All posts by slingshot

Mental Health and Carving Space Out of Capitalism

By A. Iwasa

Last year while interning at the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community, I got into a phone conversation with The Eggplant about the many contradictions in trying to carve space out of capitalism where you don’t have to interact with money.

These sort of spaces vary widely, and having met The Eggplant in the Long Haul Infoshop, where our office is also located, and having also spent a fair amount of time together in People’s Park, we had a great deal to compare and contrast from our personal experiences.  As our conversation went on, he asked if I would consider writing an article about dealing with mental health crisis situations in a free space where we don’t, or in the Catholic Worker’s case, at least try not to rely on the state.  Though I knew the value of such an article, I was instantly stumped as to how to go about writing it without airing too much dirty laundry, and how helpful such an article by me would actually be.

As some of these things go, I ended up just pondering more questions as I proceeded.  I’ve had a many good conversations with various people from a number of projects and have come to the conclusion that a call for submissions for people to share stories in the pages of Slingshot on the topic of dealing with mental health crisis situations without reliance on the state might be the best way to move forward.  If you have something to share, please get in touch!

Disturbance in a safe space

By Jane

Rape victims must always be believed. I am convinced of this, and wrote about it in the last issue of Slingshot. When we fail to believe our rape victims, we uphold rape culture. It is vital that, when someone speaks up about rape or sexual assault, their complaint is taken seriously, and that the perpetrator is made to leave their spaces—not as a punishment, but simply to allow the victim to be able to heal.

99 out of 100 times, a complaint of rape or harassment will be true. But once in a blue moon, you’ll get someone who is using the word “rape” wrong or misrepresenting what it means to be raped. Mis-representing the word “rape” hurts real rape victims by giving others an excuse to discredit their stories.

So, in one of the community spaces where I’ve provided rape counseling to victims, there was a young woman who kept getting raped by different people. Like, every couple weeks it was happening. I want to tell her story because I think it complicates the issue of rape. And complicating the issue is good, I think because it helps undermine the tactic of weaponizing accusations of rape. I mean, it doesn’t help victims when the concept of rape is treated like a monolith. Each instance of rape or assault is an individual and complex thing. Organizers have the habit of hearing the word “rape” and jumping into “protect the victim mode,” but I think this is just a way of protecting themselves from having to hold space for the victim’s story. And in extremely rare cases, the victim’s story, when you really hold space for it and take time to actually listen to it, doesn’t add up.

So, there was this woman, who I will call Alice, in our community space, who had had a complicated, unique, traumatic experience of being raped in high school, after which she survived a period of sex addiction and sexual disassociation. She was now in her mid-twenties, and after a period of healing, she had joined our community space, and she did a lot of great organizing work! She did a lot of emotional labor, bringing big smiles, delicious food, and good weed that she generously shared. She made our revolutionary space feel good, and was awesome to have around.

Then came a series of rape accusations from her, in which she would tell the group that someone from the community had come over to her house to hang out, and while there, had raped her. WHOA! This really freaked everyone out.

At first, the accused people were banned. But this kept happening to her, sometimes on a weekly basis. After a while, no one knew how to react to it. I was on the road, and watched everything unfold from afar as the community eventually stopped listening to Alice. Since I wasn’t there as this went down, I found myself wondering: What was up with the collective? Were they just totally ignorant of the patterns of rapists to gravitate towards raping people who have already been victimized?

Rapists tend to target women who have already been raped: the trauma/dissociation makes it easier to rape them. This observation is backed up by CDC (Center of Disease Control + Prevention) data that shows being raped in the past significantly increases your likelihood of being raped again (2010). So, it’s totally likely that a person will be the “canary in the coal mine” in your community: a previous rape victim will likely be the first to get raped when a new rapist joins the community.

Perhaps the reason why, in our culture, we disassociate from listening to the stories of rape victims is we are terrified of making space for women’s oppression. Yes, rape happens 20 times more to women, and when it happens to us, we are blamed for it, vs. men, who are often told it was the rapist’s fault, not theirs when they step forward. According to the CDC, around 1% of the male population reports being raped or experiencing sexual violence, while over 50% of women will experience rape or sexual violence in her lifetime, and 100% of women are threatened with sexual violence on a daily or weekly basis. Sexual violence is a targeted thing towards women that holds us down as a group of people. There are people who constantly threaten us with sexual violence, and yet it is totally ignored!—not okay! The fact that some voters just elected an out rapist as commander-in-chief really shows the degree to which people in our culture dissociate from the sexual violence and threats women must contend with every moment of our waking reality.

Not all men rape, only 4% of men commit over 90% of all reported rapes—averaging around 6 rapes before they are finally “caught.” (according to one Nytimes study)

Not all men rape, but men benefit from rape. They benefit from having half the populace held in constant fear of having violence enacted against them. There are “protector” men who capitalize off of the fear created in women by the work of rapists in the form of extracting free emotional labor from women who seek “protection.” Sublimated fear of rape and sexual violence also makes women less apt to negotiate and compete with men in the workplace. Pervasive fear of sexual violence warps women’s personalities in this culture, leading women to become more timid, or go the opposite and become hyper-feminine and dissociated from their sexuality. It is impossible to stay grounded in the world without being thrown off center by the pervasiveness of rape culture and sexual threats. Rape is the most visceral component to the systematic oppression of the female gender, an oppression that we dissociate from because we are terrified of confronting it.

We don’t believe rape victims because we don’t hear them. Their stories terrify us. We want the rape not to have happened. So we dissociate from every damn report of it. Which, I believe, is what enables it to keep happening again and again.

These types of thoughts were going through my head as I watched on social media, from afar, as my community space stopped listening to Alice and her complains of rape. But soon, I realized that something complex was going on, though: While my community had stopped listening to Alice, they were still listening to other women who were stepping forward with (often less extreme) cases of harassment. The space was still working hard to acknowledge and honor victims, including repeat victims. Just not Alice…

Last year, I was homeless while job- and apartment-hunting, and Alice offered to let me stay at her place for a few days. “You can even sleep in my bed,” she said over the phone, squealing gleefully. I was excited to see her, for sure, but really didn’t need to displace her from her bed. But she insisted. She would take the sofa, she explained. Something about this made me nervous, but I shrugged off those feelings. This was Alice. Someone in my community—someone I loved in a very Jouissance sort of way. Jouissance: that love of others in the flow of daily life, a sort of love that lets us find roles for each other on desire, but rather the glee that is building community and bounty together.

The first night I slept at Alice’s, I was mostly in and out doing job interviews and didn’t see much of her. The second day, though, she wanted to watch a TV show on her laptop with me, so I said, “Sure.” Then she jumped into her bed, and gestured that I get in with her. Hesitantly, I took a spot on the bed next to her, leaving a gap between us.

Within a few minutes of the show starting, her fingers found their way on my arm, and then she lifted one of her legs and swung it over mine and began lightly humping me.

“Dude,” I said, and I sat up and scooted away from her, asking her to please explain what she thought was going on.

“I was just cuddling!” she explained. “This is what I like to do with my friends!”

In the weeks that followed, she and I had some really hard conversations, and I began to unravel what had happened between her and the others in the community who she had accused of raping her.

In her mind, “being raped” was simply to have sex when you don’t want it. It didn’t matter to her if she initiated that sex. Nor did it matter if she never said “no” or “stop” and continued to initiate intercourse until it was over.

As she told the stories of her supposed experiences of rape, I realized “rape” was not the right word for what she was experiencing. It was still very sad. But it wasn’t rape. It was addiction. And she was blaming the people who had participated in her addiction the same way an alcoholic might blame an empty bottle for have allowed itself to have been emptied.

I don’t consider what she did to me that day assault, but she could have assaulted me if I hadn’t stopped her. Her pattern of intimacy was the same as any garden-variety abuser: victimizing others while telling yourself the story “But I am the victim here.”

Later, she explained that she had been raped in high school. She had been raped by a popular kid at her ultra-liberal un-school, and when she and her mother came forward with the rape accusation, the school officials decided to let the student body vote about whether to believe her. This is the same kind of thing we now know never to do in community spaces: it re-traumatizes the victim to be forced into politicking about their experience. Rape isn’t a political thing. It’s a trauma. Like being hit by a car. And being forced to debate against her rapist in front of her entire school left her on the verge of psychosis. The experience led her to drop out of school, run away from home, and ultimately experience more abuse and grew addicted and detached from sex.

I think some subtle, semi-conscious part of her was determined to victimize me. Not because I had done anything wrong to her, but because she wanted to stop being a victim and didn’t know how. In an anti-victim society, the only way to get your story out, weirdly, is without words: is to hurt other people.

Book Review: Other Avenues are Possible

Other Avenues are Possible

PM Press

PO Box 23912

Oakland, CA 94623

Reviewed by A. Iwasa

Written by a participant in the Bay Area’s Cooperative (Co-op) Movement, this book starts strong with a brief Preface and Introduction, followed by a comprehensive history of cooperation, delving back into its evolutionary roots in our ancestors, Homo erectus, some 1.5 million years ago in Africa.

There is at least one note worthy factual error in the first chapter, that Upton Sinclair was governor of California, but it’s really only a passing reference which jumped out to me as a recovering Socialist and general history nerd.  Otherwise, it’s like a condensed version of Sacharoff’s label mate, John Curl’s For All the People, another book on co-ops I’d highly recommend.

With the second chapter, Sacharoff gets into the specifics of Bay Area co-ops including political struggle and even a shooting that ended with one dead and another wounded.  This instantly reminded me of Minneapolis’s Co-op Wars, which Sacharoff goes on to allude to, though not by that name.  I would like to read a more in depth account of this like Storefront Revolution by Craig Cox, and to read more about the specific organizations, the Representative Body and Tribal Thumb, such as with Inside Out by Alexandra Stein, who had been a member of the Minneapolis Co-op Organization after the Co-op Wars.

The scope of co-ops and collectives, from day care centers to a refrigeration maintenance collective and their ongoing legacies are recorded in this work as Sacharoff goes on to describe how some of these co-ops survive to this day.  Subsequent chapters focus on Veritable Vegetable, Rainbow Grocery and Other Avenues.  I think this is all really important information, since we have to figure out ways to survive under capitalism, and develop infrastructure worth using to replace the system.

Sacharoff follows this with a sort of autobiography of her relationship with food, which I thought was pretty cool.  I’m always fascinated by how people’s relationships with their passions evolve.  She gives props to her children for being Food Not Bombsers, which is actually how I know them and in turn found out about this book.  She rounds out the chapter with a few recipes, which along with a couple others in previous chapters, I think is a solid way to make the book accessible to people.

The last couple of chapters deal largely with the nuts and bolts of starting, running and supporting co-ops.  There is also some visioning and comprehensive lists of co-ops and other related resources in the Appendices.

The whole book is methodically end noted for those interested in further research.  It’s a must read for those interested in co-ops and their potential as part of a better world!

Book Review: The Madhouse Effect

‘The Madhouse Effect’ by Michael E.Mann and Tom Toles

Columbia University Press

61 W 62nd St., New York, NY 10023

25 bucks – (or you can also find it in the Long Haul Infoshop’s radical library in Berkeley, CA!)

Reviewed by eoh

This is an easy-to-read book by an Atmospheric Scientist (Michael E. Mann) and an award winning Cartoonist (Tom Toles). It is filled with facts and connections to help you understand what you already know: We are fucked! We fucked it up!!…and we’re in denial.

Denial is a protective mechanism to protect oneself from emotional overload. But in regards to climate change it is very unhealthy and our collective denial is destroying the planet we’re living on, better to say: living from.

Of course it is no fun to read the scientific facts about how dire our situation really is and life here in the US still feels relatively “normal”…. we surf on the (rising) coast, hike in the (not yet burned) forests, eat (grass fed) red meat (you can’t smell the methane in the pan!) and drive our cars wherever we feel we need to. We live our lives completely dependent on the everlasting flow of fuel. But do we at all look at the everlasting flow of carbon into the atmosphere that we generate in our daily lives? 4 tons from an average American every year (the weight of an elephant) – well, we can’t see it AND there are (fossil fuel) interests that do a lot to tell us we’re crazy and misinformed if we worry about it. We are told we should trust in humanity’s creativity (for geoengineering), especially in the country of the free (enterprize)!

The cartoons perfectly summarize and complement the text. They also lead us into the focus of the last 3-4 pages on “What can we do?”.

Even though I’m not satisfied with the answers to this last question, I appreciate the book’s clear sorting out of the real scientists and REAL FACTS from the misinformation campaign.

Read this book, spread it around, give it to every denialist that crosses your path and get out of the (climate) madhouse!

Just to remember, it’s urgent!! …maybe too late

…still reading??

I was a Fascist Once

By Michael Frank

How does one become a fascist? For myself, it was fear and I was constantly ruled by it: fear of others, fear of the unknown, and fear of myself.

I grew up in a loving home. We were politically moderate Catholics. I remember my early childhood being happy, but when I began attending Catholic school, that’s when I began to suffer. Bullying was rife and friends were few but I struggled on, eventually finishing high school and enlisting in the Army.

During training, I became disillusioned with the military and especially the Iraq War, which was heating up at the time. I thought they would show me how to be strong, but I had never felt weaker and more afraid, even after finishing basic. Nothing that was felt right, and my descent into fascism and white supremacy began with this simple axiom, that something is terribly wrong with the world.

You see, I had always feared people with different skin tones, accents, ethnicity, etc., even when I professed to be anti-racist. This is why I’m skeptical of those claiming some particular event or experience “made them racist”. With the recent election of Donald Trump we hear claims he won because the left accused so many of racism. Ridiculous. You were always a racist, and you’re admitting it now because the gloves are off.

When I attended college, I was assigned roommates at random and two of them who were disrespectful to me had dark skin. A reasonable person would just conclude this guy’s a huge jerk, but instead I chose to blame millions of people who looked like my roommates.

I began to read alternative news sites, such as the stuff put out by Tom Metzger, David Duke, and Jared Taylor, to name a few. Like any ideology, there’s some nuances and the three I mentioned all despise each other. While they differ in some ways, it’s important not to get hung up on these small differences. The white supremecist Richard Spencer (in that video of him getting elbowed in the face) said he wasn’t a nazi and that nazis hate him. That may very well be true, but he is still a fascist.

While reading, I stumbled upon this tactic referred to as the “lone wolf strategy”, alternatively known as “leaderless resistance”. Due to incredible pressure from Antifa and anti-racist activists (and even the state, we can’t take all the credit) many fascists have endorsed working alone or in small groups of 2-3. I believe that this reflects a desperation,… I was constantly terrified of being discovered or confronted about being a fascist, which thankfully limited my activities. I never made contact with any racist groups or individuals offline, and at best I could only donate money and anonymously post fliers.

Halfway through college, my unit was activated and deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Going to Iraq really pushed me to my breaking point and during my tour I was treated for major depression and thoughts of suicide. This caused a significant crisis of conscience…I finally got a taste of what it’s like to hurt other people and I hated it. I never fired a single shot (thank goodness) but occupying another person’s land, holding them at gunpoint, these are all acts of violence and my raw, emotional reaction to what I witnessed knocked me out of my world view.

Except it didn’t affect that first axiom, that something is terribly wrong with the world. It only affected the conclusions I drew from it, and this led me to Anarchism.

I began to do some introspection, and I started noticing contradictions in my previous belief. If I was opposed to the government, then what should replace it? Wouldn’t a coup fail to prevent tyranny? It wouldn’t change the fundamental structure of government that allows oppression in the first place. Saying phrases like “racial tribalism” is just empty rhetoric, not a coherent theory or plan of action.

When Occupy Wall Street kicked off, I saw Anarchists in the news, and I really liked what they stood for (plus those black bloc masks were totally dope). I started reading Anarchist news, as well as the “classics”, like The Conquest of Bread and Anarchism and Other Essays. These ideas showed me the problem isn’t in governance per se, but in hierarchy, which exploits and abuses all underneath it.

I also realized my problems with other peoples were really my own problems. During therapy, I discovered I had been depressed for years, spending much of my time in isolation. Instead of seeking help, I chose to scapegoat. This reminds me of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s observation of Dylan Roof, the perpetrator of the Charleston church shooting:

“Isolated, alienated, alone in the world, his sole remaining possession was his whiteness, the only thing that gave his existence meaning.”

He may as well have been talking about me.

Our society is still incredibly racist, and it cloaks its racism behind the color of law and respectability. For example, many white people find it easier to believe that people of color are more prone to crime, rather than concluding what the prison system’s victims have been saying for decades: that the state criminalizes and targets dark skinned people. These same people concerned about inner city violence aren’t as concerned when whites bomb entire cities into rubble. This illusion of respectability allows people to behave in a racist manner while remaining oblivious to it. That’s why it was so easy for me to become a fascist. It is a privilege to hurt so many while still receiving respect, and my “whiteness” allows me this privilege. If I struggle, then I must cling to and defend my whiteness at all costs, lest I lose my last source of comfort. This thinking was mostly unconscious but I very much viewed myself a “victim of multiculturalism”. This is the major contradiction of fascism: “We are supermen, but the slightest loss of power threatens our very existence.” It is delusional and fascists use it to hide the fact they aren’t necessarily stronger or smarter than anybody else. It’s quite useful to them, psychologically speaking.

But this new theory, this Anarchism, it helped free me from hatred. I no longer have to live in fear because those around me are people, and we can live and work together so that all our needs are met, leaving us free to pursue our own desires. I can finally be myself.

So what is to be done? Like I said earlier, no platform gets the goods. I have no doubt about that. Lately, however, we’ve seen a surge of fascist organizing in the open, largely inspired by Donald Trump’s victory through the electoral college. Many of these events have been smashed, but the fascists managed to drive off Antifa at an April 15th protest in Berkeley. For No Platform to fully work, we have to organize better and hit harder than the fascists. Still, if I and others have changed, how can we use this to smash white supremacy? Musician Darly Davis reports he’s personally befriended and convinced around 300 people to leave the Klan. I’ve also heard that some Antifas help former racists leave the white supremacist movement. I don’t believe this should be our main focus, but it appears to be a viable strategy we should continue to pursue. Every individual we can save is one less we have to confront in the streets.

 

 

 

Calendar: Don’t sweat it

May 20 • 10-6pm FREE ALL AGES

Sheffield, UK Anarchist Bookfair sheffieldbookfair.org.uk

 

May 20 FREE ALL AGES

March Against Monsanto – march-against-monsanto.com

 

May 23 • 7 pm FREE ALL AGES

China Mieville @ City Lights Books 261 Columbus Ave SF

 

May 23 • 7:30 pm

Chris Hedges: Overcoming Fascism 2407 Dana Berkeley

 

May 27 – 28 FREE ALL AGES

Montreal Anarchist Bookfair – anarchistbookfair.ca

 

May 28 • 10-6 pm FREE ALL AGES

Los Angeles Zine Fest. California Market Ctr. lazinefest.com

 

June 2 – 4

Praxis Project New Brunswick permaculture conference Knowlesville, Canada praxisprojectnb.com

 

June 2 – 5

Fight Toxic Prisons National Convergence – University of North Texas in Denton fighttoxicprisons.wordpress.com

 

June 2 – 4

Left Forum: theme The Resistance. John Jay College for Criminal Justice 540 West 59 Street NYC leftforum.org

 

June 4 • noon FREE ALL AGES

Unpermitted 50th anniversary of Summer of Love be-in. Meet at Haight/Ashbury and walk to Golden Gate park

 

June 6 – 8

Wars of Position Conference Manchester England. alc.manchester.ac.uk

 

June 6 FREE ALL AGES

Stockholm Anarchist Bookfair Sweden Telefonplan 3, 126 37 Hägersten

 

June 9

East Bay Bike Party 2nd Friday of each month

 

June 10 • noon-10 pm FREE ALL AGES

San Francisco Free Folk Fest 450 Church St. sffolkfest.org

 

June 11 FREE ALL AGES

International Day of Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners – events many place june11.org

 

June 16 – 18

Allied Media Conference Detroit MI. alliedmedia.org

 

June 17 FREE ALL AGES

Bay Area Queer Zine Fest – 55th & Telegraph, Oakland

 

June 24

London Radical Bookfair. Goldsmiths – University of London londonradicalbookfair.wordpress.com

 

June 23 FREE ALL AGES

Trans March Dolores Park, San Francisco transmarch.org

 

June 29 – July 6

Earth First! Round River Rendezvous earthfirstjournal.org

 

June 30 • 6 pm FREE ALL AGES

San Francisco Critical Mass bike ride – last Friday each month Justin Herman Plaza sfcriticalmass.org

 

July 1-4 • 1:30 pm FREE ALL AGES

San Francisco Mime Troupe opening weekend sfmt.org

 

July 1-7 FREE ALL AGES

Rainbow Gathering – Oregon

 

July 14

Mad Pride.

 

July 27-27 FREE ALL AGES

Speak for Wolves conference – 220 Yellowstone Ave, West Yellowstone, MT speakforwolves.org

 

July 28-30

Join Slingshot to publish the 2018 Organizer. 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley slingshot.tao.ca

 

August 3-6 FREE ALL AGES

Bay Area Black & Brown Punk Fest Oakland, CA

 

August 11 – 12

Savage Mountain Punk Fest

 

August 20 • 7 pm FREE ALL AGES

Slingshot new volunteer meeting / article brainstorm

for issue #125. 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley slingshot.tao.ca

 

August 26 FREE ALL AGES

Seattle Anarchist Book Fair. Vera Project N.Warren Ave/Republican St. Seattleanarchistbookfair.net

 

September 23 • 3 pm FREE ALL AGES

Slingshot article deadline for issue #125 slingshot@tao.ca

 

September 16 • 10-6 pm FREE

22nd annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair. Omni Commons 4799 Shattuck Oakland. bayareaanarchistbookfair.com

 

October 8 • noon-9 pm

El Cerrito Free Folk Fest 540 Ashbury Ave

ecff.sffolkfest.org/wordpress/

 

November 2 FREE ALL AGES

Day of the Dead

Expanding the Conversation about Mental health conditions and activism

By Kathy Labriola

I am a nurse, counselor, and hypnotherapist as well as an anarchist and political activist in Berkeley, California. Not surprisingly, most of my clients are anarchists, political activists, and community organizers. Many of them have sought counseling because they are struggling with some kind of mental health condition or challenge. Many have been coping with these conditions for years and even decades, and have tried many different approaches to minimize their painful symptoms and maximize their happiness. Quite a few have confided to me that they have been criticized and shamed by other activists for going to counseling , for prioritizing self-care, or for utilizing medications to manage their most disabling symptoms. Many describe how they have suffered in silence for many years with mental health conditions, before finally seeking help from a doctor, therapist, or other medical practitioner.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to mental health, and I want to support our friends and comrades in choosing the path they feel is best for them. It is not up to me or anyone else to tell anyone how to handle a mental health challenge. However, I would like to express some ideas I believe can add to this conversation in our anarchist community.

Whether or not you have a mental health conditions yourself, learn as much as you can about mental health conditions. This will empower you to take care of yourself if you have such a condition, or help you to be a useful ally to any friend, family member, or loved one who may need support during a mental health crisis. You can educate yourself through a variety of books, articles, websites, podcasts, and other resources from a variety of different points of view. Engage in respectful conversations with people you know who have experienced depression, anxiety, a manic state, hearing voices or having hallucinations, or a state where they felt impaired in decision-making or taking care of themselves. If they are willing to discuss their experiences with you, learn about what this was like for them and what strategies or treatments they have found to be helpful. They may or may not already have a support system of friends and/or family members set up to be there for them either during a crisis or on an ongoing basis. If you feel you can commit time and energy to be part of their support team, offer to be available to them in times of distress, being as clear as you can about what you can provide and any boundaries you need. They may want help with practical things like cooking meals or doing laundry, rides to appointments, or help with paperwork or finding counseling or a support group. Or they may be feeling so distressed that they need to take time off work and may need people to loan them a little money or give them a temporary place to stay. Or they may need someone to listen and give them emotional support as they try to make decisions and plans for their recovery.

Our comrades deserve autonomy, privacy, and control over their bodies, minds, and spirits, and it is important that we respect their choices with acceptance and love. They may choose to take medications such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, mood stabilizers, or anti-psychotic drugs to reduce their symptoms. Many people with mental health conditions have said they have felt unfairly judged by other activists who believe these medications are harmful and unnecessary.

In fact, these medications are grossly over-prescribed by doctors and are given out like candy to anyone who mentions to a doctor that they are a little anxious or depressed, and they do have potential dangers and side effects. However, for some people, severe depression can be so disabling that they are unable to work, they cannot safely take care of their children, and they feel in danger of self-harm. For people in so much pain, taking one or more of these drugs can make the difference between living in a horrible hell of despair and actually feeling well enough to do the things they want and need to do in their lives.

Similarly, people who are experiencing a manic episode are often experiencing intense panic, and their mind feels so frenzied that they cannot sleep, eat, or focus on any task or activity. And people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia often hear voices and see visions and hallucinations, and many feel convinced that they are being pursued by dangerous people who intend to harm them. This can be so terrifying and painful that if drives many people to suicide attempts. As a result, many of them choose to take anti-psychotic medications, which significantly reduce or even eliminate the hallucinations and the voices. This can allow someone to feel safer and calmer, and be able to focus on work, school, art, friends and family, and/or activism, rather than being exhausted and distraught from coping with unwanted voices and visions.

No one should be forced to take drugs against their will, but people deserve to have agency over these decisions and they need accurate information and support from their loved ones and comrades in order to make an informed choice. Some people with mental health conditions may choose not to take medications, and they need a support system to help them develop healthy strategies to reduce their symptoms and enhance their wellbeing. Some people focus on self-care, making sure to get enough exercise, eat healthy meals, do regular journaling, spend time in nature, and have quality time with friends and lovers . Others find counseling, support groups, and classes to be nurturing and restorative. Creating art or music is very healing for many people. For some, pursuing a spiritual path through meditation or some other form of spiritual practice is central to sustaining their mental health.

None of these options are mutually exclusive. Many people take medication, either for a few months while they are experiencing a mental health crisis, or for a much longer period, sometimes for many years, to relieve their symptoms. However, they may also concurrently utilize many of the other strategies of self-care, counseling, creating art, or a spiritual practice, both to help them recover and then to prevent the symptoms from recurring.

Rather than judging anyone for the tools they choose to use to survive, radical movements can support our comrades and respect their choices. Many activists struggle with these conditions and need as much support and love as we can offer them.

Doing radical political activism is very hard work, and many people become exhausted and experience burn-out, frustration, sadness, self-doubt, and a deep feeling of hopelessness at certain points in their lives. Capitalism is stubbornly resistant to change, and many people feel angry and discouraged after spending years working so hard and seeing only incremental progress. This can lead to many of our comrades experiencing periods of depression, anxiety, and feeling incapacitated.

Many anarchists have told me that they weathered these periods alone, because they were reluctant to talk to others for fear of being seen as weak or wrong, and they did not think anyone would care about their struggles. In fact, many activists have said that when they reached out for help, they were told they were “self-centered” or “entitled” and attacked for “not pulling their weight” in a political organization or collective. Or they were told that other people are more oppressed than they are so they shouldn’t complain about their problems, or that mental health problems are a “first world problem.” Many people drop out of our organizations and even give up on political activism when they are ridiculed instead of supported.

On a positive note, I have seen some people in crisis who have had a very tight community of friends and loved ones who provided emotional and practical support to help them through it. This is our anarchist community at its best: providing mutual aid that can include anything from keeping someone fed and housed to taking turns staying up all night with them during a suicidal crisis. We can sustain ourselves, our loved ones, and our movements over time by being compassionate and providing support.

Organizer summer scheduled

Thanks if you purchased a 2017 Slingshot Organizer – they are how we pay to print and distribute this newspaper for free. We still have copies if you want to order some. Also we have some returns so if you can distribute a few free copies to low-income people, prisoners, immigrants or teens or others who couldn’t otherwise have an orgnaizer, let us know (please no requests for just one copy, though).

If you want to help make the 2018 Organizer, we need your help. It’s just a handful of people working on the project so a single additional person makes a huge difference. Join us, no experience necessary, and it’s super fun and social:

• May/June: We’ll edit the historical dates. Send us suggestions for dates and holidays we should include.

• June 25-July 24: Artists draw the calendar section. If you want to draw a 4 week section, let us know. We call/email the radical contacts to update the list – send us corrections in July or volunteer to help with the update.

• July 28-30: Art and editing party to put the Organizer together. If you’re in the Bay Area, drop by for an hour or the whole weekend. It is a fun participatory project – no experience necessary.

No matter where you are, you can send us art to paste here and there, cover submissions, feature essays for the back, the letters A-Z, the numbers 1-31, the names of each month, and the days of the week — we’ll paste it in for you.

 

To our Prisoner subscribers

By the Slingshot Collective

We believe the Prison Industrial Complex is one of the flashpoints of class warfare and internal colonization in the United States.

The Slingshot paper is mailed free of charge to prisoners in the US who request it, our small but symbolically important act of solidarity with those behind bars. We receive a lot of prisoner mail; simple requests for subscriptions but also submissions of writing, artwork and requests for penpals and for legal aid. We appreciate that prisoners reach out but find ourselves overwhelmed as well….we simply can’t respond to the bulk of these communications and it’s a challenge for us just to keep our prisoner subscription address list updated.

We are unable to provide legal aid/advice, financial assistance, penpals, literature or respond to requests for other kinds of help. We understand that many prisoners are desperate for outside contact but we just don’t have the resources or the time to respond to the hundreds of letters we receive.

Slingshot is a small volunteer collective…. often no more than 5 people working the many hours required to produce and distribute the paper and fundraise thru the production and sale of the Slingshot organizers. We raise all the funds and do all the work with no grants, no advertisements and no paid staff. This project is a labor of love.

Alot of the article submissions we receive for Slingshot require extensive editing which we do in conjunction with the authors directly or over email but this process is often impractical with prisoners because the time required to do several back and forths by snail mail exceeds the timeline for next issue publication. If you are a prisoner submitting an article please do your best to be concise, clear and to the point… the Slingshot paper is a small publication so every word should count. We don’t publish poetry or fiction, and only run personal narratives if they are framed within the context of broader struggles. Understand that we do read every submission but can only publish a fraction of what we receive. We will run your article if it fits with the issue in question and requires little more than copy-editting. If you’re Ok with us editing your article without your input please say so when you submit, we will do our best to honor your ideas and intention.

If you don’t hear back from us please don’t despair,… we read your words and appreciate the thoughts and stories you share.

And if you are part of the Slingshot universe and are free to come to the Longhaul in Berkeley and help us, please do! Opening prisoner mail is just one of the many tasks we need help with and there are many other ways to contribute to the project. Get in touch, become a Slingshotter!

 

Here are some other projects that inspire us and might be able to help prisoners:

Incarcerated Worker Organizing Committee

IWOC

PO Box 414304

Kansas City, MO 64141

iwoc at riseup dot net

:

Prisoner Literature Project

C/O Bound Together Bookstore

1369 Haight St.

San Francisco, CA 94117

 

They don’t give legal advice or pen pal services, but you can find out about those sort of things from:

Prison Activist Resource Center

P.O. Box 70447

Oakland, CA 94612

 

Similarly, any defendant facing felony charges can request a free copy of The Criminal Legal System for Radicals ‘zine by writing the Tilted Scales Collective at tiltedscales at riseup dot net or:

Tilted Scales Collective

c/o PARC

P.O. Box 70447

Oakland, CA 94612

 

 

Dave Linn 1956- 2017

Dave Linn, an incredible, warm, giving radical lawyer, died March 14.  Dave was an immigration and criminal defense attorney who was really in it for the cause, defending people with little funds. During the 1991 volleyball riots in People’s Park in Berkeley he was always there, willing to help with legal actions and defend people in court. Later he moved to rural Washington where he continued lawyering for the little guy.  ”Linn started working with the Peace and Freedom Party in 1980s,” wrote Hilda Rangel, a friend. “He ran for Congress in 1992 in California against a prominent Democrat at the time, winning 10,472 votes out of 238,939. Linn also helped organize the Oakland Tenants Union and wrote for Grassroots, an independent newspaper out of Berkeley,” Rangel wrote. “He participated in protests against the Vietnam War, the Iraq war and the Nicaragua and El Salvador interventions. Linn wasn’t a pacifist — he was an activist, a feminist and a revolutionary,” she said.  He will be missed but his spirit inspires still.