Category Archives: Spring 2012 (04/13/12)

Don t work so hard – redefining productivity

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One of the most notable features of capitalist domination is the nature and necessity of work. Most adults spend most of their time and energy working; selling themselves for a wage and trying to meet goals they have not chosen. Clearly the experience of work is very different depending on where someone is and what they are doing, but it always takes our time from us and often links a sense of self-worth and respectability to the efficient execution of a job. The work ethic embeds the values of the system into the stories we tell ourselves about what is good and bad; it implies that being hard working (productive; efficient; disciplined) is better than following our desires or being critically engaged with the world. Like other ideologies, it grounds people who are afraid of ambiguity and gives them something to do every day so long as they are employed. What we do “for a living” comes to define us socially as we move through life whether or not it is connected to our interests. Even when the work we do does relate to something we are passionate about, it still serves, in its daily grind, to alienate us from our enthusiasm and limit the way we are able to think about what is possible.

The work machine is more all-encompassing than the experience of working; it creates a situation where we cannot easily satisfy our physical and emotional needs without a job and limits the ways in which we are able to enjoy time off. Work and leisure are two sides of the same machine, the lived manifestation of the production-consumption engine at the heart of capitalism. Leisure activities serve as a release valve for the pressure of work, encouraging people to associate satisfaction outside of work with products created by it. Whereas discipline and productivity are encouraged at work, distraction and consumption become the easy habits of leisure. Desires for products and mediated experiences are created and satisfied while people are encouraged to forget that they might desire to escape work and leisure altogether.

Many have described this problem and tried to posit elegant solutions, from Fourier s concept of passional attraction to Black s exhortation to be playful in “The Abolition of Work”. Recognizing our domination and imagining more joyful alternatives is interesting but figuring out how to motivate ourselves in the present without falling into the habits of work and leisure is not so clear. It is easy to say that we must learn to embrace a free sense of play rather than the moribund cycle of work and leisure; to follow desires that are not addressed by the system we reject. Practically, however, it has been difficult for me to distinguish my “authentic desires” from those that have been fed to me by capitalism or to determine whether my actions conform to the cycle of work and leisure or transcend it.

When I have tried to limit my interaction with the work machine, either by taking part-time, non career oriented jobs or finding ways to extend periods of planned or unplanned joblessness, I have usually made some attempt to reject concepts that I associate with the logic of work and to prioritize and embrace the things that bring me joy. I have tried to pursue my passions, enjoy my body, connect with people and follow my thoughts wherever they go.

The problem is that some of my desires need a regular focused practice to be achieved meaningfully. Without strategies in place for overcoming obstacles, I have tended to take the path of least resistance, indulging my most easily satisfied impulses. This feels good for a while, but frequently leaves me in a place that I do not find particularly interesting; unable to get through the books I want to read or make headway on the pieces I want to write. I end up feeling adrift; unwilling to infuse meaning into my life by accepting the tenets of the system and unable to figure out how to motivate myself without structures. I do not regret seeking to satisfy sensual desires and embrace self indulgence, but without a way to focus on other kinds of projects, the conversations, stories, and sexual pursuits become dull and rather than freeing myself from the machine, I find myself more completely ensnared.

Some people avoid slipping into aimless states of leisure by applying a strong work ethic to their non-work projects. They avoid critiquing the theoretical underpinnings of the work ethic and focus instead on rejecting the system s attempt to treat unpaid endeavors less seriously. This can be successful in a way but for most people the energy needed is unsustainable and it becomes more difficult to slip out of work mode when it is time to relax. Whether we struggle to buckle down and complete projects because we have not figured out how to be productive outside the context of work or prioritize getting things done so much that we do not examine the assumed logic that drives us for fear of breaking our momentum, we are stuck.

All desire has become tainted by the logic of capital; it is impossible to exist outside of the machine. This means that making decisions about which desires we pay attention to and how we choose to pursue them is not about escaping the system of work and capital unscathed but finding a way to live defiantly in it s midst; embracing the power we have to shape the stories we tell ourselves about what is necessary and important. In this context, the story about how all the tools that we might use to motivate ourselves should be discarded because they resemble the system s methods of control is just as useless as the story about how the machine can be dismantled without questioning its logic.

A more useful story is one that allows us to take apart the tools of the system and use some of the pieces to build new tools for our own autonomous purposes. Abandoning the complete rejection of concepts like self discipline, efficiency and productivity is not the same as the uncritical acceptance of these things as they are used by capitalism and being serious about our passions does not exclude absurdity, joviality, enjoyment, or a sense of play.

Devoting time, energy and resources to projects outside of institutions like schools, jobs or businesses can be difficult. Some people may be able to create a solitary practice of getting shit done through sheer will but most of us need some variety of structures and deadlines (even if they are self imposed) in order to meet our goals. My big non-work projects right now usually involve reading, research and writing. Setting up or joining established reading and writing groups with other people who have similar goals is one thing that helps me develop habits of taking these things seriously. Figuring out which alternate structures will best support our enthusiasms and cultivate habits of getting stuff done without amplifying the logic of the work machine is a process of getting to know ourselves honestly and having a clear sense of what we want to do.

I am for the creation of moments worth living and dying in. I want to experience the indulgent pleasure of a vacation and the accomplishment of a productive day at work every day. Rejecting the division between work and leisure necessitates the destruction of both. Work has already taken so much of our time, the projects that interest me are the ones that do not feel like drudgery. Finding and exploiting situations where we can transcend the boredom of the machine allows us to develop practices of taking things seriously and getting stuff done that amplifies our enjoyment of and connection to the world.

Why anti-authoritarians are diagnosed as mentally ill

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In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by (1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians, and (2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.

Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority — sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.

Some activists lament how few anti-authoritarians there appear to be in the United States. One reason could be that many natural anti-authoritarians are now psychopathologized and medicated before they achieve political consciousness of society*s most oppressive authorities.

Why Mental Health Professionals Diagnose Anti-Authoritarians with Mental Illness

Gaining acceptance into graduate school or medical school and achieving a PhD or MD and becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist means jumping through many hoops, all of which require much behavioral and attentional compliance to authorities, even to those authorities that one lacks respect for. The selection and socialization of mental health professionals tends to breed out many anti-authoritarians. Having steered the higher-education terrain for a decade of my life, I know that degrees and credentials are primarily badges of compliance. Those with extended schooling have lived for many years in a world where one routinely conforms to the demands of authorities. Thus for many MDs and PhDs, people different from them who reject this attentional and behavioral compliance appear to be from another world — a diagnosable one.

I have found that most psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals are not only extraordinarily compliant with authorities but also unaware of the magnitude of their obedience. And it also has become clear to me that the anti-authoritarianism of their patients creates enormous anxiety for these professionals, and their anxiety fuels diagnoses and treatments.

In graduate school, I discovered that all it took to be labeled as having “issues with authority” was to not kiss up to a director of clinical training whose personality was a combination of Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, and Howard Cosell. When I was told by some faculty that I had “issues with authority,” I had mixed feelings about being so labeled. On the one hand, I found it quite amusing, because among the working-class kids whom I had grown up with, I was considered relatively compliant with authorities. After all, I had done my homework, studied, and received good grades. However, while my new “issues with authority” label made me grin because I was now being seen as a “bad boy,” it also very much concerned me about just what kind of a profession that I had entered. Specifically, if somebody such as myself was being labeled with “issues with authority,” what were they calling the kids I grew up with who paid attention to many things that they cared about but didn*t care enough about school to comply there? Well, the answer soon became clear.

Mental Illness Diagnoses for Anti-Authoritarians

A 2009 Psychiatric Times article titled “ADHD & ODD: Confronting the Challenges of Disruptive Behavior ” reports that “disruptive disorders,” which include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and opposition defiant disorder (ODD), are the most common mental health problem of children and teenagers. ADHD is defined by poor attention and distractibility, poor self-control and impulsivity, and hyperactivity. ODD is defined as a “a pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior without the more serious violations of the basic rights of others that are seen in conduct disorder”; and ODD symptoms include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules” and “often argues with adults.”

Psychologist Russell Barkley, one of mainstream mental health*s leading authorities on ADHD, says that those afflicted with ADHD have deficits in what he calls “rule-governed behavior,” as they are less responsive to rules of established authorities and less sensitive to positive or negative consequences. ODD young people, according to mainstream mental health authorities, also have these so-called deficits in rule-governed behavior, and so it is extremely common for young people to have a “duel diagnosis” of AHDH and ODD.

Do we really want to diagnose and medicate everyone with “deficits in rule-governed behavior”?

Albert Einstein, as a youth, would have likely received an ADHD diagnosis, and maybe an ODD one as well. Albert didn*t pay attention to his teachers, failed his college entrance examinations twice, and had difficulty holding jobs. However, Einstein biographer Ronald Clark (Einstein: The Life and Times) asserts that Albert*s problems did not stem from attention deficits but rather from his hatred of authoritarian, Prussian discipline in his schools. Einstein said, “The teachers in the elementary school appeared to me like sergeants and in the Gymnasium the teachers were like lieutenants.” At age 13, Einstein read Kant*s difficult Critique of Pure Reason — because Albert was interested in it. Clark also tells us Einstein refused to prepare himself for his college admissions as a rebellion against his father*s “unbearable” path of a “practical profession.” After he did enter college, one professor told Einstein, “You have one fault; one can*t tell you anything.” The very characteristics of Einstein that upset authorities so much were exactly the ones that allowed him to excel.

By today*s standards, Saul Alinsky, the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would have certainly been diagnosed with one or more disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying *Keep off the grass.* Then I would stomp all over it.” Alinsky also recalls a time when he was ten or eleven and his rabbi was tutoring him in Hebrew:

“One particular day I read three pages in a row without any errors in pronunciation, and suddenly a penny fell onto the Bible . . . Then the next day the rabbi turned up and he told me to start reading. And I wouldn*t; I just sat there in silence, refusing to read. He asked me why I was so quiet, and I said, *This time it*s a nickel or nothing.* He threw back his arm and slammed me across the room.”

Many people with severe anxiety and/or depression are also anti-authoritarians. Often a major pain of their lives that fuels their anxiety and/or depression is fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will cause them to be financially and socially marginalized; but they fear that compliance with such illegitimate authorities will cause them existential death.

I have also spent a great deal of time with people who had at one time in their lives had thoughts and behavior that were so bizarre that they were extremely frightening for their families and even themselves; they were diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychoses, but have fully recovered and have been, for many years, leading productive lives. Among this population, I have not met one person whom I would not consider a major anti-authoritarian. Once recovered, they have learned to channel their anti-authoritarianism into more constructive political ends, including reforming mental health treatment.

Many anti-authoritarians who earlier in their lives were diagnosed with mental illness tell me that once they were labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis, they got caught in a dilemma. Authoritarians, by definition, demand unquestioning obedience, and so any resistance to their diagnosis and treatment created enormous anxiety for authoritarian mental health professionals; and professionals, feeling out of control, labeled them “noncompliant with treatment,” increased the severity of their diagnosis, and jacked up their medications. This was enraging for these anti-authoritarians, sometimes so much so that they reacted in ways that made them appear even more frightening to their families.

There are anti-authoritarians who use psychiatric drugs to help them function, but they often reject psychiatric authorities* explanations for why they have difficulty functioning. So, for example, they may take Adderall (an amphetamine prescribed for ADHD), but they know that their attentional problem is not a result of a biochemical brain imbalance but rather caused by a boring job. And similarly, many anti-authoritarians in highly stressful environments will occasionally take prescribed benzodiazepines such as Xanax even though they believe it would be safer to occasionally use marijuana but can*t because of drug testing on their job.

It has been my experience that many anti-authoritarians labeled with psychiatric diagnoses usually don*t reject all authorities, simply those they*ve assessed to be illegitimate ones, which just happens to be a great deal of society*s authorities.

Maintaining the Societal Status Quo

Americans have been increasingly socialized to equate inattention, anger, anxiety, and immobilizing despair with a medical condition, and to seek medical treatment rather than political remedies. What better way to maintain the status quo than to view inattention, anger, anxiety, and depression as biochemical problems of those who are mentally ill rather than normal reactions to an increasingly authoritarian society.

The reality is that depression is highly associated with societal and financial pains. One is much more likely to be depressed if one is unemployed, underemployed, on public assistance, or in debt . And ADHD labeled kids do pay attention when they are getting paid, or when an activity is novel, interests them, or is chosen by them (documented in my book Commonsense Rebellion).

In an earlier dark age, authoritarian monarchies partnered with authoritarian religious institutions. When the world exited from this dark age and entered the Enlightenment, there was a burst of energy. Much of this revitalization had to do with risking skepticism about authoritarian and corrupt institutions and regaining confidence in one*s own mind. We are now in another dark age, only the institutions have changed. Americans desperately need anti-authoritarians to question, challenge, and resist new illegitimate authorities and regain confidence in their own common sense.

In every generation there will be authoritarians and anti-authoritarians. While it is unusual in American history for anti-authoritarians to take the kind of effective action that inspires others to successfully revolt, every once in a while a Tom Paine, Crazy Horse, or Malcolm X come along. So authoritarians financially marginalize those who buck the system, they criminalize anti-authoritarianism, they psychopathologize anti-authoritarians, and they market drugs for their “cure.”

Last Words for Capitalism

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A few hundred people carrying a coffin and accompanied by a brass band marched through Oakland on Leap Day at a funeral for capitalism. It was a welcome break from protesting-as-usual as well as a demonstration of how the occupy scene is moving beyond single-issue politics and rejecting the whole rotten system. The procession was short on mourning and long on celebration. It stopped to scatter ashes as Chase Bank and Cigna Healthcare corporation, which is the 5th largest healthcare corporation in the US. At Cigna, a number of medical students read accounts of how the privatized healthcare system hurts patient care. From there, the funeral moved to Lake Merritt Park, where capitalism was eulogized with a diss-ology which we*re publishing, below. Then, the marchers smashed capitalism*s coffin to bits and danced wildly on its grave.

Diss-ology by Paul Dalton

We gather today not to praise capitalism, but to bury it. Rejoice, the great god greed is dead! It lived far too long, laying waste to all it touched. Its chains have been broken, its tentacles severed. The world is free to breathe again — to grow, to flourish — no longer weighed down by this most voracious monster.

Nobody knows its exact birthday. We know it was sired by mercantilism, mid-wived by banking and nurtured by imperialism. From its earliest days, it showed a mighty appetite –gorging itself on the fruits of others* labor. Quickly, it grew fat and strong. It surrounded itself with sycophants, side-kicks, body guards and nannies. Like the royalty it emulated, bards were hired to sing its praises, and historians commissioned to chronicle the glory it saw in itself.

Capitalism*s life was built upon a simple, but powerful, lie. An early acolyte, one Adam Smith, proclaimed that material wealth could be concocted by super-natural forces. Science and history be damned! The economy was not a closed system. Something could indeed be made from nothing. No longer did riches need to be stolen, pillaged, spirited away in the night. Now, through an alchemy of hoarding and investing, material wealth could indeed materialize.

Not everyone was thrilled by emergence of this hungry beast. Many saw Mr. Smith*s lie for what it was. Even as the monster gestated, signs of discontent emerged — textile workers went on strike, farmers claimed the land they worked from its lords, even some men of the churches inveighed against its excesses.

Although it grew large, it was never very healthy. Insatiable, it required ever more and more just to stay alive. Signs of its fragility came early as well- like the Tulip Mania which collapsed the Dutch economy in 1638.

Responding to each bout of illness with a greater resolve, not to mention increasing appetites- it sent its minions out to find new fields to pluck, new forests to level, new fodder for its machines. It found great success when conquering new lands, subduing or dispatching with its inhabitants, taking all it had to give.

Of all of Capitalism*s children, Industrialism deserves special note. With its machines and interchangeable labor — it took what was old and made it seem new. Although it filled the air with acrid smoke and soot, poisoned the water and ravaged the soil — it remained unperturbed — caring only for its meals, not for the ingredients which made it, or the cooks who prepared it.

As it grew larger — always acutely aware of the unsteady base it rested on — it developed great skill in the art of distraction. When it faltered in one place, it shifted to another. Love it, or hate it- one must admit it was as creative as it was destructive. It gave us our bread and our circuses. It let us eat our cake. It assigned value to things where none existed, made virtue from vice, sacrament from sin.

For a brief moment it faced off against some formidable foes. With names like Marx and Bakunin, Goldman and Luxenburg — groups of fighters emerged, shouted the truth, laid bare the lie and said we*d all be better off once we put this behemoth down. Too quickly, capitalism used brute force and ingenuity to turn those visions of liberation into a sad, frightening and sickly junior partner, a sidekick.

But today we can rejoice in Capitalism*s demise- as it finally succumbed to its own weakness and the strength of its enemies, who are legion. The lie rejected, the workers threw monkey wrenches into the gears. The farmers tended to the fields, nurturing rather than ravaging them. We all agreed to plunder Capitalism*s ill-gotten gains, and to share them fairly. We used its machines for our benefit, and dismantled those that couldn*t serve us. We knew our health came not from the endless gorging by the few, but by the nurturing sustenance of the whole.

We slew the beast and now we come to dance on its grave.

And dance we will. We have no reason to mourn, only to celebrate and revel in the joy of possibilities — of a world where monsters don*t enslave us, don*t steal our food, don*t kill us when we object too loudly or get in its way.

We have surely suffered enough, but we know Capitalism*s legacy will haunt us. But ghosts only have the power we give them, and they can be exorcized. Each following generation will benefit more than the last. Our triumph is that we have overcome, our legacy a world free of this scourge.

So, let*s dance, be merry, celebrate, rejoice! Soon we must get to work, begin rebuilding our new world in the shell of the old. Let us remain ever mindful that the germs of capitalism — greed, avarice, violence- reside within us, and must be kept at bay by the medicine of solidarity, mutual aid and love of each other and the world from which we came and which always sustained us, even under Capitalism*s relentless attack.

Let our last words to Capitalism be — you won*t be missed, nor forgotten. Killing you has made us strong and remembering your avarice will help us avoid our own downfall. May you rest forever, in OUR peace — the peace we have made by ensuring your demise. We have felled the beast, let it never rise again!

Rejoice, the great god greed and its monstrous child capitalism are dead. Let the celebration begin!

Introduction – slingshot issue #110

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Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

Oppositional politics is both boring and, right now, plentiful. What is more rare is searching for a window into new values, motivations, assumptions and sources of meaning. The new world has to give us something to live for. Our alternative projects can thrive, but only when the process of building something revolutionary is as fun, nourishing and meaningful as the end result and when our projects feed our own lives. Politics without heart is just perpetuating the mainstream systems we re trying to topple.

The new ways of living we re creating transcend the consuming and owning we re used to and bring us closer to a way of living that s ecologically sustainable — tracking the rhythms of the seasons and our own hearts, not 60 megahertz computer circuitry. We are forced into straight lines and easy-to-follow storylines, but when life is really important and intense, it is usually random, taking wild and absurd twists and turns. Some of the wild times we all go through is reflected in some of the pages that follow.

And another thing. Given the increasingly strange weather recently — tangible evidence that human emissions of greenhouse gases are disrupting the earth s climate — shouldn t there be riots in the streets or blockades of oil refineries and coal mines, or some hint that folks are worried and demanding a transition away from fossil fuel dependence? Instead, private industry is leading a massive oil, gas and coal investment boom while efforts to build solar or wind alternatives are declaring bankruptcy. The market won t save us, and in fact its increasing domination is bringing ecological collapse.

The will to fight like our life depended on it comes from giving a shit about the people and eco-systems around us and the simple pleasure of being alive to enjoy a warm afternoon. What s it gonna be?

• • •

This issue we debated a proposal to get a Slingshot twitter and facebook account. We have not been first-adopters of new technology because most of the time the newest thing is just another tool used to make us dependent and numb. We re committed to doing as much as we can to emphasize human beings, human needs and human passion. This means being engaged with ourselves, face-to-face with others around us, and with the earth. We ve noticed that always staring into a screen doesn t make us feel happy. . . .

It is hard to figure out the right balance in the modern world. We don t want to be forced to rely on each new gadget, but the point is to enrich our lives and empower people, not mindlessly strive to be some kind of techno-purist. At what point are tools so integrated into society and so helpful that avoiding their use is just silly?

Some folks in the collective argued that if you hate malls, you don t want to open a store in one — it gives credibility to the mall. After going around and around, we decided against facebook, but for getting a twitter account as an experiment to see if it helps us communicate in new ways. Let us know what you think or how we should use these tools.

• • •

The center poster depicts a tree-being escaping from the splint of state conditioning proclaiming the splendor of an eternal struggle — à la the Arab Spring and beyond. Revolution never stops.

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, etc. to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editing.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot Collective but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collectives members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: Angie, Ben, Claire, Darin, Eggplant, Gina, Holiday, Jesse, Joey, Jonathon, Kathryn, Kazoo, Kermit, Nuclear Winter, Solomon and all the authors and artists.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday August 26, 2012 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 111 by September 15, 2012 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 110, Circulation 19,000

Printed April 13, 2012

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

Phone (510) 540-0751 • slingshot@tao.ca slingshot.tao.ca • fucking twitter @slingshotnews

Circulation Information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue or back issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. Each envelope is one lb. (8 copies) — let us know how many envelopes you want. In the Bay Area, pick up copies at Long Haul or Bound Together Books in SF.

Other Slingshot Free stuff

We ll send you a random assortment of back issues of Slingshot for the cost of postage: Send $3 for 2 lbs. Free if you re an infoshop or library. Also, our full-color coffee table book about People s Park is free or by sliding scale donation: send $1 – $25 for a copy. We also have surplus copies of the 2012 Organizer available free to a good home. Email or call us: slingshot@tao.ca / Box 3051 Berkeley, 94703.

Letters to Slingshot

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To whom it may concern;

Occupy used to have GA everyday. Now Occupy has court everyday. I think that all this has shown us what is truly wrong in the core of our affairs (you know, beyond all this spiritual growth, the self-realization rhetoric that isn*t spoken but experienced), if anything: law, authority, you owning me and the like. And what room is there for accountability in anarchy? So it*s like i got a wet sock on my right foot and a fucking alligator biting off my left. I*ve been ramped up about wet socks and meanwhile bleeding to death. This is what I mean when I say, “We hold each other back.” We hold each other back from achieving spiritual fitness while talk talk about sitcom distraction, and we hold each other back from understanding shared abundance so we eat thanksgiving dinner in dumpster caucuses, and we hold each other back from digging into art-soul integration while stale pop-memes trump the existentialist*s self-overcoming. I am too busy trying to become that which I already am. Why the hate? Because I*m pissed! Ah, these snakes eat themselves and I am bleeding out of my eyes for the injustices of all. I love you, and I goddamn well mean it.

Fuckon,

D.H. Sintax

I enjoyed the Occupy extra and the latest Slingshot very much. Their revolutionary engagement, energy, and passion really came through the pages. We*ll have our analyses about it all, which I think is important, but the palpable feeling you produce is what really juices people with the desire for more. I was amazed at the depth of Haven Quixote*s article on radical art, but thought, wow, this guy sounds like a stalinist commissar demanding socialist realism and peddling the line that Pollock*s abstract expressionism was part of a CIA conspiracy. It*s hard to say what the impact of art is at all in the modern era. I don*t think too many Americans were aware of, let alone viewed Pollock*s canvases, and to say he killed art borders on the ridiculous. Plus, there are so many ways to view art. It could be argued, and has, that the AE school was another attack on formalism and representational art, and hence was subversive even if the CIA masters intended something different. It*s structurelessness and randomness undercut the demand for rigid adherence to rules in art which was transformed into a general rebelliousness. There is a lot of art from the 19th century among the classics, for instance, which may only look like pretty pictures, but contained critiques of urbanism, industrialism, the collapse of rural communities, and lots of other subjects that might not be immediately obvious. Haven demanding that art have workers flying red, or even black flags lest it be deemed a failure by him, must send chills down the spine of every artist and creative person. I have art all over my house and not a single piece is political nor would I want any. We all need respites from fighting the empire and its injustices and just having objects of peace and beauty is what we should all be surrounded by. Hmm, I didn*t mean this as a letter to the paper, but feel free to run it. I*d be curious to read his or her [gotta be a guy] response. I thought your general strike was excellent although I don*t we*re going to see one in the U.S. unless it*s supported and led by trade unions. That*s who has been behind them all both in this country and recently abroad… best and comradely greetings, Peter Werbe

I am a POC organizer in the city of Louisville, KY. I have been scanning your planner and wondering how much of what slingshot covers is written by POC and how represented they are within what is written about. Being a person of color, I am always skeptical to read works by white anarchist, because I generally feel underrepresented or misrepresented, or I feel like they are not conscious enough about POC to write about us. There is this recurring theme of white anarchist seeming overly self-indulgent in zines, or speaking with too much academic jargon. I have attended college for 4 years now, and and can use the same language but I do feel like most people are not on the same page, and I especially feel like those of my group generally have not heard of patriarchy or gender binaries, etc. However, it is not to say they do not know or haven*t heard of these things. Another issue with the white anarchist spaces and zines I have encountered, is that I generally feel like they come at me and other POC as, “let me teach you,” or “let me help you,” or “here is some information I feel like you need,” rather than simply passing along books, zines, etc. that one might feel like could be useful to them. It*s best to allow that person to read and formulate their own opinions, or read and seek out what they do not know, and have now acquired through the texts. I also feel like there is rarely a diversity of ideas or enough objectivity, insofar as it can be accomplished, within them, which to me is off-putting. No one likes to feel like an idea is being forced upon them, or as if it is the end all be all. I am not sure if this is true to slingshot but if you have any works written by or for POC I would love to read it, not to simply critique and analyze but because I do enjoy them when they are formulated well.

Thank you so much for reading. Get back to me when you can!

Wheeze

Rabid wants you to write prisoners

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The Internationalist Prison Books Collective (IPBC) puts together a poster every month with information about political prisoners (PPs) and prisoners of war (POWs) incarcerated in the United States, along with their addresses whose birthdays are that month.

In April last year I was able to participate in a PP*s birthday party at the Dry River Radical Resource Center, an Infoshop located in the Dunbar Spring neighborhood of Tucson, Arizona where we made cards for all the prisoners on the IPBC poster, snacked, took pictures to send along and smashed a piñata. It was a great deal of fun!

Without a doubt, I think the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is one of the flashpoints of class struggle and internal colonialism in the States, and that sending birthday cards to PPs and POWS is the least people who can should be doing.

After leaving Tucson to work on a farm in Iowa I made a point of continuing to write PPs and POWs using the IPBC poster as both a resource for current contact information and for news on the contemporary struggle against the PIC. My correspondence with prisoners has been both very informative and inspiring!

This year, using the Political Prisoner Birthday Party model I picked up in Tucson, I helped start the Riverside Anarchist Birthday Brigade (In Defiance-RABBID) at the Blood Orange Infoshop in Riverside, California. On the first Saturdays of January and February we converged at the Infoshop to make cards, write letters and talk politics. The first party was hastily thrown together as I had just arrived in town, but the second one had a theme where we all wore red and black, decked out the space, had plenty of snacks and took pictures to send along with the cards.

We also had plenty of relevant reading materials courtesy of South Chicago Anarchist Black Cross (S Chi ABC) who donated *zines to help us get started. Now we*re discussing fundraisers to pay for materials and send money to prisoners, as well as doing on going support work for specific prisoners.

Find the IPBC poster at prisonbooks.info. Prisonactivist.org and zinelibrary.info are two other great resources for writing to PPs and POWs. If you haven*t written prisoners before, you may want to check out the great article Tips On Writing To A Prisoner at prisonerlife.com/tips.cfm. Here are the very basics:

• You have to put a prisoner*s number on the first line so your letter gets to them.

• Include a return address on you letter, but if you don*t know the prisoner it may be best to use a PO Box or other neutral address.

• Guards may read your letter. Avoid discussing sensitive topics or details of a court case if a prisoner is awaiting trial / sentencing.

• Don*t make promises you can*t keep: being in prison is isolating and getting let down can be devastating. If you*re not looking for a romantic relationship, be clear about your intentions right from the start.

• Prisoners are no better or worse than anyone else. Some are flawed so exercise the same caution you would writing to anyone else you don*t know.

• Be careful about accepting collect calls from prison — they are absurdly expensive.

Annihilate ALEC!: SLC July 25th-28th

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We the people of Salt Lake City invite all those opposed to the tyranny of the 1% over the 99% to join us on July 25-28, 2012 in “welcoming” the 39th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to our hometown. This annual meeting by ALEC is paid for and attended by corporate sponsors who sit behind closed doors with our so-called representatives to create policies that will later benefit those same corporations at the expense of our communities.

ALEC is a non-profit funded by the largest corporations where industry representatives work with conservative legislators to write pro-corporate model legislation, which is then introduced into state legislatures across the country by elected officials who are ALEC members. ALEC*s model laws focus on deregulation, attacks on labor and immigrants, and weakening environmental and health laws. 98 percent of ALEC*s income comes from 300 major corporate sources — companies like ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Bayer. Around 1/3 of US legislators from all 50 states — 2000 in all — belong to ALEC.

ALEC wrote the Stand Your Ground gun law enacted in Florida and other states that allowed George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon Martin “in self-defense” and not face arrest even though Martin was unarmed.

ALEC functions as one of the most powerful mechanisms by which corporations increase their dominance over political institutions. ALEC is responsible for thirty nine years worth of legislation that has destroyed workers* rights, strangled free speech, and driven the privatization of our agriculture, education, health care, and prison industries all at the expense of our environment.

We will not allow this level of unvarnished corporate influence to continue. Since the occupations began, we have created new communities based on direct democracy that are providing a greater possibility for our voices to be heard than found in any of the mainstream society*s current institutions. We call for a convergence of these communities from July 25th-28th in Salt Lake City for all those oppressed by legislation created by ALEC. We will provide an open and inclusive space for resistance, rebellion, and a diversity of tactics so that we can develop solutions together where the voice of the people is not suppressed by the voice of the financial elite. It is through solidarity that we will find our greatest strength.

For more info, email especifista@riseup.net. For info on ALEC, check alecexposed.org.

Frack Attack! JULY 1-7, 2012

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Marcellus Shale Earth First! is hosting the 2012 Earth First! Round River Rendezvous July 1-7 which will culminate in direct action against fracking in the Marcellus Shale region that includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. The Rendezvous is an annual convergence of radical eco-activists with workshops and trainings — the exact location will be announced closer to July.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a relatively new process for oil and natural gas extraction spreading rampantly across the US. It involves drilling deep down into the earth*s crust, then drilling horizontally and injecting hundreds of thousands of gallons of very high pressure water mixed with various chemicals and sand which fractures rock formations near the drill, allowing extraction of oil and gas. Drillers use a variety of up to 539 chemicals in frack jobs, including toxic or carcinogenic ones like benzene, lead, ethylene glycol, methanol, boric acid, and 2-butoxyethanol. Companies have refused to disclose which chemicals they inject into particular wells, citing trade secret protection.

Fracking can cause water contamination if drilling fluid leaks into aquifers or if fluid that comes back to the surface is not disposed of properly. There are thousands of frack wells in dozens of states including the Marcellus and also Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Louisiana and New Mexico. Some wells can use millions of gallons of water. Fluid that returns to the surface contains drill chemicals as well as toxic or radioactive metals leached from rock underground. Some of this fluid is ending up in local rivers.

The expansion of fracking is increasing supplies of domestic oil and gas, causing natural gas prices to plunge. This is leading to increased reliance on gas to generate electricity, instead of non-polluting technologies like wind or solar, which are having a hard time competing with cheap gas. Drillers claim gas is a “green solution” since burning gas to make electricity emits less carbon dioxide that burning coal, but having easy access to cheap gas is prolonging reliance on fossil fuels and will ultimately increase CO2 emissions and global climate change.

Fracking is exempted from both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act and remains under-regulated. Due to the depressed economy, lack of EPA oversight, and especially strong-arming of the gas companies, fracking is expanding even as many local communities organize to prevent contamination.

Direct action in July will fit in with MSEF*s work with local groups to build effective resistance in rural areas against fracking. No drilling! No compromise!

Contact susquehannaearthfirst@gmail.com, occupywellstreet.blogspot.com, or Marcellusearthfirst.rocus.org for info.

History of May Day

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Every year, people around the world celebrate May Day as International Workers Day to commemorate the struggle of working people for liberation and justice. In the US, May Day isn*t an official holiday nor is it celebrated by very many people even though celebrating May Day as a worker*s holiday started in the US.

In 1886, the American Federation of Labor adopted a resolution that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day*s labor from and after May 1st 1886.” With workers forced to work ten, twelve, and fourteen hours a day, support for the eight-hour movement grew rapidly. In the months prior to May 1st, thousands of organized and unorganized workers, members of the Knights of Labor and of the American Federation of Labor, were drawn into the struggle.

In Chicago, 400,000 workers went out on strike. Chicago was the center of agitation and anarchists were in the forefront of the labor movement. On the morning of May 1, 1886, armed Pinkerton private security, militia and the National Guard were ready to put down what they thought would be a workers insurrection. Instead, a parade and festivities took place without any trouble.

Two days later, again police charged in at another meeting of striking workers outside the McCormick harvester They started shooting workers in the back as they tried to flee. Outraged by this vicious police attack, Albert Parsons circulated a flyer calling for a meeting at Haymarket Square in Chicago.

The demonstration was larger than expected. After beginning to disband because of a gathering storm, the police started marching on the crowd. Suddenly somebody in the crowd threw a bomb at the police, killing seven.

Although it was never determined who threw the bomb, the incident was used as an excuse to attack and scapegoat anarchists and the labor movement in general. In the middle of a police reign of terror, union leaders and suspected radicals were randomly arrested without charge –”make the raids first and look up the law afterwards,” said the police. You see these tactics today being used against the occupy movement.

Anarchists in particular were harassed and eight of Chicago*s most active were charged with conspiracy to murder in connection with the Haymarket bombing. Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer, Louis Lingg, and Oscar Neebe – were tried and found guilty despite a lack of evidence connecting any of them to the bombing. Neebe received 15 years while the others were sentenced to die.

The day before the execution date, Fielden and Schwabs* sentences were commuted while 21-year-old Lingg committed suicide by detonating a blasting cap in his mouth. As an anarchist, he did not recognize the right of the state to take his life and therefore decided to take it on his own.

On November 11, 1887, known by anarchists the world over as “Black Friday”, Parsons, Spies, Fischer, and Engels stood on the gallows. Under his hood, Spies spoke his final words, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voice you strangle today.”

In 1888, the AFL set May 1st, 1889 as a day of action for the eight-hour day. The following year, the newly formed International Association of Working People voted their support, and workers all over Europe and America demonstrated by holding meetings and parades to celebrate the eight-hour workday. This was the birth of the International May Day, still celebrated around the globe.

THIS IS HAPPENING – March on Sacramento for Education

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The “99 Mile March for Education” saw students travel from Berkeley to Sacramento on foot in what might be described as the first pilgrimage of the new student movement. With this in mind, I arrived at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland on March 1st expecting the students marching in from Berkeley. The following text is a first-hand account of what transpired…

Day 1. It*s about 2:45pm and about a hundred community organizers occupy the seats of the Oakland City Hall amphitheatre with a rally to keep the energy up. Megaphones let out calls for the end of the current systematic divestments from education – a symptom of the dominant culture of austerity. “Education will keep our kids off of the streets.” Someone takes a seat and asserts a mantra “out on the streets and into the jail.” And it is true that a major concern for a lot of people is making sure that their kids stay out of the jails. Jails are occupied overwhelmingly by people of color. As an advocate of street culture, that eternally mysterious flux of the commons, I think about how if more people were in the streets, we*d have a lot more fun – it might be a difference in definition. A nearby sign reads: “Our dreams can*t wait.” Four cops with riot sticks linger in the background – speaking under their breaths as if telling each other “take. it. easy.”

I get a message that the Berkeley contingent is at 52nd street and they just received a large cache of water from a nearby business. I decide to meet them, acknowledging that rallies never did much for me anyway, although I understand their role. I bike north on Telegraph Ave. The crowd I come across is made up of around three-hundred persons. Banners and pickets in hand, the people of the protest make their way with a motley motorcade: the Saint Rita (a van painted with murals depicting the struggle at UC), a sympathetic car, and a less sympathetic unmarked police SUV all weave in, out, and among the crowd. Every couple blocks, the unmarked vehicle stops to let a police cameraman out to capture the faces of the march. It isn*t clear how they validate their task to the unknowable “People of California” that they so often use as a cover. “The pigs are fucking filming us.” It is precisely in this sort of situation that masks are warranted. So some mask up for a few more blocks until the unmarked car drives away, into the background.

The crowd*s entrance to the plaza is greeted with the cheers of another. A banner draped between willing hands says, “THIS IS HAPPENING.” Captain America makes his appearance, shield in hand. “Here comes Berkeley,” they chant. “Let*s go Oakland.” The four aforementioned Oakland police have made their way across the street and keep their distance. They communicate over walkies to another cop behind City Hall*s doors – doors are adjacent to the plaza. Suits come in and out of the building.

A friend fills me in on the early parts of the day. At 7am, there was an attempted blockade of the UC Berkeley Administration building (California Hall) in which the edifice was wrapped in caution tape. Noon saw the rally on the Berkeley campus. “Diversity has greatly decreased, look around,” was the echoed message from the steps of Sproul Hall – an observation of the decreased enrollment of marginalized persons on the campus. The stop in Oakland lasts for a little and soon it is off again.

Back to Berkeley to meet with a rally for high school faculty, students, and workers… The road to Berkeley this time is San Pablo Avenue. At this point the crowd is a solid forty and more or less this will be the group to make their way to Sacramento, the state capitol. The decision to actually march the whole distance was said to be an accident. Early flyers described a march “to Sacramento” rather than one “on Sacramento.” People decided to roll with the mistake and they started to prepare for it. It was an idea that I thought might only happen once – this notion most interested me in the march. A man carries a rather large inverted U.S. flag. Two livestreamers cover the movements of about forty people, which seems a little excessive… Although the value of recording events is understandable, it becomes hard to see the merits in documenting every fucking thing. Might we be able to more effectively resist surveillance culture, instead of strengthening it? With the recent passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) the position of social antagonists in the United States is made more precarious. Even in the lead-up to the bill*s passing, more and more stories reach the surface of government agencies monitoring political groups (including student organizations). All of this is under the veil of post-9/11 fear that seems to hold less and less weight in the minds of people in the United States. Instead of it being the patriotic thing to accept such a blatant disregard for people*s privacy and freedom, many are seeing such acts as far-reaching violations.

The time from Oakland to Berzerkeley dilates and I appreciate the old Victorians and graffiti more and more. Usually this trip is formed by a bike or bus ride. Something about moving on foot through the asphalt canals usually reserved for cars that makes for a refreshing view. Now in Berkeley, makes their way onto Martin Luther King Jr. Way, a street that borders the high school. Two ten-year-old wanderers pass some time marching with us for a couple blocks. Front of City Hall finds a congregation of teachers* and school workers* unions and students from K-12 and now the higher education types filter in. Cheers. Smiles. This rally has a busdriver talking into a microphone. A common enough message: “Education is a right, not a privilege.” In the bushes, kids play tag. “You can*t catch me.” Another plays catch with one of the “99ers” (the term coined for the marchers). Still another upstages the speaker with his dance, waving his own sign: “Teachers taught the 1%.” And another: “We might not be able to vote. We might be the future. But we*re also the present.” Don*t fuck with these kids.

A fifteen-foot cardboard pencil carries yet another message: “Tax the rich to teach the children.” The electoral aspirations of some in this march are perceivable. The “pay more taxes” message has already been echoed numerous times today. And yet there is no dominant sensibility. For some the march might represent a radical pilgrimage to the mythical capitol, for others an opportunity to recruit future trotskyites, and still others hold simple hopes for the elections. There is a politeness at these events that reflects a common understanding of such divergences. Yet this is too simple an image.

The 99ers are preparing to move on to Richmond. Tonight they*ll stay at a Methodist Church. As the marchers gather their things, a 6-year-old is quoted in a speech: “Joy is a fish swimming in the river of knowledge. That is why it doesn*t get out.” The day would see a twelve mile trek, which would take them to Saint Mark*s United Catholic Church. They would be greeted with burritos and a place to sleep. An account from ReclaimUC.blogspot.com describes the scene: “A couple of people from Occupy Richmond came to talk with us tonight about the different kinds of work they*ve done. They*ve been very involved in support work for Occupy Oakland. Somebody affiliated with Richmond Spokes said one central issue for Occupy Richmond is the pollution that has been introduced by Chevron in this area. The atmosphere and environment in Richmond is significantly more carcinogenic than in other parts of the Bay Area. He said a study on librarians found that 30 percent of librarians in Richmond develop breast cancer, which people think is tied to the pollution introduced by Chevron.”

Day 2 would see another oil refinery approaching Vallejo. Protesters described the sharp pain felt in breathing the air in. Police attempted to corral marchers in such a way to exert a most comfortable level of control for the police themselves. No one was completely sure what their role was other than giving the marchers a hard time. Along the way they would be greeted by spontaneous masses of supporters. Pizza for dinner.

Day 3. It*s 7:01 pm and the student occupiers of UC Davis are anticipating the arrival of the 99 Mile Marchers. Word has come in that the first marcher has arrived. The giant pencils are at rest waiting for the rest of the group. Davis has had its share of political action on the campus in recent history – with many tracing their political unities back to the fall of 2009, in the wake of 32% fee increases. Then, students took over Mrak Hall in what was a radical coming of age for many. At this time occupations as a tactic, although nothing new, were marginalized by those with more conservative aspirations. Now it*s hard not to talk about the political scene without talking about occupying. As this goes to print, non-profits are currently organizing their own “occupations.” It is unclear what trajectory this will take.

The Davis occupiers, having gained considerable pull in the area post-pepper-spray-incident, got the local administration on edge. Upper-level administrators are holding back in light of bad publicity. The sorts of conversations that are being had by students seem to detail ambivalence about what to do with this power. A recent takeover of an unused building was met with criticism after it was revealed that it would eventually become the Multicultural Center (although it*s never been clear how near this reality was). The affected student groups still haven*t moved into the building.

Another tactic that has been used at Davis was a daily blockade of an on-campus bank. The message was simple: banks do not belong on campus. Because of the hesitancy of the administration, police did very little to stop these renegade blockaders. The action was a success, with the bank having closed its doors on campus as of March 12, 2012 – much to the chagrin of local administrators. The Regents of the University of California drafted a letter to the bank, asking them to reconsider. The bank blockade was a move that was not possible under Davis* General Assembly model. So persons autonomously organized towards such a goal, which makes sense to most. Others who saw the General Assembly as an authoritative governing body of the movement experienced some cognitive dissonance, though.

Sitting among the tents I think about the criticism applied by some to parts of Occupy that seem to evoke a Burning Man aesthetic. I have certainly been one to apply such a criticism to what were, for me, the least exciting parts of Occupy. Yet one of the most transmissible elements of Occupy has been the camp/community structure. Perhaps what is positive about this is that people are able to experiment towards livable communities. The intensity of the camps can*t simply be written off as a detriment. Conflict signifies a new synthesis – issues are being looked at in lights that are left untouched in the armchairs of world.

A quick circle discussion is held, which revolves around the question of how to greet the 99 Mile Marchers. It is quickly decided that we should hide and surprise them. We do just that. People hide in tents donated to Davis Occupy by supporters in New Zealand. Chants are heard in the distance. They are approaching. In the tent, a Davis Occupier fills me in on the local political happenings. Nearby, Davis cops hide themselves behind the neighboring trees. As the marchers come in, everyone jumps out. Surprise. We sit around and share tamales, beans, and rice that was coordinated in Davis. The talk is friendly and cheerful. This leads me to hear about efforts to shut down the Monsanto headquarters that are located in Davis. I overhear a conversation about how capitalism is polling lower than ever – it is so low that rightwing advisors like Frank Luntz are telling politicians to avoid using the word. The UC Davis does an extensive amount of agricultural research for big industry, with many professors taking on the unfortunate role of genetically-modified-organism-apologists when needed. Local TV reporters set up lights in the distance for their predictably botched reports. Dessert is in the form of Occu-pies, which are apple pies with cheddar cheese on top. Some suggest that the vegan alternative could be made with nutritional yeast.

“There are way too many mic checks,” I say to a friend. The term, a shortening of “microphone check,” is one that is nearly ubiquitous in Occupy (fortunately or unfortunately). The group isn*t so big that one can*t hear someone yell. Goes to show how people are quick to return to comfortable forms. Are there any mic check tattoos yet? I*ve always found them to be a little creepy. “GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN FIVE MINUTES.” “Finally,” someone exhales. People will discuss tactical matters for the next and final day in Sacramento. Others freely talk in smaller groups with friends to discuss their own plans.

Day 5. The culmination at the California state capitol would see thousands of protestors, disenfranchised by the actions of an elite class of politicians. Traffic reports let local suits know what streets to avoid on their way to work. Some were there to lobby those politicians. Others were more interested in the Occupy approach – blockades and building takeovers. In a move that attempted to replicate Wisconsin*s capitol takeover, hundreds held it down in the Capitol building. At the end of the day, seventy-two were arrested. Many more stayed for support. Earlier, some attempted to hold a general assembly to talk about demands. Others rejected this approach, comparing it to the motions of nearby politicians. Many went home thinking that the day was unfolding in a way that was described as “pretty basic.” In fact, the dominant move for many Occupy groups is to reject the logic of demands, for demands inherently reinforce the positions of mediators (politicians, administrators, police) in our lives. Even though the actions of a few aspiring politicians can seem to overshadow the efforts of many other “Occupy Everything, Demand Nothing” types, the latter still reflect the trend towards a radical rejection of what is. Such rejection might soon be traced to the new synthesis, one that could finally fully corrupt the corrupted political order of the present. Soon no one would be able to miss the fact that we wanted everything.