Archive for December, 2008

Israel Bombs Gaza Killing Hundreds

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Over the weekend Israel bombed the Gaza strip, destroying a University, a mosque, killing at least 51 civilians and several hundred more persons who may or may not be Hamas members. The excuse Israel uses is the increase in homemade rocket attacks upon Israel from inside of Gaza. These have led to the deaths of at least two persons in Israel.
The incredible thing to me is the hubris of the Israelis who claim that these massive air, sea and land assaults upon Gaza are an appropriate response to a few Katuscha rockets being launched by angry Palestinians fed up with the Israeli blockade of Gaza that has resulted in massive shortages of basic medicines, food stuffs and fuel in Gaza. The United States government seems to be in the hands of the pro Israeli lobby, ignoring the intensity of the Israeli attacks upon the people of Gaza, only mentioning the rockets being launched from the Gaza. These rockets are largely ineffective, symbolic responses to the increased pressure from Israel.
Why does the United States insist upon supporting the Israeli position? The United States put pressure on the governments of Jordan and Egypt to support the Israeli line. But there have been massive protests in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt to protest the Israeli assaults.
The government of Iran seems to be the only one that openly supports the position of the people in Gaza with Syria expressing a more limited support by ending negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights. Hezbollah led massive demonstrations in Beirut today to show their solidarity with the people of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has offered verbal support to the people in Gaza but at this point there is little they seem willing to do to support their rivals in Gaza. Sometimes people forget that the people of Gaza voted for Hamas as a legitimate government in free and fair elections. These elections pissed off the Bush administration who like elections when they are controlled by US government interests and don’t care much for elections that are out of American control.
Israel has an election coming up very soon and this attack on Gaza is a part of their version of playing hard ball in these upcoming elections. With the Bush administration on its way out and there being something of a power vacuum in Washington, the Israelis see this as the perfect time to get as much done as they can before the Obama people gain the helm in Washington. So far Obama has made the typical pro Israeli noise that all American administrations make, and the foreign policy team seems to be made up of Clinton era post Cold War warriors, there is an undercurrent of hope in the rest of the world that America will take a new and more balanced approach to the world.
We need to let our government officials know that we are tired of having our foreign policies hijacked by a small group of powerful lobbyists. I don’t expect every American to all of a sudden give a damn about what happens to Hamas or to the people of Gaza but we should at least have the sense of compassion for the underdog to become angry enough with Israel to censure that government for the needless killing of civilians in Gaza. Women and children die in the hundreds because of an unreasonable policy of punishing the people of Gaza for electing a government that Israel and the United States does not approve.
Hamas claims the rockets are being fired by provocateurs hired by Israel. That may be a bit of a stretch for us to believe but it is not a stretch to see how the response of Israel is intemperate, inhumane and the actions of a nation that has forgotten its own birth as the world paid penance for the suffering of the Jews under the Nazis. How could people who have a country born out of such pain be so cruel and cold hearted when dealing with others whom they have dispossessed? I find it hard to believe, but in this world, it is not so hard. Politicians do much evil in the name of the greater good.
Hamas maybe manipulating the anger of the Muslim peoples around the world, stirring up sympathy and trusting that Israel will act in a barbaric and cruel manner. They may expect the United States to react with indifference to the plight of their people, they may even be testing the waters to see what kind of a leader Obama will be. Be that as it may, there is still no excuse for the massive bombing of Gaza and for the on going blockade. Israel must come to accept and deal with Hamas and the sooner they do the sooner Hamas will no longer be able to use their position as the leaders of an oppressed people to allow rockets to be released into the state of Israel.
The leaders of Hamas will have to act as responsible parties once they are treated as the legitimate government of Gaza that they claim to be. Certainly the people of Gaza will be free to decide if the Hamas is a government that has lived up to its promises and if they no longer have to fight Israel they will have to serve the people or get out. By not recognising them the Israeli government is simply allowing Hamas to focus on resistance to Israel than to providing the government services that Hamas was elected to provide. Again people forget that they were elected because they were not corrupt like the PLO government had been.
We need to tell our leaders enough bloodshed. Enough of supporting Israel with no restrictions. We must put pressure on Israel to make peace with the Palestinians and put the interests of all the people in the middle east on an even handed level of concern. That means respecting the rights of the Palestinians, making peace with Iran, negotiating with the Taliban, Syria and any other peoples whom we have demonized, ignored, manipulated and oppressed as part of our national policy.
As a person who believes in socialism and the withering away of the state, I find all of these state players to be offensive on a deep level. I want to see human values placed above that of all state players. Although I do understand that in times of struggle there will be innocent victims, but let me make it clear the only war I believe in is that of the final struggle to overthrow capitalism and to bring about world socialism and peace. As an anarchist activist I had hoped that we the people would be able to dispense with all parties and bosses immediately without any intermediate phase. After the fiasco in the Soviet Bloc where communism did not come, where the state simply got stronger and more oppressive, and where a lack of enthusiastic support on the part of the masses led to economic malaise, I had hoped that an immediate move to socialism, workers control and the demolition of the state would be possible. Now I am not so sure, I feel there may be a longer period of state power and that there needs to be a state power that actively takes the part of the masses of the people. At least when there was a Soviet Union it provided an alternative to the ravages of rampant capitalism. Without it we have seen an increase in the accumulation of wealth on the part of the few and the weakening of the unions and other representatives of people power. We need a strong body that resists capitalist state power and I am not sure that anarchists are themselves disciplined enough to be able to pull it off. We need an alternative power to the capitalists. We need it now. We need to build alternative institutions of people power to create a peaceful socialist and free world.

Horizontalism, May 68 And The Revolution

Friday, December 26th, 2008

I am reading about revolution. I recently finished “Prelude To Revolution” by Daniel Singer, about May 68 in France, and I am reading “Horizontalism” edited by Marina Sitrin, a book about Argentina and the events there that have resulted because of the collapse of the economy.
Bank accounts were frozen, a national emergency was declared in Argentina and the events of December 19/20 2001 was their 9-11. There was a massive uprising of the middle classes who went out into the streets banging on pot and shouting “Que se vayan todos.” Meaning they all must go, the politicians. And go they did, 4 governments in a month.
It was an economic crisis brought about by the stringent policies of the IMF placed on Argentine governments who went to that institution for loans. The government froze the bank accounts of the citizens to make payments on those loans and the citizenry erupted. They marched on the government centers spontaneously after watching poor people being shot while looting stores for food on TV. People started banging pots, it was picked up by the media, then more did, and then they headed out into the streets and the government fell as hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens declared they had had enough of corrupt rule by the neo-liberal interests who were following the ‘Chicago Boys’ economic policies of Milton Friedman.
But the book, Horizontalism, published by AK books is supposed to be about the growth of the popular movements in Argentina in response to this crisis. The movements the editor focuses on are the movements of the autonomists. They were in the unemployed workers assemblies, the neighborhood assemblies and the recuperated businesses. It is a series of interviews with individuals who have participated in the movements who are telling the story of what has happened in their lives in relationship to these movements for direct democracy. There is no analysis of the causes of the economic collapse, only a short introduction to some of the terms used by the protagonists in the book. There is also a bit of an introduction to the movement of the unemployed in the 90’s who took to blockading streets until the government would meet demands for food and other survival needs.
It is interesting and even inspiring as a series of anecdotes. Unfortunately I was looking for information about what we might be able to use from the Argentine experience here in the US as we enter our own economic crisis and for that purpose I find lots of emotional support but little of empirical value. The book is written by a sensitive and intelligent fellow traveler but not by a sociologist or economist. Although it is nice to know that there are a couple of dozen intelligent workers in Argentina, some of whom seem to be up on the latest post structuralist thought coming out of France, there is little there that tells me how things were done, by how many people, and how they are faring as a proportion of the Argentine economy.
From what I can tell there were at the height of this movement in the early 2000’s something like 200 to 300 assemblies with 200 to 300 persons in each participating in what seems to have been weekly meetings to discuss any and all issues. That gives a number of 40,000 to 90,000 persons. Argentina has some 36 million persons according to Wikipedia. Buenos Aires the main city has 12 million in the metro area. It is where most of the action occurs from what I can tell, although in the book the details are vague. Names are sometimes not given, locations are only that of the name of the assembly with only occasional reference to the physical location. What is given in the book is a smattering of highly subjective impressions of a movement that involves people who are baking bread, raising rabbits, running a print shop, a pottery factory, a health clinic and a 4 star hotel. There is no attempt to break down statistical information that might give an idea as to the number of people affected. There are no maps to give a geographical sense of the locales affected and there is no way of knowing how long lasting any of these assemblies and recuperated factories are. What we get is a snapshot of a movement that affects a small minority of the population.
They seem to be afraid of being taken over by the state and the political parties and one gets the impression of a small group of idealists putting up a brave front in a sea of people going on about their lives in an ongoing crisis. How the rest of the population is faring is unknown as this book deals with the rest of the world through the vantage point of the few who participate and no one who has left the movement is interviewed. What we have is a sensational bit of propaganda. There is little of use in trying to figure out what is going on in Argentina now or has been in the last decade. It is as if a history of the United States was written from the perspective of an anti Iraq war protester. It would be interesting but not exactly representative of what most Americans were doing over the last decade.
I was looking for information and I got a pep talk. I guess that is what I should have expected from an anarchist publisher, but I had hoped for some analysis. Discovering that people love one another in Argentina should be no surprise to any one, discovering how they survived a total collapse of the economy and the government should have been an interesting read, unfortunately this is not the place to find it.
I kept reading about how spontaneous things were, but I doubt if everyone in Argentina is reading Deleuze and his theories of Rhizomes. Something articulated by one of the persons interviewed. If you are not an initiate here is an excerpt from Wikipedia.
“Rhizome as a mode of knowledge.
Gilles Deleuze and FĂ©lix Guattari used the term “rhizome” to describe theory and research that allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation. In A Thousand Plateaus, they opposed it to an arborescent conception of knowledge, which worked with dualist categories and binary choices. A rhizome works with horizontal and trans-species connections, while an arborescent model works with vertical and linear connections. Their use of the “orchid and the wasp” was taken from the biological concept of mutualism, in which two different species interact together to form a multiplicity (i.e. a unity that is multiple in itself). Horizontal gene transfer would also be a good illustration.”
I have read sections of ‘A Thousand Plateaus” and I have scratched my head over it. Maybe it was the translation from the french but much of it I found to be obtuse mental play, but I am not that smart of a guy and I am amazed at the sophistication of these unemployed workers in Argentina. Perhaps the book would have been better titled. “Intellectual games of the unemployed intelligentsia in Argentina”.
A fairer appraisal of a pre revolutionary situation would be that of Daniel Singer’s “Prelude To Revolution”. It was written in 1969 after the tumultuous year of 1968 about the May events in France. He angrily denounces the betrayal of the workers by the Communist Party in France and assesses the possibility of a revolution in the then near future. He was optimistic, and the book reprinted shortly after the events in Seattle in 1999 by South End Press shows that hope springs eternally in the soul of a believer.
This was just before Bush was elected president and the last 8 years of neo fascist hell. But I wasn’t thrown in jail. In fact the only discomfort I suffered was that of being searched by Homeland Security and once being denied access to a flight to San Francisco for a conference. Other than that I have only suffered the psychological damage that was suffered by all who had to put up with the inane policies of a nation run by the rich for the rich with an occasional bone thrown to right wing populists to keep the voting base from disappearing.
Singer in his book, even though he expected the working classes in France and Italy to rise up, realized that there would have to be an apparatus of a party that would work for the revolution and not against it. He noted the power of the French Communists as he condemned them for their pig headed intransigence. What he did not realize was that the party would not exchange its comfortable position as a player at the capitalist table and when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia he did not see that the end was in sight for the entire Bolshevik project. That invasion put the nail in the coffin for any revolution to socialism under the Communist banner in the near future. China went state capitalist and Russia simply went capitalist only a decade later. It was the triumph of capitalism, that he was trumpeting not that of socialism.
But he gave an assessment of the forces in France 1968 that was reasonable. It was not one mired in a series of subjective interviews with the player on the scene. There is such a thing as too much subjectivity in reporting. If we want to understand a situation we have to have some perspective. Singer gave perspective on the players in the field in May of 68. He was no better at predicting the future because of it. But at least he did see what was missing, a leadership capable of taking advantage of the situation. Lenin and his crew were ready to lead. They took over a country that no right minded socialist would believe was ready for communism and gave it a try. They failed but at least they tried. In 1968 when France was ready there was no leadership ready and the strikes led to only compromise and defeat.
Now we may be entering a similar period. But we will not find our way to socialism without leadership and Rhizome theory developed after the failure of the French in 68 is no prescription to revolution. What we need are people willing to play their part. The time may not be ripe, but Obama’s election shows that people are ready for a lot more than we give them credit for. Is there a group out there with the brains and the guts to lead?

What Next?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

There is something to be said for the southern strategy of sinking the north, the liberals and the labor unions all at once. If they succeed they will be able to sink part of the Obama plan right at the beginning. If they succeed they will put the liberals on the defensive and they will destroy one of the last unionised areas left in private industry in the USA.
Will Obama be able to outsmart the new south and their allies? What has Bush done with his bailout of the Detroit auto industry? According to the UAW the plan has a poison pill built into it. The unions have to accept non union wages equal to those in the south. Toyota and the other foreign auto manufacturers want to put the squeeze on their workers and they know if the union workers in Detroit are broken, then the non union workers in the south will be pushovers.
It is essential that the unions hold the line. If they don’t then there will be nothing stopping the foreign companies from forcing lower wages on the non union workers and that means all over America lower wages. Already labor gets a smaller share of the wealth now than we have since the 1970’s when we reached the most equitable distribution of wealth in the country. Since then it has been down hill and in the last couple of decades debt has replaced earnings as the source of income increase for most Americans. That path has reached the end of the road. The wealthy have only one path left, that of forcing roll backs in wages and benefits. That is not something that most Americans are likely to take without resistance. Without unions how are we to resist? Complaining to the president won’t do much. We have to be organized and unions are how we fight back. Unions and direct action combined are our ways of fighting. The general strike is the ultimate weapon. If we refuse to work.. and occupy the workplace, they can’t do anything but give in and negotiate. Will we take the chance? If we don’t you know the opposition has and is. They have been all along.
The southern states have already given subsidies to these manufacturers. Southern tax payers were paying to keep Mercedes, Toyota and the others in their states. The workers had accepted lower wages already, all to keep the manufacturers from going elsewhere.
These southern governors needed to keep these corporations appeased because in their states they had no laws that would restrict their free movement. The laws that had enticed these companies also made it easy for them to pack up and leave. They had no loyalty to anything but their bottom line. The southerners will do their best to undercut the north and keep industry in their states. Will this strategy of divide and conquer work? We shall see.
As a child I had been a fan of the south in the Civil War. It wasn’t that I was in favor of anything they believed, but I had a romantic attachment to losers and since they had lost the war, I was interested in their struggle. Certainly something of the romance of the chivalry of the south as expressed in movies like “Santa Fe Trail” and the “Charge of the Light Brigade” rubbed off on me.
In fact I was fascinated by the military and as a child I was constantly reviewing and reliving wars. Civil war, World War 2, Roman battles in the Civil war between Cesar and Pompey, or Cesar vs the Gauls. Then there was the current war in Vietnam that I was studying as part of my school project.
Somehow in junior high school I began to become interested in the hippie subculture. I don’t know why, maybe it was the music, listening to songs like Hey Jude on the transistor radio, but somehow I began to change my views. Instead of being pro military I became an anti war advocate. It started in 8th grade. I was studying the effect of the bombing of the north and decided that it would not work. Johnson decided to stop the bombing in the fall of 1968. That would have been when I was in 9th grade. By then I was totally against the war. It wasn’t until the next year, in the fall of 1969 that I actively joined in protests. Prior to that I was merely opposed in the lunch room, class room and at the bus stop. Later I became aware of communism as a theory and studied Marxism, political theory, and feminism with the radicals in Connecticut over the next couple of years.
1971 I moved to Colorado where I studied communal living, construction, landscaping, organic farming, alternative healing and spiritual history with a gnostic group until 1977. We experimented with building geodesic domes, using solar power and raising our own food.
In the spring and summer of 1978 I became interested in the emerging punk scene and started a radio show with a friend of mine in Boulder. I also became interested in anarchism as an alternative to the communist states that seemed to me to be betraying communism not living it. I helped found Rock Against Racism as a means of bringing people of different races together and to counter the Nazi tendencies in punk rock scene.
After that I went to New York and ran an alternative club with the Yippies. I led demonstrations and organized press conferences in the winter of 1979-1980. This was under the auspices of Rock Against Racism which is why I went to New York, to run the chapter there.
In the spring of 1980 I went to San Francisco where I continued my work with Rock Against Racism there and anarchist activism in the community fighting against the gentrification of the Haight district. I hooked up with the Bound Together book collective and joined them.
I have lived in California most of the time since then. I made trips to India, France, back to New York and Connecticut where I grew up. I had children with my partners and even tried to make it as a businessman. At one point in the mid 1980’s I had a print brokerage, a graphic design business and was a salesman for another company. I worked 20 hours a day and made some serious money. But my wife left me, took my son and my heart was broken, I swore off capitalism. Since then I have worked, but never tried to make it rich.
When Regan was elected a darkness came over the land. The dreams of alternative energy, communal living, and coops began to die. Some thought people would rebel. But people gave Reagan a chance, even I decided to give it a try when he got reelected in 84. I quickly realized that the price was too high.
It has taken until now for the rest of America to agree. When Clinton was elected we thought it was going to change but he was simply a republican lite. So what we have now is another chance. Will the republicans pull another coup like in 94 and put the liberals on the defensive?

But now we are seeing the realization of some of our dreams from those days. Solar energy is back, the talk of high mileage cars is back and the oil industry is pulling out the stops to defeat the environmentalists. They have lowered the price of gas just as they put the squeeze on us last year now they have gas back where it was 5 years ago. This cannot be maintained for too long, but they only hope to keep it going long enough to defeat the environmental lobby in Washington. Will they be able to do it? Not this time. Not with the department of Energy in the hands of a scientist who is also a strong believer in alternative energy.
What about the rest of the administration? We have old school in the state and defence, they will probably try and win the war in Afghanistan. What they have to do is hold the line on the oil lanes for a few years and give the country time for massive infrastructure rebuilding for solar, wind and geothermal. If that can be done in the first administration then we can pull back internationally and let the rest of the world keep the oil for itself. But if we can’t build the alternative infrastructure, then we will be stuck defending sea lanes and oil overseas in an increasingly hostile and competitive world.
Why Afghanistan? It is the wedge between Iran, central Asian Oil, China and India. It out flanks Pakistan and keeps India protected. It allows for pipelines from central Asia to be built and keeps the American presence in central Asia. Will it work? Not likely. Unless we intermarry with the locals there will be resistance and those mountains are impossible to hold.
That is why we must build alternative energy here, because the plan to hold Afghanistan is not going to work and they already are planning on leaving Iraq. The pipelines are too hard to protect and too isolated. Any pipe line is going to be blown unless it is in friendly territory. That is not the case in Iraq or Afghanistan.
We need to get our act together, as workers we need to organize, as people we need to end our dependence on oil and the big corporations. Can we do it? We shall see.

Bad Posture

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Looks like they were still kicking in the nineties.

Back in the 1980’s when I lived in San Francisco there used to be a band called Bad Posture. The one guy I can remember from the band was given the nom de plume of 4-Way, he was named after a particular type of blotter acid that was popular at the time that you could divide into 4 doses, hence, 4 way, and he was given that name because he epitomized the experience of taking a 4 way dose of acid all at once. Or at least that is the way I interpreted his name, I never asked him but I do remember him calling in one morning when Mary Malice and I were doing our punk music show on KUSF the catholic school radio station in San Francisco. I don’t remember why he called in, I think it was to ask us to play a tape of his band, but I do remember being happy that he called in. Being an after hours DJ on a radio station was kind of a thankless job. You weren’t paid, you had to leave the club early to get to the radio station on time, and you couldn’t get too messed up because you had to operate the console. Back then it was still all vinyl and cassettes. CDs were just coming in but the radio stations didn’t have CD players yet and we couldn’t cue up a Cd. Cassettes were hard enough to cue. The best was a record on Vinyl. You could plunk the needle right where you wanted to…play two at a time, Slow one down and speed one up. Scratching was just coming into style when I was on radio. There was one rap band making the scene then, Grand Master Flash, they were not much to speak of. De La Soul was the first rap band I remember being impressed with.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

But Bad Posture was an early speed metal band, sort of post punk, faster, more guitar based. They were one of the bands that played at the clubs I hung out at, the Sound Of Music in the Tenderloin and the Tool and Die in the Inner Mission or sometimes the Farm, out by the Survival Research Laboratory where I saw one of my favorite 80’s band play Camper Van Beethoven. They had animals at that farm. How they put up with the music, is a wonder. Did the goats milk come out twisted?

Survival Research Labs, still putting on great shows in the Zeros.

Mary Malice and I were kicked off the air in the fall of 1982. We were punk, new wave and rasta music fans. Mary and I had been among the founders of Rock Against Racism. We were replaced by a heavy metal show. It was an insult as far as we were concerned. Those big hair fags were not what we were into, none of that hair posturing. 4way was almost like a monk, with a shaved head, the opposite of that kind of rock self indulgence that heavy metal represented. Howie Klein. a local record industry hack was the guy who took our spot on the radio.

Sadly I cannot find any of our old RAR stuff from the early eighties in San Francisco.

But to tell the truth even though I outwardly acted insulted, I didn’t care, I was bored with the whole punk thing. I had been one of the first promoters of the scene in Colorado back in 1978 and had been doing radio since then. I was tired of not getting paid and staying up all night playing records that were all starting to sound repetitive to me. My last hurrah was to roadie for Flipper in the summer of 84. I took their equipment to LA and hung out with them while the played a gig at a club in Sunset Junction over by where Amok Bookstore used to be. Everyone was loaded on my acid. I had a bunch of it that a manufacturer had given me. It was the real thing. Fun stuff. But when my girlfriend stared turning into an alien bug I decided my acid days were over. 300 or 400 trips was enough.

Frightwig back in the day.

Flipper and Frightwig played loaded, I was distributing the magic from the back of my van, Later that night after that show we stayed up tweaking all night at a former roommates house. I remember El Duche from the Mentors was there, Bruce Loose from Flipper, Deana from Fright wig, my girlfriend Sandy was in our pinto painted van holding court because she didn’t want to come into Erin’s house. Erin was my former roommate from Art Wars in San Francisco. Her brother was the drummer in Christian Death and she was our link with the whole Mystic Records crowd from LA.

This is the original lineup for Christian Death photo says 1979

Art Wars was one of the warehouses in the South of Market neighborhood where a group of artists and fellow travelers held reveries. We would get very high and play instruments until our inspiration wore off. It was the time I thought of becoming a bass player until I took my instrument apart in a semi inspired frenzy one night.

Rare poster with my neighbors band Wild Women of Borneo, sort of a proto Frightwig

I had left San Francisco to go on this tour with Flipper and Frightwig because San Francisco was hot. The mayor, Feinstein was sponsoring the Democratic Convention that year and the cops were raiding all the dealers. I decided to get out before my turn came. I had been living in the house where the band Simply Red was based. One of my roommates there was the Acid maker. But LA was getting hot too. They were about to hold the Olympics there and the word was out that we were not welcome. I had taken the girls from Frightwig to a party at my buddy’s place in Malibu on the beach. The day after our all night party at Erin’s place I was driving down the 10 Freeway and my girlfriend fell out of the car onto the freeway. That freaked me out and I drank a bottle of Jack Daniels to calm down. Then when we got to Malibu I passed out in the van. The sheriff’s came and I was not happy at being woke up and started cursing them before I realized it was the cops. Too late. I was taken away and had to ditch my beautiful Navy Seal dagger in the back seat of the squad car. They got a free knife. I got busted for possession… It was not my finest moment but at least the Malibu jail was clean. When they realized my dad was a teamster and a shop steward, they stared showing respect. But the damn teamster lawyer wanted me to get him into Cuba and I had to explain to him that I was an anarchist not a communist. Not the first time I had to explain that difference to the authorities.

This was the show in LA.

But I was talking about Bad Posture and 4 Way. I wonder what happened to the dude? Anybody out there know? Drop me a line.. (Jan 2 2015 I added the images and captions to this earlier piece).

What I Believe

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

This is tough. I have considered a lot of stuff over the 50 odd years of aware existence. As high blood pressure and spleen takes its toll there may not be many more opportunities for me to explain myself or to attempt to justify taking up space on this increasingly crowded planet.
I believe in the right of humans to make their way from birth to death on this planet, respecting the other life forms here and still aspiring to accomplish some type of meaningful sense of completion. This does not mean we have the right to crush all that stands in our way, but it does mean that we have the right inalienable in our very existence, to breathe clean air, drink potable water and obtain non toxic nutrition from the plant matter on the surface of the planet. Beyond these basics we have the right to freely express the spirit that moves across the waters of our consciousness without fear of reprisal or recrimination. We also have to right to inhabit a portion of the space of the planet that is non intrusive upon others but that will support our physical existence without undue hardship. We have the right to use our limbs to create objects of beauty from out of our imagination into physical manifestation. We have the right to walk upon the surface of the earth in any manner that we please to any place we please without disturbing the rest and sustenance of others, with no restriction based on artificial constructs of the human imagination. We have the right to engage in common endeavors with like minded persons for the aggregate well being of all concerned as long as that commonality does not impinge on the same rights of others. There is no such thing as intellectual property past the initial stage of creation in which one or more persons creates an object or conceives a plan. They are due the fair social wage inherent in the creation process and no more. The rest belongs to the common patrimony of us all and there is no such thing as inheritance beyond that which you inherit genetically and socially in common with all of humanity. There is no right to accumulate wealth past that which is required to accomplish the project at hand. There is no limit to what one may require to accomplish what one needs and there is no accumulation past the accomplishment. In that sense property rights are absolute as use rights but have no meaning when there is no use applied.
Nobody has the right to accumulate simply for the sake of accumulation, especially when that accumulation inhibits the rights of others to express their own inalienable rights.
This is what I believe, when one is sick one deserves all the help available in the society for alleviation of that sickness without regard to cost. There is no right to place a cost value upon a life. There is every right to pursue ones life goals without restriction other than the restriction on causing harm to others.
Now what about those who refuse to produce? Is it possible that there are persons who are so anti social that they would refuse to participate? Possibly, and they will have the same right to create their shelter and produce their food as anyone else. If they choose to starve that is their business. Each of us is free to help such a person if one desires but there is no right of others to insist that you put yourself out for the sake of another. The only rule is that you do not deliberately cause harm.
What about self defense? I do believe in the right to defend yourself from those who would take your freedom and rights away, and to do so until they have been rendered harmless. This may be done in association with others.
What about taxes for the social welfare? I do believe in voluntary taxation. An individual may agree to freely participate in any cooperative system that may work for the betterment of all involved. That person may also decide not to participate and cannot be coerced to participate.
What about issues that affect all persons equally within a given area? This could be something like clean air, it cannot be commodified. It is common to us all. And there is no way that one can refuse to participate in the cost of keeping the air clean except in a negative sense. That is by identifying all the things that cause air to become dirty we can agree to tax anyone who wants to do something that causes the air to become unclean to compensate for the harm caused to those who are affected. Although under the initial concept such activities should not be allowed in the first place, if they are pre-existing conditions that need to be ameliorated then that is a partial solution on the way to the ideal of causing no harm.
This is ultimately a libertarian approach, but one based on the concept of universal rights of freedom that exist for all humans and in a modified form to all beings. In other words if contact can be made with the minds of other species we should allocate to those species at least the right to exist and to live without causing harm to them. This implies vegetarianism. On the other hand if respecting the freedom of another species means that that species causes harm to humans such as man eating tigers, there is the right to survival that may mean the incarceration of such tigers in reserves where they do not have contact with humans. When it comes to life forms such ad bacteria, well from my point of view if there is no contact possible then they have to be treated as one would treat plant life. This type of life form has the right to exist but because we consume some of it for our sustenance and there is no reasonable means of communication to ascertain the intelligence of such life forms, we must place them in a tentative state of respect. We treat them as life that is sacrificed so that we may live and such life is supremely sacred. It is food and food that sustains us is literally the one form of life that deserves to be worshiped, for literally that which sustains us, like the sun and the air we breathe and the water we drink and the plants we eat, they are our mothers literally after we are weaned from our own biological parents.
As for government, I do not believe in any government other than self government, but for convenience sake, because we do not want to spend all our time on issues that may be too arcane, or too specialized or too boring to concern us, we may delegate certain functions. That delegation should be considered to be a sacred trust and not some kind of inheritance or a right. It is a duty and burden that deserves compensation but not exaltation and if there is a hint of corruption that person must be removed without undue delay. Authority is inherent in each of us and control is in each of us. Delegation is a matter of efficiency and convenience and should be treated as such. The method of government has nothing sacred or sacrosanct to it. It is just a delegation of authority by each of us and should be limited in time and in extent. The exact nature should be whatever is agreed upon and should be flexible and efficient. If if doesn’t work it should be discarded and not made into a big deal. The places where people meet for such delegation should be temporary and limited not treated as temples of power but as temples of duty.
When it comes to love and family life I think that it is instinctive to desire to care for and protect our progeny, that we will do our best in this regard and that the arrangements we come up with are best left to the families. But the society as a whole has an interest in seeing that children are cared for and not left to the vagaries of fortune. So it is inherent in the rights of each child to be cared for and nurtured as best can be done in any given set of circumstances and in this case I do believe that the needs of children should come first above and beyond any other concern of a society. If it means a special tax for their care, then so be it, but they should be nurtured unreservedly until adulthood. Caring socially responsible adults come from children who were loved and cared for and in that I believe all children are equal and should be treated equally.
Love between adults is more a matter of complexity, it is a mixture of biological needs, racial survival and entertainment of the soul. It may not be entirely possible for two adults to live together for their entire lives and the society should not penalize them if they choose to change, or not to change partners. I also do not believe that there should be any rules as to the number of spouses, or the nature of the relationships except where children are concerned in which case nurturing is the primary concern. Otherwise, adult love is a play-land of mystery and unusual content where heaven and hell can be experienced in ones own life time.
When it comes down to personal relations I believe in the love between one man and one woman as my own personal choice as to the best relationship that there is. But I cannot say that is the best choice for all or even the best possible choice, it is simply the one I prefer. This is perhaps the difference between love play and love life. One plays at love until one is ready for a love life. Some people never find a lover for life, some simply can’t handle the intensity. But there is a difference and when one is ready for love it is something that can last a lifetime.
I believe in loyalty to the ones you love and dedication to those you care about. I love my children and I love the one who is my mate. But I do not believe in forcing yourself upon others. I do not believe that fate has planned for this one person to be your soul mate or any of that romantic nonsense. I do believe that you should be a person who lives up to their word and is true to those who you are dedicated to. In other words because I do not believe in an authority outside of myself I believe that I have to act with integrity and honor as that is what I would expect from others.
The only place I have trouble with this theory is in ones dealings with those who manipulate people’s integrity and honor to cheat them out of their freedom and rights. This is the case especially in capitalism where lawyers are hired to trick people out of their earnings and into arrangements where they are losing their birthrights. This is a con game and such manipulators who use their intelligence, not for the common good, or the betterment of society but as a weapon in the hands of those who would control and manipulate others as being the times when anger should replace fairness and one should act in self defence and remove such individuals from any place where they can use their skills to harm others.
As for spiritual beliefs, I think each of us should treat as sacred that which we depend upon for sustenance. Otherwise, we have only the right to wonder and imagine and investigate that which we do not understand.
Education is the process of learning that is on going and should never stop until one’s life is over and learning should be available to all freely with compensation to those who teach adequate for their needs.
Wages and salaries and such should be directly related to what one needs to live. We should draw freely from the common wealth and give freely back to that common wealth. There should be an accounting system to keep track of use and requirements so that supply and demand can be met with some efficiency and the only limits should be based on supply and the cost to society caused by the utilization of resources to create the materials needed.
This is not a matter of capitalist accumulation, this is simply a matter of rational allocation. We work when we want to or when our services are needed and we agree to supply that need. This can be done simply by a computer networking system that is set up to coordinate between supply and demand. Some things that are seen as needed now may disappear because they cause too much damage to the worlds resources, or their production may be too costly in human terms. Other things may be seen as being simply too dangerous or be the result of oppressing others.
Many consumer goods may become very expensive not in terms of dollars but in terms of production units and may not be available. Others simply may become available as craft goods available on a trade basis. But there will be no such thing as a homeless person. Only people who like to be transient. There will be no hungry people, only people fasting. There will be no unemployed people, only people who have no need to be occupied at that time. No warfare, only rough neck games of competition. No economy only barter, and social production for need and pleasure.
At least that is the world I imagine. That is what I believe in. Is is possible, I think it is the way most of human history has been lived up until the last few hundred years. It is the natural order.
How do we get back to this natural order, mixed with the new technologies that have developed recently? That is the big question. Anarchism is one system of beliefs in such a state that advocates the violent overthrow of the state and its immediate dissolution. There is another approach, that of communists who believe that the state will wither away gradually once state power has been seized. And then there are those socialists who believe that we will eventually evolve into a state where an ideal world will be created through democratic processes buy the state control of essential services and the gradual working out of history. There are those who believe that through capitalism we will create enough surplus wealth that it will benefit all of humanity eventually. There are also royalists or believers in kingship, where a ruler is selected by birth or election, and is ruler for life or as long as the people have faith in that person. And finally there is theocracy, or the belief in divine rule of a priesthood who represent the will of some invisible spirit world that rules over the visible material world.
I personally have tried all of these systems, even in a spiritual community something of the royalist system although that was more of a theocracy. I tend to believe in anarchism as a theory but I have a problem with the naivete of most of its practitioners. I am leaning to the re-emergent communists now hoping that they have learned their lessons from the fiasco of the soviet union. But it is hard to say if they can learn how not to become corrupted by power. Capitalism is too damn unfair and grinds people up in a materialistic machine. Socialism has compromised so much with capitalism that I don’t know if it can be considered a viable alternative. As for Royal-ism and Theocracy, although they have their strong points, when you believe, faith can move mountains, when you become disillusioned there is no process except to overthrow the king or high priest. We shall see what works best in the world to come.

Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

I wanted a book on the experience of the Argentines with workers control after their economy collapsed at the turn of the millennium. I figured if there was anyplace in Los Angeles where I could find it, it would be at the 1st Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair. I was right. I found one called “Horizontalism” edited by Marina Sitrin. It is published by AK Press so I could have ordered it on line, but I am one of those people who likes to feel a book before he buys it. I got to cop my feel, but I also was accosted by something like 1000 black uniformed neo punker anarchist youth who had the tiny Southern California People’s Library jammed with facially pierced people.
It was not a comfortable space like the Anarchist book fair in San Francisco held in the beautiful surroundings of Golden Gate Park, this was in south central LA, there was no parking and the neighborhood is rundown and ragged, like the costumes of most of those attending. But while most of those at the book fair were from safe middle class backgrounds and were students away from home for the first time, the people who live in that neighborhood are poor Latinos and blacks and are there because they cannot afford anyplace better.
Not that the neighborhood is particularly dangerous, it isn’t. But there are no nice parks near by, the stores are of the dollar variety and there is no place to hang out other than in the Peoples Library itself or the sidewalk in front and the tiny parking lot that had been turned into some sort of event space. This perhaps epitomized the civic values of Los Angeles, a place where parks are few and mostly in the wealthier neighborhoods. It is a city designed for work and the dream of the nuclear family escaping with as much wealth as can be grasped from the generosity of the land and stashed away in each individual bungalow. The only shared space is the road which is grudgingly divided between hostile drivers each defending the piece of taz (temporary autonomous zone) that each driver possesses on the freeway.
LA is a place where the car is king and the home is truly a castle with a gate and a wall and a moat if the owner can swing it. There is no community, unless you can consider the free fire zone called malls to be public. They are public in the sense that rival gangs can publicly shoot at one another in an open shopping space patrolled by private security guards instead of LAPD. My old french girlfriend used to tell people who asked about an abscess scar on her butt how she got it and her favorite story was to say it came from a drive by shooting in a gang war, not from her using a dirty needle on herself. But for French persons who had grown up on stories of LA made up of the 92 riots, the Rodney King beatings and OJ’s slow moving escape down the freeway, it was entirely plausible.
LA may be tough, but it is not that tough. I do remember when I lived in San Francisco and was contemplating moving here, one of my roommate’s, a girl who had a brother in the band Christian Death, who kept a bottle of her boyfriends blood from nose bleeds, and who shaved my hair into giant wings one night when I drank too much Jack Daniels, she warned me not to go to LA, it was a dangerous place….
Well I have survived here for some 17 years, managed not to die of an overdose, not to get mugged, murdered or otherwise cut mutilated folded or spindled. But I have noticed a couple of things that make it different. One adults go to movies here like kids do elsewhere. Two a mans car is truly his worth and three the traffic is horrendous. Otherwise it isn’t so bad, if you don’t mind living in a giant suburb that has become over grown with fast food joints and strip malls. I have been told this is the way the world will look in 20 years. Heaven forbid! What will the do with date palms in Alaska?
Anyway I found my book at the anarchist book fair and got out of there as quickly as I could without getting my foot stepped on or getting called a cop or having to talk to more than one old political acquaintance, one from San Francisco, a gregarious lot, they will talk to anyone. People in LA will stare at you and then talk to their cell phone before speaking to another human being in the flesh. Example if you want directions in LA you better have a GPS device because if you ask a person on the street or a filling station attendant they will either have no idea, run away from you muttering “no comment, talk to my lawyer”, or try to sell you some crack.
But on the bright side they won’t try to interrupt your serenity with inane questions about somebody you both might know from Belgium or about your job like my acquaintance from San Francisco. But he was stuck behind a table and was probably missing the ambiance of communication in a room filled with 1000 people intent on that LA business of shopping, and not having a discourse on metaphysics like someone from San Francisco might mistakenly expect at an anarchist conference.
I made it back to Long Beach driving down the 110 without incident in less than 20 minutes. Good time in LA. I was back at my own castle wondering why I had bothered to leave, oh, yeah the book on Argentina and workers control. May we be so lucky….

Republicans Attempt to Bust Auto Unions

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Republican union busting seems to be the reason behind their refusal to support the bailout of the auto industry. The evident class warfare in the Republican strategy shows them for what they are. The rich have much more class solidarity than the workers ever did. When it comes to choosing between keeping well paid union workers employed or sending an entire industry into bankruptcy, there is no choice. The idea of busting up the last bastion of labor in the auto industry is too great a temptation. This is the culmination of the Reagan agenda that started with the break up of the air controllers union in the early 1980’s. It has progressed through the destruction of most of the unionized industries in the northern states and now there only remains the auto industry. As southern governors and their allies in the senate stated they want to reduce the wages of union workers to those of non union employees in the Alabama and South Carolina. Workers at foreign owned plants that make European and Japanese autos are paid southern sweat shop wages. Those companies have been able to arrange sweetheart deals with these southern states, getting tax rebates, free land and subsidised facilities. For these companies the American south is the source of cheap labor that has allowed them to make inroads in the American market that they wouldn’t have if they had to pay the same rates for the workers they pay in Europe or Japan. There they face the same union conditions that the American auto industry faces.
But why should we let the Republican agenda play out in the hard times of the recession? Unions did well organizing in the depression. Why not take advantage of the national time of crisis and push through a progressive agenda. Why not nationalize the auto industry and create a transportation department that is based on a merged GM and Chrysler. Let them build trolleys and maglev trains and mass transit systems across the country. It could be a cross between the CCC and Eisenhower’s national defense highway system. We need to make bold moves in this time of national crises. We need to transform the transportation system for a start.
Steven Chu the new Secretary of Energy will push alternative energy research if his recent experience at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in Berkeley is anything to go by. Saw grass has the opportunity to replace corn as the biomass fuel of choice. A new department of transportation can produce the American vehicle of the future. Fuel efficient and run on alternative fuels. These vehicles can be mass produced for a mass transit market. Not as individual automobiles but as mass transit devices. The government can rebuild the infrastructure, all linked, interfaced with the Energy department and the health and human service department and the department of Commerce. These can all work together to create a network that transforms the way Americans move.
What stands in the way are vested interests. The same interests who blocked the building of a subway to the airport here in Los Angeles. Or who blocked the completion of a subway through Beverly Hills to the ocean. Taxi and mini van owners blocked the Airport subway. Local politicians and VIPs in Beverly Hills blocked the subway in their neighborhood. There have been forces for preserving the use of the automobile on overcrowded freeways. These are the same forces that would like to keep the rules the way they are. 1% of the population controls half the wealth on the planet and that is a trend that will only increase if the elites have their way. They want to destroy all workers resistance. Force us all to live on minimal wages and keep us in debt.
The hypocrisy of the rulers is so evident when they go out of their way to give billions of dollars to their fellows in the banking finance industry with no oversight and with nothing trickling down to the masses who are having their houses loans foreclosed. Yet when an industry that employs millions needs only 15 billion, then the squawking begins about labor aristocrats and poor workers having to support union fat cats. The arrogance of such statements is incredible. The fact that people buy it is even worse. We keep getting fooled people. It is time for us to learn not to be fooled again.

Broken States And Dirty Deals

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Anarchists in Greece might bring the state down. This is pretty impressive. For 5 days running the youth of Greece have been rioting and in the lead are the Anarchists. These are the same Anarchists who are the nuisance’s at every peace march and rally in America. But in Greece they have managed to become the leaders of the opposition to the Greek police killing of a 15 year old youth.
That anarchists are in the lead at protests where bricks are thrown, windows are broken and cars trashed is not strange. What is unusual, is that anarchists are being given credit by the mainstream media, in this case the public TV News hour tonight called the anarchists the leaders of the protests. Former ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns gave credit to them for the ongoing protests and made a case for the protests being justified. That is unusual in mainstream media.
But where will things in Greece go? Traditionally the socialists have been the main alternative to the generals and their conservative friends. But there is a large hard left in Greece and there is a chance that a left coalition may take power. Is there a chance of a revolution and the state dissolving into a series of anarchist communes, hardly. But to see anarchists in the lead of the opposition is heartening.
Speaking of anarchists, there is going to be a book fair in Los Angeles, the first Anarchist Book-fair here in modern history will be held at the People’s Library on Vermont Saturday Dec 13Th. If you want to bone up on your anarchist history, theory or just want to meet modern day anarchists, that is the place to be this weekend.
I was listening to the radio stations KPFK and KCRW this evening, listening to the financial doomsayers promoting deflation and a dire economy for the immediate future. But more than the economy was the talk of the failure of the governor of Illinois in his attempt to sell Obama seat in the senate. It seems that the governor’s in that state are particularly inept at the backroom deals that are normal to the democratic political process.
At work this morning the conservatives were crowing about the corruption of the Democrats in Illinois. The implication being of course that Obama’s victory was somehow linked and that the only way he was elected president was due to behind the scenes deals on the part of the operators in Illinois. Pretty swift if they were able to buy the election. The biggest fix since the Black Sox scandal in the 1919 World Series. But then how could this group of swifties manage to swing the national elections and then screw up on the simple matter of buying the replacement for Obama in the senate? My own paranoid thoughts would lead me to think that the opposite is the case, that the Republicans might be behind an attempt to blacken Obama’s reputation and implicate him in the scandal which would place his whole presidency in a shadow that would give the Republicans the beginnings of a return to power by discrediting the new administration before it even got in office.
It is unlikely that Obama will be caught in that. He is too smart. More likely the governor of Illinois will have to fall on his sword and take a hit for the sake of the party unless he is so single mindedly greedy that he would be willing to bring down the rest of the state establishment, an unlikely proposition.
We know that politics is dirty, just how dirty often is surprising. I have no illusions about the goodness of the democrats, but one would hope that the labor movement would have a chance to make somewhat of a come back so that we the workers can gain a little in a very uneven game before they have been beaten back by the interests of realpolitik. But from what I have heard tonight the forces who don’t like labor are already attempting to link the Service Workers Union with the scandal and are trying to bring down Labor’s attempt to make it easier to organize unions by passing a pro-labor law once Obama is elected. But if labor is discredited, then the Obama might have to distance himself and the law to make it easier to start a union might not get passed and that will make big business interests very happy. This may ultimately be the purpose of this whole thing. The federal prosecutors who are so interested in the Governor of Illinois may have bigger fish in mind and labor could very well be part of what they are trying to stop. If they can begin to emasculate Obama now, they will be a year ahead of the game on where they were when they went after Clinton at the beginning of his administration.
They played dirty with Clinton and he wasn’t even a liberal, just imagine what they will do to a genuine liberal like Obama. We can only hope that he is able to put the Clintonites in positions of seeming responsibility to pacify them and keep them from sabotaging him so he can work on making real changes that we need with people who can. People who are not bought out. We can only hope.
It is interesting to see Jesse Jackson Jr. coming out swinging protesting his innocence in the scandal with Governor Blagojevich who was arrested for trying to sell Obama’s senate seat. Blagojevich met with laid-off workers protesting at Republic Windows & Doors, his last politically correct act before being arrested. This ties in nicely with labor being in my mind one of the main targets of the prosecutors and the Republican party. But are these prosecutors, Mr Fitzgerald and company, Republican operatives or are they honest brokers? In the murky world of American politics, not likely. There are reasons why they went after Blagojevich now and not at another time.
The occupation of the plant by the workers at Republic Windows and Doors is another sign of the times. Perhaps we should be looking to Argentina and their experience in workers control when the owners abandoned their companies and shut down the economy. The workers there not only occupied the plants, but they got them working again. I will be looking for a book on workers control in Argentina at the Anarchist book fair this weekend. One thing for sure, these are interesting times and there is an old Chinese curse that goes “May you live in interesting times”. Damn Chinese… You know, however this thing plays out if we the people don’t get our collective act together and keep moving on in the direction towards real change, we are going to get stuck with one set of phony changes lite or another. You want real democracy, real socialized medicine, real economic reform? We have to fight for it and not leave it up to Obama or anyone else. Because if we let the operators stay in charge they will rob us blind and leave us with a cup and a couple of pennies to get by on.
Its not too late. And we can always hit the streets like our anarchist friends in Greece if they won’t listen to any other voice of common sense. Those workers in Chicago got their severance deal, forcing Bank of America to honor the 60 days pay instead of the 3 days severance they tried to give the workers. But we shouldn’t stop there, hell no, this is our land, not the land of the money men.
I heard an interview with Gar Alperovitz and he made a case for economic restructuring in his new book.
Unjust Deserts: How The Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance And Why We Should Take It Back.
The argument in the book is that wealth was developed by us all over generations and belongs to all of us. The workers in Chicago were smart. The rioters in Greece are right. Lets all do what we need to do to make sure the world is a better place for us all.

Where Is The Heart?

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

I hear on the radio talk of how the debt crisis has become all the greater because we have no savings in America. As a nation we have gone from one that saved 10% of our earnings to one that saves 0%. I should find myself concurring. I used to save up to 20% of my income and have money to travel almost every year. Now I live from paycheck to paycheck and have credit card debt. But I made a choice, I would not live like a hermit, I would live like a citizen, and that choice has placed me in the precarious position of being as dependent on the well being of the economy as every other citizen and non citizen who lives right up to the edge of his means.
It is not a matter of being greedy or selfish, or extravagant. I have a 3 year old car that I make payments on, live in a two bedroom apartment that is not large but not cramped and have furnished with Ikea house wares that I have assembled myself. I recycle, I take my girlfriend out to dinner once a month at Red Lobster or some such place and we shop at Target since I won’t go to Walmart on principal. But I have little left over and what I do have gets spent on the ever emerging series of minor emergencies. My computer was stolen I had to replace it. The battery goes on my car I have to replace it. We all have such things. I buy some clothes once every few months and I give money to my girlfriend for her son, I buy presents for my son and hers and I give money to my mother. When I do have a little left for causes I give to my favorite Community radio station KPFK, I give to my favorite NGO - Oxfam and I give to the occasional homeless person I run into on the street. Then there are medical bills. They seem to be ever increasing and the taxes. Gas is less temporarily thank god, but that won’t last and salaries don’t seem to go up. Last year I had a pitiable $1.00 an hour raise, I have no retirement plan, no savings account and who knows if Social Security will be there when I am ready to stop going to the sweat shop every day.
I guess I could be selfish and not give to my mother and girlfriend and son, but then I could not live with myself. I could stop buying medicine, but then my blood pressure would go through the roof. So I muddle along and think about getting a second job or renting out the other room in my apartment. But my job can be very demanding, up to 12 hours a day on some weeks and only 8 hours on others. Taking a second job would mean no free time and I live for that little bit of time I have to dream. I used to think I would write a book. A book about my adventures, but what are those adventures? The adventures of a former anarchist, drug addict, spiritualist who now is a working class drudge. It is hard to write about past adventures when you are not living an adventurous life. When you are living that adventurous life you don’t want to write about it you want to live it.
Last summer I spent a week in Denver at the Democratic Convention protests and I felt alive like I had been when I spent that summer in San Francisco as a full time activist. Or that winter in New York doing the same. It was a short period from the fall of 1979 when I left Boulder for Manhattan to live with the Yippies, until the fall of 1980 when I returned to Boulder. In that year I lived in NYC and San Francisco and spent all my time as a full time activist and organizer. First with the Yippies and then on my own loosely connected with a band of anarchists. Ever since then I have had to work but I have had periods of activism such as the winter of 2003 when I took a couple of months to participate full time in anti war activities before I had to go back to work. And I have taken other time out, such as in the summer of 2000 when I was active protesting at that years Democratic Convention and other times when I participated in protests, conferences and actions over the years. But mostly I have had to work at one job or another.
In the 90’s I spent a lot of time traveling between jobs, to Mexico, Canada, India, Thailand and especially to France. I was in love with a French girl and she liked to travel. I got the bug myself but the total chaos of the lifestyle got to me. She was a Hare Krishna and wanted me to get into that way of life. I tried, even shaved my head and wore robes and went to the Krishna center in India but at the end of it I determined that these were no more spiritually advanced than any other people and unless you had money you were going to live the life of a gypsy. In fact there was a certain gypsy like hustle in their lifestyle, selling crafts and drugs and trinkets from one part of the world to another, sleeping on floors and in vans. It was very much like the hippie lifestyle of a previous generation, only with robes and chanting and incense. Indians from India were getting jobs as computer specialists and becoming professionals and we were trying to live like our idea of traditional Indians from a bygone era.
I got over it and went back to work. But now I was two decades behind. I had spent the 80’s as a radical punk rocker anarchist druggie and the 90’s as a radical spiritualist Hare Krishna druggie and now I was in the 2000’s a workaholic with nothing to show for all my years of adventuring except a lot of sleepless nights wondering what I had done with my life and wishing I could write a book about it and not having the time.
So I do this blog. There has not been a political revolution like we hoped in the early 70’s when I was an activist in the anti Vietnam war movement. The back to the land, commune movement in the mid 70’s taught me how to live like a farmer but it also did not lead to a world transformed. The 80’s punk rock anarchist DIY revolution did not change the world. The 90’s back to the roots spiritual life in the third world did not provide answers that were any more viable. Living in the modern world as a green party member, voting for Obama and paying taxes and taking government prescribed drugs leaves me in a state of constant anxiety that the whole thing is going to collapse under us.
In some ways the world that we predicted in our revolutionary dreams has come to pass. We are now finally beginning to take the green message seriously. It was a path we started to go down in the 70’s under Carter but got sidetracked from. I had felt like I was part of a system bringing about positive change back then, writing on alternative businesses and solar power. I felt that we were on the right course. But then when Regan got elected it was as if the whole country got hijacked and moved in the wrong direction. People like me were left out in the cold. We became more radical and more embittered. That was when I turned to hard drugs. I even tried to be a capitalist and became a salesman during a brief period of intense attempted conformity. It ended in a breakdown and a failed marriage and I left that attempt behind. I didn’t have it in me to love money that much.
When Clinton came around we hoped we could make changes, I even worked on the Jessie Jackson campaign, but when the right came back with a vengeance in 94, I knew I was out in the cold again and watched the rest of the Clinton years as the parody of liberalism that they were. The Bush years were even worse. 2001 was like your worst nightmare and the slide into fascism was like watching a car crash in slow motion. At least the country experienced how bad things could get and we had to hope that we could make a difference now.
I am too old and too far out of the system to make a difference now. All I can do is act as a cheerleader and possible prophet and try and get my own life in a little order. I have a son in France, one in San Francisco and a girlfriend with a son here in LA. I need to try and find some way to prepare myself for retirement and help my parents in their last years. What little I can do in the world is now done mostly on this blog. But who knows? There still may be a place for an old revolutionary such as myself. Where there is life there is hope.
And maybe I will get a chance to write that book.

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