Category Archives: Issue #122 Fall 2016

Bike the line

By Chalk

We, a team of 2-5 people, have recently completed a 750-plus-mile journey on bicycle following the route of a crude oil pipeline, the aging Enbridge Line 5, which originates in Superior, Wisconsin, snakes east through the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, and ends at a massive refinery in Sarnia, Canada. For 57 days we spent almost every day on the road visiting every single house along the pipeline route to engage community in conversation about the issues surrounding Line 5 and why it is a ticking time bomb in the Straits of Mackinac.

We’ve pushed ourselves to various physical and mental limits. From being on the road outside everyday, our skin is much tanner; our bodies are tired and need some sort of deeper rest. Our brains have practically been reprogrammed so that we’re walking, talking Line 5 debating machines. We’ve had so many conversations about this Enbridge pipeline that we both better understand what the pipeline means to a diversity of different folks, AND why despite all that diversity, it still needs to be shut down.

We’re not clueless to the reality that in a world being dangerously altered by climate change, we’re still addicted to fossil fuel, even as we’re aware of the addiction. But we can’t let addictions destroy ourselves, not with the planet at stake. We’ve seen Enbridge destroy the Kalamazoo River because for 17 hours in 2010, three Enbridge shift operators decided that when the emergency alarm was buzzing, it was better to err on the side of pumping more crude than risk a multinational energy giant losing a few hours of profit.

Our collective addictions are fueling our way of life, and with that comes its consequences.

And it’s not just fossil fuels. Recently, a leak again soiled the Kalamazoo river with 570,000 gallons of sewage. Thanks to the Fukushima meltdown, the North American Pacific coast will be dealing with cancerous radiation for years to come… so what about the nuclear plant nearest you?

As we biked through the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin, we saw a lot of logging and gravel pit activity. There seems to be a long-term goal there of logging to sell cheap wood, then when the wood is gone, gravel pit mining to build more roads, then when the gravel is gone, blasting the rock underneath to mine for iron ores. And what’s left is nothing. Literally, a hole that fills up with ground water, making it un-potable and toxic, which future generations have to deal with, maybe indefinitely.

Our industrial way of life has and continues to be one which prioritizes short-term profits over long-term sustainability. We’re basically passing the bill for our short-lived extravagances onto our children, and their children, and their children…

Friends, we’re not experts on protecting the water, land and other gifts we’ve been given on this Earth, but we stress that protecting is a proactive effort, and a struggle. It doesn’t suffice merely to WANT clean water, clean air, clean land. It doesn’t suffice to “Like” forward-thinking comments on Facebook, or to vote the right person into office.

As one of the riders often told themself, not just during this journey but in life overall, “if I’m comfortable, then I may not be doing enough”. We urge you all to find creative ways to proactively engage in protecting the water and land and air, to STRUGGLE for it.

 

 

Hotel Privilege – you can check-in, but you can never leave!

By DJ Chele

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion and the first rule of rhetoric is “know your audience”.

You wouldn’t take your newbie skater friend to the skate park and suggest they drop into the vert ramp. Similarly, you shouldn’t drop radical language on uninitiated friends, family and strangers and expect anything but confusion and defensiveness to be reflected back at you. I’m making an assumption: that you care about the well being of your skater buddy. I’m also assuming that when you open your mouth you want what comes out to be understood by whoever is listening. If either of these assumptions are in question, please stop reading now!

“Privilege” is a word that is in high vogue in radical circles. Like many such words, it seems to be causing as much confusion, defensiveness and hurt feelings as it is helping people think in new (and better!) ways. If someone is into bullying people this might be cause for celebration but for anyone working for a better world it might be worthwhile to back up a few steps and examine our language use so we can communicate more effectively.

Here’s Webster’s on the matter:

ˈpriv(ə)lij

1- the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society.

2- a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud.

3- a right or benefit that is given to some people and not others.

I’d say that pretty much covers the “standard” use of the word. So what do radicals mean by “privilege”? How does it differ from Webster’s definition and how might we explain this new use of the word to help our brothers and sisters understand the social reality we share in a better way?

The newer use of the word Privilege goes something like this:

4- an unexamined and unacknowledged right, benefit or advantage that accrues to one person and not to another on the basis of race, class, sex, gender or other social factors, real or perceived.

While some might correct me (and you are welcome to do so), I’d say the “unexamined and unacknowledged” part is the key difference. I think this is why Peggy Macintosh uses of the word “invisible” to describe these benefits in her piece “White Privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack” which introduced many of us to this new meaning.

It takes time to understand things that have been rendered invisible by social normalization and it also takes time to process the meaning of those things, to integrate this new understanding into one’s world view. It also takes courage because this integration process inevitably challenges one’s identity. We should remember that expanding one’s world view is an ongoing, lifelong process for all of us.

One conceptual stumbling block with our new use of “privilege” is that it is often used to refer to things that should be considered basic human rights.. While the old word might signify access to country club memberships, Ivy League educations or other elite prerogatives, we are using the word for things like “being treated respectfully by the Police”, “having your voice heard in a group discussion” or “having your sexual identity respected”…. things that every human deserves and should expect to receive. This is PROFOUNDLY confusing to the uninitiated. It is particularly challenging when race is discussed outside of it’s intersection with class and the listener is a modest income, miseducated, hardworking white american (the single largest demographic in the USA) who just binged on a TV series about how Bill Cosby got away with raping countless women or a radio program detailing Barack Obama murdering innocent Muslims with drone strikes (go KPFA!!). One obvious conundrum is that while racism and white supremacy permeate American culture and are central forces in determining the trajectory of our collective and individual lives, not all white people are powerful and not all people of color are powerless. This is true of many structural social critiques, they often break down when applied to specific individuals.

Taking the concept of Privilege out of the personal realm and applying it more generally to the social structures in which we interact can help create common ground that doesn’t run roughshod over the particulars of someone’s story or hold specific individuals responsible for the actions of others and for social mechanisms beyond their control. I think the failure to do this is a recipe for communication breakdowns, non-productive conflict and hardening of ideological lines…. things we have way too much of already! Making sweeping presumptions about other people’s struggles and hardships is neither charming nor a solid strategy for eliciting open-mindedness. Lastly, any intellectually honest person can see that “privilege” is a nearly endless hierarchy. There’s almost always people above and below us on any question of privilege, the fact that you can read this being an obvious example. Acknowledging this while challenging structural inequity is a first step towards building community around language that questions the status quo and speaks to our shared desire to create a more just and equitable world for everyone.

2017 Slingshot Organizer descends to spaceship Earth

The 2017 Slingshot organizer is now available. Selling the organizer pays for us to give the paper out for free, so if you want to support this paper please buy the organizer for yourself and as gifts. You can order the organizer on-line but if possible, please buy it from a brick and mortar store which helps support the many coops, infoshops and independent bookstores that sell the Organizer.

Slingshot is always looking for more stores and coops to carry the organizer so let us know if a local business near you would like a sample copy and ordering details. If you want to be a local distributor in your town, while your band is touring, or at your school, email us.

A smartphone organizer app is 90% finished but we still don’t have a release date.

Telegraph Talk

By Wendy M.A.D.

Whether or not you believe in aliens, here’s a piece of sound advice: never trust anyone who says we can trust The Greys.

Okay, so MK Ultra happened. And sure, it’s a big deal. But do we have to brood on it forever? Don’t we have more relevant systemic stuff to think about, like, I don’t know, CAPITALISM SCRAPING THE BIOSPHERE FROM THE SURFACE OF THE PLANET?

It’s funny when I meet people who think ideas can exist separate from community. It takes a certain kind of privilege to assume that your community’s discourse is ontological fact.

Never trust anyone to help you who doesn’t have the courage to say no to your face. Such a person will politely throw you under the bus.

Finding housing in Berkeley these days is like dating, only worse. You show up at the same time as 20 other people vying for the same room, and all you can do is look your shiniest  while trying to outshine everyone else. It sucks. It’s worse than those shitty reality shows where they have all the suitors competing to marry some asshole.

Holy fuck, everyone! Do you realize how much smog is flying over our city from the ports!!? These big fucking ships sit and idle their engines all day, blowing smog all over the place!!! Why don’t they just turn their damn engines off?! Maybe if we taxed the shipping companies a one-year CEO salary for every hour they leave their boats idling like that, they’d shape up quick.

Okay, so there’s “cracking a squat” which means taking over an abandoned building, and then there’s “popping a squat” which is when a cis-lady pees in a place without plumbing. If you mix the terms up you sound like an idiot.

Bhakti is the mystical path of devotion. If life is getting you down, give it a try.

They say up in the Berkeley hills, where all the laylines meet, you’ll find a cave shaped like a great Yoni, which is to say, shaped like a Grand Cunt. If you sit inside the cave for the better part of an afternoon, your sexual hang-ups and addictions will be cured.

Okay, so fine, MK Ultra: the CIA started illegally testing “mind control drugs” on unknowing subjects. It’s all been declassified. But seriously, don’t we have more important things to worry about?!

Not that I’ve been playing sellout cellphone games or anything, but what the fuck is up with all the level ten Blue Gyms near the zen centers in Berkeley? Come on Team Valor, get your game on!

There are racist algorithms that have already taken over parts of our schools, legal system and medical system. Oh, you don’t think algorithms can be racist? Read Cathy O’Neal’s book Weapons of Math Destruction and think again!

Socrates was the Zachary Running Wolf of ancient Athens. The only real difference is Socrates didn’t have a bicycle. And Zachary Running Wolf probably wont be executed for corrupting the youth.

If you ever find yourself contemplating whether or not to pop an IPO, you’ve already failed at life.

Some people believe that MK Ultra was all about the CIA’s response to Stew Albert’s “crazy” idea to unite politics & culture and invent the hippie.  By associating this cool new group of social changers with drugs that render you inept to make social change, the CIA was able to kill the movement’s momentum. They also did the same thing to black communities, getting black folks addicted to crack cocaine. If you don’t believe me, look it up.

Okay, time to get serious. At People’s Park there are some predatory men who come round looking for women to sell. What they do is target young women of color–they push hard drugs on a girl, aiming to get her hooked on crack or heroine, and then after a few days of letting her use the stuff freely, they inform the girl she’s in debt to them for the drugs and lead her away. Once a girl has been led away like this, we don’t see her in the Park again. The police have been told about this, and totally ignore it (cuz actually helping people is apparently beyond the pigs in blue).  We gotta stand up for our sisters of color: if you see this shit going down in People’s Park, form a big group and scatter the slave-hunters off!

Also, seriously, whether or not you believe in aliens, if someone says they’re aligned with the Pleiadians, they tend to be all right.

 

This is your brain on reification

By Amelia Cat Annalee Brown

For hundreds of years, cultural theorists have developed all sorts of useful terms to help us understand and communicate about the weirdness that is humans doing capitalism. One such term is “reification.” This term was developed by philosopher György Lukács in 1923 in his reading of Karl Marx’s work from the mid-1800s. The term Lukács used was the German word Verdinglichung, meaning “making into a thing.”

What is reification?

Reification is a process through which social constructs come to be mistaken for facts of nature. Through reification, “capital” comes to stand in for labor. “Gender” comes to stand in for consent to a lifelong set of social activities. “Race” is likewise used to represent a fantasy that you can instantly know which strangers to trust and which to (dis)regard as needing to be punished/ saved/ appropriated/ excluded.

Reification is a kind of collective fluency in forgetfulness. It is a way of allowing one thing to stand in for another. It is a codic language that contains within it hierarchies that presuppose “winners” and “losers.”

The following items have been reified as the fantasies “money,” “gender,” and “race”:

- paper

-a doctor’s assessment of a baby’s genitals at birth

-a split-second judgment about the amount of melatonin in a person’s skin and/or the shape of certain features limited to their face

The idea that these things are in any way intrinsically connected to the fantasies they have been reified as is absurd! Yet histories of oppression are actively held in place under the smooth surface of reified fantasies like “race” “capital” and “gender.” Also, we find ourselves forced to participate in co-creating these oppressive fantasies in order to achieve membership and recognition within the current social structure. This is because those who have learned to manipulate reified fantasies have used them build their own power, which further reinforces them.

Can we end the cycle?

We can fight back by questioning the language and practices that uphold these reified fantasies at every turn. It will be tough at first, though. Many people who have been deceived by reification will argue that the items that have been reified as part of a fantasy are the evidence for that fantasy’s existence. (Dude, don’t event try and explain the concept of “tautology” to someone like that—it is so not worth it.) Just remind them of the basic rule in logic that correlation is not causation. Just because it rained once in July doesn’t mean it always rains in July. Just because someone has a certain configuration of genitals does not mean they should be expected to listen to your problems, know how to use a hacksaw, or [insert random arbitrary life-long role here]. It is the same with variations in skin tone, economic predictions, etc. The existence of these things doesn’t prove the ontological existence of the fantasies our culture has assigned to them called “race,” “the market,” and “gender.”

Failed attempts at ending reification.

During the 20th Century, people around the world became aware that “the market” and “capital” are reified social fantasies, and that these fantasies hold oppressions in place. In response, millions attempted to re-reify “capital” as “the thing that causes all the bad things.” The result was disastrous.

Everything that’s called itself “communism” in the past is the same as “capitalism” only it is like hyper-capitalism, as it did away with the (meager) negotiations that the reified construct of capital lets stand between the worker and the extraction of their labor. In “communism,” “capital”—the reified exchange system of congealed labor—gets banned and replaced with an ideology, an ideology whose integrity is so fragile that thousands of academics had to be executed in the USSR and China to keep that ideology safe from their questioning.

The state (i.e., “capital’s other half”) does not go away with the mere banishing of the market! Re-reifying shit doesn’t do shit! All the bad things of hierarchy continued to exist, but just took on different forms. In totalitarian communism, it’s like the babysitter threw the kids off a bridge and still wants to get paid. The problem is not solved! Not solved! No! Meow!

And then there are cases like Cuba, where the state was pretty laid back. But then black markets just rose up and eventually become legal again. Still not solved!!

Simply doing away with reified things doesn’t solve the oppressions they held in place. Rather, it just shifts them around. Things get re-reified. Oppression just disguises itself using fancy new forms.

Is it possible to stop reifying things? (Spoiler Alert: No.)

It is very likely that reification is hardwired into us. Evidence shows that our species’ capacity for language and tool-making developed simultaneously in Broca’s Area of the brain (Uomini and Meyer 2013) through a gene-culture co-evolutionary dynamic (Morgan et al. 2014) over the last 2 million or so years. Perhaps in reification, this neurological ubiquity between language and tool-making creates a type of psychological optical illusion, a “toolification” of socially-reinforced fantasies that have been codified as language, creating that uncanny sense that reified things are real.

That is why things like “race,” “gender,” and “the market” often feel real, even though they are just co-created social constructs.

If you don’t believe me, talk to LARPers. They’ll tell you those foam swords take on a weird kind of reality when “game is on” and the “swords” have been temporarily reified as having a huge level of social value. This is seriously a hardwired thing!

Then how do we have our revolution?!

Perhaps it is impossible for us not to reify. Perhaps it is just part of how our nervous systems work. But we can do something revolutionary: we can become more aware of our propensity to reify. And we can use it consciously. We can create a reification system in which everyone has a level of consent to their roles. And when consent isn’t possible, at least a level of fairness.

By playing around with our propensity to reify, we can help each other get better at seeing the lines of the matrix—only this is a biologically hardwired matrix that we can’t escape, but rather must learn to co-create from within. (I hate to say it, but larping is probably the best way to do this.)

There is no meta- with reification, only para-. We can’t imagine ourselves to be separate outside observers from all this. Humans need meaning (which comes from co-creating our social reality….which is a huge part of reification) like we need food. Without meaning, we fall into the voids of addiction and depression. There is nothing revolutionary about cutting oneself off from meaning.

We need to stop using reification to fix reification. Rather, there is a type of “composting” that needs to happen. A relaxed breaking down of things.  A movement towards self-reflection.  Towards types of knowing that can be found only in leisure (Pieper 1952). Because it is through the process of building the language to lend social value to the spaces outside of what is reified that we find our power to resist and reinvent those things.

Towards widespread fluency in reification!

Games (of all things) teach us to be fluent in reification. Board games. Card games. Computer games. Just so long as we maintain our ability to pause the game and reflect on why the cards, chips, and pixels are meaningful. Something is happening inside of us that makes those game items meaningful. That is the basic mechanism that fuels reification.

By teaching kids to be literate in game mechanics—and to identify moments when reification is occurring!—they will be better able to question and understand the moments when reification creeps into society. Rather than mistaking that sense of something being real for reality, kids need to learn to laugh off the trait of reification when it emerges. The next generation should be able to say with ease: “Race/Capital/Gender/[x] is a shitty game, let’s not play that one anymore.”

Likewise, if we are to overcome reification, rote memorization must be thrown away and replaced with Experiential Learning (Kolb 1975) in the classroom. This is a type of learning where concrete experience is merged with a process of self-observation and reflection from which abstract concepts emerge, followed by a process of testing the concepts, researching, and repeating the process. This mode of education empowers people to build the cognitive tools they need to break down systems of reification in their own lives and society, while ensuring that learning remains a mode of self-empowerment, rather than other-empowerment, as happens when kids are taught to memorize rote systems without ever questioning them.

An education modality rooted in experiential learning, paired with game literacy in a culture that has reclaimed leisure—this is the greatest leap we can make towards building culture that is happier, smarter, and less likely to destroy ourselves and half our planet’s life.

The most important coming revolution will not be in the streets, but rather in/against the classroom.

 

Sources

don’t just trust us—read the original!

Lukács, György. 1923. Reification & The Consciousness of the Proletariat.

Mark, Karl. Das Capital.

Morgan, T.J.H., N.T. Uomini, et al. 2014. Experimental Evidence for the Co-Evolution of Hominin Tool-Making Teaching and Language.

Pieper, Josef. 1952. Leisure, the Basis of Culture.

Uomini, Natalie Thaïs, and Georg Friedrich Meyer. 2013. “Shared Brain Lateralization Patterns in Language and Acheulean Stone Tool Production: A Functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound Study.”

Theory corner – topple the pedestal mentality

By Charna Fon

There are no great revolutionaries. There are no soaring heroes whose heights we cannot ourselves attain. There is no infallible freedom fighter, no ubermensch whose perfect example we can follow and end up at collective liberation. When a revolutionary makes the right decision there is no guarantee of any particular outcome resulting, let alone the desired outcome. Sometimes intelligent decisions and effective organizing along with well-planned action bear the fruit of victory; most of the time they do not. Our victories are the products of learning from failure.

We must have a method for capturing the important lessons from our defeats. We must have the will to endlessly regroup, reorganize, and re-engage. Revolutionism is the art of perseverance and the science of historical materialism. Perseverance must be our guiding moral away from decadence and nihilism; it is not an idealist conception of a supposed predestiny to overthrow capitalism. Historical materialism must be our lens for viewing past epochs of struggle for the sake of understanding our own; it is not a predictive method in which our fate is sealed by a linear orthodoxy.

The objective economic and social conditions are not what makes revolutionary class struggle, only we ourselves can meet that task. And it is not by the virtue of any exceptional individual that such a task is met but by ongoing collective activity. When the forces at play (most of which we cannot control) are aligned in our favor we must seize the moment as it corresponds to our own available forces. Whether the decisive moment yields a success or a defeat is not determined by any individual’s maneuvers but by the totality of all of those maneuvers within the relationship of forces.

The so-called greatness of the individual revolutionary is a product only of historical discourse. The ones hailed as heroes of proletarian revolution throughout history were extremely effective political organizers who knew how to go about agitating. Yet there have been, and are, many of the like who strive earnestly toward social revolution whom history will never acknowledge as heroic or even having existed. The efforts and contributions of these countless unknown are vital to the viability of our side in the class struggle.

What is needed is a large volume of struggle, spontaneous fight back and organized resistance toward Total Liberation. Revolutionaries of the past have never created a revolutionary situation out of sheer strategic brilliance; they have acted decisively in an already in motion situation which was created through years of continuous struggle on the part of courageous people whose names and deeds we will never know. This is true of all of the biggest names in all the most esteemed revolutionary periods from Durruti to Mother Jones. This is not to say that we ought to ignore the achievements and lessons of such individuals. We ought to take them sincerely into account while refraining from emulating them. The struggles of past eras and distant places should be studied, supported, borrowed from, but never equated with what we face here and now, wherever or whenever that may be.

 

Toward a new radical journalism network

By A. Iwasa, a.iwasa@riseup.net, radicaljournalismnetwork.tumblr.com

I’ve been a longtime advocate of some sort of new radical journalism network. Whether I’m reading about such heavies as Richard Wright and Nelson Algren working together in their Chicago John Reed Club while Howard Fast was in another in New York City, Audre Lorde participating in the Union of Soviet Writers sponsored African-Asian Writers Conference or even Jonathan Lethem’s membership in Science Fiction Writers of America, I can’t help but feel this sort of networking from the past has largely been relegated to message boards and what not on the Internet and it’s dangerous to be mostly dependent on one industrial technological source for that communication, and it’s no replacement for real human contact!

Originally, after the peak of indymedia.org and most of its affiliates, I was hoping to help organize an inter-collective journal based on the 1990s’ Network of Anarchist Collective’s (Dis)Connection. According to its first issue, (Dis)Connection was “a networking journal for radical collectives and infoshops.”  I felt the Slingshot Collective’s Radical Contact List was a natural fit for starting something like this back up.

Later I learned about the 1969-’71 weekly inter-commune newsletter, Kaliflower, and became interested in that as a localized model that could possibly be expanded. According to the website diggers.org, “In the spring of 1969, the Sutter Street Commune began publishing an intercommunal newspaper. The name they gave this free weekly publication was Kaliflower, a play on Kaliyuga, the Hindu name for the last and most violent Age of Humankind, the idea being a ‘flower growing out of the ashes of this current age of destruction.’ For the next three-plus years, the commune, through the Free Print Shop, kept Kaliflower going. At its end, there were close to three hundred communes, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, that were receiving Kaliflower every Thursday. The progeny became so well known that eventually it gave its name to the parent, the ‘Kaliflower Commune’ as many people called it.”

My research on Kaliflower eventually led me to a few books on the Liberation News Service (LNS) and the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS), further expanding concepts for how to organize some sort of a new radical journalism network.

According to the wikipedia, the “Liberation News Service (LNS) was a New Left, anti-war underground press news service which distributed news bulletins and photographs to hundreds of subscribing underground, alternative and radical newspapers from 1967 to 1981.”

Also according to the wikipedia, “The Underground Press Syndicate (UPS), later known as the Alternative Press Syndicate (APS), was a network of countercultural newspapers and magazines formed in mid-1966 by the publishers of five early underground papers: the East Village Other, the Los Angeles Free Press, the Berkeley Barb, The Paper, and Fifth Estate. Walter Bowart and John Wilcock of EVO, with Michael Kindman of The Paper in East Lansing, Michigan, took the lead in inviting the other papers to join. It was hoped that the syndicate would sell national advertising space that would run in all five papers, but this never happened.”

I wholeheartedly believe the mass mobilizations against the Democratic National Convention and the Dakota Access Pipline this year have showed the ongoing relevance of grassroots media, and the role it can play in not only informing people but also getting folks to take action.

What I’ve been brainstorming more recently is a press service where radical media projects can  seek new members and share and/or solicit materials and other forms of support.

Independent media activists could easily fit into the mix as calls for submissions, action and deadlines could easily be centralized and easily accessible for all the media projects.

Some of the print projects I have in mind are Slingshot, the Earth First! Journal, Fifth Estate and South Chicago Anarchist Black Cross.

To a certain degree I think some websites like popularresistance.org and itsgoingdown.org are doing something akin to this, but I think things need to be broadened, formalized and tightened up. Similarly, a commitment to print is essential. Some of the other websites I am thinking about are Indigenous Action Media, unicornriot.ninja and prisonbooks.info. Some of the radio shows are the Final Straw, Radio Unnameable and the Asia Pacific Forum.

Arts coverage could include Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll, Razorcake and Profane Existence.  I’m sure there are radical hip hop fan ‘zines that are as good and/or better, so I am interested in suggestions in this department as well as all of the above.

I am consistently impressed with The Nation and Russia Today’s coverage with the politics of sports.  I’m not sure where to begin at how to up the ante in this realm, but I know there’s got to be some radicals out there stepping up to bat.

Book Reviews would be a great way to incorporate radical history and theory.  AK Press and PM Press are two print projects to possibly solicit review copies from.

 

Capitalism Kills – hold the real terrorists responsible

By Jesse D. Palmer

When dramatic terrorist attacks occur in places deemed worthy of notice — San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, etc. — they are widely publicized to make individuals feel small and scared so people will tolerate more repressive state activities. In addition to extra surveillance, more police and special laws, there are calls for racial profiling, immigration bans against whole religions, torture of prisoners and indiscriminate bombing. The powers-that-be don’t seem to care when a market is bombed in Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria or Ivory Coast because those areas are mostly populated by non-white people.

But the worst form of terrorism isn’t the intentional use of violence to achieve political goals, but the intentional pursuit of profit without regard to life which systematically inflicts grinding poverty and environmental harm worldwide. Capitalism uses computers and corporations, not bombs and guns, and while its true that the system isn’t specifically trying to kill people, its indifferent to the tremendous cost in lives. We need to hold business-as-usual responsible for its crimes.

In 2015, about 7.5 million people died of hunger — that is about 20,000 per day. The World Health Organization estimates that 12.5 million died in 2012 as a result of air, water and soil pollution, climate change or chemical exposure. The WHO says 92 percent of the world’s population breathes unhealthy air.

The severe economic inequality in the world not only means that deaths of children and innocent people in Africa, Asia, South America and other poor places aren’t taken seriously by mainstream media — this economic inequality is actually literally killing them. The death, destruction and suffering caused by the hum-drum day-to-day functioning of capitalism so greatly outweigh the number of people killed by ISIS that it is actually astonishing that the media would bother discussing 36 people shot in San Bernardino — but oh wait a minute, discussing San Bernardino justifies the power structure, while even mentioning the 20,000 people who died of hunger today makes it hard to keep the TV on so you can be tempted by the next commercial.

The system has no problem with 38,000 deaths in traffic accidents in the US in 2015 — 1.25 million dead worldwide in 2013 according to the World Health Organization — because the auto industry is one of the leading industries. That works out to 3,400 deaths a day. The Paris attack killed130 people and I don’t want to minimize the terrible loss for those people or their families or excuse the people who killed them. But the people who died in car crashes today are no less dead, but they are considered expendable — a cost of doing business. People running car companies and government officials who organize cities around cars know their decisions will kill people at random, and they take those decisions anyway.

And this logic goes on and on. Carbon emissions are estimated to kill about 5 million people a year, but oil and coal companies are so big and powerful that they are able to block green alternatives. No one calls for air strikes against Exxon or Chevron. No one is calling for an immediate halt to immigration of businessmen in suits. You don’t have to torture the executives to get their information because it is proudly published in the Wall $treet Fucking Journal everyday. And the breathless media reports about how ISIS makes its money and runs efficient recruitment structures — can we talk about the banks and the business schools for a minute?

I’m not trying to depress you or depress myself — the last thing we need is more emotional paralysis, more numbing horror at how awful everything is which ultimately leads only to smug hipster cynicism and inaction. The system’s greatest desire is that regular people will be so overwhelmed by suffering that they’ll retreat to private life and try to look the other way.

What we need now is to come together and struggle for change. Resistance to the system can give us power, energy, hope and meaning. What can help is freeing our minds from the boxes the system builds for us so we can channel the compassion and caring at our core against the real enemies. When the media manipulates you to cry over scary terrorism pictures, the one real thing is your emotional reaction — we should all be crying. Feeling the pain proves you’re still alive and if you’re still alive, you can still fight back and focus on the real crisis.

 

 

The methodology of Compassion – non-violent communication for radicals

By I Steve

Non-violent communication (NVC) is a technique for communicating feelings and needs directly without dressing them as opinions and judgments. We learn that so much of what we’ve come to think of as normal communication is emotionally violent, even when well intentioned. NVC calls this “life-alienated” communication.

In American street activism, a conflict between two forces has dominated the energy; these factions are the Non-Violence movement and the Diversity of Tactics contingents. The Diversity of Tactics people feel that our oppression justifies militant, even illegal methods. The name means that they’re not against non-violence; all kinds of tactics have their place. The non-violence affiliates have a range of views, from religious to legalistic, radical to liberal, pacifist to practical. In an attack on standard English usage, the corporate media uses “non-violent” to mean law-abiding.

People who distrust the Non-Violence movement or could care less about the whole thing might not expect something called Non-Violent Communication to interest them. But NVC is for everyone. While Non-Violence can be an ideology, NVC is a methodology. One can choose to use it whenever one has compassion. If you can’t or won’t have compassion, it doesn’t make sense to use NVC. However, learning NVC will make compassion more convenient.

Of course, the name isn’t the only reason for the image; misconceptions and stereotypes about NVC itself abound. One common falacy: NVC is about hiding your feelings. No, NVC is about setting aside your opinion. “You’re an asshole” is an opinion, life-alienated communication. “I hate you” expresses a feeling, part of NVC. Especially if you say “I hate you because my need for ___ is not met.”

To quote NVC founder Marshall Rosenberg, “NVC is not nice.”

The idea that NVC is about tone-policing is so common that tone-policing is becoming an alternate definition of non-violent communication. While some people who study NVC do engage in tone-policing, the NVC methodology says nothing about responding to people who are angry with you with on-the-spot lectures about NVC. Instead, it teaches how to listen to someone spouting life-alienated rage, and look for what’s alive in the person — what do they need? And responding with self-expression, sharing what’s alive in oneself, rather than an opinion of the other person.

 

How does someone who finds Non-Violence culture life-alienated use NVC?

Even our well-defended, isolated, perfect communities of resistance are subject to internal strife. We approach personal conflicts like the other person is one of our non-violence rivals, if not a harbinger of the state. Rather than merely offer an option to talk to enemies, NVC focuses more on people we clearly want to get along with if only we could: our friends, our allies, our lovers, our parents, our children.

You can use NVC to steer clear of emotional or political violence. You can also use it to pick your battles; conflict may be part of life, but then there’s stupid conflict, stupid conflict that destroys communities and movements. We waste too much energy arguing without connecting with the feelings and needs of people we care about, people on our side.

We’ve inherited a Hegelian/Marxist idea that our revolution must be based on a “scientific” analysis, that rigid logic will allow us to succeed through correct perception. Thus we spend endless energy on “objective” debates. But, not only are most of the activists in the scene acting on emotions rooted in unconscious needs, the analysis erected as a front for this internal process are usually sheer nonsense! However, the solution is not necessarily to avoid most activists. Functional movements can emerge from empathy, connecting to and honoring our comrades real motives.

How do I learn NVC?

A sensible first step is to read Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Non-Violent Communication. A sprawling on-line community around the subject exists, I’m told. In many places public classes and workshops are available, as well as groups on meetup.com. In the Bay Area, check out baynvc.com for a plethora of resources, especially the “Foundations” class.

You will likely meet people who are really attached to the standard non-violence model of reality. It is a really good thing that these people are studying NVC, because the non-violence community is notorious for its emotional violence. Yet I don’t think this will dominate your experience for two reasons:

(1) You can do this. You’ve sat through gun safety classes sitting next to right-wingers, learning all you could. You’ve listened politely to food stamp employment classes. You can do this.

(2) Very little of what you’ll see will be politics. When I went to a Foundations class, the majority of people had careers in education, and wanted to relate to students better. Many came because of family and personal relations. You will find people very different from you, but you’ll see yourself in most of them.

We all have a lot to learn about how to be human, and NVC has a lot to offer all of us.

 

50 years and Still 10 points: Campaign Zero

While we’ve been making this issue of Slingshot, it’s seemed like every day there has been a new video of the police killing an unarmed black man. Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte and Alfred Olango in El Cajon — just this week. The institutional racism that disregards the lives of black people and puts them at risk merely for being in public, for driving, for walking down the street — which sees every black person as a violent threat — has reached a boiling point. This is not about rogue police — this is about a rogue society that permits this to continue. Resistance is possible: now is the time for us to stand up.

In Oakland, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP) in 1966 which was initially a response to out-of-control police violence against the black community. Things haven’t changed much in 50 years. The BPP published a Ten Point Program in each issue of their newspaper which is still inspiring.

This summer, people associated with the Black Lives Matter movement introduced Campaign Zero, a 10 point campaign to end police violence. The two 10 point documents — separated by 50 years — are interesting to compare. So here’s a copy of the BPP 10 points (edited slightly for length) and excerpts from the Campaign Zero 10 points which are too long to publish in full but are available on-line.

Campaign Zero

We can live in a world where the police don’t kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.

1. End Broke Window Policing

A decades-long focus on policing minor crimes and activities – a practice called Broken Windows policing has led to the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color and excessive force in otherwise harmless situations. In 2014, police killed at least 287 people who were involved in minor offenses and harmless activities like sleeping in parks, possessing drugs, looking “suspicious” or having a mental health crisis. These activities are often symptoms of underlying issues of drug addiction, homelessness, and mental illness which should be treated by healthcare professionals and social workers rather than the police.

Policy solutions

End Policing of Minor “Broken Windows” Offenses

The following activities do not threaten public safety and are often used to police black bodies. Decriminalize these activities or de-prioritize their enforcement:

• Consumption of Alcohol on Streets

• Marijuana Possession

• Disorderly Conduct

• Trespassing

• Loitering

• Disturbing the Peace (including Loud Music)

• Spitting

• Jaywalking

• Bicycling on the Sidewalk

End Profiling and “Stop-and-Frisk”…

Establish Alternative Approaches to Mental Health Crises

Mental health crises should not be excuses for heavy-handed police interventions and are best handled by mental health professionals. Establish and fund Mental Health Response Teams to respond to crisis situations. These approaches have been proven to reduce police use of force in these situations by nearly 40 percent and should include: . . .

2. Community Oversight

Police usually investigate and decide what, if any, consequences their fellow officers should face in cases of police misconduct. Under this system, fewer than 1 in every 12 complaints of police misconduct nationwide results in some kind of disciplinary action against the officer(s) responsible. Communities need an urgent way to ensure police officers are held accountable for police violence.

Policy Solutions

Establish effective civilian oversight structures

Establish an all-civilian oversight structure with discipline power that includes a Police Commission and Civilian Complaints Office with the following powers:. . .

Remove barriers to reporting police misconduct…

3. Limit Use of Force

Police should have the skills and cultural competence to protect and serve our communities without killing people – just as police do in England, Germany, Japan and other developed countries. In 2014, police killed at least 253 unarmed people and 91 people who were stopped for mere traffic violations. The following policy solutions can restrict the police from using excessive force in everyday interactions with civilians.

Policy Solutions

Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force . . .

Revise and strengthen local police department use of force policies . . .

End traffic-related police killings and dangerous high-speed police chases . . .

Monitor how police use force and proactively hold officers accountable for excessive force . . .

4. Independently investigate and prosecute

Local prosecutors rely on local police departments to gather the evidence and testimony they need to successfully prosecute criminals. This makes it hard for them to investigate and prosecute the same police officers in cases of police violence. These cases should not rely on the police to investigate themselves and should not be prosecuted by someone who has an incentive to protect the police officers involved.

Policy solutions

Lower the standard of proof for Department of Justice civil rights investigations of police officers . . .

Use federal funds to encourage independent investigations and prosecutions . . .

Establish a permanent Special Prosecutor’s Office at the State level for cases of police violence . . .

Require independent investigations of all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilians. . .

5. Community Representation

While white men represent less than one third of the U.S. population, they comprise about two thirds of U.S. police officers. The police should reflect and be responsive to the cultural, racial and gender diversity of the communities they are supposed to serve.

Policy Solutions

Increase the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve. . .

Use community feedback to inform police department policies and practices. . .

6. Body Cams / film the police

While they are not a cure-all, body cameras and cell phone video have illuminated cases of police violence and have shown to be important tools for holding officers accountable. Nearly every case where a police officer has been charged with a crime for killing a civilian this year has relied on video evidence showing the officer’s actions.

Policy Solutions

Body cameras Require the use of body cameras – in addition to dashboard cameras – and establish policies governing their use to…

7. Training

The current training regime for police officers fails to effectively teach them how to interact with our communities in a way that protects and preserves life. For example, police recruits spend 58 hours learning how to shoot firearms and only 8 hours learning how to de-escalate situations. An intensive training regime is needed to help police officers learn the behaviors and skills to interact appropriately with communities.

Policy Solutions

Invest in Rigorous and Sustained Training…

Intentionally consider ‘unconscious’ or ‘implicit’ racial bias…

8. End for-profit policing

Police should be working to keep people safe, not contributing to a system that profits from stopping, searching, ticketing, arresting and incarcerating people.

Policy Solutions

End police department quotas for tickets and arrests . . .

Limit fines and fees for low-income people . .

9. Demilitarization

The events in Ferguson have introduced the nation to the ways that local police departments can misuse military weaponry to intimidate and repress communities. In 2014, militarized SWAT teams killed at least 38 people. The following policies limit police departments from obtaining or using these weapons on our streets.

Policy Solutions

End the Federal Government’s 1033 Program Providing Military Weaponry to Local Police Departments . . .

Establish Local Restrictions to Prevent Police Departments from Purchasing or Using Military Weaponry. . .

10. Fair Police union Contracts

Police unions have used their influence to establish unfair protections for police officers in their contracts with local, state and federal government and in statewide Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights. These provisions create one set of rules for police and another for civilians, and make it difficult for Police Chiefs or civilian oversight structures to punish police officers who are unfit to serve. Learn more about how police union contracts help officers avoid accountability here.

Policy Solutions

Remove barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight . . .

Keep officers’ disciplinary history accessible to police departments and the public . . .

Ensure officers do not get paid after they kill or seriously injure a civilian . . .

For the full document: joincampaignzero.org