the portal is to be a resource for returning and advanced visitors. Entering from “the political economy of wars,” for instance, might lead into a presentation of

SIPRI data on the arms trade or to an interactive display of the involvement of low-income countries in that trade and on to the ability to look in depth at the expenditures of individual countries and militias. Entering from “police and war” will lead to experiences activists have in countries around the world as they attempt to advance progressive agendas.

Indeed, it is on these deeper levels that the moderators of the portal “meet” the activists uploading their information. The site will be designed, as mentioned, to accommodate a large data-base containing materials uploaded by activists and others, which will be accessible to visitors. As in a museum, however, portal staff, working with people throughout the global network, will organize some of that material into in-depth presentations for those seeking information beyond the pathway itself.

Layer 4

Confronting “challenges.” As mentioned, the portal aims not only to educate but to generate analyses and effective campaigning. Towards that end it poses “challenges” raised by the securocratic technologies of militaries, security agencies and police forces as global capital resists human- and environmental-centric change. This layer of the portal consists more of active “gaming” than merely experiencing the presentations of the pathway. Indeed, presenting the capitalist world system in its entirety as a panoptican, an all-powerful, all-pervasive system of control that fosters self-disciple amongst its inhabitants, raises ultimate challenges of how to resist and escape. Presented as scenarios, these challenges might include (for a start): identifying the systemic sources of violence necessary for the functioning of the capitalist world system, how they play out in different political, economic, geographic and social contexts (a kind of mapping of conflicts and their causes), and collective brainstorming over ways of defending populations against systemic violence. How, then, do we create spaces of resistance, especially in the face of such emerging technologies of repression as nano-weapons, genetic enhancing, the deployment of killer robots and totalizing surveillance systems?

Layer 5

An activists’ resource center and forum. In the end, the portal is conceived as a resource, that not only presents a critical perspective on the operation on global capital as it enforces its hegemony but also a resource that, by allowing activists and analysts to upload texts, documents and visual materials from their own locales and experiences, will facilitate the production of joint exhibits, research and other cooperative endeavors. From this ever-growing pool of materials, the product of collective endeavor and accessible to all, actual physical exhibits may be generated that effectively highlight issues that local groups want to communicate to the wider community, aided by portal staff. As a dynamic site of interaction, the portal will spawn lively debate, discussion and political initiatives among the staff, activists, analysts and visitors from the general public. Besides presentations and the resources it offers, the portal will have the capacity to host real-time conversations among visitors navigating the site, as well as workshops and on-line conferences.

The “Organic” Expansion of the Wars Against the People Portal

Into a Broader GlobalScapes Web-Venue

The on-line “portal” envisioned here lays out the world system as a series of interconnected “scapes,” the way the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai breaks down and presents the global political landscape. “Scapes” offer a useful organizing framework that captures major constellations of issues without losing their dynamic and fluid interactions. Appadurai suggests five global “scapes” – the ethnoscape, technoscape and finanscape, which are disseminated and to a degree constructed by the mediascape and ideoscape (prevailing ideologies and world-views) – to which we have respectfully added five others: the bioscope (people living in fundamentally different life circumstances), socioscape (especially class differentials, but also rural/urban, etc.), resourcescape (the distribution of natural and strategic resources, which plays a major role in world politics), powerscape (the configuration of the world-system into core, semi-peripheral and peripheral spheres of economic and political power, types of governing and control in strong or weak states, the power of corporations and the like) and the securo-warscape – with which the portal project begins. Together, the GlobalScapes may be portrayed as follows:

While the structure of each of the scapes would be similar to that of the Securo-Warscape, the emergence of a comprehensive and interrelated site of the collective GlobalScapes would lead to a sixth layer:

Layer 6

Constructing an alternative world system. Ultimately, as the larger GlobalScapes site takes on form, each scape constructed as a portal that leads into interconnected pan-scape issues, a sixth layer will emerge, a kind of simulation game in which visitors/activists confront the task of constructing an alternative world system that is just, egalitarians and inclusive, pluralistic and sustainable. This, after all, is the bottom line purpose of the project as a whole.

Project Organization and Timeline

The “Wars Against the People” web-portal project is an initiative of The People, Yes! Network (TPYN), an attempt by a core group of grassroots activists to foster a more effective global movement of systemic change by nurturing an infrastructure of networking, strategizing and cooperation among left and progressive groups worldwide. TPYN also seeks to empower grassroots activists by linking them with critical intellectuals whose concepts and analyses are crucial for guiding their activities.

As mentioned, the site will be open and participatory. Materials and other forms of input – solicited analytical pieces in prospective publications, for example, participation in workshops or conferences or willingness to act as resource people in the ongoing development of the portal – will be incorporated so that it genuinely reflects as broad a presentation as possible of local, regional and global issues. Networking among specialists in military/security matters, critical analysts and grassroots, and their involvement in planning workshops – which will be an ongoing activity as the site continues to develop and expand into other issue areas – has already shaped the portal’s emerging structure and content. As the project develops, an advisory committee comprised of activists, researchers, analysts, technical experts, political actors and selected others will be recruited to ensure high and relevant standards of content as well as the site’s relevance as a resource for activists.

TPYN is registered as an international NGO (AISBL) in Belgium, and Jeff Halper, an anthropologist, long-time activist on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and TPYN co-founder, serves as the project coordinator. Dimitri Fekas, also a TPYN co-founder, is person responsible for the web design.