Category Archives: Issue #113

Why is the UC BPeeing on the planet?

In 2007, the University of California at Berkeley entered into a $500 million 10-year research contract with the oil behemoth British Petroleum. This agreement is called the EBI (Energy Biosciences Institute) contract. In approving the largest university privatization arrangement in history, UCB ignored the criticism of faculty, students and community members who raised issues about BP’s horrendous safety record, the contract’s narrow GMO-oriented energy focus, blatant conflicts of interest, and major threats posed to academic integrity and diversity. The privatization sell out is no surprise. For years, the UC has been making deals with multinational corporations, allowing BP, Monsanto, Novartis, Bechtel, and dozens of others to hijack public universities for private gain. The costs are being socialized, while the benefits are privatized.

BP’s $500 million dollar contract allowed BP to create its own private lab within a publically-funded building on campus, accessible only to BP employees. The contract means that BP gets to choose which biofuel research projects are funded, hence setting the UC’s Energy Biosciences Institute’s agenda. Worst of all: BP gets to keep its favorite 35% of biofuel patents created by UCB researchers. UC Berkeley, once the nation’s leading research university, has been reduced to a mere mouthpiece for corporate interests.

An alarming example of this came just one month after the BP oil spill in 2010, when Terry Hazen, a UC Berkeley ecologist, announced that his team had discovered a new microorganism that was eating the spilled oil, and that the oil in the gulf “went away fairly rapidly after the well was capped.” Because of his UCB credentials, Hazen’s bullshit was published in the academic journal Science, and was subsequently spread by the mainstream media. Hazen’s report failed to include that his research was funded by BP.

BP used phony “Save the Planet” banners as a Trojan horse to sneak into the university. It is insane to portray BP as a philanthropic champion of sustainable energy Now that BP has bought their way into the heart of the public education system they are plundering its resources, corrupting its community, and disrupting real progress toward sustainability.

BP already had a well-documented history of human rights and environmental abuses before the contract was signed in 2007, but the 2010 oil-spill clearly demonstrated their willingness to take excessive risks, ignore safety measures, utilize highly toxic dispersing agents for “clean-up,” lie in order to reduce fines and liability, and coerce media outlets and politicians into downplaying this horrible disaster. BP deserves the corporate death penalty, and it is insane to trust these criminals with the future of the university’s sustainable energy research program. The BP-funded research agenda focuses on unsafe genetically modified organisms, while ignoring alternative biofuels such as hemp, which was strongly recommended for study by the California legislature in a 1999 resolution, yet no study has yet been undertaken.

The Occupy movement proved that people can fight back against corporate manipulation of education, the economy and the environment. The BP-UCB partnership perfectly exemplifies how these threats become more dangerous when combined with public space, and thus serves as a natural focal point for activists who want to create wide-ranging change right now. It is time for a new movement at UC Berkeley and beyond — a movement where we put our words into action.

The BP-Berkeley deal was approved only because its advocates lied about the implications and intentions of the contract, and the public lacked enough information or time to effectively mobilize a defense against this destructive plan. Though the contract is more than halfway executed, it is not too late to retroactively nullify this agreement on the basis of its fraudulent nature.

We call on everyone who cares about the future of this planet to help expose the EBI contract as a corrupt greenwashing scam, retroactively reject its legitimacy, and ensure that this form of destructive privatization does not continue to occur.

The Coalition Against Privatization’s goals are simple:
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Remove BP from the UCB campus
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Make all information generated at public universities free and open to the public
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Chase the corporate monsters off of our campus and universities everywhere

The public university could be a public resource, bringing brilliant minds together to solve the greatest problems of our time. It is time to reclaim the academy in the name of all life on this earth.
To support the @bpOffCampus movement, visit bpoffcampus.org.

Idle no more – people of all colors making a stand

I grew up in Richmond, California, of Yaqui / Mexican / Choctaw / Cherokee / European descent and became an activist in my early 20s. I began as an anti-nuclear activist in the early 1980s. I later worked on uranium and plutonium issues, as well as Native American issues.

My husband and I, as well as other Bay Area Native American community members, had been involved a bit with Occupy in Oakland. When Idle No More (INM) started in Canada in November of last year, we became very excited. The First Nation’s message regarding treaty violations and protecting the environment from governmental and corporate devastation resonated with us and with many others around the world. It was inspiring to see the Idle No More solidarity photos on social media from around the world from both indigenous and non-indigenous people.

There are so many issues that have affected us in Native America for hundreds of years that are now impacting U.S. and Canadian citizens. These issues include the theft of lands for corporate profits, environmental illnesses from the waste of the mining industry and other corporate environmental disasters, as well as the devastation of the land, water and air.

In December, 2012, there were local INM solidarity events beginning in the Bay Area and Northern California. These events included, and continue to include prayer, teach-ins regarding the devastation of the environment, indigenous issues and round dances, which are dances of unity, friendship and peace. They have been conducted in city plazas, at the Capital building in Sacramento, in shopping malls and parks.

The Keystone XL pipeline was an issue that I had been active in resisting since 2011. I was at both of the protests at the White House that year. When Forward on Climate was being organized this year, I helped mobilize the INM solidarity community in the Bay Area to be there. We were also at the March 23 event at the Federal Building in San Francisco and at the Earth Day action in April. Not only were we welcomed at these events, we opened them in the Idle No More format of prayer, education and round dances. This welcoming of our community into the environmental activist community has been very validating, and reminds me of the prophesy of the “Rainbow Tribe” of people of all colors who will make a stand to ensure life on earth continues.

There are many Native American and First Nations prophesies that are hundreds of years old that speak of the time we all find ourselves in today. Some tribes refer to this time as the “purification time”. Most of humanity is only beginning to understand that there is a natural balance that must be maintained in order for life to thrive on Mother Earth

Many tribal nations refer to the “original instructions” that were given to them thousands of years ago on how to live in right relationship with all of relations who share life here.

The INM solidarity groups here in the Bay Area welcome all people of good hearts to participate with us as we move toward the future we all want. www.GatheringTribes.com

Stop Line 9

Many Americans know about the Keystone XL pipeline designed to connect the vast tar sand oil resources of Alberta, Canada with Texas refineries. Much has been made of the environmental devastation that will follow as the snake-like pipes wind their way through the American countryside destroying whatever ecosystems lie in their path. Beyond local leakage concerns is the reality that opening up ‘unconventional’ oil sources will accelerate global warming since oil from tar sands generates more emissions per unit of energy than traditionally produced oil. What is perhaps less well known, in the US, is the already-in construction alternative to the Keystone XL pipeline that could have similar dire consequences for Eastern Canada and beyond.

The alternative pipeline is known as Line 9, and is designed to move oil between Sarnia, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec with the ultimate goal of sending this ‘black death’ from Western Canada to Portland, Maine, where it can then be distributed globally. As activists, the key to developing a strategy of how to counter this on-going disaster is to understand that fighting against the building of Keystone XL or Line 9 in isolation is simply not enough.

In Toronto, Ontario, activists have been protesting the construction for months, realizing, as their American counterparts have, that these pipelines will be disastrous. The diluted bitumen tar sand oil that will move through the pipeline is the raw form of petroleum which some have referred to as “super-hot sandpaper.” It can lead to more brittle pipelines, and in turn increase the likelihood of spills. These spills threaten entire above ground ecosystems. According to a 2012 National Resources Defense Council report, diluted bitumen contains “benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, n-hexane, toxins, vanadium, nickel, arsenic, and other heavy metals in significantly larger quantities than occur in conventional crude.” All of these substances have the potential for cumulative long term effects for both humans and wildlife. The proposed Line 9 crosses three major rivers leading to Lake Ontario — a major source of drinking water for the city of Toronto and neighboring communities.

Given that Canadian and American activists are dealing with same issues with Keystone and Line 9, we must work not as separate groups operating in parallel, but rather as huge masses of people organizing as one entity with the same goal: Stop the tar sands. Companies like Enbridge, the massive corporation based in Calgary, Alberta that is behind these plans, will not stop just because people stand up in one part of the continent and say, “Not in my backyard.” Enbridge and the oil lobby as a whole have no regard for the effects of their large-scale projects, and thus, they must be attacked as a single entity.

Of course, this kind of unity has been historically difficult in activist circles. Different parts of North America have unique pasts and heritages, and thus, will choose to wage this struggle in disparate ways. Be that as it may, everyone’s fight should be essentially the same, and it seems that tactics have become less important than being clear about the message. We can collectively examine how all energy is produced in our communities by questioning the way in which we interact with the environment. This must not only address our species’ narrow concerns, but the future of all living things.

If the Obama administration denies the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, this could buoy the spirits of anti-tar sands activists, but as American environmentalist Bill McKibben clarifies, “Blocking one pipeline was never going to stop Global Warming.” Nonetheless, the halting of the Tar Sands project as a whole retains the chance to be a real example of people’s collective power.
This article is heavily indebted to stopline9-toronto.ca.

Solidarity with indigenous dam blockade

The indigenous communities of Rio Blanco, Honduras blocked the main access road leading to the proposed Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on April 1 to stop construc-tion of the dam. On the 2nd of April, they issued an ultimatum to the company, demand-ing the immediate removal of construction equipment & permanent removal of the project.

The communities of Rio Blanco, whom hold a community title to the territory, were not adequately consulted nor allowed to participate in the process leading to this project. Only the mayor of the municipality, and a few well compensated individuals, ratified the project. The right of indigenous peoples to determine their own process of development is guarantied by UN convention 169. The construction and completion of this dam will cause widespread environmental destruction, flooding inhabited and utilized areas, restricting the access of water to many thousands of people in Rio Blanco and down stream, cause the degradation of pristine natural areas, produce huge quantities of greenhouse gasses through the decomposition of submerged biomass, in addition to water and land contamination caused by the construction. Simply put, this dam is a death sentence to the indigenous communities that have lived here for generations.

This type of so-called “green development” has been greatly accelerated after the 2009 coup which has since opened the flood gates to transnational and neo-liberal exploitation of natural resources. Since 2009, there have been around 360 newly accepted development concessions in Honduras, 30% of which are on indigenous lands. Within this neo-liberal framework, dam projects serve a dual purpose. SIEPAC (Central American Electrical Interconnection System) part of the Mesoamerica Project (previously called Plan Pueblo-Panama) will connect the electrical grids of all Mesoamerica allowing cheap energy to be transported to the energy hungry USA. In addition, dams are necessary to redirect the enormous quantity of water needed for mining operations. For these reasons, resistance to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam and dam projects in general is extremely important because the dam will open the door to exponentially worse environmental degradation and destruction of indigenous cultures.

The danger to the communities of Rio Blanco for participating in this action cannot be understated. For example, the land reclamation action 3 years ago in Bajo Aguan has seen the murder of over 100 participants and counting. There has been an influx of heavily armed men in the area, and violent threats against participants have been consistent.

On April 12, 40 heavily armed National Police evicted the blockade but it was reestablished the next day. On April 19, 50 community members hiked to the construction site and peacefully forced workers and equipment to leave. Earth-movers had already caused heart breaking devastation to the river valley. The blockade and protests are on-going as Slingshot goes to press.

International solidarity plays an extremely important role in defending the human rights of those in defense of mother earth and indigenous culture. In addition to any form of solidarity action imaginable, the communities of Rio Blanco are asking for people to contact Honduran and corporate officials who are building and financing the dam. For more info contact www.copinh.org.

Pint Sized Subversive

I became a father last summer when my daughter Fern was born. As little as she is, Fern is already an amazing teacher. The most precious things I’m learning aren’t about babies or being a parent, but about what it means to be human and what is important about life. While I’m still too new a parent to feel qualified to write much and this is a little disorganized, here are my initial impressions.

The best part of spending time with Fern is watching her joyfully unrestrained face when she hears music, sees my face, or looks up in the sky. Seeing the happy and loving way Fern relates to the people and animals around us underscores how the world we live in as adults — organized around stress, ownership, competition, scarcity, consumerism and shame — is imposed on us by cultural, political and economic systems. These qualities aren’t natural or inherent to humans as animals — we’re born way better than the world we grow up in and eventually inhabit. Radicals and the counter-culture are struggling to defeat these oppressive systems and create new structures aimed at supporting the underlying humanity I see in Fern, that prioritize the search for pleasure, engagement and love. Spending time with Fern makes it easier to imagine a future where we’ll all be more present and full of wonder and joy.

Another striking thing is the way people treat you when you walk around carrying a cute infant. From the grizzled hardware store workers, to the homeless guy spare changing, to people in line at the grocery store — people’s faces light up with happiness when they see Fern. Absolute strangers who would normally scowl or ignore me walk right up and want to talk. They are kind and even loving.

I keep thinking, “why can’t strangers on the street treat each other like this all the time?” Spending time with Fern offers a window into the kind of world I want to help build — a world organized around human interaction, caring and community — not the mainstream world which is so ground down by corporations and the state with all their inequality, violence and misery that people avoid each other.

Watching how hard my partner Kristi works nursing Fern is humbling. Soon after Fern arrived, I started seeing all the adults I met in a different light — imagining each of us as a tiny baby being nurtured day and night by someone. Realizing how much energy and love went into each one of us, I started having floods of compassion for other people — complete strangers. Without trying to repeat a cliché, Fern helps me see everyone around me as valuable members of a huge family.

So far we’ve raised Fern without a car because we live in an area where we can get by without one. Because she is still too little to go on a bicycle, I’ve mostly been walking for the last 9 months. Moving slowly on foot gives me a lot of time to notice the world around me, what’s going on with Fern, and what’s going on with myself.

But moving slowly so you have time to notice things is increasingly rare these days. The capitalist / industrial machine is constantly speeding everything up and overwhelming all of us with sensory overload. As assembly lines and computers move faster and faster, the speed and inattention bleeds over to everything about how we live our lives

Fast transportation is symbolic of this shift, but also propels it. Raising Fern without a car makes life slower and more complex. We’ve redefined both what is possible and what is desirable. When the modern world makes so many things possible, it is up to us to figure out whether we want all that speed and power, or whether those kinds of freedoms are really cages.

Caring for a baby means a lot more hanging around than I’m used to and not being able to get as much done as I could without a kid, or having to get it done more slowly because I only have one hand free. Because of how I was raised, I’ve always felt a constant internal psychological pressure to be productive. By contrast, Fern is just about being. She doesn’t feel that she has to justify her right to exist. She just gradually grows up. Spending time with Fern helps me kill the boss in my head and realize that I’m no different from her, or the cat, or a rock floating in space. We all exist and are legitimate because we exist. None of us have to prove anything to anyone.

At the same time, mainstream society sees babies not as tiny subversives bringing anti-capitalist inspiration to their parents, but as a huge market for consumerism. It is amazing to see all the plastic bullshit that suddenly seems necessary to raise a baby in a modern industrial context.

A question from the moment Fern was born is how my participation in radical projects is going to shift now that I’m a parent. It has been a huge struggle because the radical scene eats so much time, while Fern needs someone with her round the clock. When it’s my turn, Fern takes all my attention so I can’t multi-task and get a little Slingshot work done on the side. My single parent friends have to cram what’s left of their own lives into naps and after bedtime, when they probably need to sleep themselves. With 2 parents, you can switch off childcare, but that creates its own problems.

A big reason I’ve been able to maintain my involvement with Slingshot as much as I have is because Kristi has done more than her share of childcare. This has freed me to stay more involved than I would have otherwise, although I’m still far more pressed for time than I was pre-parenthood. This gender-division feels patriarchal, out-dated and embarrassing. I didn’t think we would fall into these roles and I don’t like it. Part of it results from breastfeeding, which makes equal distribution of childcare difficult no matter how much two parents might want more equality. We hope this will change as Fern gets older. But beyond that, it is amazing how strong our patriarchal socialization is because each of us seems to desire different amounts of time with Fern, that just so happens to mirror traditional roles.

Kristi has a very hard time letting me or anyone else take care of Fern, which is apparently pretty common for new moms. I want to spend time with Fern, but I don’t want to be with her as much as Kristi does.

While we were making this Slingshot, I was sitting in a meeting that was dragging on too long and I suddenly realized how much I missed Fern. I’ve found that my emotional energy in radical contexts has shifted. On the one hand, I fiercely want to stay active in radical projects to be part of the struggle to destroy capitalism and build a new world out of its ashes for myself, the natural world, and other people. Fern makes me even more committed. When we’re walking and I see the road crowded with cars thoughtlessly spewing carbon, I feel pissed off wondering if she’ll get to enjoy the forests I’ve loved. And parenting is isolating — maintaining involvement in radical projects is one of the few times I get out these days.

And yet I feel less patient with the inefficiency and frustration that accompanies radical projects. I’ve tried to figure out ways to dial back my involvement, pass tasks to others in the groups I’m in, and concentrate on maintaining my favorite projects so I can spend more time with Fern, but it has been tough to balance. I’m constantly feeling torn so that no matter what I decide to do, it feels like the wrong thing. When I spend a whole day working on Slingshot, I miss Fern and feel bad that my partner has to do all the work. But when I decide to step back from radical work, I feel like I’m giving up who I am and folding just because I’m a parent.

I hope someday Fern will be able to participate in some of these projects or at least play in the corner while they are happening so it won’t feel like it is such a choice between being with her and being engaged with radical projects.

Most radical projects I’ve been part of have very few parents in them, and numerous people who used to work on Slingshot stopped coming around so much when they became parents. At Occupy Oakland, many of us were proud that there was a Kids’ Village, but if you hung around you realized that most of the parents were concentrated there, not distributed evenly in the other committees. Many parents have written critiques of how radical groups make participation by parents difficult, and sometimes parents set up childcare or other structures to try to improve the situation. This is important work.

Despite all of this, I love Fern and I feel happier than I’ve ever felt before having her in my life. Getting to hold such a strong emotion day in and day out is intense and transformative. I can’t tell yet how this may inform my activism, my writing, or the way I live my life but I’m trying to observe and learn while enjoying it.

Kid inclusion

Are you involved in radical politics? Are there children in your life? Do you have concerns about bringing your children to radical organizing spaces, seminars, meetings, or protests or suggestions on how to improve their access and enjoyment?

The Oakland Bread and Roses Collective’s Children and Families Working Group is looking into these issues. We would like to hear from anyone with children in their lives and are active in radical and anarchist organizing about what you would like to see to make our spaces and actions more child and family friendly and accessible.

We have a survey on Survey Monkey, a brief ten questions, that we hope you will fill out so we can gather information to implement future projects aimed at better inclusion of families and children. Five of these questions are for you, and five are for the children in your lives.

You do not have to be a member of Bread and Roses to take this survey, nor do you need to be active in Oakland, CA. Please take the survey here: surveymonkey.com/s/8QC9KJL

Can you name 5 types of torture?

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) successfully apprehended and rehabilitated a billboard between Potrero Avenue and Highway 101 near 19th Street in San Francisco to support our colleagues in the military who have come under public scrutiny due to the recent hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Force-feeding creates stressful conditions for overtaxed medical personnel and dangerous working conditions for military police officers in the Immediate Reaction Force, who must subdue and restrain a detainee prior to his meal. The corrected billboard is currently at liberty and though it seems to have successfully readjusted to public life, it will remain under surveillance by department staff to prevent recidivism and any potential lapse into prior criminal behavior. Founded in 1994, the CDC is a private correctional facility that protects the public through the secure management, discipline and rehabilitation of advertising. correctionsdepartment.org.

Inclusiveness

A few years ago, I moved to a new town and decided to volunteer at the local radical infoshop in order to connect with like-minded folks. Despite my best efforts to engage with others in my three months of volunteering, I only befriended one person, and left feeling bitter and confused about my experience.

Towards the end of my stay, I found validation at a political action where I got to know a fellow protestor. As we spoke of our reasons for being there, we discovered that we shared a lot of the same frameworks, though we used different words to describe them. However, he was really surprised when I self-identified as an anarchist; despite being curious about the ideology and making several efforts to engage with and learn about the community, he had never met a friendly anarchist before. I responded by reassuring him that friendly anarchists did, in fact, exist, though I was also struggling to find them in this town. We went on to have an awesome afternoon of political (and non-political) conversation, and I’d like to think we both learned a lot and had a good time.

My experiences sparked my interest in the question of inclusiveness. Was I right to expect the infoshop’s community to be more welcoming? What does inclusiveness even mean? As a small experiment, I emailed a number of my friends and asked them what they thought about the concept.

Together, their insightful responses sketched out a rough theory of inclusiveness. In spaces with a purpose, inclusiveness means the minimization of barriers to involvement for those with whom the collective is striving to connect. As such, the standards that determine whether or not a collective space is inclusive are not universal; they depend on who the collective wants to include and in what capacity they want to include them (or, for that matter, whether they actually can include them. A radical mental health collective, for example, may not be equipped to accept folks with severe emotional distress into the team of organizers, but may be interested in listening to their needs and supporting them with resources.) Once a collective has reached consensus on these questions, it is possible to construct a plan for inclusiveness.

Such a plan should be thorough and specific. Deeply inclusive spaces go beyond avoiding obvious deal-breakers like racism, transphobia, sexism, violence, homophobia, ableism, classism, and other acts which erode participants’ safety and foreclose on participation. They also go beyond taking thoughtful steps like ensuring unisex bathrooms, providing wheelchair accessibility, and offering childcare. At a queer anti-racist collective meeting, being inclusive means noticing when the couch spots next to transgender folks fill up last, and taking steps to reverse that tendency. In multi-lingual environments, it means providing adequate translation and conversation spaces. Furthermore, inclusiveness doesn’t just mean knowing who your audience is, but taking steps to be an audience for others. Inclusiveness means listening carefully to peoples’ needs so that they may include you in their spaces; it means stepping back from leadership roles to provide supportive services like dishwashing or childcare.

With this definition in mind, I returned to my infoshop experience. As I understand it, infoshops traditionally strive to distribute resources (meeting spaces, theory and ideas, local information, coffee) among those who are interested in anarchism. Staffers at infoshops help visitors make sense of the resources and the space while maintaining basic boundaries around what is and isn’t acceptable in these environments in order to ensure safety in these spaces.

When I asked my friend Samara why she thought folks were so aloof at the infoshop that I visited, she replied that many staffers come from customer service backgrounds which enforced happy demeanors among employees. She elaborated, “When your ability to perform happiness becomes more important than your own happiness, acting happy can become a very painful thing. In response to this, many of us are trying to weed an oppressive type of faked happiness out of our personalities, and figure out how to reclaim the performance of happiness for ourselves”.

I agree that the pressure to act happy could be corrosive to the social fabric of any radical space. However, while I would not like to see our communities force their members into insincere, artificial inclusiveness, the lived reality is that whether I’m working the register at a collectively owned business, staffing an infoshop, or opening up my home for a meeting, folks will feel more comfortable if my friends and I engage with them in a kind and welcoming fashion.

There is a middle ground between faking happiness and alienating visitors. The problem with customer service culture is that it commodifies and sterilizes happiness, joy, and connection into artificial friendliness and feigned concern. For me, a backlash against customer service culture would transform the artificiality of it, not the friendliness.

For example, when I worked the register at a collectively-run business, I challenged myself to practice honesty and empathy with customers in an effort to subvert the saccharine alienation of traditional capitalist workplaces. In my interactions at the counter, I never lied about my feelings, but also maintained a genuine interest and investment in the well-being of the folks who visited. When I wasn’t feeling interested or invested, I would ask my shift-mate to work the register while I worked in the back. This way, I was able to meet my needs for open and honest expression and personal space while still creating an environment where visitors felt acknowledged and connected. While my anecdote is in no way a one-size-fits-all prescription, I hope it communicates one of the many ways in which we can collectively and individually support the missions of our spaces while also meeting our own needs.

At its core, inclusiveness depends on listening to others’ needs and being available for input, feedback, and requests. In practice, standards for inclusiveness may evolve as individuals’ needs arise and intersect, and while total inclusiveness may not be possible, taking active steps towards creating inclusive spaces will establish a foundation for creative, diverse, and deeply meaningful radical projects.

Anarchism and neurodiversity

The concept of neurodiversity is largely unknown within the anarchist community, or any community, for that matter. Neurodiversity is the idea that people with neurological differences should be recognized as equals to neurotypicals, or those who are considered neurologically “normal.”

Police brutality is a huge problem facing the neurodiverse. Instances like the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic man who was beaten to death by police in Fullerton, California, sadly aren’t that rare. I personally have faced such discrimination on a (much) smaller scale, having been harassed by police who think my nervous tics and sometimes odd behavior are “suspicious seeming.”

Society’s attitudes towards the neurodiverse are just as badly misinformed and negative. There have been a multitude of incidents of bullying towards the neurodiverse, especially common with schizophrenics. On top of experiencing bullying, many schizophrenics are often homeless due to the lack of services this post-Reagan regime provides. Being both homeless and schizophrenic puts these individuals in double jeopardy; they are seen as wandering goons. The rates of bullying for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders are also very high. Harmless stymieing and narrow interests make this society angry towards the neurodiverse.

Negative attitudes towards the neurodiverse stem from an oppressive mindset. Capitalism has taught us all that those who can’t produce profit have no inherent worth whatsoever. Since capitalism and class society itself is incapable of seeing the forest for the trees, those with a different mindset from Neurotypical people are not a demographic that can be sold to, and sometimes our neuroses make us harder to hire. Instead of getting the help we need from our government, we are instead forced to live on the streets or in an oppressive home where we will be treated like farm animals.

It’s time for the neurodiverse, from the homeless schizophrenic man to the Star Trek loving Aspie Womyn to the suregeon with Tourette’s syndrome, to realize that statism and capitalism produce hierarchies that are inherently operating against them. Its time for the Neurodiverse to get prepared to bash back against bigots and goons. It’s time for all people who don’t fit the upper-class, straight, neurotypical WASP mold (and them too if they want to join us) to rise up and create a better world for us all. We could start by trying to educate the masses about the neurodiverse, and how they are capable of living lives as good as anyone else. The situation with police can only be solved like we’ve always known: direct action! Together we can all make this world a nicer place for everyone.

Challenging ignorance of allergies

Food-sharing is a human universal, including people with food allergies. For us, these rituals can even have the opposite effect of their community-building intentions. Choosing between physical safety and social inclusion is alienating.

It also makes many events inaccessible. Your community may have food-sharing standards such as labeling ingredients and letting folks with allergies go first at buffets–and both are welcome and helpful norms to maintain. But acknowledging allergy-free privilege means more than making food-sharing accessible. It means accepting the collective responsibility to make it more socially inclusive.

It wasn’t long ago that I came to understand the issues associated with food allergies. After catching the H1N1 virus in 2009, I developed a set of troubling symptoms, at one point losing almost 15 pounds over 6 weeks. For a while, I dismissed it as still recovering from the flu. But six months later, this explanation didn’t hold up. Intuition told me it had to do with the food I was eating, but what? After eliminating a variety of potential triggers from my diet, the culprit was identified: gluten.

At first, a gluten free diet seemed extreme and unnecessary. For a few weeks, I experimented with a low gluten diet, which failed to provide relief. I learned the hard way that my body couldn’t handle exceptions, even small ones. Once I was fully gluten free, all my digestive issues went away, my joints stopped aching, and the fog my brain had been in for so long finally lifted. Surprisingly, after a few months, issues I previously thought were genetic, like my chronic insomnia and thin brittle nails, started resolving as well.

As much as I appreciated discovering my body’s unexplored healing capacities in exchange for removing bagels, beer, and baklava from my life, I lamented learning how much more I was giving up than food. Favorite rad traditions like Food Not Bombs became inaccessible. So called ‘community-building’ potlucks demonstrated how low of a priority my community placed on including folks with allergies.

Answering a barrage of questions about why we’re not eating this or drinking that at every event where food is shared often makes it easier to avoid those events altogether. “Wow it must suck to have an allergy!” and “It’s a good thing you brought that trail mix, we wouldn’t want you to starve!” are not inclusive things to say to someone who’s unable to partake in your community’s traditions. What differs between a movement that wants to be inclusive and one that doesn’t is whose responsibility it is to accommodate.

At a recent potluck while I was watching others load their plates with a delicious-looking feast, I considered tracking down the creator of a salad, the only dish that might be safe other than the one I’d brought. I wasn’t looking forward to asking detailed questions that might seem impolite to someone I’d only just met–”did you use a fresh cutting board? Were there crumbs on the counter?” After a couple minutes mentally rehearsing a disarmingly apologetic way to ask, I noticed someone using the serving fork from the pasta next door for the veggies I’d had my eye on.

It’s neither possible nor necessary for every potluck dish to accommodate everyone, but it’s important to be aware that we have to deal with the risk of illness. More important than a list of food-prep rules to follow, is awareness of potential for exclusion and alienation. With an analysis of not just physical access, but of social inclusion, any community intending to feed all its members will discover the food-prep technicalities that it needs to do so.

At a recent action, the meal offered contained ingredients I am allergic to. An organizer approached me in advance about delivery options they could comp. I didn’t have to leave the group to get my dinner, nor pay extra for it! I was fed, but more importantly I knew the organizers had inclusion in their list of priorities.
Allyship With Folks With Allergies

Researching allergies is a good first step, but it’s important to communicate personally with us, as different people with the same allergy may be more or less sensitive to the allergen, or have different reactions. Many people have multiple allergies and/or intolerances.

Acknowledge that allergies differ from voluntary food restrictions, like vegetarian or veganism. Lacking the autonomy to select our food restrictions, our constant vigilance is never a choice. If the meat chili spoon gets into the vegetarian chili, few (if any) vegetarians would be harmed, if they even noticed. Folks with allergies would find out by getting sick.

Don’t take it personally if we decline to eat something even if you spent a bunch of time and effort making it in what you thought was a way we could eat it.

Arguing is a form of bullying. Trust what we tell you about our needs, even if it seems unusual or contradicts what you think you know.

Accountability means speaking up if you discover that something’s become accidentally contaminated. Admitting it was messed up is uncomfortable. But it’s far worse to poison someone by keeping silent. It’s better to miss out on a meal than spend days or weeks suffering from it.

Being an ally in the struggle against ableism means taking responsibility for privilege you have by fighting the exclusion of people with different abilities.

Food allergies and intolerances aren’t especially rare, and recent research indicates that they’re becoming even more common. I am grateful to encounter a greater number of more understanding people as awareness increases surrounding this important issue. Together we can help make it easier to heal ourselves, and support each other while doing so.