Category Archives: Issue #117: Winter, 2014

Who is the heterosexual queer?

By Otto Destruct

Queer theory liberates by exploding the bounds of gender and making everything possible — bodies and identities that had existed all along now have the opportunity to be recognized and acknowledged, to be “real”. At the heart of queer theory is the presumption that all identities are legitimate, that a person’s gender is as idiosyncratic and specific as they are, that they are sovereign in their right to determine what that gender is, and that gender expressions can be described as occupying points (sometimes multiple points) on a spectrum, from femme to butch to androgyne, with all kinds of interests in all kinds of bodies, in all kinds of combinations. Queer theory can be seen, then, as a kind of gender existentialism, in the sense that its up to each of us to really look at ourselves, be honest, be brave, and decide for ourselves who and what we are — and nobody has the right to tell us we aren’t, or that what we are is wrong or ugly. We have a right and a responsibility to be honest with ourselves!

Suppose this soul-searching yields surprising results. Suppose the queer (we are all queer now) discovers what they really want and who they really are looks a lot like what we might call a traditional gender and sex role — that despite some variation and some play with image, they are essentially heterosexual. This can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. Are they a “real” queer now? By acknowledging, even to themselves, that they are more-or-less hetero, do they become part of a structure of oppression? Some parts of our scene use words like “cis” as derogatory terms, as if systematic oppression were a product of our bodies instead of our culture. Nobody wants to be identified with the enemy, so sometimes the heterosexual queer opts out of expressing themselves as they really are.

This is a drag for at least two reasons. By escaping to an identification and appearance that looks more “queer” than people feel or in ways that they don’t really identify with is contrary to the spirit of queer theory itself. It contradicts the wide-open, liberatory aspect of queer theory by enforcing a new orthodoxy — this time an orthodoxy of glitter instead of grey flannel. It also gives people a way to avoid thinking about their heterosexuality and whatever privilege that might entail.

Creating a new, queered heterosexuality is a way to create a world that is much more free of oppression. Some people imagine a world where there are no heterosexuals but this would take severe repression of peoples’ desires and probably organized violence. It’s more practical and certainly more in line with Anarchist and queer values to promote the development of a new, queered heterosexuality than it is to exterminate heterosexuals from the face of the earth. Queering ourselves is a lot more honest, more comfortable, and ultimately less oppressive, than it is for any of us to feel like we have to pretend to be something other than what we are.

I am often mistaken for more queer than I “really” am. My gender presentation takes many cues from a familiar kind of hyper-masculine camp style — the leather daddy. I am often mistaken for a gay man, although one does not necessarily have to be gay to use the fantastic backdoor to masculinity (if you’ll pardon the expression) that gay men’s culture built. Butch leather daddy style is an over-representation of masculinity — it reduces (or elevates) signifiers of traditional manhood, at times to the point of satire. By displaying this over-identified style I can indicate that I am male and masculine while simultaneously indicating that I know (and I assume you know) that all masculinity is a kind of put-on, a Halloween costume. It is a lie that tells the truth.

I had always wanted to be masculine — that’s just how I feel inside. At the same time, I grew up reacting to the disgusting excesses of traditional men and manhood that I saw around me, and wanted to distance myself from what masculinity means culturally. It wasn’t until very recently that I could accept, thanks to the popular ascent of queer theory, that all gender is a kind of game of signs and that I could actually be as male as I wanted to be.

Sometimes the leather jacket leads people to think I’ll be a clueless, crude bore. I have the pleasure of surprising people by being a real human being who is interested in relating. Having an identifiable, even stable gender, and simultaneously defying gender expectations is part of what it means to be a heterosexual queer.

Accepting the prospect of a queered heterosexuality will allow us to recognize that the heterosexual queer is already here. I call myself “traditionally masculine” and in a lot of ways that’s true, but what’s traditionally masculine about my desire to place mine and others’ emotional experience in the fore of how I understand us and our choices? What’s traditionally masculine about valorizing communication and understanding above action? What’s traditionally masculine about admitting I’m often wrong and hoping to learn from others? These are traits that are often described as “feminine.” Is there really such a contradiction that I should display these too?

And what about heterosexual desire for non-traditional gender expressions of the “opposite” gender? Or for hyper-expressions? What about people who are open to all kinds of new experiences? In a queer world, does anyone really have to be thought of in essentialist terms?

The heterosexual queer should be permitted to be who they are because the heterosexual queer has really important work to do toward the liberation of all people. The normative standards of traditional heterosexuality are so enmeshed with patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and other kinds of cultural and literal violence that we must queer, question, critique and reinvent it. To accept one’s queer heterosexuality, to be heterosexual but to understand that position as an open prospect, subject to changes from within, rather than a fact of God or Nature — provides the opportunity for us to change what being “heterosexual” means.

 

Creative maladjustment: Challenging confromity with self-education

By Matti Salminen

At the age of 22, I began to take self-education seriously and I ventured far from my psychological center. This venture took the shape of seclusion—of emotional exile. It was at this time that I also began to believe I had a rat in my brain. My life was broken. And slowly the pieces of what I had left were lost in madness.

For 10 years, in addition to believing I had a rat in my brain, I also believed that if I didn’t spend the rest of my life in jail I’d be the most tortured man in history.

Beginning at age 14, I frequently broke the law but caused no real harm to anyone. I was trying to prove my worth by stepping out into the world facing the wrong direction. When I was seventeen, I was arrested and charged with burglary, possession of stolen goods, and driving under the influence.

Knowing what I do now, I see how my recklessness and mischief precipitated the emotional exile, which led to my “madness.” But madness is defined by an oppressive socio-political construct known as the mental health system. Our mental health system is part of a larger network of social institutions, which divest too many capable citizens of freedom and equality.

All societal constructs serve a paradigm, which has aligned itself with the needs of the wealthiest and most powerful.

This society has shown itself to be oppressive towards human difference in all forms. Great suffering and injustice are prevalent due to the narrow perspective of what is a healthy, happy, or productive human being. Many people in our society are poor and homeless because they don’t work. And this goes on because social injustice is big business—there is no other reason.

One population which society is especially misaligned towards is those suffering from mental illness. It might be better to say “suffering from a mental health system which was created out of social control.”

Madness is not organic, even if there are biological markers, which indicate it to be of natural origin. Suffering is not genetic. What is natural is an alternative experience and perception of the world; however, what is unnatural and prohibitive is for those alternate expressions of character to be a source of depravity.

My intention in writing this essay isn’t to denounce our system of psychiatric care or other socio-political institutions. I wish to share something that I understood deep down, even as an adolescent. That is creative maladjustment.

Creative maladjustment is resistance to societal standards. These standards breed hostility, segregation, poverty, homelessness, and overall inequality. We are taught early in school that if we work hard we will get ahead. But we are, as a society, working hard so that the wealthiest and the most powerful may exploit the most vulnerable.

Living in an unjust society means that we—as citizens—must venture off the beaten path. We all must find a way to survive in this world without serving indignity or injustice. To do so is to be creatively maladjusted.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on the subject of creative maladjustment to a crowd at Western Michigan University, on December 18, 1963. In this speech, Dr. King spoke of the sacrifice necessary to move society towards a state, which would allow dignity and freedom for all. Dr. King believed, then, that a new order was emerging—one in which the creatively maladjusted would rise up for equality.

Looking back, I believe I saw something in human potential, which incited me to venture far from the norm. School did not provide the resources I needed to probe the depths of my psyche or my soul. Pursuing a misspent youth and self-education put me on a path towards intellectual freedom.

Many of my heroes growing up were creatively maladjusted people—some were people of color, some suffered through poverty for their art, and others pursued self-education. These heroes showed me that we are not, as individuals, predestined for anything.

Years have gone by now since I began cultivating my mind without indoctrination into any formal institution. Those years have allowed me to free myself and to live an existence that promotes inner peace and human compassion.

No individual can ever truly compensate to lead a sane life while living in an insane world. And thus, creatively misaligning yourself with the world you live in is to exhort personal truth throughout your life, your work, and your spirituality. This is the only natural response to the unnatural disorder of our modern world.

Our society will only right itself when conformity is wholly invalidated.

 

Dirtbag Kingdom

By Johnny Sunset

There are no kings in the dirtbag kingdom. Here at the bottom of the barrel, as construction workers and cooks and dump truck drivers and parking meter change collectors, we see clearly. Our exchanges are exchanges of skills, not currency. Our promises are made and fulfilled in moments shared between free individuals. Theirs is a bloodless justice. Our justice is spontaneous will.

My neighbor helps me move my bed two houses down and up the stairs. I cook him sausage biscuits. We get whisky drunk and hop the fence to his yard. We dig holes for pylons in ground riddled with bottle glass and bullet casings to build half a shed in the empty lot owned by the city, well past midnight by headlamp light.

Down here on the lower rungs, if we sustain the health of our minds and bodies, the weight of oppression reveals the potential for freedom. By the very definition of who and where we are, we are made to imagine the possibility of a lawless world.

The construction worker shares his drugs with me. We talk conspiracy and chain smoke on the balcony. He shows me the inner machinations of an exacto knife. The intricate simplicity. The spring steel. The blade carriage. The rails of the knife train. In return I unsheathe my saxophone and we examine the tiny cylinders of yes is it really again the spring steel, and the octave key, and the way each orifice farther from the origin of vibration must be larger to shift the frequency within Pythagorean musical ratio. He tells me the gun oil for the rifle would keep the leather pads from sticking. And he gifts me a breechloader shotgun registered to someone we both despise, as a token of friendship.

We are dirtbags, which is to say we are human beings, which is to say we are terrible and beautiful. And if to be terrible is to have the strength of will to reject the system which might coddle us if we subjugated ourselves to it, we must be terrible. And if to be beautiful is to imagine the ideal beyond that subjugation, we must be beautiful.

I call up my friend in Tennessee to discuss the blueprint for a cheaply reproducible backyard stream hydroelectric generator.

They will know the dirtbags by our inventions. By our circumventions of what is believed to be possible. Problems are obstacles. Obstacles are challenges. Challenges are to be overcome. Our anthem is the rusty banjo and the voice that skips into falsetto. Our dialogue is thick with profane slang. Our hands are the hands that build and demolish. Our world is the real world, and here at the bottom we can see the foundation of the whole rickety garbage heap. We can see how a single match, careless or placed with the greatest of care, could bring the whole structure to ash.

I bring my new friend figs stolen from a tree in someone’s backyard, french bread and gouda cheese filched from a restaurant where I work to pay rent. I make her a sandwich on a small cutting board in the saloon of a sailboat. She tells me weeks later in a drunken stupor that she has celiac disease and that goddamn sandwich made her shit every hour for the better part of a week but she ate it anyway.

They will know us by our generosity. Because we dirtbags are generous with our pleasure, and generous with our pain. They will know us by our honor. Our honor will shame them.

Three of us go to the lake after a long shift and drink beer until three in the morning. One brags about hand-to-hand combat skills. I challenge him to a wrestling match, hop off the tree branch, chide him. He has me over his shoulder then down and pinned in twenty seconds but I dance around him every moment, up until the end when I can’t move or breathe. I tap out. He asks if I’m satisfied. I say one more. The third still up in the tree branch high as a kite, laughing like a maniac. As my opponent takes me down again. We rise from the ground together, and shake hands.

Dirtbags do not shrink from confrontation. We accept it and love it as an exchange of ability, as a psychological exercise, as an intimate exchange.

After the wrestling match I’m driven home to find my whole block roped off by the police. Another homicide, the fifth in a year. I am drunk and I talk shit to the police officer who won’t tell me a damn thing or let me through the line. I’ve lived here a long time, I know everyone, what the fuck happened. I can’t tell you that. What the fuck happened, who was it. I can’t tell you anything. Well fuck you I’m going home I live here.

And the next night, after another long shift, across the street from my house at the place where he was shot. Lit and wavering, winking out as the wax gathers, the candles spelling out a name I recognize. Of a seventeen year old boy. Who had no choice but to sell. Who owed someone something, maybe, that was worth, at that moment in time, to the man with the gun, more than his life.

The candles, and the poster paper ramshackle taped to the fence, and the signatures and good byes of those who loved or knew or cared or heard or thought to sketch a figment of love in pen or pencil or chalk or blood or whatever, whatever the fuck was available.

I can almost see the stars

I can almost see the stars… (TRIGGER WARNINGS: rape, war, capital, human extinction)

by Teresa Smith

Peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice. ~MLK

In autumn of 2004, I joined the astronomy club at a small university nestled in the Cascade Mountains. Eager to share our view of the stars, we built a wooden cart for the school’s telescope (a high-powered soviet-designed scrappy-looking thing we lovingly called “The Light Bucket”), and every clear Friday, we wheeled our scope out to the footpath next to the Science Building and enticed passersby to join us: “Want to look at another galaxy?”

Some nights, the football team was practicing in the field next to us, and the sky seemed lost behind the blinding haze of stadium lights. That didn’t stop us.

How can you see through all that light pollution?” confused passersby wanted to know.

See for yourself,” one of us would reply. Such a jolt of surprise overtook the person when they held their eye to the little circle of glass and saw a stunning globular cluster, the rings of Saturn, or whatever delightful glowing mass we’d been gazing at.

How am I seeing this?” they always wanted to know.

Unlike magicians, scientists always explain their tricks: “Our pupils constrict to protect themselves from the light, but telescopes don’t. These tools can see past the optical illusion of light pollution, reminding us that even under a seemingly blank sky, the light of the stars still reaches us.”

Ten years later and a thousand miles away, a rapist is at large in the East Bay radical community.

One of the collectives received an email warning from a comrade in a distant city, and now the rapist has been spotted at local infoshops and hacker spaces. Some of us are in a dilemma: “Do we ban him?”

So far, no formal decision has been made. No one wants to deal with it until we have to. Banning accused rapists is seen as a distraction from the real reasons we are here. And it can be, especially when it devolves into a “rape tribunal” lasting weeks or months in which people are driven away from boredom or by triggers.

While my friends struggle with the dilemma of whether or not to bar him from our space, I am faced with a rather different problem: I am grappling with the desire to kill him.

The sky is filled with rape, you know. The Greeks and the Renaissance astronomers painted the stars with abuse, naming so many of them after victims and their rapists.

As the lone literature student at astronomy club, I always looked forward to hearing the physics students raise their voices, clearing away these ghosts, explaining the simple, yet powerful laws that actually govern the glowing blobs of matter that populate our sky.

When I was seven, my head was torn open in a car accident, and after the experience of having my body repaired at a hospital, I was suddenly home again, with a face full of stitches. The problem was: I couldn’t feel at home anymore. I had fallen into a sort of Trauma Place. A place where time changes. The present dilates, the future is obscured. Catastrophe seems to lurk in every shadow.

Humans have deeply social nervous systems. The vagus nerve runs from the base of our brains to the seat of our gut, and it is stimulated by social interaction. When volcanoes blow, seas rise, or cars smash into us, we are confronted with the anti-social nature of our random universe, and this can freeze up the vagus nerve and other connected nerves and organs, impeding our ability to learn new things, remember the past, feel emotions, digest food, and repair tissue.

Luckily, after the car accident, a parade of my favorite people came to visit me. They gasped when they saw my stitches, and wanted to hear the tale of how I survived. This showed me that I mattered. Even though the universe is a chaotic, uncaring place, people are able to create bubbles of intention and care within that chaos. Bubbles of community. And sure, communities can’t guarantee your safety, but if you are hurt they will help pull your consciousness back from that place of chaos.  Engaged by my community, I began to regain my sense of being at home, and I could approach the future again with curiosity and joy.

My senior year in college, I was raped by someone in a theatre community that I’d joined off campus. Reeling in the post-trauma weirdness, I sought emotional support from the people closest to me.

I called my foster mom, who promptly informed me that “this is why we shouldn’t be so friendly to people.”

Hoping for a female mentor to tell me I was okay, I went to my boss and a professor. Instead, they also informed me that my “friendliness” had brought it on.

I went to my friends and classmates, who asked questions like, “What were you wearing? How much time did you spend with him beforehand?”

I was starting to get defensive now. I began revising my story, trying to tell it in such a way that I wouldn’t be blamed. I tried leaving out labels like “rape” and “sexual assault,” and just described the bare details of being touched without my consent. Still, I was questioned, blamed every time.

The terror that I felt on that first day never dissipated.

I spoke to people in the theatre community about it, and they told me it wasn’t their problem, “Go get a restraining order.” I did so, and discovered that this wouldn’t prevent the rapist from going to the theatre meetings. “Was there alcohol involved?” the judge insisted to ask at the restraining order hearing.

Everywhere I went for support, I was put on the defense for my clothing choices, my personality, my behavior. Even the people who blamed the rapist said things like, “You should have been able to sense he was going to do that.”

I was back in that Trauma Space I knew as a child. But now, catastrophe seemed to lurk inside all other human beings. Anyone could violate me—anyone could bypass the will of my mind and touch my body without my consent—and that I would be blamed for it.

I am no longer a friendly person. Fear has settled into my bones, and I’ve found that I become exhausted if I spend too much time in the presence of others. An entire community had rallied, one by one, in their own ways, to show me that rape was supposed to happen to me.

In her writings on war, Judith Butler explains that English-speakers have invented rhetorical devices like “War Zone” to make it seem okay when a bystander dies in an armed conflict. We tell ourselves, “That’s what you get for living in a War Zone.” This rhetoric lets us normalize the catastrophe that is war.

I believe we also have created a nasty rhetoric of Rape Zones, which is a social space in which (some people) believe there are circumstances that make it okay to touch someone without their consent.

After my rape, I learned where everyone in my community had laid the borders of the Rape Zone, based on the questions they asked me as they attempted to assign blame.  Some people believed being friendly to someone birth-gendered differently than you makes you zoned for rape. Others will tell you drinking alcohol or attending music festivals zones you for rape. I’ve spoken with people who believe that when a woman gets married, she is now zoned for rape by her husband.

It is the subjectiveness of it all, the way the borders of a Rape Zone expand and contract depending on who you are talking to, that make it all so terrifying.

I am terrified for certain bright-eyed young women in my community—women who, when I see them, the first thought that pops into my head is “looks like she hasn’t been raped yet.” And I realize I am thinking this because, according to some people, acting friendly and loving in public makes you zoned for rape. I am terrified for these women—sometimes at political and social gatherings, I spot creepers lurking around them. That is when I make my presence known, and flash my hate-filled eyes at the lurker. And then the adrenaline release, and the urge to kill.

Perhaps the desire to escape these socially constructed Rape Zones is why we’ve seen the rise of “sexually sterile zones”—suburbs and artificial communities marketed in such a way that it seems rape could never happen there. But anyone with their eyes open in the burbs will tell you otherwise.

After spending my teen years in the East Seattle sprawl, I’ve come to think of the suburbs as “Rapetopia” because I knew so many kids in their perfect-looking middle-class suburban families who got raped or assaulted by their dads, neighbors, church deacons, grandfathers, bosses. Of the dozen or so people who spoke to me about their experiences of assault, only two of them chose to report it publicly.

It’s the wall of silence that allows Rapetopia to continue—people keep buying into the myth that they can move to a “rape-free zone,” but it is in those spaces, lacking any kind of community cohesion, in which rapists end up having the most power over individuals’ lives.

Before the rape, I used to travel alone, by Greyhound, by train. I hitchhiked in Alaska. I made friends easily, and made a point to talk to strangers, to pull people into loopy philosophical conversations. I read a book a day or more and dated people of multiple genders. I was also very protective about how and when my body was touched.

After the rape, I no longer liked being with people, but being alone was even worse. I moved in with one cis-man after another and pushed them into protective roles. I continued volunteering, but my role in community was very different. My conversations became linear and didactic; I was afraid to display my propensity to wander. I stopped traveling, and didn’t like to leave the house alone. I couldn’t concentrate: reading, watching movies, so many pleasures fell away. I didn’t care how my lovers touched me anymore. My body was the site of my betrayal, it no longer belonged to me.

The human animal is at such a beautiful, but dark point in our evolution. Only 50,000 or so years ago, our ability to use tools blossomed into a region of the brain known as Broca’s area, the seat of language. Mix that with our highly-developed prefrontal cortices (which facilitate planning), and you get a creature with the uncanny ability to hold symbolic tools inside its head, and to use those symbols to direct its actions.  This ability has allowed us to travel to the moon, but it comes with a dark underside:

After I was raped, I thought my rapist was simply insane. But as I’ve slowly come to chart the borders of Rape Zones, another possibility has lodged itself in my mind: he likely did not know he was raping me. He was likely interacting with symbols in his head, rather than checking in with me so I could communicate what I actually wanted.

This is a chilling thought for me personally. Then I thing about how so many of the worst abuses are rooted in a failure to communicate.

I was raped quite badly in my teens,” a sex worker friend recently told me over tea. “First by a stranger, then by the friend I went to for support.”

How have you kept your sanity?” I asked.

The sex work really helps,” my friend said cheerfully. “Personally, I think sex work may be the key to ending sexual violence.”

She explains that in her work, she sets her boundaries upfront: she is paid beforehand and can walk away from a client if she no longer feels comfortable. Intimacy is no longer an ambiguous space for her, but a clearly communicated transaction between an empowered businesswoman and a client.  

As she speaks, I wonder if this is the shadow of the future—a future in which the circumference of the market is everywhere, and ambiguity is not to be found. A future in which children are educated to be business-owners of their own body-commodity.  Perhaps this is the role trauma plays in what Marx calls “primitive accumulation”—the fencing off of the commons, the moment of taking things that were once free and turning them into commodities, creating a society where people must sell their labor to buy things that were once free.

This is capital’s cruel bargain: As sex flees rape, it is metamorphosized into exchange. In a world ruled by capital, where else does it have to go?

Capital is coercion,” I say to the group of young men. I’m visiting a permaculture farm in Oakland, a group of male permies in their early twenties has gathered around me. This place is known for sexual harassment, and I’ve been quick to route the conversation towards economic theory. I begin to perform a reverse magic trick my favorite Marxist once taught me.

Would you rip up this $20 bill?” I say, passing around a Jackson twenty. “Feel the weight of it. It’s not like ordinary paper. It’s been blessed as capital.”

I take the bill back and hold it up, “What is this?”

It’s people!” a young man ventures.

Right!” I say. “This is congealed human labor! With this, I can access a system that compels someone who doesn’t even know me to make my shoes or grow my food.”

We’re all getting excited now. 

Man!” a welder among them is on a roll: “how many people do you think you’re coercing to labor for you? How big is your invisible slave cloud? Ten people? A hundred? All those people out in the burbs who only use money to get things, I’ll bet if you add all the hours up, they’ve got slave clouds of thousands of people. And they don’t even know it because this money stuff stands in for the labor—for the real human connection of wanting to do stuff for each other.”

In the excitement, one of the young men offers me a bottle of homebrew, “I made this myself, I insist!”

I take the gift and I thank him, but my face contorts with fear. A gift.

A common tactic used by rapists is forcefully giving things to their targets.

In the month leading up to him raping me, the guy from my theatre group started forcing favors upon me – fixing my computer without asking, buying me food, giving me gifts I didn’t want.

InThe Gift of Fear, violent crime investigator Gavin de Becker warns women to watch out for gifts and favors—they are a tactic used by rapists to disarm their targets, to make them feel guilty, like they owe something to the rapist. This allows the rapist to swoop past their boundaries, enter their homes and assault them.

This is also the pattern in the logic of colonial invasion: “We’ll come in and give you books, Human Rights – we’ll even give you democracy, the greatest gift ever!” And watch the local people’s shock as tanks roll in, as armed soldiers are shooting their teenagers, drones dropping bombs on their dinner parties.

Is capital really congealed labor? Or is it a symbol of the tension between those who wish to give, and those who take without asking?

I still haven’t been able to forgive my rapist, though I’ve run circles inside myself trying. The emotional pain seems to be stuck in my body. It could have been released with the help of my friends, but they weren’t ready.

Not long after he raped me, my rapist became general manager of the volunteer theatre group. I later learned that several other women were raped by him during his ascent. All of us left after being raped—it is insanity to be in the presence of your abuser, especially when you both know they could do it again anytime they want and no one would care or believe you.

What has been mindboggling is the prevalence of this pattern as I have moved on to organizations and projects. So, so many community spaces are held by a league of abusers and their apologists. As I move through the communities in the Bay, I inevitably meet the victims who were pushed out of those communities.  They are many. I am losing my trust for cis-men in power. Every time I meet a charismatic, forceful man in charge of something, I immediately wonder how many women aren’t in the room because of him.

Why do I want to kill rapists? That much should be obvious by now.

Why do I bother to hope? That is the bigger question.

Anarchy is self-control.  Before I came to think of myself as anarchist, I saw these words carved into the cement near my home in NW Portland.

Anarchy is self-control. These words were a glimmer of hope that stayed with me, and after a partner’s job led me to move with him to the Bay Area, I found myself seeking out Anarchists, joining the Slingshot collective, moving into cooperative housing.

Gradually, I’ve come to realize that Anarchy is not just self-control.

Three years ago, I spent some time at Hellarity House. It was my first experience of a radical open-door squat governed by anarchist consensus process. At my first house meeting, I saw an amazing thing: a traveler was asked to leave—without malice or punishment—because he had touched someone without their consent. Over the next few weeks, this happened several more times. There were never tribunals questioning either party, or moments of forcing the target to “provide evidence” (consent violation, by definition, can only be expressed as the word of one person against another anyway). Watching this process, I saw the women in the house becoming stronger, more outspoken. I felt stronger. Even though the space was filled with rowdiness, arguments, and all sorts of spontaneity and danger, I felt drawn there because I knew that if I asked someone to back off, they’d respect me, and if they didn’t, they’d have to leave. A few years later, I found myself at the Sudo Room hackerspace, and similarly witnessed a consent violator being asked to leave. There was no malice—this wasn’t an punishment thing—it was simply a way to respect the target for speaking up. It meant the community could be a space for victims to heal, rather than harboring their abusers. And in these spaces, it wasn’t just one person or group upholding the safe space—cis males were equally vocal and committed as everyone else to creating consent-based community, and often did the hard work of asking people to leave.

This new wave of anarchists understands that addressing abuse is not some afterthought, but is the core of creating post-capitalist communities. But like any policy, consent-based safe space could easily be overused. As one space-keeper explains, “Safe space shouldn’t be treated as a decision-making process, but as a problem-solving tool.” Safe Space practices are not a cave to climb into, but something to help us see through the haze in those moments when abuse does arise. Some people are afraid of safe space practices, afraid they will be misused by liars. They are justified in that fear, because that risk is always there. But if we fail to create equitable and thriving self-supporting communities, we stand facing a far bigger problem.

The myth-weavers of capital dazzle us with a pseudo-mathematical fantasy world of random chance, a world of competition that is supposed to be “natural,” even though it defies our deeply cooperative evolutionary disposition. We are forced into this system because our food, clothing, shelter, and care is held hostage by it. But many of us choose to enter this system because we are afraid of individuals, and we don’t trust our communities to protect us from abuse. Capital offers easy shelter by sterilizing the whole messy chaos of social reality, and distilling it into a single question: “How to I assist the creation of profit?”

So, collectively, we scrape the tops off of our mountains. We create famines throughout the Global South. We tear out the public rail systems and replace them with roads. We inflict armed occupations within our borders and around the world. We raze forests, and pump poison into our air, into our water, into our minds with advertisements. We inflict unfair trade laws upon entire nations, leading droves of people to cross our borders to take back the value that’s been stolen from them.

Abuse is one of the strongest motivating forces that compels us to invite capital into our lives. Capital feeds upon the forces of fear and produces an artificial randomness.  It holds us in a place of stasis, walking dead, traumatized, trapped in the fantasy of “profit is the only thing that matters.” As we organize ourselves to compete for profit, it is the bullies, rapists, and murderers who rise to the top, directing us as we destroy each other and ourselves–with the destruction of our planet’s life support system as “collateral damage.”

Imagine for a moment that the apocalypse isn’t something in the future, but something that is happening right now.  It is something that has been happening since humans gained the power to justify raping and murdering each other. Look into our past, and you’ll see there never has been a golden age.  

Archaeological sites new and ancient show mass graves—horrors beyond our wildest nightmares—we are just becoming aware of this apocalypse.

From this nightmare we are only just now waking up.

Consent.

I want to write the word in the sky every day for each person I’ve known who was hurt or raped.

Consent.

Can the defense of single word, a single concept help bring back light back into the eyes of the traumatized, help us reactivate our parasympathetic nervous systems?

Consent.

Sing life back into our species with a single word.

Consent.

Wake up! Here is a splash of cold water in the face:

Consent.

Pray for consent.

Ask for consent.

Destroy the ideas of a Rape Zone, a War Zone—no one deserves to be touched without their consent. We need to dismantle the last of the cultural myths that are holding the apocalypse in place.

Consent, consent, consent.

Demand consent.

Defend consent.

Uphold consent in your spaces. And as the haze of abuse diminishes, watch as communities emerge from beneath capital, like the stars coming out after the lights are finally shut off.

Siege the Second

By Kyle Merrit Ludowitz *The Syrian Border -*

Bassam Abadi survived the military siege and bombing campaigns of his home city of Aleppo, Syria for three years. Yet after finally escaping and illegally smuggling himself to safety in neighboring Turkey, Bassam began experiencing the severe hardships of living as a refugee in a foreign country without housing, employment, or a familiar language—a desperate situation known by many Syrian refugees as ‘the Second Siege’. Now, after a full year of scraping by in Turkey, the difficulties of being a refugee are driving Bassam to return home, where he will opt to live in the midst of the civil war rather than continue to struggle to make a new life for himself in an unfamiliar land.

Unlike the military siege occurring within Syria, the Second Siege is not an assault of artillery and airstrikes, but of culture and economics. The past four years of civil war have devastated the value of Syria’s currency, at a time when the Turkish economy has seen a steady rise in its national industries. This rapidly expanding gap in currency values adds an almost insurmountable level of difficulty for Syrian refugees trying to adapt to a new life outside their own country. A Syrian family’s weekly budget for food and public transportation before the civil war can easily be spent in a day or two when living in Turkey, due to the widening exchange rate between the two nations. This weakened purchasing power forces families to choose between rent or food, between medicines or clothing, or between school supplies for the children or bus fare for a father to look for employment or to travel to work.

Syrian refugees living in Turkey also face the barriers of navigating a country with a wholly unfamiliar language and culture. Once outside the Arabic-speaking border communities, Syrian refugees generally find themselves unable to communicate with local Turks. This language barrier can make critical tasks such as finding employment, asking for directions, or seeking medical assistance acutely difficult, encouraging Syrian refugees to clump together with other Arabic speakers in overcrowded, economically depressed neighborhoods. These desperate living conditions and lack of assimilation in turn exacerbate existing Turkish animosity toward Arabs, dating back to historical resentments over Arab complicity in the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This anti-Arab hostility has only intensified as the Syrian civil war grinds on and more and more Arab refugees are permanently settling in Turkey.

“[The Syrian refugees] come to Turkey illegally and take our jobs for a lower wage,” Garip Batur, a Turkish bus driver from the city of Gaziantep expresses as we sit in the lounge of a transit depot. “Unemployment is already a large problem here in Turkey, and Syrian people are taking jobs away from Turkish citizens. Arabs don’t bother to learn Turkish, and they open shops with only Arabic writing. Housing prices and rents have doubled or tripled in the area because there are so many Syrian people arriving, and even then, families sleep on the ground in our parks because there are too many of them. Turkish culture is being replaced by a more conservative Arabic culture. How can young Turkish people manage to make a life with these problems? Arabs are changing everything here and I don’t feel safe in my own city anymore.”

Under such devastating economic challenges and with so much animosity from the Turkish populace, many Syrians surpass their own personal limits and can no longer bear to live as displaced refugees in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming society. The return to Syria—the return to life in a war zone—is one of the only remaining options open to them. Riding with Bassam in a bus full of refugees returning to Syria, the mingled emotions of desperation, frustration and uncertainty hang heavy in the hot summer air. A somber silence falls over everyone as passengers anxiously text on their phones to friends and family in Syria awaiting their return. The dejected expressions of those peering out the bus windows grow more distraught as the barbed wire fences defining the border come into view.

“What am I going to do now?” Bassam exclaims, unable to suppress his desperation any longer. “How can I go back to Syria and try to live in war? But I have no other option. I can’t afford to be a refugee. Everything is so expensive here [in Turkey] and all my savings were used in the first month. I can’t afford to live as a refugee in this country anymore. I have to go back now and live with the bombs.” Another long silence takes hold as the border fence grows closer. Staring out of the window, he shakes his head in defeat, muttering almost under his breath. “This isn’t fair. This isn’t right. What am I going to do?” Finally the bus comes to a halt, and the doors draw open. Disembarking, Bassam and his fellow refugees begin walking through the barred, metal gates that will usher them across the border and back to their home country—back to a life amidst what may well be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

It is unclear what will happen to Bassam and the others like him who have given up on building a new life and are returning home to Syria. Some will likely be killed by the bombings, while others may starve to death. Those who make it through the war will be witnesses to the horrors of combat, the destruction of their country, and the mass slaughter of their neighbors and countrymen. There was a moment of hope for these civilians—a chance to start a new, safer life in Turkey—but that moment is gone for them now. For countless Syrians who once fled to Turkey hoping for a better future, the burdens of the Second Siege have simply proven too great to bear.

– Humanitarian Photojournalist & War Photographer www.kylemerrit.com

 

Back to the Future: Socialism 2.0

By Bill

What will health care become once Capital is buried 60 feet under in North America and across the planet? Its demise will spell the end of:

the private pharmaceutical industry and stranglehold of corporate Big Pharma interests and structures

private medical insurers, the whole shebang

the privately-owned industries for high-cost medical equipment

fee-gouging practices by countless physicians in the name of profit over people

the network of costly, profit-oriented private clinics and hospitals

Their disappearance will open up radically new vistas on health care provision and preventive medicine as an inherent public good.

My article today, grounded on many years of direct experience in provincial post-communist Bulgaria, asks if past paradigmatic experiments that strove over decades to create socialized medicine are useful historical experiments worth looking at and possibly learning from?

I wish to argue that we need to revisit the various experiments in universal health care in the socialist states of Eastern Europe. Those experiments now lie largely dismantled, demonized by the neoliberal corporate and political (dis)order that has descended on much of the former Eastern Bloc. My guiding thesis: in moving toward ‘socialism 2.0,’ the international left needs to look unblinkered at redeemable past real-socialist achievements in medicine, housing, guaranteed full employment, people’s education, salvaging and retrofitting what seems viable. This essay explores one such ‘experiment in people’s medicine’ that lost the Cold War, namely in the socialist People’s Republic of Bulgaria.

Bulgaria’s socialist experiment and grounded experience of universal socialist health care may have been the most positive of any of the various (and quite different) states inside what was called the Warsaw Pact. I have become ever more convinced, mainly by living long-term among Bulgarians of a generation born circa 1974 and earlier, that what Bulgaria achieved before the catastrophe of 1989-90 and the demise of its socialist system—it did not self-destruct—was indeed exemplary and is worth looking at and learning from. My own long-standing ties to social-anarchist imaginaries have been reshaped by repeated discussion with Bulgarians who are certain their own lives in the People’s Republic (1944-1990) were far more happy and ordered, materially and socially, then than now, and radical equality was a central value.

We need to ask what that system of medical social welfare actually was, how it was experienced, what it accomplished, as revealed by people’s oral history: building an oral history of socialist medicine as it was experienced and remains reflected in the memory of real people, its living subjects. What can we learn from its past for the project of a new more libertarian ‘socialism 2.0’ in our own century? What were its shortcomings and failings, as a system within a one-party authoritarian communist state operating under the myriad constraints of the Cold War? But exploring that requires an open mind among socialists, ready to rethink long-held shibboleths—beyond all the distortions of Cold War perceptions in North America, and on the North American left, unfortunately still operative down to the present day.

In real-socialist Bulgaria, medical care was universal and cost-free, including hospitalization and surgical procedures. Waiting periods for admission to hospital were kept to a minimum. Citizens did not pay for state ‘insurance’ coverage; rather, it was offered to all adults and children as a state benefit.

This fact was closely intertwined with a core aspect of the socialist economy: guaranteed full employment. Bulgarians in interview speak about “three people doing the job of one,” in effect a form of real-socialist job-sharing, all with a guaranteed livable egalitarian wage. Citizens with a primary school education (or less) were also all employed—as factory hands, toilet attendants, in agriculture, street cleaners and other simple jobs, all at a livable egalitarian wage. This was in effect a socialist UBI or ‘unconditional basic income’ for one and all, but tied to actually having an assigned job of some kind. Not to accept a job was viewed as a misdemeanor, in effect a crime not to work. The state enforced full labor, it was policed. Since there was ‘full employment,’ with the state as universal employer, it had no need to levy a special added monthly or annual fee for medical coverage (as exists today).

Virtually everyone over the age of 19 or 20, including many married women, had some assigned job. All doctors also worked for the state, there was no private practice, it was basically prohibited. The egalitarian system of incomes ensured that wage differentials among most workers—from professors, factory heads, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, actors, railroad workers, to office personnel, sales personnel, street cleaners, you name it—were relatively minor. In their narratives, people recount that wages were quite adequate for most needs since costs of many essentials were kept at a minimum, and some aspects of virtual ‘demonetization’ (for example, of utilities like water, steam heat and electricity, or public transport) were clearly in effect. Prices were also uniform everywhere, and generally quite stable over long periods. Low-cost restaurants, nearly cost-free workplace canteens and vacation resorts were also once the familiar and welcome norm.

Doctors and dentists were assigned to all schools, factories, and agricultural collectives, as well as to set hours at clinics and in hospital. What this meant at a school, for example, is that children were regularly checked for general health and dental health, by an in-school medical practitioner. This system of preventive medical care was, in common memory, deemed quite exemplary: it led to an excellent standard in oral hygiene, promoted in and by the school. Doctors’ physical exams on the spot at school made sure kids were healthy, and not overweight. Physicians assigned to factories were available for any accident on the spot, and also ensured regular check-ups for workers. Doctors and nurses were also available at cost-free summer camps, which were very widespread as a means to educate children and youth and provide out-of-school recreation and training.

Patients could in addition go to any doctor of their choice, including a specialist. People narrate that care in hospital was in their memory excellent, as was food for patients. Patients were charged nothing for hospital stays and various procedures, or for medications. The ratio of hospital beds to population was high. Technology for accurate diagnosis and treatment was of a relatively high standard, given the constraints of the Cold War and the country’s relatively small size (peaking at approximately 9 million in 1988).

Importantly, pharmacies were all state-owned. The pharmaceuticals, from state-owned Bulgarian manufacturers and imported largely from other socialist economies, were, in people’s memory, of high quality and quite inexpensive. Only a non-profit pharmaceutical manufacturing industry could ensure the functioning of such a system. Nor was there advertising of such products. There was no perceived need.

In socialist Bulgaria, from the 1950s, there was a widespread network of rural primary care clinics, staffed by doctors and nurses and paramedics assigned to such posts. This helped significantly to overcome the inevitable differences in the geography of access to medical care, urban vs. rural.

After the collapse of socialism, the ‘class war from above’ under the naked rule of Capitalism resurrected in the former socialist states of East-Central and Eastern Europe, a ‘new periphery’ of global Capital, in some ways a ‘neocolonial’ topography of contradictions is particularly virulent and barbaric in Bulgaria. Today its population, economy, and levels of morale are in massive contraction under unfettered Capital’s ‘shock therapy.’ It is now the lowest-income post-socialist state, with the highest levels of economic emigration in Europe.

The once paradigmatic Bulgarian system of people’s health care lies largely in ruins, its restructured remnant seriously underfunded. The changes are striking. Many Bulgarians remain reluctant or simply unable to pay the current monthly fee for obligatory state health insurance (about the equivalent of $11), and so nearly 20 percent now are not legally insured. Nonetheless, hospitals now account for a third of all public debt in capitalist Bulgaria.

The contrast between ‘then’ and ‘now’ is stark and for many Bulgarians truly overwhelming, even devastating for the most impoverished, a large segment of the pensioned senior citizenry, and nearly all of the Roma ethnic underclass, the most severely afflicted victims in the reborn free-market economy. Once nearly all Roma were gainfully employed, despite the endemic racism against them; today Roma joblessness, in part due to the same now more virulent racism, is in the range of 85-90 percent; many Roma have emigrated westward in order to survive.

What then can we learn from the experiments in a now gutted people’s Bulgaria? Can some of real-socialist health care be retrofitted for tomorrow? Is a less centralized, more locally-controlled socialist commonwealth possible? How a far more ‘self-determining’ yet sustainable communist society could be vibrantly constructed from the ‘bottom up,’ based more on autonomous production units, remains an open question. Perhaps one key paradigm, both in the Balkans and North America, turns on creating worker self-directed enterprises (WSDEs) as a mass anti-capitalist movement, as Richard Wolff envisions. Would an economy grounded on WSDEs be able to forge a bold new system of socialist cost-free health care? As a material basis for that, could it engineer a decentralized mode of full employment anchored in radical hands-on democracy at work? Or is guaranteed full employment achievable only in a highly centralized command economy, with all the hierarchical architecture of top-down planning and control that can entail?

In all such visions of a post-capitalist future, egalitarian, cost-free, sustainable health care as a public good is a central challenge. So a working sub-thesis here might suggest: social-anarchist and real-socialist vision and practice can learn much from each other in a mutually fruitful if dialectical bond. That is a rare proposition, but we live in singular critical times.

Book Review: Hobo Fires by Robert Earl Sutter III

Hobo Fires

by Robert Earl Sutter III

3332 18th Ave. South Apt#1 Minneapolis, MN 55407

RobertEarlSutterIII.com 336 pages Retail $30

Review by Egg-Nog-shush!

Shit –- people get old. Rob Noxious is now Robert Earl Sutter…the III. At least his life as an anarchist artist hasn’t matured into as stuffy confines as the name has. Expanded and gotten deeper it has, rich with moods, idealism and friendship. It is a life that sips at the narcotic freedom to be found just outside of society’s cage.

There is a lot going on here to be encapsulated — if it could be a pill I’d suggest you’d grab something to wash it down. I’m going to cheese dick this review. This new graphic novel was sent a couple months ago to our collective and no one read it. When I noticed it wasn’t handled I started to entreat the well intentioned usual gang of volunteers loitering around our car wreck of a project to review it. I was given as much acknowledgment as a Green Party Voters guide at an anarchist book fair. So in an effort not to give similar treatment to old Rob I found a spot under a tree and read about half of the book – just in case.

For those who don’t know Rob he chronicles the things dear to him in comic book form. Living on the fringes of mainstream society by train hopping, squatting, playing DIY/punk music, pursuing Queer love and other advancements of living in current radical life. This recent comic does that but the twist is that it is set in the future — where people use technology to get the low down on what train to ride, where robots patrol no man’s land and activists make islands from recycled plastic bottles. There’s enough familiar things going on to capture you in the present age. Chance romantic encounters, people sharing music and drink, conversations speculating on reality, observations of nature ruling supreme. Oogles. The sci-fi part of it didn’t grab me and shake me until I picked it up recently and finished reading the story. The most impressive feat to find is that someone is actually sitting around thinking about the future. And not just how they’re going to make money or bullshit to prolong capitalism. It is a waking dream of a mutated reality carefully re-imaged on paper for anyone caring to look. Some dystopian aspects play strong. One of the main characters was busted by the pigs and lugs around a police state monitoring device…in his head. The story follows this character trying to remove the tracker.

There is a lot to be found while on the journey – and that better future is really the present day radical community. People meeting each other and discovering their dimensions is a consistent throughout the drama. There are conversations I didn’t catch onto like the philosophical and technical ramblings of science. It reflects the kinds of things people ponder when not leaded down by capitalism’s distractions. Though I rushed reading through these segments I found them accurate to conversations I’ve had in this scene.

Even if not all aspects of the narrative grabbed me, I did find it important that someone is thinking ahead. When so many people who look at the problems of the world today meet that knowledge and drown in alcohol, dwell on thoughts of suicide or go on shooting sprees. One character to be found in Hobo Fires had that last impulse until they found the radical DIY community. It is a community that make and share books like this one, or a boat to float down the Mississippi, or a collectively run house or cafe. It is what many people in the world desperately need today; some human made gift that isn’t ultimately going to (non-consensually) fuck you or rip you off. In this respect Hobo Fires acts as a magnifying glass to today’s struggling Utopias.

The art in Hobo Fires hasn’t progressed much from Rob’s output from the past ten years. I assume that the inner child is the boss when it comes time to make a comic. The characters and their world rendered in black pencil may strike some people as being crude. Many of the pictures have the quality of someone drawing during math class. He hasn’t grown into a serious artist as he dropped the “Noxious” from his name, unless you consider his crafting of narrative. He does spend enormous time drawing in the sheer number of the pictures to be found. Clocking in at 336 pages it will be interesting to see the people attracted to a pirate punk lifestyle spend the $35 necessary for such an endeavor. The story often stops to give images of an open vista that is common to a life tramping across rural America. Some pages are even ruled by negative space depicting the lack of artificial light to be found outside urban areas. These segments emphasize the sounds that become so vivid when you can’t see.

There are many pages here that Rob attempt’s to capture the divine—in nature and human endeavor. Realism of image is forsaken for the spirit of the moment being conveyed. Lots of the pages are worthy of just awe. I bet if you ever see the originals in their full size with the hours of finger work smeared over the page you’d shit your pants. But I don’t think you want that so it’s better if you go back to checking your phone. I think you missed a text – it was real important.

Book Review: Race, Monogamy, & Other Lies they told you – Busting Myths About Human Nature by Augustine Fuentas

Race Monogamy, and other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature Agustin Fuentes, University of California Press, 2012, 220 pgs.

Reviewed by Dym Squirrel

Some books are so near-comically ambitious that they invariably provoke either knee-jerk ridicule or messianic hopefulness, with precious little in between. The expansively tiled Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature, runs that risk, but I hope it will be read with guarded optimism.

In my opinion, Mr. Fuentes doesn’t quite “bust” the myths he addresses, but he still does a helluva job deflating them, giving readers some solid ammunition in the battles over what “human nature” is (if anything) and the consequences of those battles on society. This book has two parts: first, a 3 chapter “Myth-Busting toolkit,” “Myths About Aggression,” and “Myths About Sex.” While all are interesting, I found the “Myths About Aggression” the most valuable from an anarchist perspective, since evidence that humans are not inherently vicious or greedy really strikes at the heart of justifications for hierarchical power and society’s infatuation with coercive control. Without espousing anarchism himself, Mr. Fuentes’ points go far in support of those of us who do. As for sex and “race,” he largely attempts to disprove any significant, genetically based differences between the sexes and amongst what most people think of as “the races,” and he succeeds about as well as one might hope.

Ultimately, the highlight of this book is Mr. Fuentes’ thorough, clear and accessible “Myth Busting Toolkit,” which should probably be reviewed annually by both newbies and veterans of the nature/nurture debate alike. His “Naturenurtural” coining for how people actually develop is a valuable conceptual tool for avoiding binary thinking AND the fallacy that development is just the addition of “nature” and “nurture,” like 1 +1 = 2, helping us see how 1 + 1 = * instead. Alchemy, baby.

My hardcover first printing contained a lot of small but annoying editorial errors, but hopefully those will be fixed in the softcover edition, and I’d still recommend it to anyone wanting to contribute to a free and equal society that cares more about people and truth than money and mythology.

Book review: Talking Anarchy by Colin Ward & David Goodway

Book Review of “Talking Anarchy” by Colin Ward and David Goodway

Review by Kathy Labriola

I rarely write book reviews, but this book got me so excited I just had to share my enthusiasm! This compact little PM Press book is essentially an extended conversation between two amazing British anarchist writers, editors, and activists. Weighing in at just 165 pages, it is jam-packed with anarchist history, events, and ideas, and is the one book I would give to anyone who wants to understand what anarchism is all about.

Colin Ward edited the anarchist journal “Freedom” and founded the journal “Anarchy” which he edited for decades. He was a tireless anarchist speaker and writer, eventually writing 30 books on the subject. David Goodway is a British social and cultural historian whose best-known book is “Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow.” He had the opportunity to interview Colin Ward at length, over a period of months, just before Ward’s death in 2010 at the age of 86. “Talking Anarchy” is the

result of those interviews,

published in the US earlier

this year.

Despite being a card-carrying

anarchist since 1968, I have

successfully avoided reading

Kropotkin, Bakunin, Read,

Bookchin, and all the other

anarchist heavyweights. I am

embarrassed to confess that I

always found

them tedious, maddeningly abstract and irrelevant to present-day reality. Ward’s take on anarchism is refreshingly

practical and tied to our

current challenges of creating

meaningful work, affordable

housing, useful and child-centric

education and child-care,

building meaningful community,

and doing effective political

organizing.

Ward emphasizes the importance of tenants taking control of their buildings, of students and parents organizing for more humane and relevant education, and for alternative forms of work such as worker co-ops and individuals working independently rather than for an employer. He sees all these as ways of living our anarchist beliefs by demonstrating that people can create the forms of organization that they need and can empower themselves to be in charge of their lives on as many fronts as possible without coercion or guidance from an authoritarian state. For instance, he talks about the importance of individuals and groups of people in cities growing as much of our own food as possible, providing for ourselves and being more food self-sufficient. All such self-help and mutual aid projects prove that anarchism works, that people at a individual and/or local level are competent to decide what our communities need, and then create our own ways to meet those needs. His approach seems very focused on putting anarchist practices into action to solve the life-threatening problems created by capitalism and imperialism. In another example, he says that squatting vacant buildings shows the irrational and barbaric nature of capitalism, a system that allows housing to sit vacant while people are homeless and freezing in the streets, and that people can take action to house themselves.

Of particular interest to me, as a deranged militant feminist, are Ward and Goodway’s discussion of the historical importance of anarchists, from Emma Goldman to Alex Comfort and many others, in challenging and successfully overturning the sexist and sex-negative attitudes and laws in Britain, in advocating for the right to birth control, abortion, sexual freedom, and equality for women. Ward reminds us that people today cannot even imagine the rigid and suffocating sexual repression, ignorance, and sex roles of compulsory heterosexual marriage that were the rule as recently as the early 1960′s. They emphasize the dramatic changes that have occurred in a very short time, and the role that anarchists have played in fighting for equal rights for women and for sexual freedom for all. They both see the rights of each person to control their bodies, their sex lives, and their relationship choices as core anarchist values, because people are competent to create their own relationships, families, and communities without direction or restriction from the state. Ward talks extensively about the central role women have played in founding and sustaining anarchist organizations in the UK.

Ward quotes frequently throughout the book from many anarchist writers, some totally fascinating and exciting stuff! Some of the books he quotes are from the usual suspects, but many were from books and anarchists I had never even heard of. Ironically, despite my afore- mentioned aversion to anarchist theory, by the time I finished the book, I had jotted down a long list of anarchist books that I intend to read!

Book Review: Weapon: Mouth – adventures in the free speech zone by Stoney Burke

Book Review

Weapon: Mouth Adventures In The Free Speech Zone by Stoney Burke ($20 regentpress.net)

Review by Jesse D. Palmer

Back in the mid-1980s, before I worked on Slingshot, a lot of us UC Berkeley campus radical types would come out most days during lunch time and sit in a big circle to listen to Stoney Burke’s hilarious political rants/performances. Stoney was a master at saying important things about injustice and the absurd contradictions of capitalism in a funny, engaging, accessible way. He wasn’t just about entertainment—he was a part of the radical scene and he influenced my thinking and helped me articulate my critique. In the very early days of Slingshot, he MCed some benefits for us because he was the people’s celebrity.

So I was excited to look at his new book. The book is organized around short chapters that are in part auto-biographical and many of which recall material from his rants. He also includes fliers, newspaper clippings and photographs. One of the early chapters about a formative incident from his childhood when racists shot into his parents’ house and wrote “nigger lovers” on the sidewalk to punish them for holding integrated political meetings actually brought a tear to my eye. There’s a lot about his many, many, many arrests for speaking in public places. Other chapters are odes to other street personalities he has known or other famous loudmouths. He goes through his experiences at decades of protests and historical events from the UC Berkeley anti-apartheid movement to the various Republi-crat conventions to Occupy.

The title of the book is from a police report where the officer filled in “mouth” for the blank titled “weapon.” Overall, what’s impressive about Stoney is how his 35 years as a street performer exemplifies what a do-it-yourself life is really about. Stoney life is all about creating his own venues and opportunities to perform while the mainstream entertainment biz ignores him. He lives life on his own terms with few compromises, which is so hard to achieve. I hope this book will turn more people onto Stoney’s amazing work. Laughing at the absurd capitalist/eco-destroying system might be one of our best tools to bring it down in flames.