Category Archives: April/May 2004 (4/8/04)

Sidestep Voting: Election Day DIrect Action!

The following call to action was designed by a number of individuals after a panel on anti-authoritarians and the upcoming elections held during the National Conference on Organized Resistance in Washington, DC in January 2004.

“Election Day”: Those who wish to take an hour out of this day to cast a vote are welcome to do so; but we urge you to spend the remainder of the election day in creative experiments in self-determination and cooperation!

Quite a bit of energy is squandered by traditional leftists and anarchists debating the old question of whether or not to vote; the answer is that it’s the wrong question. For people to be able to focus on getting power back in their hands, the terms themselves have to be set anew. We must sidestep the entire issue of voting, and focus our attention on alternative ways of applying power. This will save everyone a lot of wasted energy and unlock the vast potential dormant in our communities, our relationships, ourselves.

A nationwide campaign is being called for this election year to emphasize the effectiveness of direct democracy as a way to make decisions without mediation or hierarchy, and of direct action as means to implement those decisions and create the kind of communities we desire. We will demonstrate that these are viable alternatives to electoral representation. This campaign will include literature distribution, postering and stickering, demonstrations, educational events, and other forms of community outreach, both in own communities and around the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. It will culminate in a nationwide day of direct action on November 2, election day.

At the end of the day or in the weeks that follow, people can reconvene and compare which approach was more rewarding and empowering: ballot-box voting or direct engagement without representatives.

The Strengths of This Campaign

The election is an event of global importance that takes place in every neighborhood, an excellent occasion for us to develop alternative processes. Campaigns that are both global and local don’t have to try to get all concerned activists to come to one city. On the contrary, this is a perfect time for people to act where they live while feeling connected to a nationwide campaign.

A campaign that declines to take sides but instead raises entirely new questions can be provocative without being alienating. The broadness of the general theme—direct action and direct democracy—is such that participation is open to anyone, with any preferred style of tactics, at any desired level of engagement. This is a campaign that everyone in a community can participate in: from a chapter of Food Not Bombs to a senior citizens group demanding better health care, from a high school global justice club to an animal rights action group.

It is a campaign that can include numerous types of direct action: from free schools to guerrilla gardening, from community monitoring of police to civil disobedience. Harmony of purpose is the only goal sought between participants; unanimity on specific strategies or objectives is unnecessary.

After this next election day, we can be sure that people will retire from civic engagement in despair or relief—unless they’ve had a positive experience to remind them how much more they can do outside electoral politics. The idea is to dream up and practice the many ways we can take power out of the hands of the elite, be they elected or unelected, and redistribute it to everyone through a network of free communities and neighborhoods. We do this to provide each other with shelter, education, art, and information, to share resources and ideas, and to determine our own lives. This is our chance to emphasize the power everyone wields in their daily lives. Join with your friends and neighbors, in whatever ways you see fit, in emphasizing the great things we can do when we cut out the middleman!

Invitation to Participate

This is a decentralized campaign. It belongs to no one, but all are welcome. Any individual or group that desires to participate is encouraged to take this text, rework it so it best expresses their views, and circulate it under their own name with their own contact information. Join in also at www.dontjustvote.com.

Anarchist Identity Crisis

(I) Anarchism, n. 1. The doctrine that a stateless society is possible and desirable. Obsolete. 2. Rule by anarchists.

(2) Anarchism, properly understood, has nothing to do with standards and values in a moral sense. Morality is to the mind what the state is to society: an alien and alienating limitation on liberty, and an inversion of ends and means. For anarchists, standards and values are best understood – that is, they are most useful

(3) To speak of anarchist standards and values, then, is not necessarily nonsensical—but it does involve risks, often avoidable risks. In a society still saturated with Christianity and its secular surrogates, the risk is that the traditional absolutist use of these moralistic words will carry over to the way the anarchists use them. Do you have standards and values or do they have you? It is usually better (but of course, not necessarily or absolutely better) for anarchists to avoid the treacherous vocabulary of moralism and just say directly what they want, why they want it, and why they want everybody to want it. In other words, to put our cards on the table.

(4) Like standards and values, the anarchist “isms,” old and new, are best regarded as resources, not restraints. They exist for us, not us for them. It doesn’t matter if I, for instance, may have gotten more out of situationism than syndicalism, whereas another anarchist has gotten more out of feminism or Marxism or Islam. Where we have visited and even where we come from are less important than where we are and where, if anywhere, we’re going—or if we are going to the same place.

(5) Let “Type 1” refer to anarcho-leftism. Let “Type 2” refer to anarcho-capitalism. Let “Type 3” refer to the meta-typical (“names name me not”). The Type 3 anarchist categorically rejects categorization. His “existence precedes his essence” (Sartre). For her, nothing is necessarily necessary, and everything is possibly possible. He thinks immediatism takes too long. “She flies on strange wings” (Shocking Blue). Winston Churchill’s wife once complained about his drinking. Churchill replied that he had taken more out of alcohol than alcohol had taken out of him. The Type 3 anarchist takes more out of anarchism than anarchism takes out of her. And he tries to get more out of life than life gets out of him. A loving, thoughtful, self-affirming, predatory orientation has as many practical applications as the ingenuity and imagination of the Type 3 suggests to her.

(6) In principle, the rejection of principles of universal application has universal application. In practice, every individual has his limitations, and the force of circumstances varies. There’s no formula for success, not even the recognition that there’s no formula for success. But reason and experience identify certain areas of foreseeable futility. It is easy and advisable, for instance, for anarchists to abstain from electoral politics. It is preferable but often not possible to abstain from work, although it is usually possible to engage in some workplace resistance without undue risk. Crime, the black market, and tax evasion are sometimes realistic alternatives or adjuncts to involvement in the state-sanctioned system. Everyone has to evaluate his own circumstances with an open mind. Do the best you can and try not to get caught. Anarchists have enough martyrs already.

(7) Anarchism is in transition, and many anarchists are experiencing anxiety. It is very easy to advocate changing the world. Talk is cheap. It is not so easy to change your own small corner of it. The differences among the traditional anarchist tendencies are irrelevant because the traditional anarchist tendencies are themselves irrelevant. (For present purposes let’s disregard the Type 2, free-market anarchists who seem to have no noticeable presence except in the United States, and even there they have little dialogue with, and less influence over the rest of us.) The worldwide, irreversible, and long-overdue decline of the left precipitated the current crisis among anarchists.

(8) Anarchists are having an identity crisis. Are they still, or are they only, the left wing of the left wing? Or are they something more or even something else? Anarchists have always done much more for the rest of the left than the rest of the left has ever done for them. Any anarchist debt to the left has long since been paid in full, and then some. Now, finally, the anarchists are free to be themselves. But freedom is a frightening, uncertain prospect, whereas the old ways, the leftist clichés and rituals, are as comfortable as a pair of old shoes (including wooden shoes). What’s more, since the left is no longer any kind of threat, anarcho-Ieftists are in no danger of state repression when they remember and reenact their ancient, mythic glories. That’s about as revolutionary as smoking hash, and the state tolerates both for the same reason.

(9) Just how “anarchistic” is the world anyway? In one way, very anarchistic; in another, not at all. It is very anarchistic in the sense that, as Kropotkin argued, human society, human life itself, always depends far more on voluntary cooperative action than on anything the state orders. Under severely statist regimes—the former Soviet Union or present-day New York City—the regime itself depends on widespread violations of its laws to stay in power and keep life going. In another way, the world is not anarchist at all, because no human population exists anywhere any more which is not subject to some degree of control by some state.

War is too important to be left to the generals, and anarchy is too important to be left to the anarchists. Every tactic is worth trying by anyone inclined to try it, although proven mistakes—such as voting, burning books (especially mine), random violence, and allying with the authoritarian left—are best avoided. If anarchists haven’t learned how to revolutionize the world, hopefully they have learned a few ways how not to. That’s not enough, but it is something.

(10) To speak of priorities is an improvement on speaking of standards and values, as the word is less burdened with moralistic overtones. But again, do you have priorities, or do priorities have you?

(11) Self-sacrifice is counter-revolutionary. Anyone capable of sacrificing himself for a cause is capable of sacrificing someone else for it too. Therefore, solidarity among the self-sacrificial is impossible. You just can’t trust an altruist. You never know when he might commit some disastrous act of benevolence.

(12) “The struggle against oppression” —what a fine phrase! A circus-tent commodious enough to cover every leftist cause, however clownish, and the less relevant it is to the revolution of everyday life, the better. Free Mumia! Independence for East Timor! Medicines for Cuba! Ban land mines! Ban dirty books! Viva Chiapas! Legalize pot! Save the whales! Free Nelson Mandela!—no wait, they already did that, now he is a head of state, and will any anarchist’s life ever be the same? Everybody is welcome under the big top, on one condition: that he refrain from any and all critique of any and all of the others. You sign my petition and I’ll sign yours. . .

By maintaining the public image of a common struggle against oppression, leftists conceal, not only their actual fragmentation, incoherence and weakness, but—paradoxically—what they really do share: acquiescence in the essential elements of state/class society. Those who are content with the illusion of community are reluctant to risk losing its modest satisfactions, and maybe more, by going for the real thing. All the advanced industrialized democracies tolerate a leftists loyal opposition, which is only fair, since it tolerates them.

Cummin’ Alive

Fucking Patriarchy Through Radical Relationships

There is no remedy for love, but to love more.

—Henry David Thoreau

I’m an activist of the heart. I have always felt as if I have an enormous capacity to love everyone — the homeless guy down the street, the little old lady next door, someone I just had a 5-hour mind-blowing conversation with, and then, of course, my friends, lovers, and family. When I finally was able to admit to myself (without guilt) that I have a human right and obligation to myself to love as many people as I wanted or needed, then I became aware of how a monogamous relationship, outlined by the status quo, was never going to work for me. I would never be able to conform. Radical love, or the freedom to love as many as you desire, has become a way of life for me.

I am the author and publisher of Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships. Having been in a healthy, responsible, open relationship for thirteen years inspired me to write the book, as well as a lot of encouragement from friends. Despite the ending of that relationship, we spent a great deal of time negotiating what our relationship could be, or could have the potential to be, if we put our hearts and minds into it. We laid down a foundation of trust based on mutually agreed upon rules that helped us to grow and evolve as a couple. We have shared lovers, supported each other in having outside lovers, as well as supported our friends to forge relationships that better suited their lifestyles, particularly in the late 80’s and early 90’s when many of us had no real role models to follow.

I’ll be the last one to advocate one type of relationship over another, monogamy versus non-monogamy. What I am most interested in is planting the seeds of autonomy. We have choices. We have options. There simply cannot be just one formula for everyone. Carve out your own lifestyle. Imagine your own ideal relationship. Radicalize your life and challenge yourself to have deep, meaningful relationships with anyone who you feel is important to you — including your parents, siblings, friends, lovers, pen pals, and neighbors. If you define “open” to include cuddling, kissing, and heartfelt communication, then work that into your life. If open means sexual liberation, then be honest with yourself and your partner(s), and take the responsible steps to achieve this. Love is a revolution that starts in the privacy of your home and touches everyone you love and come in contact with.

I am advocating responsible relationships that are entrenched in the principles of honesty, communication, and consent. All relationships and friendships have certain guidelines that are agreed upon. When you go outside the mutually agreed upon rules, then you betray yourself and your loved ones. That’s cheating, and people get hurt. This is how jealousy gets flared and how couples start lying when they’re not being honest about their true desires. This is the gray area of intimacy. We all have natural tendencies to feel desire, to flirt, to fantasize — this is a healthy part of being human. It’s when we deny these urges and suppress them that we run into trouble. In an ideal relationship of any kind, I would imagine that having an open and honest discussion about these fantasies would be a healthy place to start. In many ways, I wrote my book precisely for the people who don’t want to scare away their partner with their desires to open up the relationship, but rather for those who want to make a commitment to avoiding stagnation, instilling honesty, giving voice to their true desires, dedicating themselves to creative options, and supporting one another in their pursuit of the personal freedom to love many people.

The societal and cultural reality is that we are a far cry from sexual equality in this day and age. Men, straight or gay, have benefited from the luxury of sexual liberation without so much as their moral values being scrutinized by society. Women, whether straight or queer, have no such freedom. Labels such as slut or “nympho” continue to plague women who seek sexual autonomy. These stereotypes and misconceptions are perpetuated in the media, government, educational system, religious institutions, and even within the women’s movement. We still have a long way to go before we can dismantle these derogatory perceptions and liberate ourselves from the social constraints that have been imposed upon us since birth. The first place to start is with one’s self, confronting your own self-imposed guilt and your fears of stepping outside the standards of societal norms. It starts with freeing your mind, body, and heart to love openly despite judgment.

I seek to dispel the misconceptions and offer insight into an alternative view. It is my hope that my book reflects both the struggle inherent in living an alternative lifestyle as well as the work that still needs to be done before there is greater societal acceptance. I write from one woman’s experience and fight for autonomy. Part of my awareness and radicalization as a woman, under institutionalized patriarchy, is this struggle to break free of male concepts of a relationship, male domination of sexuality, male control over my freedom to live how I want, love who I want, and so on. I believe that we have a responsibility to challenge this patriarchal notion of a relationship and redefine something more empowering and more fulfilling for ourselves. But ultimately you have the right to love and live as you see fit, based on your ideals and values, while keeping respect and integrity at the core.

It’s not easy to start being an activist in your own “backyard,” in your own personal life and relationships. Even the most adventurous and most open-minded will struggle with their own imbedded stereotypes. It’s not a simple task to open a discussion up with your partner or lovers about how patriarchy affects you in bed, between the sheets. Most of us find it challenging to grapple with our own insecurities, jealousy, and possessiveness. Often we don’t even have the safe space to discuss these topics openly. Non-monogamy takes a lot of work, commitment, and emotional maturity, and it is often easier to conform, rather than face all your fears and deal with the criticism and misunderstandings from others who may not support or understand. The bottom line is you have choices. If you don’t honor these choices and the inherent responsibility that comes with them, than you’ll never know the true potential of your heart.

Loving openly and freely in this day and age, whether you’re straight or queer, is a political act. We are conditioned by outmoded social norms that limit our perceptions and shackle us to unhealthy cycles of dissatisfying relationships. Yet we live in a time where we can choose our own gender or redefine our own sexual identity. Isn’t it safe to assume that we also have a right to decide what kind of relationship is more suitable to our lifestyle? Declare yourself a revolutionary of the heart. Find out how you can expand your potential to love, radicalize your lifestyle, and together we can threaten the social fabric of patriarchy!

The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands.

—Robert M. Pirsig

Wendy-O Matik teachs Radical Love & Relationship Workshops. Visit her website: www.wendyomatik.com.

Busking Without Boundaries

When I ask all my street performer friends why they think there are so few career solo women street performers, they all hint to the sexual safety issue. So, as a visible, veteran, solo woman street performer for 27 years, I thought I would tell ya my take on it…

Everyone agrees street performing, or “busking,” is hard work. Someone once said about acting, that they do not pay you for the acting, they pay you for the waiting around. That is true in busking, too. Performing talent is about 30% of a good street act. The ability to persevere under harsh conditions, to battle police and merchants over air space, to assert free speech rights at every corner as they are questioned, to spontaneously gather and hold a crowd, and to keep up with hecklers, makes the profession a die-hard one, at best. You spend little time on musical rehearsal, as compared to holding your place in line for a good spot, or “pitch,” and then defending that pitch from police when they show up to shut you down. Street performing is not for the weak. And being a solo woman street performer has extra unseen entanglements, due to societal gender stereotypes.

Solo woman street performers directly conflict with the traditional American desexualized, meek and dependent ideal oursociety upholds for women. They make their own money, they are loud and independent, they speak their mind, they talk about politics, they compete with the boys, sometimes stealing the spotlight with women’s issues, and they encourage other women to do the same, as visible role models in the public square.

If you are a woman breaking gender roles by commanding street corners for entertainment, your safest bet is to sing sad love songs, depicting yourself as lovelorn and lost, still looking for a man to save you. Or as Joni Mitchell sings, “There’s a wide, wide world of noble causes…but all I really want to do right now is find another lover.” Although people are uncomfortable with your use of the street venue, as a woman, they are consoled by the material, which fits the female stereotypes and keeps a male focus. When I began street performing at age 18 in 1978, I followed these gender rules. I had a confident stage presence and strong voice, yet I sang about needing a man, and of men who left me heartbroken. One day a male street performer came up to me and said, “Is love all you can sing about?” It made me take notice of what men sang about. They sang about sex, and getting drunk and high. They were singing about traveling, and wars, and whaling, and politics. And about trying to stay away from women who would marry them. They were not singing forlorn love songs.

Holly Near had released a song called “Get Off Me Baby” around this time. She said she liked singing blues, but hated blues because the lyrics usually victimized the women. So she wrote the song where the woman is empowered, and the difference was marked. Immediately I saw the power in taking traditional forms of music, and twisting them to empower, rather than victimize, the women. Often, sadly, it was as easy as switching the genders in songs, to make the woman end up the victor. I began to sing “Summertime,” as “Your mama’s rich, and your daddy’s good looking,” as one of my first gender lyric switches. I began to focus on issues that were relevant to me, as a woman and mother. While the men were singing about balling all night, I was singing about men’s responsibilities in birth control and child support, and was developing lesbian comedy. Many people felt I should be jailed for such behavior in public.

I have asked many street performers, male and female, why they think there are so few solo women street performers. Predominantly, women buskers show up with a male street performer they date, play with them until they break up, and that is the end of their busking career. A very small handful of women can, and continue to, perform as professional solo women street performers in America. The ratio of male to female solo career buskers is about 9:1. The most common reason buskers gave me for why they think women do not busk solo is a fear of rape. They are afraid it would be construed as “asking for it” if they sang on a street and then were raped later. They fear they will be mistaken for prostitutes, the way male performers can be mistaken for “bums.” Yet I found I was safer than most women I know in downtown areas I busked in, because I knew the street people, and they treated me as an asset to their world. Street people protected me from harmful people, intervening, explaining I give good free music, so to leave me alone. But the main reason women tend to avoid performing on the streets alone is this sexual safety issue.

If women are scared doing male-centered, meek love songs on the street, imagine the fear in doing a sexy Bessie Smith song out on a street corner as a woman. Men perform songs about their sexuality freely in public, but those gender stereotypes kick in hard and fast as soon as women start singing freely about their sexuality in public! Especially if it leaves men out altogether, as in lesbian comedy. I found that men’s jokes about women’s genitals were accepted, even by families. No one noticed. That is what men do. But you make a joke about men’s genitals as a woman performer on the street, and the police are there within minutes! Testing these boundaries, I decided to sing sexy songs covered by Maria Muldaur and Bonnie Raitt, et al, instead of sad love songs by Joni Mitchell. I began to get large, clapping, stomping crowds like the men got. No longer was I surrounded by hippie men who wanted me to join their cult, or hippie “chicks” who could “relate, man.” Respect for me doubled among my male performer peers. Ironically, I felt even more safe on the streets after asserting my sexuality in my music, like the men.

But singing about sex with men, in songs like “Women Be Wise,” still does not rock the boat, as it is still male-centered. Issues of pregnancy, birth control, child care, women’s sexual fulfillment, and lesbianism, DO rock the boat. Until the insertion of feminist material into my act, all loved me. No one cared if men balled all night, or if women cried in longing all night. But singing about women having sex together with other women all night, and not crying over men, was suspected criminal activity! Not only were authorities called in, but my own male performer peers backed up in confusion too. I received 8 “peace disturbance/obscenity” tickets in Santa Cruz, Ca. for busking. This happened while the famous busker Artis, the Spoonman, was screaming, “Give Me Back My Foreskin!” in his street performances up the street. I was ticketed for the word “penis,” when I said in my act, “What do you get when you cross a penis with a potato? A dictator.” I got another ticket for the word “bitch” in a song lyric saying, “Girls have got to act a certain way, or else, they ain’t A-OK, always be willing, never get mad, or they call us bitch, they tell us we’re bad.” Interestingly, that same song was later used in Seattle, Wa., at the Pike Place Market, as potential grounds for banning my performances there. The double-standard for obscenity on the streets for men and women became painfully apparent after I fought off 8 obscenity tickets with the ACLU in Santa Cruz, and attended hearings to fight for my free speech rights in Seattle.

After seeing that double-standard, my whole performing career came into focus. Police are present to reinforce societal norms, and the status quo. And it is not clear where the status quo stands on solo women street performers. Much less, solo women street performers who make fun of the sacred male genitalia, and talk about women-centered sexuality and other dangerous feminist issues. Some would ban solo women street performers altogether if they could. Some have tried that with me. Others would allow solo women street performers, but would censor their material to be male-centered. That has been tried on me too. In 1989, I was so sick of being hassled by police for performing, I put on a nun’s habit, thinking it would confuse the public. I was not sure if the public would side with a cop or a nun, but I found the nun’s habit effectively intimidated police. I have not been ticketed once since I have performed as a nun, and I can do material that is MUCH more racy than I ever did before! My journey as a street performer continues on, but it is a different journey than my predominantly male peers’, for many reasons. The biggest reason being the lingering gender stereotypes in our society.

Contemplating Chiapas

Here I am, back in the states. Back in the World’s Homeland Security Country, in the field of buy as much as you can or be as radical as possible; back in the biggest jail and freedom state, back in the USA. I love it and hate it. I want to change this cruel system, with its governments, institutions and powerful fucked up minds so that the whole world can change. But I also want to let it be — because Who am I anyway? Then, to begin with, I put this question out there to those who really want to make a change: What do you REALLY want? What are you building?

Three months ago I went on an awesome adventure that would open my eyes and of course my heart. I was ready to learn, love and fight, but overall, get more skills so I could trade my knowledge with the whole world and use it as a weapon to change the system.

After the “Smash The FTAA” days in Miami, I threw myself into Mexico and Guatemala. It was the 10th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising so there was a movement going on down there, and Guatemala had a lot of volunteer work to offer.

Hitching mostly all the way from Berkeley to Mexico and Guatemala was totally an anthropological experience, getting myself more involved in others people’s lives and cultures, philosophies and ideologies.

On a hot day, we finally made it to Chiapas after two weeks of gozando Mexico ( digging Mexico). I got hooked up with a Human Rights Association thanks to a friend from the bay and become a Legal Observer (Human Rights Observer).

I was sent to one of the 5 Caracoles to watch and help them. At that time the trip wasn’t an adventure anymore, it wasn’t even my trip, it’d become a “time-to-learn-more” about everyday life. My roll there was to watch for any military movement, any soldiers coming by or any problems. Luckily, where I was, everything was so organized that shit like before (paramilitaries killing Chiapanecos) wasn’t happening anymore. There were no problems or political actions going on, but what I got to see, feel and learn was beautiful — it was a dream chased and come true, an Autonomous Community, a DIY life.

In the Caracol, that’s the government center, they all socialize. A Caracol is the Government Center or Yard of 7 municipios and each municipio has 30 or so towns. To make a law or decide something, they use TRUE DEMOCRACY. People get in touch in the towns, then they all talk to the town’s representatives (then they all talk), they pass it on to the municipios, they all talk between themselves again, and finally pass it on to El Caracol. That’s how it works, all together, no exception at all — “AQUI EL PUEBLO DECIDE Y EL GOBIERNO OBEDECE- HERE THE PEOPLE DECIDE AND THE GOVERNMENT OBEYS.”

I got to see a dream that most of my generation and lots of other creatures dream of, a true community, a self-sufficient home, a world without oppression. They have everything, and they use almost everything, DIY style.

They have a school for Zapatistas, workshops on education, health, and natural herbs, learn to make your own boots, toilets or houses. They all help each other, work together, men, women and children, to keep their dream of freedom true. We have to realize that it took them days of war to get to this point. Therefore, after living all of this I wonder is this what it takes to be free? Is that what we want, days of war?

I was so near to Guatemala’s Highlands that the idea of going there became really tempting and after Chiapas, my beautiful lover warrior friend and I kept rolling down south to Guatemala.

Guatemala has been screwed for 40 years, 40 years of war, 40 years of fear and Government lies, 40 y.ears of indigenous murders — years that will always be in their hearts and eyes, because they’ll never forget. It doesn’t change, they go out to the street and see those who killed their people. How can they forget then?.

My friend and I wanted to do some work with the community, so we connected with some non- profit association who also gave us shelter — at the end we got more than shelter.

It was the Union of Family Farmers ( they work their land for themselves and not for big companies). It was about promoting Development in the Highlands, plus Education and more teachings. At the beginning I didn’t want to be there, I felt that all the talking about progress was bullshit. Who was I to go up there and tell them what to do? But the program on Women and Development caught my attention.

My friend went to another community to hang out in the coffee fields. There I was, going to a community, somewhere high up in the mountains for 3 weeks — and all I have to say is that those 3 weeks seriously changed my life. I was there to help them and learn from them.

Everyday I got to hike from one community to another, walking around through oaks, madronas, aloes, fireflies and more beautiful Mother Earth beauty, hanging out with the women’s group and the men and women who got to work the land. With the association’s staff and the members (the people from the communities), we developed workshops like organic compost, self-esteem, free trade, WTO/FTAA, stopping violence against women, DIY, business, and medicinal plants —

At the end, it was as if I was one of them, getting up early to go to the yard and pick some veggies or herbs to cook on the wood fire, making tamales or our own drinks, hiking or working the land, socializing with them as a human being and loving them.

I was so lucky that I got shelter with a family that became my family. They had everything to offer— explaining how I felt or how much I learned from them or the old Guatemalteca lady who become my medicinal teacher, is kind of hard . . . so I’m gonna leave it to the Gods.

Between all the communities ,I saw what I was longing for for so long, a vision of the TRUTH, communication, love, trading — a true community, eco-village. Everything they have they give it away or trade it, they all help each other, so they can survive and enjoy life, even if it’s hard sometimes. We all know that “ work must be done so the seeds grow”.

Once I sat down on the shining grass in a high hill to contemplate the sunset, my 7 year old friend was next to me. I asked him if he wanted to go to the city and he answered, “I am not going to the city. I love being here, I’m happy hiking and hanging out with the cows. Cars — no way!!!”

This is just a story that I put out there for curiosity, showing how in Chiapas they got what they fought for; in Guatemala they got a true community in the Hills but still most of the men move to the states so they can make money and “improve”.

We want to change this country and make our own communities, building them so we can live as we want, using all the resources that Mother Earth gave us, and I wonder, if they achieved that in Guatemala, but some of them move to America, if they got that in Chiapas but drink Coke more than water, tell me, my dear friends — What’s going on?

Roll Over E-ville

Call to Action: cyclone vs. sprawl

Early spring can be one of the best seasons in the East Bay. In February, the flowers start blooming everywhere and a thick scent of jasmine and plum blossoms hang over the city. It was just such a day that I decided to take a little bike ride down to the shore of the bay where a new bike path runs along the water. Everything was great — I was biking along feeling the sun warm on my skin, feeling the road roll under my feet.

At the end of the bike path, I got dumped out in Emeryville. Emeryville is a tiny little city right on the water wedged between Berkeley and Oakland. It only has about 20,000 residents and most of it stands in the shadows of Interstate-80, a 10 lane freeway that leads to the Bay Bridge and San Francisco. Emeryville was once a heavy industrial town dependent on access to the main railroad line and the port of Oakland.

Over the past dozen years, as manufacturing in the US has been replaced with retail and service jobs, developers have turned Emeryville into what can only be called an urban nightmare. The factories were torn down and replaced with a massive series of malls, retail outlet stores, parking lots and sprawl. Emeryville embodies everything that is wrong about our “culture” here in the U$A — consumerism on a mass scale, horribly designed and constructed mass produced box architecture and a life style totally out of balance with the earth. Although Emeryville is on one of the most beautiful water fronts in the world — with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais — being in Emeryville you only experience concrete, exhaust, mass produced products and ugliness.

The whole city is totally dependent on auto transportation to the point that attempting to move through sections of Emeryville by foot on bike is dangerous and almost impossible. The parking lots are so vast, you practically need a car to get from your parking space to whichever big boxy store you’re trying to get to. Most of the people who shop at all the stores drive there on the freeway, park, shop, and jump back on the freeway.

As you can tell, I fucking hate Emeryville. Lots of folks call it “E-ville.” I’ve always wondered how a place which resembles the worst aspects of Los Angeles could exist right next to Berkeley and Oakland, which are both beautiful and ecologically aware cities. Emeryville has never met a consumer product, a new paved section of ground, an ugly building, or a car it doesn’t like.

Anyway, so my bike ride ended in Emeryville and since it was a shorter distance home to go through it rather than go back the way I came, I decided to bike the half a mile through Emeryville. “How bad could it be” I asked myself.

Passing under I-80, my first obstacle was the off-ramp. Even though it was just a normal day (not X-mas, etc.), the cars were backed up on the off-ramp onto I-80. I couldn’t see how far, but pretty damn far. As I proceeded through town, the back-up from the freeway extended to every street.

I decided that making left turns on my bike would be suicide, so I was forced to take a ridiculous and circuitous route through town on which I saw almost the whole freeway business district. I realized to my shock and horror that even in the few months since I was last there, tons of new stores have gone up — all of them chains, none of them with any socially redeeming value.

Basically, the whole city was just a girdlocked traffic mess. I felt impressed at the depth of suffering people are willing to endure — trapped in their cars on a hot day, exhaust clogging the air — just to buy some bullshit at Ikea, Trader Joe’s, Barnes & Noble, Ann Taylor, Abercrombie and Fitch, Talbots, Bath & Body, Pottery Barn, Old Navy, Ross, etc.

So here’s my idea — it’s time to protest E-Ville and all the consumerism, car-dependency and environmental irresponsibility it represents. Emeryville’s Achilles heel is transportation. On a good day it barely works. A tiny additional disruption could shut down the whole sorry mess hitting the corporate merchants in the only way they understand.

Once a month, Berkeley has a very polite, diverse and non-confrontational critical mass bike ride. It’s at night. Given its social breadth, it lacks the consensus necessary to put itself in the position of tying up traffic and causing a confrontation. In fact, I don’t want it to — critical mass is a great chance once a month to have a mellow ride, meet new people, be safe, and have fun.

So there should be another critical mass-type ride with a different name (“Bike Justice?” – “Cycle Force?” – “Cyclone of Doom?”), which happens during the day — maybe sometimes on the weekend and sometimes during rush hour (not after rush hour). This new ride would seek out places and situations where the current car-dependent transport system is already broken and overloaded — teetering on the brink of collapse. And by riding legally in those places and at those times, the ride would trigger that collapse.

Such a ride would result in a blockade, except that it would do so by moving legally rather than by stopping. The fact that bikes would be able to move while car traffic ground to a halt would allow the action to proceed (hopefully) without arrest, as well as sending a subtle message about alternatives — you don’t have to live your life in a car, and you’ll only keep moving on a bike.

E-ville is a perfect target for this type of action. It’s only a few minutes ride from Oakland and Berkeley locations, it’s flat, and it’s compact. Since it’s a tiny town, there are usually only 4 or 5 police on duty at any time. And aside from logistics, E-ville deserves to be disrupted. Shutting down E-ville strikes against corporations, consumerism, concentration, environmental degradation, and just plain conformity, boringness, ugliness, and beige. Our lives are more precious than the mediocre shit E-ville has to offer.

If you like this idea, drop by the East Bay Critical Mass bike ride in May or June to talk it over. The ride starts every second Friday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Berkeley BART station (May 14 or June 11). I would love to organize such a ride on Buy Nothing Day, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

Lake Merritt: An Unnatural History

Natural history, n. the study of organisms and natural objects, esp. with reference to their history and native environment.

Lake Merritt, n. an artificial lake located in downtown Oakland, California .

No this cannot possibly be a NATURAL history of a concrete basin in the middle of the city of Oakland. It better be an unnatural history of a very special place. All the styles and ways of Oakland happen in and around Lake Merritt — both natural and human — including herons and suckle backs along with more than 50 human languages. It is truly an urban lake, and certainly has it’s problems, like all places urban, and today, maybe like all lakes. But it serves Oakland well and is deserving of some attention.

I have been getting to know the lake better by volunteering to pull the trash out of it. Before I started I expected that I would be with others and we would all grumble about how fucked up people are in Oakland for littering. But that is not what I found. Instead there is a glee and wonderment — what will come up in the net this time?

There is almost a poetry between the action of the net pulling paper and plastic bags from the water. They float and dance in the current of the water and after some practice the bags dance right into the nets, as do candy, cookie, and chip wrappers — from hippie granola types to all the corporate faire. You can often tell what holiday has passed by the trash you find. We find beer, wine, and champagne bottles, which by the way must get poured out before disposing because they often become homes to the many fish that live in the lake.

Condoms — both used and unused — and balls of all shape and sizes (bouncy, tennis, racquet, basket, golf, those red playground ones) are perhaps the most common items found. Then there is the mystery item of latex gloves — kind of a lot of them. With all the condoms maybe I should conclude that Oaklanders are practicing extra safe sex, but I won’t hold my breathe on that one.

In one day we pulled out three hubcaps, an unusual concentration since only one car a year is usually towed out. There is also usually one bike a year and a cell phone once every few weeks. Pens, salsa, white out, cigarettes, lighters, dime bags (empty of course), gobs of bark chips, an electronic cash register and fully intact trash cans. Sometimes we find dead critters — big fish, ducks, I even found a poor little dead baby heron iridescent and long beaked.

The amount of trash is ever dependent on the rain because the trash mostly comes from the several creeks that drain into the lake through Piedmont, Downtown, East Oakland and the bay itself. During the rainy months about 9000 pounds of trash are removed each month, while in the dry months only about 1000 pounds.

Lake Merritt is a salt water lake and in some areas would even be called brackish water (places where the fresh water creeks drain into the salt water). But who can tell that from the outside? You have to really get into it to know that. Try asking a turtle. Sometimes people trying to save them will set them “free” to their death in this salt water soup. They are lucky to survive a few weeks if they are near the fresh inlets.

So turtles aren’t residents of the lake but, trout, bat rays, sharks and halibut cruise in from the bay. And there are hundreds of waterfoul with their silly people-given bird names — goldeneye, teal, coot, grebe, wigeon, pintail, bufflehead. In all there are at least 1,000 different critters that make this 140 acres in the middle of Oakland their home.

There are 60 storm drain outfalls into the lake and only one of them has a filter on it. Folks that care about the lake want to get them all filtered, costing around $7 million. Filters would take away the bulk of the work for us volunteers, but keep the lake more consistently clean for the critters.

Some other dreams for the lake as reported by the fabled mermaid (and the lake Merrittt institute) are to decrease runoff from a nearby golf course and cemetery because they increase the nitrogen level and mess with the water’s balance permitting excessive algae growth. Folks also want to find ways to increase the oxygen content of the lake to reduce algae and plankton blooms. Some government agency considers it an impaired body of water. Impaired it may be, but with Oakland’s flair!

That is the story under the lake in its murk and funk, but the story that moves around the lake is amazing and inspiring and reminds me of why I live in an urban California place.

There is space to cruise whether you are an Oakland teen or a Canada goose. The geese are squatters and many people would love to take them out, but they are given sanctuary at the lake.

Just the diversity of people running around the lake can warm my heart — diversity of race and age and size, ability, conversation, music. The lake is a place to sit and watch people go by, for tai chi, free weights, crying or a power walk at lunch. You can take a snooze on the side or if you are a scaup you can take a snooze in the middle of the lake — in the middle of Oakland — an unnatural natural slice of Oakland.

Leap Day Actions

150 people rampaged through downtown Berkeley targeting banks and chainstores with foam rubber bricks, glitter and popcorn during the second quadrennial Leap Day Action Night, February 29, 2004. The leap day action once again served as a laboratory for research into new forms of disruption while getting folks into the streets to target the local expressions of the global capitalist monster. Apparently, the idea of “using your extra day to smash capitalism, patriarchy and the state” has a powerful and strange appeal. The action went off action without the usual need to react against the latest outrage or focus on a simple, single issue or single representative of the power structure.

Leap day in Berkeley was free flowing, spontaneous and broad in its critique of social institutions. The protest was determined and militant at times, but also had a sense of humor and knew that we are more effective when we can laugh at ourselves instead of grimly taking ourselves so fucking seriously.

Leap day was also an alternative to the increasingly standardized forms of street protest that have developed over the past few years — the repetitive national extravaganzas at summit meetings. As focus, energy and resources have shifted to big national protests, we’ve neglected the kinds of grass roots organizing, protest, and militant disruption that give depth and meaning to a mass movement. Most folks can’t take a week off to go to Seattle or Miami or Cancun to protest, so they sit at home feeling powerless, isolated and marginalized by “the movement.” The big protests privilege the young, affluent and those with flexible schedules and few community ties — mostly students, trust-funders, “professional” activists working for non-profits and drifters. You don’t see a lot of 40-hour-a week workers, parents, school teachers, etc. out in the streets at big national gatherings. Increasingly, radical circles have split off from a grassroots base, from the community, and ultimately from reality. This is a serious problem.

Leap day action night was everything these ritualized mega-confrontations are not. It took no resources, no preparation, no bureaucratic structure, no airline tickets or road trips and no mysterious movement superstars with financial backing. There was exactly one meeting of 6 people to brainstorm some ideas, a few hours gathering props, a few email messages and a tiny number of flyers (not glossy postcards). At the event, no one was in charge — there were no communications and no plan. It was amazing to see tactics more in line with our goals. Small, decentralized and local was beautiful.

What happened?As folks gathered in the dark that Sunday night, the sense of mystery mixed with expectation was palpable — what would happen?!? The customary black flags were passed out, but also pieces of cut up foam couch cushions and Styrofoam bricks painted bright red. A day of action flyer proclaiming “We’re NOT calling for a consumer boycott! This is about taking Direct Action in Self-Defense!” had a map of downtown Berkeley with the locations of 29 chainstores, banks and fast-food restaurants marked. Someone handed out little envelops of glitter with funny messages like “more glitter, less government” written on the envelopes.

The original plan discussed at the meeting a week before was to march to the nearest Safeway store to support the grocery workers’ strike in Southern California. But 2 days before leap day, the union had announced a settlement, so the focused march was scrapped and replaced by no plan — just march around and cause trouble to those corporations which deserve it most.

Strangely, there were no police around as the large and black-clad crowd filled the BART subway plaza. Soon after 6 p.m., the crowd marched into the streets and headed north. The closest target on the map was the Bank of America, but since there were two busses stopped in front of it, the march proceeded to Domino’s pizza. The Domino’s workers looked surprised as the crowd came out of nowhere and started hurling dozens of funny looking bricks at the plate glass windows . . . which bounced harmlessly when they hit their target. The front door was glittered and the crowd demanded that the restaurant close its doors. The CEO of the 7,000 store chain has contributed handsomely to right-wing causes, including funding anti-abortion activities. When the Dominos employees didn’t shut for the night, a rag tag marching band (trombone, baritone horn and accordion) occupied the lobby. “Hey, the acoustics are pretty good in here!”

Next, the march headed to McDonalds and the Citibank store across the street, blocking University Ave., a major Berkeley street. Again, foam flew, and then the crowd moved on to one of the 2 Starbucks outlets within a 2 block area in downtown Berkeley.

At Starbucks, an attempt to cover the store with used coffee grounds failed – they had solidified into an uninspiring mass that lay lifeless on the sidewalk. But people managed to tie the doors shut with yarn, pelt the windows with foam, and spread glitter and chaos in every direction. A few passers-by were supportive and joined in.

Across the street, the Eddie Bauer outlet was having a going out of business sale. At the last leap day in 2000, the crowd had rampaged through the Eddie Bauer store inspired by the fresh memory of the mom and pop ice cream store the chain had just displaced. Now, in only 4 short years, the store was going out of business leaving another vacant storefront. A huge “CLOSING” sign hung above the locked door.

Tiny light bulbs were visible over numerous heads in the crowd as knives came out, cutting the ‘CLOSING” sign down. The sign was turned into a 4 lane wide banner at the head of the march. Just then, the Twisted Sister song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came on one of the two bike propelled sound systems in the march, and the mood turned electric. From then on, we marched behind the “CLOSING” sign from business to business, demanding that they too close up shop.

On the second pass by the Bank of America, people hurled the stale popcorn from the Food Not Bombs cart at the mega-bank. The B of A together with Citicorp are working with the US occupation in Iraq to set up a foreign controlled banking system. Fuck that — have a foam brick and some popcorn and glitter, pigs!

At the second downtown Starbucks location, the march used a pretty red bow to tie the doors shut, and then used outdoor cafe tables and chairs to barricade the customers in, just in case. At a nearby Shell station, the crowd decorated the gas pumps with cardboard flame cut-outs while decrying Shell’s role as the 31st largest military contractor. Later on Telegraph Avenue, the crowd was marching north when the police blocked the way south. Incensed, the mob made a U-turn and marched between the cop cars while they impotently ordered us to stay back. After a long march South into residential areas, the march turned down the street on which the Mayor’s house sits. No one could remember quite which house it was, so we demanded on the bullhorn that the neighbors bring out the mayor for a discussion on corporate control of Berkeley. When he didn’t emerge (it was Sunday night after all) the crowd proceeded back to downtown Berkeley, stopping along the way to fill the “video return” slot of Blockbuster with glitter and popcorn.

Throughout it all, no windows were broken — but it was because the crowd decided that was how it should be. The police took a ridiculously long time to show up, and even when they did, they lacked sufficient numbers to really do anything. Even without any property destruction, the message of leap day was clear — Berkeley belongs to the people, not corporations. There shall be no business as usual while the earth is destroyed and the people are enslaved. Chainstores: we will fight you. Today Berkeley, tomorrow, everywhere else! Leap for it!

Houston Leapday update

In spite of intermittent thunderstorms throughout the day, people gathered in Lamar Park in Montrose to celebrate their free day. Temporary shelters were constructed, various arts and crafts projects manifested and free veggie food was enjoyed. A few people met in the park in the afternoon and then when the rain refused to let up, the party moved to a neighboring house. Later it reconvened at Amy’s ice cream, the launching spot for a bike ride back to the park where guerrilla gardeners planting a beautiful garden of veggies and flowers. Free food and beverages soon re-appeared and people continued to arrive. Party in the park — a leap of dreams.

NYC Leap Day Action!

In New York City, a pirate parade on Leap day started at St. Mark’s church with about 50 pirates and went through the Lower East side back to St. Mark’s church. Folks chanted “What do we want? Booty! When do we want it? Now!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, The royal navy has got to go!”

There were no police until Houston St., then the parade got escorted by several police cars. There were no arrests. Some time around 6 pm the police shut down Tompkins Square park when the parade got close to the park. As the people who got kicked out of the park saw the reason the cops were shutting down the park, they agreed that this was a really silly action by the cops. Pirates: 1, NYPD: 0.

Progressive Judaism: Still Religion

“The older I get, the more down I get on religion,” my father told me when I asked him if he is excited about being Jewish. I asked him why and he said, “More harm has been done in the name of organized religion than anything else.”

Growing up in a very Jewish family I never expected to hear this from my father, who himself was raised in an orthodox family. My family was very serious about its Judaism. My brothers and I were required to attend five years of Hebrew school (three times a week for two hours) in addition to regular public school. When we complained and asked why we were subjected to so much boring religion our parents told us we had to learn about our heritage and position in the world as survivors in the face of anti-Semitic hatred and brutality—it was in our blood. They told me I could choose whether or not to continue going to Hebrew School after being Bar Mitzvahed (the Jewish ceremony at age thirteen, in which a boy becomes a man, or some queer variant of an “adult”).

I kicked the habit pretty quickly as I discovered pot culture and radical politics. I began to look back upon Hebrew School as a form of intolerant indoctrination, whose goal was to socialize hordes of true believers to accept the one God who picked us to be The Chosen People, hell-bent on self-determination and intent on getting tough with anyone who fucked with our nationalistic aspirations. I grew further disenchanted with religion and identifying with Judaism. I developed affinities with friends in anarchist communities which rejected religion, hierarchy and domination by deities and mortals. It seems simple and this could be the end of the story, but…

A couple of decades after my Bar Mitzvah I noticed that a lot of the radical communities I encountered spurned religion but made exceptions, especially for Judaism. Peer pressure is alive and well: In numerous cases friends have assumed that I would want to participate in their alternative Jewish religious practices because of my heritage. I appreciate people finding fellowship and solidarity in the practice of familiar rites and ceremonies (indeed, many Jewish celebrations I encounter celebrate culture—particularly food—but not god or religion). Still, contemporary, alternative Judaism tends to downplay the role of the Almighty Patriarch in favor of feminist interpretations. For example, Esther is a heroine whose cunning saved the Jews from annihilation in ancient Persia. But how grounded in the actual historical, theological reality of Judaism are those post-modern interpretations after all?

In most anti-authoritarian theories and practices people stress the importance of not compromising when encountering domination. Yet Judaism is the original monotheistic religion, complete with the image of a power-hungry Lord, who establishes His dominance through a holy war against non-believers. The prophet Elijah was a very powerful dude who faced off against 450 pagans in a biblical sporting event on Mount Carmel and won (Kings 18). He won the competition and ordered all of the pagans killed. After that, the people of Israel accepted the God of Abraham as the Almighty Hot Shit. Elijah is more than a historical footnote. Jews still celebrate the prophet. During the Passover holiday we pour a glass of Manischewitz wine for him and open the door to welcome his return, which will mark a new era of peace on earth and happiness under the Jewish God. The moral of the story is that good people will be happier when a mass murderer comes to our homes to get drunk on super-sweet wine, because our place as the chosen people was foretold in The Old Testament.

I somehow didn’t learn about Elijah’s genocidal history in Hebrew School (but was re-educated by my friend Nettles Schweizer, an Israeli dissident living in the US). In Hebrew School they taught us that Jews had survived centuries of oppression largely through the will of God and an emphasis on education. Great tales were told of Jews educating themselves in secret when faced with the possibility of persecution if caught. The Rabbis insisted that they did not have all the answers and we would learn best if we kept open minds, asked questions, understood opposing opinions and spoke up even if we thought our views were unpopular. However, I noticed that the opposite was often true and some questions and opinions were more discouraged than others.

Judaism tends to be not as doctrinaire and harsh as other organized religions. Still, as I got older I learned that retaliation for not towing the party line could be stiff and swift. While in high school I attended a workshop held by the powerful lobbying organization the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). They stressed ways to manipulate public opinion and influence politicians, and how to discourage criticism of Israel. As a student at the University of Michigan I watched in sadness as Jews pressured the University to pull funding that had been promised for a lecture by Noam Chomsky because he dared to question Israel’s policies. In the 1950’s prominent writer Hannah Arendt had been excommunicated from the Jewish community for her radical notions.

Likewise, in my own family, I recall long discussions at holiday gatherings about political subjects such as the Intifada. One time, my dad turned to me and commented that I was being awfully quiet. I said that I didn’t want to get involved in a debate, but family members urged me to speak up, insisting that all views are welcome. Then, when I started to share anarchist notions of a no-state solution I was drowned out by many voices telling me how unrealistic the ideas were. So much for openness.

Progressive Jews tend to look back on the biblical era as unrelated to our present conditions. For them the only time the past does relate to our lives is when it perpetuates the idea of the oppressed, righteous Jew surviving against great adversity through determination and the help of the Lord. What kind of God has chosen us to be on his side? Surely a just one who acts in mysterious ways, we are told. But the Old Testament documents a God who is violent and vengeful, at times a sadist who prolongs the agony of his enemies while favoring his chosen people. The book of Exodus, for example, tells the tale of the plagues delivered upon the Egyptians by God in His efforts to pressure the Pharaoh to free the Jewish slaves. After suffering seven plagues the Pharaoh capitulated, but “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh” and continued inflicting plagues. (The lessons could lead some righteous modern-day President to drop nuclear bombs on defeated enemies.)

In recent years I have enjoyed exploring such themes on stage, and friends and I have written numerous satirical pieces about religion. In one I play Rachel Bagelbaum, a hyperactive fundraising Zionist who goes door to door on Passover to raise money for the state of Israel (insisting that $3 billion a year in aid from the US government is simply not enough). She is a pushy woman who does not easily take no for an answer. She invoked laughter, but also dismay. One audience member asked me to change the character, insisting that I portrayed a stereotype from the past and that we Jews should not air our dirty laundry, lest it reinforce anti-Jewish feelings. This is one of the many responses used to discourage Jewish detractors.

It is certainly true that Jews have good reason to be weary of potential anti-Jewishness. Even some radicals make ignorant statements tying Jews to money and power, and see a Zionist plot behind anything Jewish. For instance, I have heard a scary number of variations stating that all Jews are wealthy, which is simply untrue. Jews rightfully fear the thin veil of hatred prominent amongst those who deny the Holocaust. However, these examples should not lead to self-censorship regarding public discussion of critical issues.

Many radical Jews search for feminist meaning in the religion. This includes emphasizing celebrations of female biblical heroes, or stressing how cool it is that Jewishness is passed on through matrilineal lines. I wonder: what does it mean to base a heritage and politic on blood lines, to create a club accessible to people primarily through biological determinism? Historically blood runs through family feuds, tribal rivalries and nationalistic wars up to the present day efforts to build walls dividing peoples (I am hoping that Pink Floyd takes the opportunity to go to Israel/Palestine and perform The Wall there). When I think about the feminist reclaiming of Judaism, I can’t help but remember the last time I went to a synagogue (for my mother’s Bat Mitzvah in 1987) when the English translation of the service explained that a man should be slapped on the wrist if he covets thy neighbor, and a woman shall have her hand chopped off for the same offense.

Organized religion successfully uses the fear of authority (God) to manipulate populations. The Jewish brand of crowd manipulation of neuroses is that of guilt for your sins and digressions. That is one of the functions of the holiday called Yom Kippur, where you can spend the whole day fasting in temple atoning for the previous year’s sins and then get together with family and friends to break the fast and stuff your body with food.

In Hebrew School they showed us documentary footage of Nazi concentration camps and insisted we “never again” let something like the holocaust happen (the historical record is much more horrifying than the Hollywood representations—no matter how genuine and realistic—which have proven to be such commercial successes). I interpreted this lesson to oppose domination of humans by any authority. When I changed my name to MaxZine I purposefully kept my obvious Jewish last name of Weinstein to counter the trend of so many Jews in this country who changed their name to be closeted about their identity. I encountered anti-Jewishness from a young age and still hear incorrect stereotypes about Jews.

I asked a friend how she felt about being a Jew and she answered, “I’m glad to be a Jew. Jews are oppressed people and I’m glad to be less of the oppressor”. In short, she said this historical legacy is something she has consciously chosen to not turn her back on and use the liberatory lessons to elucidate anti-authoritarian viewpoints. However, I have trouble seeing where religious practice fits into the picture, no matter how they are recast to make them more palatable. Is it a yearning for genuine community that brings Jews together? Why not instead get together and enjoy fabulous food and use the time to dream the demise of religious authority?

I asked my mother if she is excited to be a Jew. She said that she is not sure what it means to be Jewish and that “everyone defines it differently.” She then mentioned the notion of “survival in the face of the whole world being together against us.” I admire the determination to survive. I understand the desire to build community in the modern world which features television-induced alienation and isolation. I just hope that there are more possibilities than the militarized religious nation-state option.

Paraliza OIB

La gente de todo el continente se está organizando para la interrupción de la reunión global de la Organización Industrial Biotechnologica (OIB), citada del 6 al 9 de Junio en el centro Moscone, en San Fransisco. OIB es la organización biotecnológica más grande del mundo. Opera al promover una megacorporación de control para la comida humana, las provisiones y el medio ambiente. Los miembros y partidarios—Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, y la mayoría de compañías genéticas y farmaséuticas y están del todo— literalmente estan amenazando la continuación de la vida sobre la tierra, con su contaminación, sus insostenibles prácticas agriculturales y sus ingeniados experimentos genéticos.

La decisión de la OIB de reunirse en San Fransisco es una soprendente oportunidad: ¿Porqué la industria biotecnológica se reuniría voluntariamente en una comunidad de enemigos políticos bien organizados, con una historia de militantes de acción directa? Su tropiezo sería el incremento de la gente. 16,000 industrias, representativos científicos y oficiales governamentales están anticipados para la convención, llenando los hoteles locales de millas alrededor. Al decir “la pesadilla logica y segura” se entiende la vulnerabilidad de la Conferencia de la OIB 2004. La policia tendria la dificil opcion de cambiar a San Fransisco en un campo armado—disparando sobre las grandes avenidas alrededor del centro de la convenciones por dias y mandando cientos de policias—o dejando que los acitvist@s conviertan la reunión en un embarazoso fracaso.

Podria hacerse en San Fransisco como se hizo en Seattle. Si vives en el Area de la Bahia, ahora es tiempo de juntarte con tus amigos, vecinos y familias para formar grupos de afinidad y averiguar como puedes conectarte dentro la insurección. Si vives en otro lugar podrias planear un viage a San Fransisco.

Que esta Planeado

Los organizadores de la protesta bajo el pretesto de “Reclama el espacio público” estan esperando juntar las poderosas protestas, con ejemplos inspirantes de alternativas positivas al futuro biotecnologico, controlada por una corporación. “Es tiempo de poner tanto energia posible en la creación de un mundo mejor como hemos estádo poniendo en la resistencia al explotador. Necesitamos despojar la red corporativa, ejercer democracia fuera de maquinas electorales fundadas por corporaciones, vivir vidas sostenibles y crear comunidades justas y prósperas en medio de la corporación del mundo controlado!”

Ellos esperan mostrar “eco soluciones a problemas urbanos basados en la comunidad,” basados en la plantación de huertos, praticando ayuda mutua y democracia directa, y experimentando con maneras sostenibles de encontrar requisitos humanos. Además habrá un centro de bienvenida con un jardin de comida, espacio para abono orgánico, bañeras solares, sistemas de agua gris, bici-taxis, y transporte bio-diesel. Estarán enseñados en talleres de trabajo y charlas de discusiónes. Serán conducidos hacia la acción directa contra la OIB Convención 2004. Las fechas de los eventos son del 3 al 9 de Junio, comezando tres dias antes que comiense la conferencia de la OIB.

¿Que es la OIB?

Acordando con la página web de la OIB: la OIB representa mas de 1,000 compañias biotecnologicas estatales y organizaciónes relacionadas en los 50 estados de los Estados Unidos y otras 33 naciones. Los miembros de la OIB estan involucrados en la investigación y el desarrollo del cuidado de la salud, agricultura, industria, medio ambiente y productos biotecnologicos. La conferencia incluirá “ejecutivos biotecnologicos, inversores, periodista, normalistas y científicos de más de 55 paises.”

El papel de OIB es limpiar el camino para siempre, incrementando el control corporativo de agricultura y promover la biotecnología. De acuerdo a los de “Reclama los espacios públicos,”la industria biotecnologica es un excelente ejemplo de como los corporaciones globales estan destruyendo la democracia, amenazando nuestra salud y medio ambiente. Poniendo el control de nuestra comida y recursos en las manos de unos pocos beneficiados, dirijidos por companias. Casi sin devate público, mas de 100 miliones de ectarias de cosechas geneticamente ingeniadas (GI) son plantadas cada año en los Estados Unidos. Eso es casi el 70% de las cosechas GI de el mundo. En seguida cuando descarga al medio ambiente, estos ‘GI cuerpos’ no pueden ser retirados y no hay predicción alguna de sus efectos en nuestros cuerpos, sistemas naturales, y en nuestro futuro. Jugando con el futuro, la salud humana y el medio ambiente está afectando gravemente la soberania de la comida de todo el mundo, dramáticamente incrementando el riesgo de guerra biofisica y además promover y consolidar la salud para un sistema de ganacias. Con la creación de biofarmaceuticas estan utilizando GI en plantas y animales. Estas formas de vida artificiales ya tienen contaminadas a semillas y cultivos las cuales se han venido sembrando por cientos de años.”

De acuerdo con la página web, la convención incluirá 150 seciones de concursantes, 1,200 expocisiones, un foro de negocios con presentaciones de 200 compañias y un costo de $1,995 para regristarse a la conferencia, garantizando que solamente esas industrias relacionadas estarán asistiendo, la OIB nota que “el Area de la Bahia es el corredor del mundo aventajando en la biociencia con 820 compañias, generando un pago de 5.8 millones de dolares de acuerdo a la “BayBio” pero la nación no está sola! Como 4,000 compañias biotecnoló gicas globalmente están usando biología para crear productos que resuelvan problemas sobre la salud y el medio ambiente.”

Del 3 al 9 de junio será nuestro chance de mostrar a las corporaciones y a sus politicos que nosotros no queremos “soluciones” del la OIB a nuestros problemas de salud y medio ambiente. Nosotros demandamos soluciones reales que trabajen con la tierra y que sean controlado por la gente. En esta época de la historia, la mejor manera de ayudar al medio ambiente es dejándolo solo y reaprender a como vivir simple y ligeramente en la tierra.

Estar Involucrado

Planea tu“viaje” a la ciudad ahora! Habrá consejos de conferencia del 2 y al 31 de Mayo en San Francisco, de 4 a 6 pm en la Iglesia Santo Bonifacion, en la Avenida Golden Gate #133 . Y tambien habran enseñanzas, charlas y talleres de trabajo del 3 al 5 de junio de 9:30a 5:30 en Edificio de Mujeres, en el New College y en el Unitarian Hall en la calle Franklin. Por más información, contacta al 877 806-2871 o www.bio.org o para chequear lo que la OIB está tramando checa www.bio.org. Suerte y lucha.