- Issue #117: Table of Contents
- Existential Compost: Staying inspired in spite of pain
- Rise up, Speak Out, Fight Back: Stop sexual violence
- The Darkness Before the Dawn: resist inertia, embrace collapse
- Issue #117 Introduction
- Fertile soils: radical spaces spread like weeds
- Moral Panic Attack: callout culture and community
- Good News, Bad News: coming of age in America’s Rape Culture
- Dirty kids done dirty
- Co-op(ted) What can we learn about threats to democracy from the closure of CLoyne student co-op at UC Berkeley?
A few years ago, I was helping a friend with an understaffed bike cooperative that provided composting services in a city that lacked a municipal green waste system. The co-op, which was based out of an anarchist community center, was run by a small handful of self-identified radicals. While showing me my bike route, one of the co-op’s founding members explained to me why he was quitting. He had very strong feelings about insurrectionary anarchism and had decided that more structural projects — such as worker-owned cooperatives — were pointless if we weren’t actively engaged in armed revolution. His views had become so strong in this respect that he had decided to “wash his hands” not only of activism, but of composting, bicycling, and the other “trappings of radical lifestyles”.
More recently, Slingshot received a letter from a person who was struggling with feelings of self-hatred and inadequacy around being an anarchist. The writer was grappling with what it meant to engage in radical politics — if it was arrogant to fight for something so massive and complex as a stateless society, and if there was a way to let go of worrying whether The Revolution was ever going to happen. Notably, they were wondering if it was possible to detach oneself from the concept of a “final goal” in radical activism without losing passion.
These two anecdotes speak to a type of burnout that has less to do with overcommitment and more to do with existential pain. Unlike others I know who have taken extended breaks from activism because they exhausted themselves with over extension, these are examples of folks who got so caught up in anger, hopelessness, and a desire for immediate large-scale change that they began to question the value of their efforts.
I hit the existential wall 10 years ago, when I was cutting my teeth at an anti-Monsanto protest. Temperatures were nearing triple digits, a cop who’d dropped to the ground after beating a preteen with a billy club lay dying from a heart attack, several of my friends were bleeding and being dragged off to the Philadelphia Roundhouse, and the living cops were beating folks at random with (maybe this is ironic?) bicycles. While debriefing with what remained of my affinity group and preparing to do jail support, I felt pretty shaken by the amount of violence that had gone down so quickly and was wondering whether we’d accomplished anything positive. I got pretty bitter and jaded about direct action when the protest barely showed up on the news. Awareness hadn’t been raised, other actions hadn’t followed, and whatever sense of temporary autonomy we’d felt had been rapidly beaten down.
Engaging in radical politics means being aware of intensely pervasive structures of hierarchy and oppression. It means having dreams of a better world that are complex and idealistic, and it is easy to feel that those dreams may never come to fruition. As activists, we often hold ourselves to unrealistic standards of being the Perfect Revolutionary, a person who feels confident in their knowledge of how to dismantle hierarchy and restructure a new world, who speaks in the right lexicon and groks the right theories. Faced with such standards and an immense sense of powerful opposition, feelings of despair, alienation, and burnout are common.
There are numerous schools of thought within anarchism. Some — such as anarcho-syndicalism — place great emphasis on coherent theory and organized collective effort. Others, especially those influenced by situationism, are more focused on deconstructing organization and engaging in acts of social disruption — these schools of thought are often called “post-left” anarchism. Regardless of the details of theory and preferred tools for enacting change, the idea of a functional stateless society is very broad and complex. Getting to a point where such a world is feasible requires massive change in social infrastructure, and while I’m certainly not in opposition to idealistic end goals, I do support framing one’s personal politics in a way that encourages practical action without leading to “I want The Revolution or no change at all” burnout. Because we as anarchists advocate for dismantling structures that are mind blowingly powerful and pervasive, what can we do to stay inspired when we feel unsure if the world we want will ever exist?
There is no single correct answer to this question, but I can speak to my own experiences. I dropped out of radicalism for a few years — not because I was tired or didn’t have enough time, but because I felt powerless. I came back into the scene after joining up with some anti-prison organizers at a transgender health conference. They were part of a collective that believed in the eventual abolition of the prison industrial complex, but in the meanwhile, had concrete ideas for improving the lives of incarcerated folks. I realized it was possible to hold to ideals I believed in but had little hope of seeing – like the abolition of prisons — without falling into an existential rut. That sense of hopelessness was tempered by a sense of empowerment at being able to do something — like hooking up reentering prisoners with healthcare, or running copy scams, or sneaking AIDS resource guides into prisons where they were banned. Tangible work that felt effective and meaningful, especially within the context of a tight-knit collective, is what brought me back into the fold.
Housing co-ops, worker owned collectives, and community gardens may not be The Revolution, but they’re valuable in that they create alternatives that make tangibly positive differences in people’s lives. I’ve heard people dismiss these kinds of projects — “Why spend so much time on gardens when we ought to be rioting?” — but this sort of work builds the foundation of the world we want (and you know, it isn’t mutually exclusive with rioting anyway). Endeavors such as free clinics, infoshops, and community gardens are radical in that they aim to transform the way basic human needs are met. Each project is a tiny pocket of transformation that may one day swell and synthesize with others to form a new world. Even if they don’t, those projects make concrete improvements in our lives in the present moment, giving us the hope and energy to move forward.
All but one of my closest friends is a survivor of sexual assault. My mother and my best friend, the two women on this earth who are most important to me, are survivors. Some of these people experienced these atrocities before I knew them, and others confided in me shortly after their escape. Their stories came out slowly and sometimes shamefully, through a fog of confusion about what too many people will never mention. All of these people whom I hold closest to my heart have cried over a bodily invasion, a choice stolen, and a betrayal.
Subsequently, they have been forced to fight a culture which not only condones rape, but will not let them mourn. They have been exploited and abused by their perpetrators and by a society that invalidates and silences their experiences. FUCK THAT.
I have tipped past the point of sadness and into a realm of rage and indignation. No, this is not blind rage — it is a rage well educated and experienced — one which I know I do not bear alone. It is a rage towards the patriarchal culture which we all live in, a culture whose media and values accept rape. Once a pacifist, I no longer feel the staunch aversion to violent intervention. I would never raise a fist without a survivor’s consent, but as my knowledge and growth builds, so does my vehement thirst for retaliation.
In writing this, I am not trying to convince anyone of the validity of my words, of the truth. Fuck that. Here is not the place to fight that uphill battle. Rather, I am clutching to my rage and passion to urge survivors and allies: RISE UP, SPEAK OUT & FIGHT BACK
We need to fight back against anyone under notion that another’s body is their property. We are taught this myth that our partners are entitled to our bodies, and that sexual accommodation is part of the relationship experience. No matter how long folks have been in a relationship, or how positive an experience it has been, under no circumstances are their bodies each other’s property.
If you see this gross expectation in someone’s actions or language, you can take that opportunity to educate that person, or point them in the direction of an awesome zine (like Cindy Crabb’s Learning Good Consent Zine or Support Zine), if you feel comfortable doing so. We need to fight back against the coworker/peer/acquaintance/friend whose daily interactions clearly show their disregard for other’s boundaries. “Sexual Harassment” workshops in the workplace and in schools are not enough. Folks who are sexually harassing others and not respecting their spaces need to promptly and earnestly check themselves, or folks with privilege who witness these acts need to call them out! Calling someone out may look like a holding a forum for community discussion, telling the aggressor what is on your mind in a confrontational way, giving them a rad zine on boundaries, also forms of retaliation with direct action can be a fun alternative. One instance of boundary violation in our social spaces is one too much and perpetuates a culture that condones sexual violence.
We need to fight back against anyone who attempts to invalidate and negate another’s experience of sexual assault. If someone says they have been sexually assaulted, they have been sexually assaulted–only they can name their experience and no one else. If you hear someone negating or minimizing the experience of sexual assault, it is totally appropriate (if you feel comfortable) to call them out. As aforementioned, community discussions, offering educational resources, individually confronting their ignorance, or engaging in forms of direct action, can all be tools in effectively calling someone on their bullshit.
We need to fight back against an education that teaches people how to avoid rape rather than teaching others not to rape. It is ineffective and victim-blaming to teach people that they need to carry whistles and pepper spray, and that they should not wear certain clothing. When society asserts that attitudes of fear and oppression will lead to safety, it invalidates a survivor’s experience AND does not hold aggressors accountable. This type of “safety” education is unacceptable and cries out for reform. It would be awesome if consent workshops could be regularly held in community spaces and in schools. These consent workshops could focus on offering tools to explore and talk about boundaries, and on educating people about rape culture and how to resist the manifestations against this cultural norm!
We need to speak out against the myth of stranger danger. 2/3 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivors, not an anonymous stranger hiding in the bushes. Someone can be sexually assaulted by their friend, acquaintance, or their partner.
It is time that this reality is asserted into community consciousness, and that people question their oppressive assumptions. We need to speak out against slut shaming and victim blaming. No matter the multitude of sexual encounters someones experiences, each one deserves to be consensual. Also, folks should wear what the fuck they want and go where the fuck they want– sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, no one is ever “asking for it”. There is NO behavior or appearance that conveys a desire to be violated.
We need to speak out against imposed gender roles and their intersection with sexual violence.
No sex assignment is indicative of sexual expectations and obligations. Alongside this concept, it’s important to combat the myth that men do not experience sexual violence. Men of all ages can experience sexual violence and it is asinine and invalidating that sexual violence has been labeled as strictly a “women’s issue.”
We need to rise up and form community support groups. These can look like safe spaces where boundaries, experiences, education, and healing are discussed. Holding a space of support and validation creates a stronger community, sheds light on the prevalence of sexual violence, and can be powerfully validating for a survivor. Explore spaces in your community that you can reserve for a day! Invite members of the community to create and attend consent workshops, or facilitate a community discussion about sexual violence and survivorship. A note of caution, sometimes it is helpful to conceal the location of the event until someone contacts you with an interest to attend, it is ultimately important to work towards creating a safe space for this event
We need to rise up and get together to discuss what community perpetrator accountability looks like. There are a million reasons why a survivor may not want to get the cops involved in their experience. Unfortunately, there is not enough discussion of what aggressor accountability looks like as an alternative to law enforcement. Restorative justice, which focuses on the needs of the survivor and their community instead of satisfying punitive avenues of “justice”, is not a common enough word in the current paradigm of aggressor accountability. Organize community forums to discuss what aggressor accountability and restoration looks like in your community! Our current culture uses patriarchal tools of oppression to condone sexual violence. Destroy what destroys you.
By Jesse D. Palmer
We’re living in a frustrating time of political and cultural stagnation — both in terms of the collapsing corporate monster and our (currently feeble) resistance to it. The horrors of the system keep piling up and trying to drag us down: another open-ended US war in Iraq and Syria, gentrification, evictions and economic stratification licking at our heels, and what’s left of the oceans and wilderness teetering on the brink of extinction while fracking and industrialization pour more CO2 into the air. . . .
Even more concerning is the relative calm and silence in the streets in the face of all of this. Where are the strikes, the riots, the active resistance and refusal? It doesn’t have to be like this — with the system’s internal contradictions so extreme, the veneer of resignation and apathy is unlikely to endure much longer.
We all sense the system is unsustainable — environmentally and economically. What that means is that the system as it is currently organized is on the verge of being swept away. The system wants everyone to think that if it collapses, this will bring a period of famine, epidemic, destruction and suffering — and too many of us willingly buy into this narrative. Doomthink is fashionable, accompanied by resignation and a reorientation to purely personal concerns since “we can’t do anything anyway . . .” Naturally, the system seeks to preserve itself by psychologically and culturally promoting fear of its own collapse in such a way that people feel powerless, resigned and isolated so they’ll passively accept business as usual.
But another way to approach the system’s unsustainability is to rejoice, because this means that our current hassles are near an end. Part of the unsustainability of the system is us. Our role — if we’re willing to step up — can be to rise up against the system and its meaningless jobs, its production for profit not use, its ugly industrial machines, its police and endless wars, and its isolation, selfishness and loneliness.
Environmental collapse isn’t the only option and the question now is whether we can shake off our collective pessimism and see that the kind of collapse we’re about to be part of is really up to us. Sure, if nothing happens soon industrial capitalism will run up against natural limitations, killing us and itself. But we’re not dead yet — why the mournful sad faces when there’s still time to fight back against the coal mines, the oil trains, the fracking, and the greed, shortsightedness and corporate and governmental structures that are killing the planet?
There’s at least two ways we can choose collapse of the system over collapse of our ecological life support systems.
First, we can fight the system politically, economically and culturally — in the streets, in our communities, and in long-term and short-term ways. This is about more than fighting each new pipeline, or the huge 350.org rally in September, but that may be part of it. It is about more than fighting the 1%, the corporations, the WTO and the police, but that all may be part of it. It is about much more than the same old single issue politics, boring political meetings, and alphabet soup of activist groups, although all of these things may still be part of it.
An activist who cut her teeth during Occupy recently told me that direct action and protests were passé and ineffective now because things have changed and the system has figured out ways to co-opt and divert us, but I think that’s wrong. Resistance to power and injustice has always been essential to social change throughout history. Powerful structures won’t give up their power or fall apart on their own — they need our help. The fact that things may seem bleak at the moment, or that a lot of people spend all day glued to a computer, doesn’t change these historical dynamics. If you understand history, then you notice how economic structures, those in power and their police and prisons always seem invincible . . . right before they are wiped out. And when these structures suddenly change, it’s because people got together and made it so.
It is impossible to know what issue, what tactic, what slogan or what moment might provide the spark for fundamental shifts in social organization, but when that moment comes we need to be there and ready. For each such moment, there are a hundred defeats and forgettable rallies. That means that successful prolonged resistance requires self-care and community so we don’t get tired, lonely and bitter while the struggle unfolds. Resistance needs to give us more in meaning, excitement, connection, fun, music, beauty and love than it takes from us so we can endure.
A new social order requires resistance to the old order, but it also needs new ideas and examples of alternatives to the status quo, which is the the second way we can struggle for collapse of the system on our own terms.
Understanding and critiquing the current system is essential, but not enough. The current system is based on hierarchy, violence, competition, loneliness and technological and economic systems disconnected from the pursuit of happiness, freedom or beauty. The better we understand these dynamics, the better we can wrap our brains around how to reorganize the world on counter-goals and counter-values. An ecologically sustainable and just world needs to be based on cooperation, not competition. On diversity, community, and connection, not violence, power, isolation and loneliness. Such a world will understand that happiness and freedom aren’t based on material wealth, but rather on engagement with the beauty of and love for other people and the earth.
Theoretical alternatives can be powerful and inspiring, but they’re more culturally contagious when they’re expressed in the real world. At least a part of the process of social transformation is millions of people collectively concluding that living in new ways is easier and more enjoyable than plodding along under the current system. We need to build demonstration projects to give some feeling of how amazing life is without capitalism and the system. These may include building worker cooperatives, communal housing, volunteer collectives and local economies, but these structures have their own frustrations, and retreating to lifestyle politics is not enough.
Our demonstration projects need to be less about structure and more about ecstatic, underground pleasure — people offering free, decentralized gifts to their neighbors. Guerrilla sculpture gardens filled with chickens and vegetables and bees. Community hot tubs under a house on a quiet street where naked bodies drift through the steam into a redwood grove. A basement full of free pinball machines open every Friday night where radical debate, laughter and pot smoking continue until the wee hours. These all exist a few blocks from me in Berkeley right now but you would never know it from the media or the grim “be realistic” culture of the American Dream built on everyone mowing their own fucking lawn. The political and economic foundations of the system — privatization, competition, consumerism, efficiency — should make our counter-culture / alternative / radical community impossible, and yet we’re thriving. Our friends are named Bananas and Booze.
Along with building community gardens and bike co-ops, we need to build lived experiences of solidarity, mutual aid and sharing. The system loves selfishness and hyper-individualism, and promotes a hip cynicism in which when one worker hears another worker is earning more because they’re in a union, the reaction is to complain about the union, rather than your own boss for not paying you more, too. This lack of solidarity between workers and failure of workers to see themselves as a class is currently a glaring roadblock to social transformation.
Both types of struggle — resistance and building alternatives — crucially depend on millions of us first changing our own psychological outlook so we can pull ourselves and our friends and neighbors out of the current rut of powerlessness and resignation. The system is limping along, drifting rudderless from crisis to crisis. As such, it’s fragile and vulnerable. The meaninglessness, boredom and social alienation of life in a self-destructing system with no goal greater than making more and more stuff faster and faster is increasingly driving people mad. This helps explain the seemingly random school shootings and the fundamentalist beheadings carried out by alienated youth from western countries.
Ultimately, only a very thin line separates the system’s dull days from the world that will emerge in its ruins. The process of collapse and transition is inevitable, but passivity and resignation are not the inevitable or exclusive response. Rather, we can be part of the process if we stay engaged with others, ourselves and the world around us.
Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.
If it seems like an inordinate amount of time has passed between issues of Slingshot, your intuition is right. The structures that we’ve relied on to make the paper the last couple of decades broke down this time. Normally, we publish an article deadline and articles show up. We publish the date for a new volunteer meeting, and new and old members of the collective show up. This time at the deadline we mostly got poorly written articles. A bunch of people came to the new volunteer meeting but never came back, while longer-term members of the collective were absent. We had to extend the deadline twice and had small, sad meetings.
Little by little some momentum returned. Some articles came in that we really liked. Beautiful cover art appeared. We called each other and left late-night collective voicemails on speaker phone. We exchanged historic office supplies. We ate bananas. We sent birthday cards. Some of us even drank a little wine. In the end, we had so many good articles that we consulted a magick 8-ball to decide what to put on the first page.
So now we’re finally pushing this late issue out into the world with a Question: How can we re-imagine and revive the Slingshot collective so the paper can continue more smoothly? This project — 27 years old now — has a lot going for it. Unlike most radical projects, we are blessed with sufficient funding, provided by the Slingshot organizer calendar. Because of the network we’ve built around the Organizer, we have an excellent community of distributors all over the country who hand out the papers we publish. We have a unique voice and style that offers opportunities for artistic, political and literary expression.
The weak spots are that we need more article submissions and more help with editing. In the age of the internet with instant gratification and computerized-publishing, more people are writers than ever before and there is a lot of good material out there. We urge you to send some of it our way. Paper distribution provides opportunities to reach out to people who wouldn’t otherwise stumble onto radical ideas and this helps radicals break out of our self-created intellectual/cultural/social bubble.
Our other big problem is a 6-month backlog processing mail from prisoners. We are getting thousands of letters from prisoners and we’re overwhelmed. We need help typing addresses into our mailing list and responding to the letters. If Slingshot can’t find volunteers to process the prison mail, the only fair alternative is to warn prisoners not to write us anymore, because we don’t have the infrastructure to handle their letters.
In other news, because Slingshot is an open-collective that welcomes whoever shows up, we’ve been struggling with how to deal with the rare situations where we can’t work with people who show up to our meetings. In one instance, a tall white man named Darin made comments at meetings that were so disruptive that we finally asked him to stop coming to meetings. We also understand that he acted inappropriately towards a number of women by refusing to respect their requests that he leave them alone. These situations are hard on all-volunteer collectives and we delayed dealing with this situation for a long time because it was uncomfortable. This delay and avoidance didn’t make the problem go away — it just made it last longer and contributed to the feeling that our collective might be okay with his actions.
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: Eggplant, Finn, Gina, Glenn, Hayley, Heather, Isabel, Jesse, Judy, Kit, Robin, Soren, William, Xander, 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 January 25, 2015 at 4 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)
Article Deadline & Next Issue Date
Submit your articles for issue 118 on February 14, 2015 at 3 p.m.
Volume 1, Number 117, Circulation 20,000
Printed November 14, 2014
A publication of Long Haul
Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue
Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone (510) 540-0751 • email@example.com slingshot.tao.ca • twitter @slingshotnews
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.
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 2014 Organizer available free in bulk for distro to people who wouldn’t otherwise purchase one such as prisoners, youth and the oppressed. Email or call us: firstname.lastname@example.org / Box 3051 Berkeley, 94703.
Compiled by Jesse D. Palmer
The radical contact list published in the 2015 Slingshot Organizer that came out October 1 is the best contact list we’ve published in years reflecting hundreds of phone calls and emails we made over the summer to update and expand the list. But the very day we took the organizer to the printing press, we started learning about other spaces we left out and folks contacted us with corrections. So here are some updates.
Opening and maintaining radical spaces is a crucial part of the struggle for a new world based on cooperation, pleasure and love, not power, profit and greed. These spaces are fertile ground where seeds of thought and action can grow. You can help plant and nurture the seeds by plugging into your local radical spaces or starting one. To connect even more people to radical alternatives, we’re hoping folks who read this will help us add contacts in Russia, Africa, the Middle East and a handful of US states where we don’t currently have contacts. For the most updated information check slingshot.tao.ca/contacts
The Base – Brooklyn, NY
A space “committed to the dissemination of revolutionary left and anarchist ideas and organizing” that hosts events, study groups, meetings, a number of groups and an anarchist library. 1302 Myrtle Ave Brooklyn, NY 11221 thebasebk.org
Mutiny Information Cafe – Denver, CO
A bookstore, record store and cafe that hosts shows and events. 2 S. Broadway, Denver, CO 80209 303-778-7579 mutinyinfocafe.com
May Day Bar and Community Space – Brooklyn, NY
A community center “for social justice organizing, community empowerment and creative expression” with a bar, cafe, two events spaces, and a co-working space. 214 Starr Street in Brooklyn, N Y11237 maydayspace.org
Denver Zine Library – Denver, CO
They’ve been open since 2003 and have 15,000 zines from all over the world. You can borrow the zines and they hold workshops. Open Sat/Sun 11-3. New location. 2400 Curtis St., Denver, CO 80205 denverzinelibrary.org
Antioch Alternative Library – Yellow Springs, OH
An alternative library at the college that is nevertheless open to the public. Sontag Fels Building 800 Livermore Street Yellow Springs, OH 45387
George Wiley Center – Pawtucket, RI
A community organizing non-profit. 32 East Ave. Pawtucket, RI 02860 401-338-1665 georgewileycenter.org
IWW New York City General Member-ship Branch – Long Island City, NY
Someone recommended this as a contact but we’re not sure what happens here other than IWW stuff. Clue us in if you visit. 45-02 23rd St, 2nd Fl, Long Island City, NY 11101 www.wobblycity.org
Pineapple Arts Center – Duluth, MN
A cooperatively-run fine art supply store, staffed by volunteers that offers classes and studio space. 124 W. 1st St. Duluth, MN 55812 218-722-2919 email@example.com
Revolutionary Autonomous Communities – Los Angeles, CA
They meet every Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm at MacArthur Park in Downtown LA to distribute salvaged produce received from groceries and through mutual aid with farmers. Not a space but a solid long-running project. revolutionaryautonomouscommunities.blogspot.com
MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse – St. Louis, MO
A private business that hosts radical meetings and events. 3606 Arsenal St. St. Louis, MO 63116 314-865-2009 facebook.com/mokabes
Mercury Cafe – Denver, CO
An organic restaurant that hosts artistic and cultural events. Not sure they are really a radical space but someone suggested we list them so perhaps some of our friends in Denver will give us feedback on this. 2199 California Street Denver, CO 80205 303-294-9258 mercurycafe.com
Inkstorm + SadRad = RADSTORM – Halifax, NS, Canada
Inkstorm is a collectively run screenprinting studio with free access hours and classes. SadRad is an all-ages collectively operated show venue and jam space. They share space at 6050 Almon Street, 2nd Floor, Halifax, NS (mail: PO Box 33129 Halifax, NS B3L 4T6) sadrad.h-a-z.org and robertsstreet.org
Ateneu Anarquista del Poble Sec – Barcelona, Spain
An anarchist space that hosted the 2014 Barcelona Anarchist Book fair. c/ Creu dels Molers 86, Barcelona, Spain ateneuanarquistapoblesec.noblogs.org
Nosotros – Athens, Greece
A free social center with a library and meeting space that hosts a free skool and other projects. Themistokleous 66, Exarchia, Athens, Greece nosotros.gr
Ülase12 – Tallinn, Estonia
A volunteer run social center that features a library, free store, meetings, films, punk shows, vegan dinner and events. Tallinn, Kristiine district at Ülase street 12, Estonia. www.ylase12.org
Corrections to the 2015 Organizer
• The Black Coffee Coop in Seattle, WA is moving October 31 so they won’t be at the address we published in 2015. We’ll put their new address on our website once we know it.
• Internationalist Books moved from Chapel Hill to 101 Lloyd St, Carrboro NC 27510 on October 1.
• The day we went to the printer, Solidarity Houston (Texas) told us they won’t be at the address we listed for them in 2015 (2805 Wichita). They don’t have a new address yet but they still exist. Check their website for a new location once they know it. solidarityhouston.org
• The listing for Bad Egg Books in Eugene, OR has the wrong name. Their correct name is the Eugene Infoshop.
• We listed a space called the LA Infoshop at 176 W. Sunset Blvd. based on an email from them, but when someone went to visit, there was just a private business there, not an infoshop. Say it ain’t so!
• We left out the phone number for the Collective for Arts, Freedom and Ecology in Fresno, CA. It is is 559 237-0922.
• The Denver Community Health Collective (Colorado) is only at the address we published once a month on the 4th Wednesday from 5-7 pm. They may eventually add hours. Check their website: denverhealthcollective.com
• We left off the phone number for The Feminist Library in London. It is 020 7261 0879.
• We forgot to include the postal code for the House of Freedom in Brisbane, Australia – it is 4101. They also would have preferred we list the name as Brisbane Anarchist Library.
• Pogo Cafe in Hackney, UK no longer exists.
• The A-raamatukogu (A-library) in Tartu, Estonia is no longer at the address listed but there is still a punk squat there.
• Here’s a list of infoshops in Spain, but we haven’t had time to confirm them by press time: alasbarricadas.org/noticias/node/19036
Radical center seeking support
The Southern Woman’s Bookstore is raising money to open a non-profit feminist bookstore and community center in Denton, TX. Check SouthernWomansBookstore.com for info.
Che Cafe in San Diego under attack
Che Cafe is an all-ages music venue and 35 year-old student cooperative at University of California San Diego that has been a cornerstone of radical thought and action for students and the community. After years of rocky relations with campus authorities, they got an eviction notice in June and a judge ruled in favor of a UCSD eviction lawsuit in October. They may appeal the lawsuit and need political, financial and social support. 9500 Gilman Dr. La Jolla, CA 92093. thechecafe.blogspot.com
“What do you regard as most humane? To spare someone shame.” — Nietzsche
By Margaret Matson
I imagine all people have felt shame at one point or another in their lives. Shame is a prison of the mind and heart that can cage us regardless of space or time. It is easy to feel powerless, alone and inherently flawed given the insurmountable challenges we face. Those of us who struggle to negate the conscripted fate that capitalism and social strata thrust upon us face a critical question. How do we spare ourselves and one another shame?
Moral panic is a sociological phenomena in which individuals or groups are persecuted within a larger social group. These panics are precipitated by the presence of several key ingredients: social order, fear of that social order being threatened, and the existence of taboos – unnameable things which members of the group cannot address without experiencing fear.
A moral panic begins with the accusation of a “folk devil” made by a “moral entrepreneur.” This folk devil is accused of causing ill within the community by violating the social order. The entrepreneur, often a priest, politician or activist, is quickly and readily validated because of the preexisting level of anxiety amongst the community. The problem becomes more convoluted because it centers upon a topic which is taboo to discuss, making it impossible for people to admit or even recognize their intentions and motivations. Soon, more and more people are accusing one another of deviant behavior and rushing to increasingly drastic measures to rid themselves of anybody that is perceived as a threat to the community, despite the fact that the folk devils were members of the established community to begin with. Moral panic often antecedes genocide.
A small-scale example, well known to many here in the US, is the Salem Witch Trials. Even before the witch trials erupted, the neighboring communities to the Salem area considered them “quarrelsome.” The moral entrepreneurs in this case were several young women who began having “fits,” along with the local magistrate, who accused three outliers within the community of witchcraft.
Soon, many were accusing many others of witchcraft. Almost all of those convicted were women. Upon examining the links within the Salem colony, it becomes obvious that many of these accusations had less to do with any real threat of the Devil and more to do with land and inheritance disputes. Needless to say, none of the trials record any frank discussion of sexuality or property.
There was likely real fear that gripped these people, which no doubt escalated as the panic gained momentum. A mysterious headache or sour milk could result in torture and public execution. I find myself giving those tightlipped Protestants the benefit of the doubt. They probably did not consciously seek to murder their female neighbors over land – they were probably truly terrified of the Devil. Ultimately, the young women having these “fits” surely were not aided by the public hangings.
Admitting that anarchist and radical groups have a “social order” may be uncomfortable, and the word “community” can be a touchy subject in and of itself. However, social order forms naturally and inevitably wherever and whenever people participate in groups, no matter how disordered or anti-order the group may be. One can also refer to this organic process as culture. When one is part of a social group, one remembers familiar faces, shares common references and might use cues like dress or speech to identify one another. Most members of radical circles have a sense of what’s appropriate and inappropriate to say or do in radical spaces and circles.
There is no such thing as a perfect anarchist. However, many seem to hold an idealized image of perfection aloft – constantly comparing themselves and others to it. The perfect anarchist is always an ally to the oppressed, yet an enemy of the oppressors. The perfect anarchist always respects “safe space” and knows how to conduct themselves in almost any social situation. The perfect anarchist is original, individualistic and unapologetic, in part because they never have to apologize. Perhaps within this caricature of perfection, one may see some anarchist taboos inverted: power, oppression and hierarchy. What is “right” for an anarchist? What is “wrong?” How do anarchists hold power? How can an individual be part of a community? How can a community embrace individuality? Why do we hold anarchists to higher standards than everybody else?
Many anarchists feel a certain amount of justified fear of the things which threaten their lives and lifestyles. It is natural and logical to have some anxiety regarding homelessness, police violence, surveillance and imprisonment. Not only do anarchists experience threats from the outside – we experience them from within. Informants, COINTELPRO, crypto-fascists and fools with no security culture are all threats which can and do harm us. However, this general sense of unease and distrust can lead to outcomes that threaten anarchist projects as much as any state oppression.
I feel that I have seen a growing tendency within radical circles towards “callout culture.” A callout is a disempowered party publicly calling out another party on their behavior. In theory, it is meant to restore power to the disempowered and create a climate in which accountability can happen. Callouts can result in people re-examining their attitudes and behaviors in ways which inspire a great deal of personal growth, especially when done in a respectful, sincere way. In practice, this is not always the case.
The crux of a callout relies on credibility and authority – how one gains and holds social power. Callouts generally favor whoever has more social currency within their circle. Rather than aiding the disempowered, callouts can give figures of authority more power, more credibility and more attention. Often, victims of oppressive or violent behavior are ignored, dismissed or viewed with distrust when they call out the party who has wronged them. Sometimes, victims of violence are used by others who call out on their behalf, acting without their permission or knowledge. Perhaps just as often, people are falsely accused of wrongdoing by a charismatic individual seeking power over a situation. The folk devil is effectively stripped of all credibility; they are suddenly the subject of distrust, debate and controversy. Sometimes, when somebody asks for accountability, they are really demanding revenge.
Instead of talking directly about the underlying power dynamics in these situations, it is easy to fall in line with whoever is thought to be more credible or whoever holds more authority. There are times when the loudest voices in the room are heard while others are silenced by shouting. Other times it is the quietest voices that carry the most weight. Whispered stories circulate and morph in an endless game of telephone. Meanwhile the storytellers impress upon their audience to not reveal their source because they fear retaliation.
Often, simply asking questions about what actually happened or searching for clarity is viewed as an oppressive, offensive act in and of itself. However, how can one seek justice without even understanding the situation, its context and the desired outcomes of all directly affected? How can one seek accountability without being able to be accountable for one’s own words? How can one redistribute power equitably without talking directly about power itself, both individual and systemic?
The definitive characteristics of moral panic are concern, hostility, volatility, consensus and disproportionality of reaction. When somebody is called out for oppressive, offensive or violent behavior, people often naturally react with concern and hostility. When there is a general consensus within a group that the called out is guilty until proven innocent, the course is set for actions and outcomes that often are unpredictable and harsh.
People overreact. They start flame wars, get into fights and try to ruin one another’s lives – the whole time forgetting that the people they are persecuting with so much self-righteousness are their friends, lovers, housemates, fellow activists and chosen-family. They feel ashamed and shame one another. And the persecution and pain usually doesn’t end there. Witch hunts hurt everybody involved. Everybody risks getting burnt at the stake.
The terrible irony is that calling somebody out can often be a violent, oppressive act in and of itself, especially when it results in being blacklisted, forcibly evicted and/or publicly shamed. Often people are called out for being “oppressors,” “abusers” or “predators,” and these vague terms can follow a person for years, across borders, regardless of their behavior or the original context. It is my heartfelt conviction that we must create our own vibrant forms of justice, sometimes calling one another out and establishing hard boundaries; however, one cannot use callouts to simply punish people, grasp power and recreate the worst aspects of state “justice.”
Callouts are rooted in critical social theory, which seeks a dialectic between sociology and free will. Sadly, critical awareness naturally suffers when one is experiencing fear and anxiety. Some questions I have asked myself in these situations and found helpful include: what results do I want? What results do others want? Are there material resources involved? How can I help the people that are affected (both accused and accuser)? Am I involved? If I’m not directly involved, why do I want to be? What are my motivations? What level of commitment to my involvement can I really make? How can I take care of my needs, regardless of outcome?
When a crisis erupts within a group, be it large or small, it can take a while to establish enough clarity and calm to even have a dialogue. Often, these situations are complex and take such a high level of commitment to work through, nobody finds healing. I have found solace in at least starting this dialogue internally. When a group experiences a sense of moral panic, all one can do as an individual is seek moral clarity for themselves. Personally, I do not want to pronounce others as either guilty or innocent, assured that I am often both. I prefer to judge myself, and know that my individual morality challenges me to act with sensitivity, caution, courage, integrity and commitment in all situations. I know that these values do not apply to anybody but me. I am not perfect and I never will be. And I know that a world beyond guilt and innocence is possible.
By Maria Siino
I recently started college in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I have both good and bad news to report from my first year there.
When I first got here, I looked for activities I could be a part of, hopefully ones that were not simply clubs but organizations that felt meaningful to me. There weren’t a lot of clubs listed, but among them were the campus GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) and the Feminist Collective. I resolved to go to both. I have since become the president of the Feminist Collective and a casual member of the GSA.
The good news is that last year in particular, The Feminist Collective made some real strides in improving the campus’ attitude toward sexual assault. We established a better relationship with the local rape crisis center, we made zines, we held a successful gallery show on the topics of Sex, Kink, and Consent, and we held a successful Take Back the Night event. This year, we are hoping to get the official sexual assault policy changed and have the Residence Assistants be trained in matters of crises and sexual assault. We may be changing things for the better in our tiny community.
The bad news? Well the bad news…is that this isn’t really news. At least, the rampant sexual assault rate on campus is not news. It’s not scandalous or shocking, because colleges across the country face the same problem. The keynote speaker at our 2013 Take Back the Night said in her speech: “In the 11 years I have been teaching, I have never taught at a school where this process wasn’t happening.” The process that she was referring to is that of dealing with sexual assault on college campuses and learning how to counteract the rape apology that tends to exist within their administration. Rape apology is best defined as justification for rape or defense of rapists, which often includes blaming the victim, making excuses for rape in certain scenarios, and other ways of derailing the fight against sexual violence.
I remember feeling dismayed (to say the least) upon finding out how badly my school handles sexual assault. The only reason I became less alarmed was by realizing that any college I could have gone to would likely have the same problem. If I had gone to the Big Apple, it would have been an issue. Recently in New York City, a student at Columbia University named Emma Sulcowicz was assaulted by a fellow student and brought it to the attention of the staff. In spite of other survivors who made similar claims about the same perpetrator, the college has not brought him to justice. While other students have publicly come out in support of Sulcowicz, the offender has faced no charges. If I had gone to the University of California in my hometown of Berkeley, it definitely would have been a problem. Earlier in 2013, a U.S. federal sexual assault probe was sent to UC Berkeley along with 54 other colleges in the country. UC Berkeley was also among 30 schools that had been reported for mishandling cases of sexual assault in 2013 to the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
One might think that looking up sexual assault statistics would help a prospective student choose a college where they might be safest, but apparently this isn’t the case either. An article published in Al Jazeera earlier this summer discovered that colleges with ostensibly low rates of sexual assault are often misleading. These colleges frequently show low sexual assault rates because they have discouraged their students from reporting sexual assault, either actively or inadvertently. Surprisingly, the colleges with higher rates of reported sexual assault have actually encouraged their students to report their assaults and seek help, hence the statistics. Unfortunately, this information might only inform a prospective student as to how a college might handle sexual violence on campus, but holds no guarantee as to whether or not they will be safe at a particular school. No matter where I might have gone to college, rape apologism would be rampant in almost any campus I could have chosen. Even if I hadn’t gone to college, the issue would still be there. I would still face rape culture no matter where I went, and as a woman, this is the life I face.
One would think that in liberal havens like Berkeley and Santa Fe that there would be more precautions taken against these issues. Of course having lived in both of these places, I know that simply isn’t true. As Aaron Cometbus put it, Berkeley is a “failure” of sorts. Elements of counter-culture still exist here (though arguably in small quantities and quirky demeanors), but if an issue like rape can’t be quashed here, what good is it? I will always love the place where I grew up but I feel that as an adult I can see it more for what it really is. I’m beginning to feel a similar disenchantment about Santa Fe as well.
I wasn’t raised in a radical environment. My family is typical in most respects, and as such, I was raised to fear for my safety and follow arbitrary rules that don’t actually eliminate sexual assault. Time and time again my parents warned me against being out late. But what can they do? They live in this culture, too. They wanted to keep me safe, and even if it meant letting my brother ride the bus home at night and chewing me out for doing the same thing, I’m sure they don’t regret doing it. I can’t blame them for being pragmatic in a culture like this one.
Victim blaming wasn’t the reason they restricted my behavior, though. At least it never seemed that way to me, and they never said it would be my fault if something happened to me. They were just terrified of raising a 5’3” daughter in a world ostensibly different from the suburban environments that they grew up in. Even people who try to reject rape culture can sometimes become rape apologists because this whole culture is rape apologist. I often have trouble placing blame on these people, only because sexual assault is so ingrained in this culture. If we are lucky, we’re taught that rape is wrong, but not that it needs to be stopped. How fucked up is it that as a 15-year-old I was told to be careful absolutely everywhere I went so that I wouldn’t get jumped by someone twice my size? But I didn’t think much of it. I’ve only recently discovered how awful it is that we, as a culture, simply assume that rape will happen whether we like it or not.
Another issue is how counteractions of sexual assault are attempted. Currently, all responsibility to prevent sexual violence is placed upon the victims, who are usually women. Women, especially college students, often carry safety items such as pepper spray, stun guns, rape whistles, and sharp key chains. They also take self defense classes, carry weapons, and ask male friends to walk them to their cars. While these forms of protection are crucial and often empowering, they don’t always solve the problem at hand. Rapists need to be held accountable, severe punishment needs to be brought to students who commit sexual assault, and measures should be taken to keep these self defense measures from being necessary. Protection is only one part of eliminating sexual assault; the other is preventing the assaults from occurring in the first place. It’s like how I was told not to go out by myself as a teenager; while it was probably the most pragmatic way of keeping me safe, it didn’t uproot the problem at its source. On college campuses, women often keep items for protection on their key chains, but obviously the sexual violence hasn’t stopped because of it.
So the good news is that people all over the place, including myself and the other members of my school’s Feminist Collective, are taking measures to change the culture that we live in. Whether it’s teaching women how to defend themselves or educating people on the realities of sexual violence, efforts are being made to stop the secrecy and rape apology that permeates college campuses. The bad news is the fact that it has to be done at all, and that there is so much more work to be done. Rape apologists are everywhere, and some of them might say that we’re doing a good thing, idealistic as it may be, but wouldn’t question why we have to do this in the first place. They would probably say that the world is a bad place and rape is just a fact of life, even in a college environment that is supposed to be safe and educational. But I refuse to accept that. Until this rape culture is dismantled and my campus is safe, I will never accept a compromise.
By Dumpsta Love
On August 22 2014 Andrew Kerezman of the “traveling community” — nomadic punks carrying large backpacks who trainhop and hitchhike across the land — was struck by a truck while crossing the street in Grand Junction, Colorado and mortally injured. Immediately, everything seemed wrong at the scene of the accident. Witnesses reported that the truck was going extremely fast when Andrew was hit, but the police at the scene acted as if they didn’t care at all. Andrew’s friends asked the cops to test the driver for alcohol, but the police refused. Instead, they screamed profanities at us because of our tattered clothes and non-mainstream appearance.
The police formed a physical barrier between us and the driver while the driver remained in his truck for a long while and wasn’t asked anything. Andrew lay dying in the street, his face covered in blood. Why weren’t the cops acting as if they cared at all? Andrew was a human being wasn’t he? His clothes and appearance indicated to the police that he was destitute, but money isn’t what gives a human life value.
Society looks at members of the traveling community like garbage because of the way we dress and because we sit in public places. But while we may not have a big car, a house, or an office job, we have freedom that mainstream people can only dream about. We’re not blinded by the illusion that money will bring us happiness. Many of us have endured hardships and lived as outcasts our whole lives, constantly profiled and treated poorly by those who conform to society’s norms. We travel as a means of knowing the world in which we live, meeting new people and visiting old friends, having unforeseen adventures and persevering the difficulties, spreading happiness and love, sharing art and music, being intimate with other cultures and spiritual beliefs, and sometimes just to escape. Though not all travelers are the same, there is an overarching community of compassion and caring. We all share the value of love over money.
We endure burning summers and frozen winters, holding cardboard signs and pointing thumbs. Dirt from the ground we sleep on sifts through everything and covers our skin, like the Earth itself is leaving her mark on us to wear everywhere we go. The natural smells of our bodies are not disdained in our culture. While many of us are reasonable with our hygiene, we don’t obey the standards of poison associated with deodorants, perfumes, soaps, etc. Everything we need is contained in the heavy packs we carry. Our clothes are few and thoroughly used. We lead a nomadic lifestyle. Travelers are not opposed to working, but we do not resign to a 9-5 mindset and deferred retirement as an acceptable lifestyle. Andrew was a member of this lifestyle –- this culture, our culture.
After he died, we had a sincere and heartfelt memorial for Andrew burning candles and throwing flowers in the river under the train track trestles. On the road you get to know people’s natures very quickly, but a lot of time you know little else. Life isn’t cheap on the road –- it’s priceless.
Mainstream society discriminates against many minority cultures — abuse by the police against people of color is in the news every day. Misinformation created by church, state, and media creates an atmosphere of aggression toward any belief that isn’t part of a system such as Anarchy, Atheism, or self sustained living, to name just a few. We are often treated as ‘lesser than’ by the majority of establishments we encounter, even those places we spend money. People assume we don’t matter and will yell profanities at us, attempt to cause us harm, and treat us with general indifference. We are people too and should be treated with basic human decency — home or no home, money or no money. Andrew Kerezman was a person, too.
By Three Former Clones
“You may have noticed some campus buildings with two adjacent doors only have one door handle,” the University of California Berkeley tour guide cooed through her strangely unsettling smile. Not until she mentioned it did I notice. “That’s to prevent people from blockading a door and taking over a building,” she explained. The crowd of new students nodded in unison, seemingly unfazed. In the 1960s protesters had chained themselves to the doors of the Chancellor’s office in protest of the Vietnam War. The response? No policy changes in regards to the war. But they did make sure to remove the knobs on the Chancellor’s door.
The tour ended in Cesar Chavez plaza. This space was designed in the wake of the 1964 Free Speech Movement, in such a way that it would concentrate protests and mass mobilizations, and facilitate a quick and efficient police response. Notice it or not, social spaces are often designed to isolate and separate people. Once I began to notice this architecture of separation at Berkeley, I couldn’t stop. The architecture of separation is not just a phenomenon found in design or city planning. It is deeply ingrained in our legal, justice and social system. It is everywhere, all the way from our zoning laws down to our door handles.
Which is why, when I encounter those rare but beautiful spaces that do not serve to isolate, but instead facilitate human interaction and transformation, I recognize them as spaces worth fighting for. Unfortunately, these spaces are often singled out and challenged, with some arbitrary justification or another, pulled into the mainstream or pushed out of existence.
I think this is what many people found in Occupy. Occupy was a reclamation of public space. Spaces where we normally hurried past one another were temporarily transformed into places where we slowed down, smiled, conversed, argued, debated, dreamed, and transformed strangers into friends, companions and comrades. What many found in Occupy, I found in Cloyne Court.
Cloyne Court, one block north of the Berkeley campus, was the largest student-housing cooperative in North America – housing 149 students – under the umbrella organization of the Berkeley Student Cooperatives (BSC). But it was much more than that. It was the place I came home to after getting beaten by police on the lawn next to the Mario Savio steps, and blinded by tear gas in Oakland. It was a music venue, a community center, and an art gallery. A yoga studio. A darkroom. A place where we ate meals together. It was a place to celebrate our friends’ victories, and in tragic times, a place to mourn those taken from us.
Through everything, it was always my home, my sanctuary and my rock. It gave me hope in the power of humanity as I watched Occupy lose steam and the world around me seemingly dig deeper its trenches of social stratification, environmental degradation, hopelessness and despair.
Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that Cloyne was a contested space that was destroyed purposefully by those in positions of power. Cloyne was shut down allegedly because of “liability” stemming from “a culture perceived to be tolerant of drugs.” Contrary to popular belief, you can polish bullshit. But whatever pretty excuses you may have, at the end of the day, what happened to Occupy, Albany Bulb, and Cloyne – while each unique and distinct – was eviction.
The BSC which operated Cloyne was founded in 1933 to provide cooperative student housing. It operates 17 coop houses and 3 apartments which house 1,300 students. Residents elect a board of directors and although individual houses have some autonomy, the board with heavy influence from paid professional management staff ultimately calls the shots.
The details of our ordeal are convoluted; our story is only one of many radical organizations that are bent into conformity by scare tactics. The impetus behind the ultimate decision to prevent all Cloyne residents from renewing their contracts, forcing all of us to move at the end of the spring 2014 semester, was the out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit regarding the drug overdose of John Gibson, a Cloyne resident in 2010. Gibson’s mother sued the BSC, claiming the BSC was aware of a drug tolerant culture in Cloyne and had done nothing to stop it. In December 2013, the BSC’s insurance carrier settled the lawsuit, and with the start of Spring semester, the BSC Cabinet (a sub-set of the Board of Directors) entered into weeks of closed executive sessions, crafting their “Cloyne Plan.” Cloyne was targeted as a space that fostered substance abuse, with the “solution” being the destruction of a community, rather than any attempt to address the mental health issues that plague, and are systematically ignored by, society at large.
Those weeks Cabinet spent in private executive sessions were weeks the entire community of BSC could have spent having a discussion about the future of Cloyne and the BSC as a whole. Members of Cloyne, and the other student members of BSC, were only given the opportunity to discuss the situation once Cabinet had already decided on a plan. By identifying us as the problem – rather than the solution we could have been – they disenfranchised us as members and ignored the transformation that had already been happening in the house for years.
It’s easy for co-ops to be co-opted. People get tired of the structure and the decision-making process. They forget that the structure and process are the foundation of what is distinct about a cooperative. It is, after all, what defines a co-op. Power structures are created to help the organization grow, or be more efficient, but if they are not consistently critiqued and put under scrutiny, they may co-opt the very democratic process they were supposed to support. Often, when decision-making is opened up to a larger group, while it may be less efficient, the airing of many ideas in an open, collaborative environment can allow the best ideas to float to the top.
BSC Board members, Cabinet and the paid executive staff resisted and ignored bylaws. While the BSC technically has direct democratic safeguards – an annual General Membership Meeting (GMM), a referendum process, and the ability to pull votes from your Board representative – each of these processes were made ineffectual. The GMM was cancelled just before the Cloyne Plan was announced, a petition for a referendum signed by the required number of members was rejected due to “timeline issues” as well as the membership being “ill-informed,” and in order for members to pull their vote from the Cloyne Plan, they had to stay at the Board meeting until five o’clock in the morning, when votes were cast.
Supporters of the “Cloyne Plan” repeatedly emphasized that in order to defend themselves in court and limit their liability, they needed to prove that there had been a genuine cultural shift. They argued that it was necessary for all members to be kicked out in order for a culture shift to occur. They ignored the fact that there was an influx of new membership all the time, and that none of the current membership had lived in the house at the time of the overdose. As an alternative, members of Cloyne proposed a plan that aimed to create a space that would promote healthy living, allowing for open dialogue about substance-use, instead of one that pretended, unrealistically, that all members would commit to the substance-free lifestyle.
When we realized that our community was in jeopardy, we reached out to professionals and organizations with decades of experience in substance-use problems, specifically those aimed towards restorative justice practices. Weeks after Cabinet presented their plan, they still had no comment to how restorative justice practices would be implemented in the New Cloyne Court. In the end, we were the doorknob that got removed, and the issue of substance abuse and mental health was left untouched.
Radical spaces and cooperative organizations stay radical only when people are willing to commit wholeheartedly to things that are not easy. These spaces have helped us grow as individuals, and have facilitated communities that embrace the innumerable potentialities of humanity. Their structures must constantly be questioned, critiqued, and challenged in order to ensure that the membership retains complete autonomy over decision-making processes. Without this dedication, these beautiful, transformative, autonomous spaces will be gone and forgotten.