Monthly Archives: December 2011

The University of Vermont's Culture of Violence

“If you could rape someone, who would it be?”  That was the question which appeared on a survey circulated by members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at the University of Vermont recently which went viral on the Internet.  UVM had once again lived up to its reputation as a place where wealthy kids from the Northeast, who can’t get into Ivy League schools, can come play in the snow for four years.

But why was this a surprise to anyone familiar with UVM’s culture of violence which dates back at least twenty years?  Who could ever forget the 1999 “elephant walk” in which freshmen members of the UVM ice hockey team were forced to wear women’s underwear, drink warm beer and liquor until they vomited, and parade around like circus elephants holding each other’s genitals? This incident resulted in suspension of the hockey season that year and the resignation of the University’s president.

Back in the early 90s alcohol was a contributing factor in the deaths of four UVM students in five years.  For all too many UVM students their motto is, “You can’t believe how drunk I got last night.”  More recently four officers of another UVM fraternity were charged with violating the state’s new hazing law enacted after the 1999 UVM ice hockey scandal.

UVM’s affinity for violence was reaffirmed by the announcement that it had entered into a partnership with the U.S. government-owned Sandia National Laboratories, known best for the fact that it designs, builds, and tests nuclear weapons.  Although Sandia’s research at UVM will not involve weapons of mass destruction, no one seems to care whether UVM is being used by Sandia to help legitimize its real business, instruments of death.  UVM will receive $9 million from Sandia.  Money still speaks.

Like most universities in the United States, UVM has an active ROTC program whose aim is to train professional killers to support the American Empire’s policy of full spectrum dominance.  Many ROTC students have four-year scholarships.  Upon graduation they agree to go anywhere in the world to which they are assigned by Uncle Sam to kill in the name of the State.  Ironically, UVM also has a premier medical school committed to saving lives rather than destroying them.

And then there is the case of Major General Michael Dubie, head of the Vermont National Guard.  For his role in sending young Vermonters to faraway places such as Afghanistan and Iraq to kill or be killed on behalf of the Empire, General Dubie was awarded an honorary UVM doctorate degree by the Board of Trustees.

The most exasperating aspect of UVM’s culture of violence is the indifference expressed towards it by the UVM board of trustees, administration, faculty, and students.  Neither General Dubie’s honorary degree nor the Sandia Corporation were ever discussed by the UVM Faculty Senate.  At most reputable universities, honorary degrees have to be approved by the faculty’s governing body.  Not so at UVM.

The real issue facing UVM is not the Sigma Phi Epsilon rape survey question, but rather how many unreported rapes have there been at UVM over the past twenty years as a result of the University’s benign neglect of its culture of violence?

Thomas H. Naylor

December 26, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.

A Revolutionary's Handbook Disguised as a Book on Deep Ecology

Aric McBay and Lierre Keith’s provocative new book Deep Green Resistance (Seven Stories Press, 2011) should be required reading for every Occupy Wall Street sympathizer worldwide.  Disguised as a book about global warming and the demise of life on the planet earth, this book is little short of a handbook for revolution to dismantle the global industrial economy.  It also represents a frontal assault against technofascism – affluenza, technomania, cybermania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and imperialism.

Appropriately, the preface of Deep Green Resistance was written by radical environmentalist Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame.  The authors want to stop global warming, end globalized exploitation of the poor, and stop the planet from being devoured alive.  They actually want to bring down civilization.  According to Jensen, bringing down civilization means “depriving the rich of their ability to steal form the poor, and it means depriving the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet.”  McBay and Keith add that it also means “thoroughly destroying the political, the social, physical, and technological infrastructure that not only permits the rich to steal and the powerful to destroy, but rewards them for doing so.”  That’s a lot!

The rationale underlying Deep Green Resistance is as follows:

Humans aren’t going to do anything in time to prevent the planet from being destroyed wholesale.  Poor people are too preoccupied by primary emergencies, rich people benefit from the status quo, and the middle class (rich people by global standards) are too obsessed with their own entitlement and the technological spectacle to do anything.  The risk of runaway global warming is immediate.  A drop in the human population is inevitable, and fewer people will die if collapse happens sooner.


McBay and Keith fully grasp the fact that just as the global industrial economy is not fixable in its present form, so too is the United States government unfixable.  Unlike the Occupy Wall Streeters, they have not been taken in by spurious left-wing reform proposals such as campaign finance reform and laws curbing corporate personhood.  Also to their credit, the authors have neither been seduced by pop environmentalists such as Al Gore and Bill McKibben nor the feel good Transition Town movement.

In the first section of the book Lierre Keith sketches out the moral, philosophical, and political underpinnings of Deep Green Resistance.  Her crisp, clear, radical, cogent message has real bite.  There is no doubt about where she stands.

In the second and third sections of the book Aric McBay outlines a series of alternative actions all aimed at “bringing down civilization.”  Some of these actions are acts of omission such as strikes, boycotts, embargoes, tax resistance, conscientious objection, civil disobedience, mutiny, and insubordination.  Others are acts of commission which may be as benign as lobbying, protests, and public education.  But some are not so benign.  These include obstruction, occupation, material destruction, and even violence against humans.  Basically, what McBay is all about is teaching his readers how to plan, organize, and execute a revolution.

In spite of my enthusiasm for this hard-hitting, compelling book, I do have two rather serious reservations about it.  Although I have sympathy with the goal of dismantling the global industrial economy, the global economy is a pretty diffuse target.  It is effectively controlled by Wall Street and Corporate America through their proxy the United States government.  To be quite blunt the role of the U.S. Government is to impose the will of its masters on the rest of the world.

If you want to bring down global capitalism, you target Wall Street and Corporate America, just as the Occupy Wall Streeters are doing.  The focus should be on dissolving the American Empire, the root cause of most of the world’s environmental problems and global warming.  The American Empire is too big, too powerful, too undemocratic, too materialistic, too environmentally irresponsible, too racist, too militaristic, and too violent.  Unfortunately, much of the rest of the world still chooses to emulate its behavior.  When the Empire falls, so too will global capitalism.

My second reservation with Deep Green Resistance stems from its endorsement of violence against humans.  Virtually every political leader throughout history who has ever led his nation into war has framed the problem of war versus peace as one in which there are only two choices.  Either risk being the victim or become the executioner.  McBay and Keith come dangerously close to this position.  In their view we either bring down civilization, even if it involves human violence, or civilization will destroy us all.  French writer Albert Camus argued that such a choice is no choice at all.  We always have the option of refusing to be either the victim or the murderer.

In 1989 Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland brought down their communist regimes nonviolently within a few months of each other.  Romania was the bloody exception to the rule.  Two years later the Soviet Union imploded nonviolently.

Engaging in violence against the American Empire, the most powerful empire in history, would be an exercise in utter futility.

I believe there is much to be learned from Deep Green Resistance, but McBay and Keith should reconsider their position on violence against humans.

Thomas H. Naylor

December 5, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.