Category Archives: Winter 2003 (10/30/03)

Hobo Safety

This summer, the fun adventurous stories I heard of friends on the road were mixed in with the serious, deadly knowledge that a woman was killed on I-5 while hitching up to Oregon. Then I heard rumors of another woman killed, and I kept thinking of folks I knew who were raped while hitching—and how I hadn’t ever spoken of the incident since out of respect for their request for anonymity.

As much as I love insane travel stories, I’m worried our bravado obscures the truth of what actually happens to us on the road. I’m getting the sense that as we try to not sensationalize atrocities, respect survivor anonymity, and not scare ourselves, we end up hush-hushing big, important, harsh things that actually do happen to us. Like with all silencing, the aggressors end up ahead as we leave home less informed and prepared. As I add the I-5 killings to my too-long list of terrible things that happen while traveling, I’m ready for a big community response. A flood of self-defense classes, recovery networks, benefit concerts, media, zines, stencils—flamboyant displays of our belief and pride in this kind of travel. Because there’s nothing wrong with sharing rides with strangers.

In the US, the open road poses great difficulties. I know this—many people, including myself, cover thousands of miles without planes or our own cars, by hitchhiking, hopping freight trains, bicycling, following the grand hobo tradition that’s been taken to heart by parts of the anarchist movement. Meeting challenges is a part of travel anywhere, and a treasured element of hoboing, but here in the US there seems to be a particularly high percentage of assholes ready to mess with people doing something different than the norm. It’s not our fault; we’re not ‘asking for it by the way we’re dressed.” This harassment is just one more ramification of violent, divisive, fear-inducing, fucked up American culture.

My uncle actually stopped talking to me because he thought there was something wrong with asking strangers for rides. To him, hitchhikers and trainhoppers were irresponsible mooches too lazy to provide for ourselves. He burned with the thought of dirt-stained people expecting to invade his car-secured privacy. His attitude was pure American. In Mexico, Canada, and many other parts of the world, the stories I’ve heard suggest the ethic of helping travelers balances suspicion of strangers and obsession with privacy. Sharing resources does not imply mooching, and interactions between respectful, courteous people are valuable, not lecherous.

Traveling folks romanticize the inevitable struggle, singing old hobo songs like Big Rock Candy Mountain, building courage with tattered copies of Ben Reitman’s Boxcar Bertha and Jack Black’s You Can’t Win. Boxcar Bertha and Jack Black surmounted amazing challenges in their travels around the turn of the 20th century. Arguably, hoboing is safer these days, with modern trains and railroad bulls who won’t shoot tramps on sight. But the American cultural experience of Ben Reitman and Jack Black is different from ours today. At the turn of the century and during the Depression, more people were tied into the hobo world through relatives and friends on the road. Hobos were certainly pariahs to many, but family to many more. Now, as American society has become more compartmentalized, car-obsessed, and divided by concerns of privacy, ‘safety’, and fear, the hobo’s position has shifted. We are much more likely to be considered dangerous intruders or potential victims of somebody’s frustrated rage.

Perhaps in response to this unforgiving mindset, the modern anarcho-punk hobo aesthetic prioritizes toughness. With our carharts, multitools, and maglites, we are always prepared. We build ourselves up to be superheroes with crazy stories of narrow escapes from psycho truckers and rail cops. In some circles, coolness is measured by the speed of a train you jump. Seeking validation in a culture of toughness, I used to cancel train trips with people who said they felt more comfortable getting on stopped trains. I left behind people who were sick, and expected people recovering from severe train-wreck injuries to keep on riding. The trains kept moving, and people’s personal needs fell aside.

But there are many sides to being tough. As I consider the different challenges we all face, it seems far wiser to value respecting and managing individual needs and risks, rather than forcing a standard that is not that far from status-quo jock. Things—trains, cars, people, lives—move at many different speeds. There is no competition when it comes to taking care of your own needs, because the ultimate arbitrator is yourself. Now, I check myself:

Are the stories told to get spirits up actually enforcing one standard of behavior and making other people feel like shit? Do the stories paint a story different than the reality of the road?

The longer I travel, the more difficult situations arise. I’m trying to pull myself out of denial about some possibilities, and superstitious paranoia about others. I want us all to do the homework to be realistic, confident, and prepared to deal with sketchy situations. This article is not a scare tactic! I think “alternative” travel is beautiful and valuable on so many different levels. And while getting a car might be a personal solution, it doesn’t affect the broader picture.

Traveling mirrors the struggle of our lives.

Recommended zines: Ring of Fire, about finding amputee pride after a wreck, $1 plus postage, PO Box 22824, Seattle, WA 98122-0824, USA

Women’s travel stories, edited by Spoke, 164 Lac du Pin Rouge, St-Hippolyte, QC, JOR 1PO, Canada

Anarchy Is For Everyone: Telling Our Stories, Bringing Folks Together

I tried to avoid it for a while, but if I wanted to find and meet other anarchists in the east bay, I needed to go to the Long Haul, an anarchist infoshop in berkeley. So I took a deep breath, opened the door and entered, trying to free myself of my previous feelings, my stereotypes, my love and hate for the anarchist community; and yes I know it ain’t one homogeneous thing, but regardless, my experiences with it have been fraught with good ol’ revolutionary angst.

Let me explain

I have never been into the punk scene, I am not white, I became a father at 20 and had to think about changing diapers, not just about changing social structures. I remember being chastised by someone trying to get us to go up one summer to the logging protests and when I reminded him of my responsibilities, he snapped back: ‘what was more important?’ I wanted to punch him, to make him see his ignorance, the elitism of privilege, the typical dismissal of people with children, with jobs to pay for food and rent. Yet, this has happened over and over. Meetings at 6pm or reading my child a bed time story? How to choose? It felt as if I could never fully commit, never be as dedicated as the people I met — mostly younger, white, students, who were mobile, who could survive on a fluctuating income. Now there is nothing wrong with this, but this was not me, not my experience, not my culture. But I knew that the anarchist views more closely resembled my views about how life could be lived than anything else, so I tried as much as I could to find that community. brought my kids to meetings; I swapped childcare with other parents on my block (a nice way of realizing it truly does take a neighborhood to raise a child). I tried to figure out how to balance riding bikes with my kids around the block versus riding in critical mass, which is right at dinner time. I realized I needed the anarchist community after years of trying to compartmentalize the seemingly disparate aspects of my life — the non-monogamist, the self-schooling parent, the activist, the Chicano academic, the fuck-the-police poet. But how I got to this point is another story. It is in fact many stories.

Starting at the beginning

I began noticing the glaring discrepancies in my life; I grew up on hip hop and could see it being co-opted into cheap fronting and frivolity. This was not the community I was a part of, dressed in hand-me-downs and learning to break on ripped up sections of linoleum. I simply couldn’t handle the growing consumerism, the value placed on objects, after having lived in poverty, after scoffing at and detesting the symbols of wealth for so long (yes out of envy and jealousy at the time perhaps). Yet, I desperately needed to believe in the anti-authoritarian politics of NWA, Public Enemy, Freestyle Fellowship, and others, for I was not hearing it from anyone else nor in any other way that spoke to me.

It continued in undergraduate classrooms in which I was appalled at the refusal to engage in anything but what was deemed ‘practical and possible realties.’ After being told that republicans and democrats held the only legitimate and viable worldviews, I wondered how the hometowns I grew up in – Las Vegas, New Mexico, Kailua, Hawaii, Ventura, California — were included in anything we discussed. How did these ‘viable’ political choices account for the poverty, the single mothers, the drugs, and the lack of choices available? There had to be another way. And when I did make my way to an anarchist study group, I seethed at people’s unwillingness to even attempt to connect anarchy with issues of race and privilege. There had to be other ways. Other places.

So I retreated for a while into my own experiences, creating and nurturing a lifestyle that embodied the values I couldn’t find elsewhere. I found connections with my imprisoned father and prison issues that introduced me to Attica, to my father’s penitentiary, to political prisoners. I reveled in becoming a father and was soon horrified as disciplined behavior became the primary learning objective in my son’s school. What could I do, where to turn? I refused to participate in the privilege of private schooling so that was out. And then I found The Teenage Liberation Handbook, and we created our autonomy, but struggled to connect with others who chose to homeschool for reasons of liberation rather than christian bullshit and racist, classist fears about public education. Where were the other parents? People fuck, so I know people reproduce.

Moving to the east bay from the city did help me meet more people with similar values. While attempting to create a relationship based on free choice rather than social coercion, my partner and I met another young parent questioning the rigid social definitions of what relationships could be. With the inspiration from Emma Goldman and the practical advice from The Ethical Slut, we began to embrace non-monogamist freedom to explore our own sexuality, our growing identities, our interests. But even here we felt out of place: we weren’t 50 year old hippies reminiscing about free love, nor were we new age converts trying to fuck while rubbing crystals and engaging in tantric poses. We were in our late twenties, we were looking for others more like us.

All these interests and choices of my life culminated in the tear gas of Seattle. Studying globalism as an advisor to student clubs on the campus I taught at, we decided to participate in the WTO protests, not realizing the dramatic and liberating events that we would be a part of. So after the smoke cleared from Seattle and then DC and then Quebec, I realized that I could no longer chase the revolution, that I could no longer compartmentalize the different aspects of my life. I needed a way to synthesize them all. After ten years of making half-hearted attempts to connect with people who seemed to look and live so differently than me, I decided to toss aside my ego, my attitude, and my fears to find and help create the community I wanted.

In the three years since I have made this commitment to be involved in the anarchist community, I have met some powerful and inspirational people; I have learned to see that resisting the oppressive and seemingly undefeatable social world we live in can be practiced in so many minute, marvelous and meaningful ways – in fucking, in gardening, in punk, in slumming it, in cooking. Perhaps even in crystals. I’ve been a part of RACE (revolutionary anarchists of color), been to and participated in the anarchist conference, started a zine, boxcutter, with a few others to explore aspects of personal liberation. I even staff a shift now at the Long Haul. With each step I try to bring my stories and my experiences with me. I want to be a part of something that combines theory and praxis, that can talk the talk and walk the walk. I want to work with people that I can learn from, that inspire me in my own efforts of teaching, parenting, and living my daily life. I want to try and fail rather than remain safe in stasis. And yet, at times I still feel like an outsider to the radical/anarchist community. But now I know that I am a part of it, and so I have a responsibility to help shape it. I am writing to engage myself in this process that will force me to embrace more of it, to be more involved in it, and welcome other people like me – marginalized from the mainstream, yet not quite the typical anarchist – to join this discussion. I know many more people are out there, many more stories, and I hope we can start sharing them.

Let me tell you a story

I’m sitting at a park bench in south berkeley as my kids are running around waiting for me to play shark attack with them. I’m talking to a young man of color with a child in the 1st grade about schooling versus home school, about the waste of money and the recall, about how things could be. He’s talking about how he wishes there were other places to get information about all this shit going on. I tell him about the info shop; I tell him that there are others thinking the same thing.

The kids tell me they’re tired of waiting and want me to attack. “That’s the place across from la pena. I always wondered what that place was.” he says. We say good bye and he thanks me for the suggestion. I get up, but look back and say, “Come in there some time, I’m there Thursday nights.” “I think I might just do that.”

Dismantle the Guantanamo Bay Prison!

It has now been two years since the US government set up its newest and most perfect prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The prison was built to hold those captured in the US invasion of Afghanistan and the “war on terrorism” — about 700 people so far. It’s America’s most perfect prison because it takes the basic goals of prisons — to isolate, silence and break those held — to their ultimate conclusion. Those held on Guantanamo have no official legal status, and thus are denied any legal protection under either American or international law. They are totally isolated, denied contact with lawyers, their families, the media, independent human rights groups or the outside world. Since the prison is within a US military base and is physically offshore and isolated, the government has total control. You can’t get within hundreds of miles to see it or to protest.

Slingshot has wanted to write about the situation over the past few years, but it’s hard to know what to say from any kind of radical or anarchist perspective. The whole thing is a bizarre example of life imitating scary science fiction, or an Orwell novel. Guantanamo is just the most extreme example of a prison industrial complex that destroys millions of lives every single day.

Liberal groups like Human Rights Watch, the ALCU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights have brought so-far unsuccessful lawsuits trying to pick apart the legal contradictions of Guantanamo.

For instance (and there are many examples of legal contradictions regarding Guantanamo) the government claims on one hand that the prisoners aren’t protected under the US Constitution because they aren’t on US soil, although the US government is solely responsible for setting up Guantanamo and bringing prisoners there. On the other hand, the government claims the prisoners aren’t protected under international law or the Geneva Convention.

The government is claiming it can hold the prisoners without trial as “enemy combatants” (who have none of the rights of Prisoners of War) until the end of the conflict, even though the “conflict” in question is the war on terrorism, which the government admits will probably never end. Thus, the prisoners face life in prison with no trial, no lawyers, and no independent determination about whether they should even be there in the first place.

So far, the lawsuits filed against the Guantanamo situation by liberal groups have been unsuccessful. From a radical point of view, lawsuits are a pretty pathetic response to a government out of control, since they concede the legitimacy of the government’s courts, authority, and system from the get-go. It isn’t much of a surprise when the government’s courts find that the government’s prison is “legal.”

The normally mild-mannered and generally impartial International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been the only outside group allowed into Guantanamo to observe prison conditions. The US hoped that the presence of the Red Cross would convince the international community that the US was respecting human rights, even while the US refused to abide by international law or treaties.

In a signal that things are not going well for the US public relations campaign, the ICRC recently joined the chorus of human rights groups who have denounced the Guantanamo prison.

The ICRC complained that it has been asking the US to grant legal rights under international law to the prisoners since the prison was set up, with no meaningful response. Prisoners at Guantanamo are experiencing significant psychological deterioration after living in a legal limbo for years, with no idea what will happen to them, and no procedures in place for finding out, according to the ICRC. There have been 32 suicide attempts at Guantanamo so far , and a large portion of the inmates are being fed anti-depressant medications. There have also been continued reports that the US is very aggressively interrogating the prisoners, using methods verging on torture.

So what is to be done? The 700 prisoners at Guantanamo — allegedly terrorists — are unpopular and thus have few defenders in the US. Since media coverage is strictly controlled, there isn’t a lot of news getting out about the situation. They are gradually being forgotten, just another footnote of a US government drunk on power and out of control.

Now that some of Bush & Co.’s lies about Iraq are being exposed, perhaps the public is ready to question recent American human rights abuses justified by the “war on terrorism.” Let’s demand that Guantanamo be dismantled — loudly, publicly and all across the United States. We can’t allow the government to establish a secret gulag, because eventually, they’ll want to put us in it.

Freedom

This is my story — a story that I got to share with all of you, who want a better world, who want change, who want to live and want . . . just to be free. This goes to everybody, but mostly to those who have moved to other places, looking for either a change or just because you wanted to create another path of living.

I’ve been in Berkeley long enough — long enough to feel like it’s my home (if there is such a thing), long enough to fit into the community and long enough to realize that here, now, is the time and the place to change the whole world

I’m not from Berkeley, not from the Bay, not even from the USA . . . I’m from some tiny beautiful islands next to Morocco. I chose to be here, I chose to live my life and do the things that I’m doing here, even if the government is bad, even if Capitalism is taking over . . . this is where I’ve chosen to live for a while because it is a time of change, a time of the revolution, and maybe it should be started in the so-called first country.

Myself, to be able to be here, I got to get married because my visa had expired. Being illegal meant that once I left the country I couldn’t come back for ten years and I didn’t want that at all because I got some roots in here already. I was lucky and my friend helped me out. I did not mind — the whole process of paperwork has just been another game, one of those stupid games you have to play for the future.

My situation has been not so bad. I got arrested on March 20 in San Francisco protesting the war on Iraq, which was one of the craziest and most delirious experiences ever. My friends and I were in jail for 17 hours, got solidarity from inside and outside and the cops let us go.

The INS interview to see if my status was “real” went ok . . . still I’m in process. We’re under the poverty line, which says that the minimum income in a household should be $1,500 a month. We did not make that money, it’s all about money, so either we have to get a sponsor or work more. For two to three years I have to be checked by the INS, which is Homeland Security right now.

It’s a game, if you lie . . . you get what you need . . . if you don’t play, you get screwed and you got to go.

I just want to say, that we have to change this world. People should be free. People should be where ever they want to be, without racism, without depravation, without going through the whole system of lies and bureaucracy.

Some people want to do things, but the system oppress them, they are not free at all. We cannot allow the government to choose for us. We shall be free.

Don’t let the evil system put you down, be who you want to be . . . and if you don’t like what you see, change it!

Lucha. No dejes que el sistema te joda, se libre.

One World – No Borders

This a story for all those who have compassion. This is a story for all of you who ever train hopped, or have ever got arrested. This is a true story for those who don’t follow the system’s laws, to those who are human, for you. Here is the story:

Pavel (not his real name) is a powerful guy. He’s been doing Food Not Bombs in different states, goes dumpster diving, socializes really well with all kind of people, knows a lot about politics and knows how to survive in this nowadays society.

Pavel has traveled a lot and he likes being in the U.S.A . . . I guess so.

But there was something happening with Pavel — whether he was politically active or just trying to make it, he was not an US citizen.

His visa had expired a while ago, before the summer time. Therefore, to be able to keep staying in the USA, where he wanted to be because he wanted to, he and his punk friend got married.

As for those who don’t know what the whole process of becoming a US resident or citizen takes, I here give you information. The “ alien’ has to apply for an Adjustment of Status and the couple has to submit their last three years of tax returns, copies of birth certificates, passports, finger prints, pictures, doctor’s appointments, almost more than $1000, patience and comedy. Well, Pavel and his punk friend got married before the summer time.

Pavel went on an adventure, and like those of us who don’t want to pay corporations, who don’t like capitalism or want to support anything regarding the system, his way of traveling cross-country was train hopping.

But it wasn’t so easy. Pavel got pulled off by the border patrol guys and got charged with misdemeanors for trespassing. He and his friends were held in the county border jail for two days. But Pavel wasn’t from this country, so they released his friends, but not him. For him, the situation got worse.

When he got arrested he did not have a passport, but because he was arrested by the border patrol people, they called the INS — that is supposed to be illegal — but they did it anyway. They checked his status on the INS computer and it showed that he had been illegal since March. It didn’t even matter that he was married to an American . . . noooooooooope! He just wasn’t a citizen and they didn’t like that.

He was in jail for two days and five more days waiting to be picked up by the INS people and go to the INS JAIL. His bail was up to $10,000. Bullshit! Pavel talked to some official and asked him if he could go back to the Bay Area and fix his troubles there, but of course they wouldn’t let him.

After 1 week in county jail, he was transported to the INS jail. He, and all these immigrants characters where together, mostly Mexicans.

They were all driven in a small van that was really crowded. The patrol borders kept discriminating against the Mexicans — singing songs like “la cucaracha” and making fun of them at all times. The guys needed to use the toilet and the cops wouldn’t let them go alone — they had to go together, and in handcuffs. They were all transported to a plane. They weren’t allowed to have a lot of stuff on the plane, so Pavel just took some books with him.

In the plane, funny and awkward things happened. Pavel had dreads and the INS mother fuckers kept joking about his looks and how they should cut his hair off because he had shit on him. But still, he feels that he was not treated as badly as the Mexican men. Probably because Pavel was white he was treated a littler better than the Mexicans, who the INS kept making fun of, telling them shit all the time, acting racist, treating them really poorly.

When Pavel got to the INS jail, first he had to wait for 6 hours in a small cell with 30 people — he couldn’t even lay down or stretch. Then, they moved everyone to a big dorm. He got a visit by a doctor asking him if he had any medical conditions. Pavel answered that he was vegan — that was his condition, that was the way he had been for a long time — but that did not matter at all. Pavel says that it was depressing that they would have 30 or 50 people all in one small cell, all non-US citizens.

Pavel was in the INS jail for 2 weeks. For those two weeks, the cops told him he had the right to make telephone calls, and so he did. But here is another important factor of this system — they never told him that the calls weren’t free. Now he ows them $300 ..yeah! See! It’s all about money. You could make a free call in jail . . . but you get charged later . . . isn’t that sick?

Well, Pavel got the chance of getting in touch with his people in the Bay Area — he even got a lawyer form the National Lawyer’s Guild. Since he was mobilizing in jail and getting hooked up with his people, they organized to help him. The Humanist Hall, Food Not Bombs and his wife sent letters to the INS and the jail staff to complain and to get him set free. In the end, they lowered the bail to $1,500 and the folks at the Humanist Hall paid for it.

Pavel says he’s really thankful to all the folks who helped him and also to all the solidarity that people showed for him and all those people out there. In the INS jail, he got to meet interesting people — non-US citizens, but humans. He got to read a lot, got to draw comics and think. He was also getting helped by Sun Young, a good lawyer from the NLG.

Pavel is now waiting for his court date in December. That day will be the day where the awful system is going to decide if he can or can not stay in this country. Who’s to choose that? Who’s to say where we can go? Who’s to say where we got to live our lives?

Hopefully, that day won’t be so bad and our friend will get to stay here, because here is where he wants to be. Here is where he is. Keep fighting and thanks to all those friends who help him — and fuck the evil INS.

Buy Nothing Day November 29th: Whirl-Mart Revisited

Whirl-Mart is a participatory, anti-consumerism, performance trend started by the Breathing Planet Troupe. A group silently pushes empty shopping carts through the aisles of a superstore, wearing Whirl-Mart smocks. Utilizing tactics of occupation, Whirlers call this symbolic spectacle a “collective reclamation of space that is otherwise only used for shopping and buying.” Averting outright protest of the “emptiness of material consumption,” they mimic the absurd shopping PROCESS instead. When asked by Wal-Mart employees what they are doing, and knowing that protests are not permitted inside Wal-Mart, they respond that they are participating in a “consumption awareness ritual,” confusing store employees and shoppers alike. And the good news is, Whirl-Mart is coming to a superstore near you! Buy Nothing Day on November 29 has been declared a global Whirl-Mart day of action.

Whirl-Mart began outside of Troy, NY, in response to a challenge from Adbusters magazine to do something foolish on April Fool’s Day, 2001. Inspired by that successful action, Whirl-Mart rituals began popping up all over the country, and even in the UK. By 2002, many groups in many states were whirling. On March 3, 2002, rituals were performed at Wal-Marts in NY, TX, AZ, PA, and more.

The Austin, TX ritual had 8 whirlers and 2 documentary filmmakers. For the first 45 minutes, they walked alone and in pairs with their carts. Then they formed a parade of empty shopping carts in the jewelry section. As soon as they heard a call for help in jewelry, they disbanded. Shortly thereafter, one Whirl-Marter was cornered by the manager, who wanted to know what he was doing. He said he was trying to decide if he should buy something. When the manager asked what he was looking for, he said “something.” The manager took the cart from the shopper and forced him to leave. All of the Whirlers were told to leave except one. He went into the longest checkout line possible with an empty cart, and at the end, thanked the cashier and left.

At a Wal-Mart in Indianola, Iowa, in April 02, Whirlers tried to enter Wal-Mart with a live chicken. Their plan was to grab a pair of men’s pants made in El Salvador or Pakistan or India, and then to go to the cashier and try to barter the chicken for it.

At a Wal-Mart in Austin, TX, in 2002, Whirlers entered the store one by one, and in no time had a Whirler on every aisle. After 10 mintues, they formed a train around women’s wear. Suddenly, the store’s loud speaker repeatedly announced “Managers, Code Sunshine” and told shoppers to secure their children. One Whirler said he feared the Wal-Mart SWAT team was being activated, with big yellow smiley faces on their riot shields. They disbanded into pairs again, yet the manager took one Whirler aside and asked “What exactly IS Whirl-Mart?” She feigned being a completely spaced-out hippie, saying it was a peaceful, nonviolent meditation she did where she didn’t buy anything for one hour a week.” He responded by saying, “Well, as long as it’s nonviolent, then you can do it for the next 20 minutes. What the heck—today’s free.” So does it cost money to Whirl on other days?

In the Bay Area, whirlers wore “Hi, My name is Whirl-Mart” stickers because they did not have matching shirts. Some of the Bay Area whirlers waxed philosophical about what they think about while whirling. One whirler said he liked to think, “How am I like an empty cart?” during the ritual.

For more info: www.breathingplanet

Leaping Into a New World

Universal Uprising – Leap Day 2004

Crafts and Insurrection Convergence (and various independent troublemakers) are calling for a spontaneous universal uprising on Leap Day – February 29, 2004. Leap day is an extra day — a blank slate waiting to be transformed into a spontaneous, inspirational rebellion against dreary business as usual. Every other day, the wheels of global industrial capitalism spin around, running over our freedom and the earth in the process. It’s up to us to try to make leap day a little different.

Leaping is an uplifting, explosive, hopeful action. Try it right now. Do you feel better? I thought so. Leaping is how you get from where you are stuck, across a wide creek in the forest, to the other side and new possibilities. You leave the ground and fly free into the unknown.

In the radical milieu, far too much of our energy goes into tired, ritualistic protests. Usually, a protest is focused on being against something. As such, many protests are inherently reactionary, not proactive. They allow our rulers to set the agenda, and then we predictably turn out to try and stop it. The best that can be achieved in this model is the status quo, and the worst is that the protest is a failure and the rulers get their way.

You can’t build a successful movement to create change and build a new society by just being against something, or everything. When do these oppositional protests ever allow us to put out our vision for the future? You know you’re in trouble when conservatives — whose agenda is literally to turn back the clock — accuse you of supporting policies of the past because you’re spending time fighting to defend gains made in the 1930s or the 1960s.

Always protesting makes us come off as whiny and negative. People don’t always want to join the losing team or identify as the underdogs or oppressed. In a lot of left circles, it feels like a competition to see who is the most oppressed and fucked over — you win if you lose the most. This is not going to be a successful strategy to organize a movement to win gains and change society — it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure and oppression.

Recently, Berkeley anarchists started a soccer club, and named it Kronstadt, after an incident in post-revolutionary Russia in which the Soviet Army defeated and massacred rebellious anarchist troops. This is telling in terms of how we see ourselves — we too often worship failure, defeat, and even our own slaughter! You don’t ever see our rulers celebrating the time they got their ass kicked.

So Leap Day is an opportunity to have an action for something and not against anything. Leap Day is a totally arbitrary day, and thus it puts the onus on radicals to think about what we want, and figure out how to communicate and promote our goals.

The proposal for a universal uprising on Leap Day is totally open-ended in terms of tactics, goals and strategy. The idea is that folks across the universe will get together and figure out how to use their extra day for something exciting and new. This could range from individual actions of sabotage, disruption, art, music, or enjoyment, to more organized forms of rebellion or building and development.

The hope is that people will let their imagination run free and wild, incorporating forms of expression never seen before. Why should every protest have the same signs, the same puppets, the same chants? Maybe there could be an action at rush hour of totally silent mimes or scary clowns. What does our vision of the future look like, and can we build a little piece of it right now to show around? How can we go beyond involving the same young-ish, white-ish people as always?

Leap Day is about breaking down the separation between activism and living our lives full of enjoyment and freedom. Living full joyful lives must ultimately be the same as building a new world.

You don’t need permission to celebrate Leap Day, and there is no organization, no structure, no email list! There is no success or failure. This is about taking matters into your own two hands and seeing what might happen.

The first radical action specifically inspired by leap day (that I’m aware of) happened on Feb. 29, 2000. There was only one meeting to organize the action because we wanted it to be long on action, inspiration and leaping into the future, and short on the typical boring meetings. We decided that we would make puppets, but not the huge kind you usually see at street protests. Too heavy to leap in. Too bulky to run from the cops in. We decided to make finger puppets, and then have puppet shows in front of all of the chain stores and banks in downtown Berkeley.

We had a sound system on a bike and really cool finger puppets representing all the factions present in Seattle when we shut down the WTO: police, protesters, turtles, jeerleaders, even a John Zerzan finger puppet to talk to the media. If you want to shut down a business district, try doing finger puppet shows right in their front doors with a bullhorn. What are they really going to do but shut down? The cops were too confused to really do anything, and after smashing a TV and VCR in front of the local corporate video rental place Blockbuster, the mob dragged old mattresses out into the streets and simulated sex acts in the road. Happy Leap Day Berkeley!

Leap Day is the only day of the year that hasn’t been declared “national carpet installer day” or whatever. In 2004, it’s our day to start building a new world. Use your extra day wisely and joyfully. Maybe when you wake up on March 1, it will be different, too.

Proact NOT Prozac

It’s easy to get depressed these days. Constantly bombarded with war, consumer crap and traffic, optimism can be elusive. But since the Kali Yuga (Age of Quarrel in Hindi Mythology) is slated to last up to 427,000 more years, we are forced to develop coping methods. So while the mainstream pops Prozac, I suggests getting a little more creative.

Consider so many campaigns. Campaigns to stop the logging of our last old growth trees. Campaigns to dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex. Campaigns to shut down world summit meetings. Campaigns to stop sweatshops, trash animal testing and end U.S. military occupation of distant lands. Noble causes, all of them worthy of a lot of attention. The public has a right to be outraged, and we need to organize to generate as much awareness as possible.

But it can seem like a losing battle. Watching the last redwood forests be clearcut is demoralizing at best. Poverty continues unabated, and it seems like people are more indifferent than ever. Its enough to make a person very depressed.

But before giving up hope, try proacting. Rather than complaining about the state of the world and forever reacting to the steady stream of bullshit that faces us, practice visualizing a better world, and focus on that. The strategy of the boycott needs to evolve. People need real alternatives where they can go for sustainably harvested lumber. They need to see that they can boycott foreign oil and enjoy alternative transportation options. Finding these alternatives is not always easy. We need to build local community enterprises and support them as much as possible.

On a personal level, activists need to make friends and snuggle with them. Touch isn’t just for lovers, its a basic human need. Practice massage and share it as much as possible. Remember that what goes around comes around. Laugh, sing, play, dance! Take a roving bicycle ride in the street with friends. Luxuriate in a yoga practice. Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about spending time and/or money doing something that makes you happy. Remember that healing the planet starts with healing ourselves.

Be a pirate, or a writer, or whatever it is that you’ve always dreamed of being. As we lighten up and start to see the humorous side of all the doom and destruction, we attract other people to our causes. Thus the movement ultimately becomes more popular, accessible, and effective. And meanwhile, we’re having fun. What could be better?

Resistencia y transformacion en Cancun

El quinto encuentro de los ministros de la OMC colapsó despues de que 21 naciones abandonaron las negociaciones sobre los acuerdos multilaterales. Miles de personas se reunieron en Cancun, en Septiembre, para protestar encontra de los efectos devastantes de la globalización y privatización dirigidos por la OMC. Granger@s, estudiantes, gente nativa (indigenos), los anti- autoridades y otros trabajaron juntos para parar el encuentro de la OMC. Seguidamente, aqui hay una historia de una manifestante mexicana sobre lo que paso en Cauncun.

EL PUEBLO ECOLOGICO

Después de que llegamos a Cancún, inmediatamente nos fuimos al Centro de Covergencia para ver que estaba pasando y quien habia llegado. Teniamos planes sobre ayudar primeramente en el Pueblo Ecológico , ya que teniamos algunos amigos ahi de los Estados Unidos..

Apenas un día después de haber llegado nos dirigimos al llamado Pueblo Ecológico para ayudar en su construcción. Ahí ya estaban trabajando alguna gente de E.U., algun@s mexican@s y un peruano El proyecto principal constaba de la creación de una estación de lavado para trastes y manos, también una serie de regaderas. Yo estuve participando más en la estación de lavado, en esta hicimos lo necesario para reunir agua de lluvia (lo malo es que no llovió mucho), también colocamos una “bomba de mecate” método de energía alternativa con el cual puedes poner presión en el agua con pura energía manual.

También intentamos poner los botes de basura aparte para la separación de la basura, pero parece que la mayoría de los campesinos no conocen de esto, y revolvían toda la basura, una vez la sacamos de los botes y la separamos manualmente, haciendo una composta, pero como llegaban más y más campesinos llegando a ser miles nos fue difícil llevar a cabo la separación, por lo que desistimos de esta idea. Fue de verdad emocionante ver el interés de los campesinos en nuestro trabajo, se interesaron mucho por la “bomba de mecate” y la composta, incluso algunos nos pidieron que fuéramos a sus comunidades para enseñarles esto.. Habia tambien información sobre Permacultura.

El Pueblo Ecológico tenia una buena organización antes de que la gente empezase a manifestarse, asi que la gente utilizaban el espacio para reuniones y talleres. La primera manifestación fue el 9 de Septiembre, pero alguna gente tenian aun que llegar, así que la manifestación fue pequenia y un poquito desorganizada.Aquella noche, hubo uno reunión para organizar los planes del dia siguiente y la semana siguiente. Una de las cosas planeadas para la semana fue el gurpo anti-autoridades. Formado por punkis, anarquistas y criaturas similares, la gente en ese grupo eran de Ameria del Norte, Australia, Canada y otros lugares. Habian mas de 200 personas y los campesinos nos respetaban. Asi que nos pidieron ayuda y protección.

LA VALLA

La policia habia cerrado el camino hacia el maldito edificio donde estaba reunido el OMC, y la gente llamaban a la localizacion “el kilometro zero”. La Valla era grande y muy alta y miles de policias estaba detrás de ella armados con miles de pistolas. Tenian todo tipo de armas y camiones con pistolas de agua a presión. Esa misma noche, la primera importante, toda la gente quizo votar la valla.

Los granjeros protestaron primero, el Miercoles, 10 de Septiembre.Los estudiantes y los anti-autoridades apoyaron a los granjeros de todo el mundo. Fue una manifestacio muy diversa. habian muchas pancartas, signos, muñecos y posteres encontra de la OMC, del poder del maldito capitalismo y de las organizaciones multinacionales.

Los granjeros Koreanos estaban en el frente, cerca de la valla. Como muchos habrán oido ya, el granjero koreano Lee Kyang Hae, se mató manifestancose encontra. Habia tantas cosas pasando que algunos de nosotros no supimos de su muerte hasta el final. Pero al final, hubo un momento en el que tiramos la valla. Hacia mucho calor y era dificil, pero mientras lo intentamos, el cielo se nublo…sentimos que era un simbolo de cambio.

Alguna gente empezó a tirar rocas a la policia mientras tirabamos la valla, osea que la policia empezó a tirarnos rocas tambien y e hirieron a algunos manifestantes. Los granjeros llamaron a la gente diciendo que no deberian ser violentos, asi que todo se calmó y nos volvimos al campamento. Ahi tuvimos servicios conmemorativos por Lee Kyang Hae. Fue muy intenso, hubo muchas actividades, charlas y talleres.

El sabado 13 de Septiembre, sonaba la musica de Infernal Noise Brigade. Era la útima manifestación. Estaba muy bien planeada y muy grande. Las mujeres koreanas cortaron la valla con pinzas. con el apoyo de miles de mujeres de otras partes, y tambien de los hombres, el Grupo Naranja ( estudiantes). La valla fue trabajada por las mujeres y la tiraron tirando de unas trenzas que metieron por las rejas.

La policia puso otra valla mas cerca del edificio, en un lugar lleno de callejones donde no se podia huir. Mientras trabajabamos en tirar esa valla tambien, la policia nos empezó a rodear , Pero otro grupos de manifestantes hicieron una barricada para protejernos, y, finalmente, tiramos la valla.

ESTO NO ES EL FINAL

Posiblemente no he nombrado montones de cosas pero simplemente estoy intentando dar mi vision de lo que viví. en Cancún. En sus reuniones,, los asesinos del OMC no se pusieron de acuerdo ni se respetaron mutualmente. La lucha encontra de la OMC, organizaciones politicas de intercambio, y en contra de este absurdo sistema que vivimos no ha acabado ni acabara. El movimiento creando un mundo mejor continua aún, ayudándonos a recordadr que la vida no se puede comprar ni vender. Encontramos felicidad afuera del sistema. Podemos construir nuestro propio mundo, un espacio libre como El Pueblo Ecologico.

Vivire mi vida aqui y ahora, se que nadie me va a regalar nada pero voy a hacer todo lo posible por vivir mi vida, la mia.

Otro mundo es posible, si podemos aprender como crearlo. Lo pudimos crear en Cancun por un tiempo….lo podriamos hacer por mas.

Ressitance and Transfomation in Cancun

The fifth ministerial of the WTO collapsed after 21 nations withdrew from negotiations on multilateral trade agreements. Thousands of people gathered in Cancun in September to protest the devastating effects of globalization and privatization fueled by the WTO. Farmers, students, indigenous people, anti-authoritarians and others worked together to stop the meetings. Here is one account of the events in Cancun, from a Mexican protester.

ECO VILLAGE

After arriving in Cancun, we immediately went to the convergence space to find out what was being organized and who had arrived so far. We had plans to help out primarily with the Eco Village, since friends from the US were involved in the project.

We got to the Eco Village on our second day in Cancun. People from Mexico, the US, and Peru were there, and we helped with several construction projects. The main project was a washing station for utensils and hands. Although we built a structure to collect rainwater for cleaning, it didn’t rain much that week. We also made string pump, that was used to get water pressure manually.

Compost and recycling were arranged and people gave workshops on using them. Many farmers weren’t aware of this before and became very interested. Some of them asked us to come to their communities and do workshops on the subject. There were also large displays on permaculture.

The Eco Village was in good order before the protests began, and people used the space at all hours for meetings and workshops. The first demo was held on Sept 9, but many people were still arriving and it was small and a bit unorganized. That night, there was a large meeting to plan for the next day and week. One of the things organized for the week was the anti-authoritarian bloc. Comprised of punks, anarchists and similar creatures, people in the bloc came from North America, England, Australia and other places. There were more than 200 of us, and the campesinos respected our work. They asked for our help and our protection.

THE FENCE

The police had shut down the way to the damned WTO meetings, and people called the location of the fence “Kilometer Zero.” The fence was long, with hundreds of armed police behind it. They carried guns and had trucks with water cannons. From the first night, everyone wanted that fence down.

The farmers’ protest happened on Wed, the 10th. Students and the anti-authoritarian bloc supported thousands of farmers from around the world. It was a really diverse demo, and there were puppets and posters against WTO, corporate power and capitalism. Korean farmers were at the front, by the fence. As many people have heard, one Korean farmer, Lee Kyang Hae, killed himself in protest. There was so much happening so quickly that many of us didn’t know about his death for several hours. Afterward, there was more momentum to get the fence down, even though it was very hot. As we worked, it got cloudy and more comfortable. We felt as though the weather was cooperating with our efforts.

Some people started throwing rocks at the police as we pulled the fence down, and they threw them back, wounding several protesters. The farmers called for people not to be violent, so people left the confrontation and reassembled. Afterward, people held some memorials for Lee Kyang Hae. It was intense, with lots of workshops and actions happening simultaneously.

On Saturday the 13th, Infernal Noise Brigade accompanied the last demonstration. It was well planned, and huge. Korean women worked at cutting the fence, supported by men and the Orange Block (students). Eventually, all women worked on the fence, and it was pulled down by ropes threaded through it.

The police erected another fence closer to the main meeting buildings, with less space for protesters to escape. As we worked on knocked this fence, police began to surround us. Another group of protesters formed a barricade to protect us, and we got down the fence. Since there was nowhere to go, we stared down the police, knowing that we were stronger than any fences that they could put up. Then, we left quietly.

THIS IS NOT THE END

Maybe I’ve missed a lot of details, but I’m trying to give a vision of what I lived in Cancun at the protests. In their meetings, the assassins of the WTO could not reach an agreement, understand each other or even respect their own rules. The fight against WTO, other international trade organizations and the absurd system that we live under, is still happening and won’t stop. The movement creating a better world continues, helping us remember that life can’t be bought or sold. We find our happiness outside the system. We can build our own world, build a free space like the Eco Village. I will live my life here and now, knowing that I must make it happen.

Another world is possible, if only we learn to build it. In Cancun, it was possible for a while, and we must make it longer.