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

Se Quieren Atar! Pensamientos en Matrimonio Gay

Con todo el respecto por la búsqueda de la felcidad en cada persona, independientemente de si ésta incluye al matrimonio…

Sería bueno si pudiéramos reírnos de las personas gay que se están casando. Pero el matrimonio no es broma. A diferencia de las luchas por la justicia racial o la igualdad electoral de minorías y mujeres de décadas anteriores, basadas en un acceso individual para todos, esta lucha de derechos está basada en incrementar el acceso de algunos gays: de quienes desean legitimar la santidad de su pareja. Se trata de incrementar el acceso a servicios y privilegios económicos basados en la disposición de entrar a una relación “monógama” legitimada por el Estado.

El sentido de compromiso que alguna vez estuvo asociado con el matrimonio heterosexual ha desaparecido, dejando atrás una extraña mezcla de privilegios económicos y legales que deben ser accesibles a cualquiera, con o sin el lazo corredizo del matrinomio. Las parejas gay santificadas desean privilegios tales como derechos de inmigración, de visitas a hijos y de adopción; menores impuestos y acceso a servicios de atención médica. Mientras tanto el resto de quienes no estamos dispuestos a encadenarnos disfrutamos de una liberación a gotas que está dando un fuerte golpe a la gran burbuja homofóbica de la derecha. ¿Debemos los radicales unirnos a esta lucha mal situada por la inclusión de gays en el sistema, antes de tener alguna esperanza de aplastar las instituciones sobre las que funciona el sistema?

Sí, la respuesta intolerante de la derecha hacia el matrimonio gay, significa que realmente creen que podemos jodernos y morir. Eufóricamente enloquecemos a la derecha y llegamos a la misma realidad de siempre: algunos “queers” seguimos marginalizados por nuestros primos gay normalizados. La respuesta suntuosamente homofóbica de la derecha otorga un potencial de rompimiento sólo temporal al intento monótono de asimilación. Los liberales luchan por una sociedad inclusiva en la cual puedan preservar su rebanada de pastel dentro del contexto capitalista que necesita de la división y pobreza. Esta lucha por la inclusión no tiene principios porque está basada en la exclusion. Al igual que a heterosexuales, a los gays se les otorgan beneficios (disminución de impuestos y seguro médico) que aumentan en la medida en que las parejas se aproximan al sueño americano de clase media. Aquellos sin este privilegio, es decir, la gente trabajadora que ni en un millón de años recibirá prestaciones; personas que trabajan en las equinas; gente demasiado enferma para trabajar; locos, discapacitados, freaks sexuales, gente políticamente radical; para estos gays, el matrimonio es tan “lindo” como una repisa de madera comprimida o una choza de cartón.

La institución del matrimonio es muy tramposa. Es claro que con una tasa de divorcio del 50%, el mito del matrimonio es más fuerte que la realidad. El mito se sostiene por una fuerte economía del matrimonio (y por ende del divorcio). Entre las bodas y batallas por custodia, este nicho económico se mantiene robusto. Con la entrada del nicho gay al mercado, poderoso por derecho propio, el matrimonio estará aquí para quedarse como fuerza estabilizadora del capitalismo.

Poniendo el dinero al lado, el amor eterno y verdadero y la felicidad que prometen los votos de matrimonio son muy atractivos, pero son falacias. El amor duradero y el compromiso a otra persona, a cualquier persona, a muchas personas, funcionan a través de confianza y comunicación intensa y abierta. Muchas de las parejas gays que se están casando, hay estado juntas 10, 20 años (evidencia de que la duración de una relación no depende del acceso a las sanción del estado a través del matrimonio). Mucha gente se está casando sin ilusiones en el aspecto del compromiso, sino específicamente por los privilegios económicos y legales. ¿Quién va a exigir que la gente no haga uso de estas nuevas opciones? ¿Quién no quiere una disminución de sus impuestos? Es difícil resistir el camino de la menor resistencia cuando la marea está fuerte.

De hecho, mientras familias felices de todo tipo rodearon el City Hall de San Francisco en un ritual bizarro, la policía del sexo cerró My Place, un viejo bar en SoMa conocido como lugar de encuentros casuales de personas gay y por su sexo caliente en el cuarto de atrás. El matrimonio gay no va a ayudar a los freaks, a la gente demasiado queer como para ser empacada en blanco con moño plateado, la gente que piensa más allá de esta “liberación” flácida. La carga está ahorita en los gays que se están casando: demuestra que entiendes la complejidad fatal que la institución de la cual formas parte, y has que este movimiento de “derechos civiles” signifique algo para todos los homos.

Aquí está la verdadera lucha: no en obtener le acto de matrimonio gay en sí, sino la oportunidad, la necesidad, de realizar el trabajo pesado de desarrollar un autoanálisis de cómo el uso de la herramienta del matrimonio nos coloca sólidamente dentro de la matriz de las instituciones opresivas. No hay mejor momento que el presente para evidenciar al dios falso del matrimonio.

The Capitalist System vs the Immune System

The fight for free, universal health care is even more critical today than it was a decade ago, sacrificed to the greed of the insurance companies and HMOs. Health care is a human need, not a privilege. However, as we struggle to equalize access to health care delivery in the United States, we must also address the quality of that care, and what causes so many people to be sick in the first place. Too many of those who routinely criticize governmental, economic and foreign policies fail to challenge capitalism’s scientific and medical policies.

Public hospitals are reeling from the whip of privatization. We must oppose the dismantling of public services but, in reality, most hospitals are little more than assembly-line butcher shops where experts in the reductionist constructs of western industrial medicine prescribe drugs and perform invasive surgeries. While helpful in acute emergencies, they are devastating to general public health.

As a result of these practices, many people in the US are receiving inappropriate or inadequate care. Hysterectomies and episiotomies are carving up women at rates three or four times higher than in Europe. Inadequate prenatal care means the US has the highest infant mortality of industrial nations. Frontal lobotomies and Electro-Shock Therapy for “treating” depression and other ailments are making a comeback. Chemotherapy and radiation remain the preferred treatment for cancer despite showing no percentage increase in cancer cures for forty years. Also, new studies show that early intervention of HIV with (toxic) AZT has no beneficial effects and may further compromise the immune system.

On the other hand, most health insurance still does not cover alternative therapies, which often treat illness or restore health non-invasively and at lower costs. None of the proposed national health legislation — not even the much needed “single payer” (the Canadian model) — covers any of them. Acupuncture, air and water filtration, a toxic-free environment, herbal, botanical and homeopathic remedies, free abortion and contraception on demand (including condoms), midwifery and homebirth, organically-based foods and nutrient supplementation, chiropractic, Ibogaine (for heroin addiction), medical marijuana, clean needle exchanges, alternative cancer treatments, yoga and stress reduction, and non-toxic, holistic treatments for AIDS are driven to the margins of acceptable treatment. Most alternative therapies are viciously opposed by drug companies, the American Medical Association (AMA) and their hip-pocket congressional reps. The legislation before Congress — including single payer plans — would further entrench today’s medical orthodoxy and suppress alternative avenues for treatment.

Welcome to capitalism’s New World Order: assembly line health care, where we shall be medicated, bio-genetically altered, pesticided, toxicated and guinea-pigged by the “experts,” duly recorded in computer chips experimentally implanted in human beings, along with other information about our lives deemed relevant by the powers that be — our arrest records, travel logs, and so forth — to be accessed at the whim of police or medical officials.

Sedition or Sedation

The most widespread successes in reducing disease in the last century were accomplished not by medical intervention but primarily by providing access to decent sanitation, clean water and healthy food. Innovations like antibiotics were only effective in times of acute infection.

Despite — or due to — the huge levels of antibiotics used in the U.S. today (medication and animal feed), diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia are returning. Residents of poor areas with government cutbacks in sanitation and social services and prisoners are most susceptible. Infections such as encephalitis and influenza have skyrocketed in the general population for periods of a few months at a time immediately following nuclear tests and mass spraying of pesticides; high rates of leukemia and thyroid disease are the norm in the proximity of nuclear power plants, and afflict whole regions following accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

Current practices, including overdoses of antibiotics, do not address the deluge of systemic illnesses caused by environmental degradation. However, big pharmaceuticals continue to develop and push drugs in order to secure profits.

Systemic diseases, including malnutrition, AIDS, cancer, and chronic fatigue, are rampant. As intensive industrial production ravages the environment, our immune systems suffer. Our bodies cannot fight off preventable diseases. The capitalist system is destroying our immune systems.

The alarming situation in the U.S. cries for a radical anti-reductionist approach to health and a no-holds-barred attack on everything destroying our health today. To address these issues, we must end the poisoning of our food, air, and water. This means shutting down nuclear power plants and urban waste incinerators, forcing companies to do massive environmental clean-ups, ending toxic dumping, banning most pesticides, herbicides, additives, non-organic fertilizer, growth hormones and antibiotics in agriculture and in animal feed, and shutting down genetic engineering facilities.

We must also combat the racism that leaves people of color more susceptible to pollution and disease. This includes cleaning up the primarily Black, Latino and working class areas that receive the brunt of U.S.-generated industrial wastes and ending cash-cropping which destroys people’s self-sufficiency and nutrition. We must also support land redistribution to small farmers to localize food production and sustainability.

Subvert the Dominant Paradigm

Stephen J. Gould wrote, “Science is no inexorable march to truth… Scientists, as ordinary human beings, unconsciously reflect in their theories the social and political constraints of their times. As privileged members of society, more often than not they end up defending existing social arrangements as biologically foreordained.”

Many sacred cows are being toppled these days; yet Big Science remains popular and well-funded. Progressives must reclaim science from the AMA, the pharmaceutical industry, the tobacco industry and the federal government if we are to reclaim our health. Look at some of the advancements of science in light of capitalism. Flouridated water programs allowed for the disposal of toxic waste in the 1940s while “enhancing” our health. Nuclear power doesn’t reduce energy costs and threatens our existence as well as health. GMO crops absorb pesticides that poison us and tax soil without increasing yield. Vaccination of all children may cause serious health concerns without offering the protection hyped by manufacturers. It’s dangerous to let industry cure us.

Listening to popular science, parents are blamed for their children’s diseases instead of industrial pollution. Genes become more important than environment. This extends to workplace safety as well, when companies like DuPont screen workers for an alleged “genetic predisposition” to sickle-cell anemia. Many workers of African ancestry were fired from jobs that, the company claimed, might “bring on” the disease, based solely on their inherited genetic characteristics. Increasingly, the system tries to elude responsibility for its environmental devastation and poisoning of the earth and tries to blame the victim — in this case, ourselves.

Creating a New Scientific Method

Even the NY Times has challenged some of the reductionist methodology of western medicine and examined correlative relationships that had been incorrectly identified as causal ones. On December 24, 1991, a front page article by Natalie Angier recounts calls for physicians to “heed the wisdom of Darwin, and to take the principles of evolution and natural selection into account as they seek to cure their patients.” Just because a fever occurs when a person is sick, the researchers point out, doesn’t mean that the fever is necessarily a symptom of the disease. Many illnesses are actually the body’s response to infection. Fever allows white blood cells to more effectively attack bacteria; nausea during pregnancy helps remove toxins that could poison an embryo; and anemia during infection may help kill microbes. Correlations between disease and fever, microbes and iron-level dips, and estrogen levels in pregnant women and morning sickness can no longer be translated into simplistic cause and effect thinking. Fever is not a symptom of a bacterial disease, but one way the body responds to infection to restore its health; low iron levels during some illnesses should not be met with iron supplements, for that would compromise a natural body defense mechanism to the disease. We must look beyond cause and effect and, instead, treat the whole patient—whichever branch of medicine is used.

A holistic approach to health care is opposed to industrial capitalism’s assault upon us, as we become our own experts. We must reject medical research focused on genetics, without holistic or whole-system analyses. There is no place for research as a factory-like industry, raking in big bucks for high-tech drug companies and university researchers without addressing real health issues.

On the other hand, large grassroots movements over the last two decades have challenged the industrial medical model and those who profit from it. They have studied non-western traditions and developed new frameworks for understanding environmental and individual health. Local health initiatives are creating the basis for a people’s health care from the bottom up. They are under attack by the government, the AMA, the tobacco industry and the giant pharmaceutical companies. However, with the support of activists, their impact on the development of new models for maintaining health and treating illness will be profound.

People have a right to health care free from government repression. Activists must critique the limitations and underlying philosophy of capitalist medicine; we must create health care options to counter what the system has done to us; and, we must demand that THESE, and not industrial science’s reductionist models, be publicly funded. By involving ourselves in this effort and counterposing science from-the-bottom-up, as manifest in local projects, as our living critique of capitalist science and its underlying reductionist philosophy, we will join the emerging, vibrant, conscious working class, that sees a healthy and truly free society as possible.

Contact the author at mitchelcohen@mindspring.com.

Get Rich and Die Trying

Hollywood’s worship of apathy isn’t very surprising, why would the corporations that own the studios want us to take action against our increasingly advertising-saturated culture.

The sycophantic approval of Hollywood is usually a red light for me. When an industry that promotes vapidity over virtue bows its drooling, collective head in reverence, I tend to shake my own in disgust. When the word-of-mouth buzz surrounding a film is overwhelmingly positive, I’ll occasionally put my antipathy in check and give mainstream American cinema a shot at redemption. But Lost in Translation proved once again that “genius” is synonymous with intellectual mediocrity in moviespeak and that following the majority opinion on arts and entertainment is a really, really shitty idea.

Lost in Translation is about rich, white people feeling sorry for themselves in Tokyo. Beautiful photography, superb acting. . . revolting plot. Bill Murray plays a philandering, alcoholic, washed-up actor with a $2 million contract to promote a Japanese whiskey. Scarlet Johannson is a Yale philosophy graduate who skulks around a luxury hotel looking for the meaning of life while her inattentive husband travels the country photographing rock bands. While being served and pampered by an anonymous parade of Japanese servants, these two lost souls become intertwined through cocktails, karaoke and bad late-night TV and end up forming a sentimental bond over which Murray offers the young girl such profound insights as “when you have children. . . you’ll love them, and they’ll be the most delightful people you’ve ever known” (in the DVD interview, he called this scene “challenging”).

All the reviews I read applauded this movie for its pensive exploration into loneliness and alienation, but none of them focused on the obvious conclusion: That advertising is unfulfilling and disposable, even for those getting paid for it. The street scenes of Tokyo show a city plastered and overflowing with advertisements. Whiskey billboards featuring Murray’s solemn face simply more clutter the 3-D, neon-lit marketing hurricane engulfing Tokyo’s hyper-stimulated 20 million residents. There’s enormous potential in developing this theme, but, instead the main characters hang out and get drunk. They remain shallow and filled with ennui, resolving nothing, and making no moral progress. What a touching moral: It’s better to be crippled by spiritual inertia with someone you love.

Breaking the self-perpetuating cycle of psychological lethargy so entrenched in modern culture isn’t impossible, it just requires a little imagination. Instead of merely wandering the streets, like the aimless protagonists of Lost in Translation — reclaim them. Instead of succumbing to the glut of advertising that is turning your mind into a pop-culture garbage bin, flip the script — subvertise. And instead of pitying yourself — DANCE! Witness what happens when people turn off the TV and take action. . .

Pirates and punks, hippies and ravers, babies and bums, all smiling. The subvertised Lion King billboard overlooking the Golden Gate Park says it all, “Reclaim the Streets- Feb. 14-Noon-Be Here.” We’re here, with no sponsors, no celebrities, no headliners, no permission and no worries, and we’re ready. The impromptu marching band starts the clatter and then the mobile sound system brings the beat. Rows of cops stand to the side, in front of McDonald’s, as we scream at the cars and busses to get the fuck outta the way and we march up Haight Street. The sun shines on hundreds of partiers, united behind the “Dance into the Revolution” banner, as patrons pour out of hipster boutiques and tourist nooks lining the street to join the procession. At Haight and Ashbury, symbolic birthplace of 60’s counterculturalism, current home of The Gap, a Pirate-ship van pulls to a halt on its flat tires. Heart-shaped skull and crossbones flags are planted, proclaiming the street to be ours again, ours to do whatever we want. We dance, play soccer, draw chalk murals, set up couches and give away food and little kids jump on trampolines and it’s all totally free. A spontaneous and agenda-free celebration of life. An event of the people. Brought to you by no one.

This was a rarity, because usually when a group of people get together to have fun now, somebody’s trying to make a profit. Unfortunately, the relationship between free, unsponsored public events and the omnipresence of advertising is an inverse correlation. Corporations don’t want us having fun without their approval. Marketers are ditching the traditional channels and mediums of reaching their “targets” and evolving to become more subliminal and pervasive. Instead of reflecting culture, advertising is becoming culture. Advertising and entertainment are 69ing each other, and it’s getting tough to figure out where one starts and the other begins. In fact, the more I examine this voracious entanglement, the more it looks like they’re not just fulfilling their needs-oh shit- their trying to swallow each other whole. Meanwhile, everybody just stands around gawking with their hands in their designer jeans playing pocket pool by the open bar.

Corporations know that consumers, weary of the constant and blatant advertising assault, can tune out much of this blitzkrieg by channel surfing, flipping through the first 20 pages of most magazines, putting on headphones or simply going off in a daze as we walk past countless posters and billboards on the street. Faced with this dilemma, marketing departments now focus on selling “the brand” instead of specific products by associating themselves with the lifestyles of their target markets. For example, the goal of a corporation like Nike becomes not to convince people that they make the best shoes, but that Nike is the embodiment of all that is noble about sports. They accomplish this by sponsoring events, product placement and such generous acts of benevolence as repaving inner-city basketball courts with Nike logos (for a much deeper and far more shocking account of this phenomenon, read “No Logo” by Naomi Klein). It’s transparently obvious that these wildly expensive ad campaigns are funded by profits derived from sweat shops and domestic wage slavery, and that corporations have no loyalty to the values they espouse, only greed, but society is being so thoroughly indoctrinated with corporate ideology that consumers have become completely apathetic and/or oblivious to the machinery behind the logos. An entire generation has grown up with corporate-sponsored music tours, art exhibits and even school curriculums. Unmarketed cultural space is endangered — and people don’t even realize it.

New technology is changing the very definition of advertising. As digital video recorders (like TiVo and DirecTV) gain popularity, corporations have an even greater incentive to integrate themselves into the shows on which they advertise. Since DVR technology allows viewers to skip over commercials, marketing investment in product placements has soared. According to Businessweek, Coke spent an estimated $20 million to put cups with its logo in the judges’ hands during Fox’s American Idol, but how many people who watch the show are aware that they’re sitting through an hour-long Coke commercial?

TV isn’t the only medium where content is being encroached upon by ads. One of the most popular trends in the magazine industry is completely forsaking non-commercial editorial content for catalogue-style articles promoting fashion and high tech products. Following this “all mock-article ads — no intellectual stimulation” formula, Conde Nast’s Lucky reached a circulation of almost a million in only three years and (surprise) was voted magazine of the year by Ad Age in 2003. Rushing to duplicate this brainless success is a slew of new men’s magazines, such as Complex, Sync and Cargo, designed to appeal to today’s “image conscious male.” According to Cargo editor, Ariel Foxman, these magazines are serving a necessary purpose, because “Guys are somewhat overwhelmed by their many options.”

This contradiction is the crux of the issue — as corporations expand their power and consumers are presented with a wider array of products and channels, the result is less options, not more. As media conglomerates merge and corporations destroy the competition in every field from prescription drugs to food, our choices as consumers disappear. Go to Foot Locker and you may have dozens of styles and brands of shoes to choose from, but try finding a pair that was made by someone earning a living wage. You may have 500 channels to flip through, but try to find a show that’s content hasn’t been influenced or perverted by its advertisers and its corporate-owned network. There may be a ton of great concerts to choose from, but try seeing a show in a venue bigger than an outhouse without supporting the Ticketmaster monopoly. Many people don’t live in cities with organic or independent grocery stores or restaurants; ask them to buy produce that wasn’t sprayed with chemicals and picked by an exploited, immigrant farm laborer getting paid well below minimum wage or to buy a fast-food burger from someone getting full benefits. Ask them to survive without Wal-Mart.

The process by which corporations promote consumer-centric entertainment is simple and logical. Recording stars are created through vigorous ad campaigns, media hype and heavy radio and video rotation, and as media conglomeration increases, there is literally no possibility for dissenting voices to be heard on a widespread level. One example of the “Big Five’s” empire is the $26.6 billion media spider Viacom (the other four are Comcast-Disney, News Corp., TimeWarner, and NBC). By owning CBS, UPN, MTV, Nickelodeon and BET, as well as Paramount Pictures, publishing giant Simon & Shuster and the massive Infinity radio network, Viacoms’s power to cross-promote it’s “talent,” and spread it’s agenda is inescapable. They even own a billboard company and, in its insatiable quest for media dominance, is looking to purchase EchoStar, a satellite TV operator with over 9 million subscribers. These corporations hand-pick the people they want you idolize, and whose ideas do you think they’d rather saturate the airwaves with: Jay-Z or Dead Prez?

“Selling out” used to be a mark of shame for entertainers, a label that musicians bitterly branded upon those who forsook the voice of struggle and pride in their culture to make a quick buck. This was before Run-DMC started selling Sprite. Now they vie to see who can be the biggest sell out. Once someone has transcended music to become a corporate spokesman, they’ve “blown up.” Media conglomeration is the reason you don’t hear anybody complaining about it (they own the newspapers, too).

Like the acid rain created by their industrial counterparts, the unceasing monologue of homogenous over-consumption propagated by the mass media has seeped into the “underground.” Air pollution leads to cancer of the respiratory system, airwave pollution results in cancer of the value system. The shorter our attention spans become, the easier it is for corporations to brainwash us. By keeping us disoriented and off-balance with quick shots and jumpy, MTV-influenced camera-work, broadcasters reduce the chances of viewers forming complex, critical thoughts and maybe reaching conclusions like, “Hey, wait a minute, this show fucking sucks!”

This is why “Lost in Translation” was so disappointing. With pensive directing and patient, luxurious cinematography, it slowly built up to the reality that there’s a problem eating away at out souls. It simply failed to deal with it. It allowed the main characters to walk away from the friendship that briefly reaffirmed their faith in humanity and return to their mechanical, unfulfilling lives, and for this, it was rewarded with a slew of Golden Globes and BRITS awards.

This is the culture that America is spreading. Hollywood celebrates apathy, while the recording industry canonizes greed, and publishers just keep looking for the next big hype that will sell their disposable rags. Last year, the hottest cover-boy was 50 Cent. The title of his album — the best-selling debut album of 2003 — “Get Rich or Die Trying.” It seems to me like our society is doing both at the same time.

Newcastle Leap Day Actions

On Leap Day, people in Newcastle [UK] decided to have a day for something different. A day that challenged the cynicism, resignation and isolation that supports the status quo. A day for acting out the world we wanted to live in, not the one that suits those in power.

It was an open idea, left to people to interpret in their own way. This means that I don’t know about everything that happened, and it also means that people got involved who don’t normally come along to standard protest-y things.

We advertised the idea in ‘Act Locally’, the radical newsletter that serves the North East (subscribe by sending stamps to PO Box 1TA, NE99 1TA UK). Then we agreed that all of us would design leaflets and flyposters – a whole diversity of styles, from the political to the personal to the just plain weird. After one meeting we split into three groups (East Newcastle, West Newcastle, and random travelers), and covered as much of the city as we could.

One group designed a full-scale billboard and pasted it up on one of the main routes into Newcastle. It stayed for several days, right where the buses stop at the traffic lights.

We declared the 29th of February ‘Chat to Someone at a Bus-stop Day!’ and somebody put up phony stagecoach signs saying that bus travel was free if you could prove you’d been chatting at the bus stop.

We decided to do a free paper, which we printed on a silkscreen press. Everyone was invited to submit things, and in the end these included: – poems – a map of Newcastle with labels saying where riots, squats, victories and defeats had taken place through history – a dyslexics crossword to express what it feels like to read stuff as a dyslexic – another, politically tilted crossword – an introduction to the idea of ‘yo mango’ – plus artwork and examples of all the little ways we can take more control over our life.

We distributed these on the day, with a ‘paper-seller’ shouting ‘Free Paper’ above a big sign. They all went pretty quickly!

We also did a Free Shop at Haymarket, watched suspiciously by a scientologist swing-band.

The first thing to go was a homer simpson clock, to 2 likely lads. Then 32 spider plants, scones, posters, bath stuff, scales. It was just junk to the people who gave it away, but the shop was really popular. The sign said ‘NOT FOR SALE – NO PRICES – NO PROMOTION – NO MAILING LISTS – NO RELIGIOUSNESS – NO WASTES INTO LANDFILL’ When we were packing up the tables and the final few bits, some youngsters came along and cleared us out of everything that was left! We had great responses, with people telling us it had made their day. One Scottish fella came along, put a fiver on the table and said ‘there, have a free fiver!’ and walked merrily along!

Individually people also went round town putting arrows directing people to where CCTV cameras were. We put stickers on various subjects including ones on the metro system, which is full of signs saying ‘only LOSERS don’t buy a ticket’ — the leapday stickers therefore saying ‘You’re not a loser, you’re ace. Don’t let them put you down.’ We made chalk drawings and put up bits of tape covering up words or letters to change the meaning of signs.

Two cinema buffs restored the old billboard of a derelict cinema with a stencil design. In the Arthurs Hill area of town, somebody flyposted signs with positive messages, saying ‘This area is ace. Why not take the day to celebrate it, and celebrate yourselves.’ etc.

Then in the afternoon we met up again for a ‘mass leapfrog’. We met at the chlorine-soaked ‘pond’ in Eldon square shopping centre. A place dedicated to buying things, and where the security guards told us nothing else was allowed. We started leapfrogging, and got several chains of people hopping around the place. When we got out a parachute for a ‘parachute game’, however, the bamboozled security guards turned up and we had something of a chat about the nature of public-private space. Enjoying yourself without spending money is certainly not allowed. When we left, a little boy of maybe 4 years old was left hopping around on his own, imitating our leapfrog.

It’s hard to sum up the day in a report, but here’s some of the things said around leapday:

A young lad said to people putting up a billboard: “here mister, are you sure you’re meant to be doing that. You’re not doing a very good job of it!” They said “Well we told the boss it wouldn’t go up in this blizzard but he said it had to go up in time for leapday.”

Two people from “Stop the War” said “We saw posters about leapfrogging, is that anything to do with you?” They had got up at 6 in the morning to go to a meeting in London but saw the snow outside and gave it up to go sledging.

Two old ladies at a bus stop were overheard saying “Ooh, free travel, it says free travel on the bus tomorrow.”

As we came out of a gig a young lad said “Are you the ones who are doing leapday, I’m going to bake a cake for it!”

Gatherings

Community Bike Conference – May 14-16

Come to New Orleans for a convergence of bike coops, non-profit bike shops, bike libraries and bike folks interested in bicycles as transportation, recreation and revolution. “We want to talk about how we function (or don’t) as part of our communities, how we work together, how we started and how we’ll continue. Let’s meet, talk and have fun!” Workshops, dance party, bike parade (bring costumes.) Free, but contact them to let them know you’re coming and to figure out where it will be — PO Box 72581, New Orleans, LA 70172, 504-944-0366, yoni@bikeproject.org

Wild Earth 2004

- May 24-30

Wild Earth is an annual gathering of activists, anarchists, communitarians, elves, faeries, permaculturists, taoists, soverigntists, punks, primitivists and the like. This will be the 6th annual gathering and is promising to be the best yet. United in the belief that another world is possible and engaged in the process of making it so. There will be a wide selection of workshops, skillshares and discussions. Contact us if you would like to offer an activity during the gathering. Take a look at the website for updated info. People are welcome from far and wide, travel subsidies may be possible if needed (contact us in advance). Mt. Elphinstone Sunshine coast, BC, Canada.

www.geocities.com/wildearth2004

wildearth2004@yahoo.com

AMC 2004 in Bowling Green, Ohio will feature sessions on making, networking, and celebrating independent media projects. This year’s AMC will also feature the second annual Symposium on Media Literacy in Education with workshops and lectures geared specifically toward educators of all stripes. Also on the bill is an all-day independent film festival slated for Saturday, and of course plenty of entertaining activities throughout the weekend. We’re also excited to announce that this year’s AMC will be held in Bowling Green State University’s new state-of-the-art Student Union, which offers us an ideal environment for both getting down to business and spending quality time networking. For pre-registration forms, session proposal forms,etc.: www.clamormagazine.org/amc

New Techniques for Freedom

50,000 protesters leave from midtown to the convention center on a march route approved by police months ago. Giant puppets poke their heads out of the crowd as masked kids spray paint some corporations and pump up the energy with drumming. As the crowd approaches the convention center, cop lines block off the route. They try to move around the cops, only to find themselves pushed back away from the convention. A smaller group of black-clad kids breaks off and rushes through a police line. Overturning dumpsters and smashing Starbucks, they continue on towards the convention center. A few blocks later, the police mass on the group, firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Billy clubs and blood fly. Hundreds are arrested, dozens hospitalized, and six people just “disappear”. Inside, the Republican National Convention continues without interruption.

Think this is just a nightmare fantasy about New York? Look at Sacramento. Look at Miami. Timoney will be back, and this time he’ll probably have more than $8 million to bust heads. The police have changed their tactics in the past few years and gotten a lot tougher. The black bloc isn’t effective anymore. We can’t just fight the cops head on and win. We’ve got to change our tactics or we’ll be smeared on the pavement.

Sun Tzu’s classic book, The Art of War,offers a strategy for effective confrotation:

- In defense, don’t commit to a form. When the enemy probes, they can’t find any weakness.

- In offense, be ready to attack anywhere when an advantage appears.

- To force the enemy to commit and expose their weaknesses, you can entice them with a tempting target. Be prepared to sacrifice the target to win the battle.

In general, make it impossible for the enemy to predict your actions. The theory is to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Don’t group together in well-known places; constantly shift positions. The element of chaos will keep them confused. Offer up decoys, wait for them to commit, probe their weaknesses, then attack where you can assure victory. Always be ready to dissolve again to avoid a counter-attack. If there is an obvious target, especially a purely symbolic one like a palace of a fence, be very wary – most likely, they’re prepared to defend it.

Taking Sun Tzu’s ideas and mixing in modern ideas of coordinated chaos and swarming, we get a whole new approach – one where we can beat the cops. The radical and militant elements shouldn’t all group together – not at the convergence space and not in the marches as a black bloc. Stay in small bands and try to blend into the city as much as possible. Don’t focus on the target they want us to attack, the whole city is fair game. From defense contractors to the mayor’s house, from changing billboards to blocking roads, there are literally thousands of targets and actions that can make a big impact. You love the images of ninjas and pirates? Well, it’s time to start acting like them and get invisible.

Show up a few weeks in advance, before all the cops start working overtime. Work in small bands of tight friends. Spread out over the whole city. And there will be no way the cops can stop us. If they guard a few spots, hit whatever’s unprotected. If they spread thin to cover everything, group up with some other crews and hit them where they’re weak. We thrive on chaos, unpredictability, and hundreds of things happening at once – the exact things that overwhelm their centralized control. This summer, we play by our rules, and turn the whole city into a giant symbol of resistance. This summer New York is ours! I’ll be there… will you?

The Republication National Convention will be August 29 – September 4 in NYC. For more info, contact. www.rncnotwelcome.org.