Category Archives: issue #125 – Autumn 2017

Dangerous Alluring, Meaningful- students on People’s Park

By Sam

The University of California Berkeley is very concerned about the housing problem the city faces, but not the one that immediately comes to mind. Apparently the school is about six thousand beds short and student homelessness has been on the rise (though so are student fees and chancellor saleries, but apparently that’s neither here nor there to them). The school has nine sites in mind as future student housing centers. Perhaps inspired by how many folks it currently houses, one of those sites is People’s Park, an area that the school technically owns, but has no control over. Originally a proposed spot for student housing in the fifties, the university lost funding and intrest and ceased construction. In 1969 there was a community effort to turn the area into a park, but the university abruptly demanded the space back. Clashes between people and police lead to rioting, police shootings that left one man dead, and a National Guard occupation of Berkeley, but in the end the people kept their park.

So my original idea for this article was to simply report on the university’s plan, but a thought occurred one day while lazing around on Telegraph, watching the students roll by: do any of these people care? I mean, it’s for them — people that will only be in Berkeley at most four years — that Cal is attempting to get rid of a spot loved by so many. How do they feel about that? As far as I can remember, I don’t ever recall seeing a student pass through the park. Why did they avoid it so much? With all of that in mind, I got a tape recorder decided to hit the streets for answers.

My initial approach — chasing kids down Telegraph with a microphone — yielded no results. It was pretty depressing how those kids eyed, or refused to eye, me. They seemed disturbed by the fact that someone they’d never met was smiling and saying “Hi” to them. I wondered if they assumed I was a panhandler, and then wondered if that, coupled with their reaction, had answered my question better than any interview could.

Finally a freshman agreed to talk to me. His thoughts on the park? “Not so great.” In regards to it’s possible destruction, he said that he’d indeed heard about it but had yet to form an opinion. “It would be nice for the students to have more housing options,” he added. Next was another freshman who actually lives right next to the park! He described it as a home for the homeless and “a place where a culture of hippiness is fostered.” Fair. Unfortunately, he was actually in favor of the proposed project, adding “it’s not like they won’t rehabilitate the people that have been displaced”. Quite baffled, I asked him if he really thought that the university was going to help out the homeless if they got rid of the park. “Uh, I’m not so familiar with the system yet; it’s only been one month here.” One month where, on this planet?!? Sheesh.

Next up was a Cal graduate named Edward, who said that he’d heard that “sometimes girls are afraid to go past it alone at night, but it hasn’t caused me problems so I’m cool with it.” He thinks that, while some renovations wouldn’t be too bad, overall he “[doesn’t] think they should build a complete housing unit [there]”, though he cynically added that “the guys with suits do whatever they want.” Good lord, conceding to authority? What are they teaching those kids there?!? Fortunately his friend Ivan, also a former Cal student, was a little more optimistic. “[The park] has a special vibe that you can’t find in other places,” says Ivan. “When my friends come over to Berkeley that go ‘Oh! That’s People’s Park!’ I think if there were just ordinary buildings there it would take out the uniqueness of the place. Even though it’s kind of sketchy and dangerous, I still find the allure of the place pretty meaningful.”

Dominique, a junior at UC Berkeley, said that “a lot of people say it’s a hole in the wall and they don’t wanna go there,” though personally he finds the patrons of the park “harmless for the most part”. When I asked him about the proposed project, he said “I know there’s a shortage of housing, and I know that the park isn’t liked very much, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.” As for it’s historical significance, Dominique gave me one of the best understatements I’ve heard in a long while with “I know some people say it has some significance along with the Free Speech Movement and things like that.” These fucking kids, man. “I feel like eventually it’ll be taken down because of the need for housing.” Housing for the students or the homeless? After all, both are in need. Dominique shrugged and said “In this particular area [they] would prioritize students.”

At this point, the sun started to go down and I knew I’d have to wrap up soon. I was still a bit dismayed. I’d succeeded in getting people to talk to me, but their answers gave me little to no hope. The fact was almost none of them cared about the park’s past, present or future.

The last person I talked to was actually someone who turned me down before doubling back and saying “No wait that sounds cool.” Was he familiar with Slingshot? No. Did he attend UC? No, but he had grown up in Berkeley. Was he familiar with People’s Park? At this his eyes lit up, and I started to come out of my depressed haze. “[The park’s] history is so rich and just so fucking cool,” he excitedly exclaimed. Without my even bringing it up he added “It breaks my heart that they might turn it into student housing. That mural tells the whole story.” Awesome! So, maybe the students don’t care too much (or at all), but I think it’s safe to say that the defenders of the park have strength in numbers. Right? Right.

 

 

 

Beyond Leftist Fundamentalism – May we ever replace pavement with gardens

To me the eternal Anarchist is ever replacing pavement with lush gardens.

~Lew

I have found the enemy, and [she] is us. ~Pogo

By Teresa Smith

It is early autumn and helicopters are circling the UC Berkeley campus as I write this. I can see them from my window. The tut-tut-tut of their propellers punctuate my thoughts.

A few days ago, I rode my bike up to the university to use the library, and had to navigate through a swarm of media and security workers. An Alt Right speech was scheduled on campus that evening, but it was still several hours away. There were no protestors yet, but cable news teams were already milling all over the place, setting up their equipment, preparing their spins. I passed a vlogger talking into a cellphone, addressing his viewers: “Okay guys, we are here, just hours before these horrible, horrible people show up…” Meanwhile, near Sproul Plaza, the epicenter of the historic Free Speech Movement, police officers and rent-a-cops were blocking off intersections and erecting metal barricades, carefully constructing a designated space for the upcoming spectacle.

Not during Occupy, nor during Black Lives Matter, did I see this level of event staging occur for protests. The conflict between the Alt Right and the Antifa, it seems, is a very special type of media/security commodity. For the first time in recent memory, American protestors aren’t expressing dissent towards the corporate oligarchy or the state, but rather are pitted squarely against each other. Since January, citizens from “both sides” of the political spectrum have come together in Berkeley to punch, pepper spray, and kick the shit out of one another. Ribs, fingers, and noses have been broken, and people on both sides have wound up in the hospital and in jail. Security for these events has cost UC Berkeley $2.5 million this year — a stark overshot of the $100,000 yearly budget that the university usually allocates for security at protests.

These street brawls, or whatever you want to call them, are a brilliant media commodity. There’s something for every demographic: there’s action, there’s politics, there are costumes and snarky commentators. A major news event rolled into a game show rolled into the rhetoric of the end of civilization. Could this be the rise of the modern gladiator?

Every viewer, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, is supposed to have a stake in this conflict, and thanks to social media and livestreaming technologies, you can follow your team’s champions as they navigate these hyper-historicized events in real time. Is this the initiation of the mobile coliseum?

It’s the Free Speech Nazis verses the Antifa Brawlers, and front row seats are just a click away…

*

As I struggle to scratch these observations down on paper, I find myself looking over my shoulder, feeling nervous. From within me, a critical voice arises, shouting, “You must take a stance — a strong stance — against the Alt Right!”

So many people in my life have been saying that lately, saying things like, “Anything short of beating up a Nazi is racism!”

In my mind now, these people are chasing me, throwing bricks and bagels, angry at me for discussing present events without firmly taking sides.

“Erase everything you have written!” these internalized voices say. “Erase all this and replace it with an impassioned treatise in defense of punching Nazis!”

*

I realize I cannot go any further until I unpack my Privilege Knapsack. Until I lay my Oppression Credentials on the table. So here goes:

I’m a mixed-race gender-queer cis-lady who spent her childhood in low-income housing and foster care but who has attended college and gained a master’s degree.

As a mixed-race person, I acknowledge that I sometimes have the privilege of passing as white, but because I don’t always pass, I’ve experienced racist bullshit throughout my life, like having my bag searched in the grocery store as a teen, or being asked by teachers to speak to the class on behalf of my “race,” or…a million other things. As a cis-lady, I have the privilege of having been assigned the gender I supposedly identify with at birth, but I have to deal with the financial, sexual, and emotional oppression experienced by women, cis- and trans- alike. As a gender-queer person, I don’t always quite identify as female, and at times I sorely want to express myself in traditionally masculine ways, but because I live in a binary-enforcing culture I am pressured to pick one gender and stick to the script. As someone who grew up in low-income housing, I have some serious PTSD triggers from having experienced the violence of poverty as a child, but having an advanced degree has granted me access to types of spaces, communities, and conversations that many of the people I grew up with will never be able to enter. Additionally, myself and my entire extended family was born on the “correct” side of certain borders, so I have never had to deal with the fear of myself or my loved ones being kidnapped and deported by ICE. Also, I was raised Catholic so I have never had to deal with Islamophobia or anti-Semitism and the horrible hate crimes to which they give rise. Also, I have had the privilege of having been exposed to certain ideas and communities that have allowed to me properly frame this statement of my identity, privileges, and oppressions in such a way that people on the left are likely to accept me — and even tokenize me as someone who is supposed to be visible and speak — so long as I follow the script.

So there we have it.

Have I passed the checkpoint?

Am I allowed to continue to speak?

Or perhaps I don’t have quite the right identity markers, and for me to open my mouth at this time will be dismissed by people on the left as pointless noise.

*

How you ever been accused of being white as a way to silence you? I have.

It happened to me three years ago in a radical newspaper meeting in which a collective member shot down an article I’d written about my fear of the police because “no one wants to hear that kind of thing from a white person.”

I’d written the article under a pseudonym, and hadn’t mentioned my race because I wanted to focus on class. I wanted to focus on the way people are policed in low income housing, about how as a little kid I watched my fourteen-year-old babysitter, who happened to be white, get chased by cops with their guns drawn through my apartments. Even once I’d left the projects and was safely in grad school, all the fear came rushing back every time I passed campus police officers patrolling the halls with guns and batons strapped to their bodies.

“No one wants to hear that from a white person,” is what someone in my collective said. This person, by the way, was white.

I was wildly triggered at the time — to be told you can’t speak because of whiteness you don’t possess is crazy-making. But later, I started to wonder if this is how white people must sometimes feel in leftist spaces. To be told your pain is invalid, just because you’re white? That’s not right. Pain is pain.

Sure, there are moments when someone else is in a lot more pain and they need attention first, but that doesn’t mean your pain doesn’t matter at all.

*

Recently, I was drinking beers with a friend who is queer and brown who told me, “Yeah, I got called ‘white and straight’ by a roommate a few weeks ago…”

He explained that the housemate was trying to make a case against him to the other housemates, and in the process said something along the lines of “he’s just a freaking white straight male” — even though he very clearly is not. Weirdly, the person who accused him of being white was, you guessed it, himself white. Hmm…self-hatred much?

This reminded me of another friend who is a rad mixed-race Asian lady, who last year told me she was accused of being white by someone in her zinemaking collective, and after that, just dropped out, because, yeah, the accusation of whiteness being used to silence you, especially if you aren’t even white is really, wow. Just wow.

I can think of several other examples of moments when, in leftist community discourse, folks of color who were specifically accused of being white as a way to undermine and silence them.

It seems like there is an undercurrent in leftist circles of accusing someone of having a type of privilege — especially white-maleness — as a way of saying their opinions don’t matter, that they should stop taking up space.

*

Another, more common way that leftists shut down underprivileged people whose opinions they don’t like is to accuse them of harboring an “inner oppressor” — of being “white/able-bodied/etc/male on the inside.”

If a brown or black person takes part in a “too militant” anti-capitalist action, other leftists of color may accuse you of being a “Coconut” or “Oreo” — this literally happened during the 2012 occupation of the UC Davis Cross-Cultural Center. People of color, it seems, are encouraged to speak and hold space by mainstream leftists — until it is realized that we have a class analysis, and then the mic is quickly taken away. “Ignore that brown person,” the liberal1 p.o.c.s say, “She is really white on the inside!”

Likewise, women who voted for Bernie Sanders during the primary election were accused by liberal “feminists” like Gloria Steinem of “letting their boyfriends vote through them.” It didn’t matter that Clinton was the big-bank candidate — women are apparently supposed to only ever vote for another woman, regardless of whether or not we agree with her politics, otherwise we are denounced as being mindless pawns of men.

On the mainstream left, women, people of color and other oppressed groups are embraced as tokens, but only if we promote the big-bank-friendly neoliberal version of diversity. If we happen to have a post-colonial class-based analysis (which is to say: if we’re friggin Marxists who read Fanon, baby), we are robbed of our p.o.c. and lady points. The mic is taken away. We are accused of being “white on the inside,” of being the “empty vessel for the will of our boyfriends.”

*

When, on the left, did we let “white” become such a dirty word that we’re using it on people of color to silence them?

Since when did we start accusing women of being “pawns of males” as a way to indicate their opinions don’t matter?

I’m tired of feeling like I have to police my privilege and slap my oppression credentials on the table every time I want to speak.

I’m tired of seeing words like “male” “white” “straight” and “cis” thrown around like they are insults.

I’m tired of watching people play the Gotcha Game: calling out microaggressions so fiercely in our spaces that bystanders get scared and never want to come back.

I’m tired of the weird witch-hunts that go down in squats, radical spaces, and housing projects in which a small group gets accused of “having inner oppressors.”

What I’ve started to see is a type of leftist fundamentalism emerging. Rather than attempting to repair our communities when microaggressions occur, we’ve fallen into a pattern of vilifying and taking down the _______-ist. Like, rather than identifying hurtful/oppressive behaviors, we’ve started putting labels on individuals in such a way that those individuals are not able to redeem themselves. Or we simply label oppressor groups as being inherently _____-ist, whether or not individual members have done things to change.

I think the fact that the term “whiteness” gets thrown around on the left as a way of saying “shut up” has everything to do with the reality of those helicopters outside my window: we now have a fascist movement that has descended upon the leftist epicenter of the Free Speech Movement, eager to provoke us into beating them up because they know they can come here to get media images that prove their point to rural Americans that urban leftists are unreasonable.

At this time — a time when all Americans are suffering in the wake of a recession that decimated the middle class — white Americans are being offered two very different versions of reality. According to the left, white people’s pain isn’t valid and they need to shut up. According to these Alt Right assholes, white people are some kind of magical unicorn “superior race” being held back by an “evil left wing conspiracy” of “enforcing diversity.”

We all know how ludicrous the words of these Alt Right speakers are, and yet, there are millions of white people in America who are buying into this fantasy version of themselves being offered by the right. And at moments, when I see the way “white” gets thrown around as a slur in leftist circles, I can almost understand why.

These Alt Right fascists are idiots. We can outsmart them. But we have to put effort into building up our own spaces, and we have to start working towards smarter discussions in which everyone’s suffering is given space. We need to stop telling people they aren’t allowed to have any pain simply because they are part of an oppressor demographic. I believe we can do this, while continuing the vital work of undermining the oppressions created by race, class, gender, sexual bio-essentialism, and capitalist colonialism. We can do our amazing work of building intersectional community on the left without othering people.

Several friends in the Bay Area leftist scene are ready to engage in compassionate criticism that moves us beyond Leftist Fundamentalism. We are starting a new publication called Subversas.com. We are interested in articles that discuss leftist taboos, and that hold space for the types of discussions that normally get shut down on the left. The fundamentalism that has emerged on the left is like concrete being poured over a lush garden — it is time for the flowers to break through the cement!

The American populace has never been so close to uniting against the big banks and stripping the 1% of their power. The corporations are dumping money into fanning the flames of conflict because they know how close we are to going for their throats.

 

 

 

Unpacking the antifa – against moral positions for smarter tactics

By P Wingnut and Teresa

Moral debates between violence/non-violence and trying to appeal to the media regarding antifa amidst a rising tide of alt right publicity stunts misses the point. The alt right are setting up situations in which they define the agenda, they pick the time and place, and no matter how anyone reacts they will declare victory.

A lot of people are condemning some antifa (anti-fascist) actions, particularly those in Berkeley in which large black-clad groups have militantly shut down alt-right gatherings. Just as it is wrong to condemn all militant antifa tactics, it’s simplistic to automatically support everything and anything antifa—or any particular member of antifa—might decide to do. There are members of antifa who do the right thing, others who make mistakes, and there are probably police agents posing as antifa to harm us.

What’s important is effectiveness and acting thoughtfully and strategically — which isn’t always measured by the toughest or most militant action. Strategy involves questioning our own tactics when necessary. The alt right is trying to provoke violence because they think it will work to their advantage and help expand their numbers, so we need to be careful not to play by their rules, while still acting in self-defense when people are attacked.

It’s a mistake to think that by jumping a particular racist extremist, we’re having a meaningful effect on the system of white supremacy. If we managed to get rid of all the alt right morons who met in Charlottesville and have been descending on Berkeley, the system of racism would remain.

Antifa members with the courage to act in self-defense are heroes. Antifa also engages in other tactics like blowing bubbles, peaceful chanting, dressing in costumes, participating in comments threads on the internet, etc. In August, Antifa in Boston surrounded an alt-right rally chatting “we can’t hear you,” shutting it down seemingly without having to throw a punch.

It’s important to interrogate the concept of “nonviolence.” By holding nonviolence as a fetish, we limit our ability to affect change and allow our movements to be co-opted by business-as-usual liberalism. We have to start looking at these things as tactics rather than ideologies. We still live in a world in which women are making 77 cents to the man’s dollar, in which black people disproportionately fill our prisons and are disproportionally murdered by police. If we are to dismantle the systems of social injustice that surround us, we are going to need to work together on a grand scale. The current efforts of the media and alt-right to divide us undermines our organizing power. We can’t let go of our greater visions of a better world as we work to strategically address the rise of fascism in this country.

Flag-waving thugs have a dubious connection with the power structures that are destroying the world and enslaving her people. These people and their hateful ideas are symptoms of deeper problems. The most dangerous people don’t wander the streets — they rule from fancy offices.

Exclusively militant rhetoric and images obscure the complex, nuanced and beautiful simplicity that we’re trying to create — a world without rulers based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation. Escalating violence plays right into the hands of people who thrive to the extent violence—and the hate and fear violence breeds—escalates. We need to stop playing into this game. If solidarity has any meaning, it doesn’t just mean solidarity within a tiny politically air-tight clique eager to give the middle finger to every working slob who isn’t woke.

Solidarity is big, broad, messy and hard because it means working out differences that threaten to divide us so we can focus on the system. This struggle is about stories, conversations, connections, ideas, and building community — and at times militant self-defense against racists.

 

An open letter to the antifa

By Arlie Russell Hochschild

We are in the midst of a crisis: signs are appearing of a rise in the US of white supremacy and fascism. I’m old enough to have seen white supremist violence before. I was a civil rights worker in Mississippi during Freedom Summer in 1964. In June of that summer three of my fellow workers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner were murdered by Klansmen and, over the course of the summer, dozens more were badly beaten. Since the lives of those three, and, over the years, many others, ended through right wing violence, some called for left wing violence in response. But leaders with greater foresight prevailed and a powerful civil rights movement changed the nation, rewrote its laws, and enfranchised millions of African Americans who previously had never been able to vote. While much remains to be done, the movement itself was extraordinary, and while various strategies were pursued, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, it was predominantly non-violent.

I recently spent five years getting to know, and write a book about, Tea Party enthusiasts in the heartland of the petrochemical industry in the deep South, people who came to believe in Donald Trump. I discovered that they felt themselves to be — and in many ways were — victims. Their wages are often stagnating or declining, many of their jobs have been automated or offshored, and the air they breathe and the water they drink are grossly polluted. The president cleverly offered them scapegoats for their sense of victimhood: Mexicans, Muslims, black Americans, the mainstream press, the left. Like Hitler and plenty of other demagogues, Trump understood that appealing to that sense of victimhood was his path to power. And at every step of the way, Fox News, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Rush Limbaugh and others supplied the sound bites and images to reinforce this dark worldview.

When, in a series of skirmishes which broke out earlier this year on and around the U.C. Berkeley campus, an Antifa activist beat an older man wearing in a Trump T-shirt, leaving blood streaming down his face, it was the greatest possible gift to Fox News, and to the Trump/Fox narrative of a victimized right. Who might this anonymous man in the Trump T- shirt be? Who knows, maybe he was one of the estimated six to eight million who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 but voted for Trump in 2016. Or maybe he was one the one out of four — other studies say one out of three — white high school-educated voters who say they would have voted for Bernie Sanders had he won the Democratic Party nomination, but when Sanders lost, voted for Donald Trump instead. 46 percent percent of American voters who voted voted for Trump and they’re not all “deplorable.” If we treat them as people to be attacked and beaten, we’re treating them as contemptuously as did Hillary Clinton when she used that word. But what they are is caught up in a narrative of victimhood and the search for people and causes to blame.

To bash, punch, or kick a man, to smash a window or light a fire is to make the greatest possible gift to Fox News and to Donald Trump and his unsavory brew of KKK members, neo-Nazis and others whose appeal is based on the narrative of victimhood. When we make such people victims of violence, we reinforce that narrative. We rob the movement against racism and fascism of the high ground through which the civil rights movement transformed America. Since we are indeed facing forces that include outright fascists, it’s worth looking closely at how the greatest fascist of them all, Adolf Hitler, came to power. How did he end up as chancellor of Germany in 1933, when, five years earlier, the Nazi Party won less than 3% of the vote? There were many factors, but an absolutely crucial one was that the Nazis were brilliantly successful in provoking the German left into violent street-fighting. Dozens of people were killed on both sides. Hitler was able to appeal to his followers that they were victims of the left, and to the public at large that he would restore order.

At Charlottesville, of course, the most deadly violence came from the right. Nonetheless, because Fox News and other outlets were able to show some pushing and shoving from anti-racist protesters, surveys show that more Americans thought the fault lay mainly with the “left” or with “both sides” than thought the fault lay with the alt-right. This was a gift to the alt-right. Let that not happen again. Should we show opposition to the forces of racism and white supremacy that we see around us? Of course! There is much to do. Let’s all get busy. Be relentless — but not through violence.

Arlie Hochschild is the author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

 

Drop the charges against all anti-fascist protestors

By Gerald Smith

We’ve got a problem.

In spite of the fact that the American workers have trounced the fragments of fascism all over this land from Boston to Charlottesville to the San Francisco Bay Area, too many Anti-Fascist fighters are under indictment. There is a crying need for a public organization to support these Anti-Fascists.

In Central California, three Anti-Fascists have been indicted in Sacramento in relation to the smashing and scattering of the attempted “Unite the Right” Rally on June 26th: Yvette Felarca of By Any Means Necessary ($20,000 bail), Mike Williams of the Brown Berets ($250,000 bail), and Porfirio Paz. Mention of bail amounts is not done to melt the gentle snowflake but to harden the resolve of the conscious Anti-Fascist.

In Berkeley the number of arrestees has ballooned since the “Anti-Hate” rallies in August and September of this year. In one of the more serious cases Eric Clanton was arrested ($200,000 bail). The “Berkeley 5” Dustin Sawtelle, Jeffrey Armstrong, Scott Hendrick, Taylor Fuller, Nathan Perry have also been arrested. There are more.

These outrageous bails beg the question as to the actual role the state is playing. Are the police protecting citizens or is this a form of political repression? To look at the facts and ask the question is to answer it. Here are a few examples:

* Department of Homeland Security agents allowed an Oath Keeper (right–winger) to assist in the arrest of an anti-fascist protester providing handcuffs in the arrest.

* “Liberty Revival Alliance” Rich Black’s right-wing coalition was meeting with Berkeley police ahead of March 4 and April 15 actions (both of which were unpermitted, but police facilitated them anyway).

* Numerous instances of the police collaborating with alt-right trolls in a doxing, internet harassment campaign.

The events in Charlotesville greatly increased the chances of getting all the charges dropped both in the Berkeley and Sacramento cases and simultaneously going on the offensive against the fascists about what they truly are, what they truly stand for and that they do indeed stand for, advocate and practice mass mayhem and murder.

With the Democrats having piled on to condemn Trump’s deliberately equivocal casting of blame — and some prominent Republicans condemning Trump as well (and reportedly the Navy chief also taking a nominally decent stand) — a skillfully run defense movement and political education campaign in California will make it very hard for the Democratic establishment to press forward with court charges.

The fascists’ attempts to paint themselves as defenders of free speech can now be politically shredded (despite the past mistakes of some antifa including the Black Block in over-emphasizing physical confrontation at the expense of mass political education).

In spite of Trump’s self-exposure on this matter, Antifa has continued to be condemned and denounced by the corporate media.

Loss of life is a reasonable measure as to whom is actually causing harm to our society. Consider the following:

Richard Collins, a black man, was killed at the University of Maryland by Sean Ubanski (Ubanski is affiliated with the Facebook page Alt-Reich Nation).

On May 26, 2017, Jeremy Joseph Christian fatally stabbed two people and injured a third on a train in Portland, Ore., after he was confronted for yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim slurs at two young women.

Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured by James Alex Feilds who drove his car into a crowd of Anti-Fascist protestors on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville.

And there are more, many more. According to Political Research Associates: “The U.S. Far Right has killed nearly 450 people since 1990. Heather Heyer of Charlottesville, Virginia is the latest casualty of White nationalism. We can honor the sacrifice of the dead and wounded by matching their courage in standing down similar rallies planned for the weeks ahead. Equally important, we can defend members of our communities who are under attack. People of good conscience, regardless of party affiliation, faith tradition, or identity should look upon Charlottesville as a call to moral action in defense of humanity and rejection of White supremacy.”

The fascists have murdered scores of Americans. How many Americans have been killed by Antifa?

Zero.

Cornel West, among others, has publicly stated that when the fascists surrounded a black church in Charlottesville, the Antifa saved his life. If there is any doubt of the racist danger we’re facing, consider the beating of a young black man, Deandre Harris.

Since 40,000 people showed up in Boston to meet 50 fascists, the Hitler-lovers have canceled every rally they have called. But they have not disappeared. The fascists have joined the Republican Party on the campus of UC Berkeley which gives them access to money, lots of money. The fascists have also created numerous fronts and allied with various right-wing organizations (Red Elephant, Proud Boys, Patriotic Prayer, Identity Evropa, etc.). While not every member of these allied organization is a fascist, they are clearly fascist collaborators. Our strategy and tactics should be adjusted to allow our activities to become more effective.

Here is something we can do to aid the growing list of Anti-Fascists presently under indictment: Let’s create an online petition campaign aimed at the cities of Berkeley, San Francisco, and Sacramento that demands that the charges against all Anti-Fascists be dropped.

Our lever is the fact that after the events in Charlottesville, Trump was denounced by the Democrats for equating the Alt right/fascists with Anti-Fascist protesters. OK. These cities are run by the Democrats. Did they really mean what they said? Let’s put them to the test.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD WILL RISE AGAIN! FASCISM NEVER!

 

Love is all you need

By Jesse D. Palmer

The world feels like it’s crumbling around us, and not just because climate change and the sixth extinction are becoming personal and undeniable. What’s particularly disturbing is that the cultural and social glue that humans need to live together is fraying. We’re losing the ability to tolerate other people who are different from us. We’re losing the ability to talk. This sadly is not just a comment about right wing racists. My friends and community are radicals and anarchists — I’m talking about us as well as the racists as well as plenty of other people we all bump into everyday.

Our response to these extreme times has to be extreme, but not in the way a lot of people are thinking. It’s time to focus on why we’re against racism, why we’re against oppression — which is fundamentally because of love, not because of what and who we’re against.

Starting with love means remembering that we love everyone and everything as well as ourselves. Being in such a state of universal love can be hard, but it is achievable. In my heart, when I take time to feel deeply, I have too much love to bear. Most of the time while we’re going about our daily lives we have to suppress the love so we can get stuff done. But it is there and it is the central powerful life force that enables everything. I’m talking about awe seeing the morning light, contemplating a tree, thinking about how much we love our housemates, our children, the members of our collective, riding a bike on a warm day, eating a delicious lunch, making love, building a treehouse, looking at pictures of old friends, staring at the Milky Way, watching people at the next table at the restaurant laughing together even though we’ve never met them and our backgrounds are totally different. The feeling of universal love goes back to nature. We are all astronauts on the earth — people, plants, animals, bugs. It’s not a cliché — we really are all one.

We need to start our activism and our revolution with love and let it infect and inform everything we’re doing. A lot of activist burnout and a lot of the failures of our movements are because activism gets stuck in the mud and thinks too small. Our actions feel harsh, based on guilt, based on anger, based on division, sometimes edging towards violence. In the activist scene, I sometimes feel scared to say or write what I really think. This is not a way we can win. These dynamics keep us distracted from understanding the big picture and tackling the big issues that underlie and structure the wars, the oppression, the economic inequality, and the ecological disasters.

People are struggling with change that’s too fast, with a lack of meaning, with isolation, and with too much technology, which is leading to psychological disorder as we struggle for some sort of refuge or bandaid. This stress feeds the rise of tribalism, alt right nationalism and fundamentalist religious movements, as well as radical scenes that are not tender, that are not welcoming or generous or safe.

Right now we need to fight oppression and struggle against ecological collapse while being particularly careful to avoid making intolerance and social division worse. We must resist racists and fight their ideas, yet avoid dehumanizing anyone no matter how wrong their actions may be.

There is a big picture we’re missing. The tiny elite who are profiting from killing the planet want to keep us divided and fighting amongst ourselves because it distracts us from building an alternative to a system which requires inequality, which requires destroying the earth, and which is organized by competition and violence, not cooperation and humanity. We need to stay focused on fighting those systems.

Self-hatred is an emotion behind a lot of destructive human behavior because — unable to love oneself — one is unable to love the world, the trees and the oceans, and anyone perceived as different. Self-hatred and emotional shut-down that interferes with all of our ability to tap into the love that is within us is something everyone has to work on all the time.

Let’s train ourselves to spread and grow love. It can help to start with feelings of love that are outside you – your feelings of love for places or things or people — and let that grow until it becomes a habit and can feed upon itself. Eventually once love is strong enough in your heart and free enough that it floats near the surface, it shines back upon you.

The earth is hurting because of people and our machines and capitalism — but really the earth will be okay. People might not be okay — maybe probably won’t be okay. That is scary to me. Let it sink in but don’t let it paralyze you or cause you to turn away from life and love. At my best moments, I love myself which means I love human beings and the good things we’ve created enough to fight to keep human society going against the odds. People are complex and sure we’re responsible for a lot of terrible stuff — oppression, genocide, ecological domination.

But there is plenty to love about humans and our social formations — parts of our rich diverse beautiful cultures, our music, our learning, our art. And just our simple day-to-day lives with all the small pleasures and moments we experience.

Now is the time to keep our eyes on why we want to save the world. That tenderness can give us the courage and eloquence we need to communicate and resonate with others. Most people love being alive — it is an intense rush. We don’t need a lot of fancy jargon, gymnastic mental justifications or economic theories to figure out why living is fun and worthwhile and why human communities are worth trying to preserve and improve. From the big picture we can move to particular movements against police killings, against pipelines, for people getting the food and housing and healthcare they need, for freedom and justice and for ecological sustainability.

The earth is what unites us all. Avoiding damage to the environment may be our biggest challenge, but it could also be the wake up call that forces us to grow up as a species and cast off sloppy earth-killing structures built only on greed.

If we start with love, we can try to make stuff better even though we recognize that we make mistakes — that we aren’t always good or loving ourselves. No one is perfect. We need to approach that reality with self-love, not shame but rather compassion and acceptance. Then we need to try to do better.

 

Mushrooms made me sober

By Isabel Fava Bean

On a sunny Saturday in the spring of 2015 I found myself talking to a redwood tree. I was tripping on mushrooms at a local park with a couple of UC Berkeley students and one of them, a bio major, was trying to convince me that plants don’t have feelings. Naturally, I abandoned the group I was with and walked off to converse with some plants. And who better to converse with than the tallest plant on earth, the coast redwood? I sat down in the gnarled roots of one redwood, my back against her bark, and gazed up at her neighbor. I began to listen. “Mushroom Isabel,” she intoned, as the blue sky behind her swirled, “You need to tell Sober Isabel to stop fuckin up.” I understood immediately that Mushroom Isabel was my shrooming self, and Sober Isabel was myself when I wasn’t on shrooms, though that Isabel was hardly sober. The tree told me I needed to refocus on what I truly cared about — learning sustainable living skills, learning to grow food — and stop distracting myself with partying, social media, and working in foodservice. It happened to be layout weekend for Slingshot #117 and the culmination of my trip was wandering into the Slingshot office and falling asleep on the couch while the rest of the collective was scrambling to get the paper laid out.

It was during that spring that my friends started talking to me about their experiences of boundary violations and rape. I read that 1 in 3 women are raped or abused in their lifetimes. I couldn’t help but feel it was only a matter of time until I went through the same. The one common factor in each of my friends’ experiences was intoxication. Both they and their rapists were under the influence — usually alcohol, sometimes molly or another drug. And intoxication wasn’t just incidental — it was sometimes part and parcel to the rape: “He kept offering me alcohol until I was too wasted to resist.”

Around this time a sober coworker gave me a zine called “Toward A Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and Anarchist Struggle” by Nick Riotfag. Holy shit! Reading this zine blew my mind. It drew connections that hadn’t occurred to me before — connections between intoxication culture and violence towards women, oppression of people of color and queer people, and general societal malaise and apathy. My mom had always told me not to use drugs and alcohol for my own health and safety, which, as a teenager, was easy to disregard — it’s my body, I’ll do what I want! But to see that my substance use fit into large scale social patterns of oppression and violence was, for me, a compelling reason not to partake.

I had been working the night shift at a bakery, going out a lot, drinking and dabbling with other drugs. I broke my dad’s trust by throwing parties at his house and got formally called out at work for using drugs on the clock. All of the above had been building in my mind, I guess, because around my 20th birthday, I quit my job, stopped drinking, and set off on a 450-mile bike tour down the California coast. It’s been over two years and I haven’t touched drugs or alcohol since then, but I often think of what that redwood told me during that mushroom trip, reminding me to stay focused on what I know is important.

I had originally intended to write an article condemning any use of substances, restating many of the arguments in “Toward a Less Fucked Up World”. But I realize that nobody who uses and enjoys substances wants to read about how everything they’re doing is wrong. And I do see some positive aspects of substance use.

So, after discussions with a few of the people closest to me who enjoy substances, I attempted to step outside my judgements and brainstormed a list of the potential positive impacts of intoxication culture on our lives. I acknowledge and respect the sacred roles that some substances play in many traditional cultures. Substances can be wonderful medicines. I think it can be healthy and positive to conscientiously use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate for struggles we face that we cannot change, or that we need help to change. Alcohol might act as a social lubricant that helps us get out of our shell as we build the confidence to eventually express ourselves without it. And when being constantly aware of the pain and injustice in the world incapacitates us, substances might help us take a break and relax just long enough to gather our strength and jump back into radical projects. I think it’s important to recognize how fucking insane the world is right now, and not hold ourselves to rigid standards of sanity and logic all the time — we need to chill, to be goofy, to be wild sometimes — and in a culture that puts everything in tight boxes, substances can give us a taste of freedom, however short-lived. I do want to work toward a world where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and feels free without any substances. But of course we’re not there, and probably won’t be for a long time.

I know substances have been radicalizing and mind-opening for many folks. Psychedelics in particular have sparked friends of mine, and I’m sure many others, to open their eyes to the beauty of the natural world and our place within it and to question social norms and the values and lifestyles they were raised with.

I also brainstormed a list of the negative impacts of intoxication culture in our society. The connections between intoxication culture and rape culture are sharp. According to The Scientific American, when compared to people with XY chromosomes (“men”), people with XX chromosomes (“women”) are deficient in an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase that helps us metabolize alcohol. This, coupled with an average lower body weight, means “women” are more likely to have lower alcohol tolerance. Amongst young people, especially punks and bros, drinking more, faster is a point of pride, which pushes the most vulnerable people to drink past their limits. In my mind, some rape and boundary violations are the inevitable result of the combination of a culture of heavy drinking, the differences in the way that alcohol affects people, and the social expectations around sex. Logical ways to address this on a personal level are to reject social norms and redefine our sexualities using the language of consent, and to drink less or not at all, especially in spaces where rape is rampant, like on college campuses. Directing this suggestion just at female-identified folks echoes victim-blaming narratives — I direct it equally at male-identified folks. And of course we must continue to fight rape culture on all levels, not only in our personal choices.

Intoxication culture also has strong ties to consumer culture. The tobacco and alcohol industries are fat with the profits from our addictions and hold powerful positions in Amerika the Corporatocracy. The cannabis industry is set to take its place next to them, providing yet another packaged substance, taxed, regulated, and industrially produced and marketed. We all know that industrial, corporate food is killing the environment and the people who consume it, and that disadvantaged people and ecosystems are the hardest hit — let’s extend that critique to the systems that produce substances on a global, commercial scale. Some radicals see intoxication as a form of resistance to capitalist values of productivity, but this is a myth. Spending money on booze and drugs only ties us closer to the rat wheel. I know too many punks who work jobs they hate and spend much of their hard earned cash on booze, weed, and cigarettes — largely so they can forget about their crappy jobs for the weekend. Fuck that.

On a personal level, substances can be coping mechanisms for issues we might otherwise be challenged to address. They can numb us, keep us content and apathetic when faced with our own pain and trauma, global injustice, and environmental collapse. The popular narrative justifying intoxication culture says that we are using substances to “have fun” or “celebrate”. This avoids any awareness that attraction to substance use often comes from deep emotional wounds. Substances can help us cope with what we cannot change, and that is a beautiful thing, but we can’t let them keep us from facing the struggles that we can overcome.

Let me be clear that I do not wish to pathologize, criminalize, or condemn drug users, or to suggest that everyone should abstain from drugs or that sobriety is necessarily more radical than intoxication. Rather, I believe one can take a radical approach to intoxication, through self-awareness, and of course many people take a reactionary approach to sobriety, by stigmatizing and criminalizing drugs. I wholeheartedly believe in the decriminalization of drugs and freeing of those locked up for drug related crimes. I would like us to examine our substance use, or lack thereof, and consider the personal and political effects of our choices. Despite the prominent straightedge current within punk, I feel this subject largely goes undiscussed in radical circles — and I suspect that many of us are using substances not after thoughtful consideration, but merely because substance use is normalized and expected in our social circles.

Regarding approaching substance use through a radical lens, what can we actually do, tonight, tomorrow, to intoxicate in positive and conscientious ways? Here are some ideas — add your own!

Let’s DIY substances the way we DIY music, art, and radical organizing. Lots of us already do this. Brew your own beer. Distill your own booze. Mushroom hunt. Grow weed or opium poppies. If you gotta buy drugs, source them ethically. Decommercialize your drug use. Trade and give drugs away instead of buying and selling. Or barter for other goods. Dumpster dive for booze and drugs at college campuses on move-out day.

When we’re at bars and parties, let’s regulate our own levels of intoxication. Let’s watch those around us, and respectfully check in with people who are wasted, see what they need. Make sure they are safe. We can prevent individual instances of rape, drunk driving and other fucked up shit by being aware and taking care of each other. Cultivate safer spaces and spaces where intoxication is an option but sobriety is also socially acceptable. Let’s use substances to cope with what is beyond our control and to feel okay so we can stay engaged in radical struggle. Let’s let ourselves feel shitty sometimes and do that with substances when we need to. When we allow ourselves to feel shitty, we can begin to identify what is wrong and what we might need to change.

Sober people can frame their sobriety through a radical lens. Some ideas: We can respect everyone’s personal choices by not preaching. We can support comrades who are trying to use less substances by sharing our own experiences, and hanging out with them sober. Let’s consider how we could change our interactions so that people need drugs less often because they feel accepted, appreciated, and brave enough to face whatever demons they carry. Let’s learn harm reduction skills and support related programs, like needle exchanges and safer injection sites. Let’s continue to educate ourselves about the oppressive systems that target marginalized people by encouraging them to use drugs, and then victimize them further through a war on drugs that is really a war on drug users. Let’s acknowledge and examine our own dependencies, such as tobacco, coffee, pharmaceuticals, or refined sugar. Or buy coffee produced by a Zapatista collective.

I present these ideas less as a doctrine and more as a spark for discussion. A PDF of Toward A Less Fucked Up World is available online. Write to Slingshot and let’s talk! The most important thing is for all of us, whether we choose to use substances or not, to continue educating ourselves and each other about the ways in which those in power use intoxication culture to reinforce their dominance — and to fight that dominance on every front.

Humility and whiteness

By I Steve

A lot of white activist-types can talk our ears off about unconscious racial bias, micro-aggressions, and privelege, but are still gosh-darn twits. Is the problem that they have to try harder, read every article in Everyday Feminism? Or is there something deeper? Is it not good enough to have a list of exceptions where you don’t act like you’re better than other people: anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-homophobia?

How are there decent-hearted people with terrible predudices, and assholes with perfect politics? “I’m an anti-racist asshole. Why don’t people of color like me? Why doesn’t everyone like me?” Because you’re still an asshole!

What’s missing is basic humility. It’s not just about how to relate to marginalized groups. It’s about how you relate to yourself, and your relationship to reality.

White people don’t have a monopoly on arrogance. Just as being white doesn’t make you racist, it doesn’t mean you’re arrogant either. But white people collectively are as notorious for arrogance as for racism. That whiteness is intertwined with arrogance is obvious to everyone who isn’t an arrogant white person.

Humility, being humble, is usually defined as a lack of fixation on oneself and a deference to others. You’ve probably heard that humility isn’t about self-effacing. It’s about self-acceptance. If I don’t accept my real self with all my weirdness, I can create a glorious false-self to avoid accepting my real self. For some people, this goes all the way to Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

But I’m a ‘Radical’ who Does Good Things

One of the ways a culture preserves itself is by teaching itself good things about itself, and activist culture is no exception. Our teaching on arrogance is that it is a quality of the mainstream society we oppose. Those people try to get lots and lots of money so they can glorify themselves with bigger houses and bigger cars. They grow up wanting to be star athletes, leaders in business and politics, Nobel prize winners and best-selling writers, and foist their bitterness on the rest of us when their dreams evaporate.

All true, but look at us. We demand our demands be met. We no longer believe in “scientific” socialism, but we know our logic is flawless; we are right. Drawn to the cause by Dr. King and Che Guevara, why would I want to be a foot soldier or a shit-worker? Or I may reject mass organizing with its leaders and followers—I’m a free ego unencumbered by ancestors, culture, anything but my desires. While that approach appeals to the young-at-heart in all-of-us, it risks obliviousness to our interdependence, another form of arrogance.

Part of the activist identity is anti-Racism. Since I’m such a great activist, I’m a great anti-racist. So yup, if you tell me I did something disrespectful or ignorant, I’ll put you in your place to protect my ego. That’s why allies—or accomplices or whatever word the Internet says distinguishes us from those allies—can be so much more fragile than ordinary white people with twisted minds and good hearts.

Instead, I can realize I have more to learn. The Urban Dictionary’s entry on humility:

“Remaining teachable, knowing that you do not have all the answers.” Their example: “I had to have a good sense of humility to listen to my teammate’s advice, even though i have been playing baseball a lot longer than him.” “Veteran protesters” who think Millennial activists don’t know anything—do take note.

Humility is from Religion, and You Hate Jesus, your Mom, and your Buddhist Housemate

Humility is a virtue and core subject in most religions. Religion is an aspect of most cultures. Humility is a theme in most cultures. Among your many options, you can keep your culture’s religion and reject it’s idea of humility. You may also reject your religion but keep the humility.

We’ve watched enough cave-people movies to think humility was for humans before the Era of Reason, cowering before superstition and volcanoes. But that “Era of Reason,” the European “Enlightenment,” was also the dawn of whiteness. Enlightenment utopias like America were built with the stolen land and slave labor or non-white peoples.

You can listen to others’ wisdom and still be an atheist. You can be a humble atheist. An anonymous person explains how humility is why atheists paradoxically succeed in Twelve-Steps programs: “The steps work if you believe in God. The steps work if you do not believe in God. The steps do not work if you think you are God.”

Can You Tell Me How to be Humble?

There’s a whole lot written on humility and how to be humble spanning the whole world and three millennia. What about special humility for radicals? The whole point of this is that we need the basic humility that everyone else can do.

One thing you can do is think about who you were before you were an activist. Do you remember people practicing humility in your family? In your school? If so, you can find your real self by connecting to your roots. If not, if you were surrounded by arrogance, when did you know? What was your idea of humility that provided that insight? Don’t despair. It’s common for middle-class families, actually a blend of upper and lower class characteristics, to deny their humble roots out of shame, aspiring to the big time. Even if this is your origin, you can accept yourself.

Do you know anyone, can you think of anyone who you think is humble? They probably are. Notice how you feel in their presence. Learn from them.

Becoming Humble Will Make Little Birds Like You

No joke, animals will be less afraid of you. Including humans who will trust you more.

Then you can reach the ears of those people with twisted minds but good hearts. Not a tourist in your own neighborhood, whether in Fruitvale, Oakland or on Park Avenue, NY. Even where you are a stranger, you might still belong.

Humility has been described as the foundation of other virtues. When you can see yourself as you are, there’s a feedback loop so you just get more awesome.

Introduction to Slingshot issue #125

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

As Slingshot goes to press, our Indymedia comrades in Germany are freaking out, being shut down and dealing with government surveillance. Our comrades in Barcelona are being shot with rubber bullets.

Flipping through the pages of this issue, you will find articles that completely contradict each other. That’s the idea: we aren’t a monolith, we’re a movement. Lots of voices make up this movement, and not everyone is supposed to agree. That’s where our power comes from: holding space for contradiction and internal critique. Being able to see things from different points of view — to discuss, disagree but still be comrades in the same struggle is the only way we can win. May our diverse voices burst up like flowers through the pavement of the corporate oligarchy!

It’s projects like Slingshot that hold the movement together, not because of our propaganda, but because of the great times we share listening to James Brown, The Clash and Gil Scott-Heron on vinyl while we put the pages together. We share stories, go to shows, and break bread. We write what’s in our hearts and make the best art we can.

While we were making this issue, Sam went to the hospital and discovered his arm was broken — and it had been broken for a month! We all felt pretty bad about it, especially since Sam helped us unload a bunch of boxes of organizers when his arm was totally broken 3 weeks ago… And then, as if that wasn’t enough, Sam got freaking mugged while walking home in Berkeley from layout on Saturday night. Tthe muggers punched him in the face because he was being “too slow.” “I mean, come on guys, I’m not the one mugging me,” Sam said. Everyone in Berkeley is such a critic. Sheesh.

During layout the clock said 2:25 but it was actually 1:30 am and we were sleep deprived and layout-drunk so a collective member threw the clock down the stairs and then we destroyed every clock in our office with the Homes Not Jails crowbar. Fuck time! Then we all helped sweep up. This is the essence of a collective — we all get to smash things, and we all get to clean up afterwards so that our 5-year old collective member won’t get cut by glass when she arrives the next morning.

Sometimes we wonder if making Slingshot is worth it, and find ourselves lamenting that we don’t have better quality articles to cover such important topics. But then we find value in the weird and wonderful process of making the paper, and in the overwhelming volume of positive feedback from readers — especially prisoners. And it’s amazing when we talk to people involved in radical projects and spaces all over the world and they say, “Oh, you work with Slingshot? Cool!”

We regret that this issue includes a sobriety article without an article to counter it. There was an article of tips for doing LSD, but unfortunately it was too incoherent to publish.

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

We’re a collective but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: Davey, Devin, Dov, eggplant, Elke, Fern, Gerald, Hayley, Indiana Joe, Isabel, Jesse, Joey, Joey Provolone, Korvin, Laundro-Matt, Sam, 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 Saturday, December 10, 2017 at 7 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 126 by January 13, 2018 at 3 pm.

Volume 1, Number 125, Circulation 22,000

Printed October 6, 2017

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94705

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

510-540-0751 slingshotcollective@protonmail.com

slingshotcollective.org • twitter @slingshotnews

 

 

 

Slingshot free stuff

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage. Send $4 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. slingshotcollective.org

 

Circulation information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income, or anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per 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. Say how many copies and how long you’ll be at your address. In the Bay Area pick up copies at Long Haul and Bound Together books, SF.

 

Face down climate change

By Wendy & Jesse & Hayley & Teresa

Three of the most intense hurricanes ever recorded just ripped through Puerto Rico and the southern US — within weeks of each other! Ash rained from the sky in Seattle and Portland for weeks. Record monsoons swept through Asia. Parts of Sierra Leon and Niger are underwater. San Francisco recorded its hottest day ever and Europe endured a triple-digit heat wave they called “Diablo.” The fucking devil is here man, and its name is climate change.

But despite all this, no one is talking much about it — and even more lacking are concrete, urgent and massive plans to immediately and dramatically cut the carbon and other emissions that are driving the increasingly abnormal weather. What the hell is going on? How can most people realize we’re tipping the world into a sixth mass extinction which fundamentally threatens human society, and be so easily distracted, so resigned, so apathetic?

There are many feedback loops in nature and in human social interaction in which particular events feed on themselves. These loops can cause downward spirals, but sometimes there are also virtuous cycles in which particular actions succeed and in so doing, open doors for even greater success.

At the moment, our failure to meet climate change head-on with massive social action is taking us on a downward spiral. As carbon concentrations rise, it becomes harder to imagine any hope, harder to feel like anything anyone can do will make any difference, and it gets easier to checkout. This is causing diverse psychological and cultural trauma. Arguably the rise of nationalism and the break-down of communication across social and political divides is a symptom of the fear and loss of hope we’re feeling as the threat of human extinction sinks in. A tiny number of corporations and elites who run the fossil fuel-based system are doing everything they can to keep people distracted and fighting amongst themselves.

What we need right away is to step off this vicious cycle, and step onto a virtuous cycle, which is just within our reach. Turning away from fossil fuels will mean more than just changing fuel sources — it requires changes in the way we relate to the earth and other people. As we move away from an extractive, centralized model, there are huge opportunities to reorganize the economy away from inequality, racism, oppression and meaninglessness and towards cooperation, diversity, mutual aid and engagement. Each step forward can make the next step easier as together we reclaim a future worth living that is sustainable and in harmony with the earth. Deliberately and meaningfully dealing with climate change will allow us to stay calm and focused so we can keep forward momentum. There’s a world to be won in this transition, and nothing to lose.

But right now, what can you do to make a difference? Sure, you can strive to live a low-carbon lifestyle, boycott cars and meat, but still, even if you get your personal carbon footprint down to zero, all around you people are still pumping carbon into the atmosphere like they’re on a suicide mission and plan to take out the whole planet with them. We don’t get to have hope that climate change will be avoided — that ship has sailed. If we’re going to get out of this capitalist planetary death wish with anything resembling a habitable planet left, we’re going to need a diversity of tactics.

On a psychic level, we need to hold in our heart how success looks — a world where people get what they need, where our lives aren’t serving a system at odds with the earth, but where people serve their own needs and the needs of those around the and the earth. To hell with living large — we need to re-learn how to live close to the ground valuing simplicity, freedom, cooperation, art, music and pleasure more than our stuff. Once we can see it, it’s up to all of us to discuss it and start working out the details.

We can do this. Massive shifts in social structures as well as technological norms aren’t just possible — they’re inevitable if you look at how human societies have changed just over the last few hundred years. A lot of the racism and oppression we’re struggling with now are legacies of slavery and feudalism. People argued that both of those systems were inevitable and permanent, too, but both were swept away.

We’re at another historical tipping point — corporate capitalism has run its course. The difference this time is that these oppressive structures have exceeded the earth’s limits — we’re in a race to kill capitalism before it kills us. Systems and historical epochs don’t change on their own, and many people will cling to the old ways until the last moment. This shift requires fearless, humble, clever humans willing to fight like hell.

We need to continually test for weak spots and run with whatever works — being flexible and willing to accept alternatives that may only be partial answers but still move us forward.

It’s time to talk about taboo topics — like encouraging people to have fewer children or none at all for the next few generations to take pressure off the earth. Like supporting more urban density which dramatically reduces emissions, even when doing so changes things we love about how our cities are now. Like pointing out that rebuilding houses in hurricane country or in flood plains is crazy given near certainty that violent weather events will increase — people may need to move. Like admitting that bike sharing programs cut emissions and keep cars off the roads and there need to be anti-capitalist options that don’t have ugly corporate logos on them.

It’s time to point out the obvious, refuse to participate, and change: taking uber and lyft rides still puts carbon into the air — the better option is always to ride the bus! We need to demand better public transit, and do everything we can to get cars off the road. Why are so many products shipped thousands of miles, when we have the recourses to grow and build almost everything locally?! Folks need to stop idling their car when they’re just talking on a cell phone. Do you need to put your clothes in that dryer on the hottest day of the year? Cooperative businesses and housing save resources and are the bottom up solutions we need right now — they’re not just for hippies anymore.

We can’t let ourselves off the hook just because we’ve individually figured out how to live a low-carbon lifestyle — we have to look towards the bigger picture of how to make it easy for everyone else on the planet to likewise make the same changes. We are going to have to get creative, and we are going to have to get fierce if we are going to take down the 90 corporations that are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions. This will mean facing them in court, and in the streets! Seriously, we need to sue these fuckers for everything they’re worth for destroying our futures (and our present!) and do all we can to make it sure it’s no longer ever lucrative to pump carbon into the air.

Kicking the carbon habit requires social, legal, and political change, but there’s a technological aspect, too. Right after the US entered World War II, almost all factories were rapidly converted to war production, and thousands of new technologies were rapidly developed and deployed almost overnight. We’ll know we may have a chance against carbon emissions when we start seeing something similar in the form of a massive green energy boom. Right now most investment is still in dirty technologies with, at best, a trickle of money going into solar, wind, batteries, grid improvements, electric cars, conservation, high speed rail, and other transitions to carbon free tech. Let’s fight any new investment in fossil fuels — not just a few pipelines but all of it. This means, if you’re saving up for retirement or whatever, do the research, find out if any of your money is invested in fossil fuels, and if so, move your damn funds! Same with your bank: find out if your bank invents in fossil fuels, and if so, get your damn money out of there and into a credit union that only invests in clean energy!

How frequently do we write to our climate scientists and thank them for their work? Recently, Hayley was speaking to a climate scientist friend who informed her of the incredible amount of hate mail that he and his colleagues receive. At least once a week, he’ll get a threatening email from a climate change denier. Climate scientists often work at public universities, so their contact info is online. Send them thank you letters—it will really help their morale! And while you’re at it, give yourself a treat, too. Maybe a walk amongst trees or find some friends to sing with. Let’s celebrate the awesome beauty of being alive on this living planet as we work to keep it that way!