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As Radical As Reality: An Interview with Mickey Z

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Message Frank Smecker
Mickey Z is a self-educated writer, activist and lecturer living in New York City. He is the author of nearly ten books, and is probably the only person on the planet to have appeared in both a karate flick with Billy "Tae Bo" Blanks and a political book with Howard Zinn. Aware of today's mounting environmental, economical and social problems, problems some would say are manifestations of a collapse-in-progress of the traditional institutions, paradigms and behaviors of an unsustainable establishment we've known our entire lives, Z channels said awareness into his work, inspiring his readers to do the same. "When exactly does all this goddamned awareness translate into productive action and tangible change?" Z asks. "We're aware of global warming and its causes, factory farms, war crimes, environmental degradation, political corruption, fixed elections, the health care crisis" We know about it all," he says. "We talk about it. We write about it. We complain about it. We hold meetings, talks, seminars, and classes about it. We march about it. We make signs about it. Nothing changes."

In this interview, Mickey Z provides some possible answers to such a dilemma. "If we were to view all living things--along with ourselves--as part of one collective soul," Z puts forth, "how could we not defend that soul by any means necessary?"

FJS: With today's social arrangements, every two seconds, somewhere in the world a human being starves to death; every 46 seconds a woman is raped; every day 150 animal species go extinct, 60-70-million plastic water bottles get impetuously discarded (ending up in an ocean already tainted with islands of refuse, sheen with oil), 200,000 acres of rain forest are destroyed, 29,158 children under the age of five die from preventable causes, and 13 million tons of toxic chemicals are released across the globe all of this, day-to-day" And yet, so many of us are aware of these atrocities. Can you talk about the alarming disconnect in this culture between awareness and change for the better?

MZ: The disconnect may be alarming but it's not really surprising and definitely not accidental. I just walked in the door and on my walk, I saw a bumper sticker that read: "Spread my work ethic, not my wealth." In a way, we're all subjects in an immense social engineering experiment. It's almost as if the top 5% (economically speaking) want to see how much they can f**k us before we realize who is doing the f**king. They point us at women, gays, ethnic minorities, and "socialists" and we voluntarily choose to aim our anger in those directions. It's much, much easier, say, to blame so-called "illegals" than to accept that our very way of life is nothing less than a global crime scene.

FJS: What do you mean by "our very way of life" being "nothing less than a global crime scene?"

MZ: Due to our compliance and/or silence and/or inaction, we've played a role in bringing our culture to the brink of social, economic, and environmental collapse.

FJS: You know, some would say we're not at all on the brink of economic, social and environmental collapse, but, rather, the collapse of it all has already begun. That this is the endgame. And the most important thing to do now is to mitigate the impact of civilization's collapse and protect what's left of the natural world by any means necessary. What are your thoughts on this outlook?

MZ: I don't know. I've found that even on a personal level, I can't always recognize the signs of decay. I guess, whatever stage of collapse we're in, it's collapse; thus, all the more reason to get busy, like, yesterday.

FJS: With regard to climate change and ecological collapse, in my opinion it's very difficult for people to align themselves with an effective outlet when capitalism has co-opted environmentalism and stolen the "green movement" (capitalism has a nasty way of either co-opting, deriding, subverting or eliminating any system of values that poses as an alternative to its own). Here's my take on why many "activist" groups have such minimal success: a.) they're too entrenched in the bureaucracy of the dominant system b.) most are "fighting" to preserve civilization in the wake of crisis refusing to accept that civilization is the problem and root cause c.) not enough activists and groups are radical enough, e.g., the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, EPA, et al. are ineffective often due to venality and espousal of dominant cultural norms, values and privileges d.) too many groups and individuals are insular and afraid to align themselves with more militant and radical environmental and animal rights groups (whom haven't harmed a living being because they're fighting for the preservation of life) when clearly both parties want the same ends e.) too many folks don't want to part ways with their cheap perks the dominant social arrangements "award" them. And the reasons continue. What's your take?

MZ: I'd say you covered most of the proverbial bases. We've gotten so used to corporate propaganda, we no longer recognize it for what it is and we'll even give our lives to defend it. If only the sharp minds that conjure up such myths and hype were to aim their intellects in the direction of unity"

FJS: Back in March you attended the Left Forum. There you explained why the Left must come to grips with Animal Liberation movements. Can you talk a bit about that?

MZ: Attempting to separate violence against humans from violence against animals (and all nature) is like trying to disconnect the human circulatory system from the respiratory system. The Left's absence on issues of animal rights, veganism, and darker shades of green is not just inexcusable. It's suicidal. Industrial civilization is the enemy here, not this particular president or that particular gender or those particular laws. And single issues are not the path to a more sane culture. We need a far more holistic view of radical activism and that cannot happen until most of us recognize the connections between humans and animals, humans and nature.

In the book (and movie), The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad sez: "Maybe we're not all individual souls, but maybe we're all part of one big soul." Incredibly basic, yes" but within that simplicity lies what I see as the secret: If we were to view all living things--along with ourselves--as part of one collective soul, how could we not defend that soul by any means necessary?

For more, this podcast plays the talk I gave with some added conversation: click here

FJS: What impact does factory farming have on the planet?

MZ: We can start with it being the number one cause of human-created greenhouse gases, toss in deforestation, water pollution, antibiotics, hormones, etc., rampant exploitation of workers, and a health holocaust for humans" and we still would not have gotten to the heart of the matter.

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Frank Joseph Smecker is a writer from Richmond, Vermont.
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