Category Archives: Issue #123: spring to action 2017

It’s human to share

By Crow

A few years back at the Toronto Anarchist Book-fair, I was browsing tables and came to one full of herbs, salves, homemade patches, and the like. I struck up a conversation with the woman tending her wares, who is a herbalist. Within minutes, she had told me about an intentional community that she is a part of in New Brunswick and had essentially offered me a hectare of land if I wanted to move there… though I would have to live there for four seasons before building a house.

It’s not every day that you get an offer like that. I took her card and told her I would visit… when I got around to it. I hung onto the card for over two years, and now I’m here. I’m not planning to move here, but I am very interested in experiments in community organization. This is a good case study, and unlike most intentional communities that anarchists are a part of, this one is public. They have a website and they’re open to visitors. And did I mention that they’ll give you a free hectare of land?

So, what’s the deal? It’s called a Community Land Trust (CLT)

. It is a way for the land to be owned not by one individual, but by a community as a whole. A CLT is a non-profit corporation created to take land off the speculative marketplace, and place it into a system of trusteeship, thereby retaining the use-value of the land for the benefit of a community. In doing so, CLTs can provide secure and affordable access to land for housing, farming, small businesses, and civic projects.

Without getting too specific, individual residents typically lease the land they build their homes on. Residents make an annual lease payment which helps the CLT pay for property taxes and collectively owned improvements to the land (driveways, wells, etc). The lease may be for a plot large enough for just a house and a small yard, or more extensive, depending on how the CLT members decide to distribute it. The lease contract may last up to 99 years with opportunity for renewal; for all intents and purposes it is just like owning land, without having to shoulder the burden alone. If one wishes to leave the land trust, they may sell any improvements to the land, and transfer over their land title to the membership of the CLT.

It’s truly a beautiful community. It’s definitely not a commune. It’s more of a rural neighbourhood – members of the community have their own houses, gardens, family units, etc… They don’t necessarily interact on a daily basis. They help each other out on an as-needed basis and they come together for meetings, feasts, and socials.

Everything is walking distance, with the houses are clustered around one building. This central hub of the community is called the Knowlesvilles Art and Nature Centre, which is a school. It’s housed in a beautifully renovated old church-house, heated by wood. The classroom is one single room, and also serves as the place where meetings, feasts, and workshops are held. It seems like quite the idyllic locale to raise a family. And that’s what folks are doing.

Reflections

What inspired me write this article was a zine I found while digging through my host’s impressive collection. It’s called “North East of Mainstream”. It talks about the Falls Brook Free School, which it describes as “a chance to come together and share skills, discussions and ideas” and “a free exchange of knowledge and good will”.

Earlier today, my first day in Knowlesville, I visited two of the founders, who invited me in for pancakes. They told me that the land trust grew out of the Falls Brooks Free School. This lit my mind up with inspiration. You see, what keeps me going is my belief that when people work together in a certain spirit, that spirit will gain a life of its own, and things that one group does today could lead to something ten years from now that never would have happened if they hadn’t been active. In this way I can motivate myself to believe that the things I do are meaningful, even when their results are not evident.

Case in point, Northeast of Mainstream directly states: “The Falls Brook Free School was inspired by the Tatamagouche Summer Free School, which has been bringing together open minds and revolutionizing education for years.” The lineage of inspiration is clear to see. And this community is growing. Kids are growing up here, learning a way of life that is connected to the land. Where will the legacy of the Tatamagouche Free School lead from here? It has a spirit and a life of its own now, which nothing can undo.

Another case in point is La Marche des Peuples Pour La Terre Mere. This 44-day-long walk took place a few years back, and was meant to harness the momentum generated by the anti-fracking movement in Quebec and direct towards anti-pipeline campaigns. The relationships formed over the course of this walk later led to the creation of a large eco-anarcha-feminist social centre in Trois-Pistoles, on the shores of the St. Lawrence river.

L’Auberge de la Greve, as it is known, is a magical place, celebrated in song as “a little paradise”. A few words will not suffice to convey what a beautiful incubator of freedom l’Auberge is, and how many people’s lives it has touched deeply over the past two years. And we can take it further still, for most of its founding members became comrades in the Quebec student strike of 2012, which itself was the culmination of innumerable people’s work over the course of decades… So as I trace the genealogy of the inspiration behind l’Auberge de la Greve, I see how the energy and passion of radicals from the past have been transferred to me, and this realization fills me with gratitude, for to what extent has my life been enriched because of their influence?

This leads me to something that I’ve often desired to convey. That we anarchists are a part of a spiritual lineage stretching back into the ancient wilderness from which we all emerged. We carry the blood memory of what it means to be free, and we have chosen to make our loyalty to that memory the primary focus of our lives. When I honour my ancestors, I honour not only my blood ancestors, but also all those radicals and revolutionaries who came before us, who fought not only for their freedom, but also for ours. As we tread deeper and deeper into the storm of storms, may we remember the courage of those who came before us, that to fight for freedom is to partake of a communion with some of the bravest, most beautiful and most brilliant souls that have ever graced the Earth… and that surely, through many darker days, our forebears maintained faith in the eventual triumph of human decency through sheer force of will.

Let’s honour them. Let’s keep that faith, and let’s keep it strong. If ever the world’s needed it, it needs it now. To indulge fantasies of doom, to wallow in despair, to submit to gloom – these responses are unworthy of us. No matter how hateful and wilfully ignorant some humans might choose to be, I maintain that humanity is fucking beautiful, so help me Goddess, tabernak.

But I digress. Back to Knowlesville. Look, if we’re going to live our values as eco-anarchists, we have to learn to live without fossil fuels. This needs we need access to land. Now you know that there is a place where you can go and begin to live the off-grid dream without having a save up a shit-ton of money first. What’s more, there is an entire community of people who want to help newcomers attain that dream. So what are you waiting for?

My belief is that most people need to experience something before it becomes real for them. Unless you venture out and seek out examples of existing intentional communities, they might seem like a naive fantasy. Once you visit a functional community, it just seems natural that people should live together in such a way. Once you have something to compare it to, it’s capitalism that appears insane. It makes sense for people to share land, resources, knowledge, to help each other out as needed. It’s normal to live together. It’s normal to share – it’s what millions of years of evolution prepared us to do.

So there you have it: an invitation to a new life. Maybe this article will inspire someone to visit Knowlesville, and maybe they’ll decide to put down roots there. Maybe they’ll raise their kids there, and the lives of those kids will be forever altered, along with those of everyone they influence over the course of their lives. Maybe this one article will have a big impact on the lives of many people. Maybe not. Whatever will be will be. What matters to me is that I am able to sustain the belief that my actions carry within them the power to alter destinies.

There’s no telling what the actions that you take today will lead to. If you hold onto your motivation, if you persevere, one day one of the things you do will create ripples beyond what you’d be imagine from your current vantage point. So keep plugging away at what you do in the spirit of total freedom. Surely good will come of it. Trust yourself, take courage, and hold faith in the strength of the vision that we have of the world beyond the wall.

 

Berkeley bites

By Wendy M.A.D. & the Lost Girl-Boys

So, when you need a Tarot reading bad and someone pulls out a Waite deck, and you’re all like, “Great, next are we going to put training wheels on my touring bike?” Like, seriously, get a Thoth deck or go home.

Pro tip: If a woman is cooking something, that does not mean she is cooking it for you.

Some folks are rocking the Jungian archetype thing. That’s cool. You’re channeling mythic figures as part of your performance art, which is also your life. Awesome. What’s not cool is if you’re a white dude and you start acting like Aunt Jemima came to town every time you encounter a black person and, to make matters worse, you loudly bully every black person that comes into your community space in ways that are clearly trying to push them to act like they are in some racist 1950s Disney cartoon. (I wish I was talking about nothing, but there are a couple folks on the scene who seriously do this). News flash: people of color are not your animus. Each one is on their own individual archetypal journey just like you, and pushing them into the role of nature/the familiar is fucked up. If it “seems like” someone keeps falling into that role when around you, try holding space for them to behave otherwise. Jeez!

Oh my god, are those freaking psychics having another conference at their institute downtown? Ugh. Watch out for self-proclaimed “professional psychics”–especially near Milvia Street. If one of them offers to “fix your aura,” what they mean is “Let me buzz around you interacting with my own imaginary constructs for a while until somebody gets hurt.” It’s better not to make eye contact with these folks–for their own protection. If any of them knew even half the real magic going down in Berkeley and the Hills, they’d crap their tighty-whities. After their conference ends, they’ll fly back to Omaha or wherever and pretend Berkeley gave them magic powers and start scamming people. Ugh.

Speaking of posers, am I the only one around here who’s not a huge fan of Starhawk? Sure, she wrote some neat books, but why does she have to piss on L.A.? We need to be doing ecological organizing in L.A., not dismissing them for being “unenlightened” or whatever. Fuck that! Plus, her ridiculous ego-stroking retreats tend to really mess up the organizers that go on them. Enough gurus already. Time for openhearted community connecting. Embrace the ambiguity!

Well okay, actually Thoth decks really aren’t that great for most people. Like, Waite decks (and the myriad of spin offs) are great for normative people with families, jobs, and consistent social lives. Thoth decks, on the other hand, are really only good if you’re doing a reading for a witch or a wizard.

Watch out for polite, inconsiderate people. If you let them into your home, they will trip you up constantly while making you feel guilty about calling their inconsiderate bullshit out. These people tend to think of emotional conflicts in terms of winning and losing, and they intend to win. Ugh. If someone says they excel in “non-violent communication” during a housemate interview, that’s a huge red flag.

Guys complain about getting cock-blocked, but women have to deal with being career-blocked. Queer people too. Like that moment when, in your ostensibly egalitarian co-op house, you realize there is a semi-secret “boy’s night” where all the cis-men go out and drink and ultimately create companies together and increase each other’s wealth, but the cis-ladies and queer folks are totally left out, and are even mansplained to over breakfast about how important it is for cis-men to have their “weekly bonding time” with other cis-men… #careerblocked.

The weird thing about going to Crowley Mass isn’t that you’re watching a naked man and woman having sex on stage. It’s the way you feel about sex afterwards… Almost as if sex isn’t a biggie after all. Almost as if there’s a giant conspiracy to lead everyone to chase after the idea of sex in this aggro/scarcity way, and the Crowley Mass, weirdly, is the one place in this society that isn’t part of a sex cult.

So, just because race doesn’t exist biologically (#RobertSussman) doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist as a cultural thing—which is to say, half the people you meet make weird arbitrary judgments about you based on what they perceive to be racial indicators. Some white people claim “I don’t see race” but that is actually called Colorblind Racism, and is a super racist way of trying to opt out of making changes to our hella racist culture.

So the thing about the Thoth and Waite Decks is they emerged from sexist, racist circumstances, and the material circumstances underlying those –isms are hella embedded in them. That’s the mixed blessing of a good oracle deck: it embeds the cultural milieu from which it arose. A good deck ties the patterns of possibility within the milieu to archetypal figures, so if your reality is consistently sexist and racist, your archetypes will be as well. And once they are established, those archetypes will continue to influence those who are rocking the subconscious flow: our storytellers and elders. It’s a vicious cycle in which our social order is embedded in our stories/magic, which gets embedded into our social order. But which one do you change first?

So, if you are waiting around for someone specific in your life to give you some kind of emotional validation, you’re never going to get it. Your daughter is never going to apologize, your old friend is never going to reconcile about that thing that happened on that road trip. If you’re going to keep people in your life, you have to learn to deal with the fact they aren’t going to see things from your point of view—You’re the only person who lives in your head. Sometimes a conversation with a sparkly stranger can make you think your regular people are all a bunch of assholes, but just remember, that stranger has zero commitment to you, so they can say whatever the hell they want. Think about it.

Being “Up for Whatever” is generally a nice approach to life, but there’s this funny problem because when you tell a person “I’m up for whatever,” sometimes they interpret your words as, “I want to put your dick in my mouth.” Seriously, every community has at least a couple people like that—folks who perceive any ambiguity as an indictor you are flirting with them. **shudder** These people tend to also be serial non-consensual touchers and harassers. — There will always be a drove of bright-eyed new folks entering your space or movement, but if your new people don’t tend to stick around, someone in your group is probably touching, lurking, or stalking the bright-eyed newbs. The best way to judge whether this is happening is to look around at your core membership (people who have been continually on the scene for 3+ years) and if those people are 80% male or more, you’ve probably got a serial consent violator on your hands. It only takes one person like that to scare off (and hella traumatize) 20+ new people a year. Think about it. And when you’re done thinking, act like a real activist and do something about it.

Hey, so right after the election, union organizer Jane McAlevey came to town and gave this awesome talk about how the dude who just got elected President is a classic union buster. Like, everything he did on the campaign trail—pitting people against each other along the lines of race, gender, class, etc—is totally out of the “union busting firm playbook.” These are tried and true ways capitalists use to gain and keep power: get everyone to fight with each other while you take away their benefits and pad your pockets with the profit of their labor. Like, for example: if a group of nurses is trying to organize to demand better pay, the insurance company that runs the hospital will hire a public speaker to come say: “Women don’t need better pay—they need to take a step back and be at home.” A statement like this cleverly divides everyone immediately. Why? Because to some people it sounds like a mere opinion—meaning they feel it is okay to debate about it and discuss it abstractly. But to everyone else who is identified as a woman, a statement like that is not an opinion: it is a deep-seated threat to their autonomy and rights. So then, when the non-threatened party starts talking about the statement in a rapid, detached, abstract way, everyone else flips their shit. Jane’s advice: resolve union busting conflicts immediately. Get the two parties together, face to face, around a table, so they can talk it out and come to an understanding that day. Don’t let people brood, or have it blow it up on the internet. Also, when you hear someone acting as if immigrants and Mexican-Americans and Muslim-Americans are “all worked up over nothing,” seriously sit down and have a conversation with them. Their view is rooted in the fact that they get to have an opinion about certain statements of the administration, rather than have their very sovereignty targeted and threatened by those statements.

So, there is a Collective Tarot Deck that a bunch of folks made in 2012. It’s possible to find a copy if you look hard enough. The collective deck is great because it focuses on the energy that builds and sustains collectives, rather than the bigoted capitalist accumulation model that’s embedded in all that Golden Dawn stuff. The Collective Deck is great because it doesn’t make the mistake of pushing women into emotional labor and/or goddess roles, and men into detached and/or hyper-aggressive roles. And the deck also centers people of color, a lot like Rogue One. The collective deck also has a bunch of serious problems though, in terms of unresolved or over-resolved energy. Like it doesn’t give you a straight, homogenous path for interpretation the way the old racist, patriarchal decks do. Go figure. Maybe once collective culture stabilizes, we’ll see more solid lines of divination emerge.

I recently met someone who’s a professor at one of those new east coast magicscholas where they train people in the use of consensual magic and charms. He’s noted that in his spellcrafting courses, the incantations become more potent with repetition—like, there isn’t any right or wrong answer on the first day of class (he lets students make up all their spells from scratch) but the longer they go on exposing each other to the spells they came up with, the more potent certain spells become. It seems like the spells that become most potent has more to do with the crafter than any sort of authorial pre-ordained mumbo jumbo. But if we’re just drawing magic from anywhere, rather than some authoritative cannon, that would be anarchy!

The moral of the story is: of course magic is real. It’s just more boring than you think. And you still have to do your dishes and deal with creeps!

Introduction to Slingshot issue #123

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

We had a moment of hesitation about how this issue would fit into the current moment — which is intense in so many ways. It is exhilarating to see so many people out in the streets, which counteracts the worst fears many of us were feeling before it became apparent the degree to which millions of people would step up. Nonetheless, with so much going on, it can be hard to focus and figure out how to fit in.

As a longstanding radical project, one impulse was to drop everything and concentrate on responding to what has felt like a particularly acute crisis. But another way to go — which is what we ended up doing — is to focus on continuing the work we were doing beforehand, because we were already in a crisis beforehand.

Doing Slingshot is part of the way we’ve stayed engaged and tried to build something positive out of the ashes of the world. Developments in electoral politics are real and have impacts, but they’re also distractions from the fundamental ways in which society is crushing the earth and most of its inhabitants.

There are no easy answers or quick fixes. Instead, what’s necessary is a diversity of tactics in the most broad sense of the word, ranging from pushing back against authoritarians, to underground art spaces, to disorder in the streets, to land trusts, to new types of language — and culminating in building new ways we relate to each other, to our internal worlds, and to the earth.

Slingshot is a print-on-paper publication in an age of instant computerized information. It takes about 2 weeks for an article to go from being written to it appearing in print, and because of that time lag, many topical things that we might want to write now will either be irrelevant or even quaint by the time you read this. At some point, we decided to do our best, publish the articles we liked, and hope they’ll be useful, come what may.

Doing the paper the way we do — with a big unruly crowd of people crammed into a chaotic loft — helped us get over our own sense of disorientation, indecision and isolation. With a good crew, you can do anything. If you’re feeling unsure and fearful, if you find a posse it might help you calm down and get back to your important work.

Keep in mind: we’re not re-arranging the deckchairs on the titanic — we’re using them to build barricades and boats!

You’ll notice that we’ve done our best to avoid publishing the small-handed guy’s name in the paper, not just to avoid giving him even more of the publicity that is his oxygen, but because this isn’t just about one looney leader. Or, as Mike noted, “so much for playing spades in the county jail.”

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

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

Thanks to the people who made this: Aaron, Artnoose, B, Caroline, Claire, Dov, Eggplant, Elke, Eric, Hayley, Isabel, Iwasa, Jesse, Kerry, Korvin, Mike, Sam, Scott who made the cover and all the authors and artists!

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on March 19, 2017 at 7 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 124 by April 15, 2017 at 3 pm.

 

Volume 1, Number 123, Circulation 22,000

Printed February 10, 2017

 

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94705

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

Phone (510) 540-0751 • slingshot@tao.ca slingshot.tao.ca • twitter @slingshotnews

 

Slingshot free stuff

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage. Send $3 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. slingshot at tao.ca

 

Circulation information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income, or anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. Say how many copies and how long you’ll be at your address. In the Bay Area pick up copies at Long Haul and Bound Together books, SF.

 

 

 

 

 

Off our knees

By Mike Lee

Homelessness describes an economic condition and not a person, place or thing. To be homeless means a person is experiencing a condition where they do not have the economic resources to purchase shelter.

Current public policy approaches homelessness as a moral question, while also, using it to further a political agenda. As such the solutions they design are not created to solve or even mitigate the crisis but to flim-flam their constituents into believing how concerned they are. “Oh I feel so bad about all these homeless people — but just look what I’ve done to help!”

The result of this is that a new language based on half-truths or outright distortions is created. Terms like “service-resistant” are commonly bantered around. “Oh look I’ve created this but the homeless don’t use it because they are service-resistant. Look at all these wonderful things I’ve created for the homeless people but they are so ungrateful!”

An uninformed public readily accepts this and also other characterizations like, “Homeless people are lazy, drug addicts, crazy people….” In reality, however, homelessness historically serves a very important purpose to maintain the dominant paradigm. Homeless people are a constant reminder to the housed working class that unless they toe the line their fate will be living in a doorway too.

“If you join that union I’ll fire you and you’ll wind up like that bum,” chortles the abusive boss.

Reluctantly, people continue to slave away at tasks which they hate and, at the end of the day, only benefit the very few. The majority are constantly scrambling to maintain or increase their financial resources so they don’t wind up as one of the homeless. Eventually, despite their best efforts, a few may fail. Their failure has little or nothing to do with personal endeavors. It has more to do with the needs of an economic system which places profit before people.

As more and more “jobs” are automated, there is created a situation where the necessity for actual labor is eliminated. For instance, every major grocery store now has self-checkout, eliminating the need for cashiers. Both McDonald’s and Burger King have taken pro-active steps to automate production eliminating even more jobs. Is it possible to have a robot cook your GMO hamburger? Well robots build cars in Detroit, why not flip burgers in Berkeley?

While jobs are being quickly eliminated by automation, the need to keep workers alive diminishes. Schemes like subsidized housing, food stamps, etc. become an unnecessary burden on the profit-driven system. These programs were created for the purposes of appeasing the working class and providing a minimal method of survival. As wealth becomes more and more centralized, however, a worker’s fate is quickly becoming either being chained to the assembly line for the lucky few or, more likely, for the majority to shiver in a doorway void of any safety net.

While the homeless population increases its visibility, the state’s reaction is to pass draconian laws targeting life-sustaining behavior. According to Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) 58 California cities “…ban at least one nighttime activity such as sleeping, camping, and lodging in vehicles. These laws deprive people of the right to rest in a public place, protect themselves from the elements, or sleep in a legally-parked car without legal consequences.”

In order to fly under the radar most homeless people will isolate themselves from the rest of the population, choosing to suffer in silence rather to protest being constantly kicked and abused. However, on October 1, 2016 a handful of homeless people decided enough was enough. As part of the self-advocacy group, “First They Came For The Homeless,” a series of protests identified as “Snubbed By The Hub Poor Peoples Tour 2016-2017″ was initiated. Several other community organizations joined this outbreak to call attention to the lack of services provided to the homeless and for housing that they could afford.

The main tactic employed by this very vocal group is to establish a location similar to what Hakim Bey described as a “Temporary Autonomous Zone based on Mutual Aid and Voluntary Cooperation.” Instead of a single tent, a highly visible critical mass is created with at least 15 tents along with huge colorful banners.

Simultaneously, a prominent tactic of this nomadic protest is providing hot food, blankets, and warm clothes to the at large homeless community. At one point this year, the poor tour was the only emergency shelter open. In the near future, the tour and its community partners will be opening a medical clinic that will be staffed 24/7. It is deliberately designed to primarily serve the needs of tour participants as well as all those in need, housed and houseless alike (https://www.gofundme.com/homeless-mobile-medical-unit)

The City’s reaction was swift, and what they thought, decisive. On October 7th at around 5:00 am, the Berkeley Police Department stormed the encampment, waking people up. Tents were immediately targeted for destruction. In a frenzy of mayhem, the BPD and unidentified city workers cleared the area, destroying or disposing of any property that they declared was abandoned.

Since then this campaign of terror and harassment has been repeated at least 15 times, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost personal property, mainly items which clearly were being used to shelter people from the elements. During this campaign, several people have been assaulted and arrested, including Barbara Brust from “Consider the Homeless” and Nanci Armstrong-Temple, a candidate for Berkeley City Council’s District 2.

Each raid costs the City an estimated $30,000 for a total cost to date $450,000. This does not include the costs of hospitalization for five people, incarceration, and trials for citations. Clearly the city could have housed a lot of people for far less money than it has spent. Instead it chooses to allow people to die in the streets as it pursues its pogrom of the homeless.

When asked what it hopes to accomplish by continually chasing homeless people around, there is a deafening silence. Without an official response one can only assume this campaign is designed to eliminate the homeless by emulating the manner which Nazi Germany used to eliminate dissidents, Jews, Roma, the disabled, etc. It is very easy to identify where the Tour has visited. In its wake the city has used plastic safety fencing to cordon off huge areas of open space thus preventing them from returning.

During the 1930s, groups of people such as nonconformists and pacifists were often classified as asocial or unsettled. Their fate was to be assigned to labor camps as slaves of the state. Is this the goal of the current public policy? One can only guess.

What is known is that in order to abolish the Gordian knot of homelessness, a significant redistribution of wealth is required. Under a Trump administration this is unlikely to happen soon even in a small way.

In order to confront their own situation, homeless people have taken the bold step of self-organization. Collectively they decided not to suffer in silence but to rise Off Their Knees and demand the right to exist, a legal campground and housing we can all afford. As the “Poor Tour” continues, that demand gets louder. It is also amplified by community support and involvement. Together both the housed and the houseless link their arms, creating real solutions that save lives.

 

Coming unglued

By Jesse D. Palmer

As Slingshot goes to press, the collective isn’t sure if we should go to press. Events are moving so fast that it feels hard to imagine that what we write now — which will take at least 2 weeks to reach readers — will still be relevant. It is also hard to write Slingshot articles right now because the level of tension and distraction in the air is so high. We’re choking on alternative facts and intentionally cruel, divisive executive actions that are designed to keep everyone off balance, dominate the discussion, and prevent opponents from having the mental space to formulate alternative narratives.

Part of me can see this as an opportunity. The world has come un-glued, and it is about time because the world before November 2016 wasn’t sustainable and needed to be re-organized. Economic inequality and environmental degradation have reached a breaking point. I had hoped that rapid change would come in a more positive revolutionary fashion, but now that we’re here, there’s no going back. We can fight with all our energy and possibly emerge from this crisis to a better place, but if we lose it is hard to say how dark things might get. I wrote an article last week expressing my hopes (see pg. 13) , but it didn’t grab the collective, who thought it was too fluffy. So before I get to what I see may be a silver lining, it may be useful to embrace fear and catastrophe because it explains why so many people are freaking out, losing sleep, and being pushed into the streets.

This moment is about fear. The authoritarian nationalist regime took power by appealing to fear of the “other” — muslims, Mexicans, mythical urban cores in chaos (read “black people”), gays, coastal elites — and it worked and won a minority of votes.

With people who hate us holding all branches of government, those of us who’ve been defined as the “other” are now living with a heightened sense of fear about what might happen, and the speed with which events are moving is only adding to this sense. But it’s important to take a step back and recognize that many people were living in fear long before November. What is new is that a lot of mainstream whites feel the threat now, too.

We’ve all known bullies like this before, but it was usually as a kid on the playground. They get off on causing pain and fear for its own sake and they’re smug and self-righteous about it. Now that these immature jerks control the nuclear codes, the FBI, the army, prisons, ICE, the park service, the EPA, etc., it is easy to imagine the worst. When they cavalierly say “torture works,” or speak approvingly of Japanese internment camps, they know it scares us, and we can’t help but imagine what it would be like. For many people the moment of “Never Again” is here right now.

We’re used to breaking the world into categories — the mainstream, radicals and the right wing — but the categories have come unglued. In some respects, what’s going on is a split between elite factions. Globalist elites are being crushed by nationalist authoritarians — and not just in the US, but around the world from the Philippines to many places in Europe. Many mainstream people supported liberal globalist elites, while radicals oppose all elites and by extension mainstream people and their soulless consumerist culture. Radicals see normal people as cogs in an elite machine even when they aren’t part of the elite themselves.

Oversimplistic generalizations can be helpful, but they are risky. Some of the people pouring into the streets are radicals who oppose not only the authoritarian buffoons, but also capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy. But a lot of more mainstream people are out in those streets right now, too — people you’ve known since grade school who’ve never been to a protest before . . .

They are motivated by fear and a recognition that the authoritarians are serious about taking down values and institutions they believe in and rely on — pluralism, democracy, religious freedom, the national park service, environmental laws, public education, science, academic freedom, abortion rights and some degree of racial tolerance. From a radical point of view, it is hard get excited about merely defending these values which have been remarkably compatible with maintaining a fundamentally unjust, environmentally unsustainable, and oppressive society.

Nonetheless radicals do have a crucial role to play at this moment. Protests against the authoritarian nationalist regime that are fueled primarily by mainstream concerns have borrowed some radical tactics and rhetoric — the people’s mic, occupations, the idea of being a member of the Rebel Alliance, etc. While the protests might not be a “radical” protest movement like some we have seen, the ungluing of normal order is shaking millions of people’s understandings of the world. The globalist elites have proven themselves incapable of protecting regular people from the very real threat of tyranny. So people are looking for alternatives.

If radicals can keep our calm and avoid the temptation to react in an isolated, nonstrategic fashion to each new outrage, there is space for radicals to help shape this ungluing so that rather than just restore ourselves to a previous unjust order, we help move the world to a new, better place.

A first step is uniting behind a slogan: Resign. My hope is that by the time you read this article — 2 or more weeks after I’m writing it — everyone will have coalesced around Resign as our united and universal demand. Such a demand means we don’t need to let the authoritarians set the agenda, leaving us to protest each new outrage in isolation. Demanding resignation has the capability to unite millions of people across single issue concerns and across demographic groups. We don’t have to all agree with each other about why we demand resignation — for people who believe in America and its institutions, it can be because he is un-American — he has betrayed the most basic ideas that underlie the myth upon which the country was founded. But you don’t have to believe in America to demand Resignation. And it doesn’t matter that Resign trades one asshole for another — because this is about seizing the narrative, exercising our collective power, and limiting the damage the authoritarians can inflict.

Demanding resignation is not a pipe dream. It is a common demand around the world and throughout history, it frequently succeeds against long odds, and it is no more unlikely than the dream-like reality we’re currently experiencing. The buffoon isn’t having a good time — it doesn’t seem like he even wanted to have the job — he’s just not sure yet how to save face and blame his resignation on someone else. We need to practice riding the waves and seeing what is possible rather than talking ourselves out of this adventure before it can really get started. As I write this, the idea of a national General Strike is beginning to bubble up — and for all I know it will be entirely mainstream by the time you read this — which would have been unthinkable and laughable just a few weeks ago. When they go low, we need to shoot high.

Beyond resignation, radicals should push with all our might so this isn’t just about one leader resigning, but becomes a broad demand for re-design of the system. It is a paradox that people who supported the authoritarian nationalists share our rejection of elites. Rather than fighting with other working people who are being played by the 1%, let’s figure out language and tactics that allow the 99% to unite and share the world we have built.

Historical moments when elites are discredited and at war with other elites have often opened opportunities for social progress — think the depression/WWII and the US Civil War. These moments didn’t create utopia — fundamental injustice remained after slavery was abolished and after the New Deal — but in such historical watersheds it was radicals like abolitionists and unionists who pushed ideas that lead to progress. We can’t know what progress might end up looking like this time, but radicals can help organize coherent demands based on radical values and vision.

Given the environmental collapse we are facing — which is in the end our first priority — we have to push to defeat authoritarian nationalism and leverage our victory to shut down the fossil fuel industry. It is no mistake that the nationalists overlap so thoroughly with extractive industry and short-term, extinction thinking. We need to transform this ungluing so that the dehumanizing, unsustainable system we’ve been stuck with is replaced by structures that allow people to live their lives in harmony with others and the earth.

As radicals in this tense moment — with so much at risk and so much which could be gained — we need to be focused and do better. Radicals typically form a circular firing squad — fighting each other and not our real enemies. We alienate people who could be our allies by demanding purity when we could seek unity. We need to look around and feel the vibe — millions of people are yearning for radical alternatives to the elites who have failed them, and the nationalists have nothing to offer but hate. Are we ready to get out of our sandboxes and share the ideas and visions we’ve been nurturing? See you out on the barricades.

Becoming an abortion provider

 

By Caroline Vu

“This is the last time I will go around the block before the clinic starts thinking I am one of these protesters,” I finally decided. I was about to begin my internship with South Wind Women’s Center in Oklahoma City, when a wave of apprehension hit me so strong I wasn’t sure if I would ever have the courage to drive past the cluster of protesters swinging their plastic babies and posters of inaccurate portrayal of abortion procedures in the air. Science isn’t real in certain parts of America.

This was in the summer of 2015, when legislation restricting abortion was skyrocketing with nearly 400 bills introduced that year. I had just finished my first year in medical school and as an aspiring obstetrician/­gynecologist I wanted to learn more about abortion, a simple medical procedure that is purposefully left out in the majority of medical school curricula. I always knew that I’d practice in underserved rural areas of America, but I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an abortion provider as well. The next logical step was to do an internship in one of the most restricted and hostile states in the country to see if I could handle the pressure of being constantly scrutinized by anti-abortionists. I took a deep breath, held my head high, and finally turned into the lot, making sure not to lock eyes with anyone who already despised everything about me. It was all or nothing at this point.

My stance towards abortion had been relatively low-key during the Pre-Trump era. Like religion and politics, it simply was not a topic within the realm of persuasion; people took a position on the matter and firmly held on to it. My efforts as a declared pro-choice individual included a lot of reading, keeping track of reproductive healthcare legislature, and seeking out training in my own time. I couldn’t persuade everyone to be pro-choice but that did not stop me from getting the skills and knowledge to ensure that every woman has the opportunity to make an informed choice about her body. It was an indirect and less vocal, yet still effective, way of fighting against the anti-choice group. I simply did my part and there was nothing else to be said, I thought. Simple, right?

The night Trump and Pence won the election reaffirmed for some that the world was black and white, that men know best, and that what is white is right. The election results changed my life immediately. My heart felt violently torn apart and my hope for a better America was lost. I felt becoming an abortion provider during this time seemed more irresponsible than helpful now that everyone dear to me would be put in harm’s way. I was numb. I was terrified. I felt incredibly alone. We have entered an era where accountability for one’s actions cease to exist, where it’s okay to be openly racist, where classism and sexism play a huge role in spewing hate towards people who are deemed unworthy. Hate and intolerance prevailed in America that night.

I ended up spending three weeks with South Wind Women’s Center. I started my internship knowing that I will most likely pursue abortion training and left deciding to become a late-term abortion provider in a state that does not have a single provider. The harmful legislation that gets passed is not a joke. Frustrated patients often asked why a five minute procedure takes almost eight hours of their day and why couldn’t they get the procedure done on the same day. I felt helpless — it was not in my control.

Politics have continued to make women feel like second class citizens who are nothing but trouble makers. When women own their sexuality, the world seems to start spinning out of control. America cannot handle a woman who’s proud of her pussy — it’s unruly, it’s unlady-like! Women aren’t to use sex for pleasure, just conception, our father Congress exclaims. And then I wondered, “is it apathy and complacency within my generation that has permitted misogyny to progress this far?” If so, we must take a stand and say enough is enough! The anti-choice and anti-woman rhetoric has silenced us for long enough.

As a woman of color, first generation American, and scientist I have had enough of the antiquated patriarchy mansplaining what is best for women. I cannot simply just ‘be’ an abortion provider without talking about abortion and what it means to me. I must be loud and proud about it. I will not let fear and hate control my life. I will not hide how excited I am for pursuing training to become a late term abortion provider any longer. So it starts now — with me, you, and everyone who believes every human being has the right to live the life that they were involuntarily given.

There are a lot of ways to fight for reproductive health justice besides giving a financial contribution to reproductive health non-profit organizations. Staying up to date with reproductive health legislation is an important first step. Guttmacher Institute provides the most current articles in regards to that. Get familiarized with and contact your state representatives to express concern over harmful scientifically unsound legislative proposals. Go to public hearings and voice your concerns. Create a widespread discussion: talk about abortion, actively listen to abortion stories, express your disdain for harmful gag orders, the federal funding cuts, the hospital affiliation and other ridiculous medical facility requirements, and the nth attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Don’t just sit there and stew, TALK ABOUT IT.

Start off by learning how to say abortion without hesitation or fear. Some of the most important things in life are the hardest to talk about. It’s scary to open a discussion about something that many may not agree with. But I believe that the core of the problem in the fight for safe and accessible abortion exists just there. Fear, misunderstanding, and concession to the anti-choice rhetoric have prevented us from having overdue healthy and positive conversations about abortion. I am not saying that every discussion will end on an agreeable note — most likely there will be little change in regards to personal opinions about the matter. What conversations do is give others a chance to develop different perspectives and educate others, reinforcing the importance of appreciating how complex the world and her inhabitants are. The more conversations that are had, the closer we are to destigmatizing abortion. The ability to keep abortion legal and safe is right at the tip of our tongues.

I was feeling less than stellar when I got to Washington, D.C. on the morning of the Women’s March. My long term relationship had just ended and becoming an abortion provider was a contributing factor. I questioned it all — my journey, my beliefs, the sacrifices I have and will continue to make in order to advocate for safe and accessible abortion and the prevention of marginalizing women. And then without even realizing it, the questioning stopped. The loneliness slowly dissipated as I watched marchers with their signs of contempt for government interference and vibrant pink knitted pussy caps start to cover the grounds and proudly walk past me. A huge weight was taken off my heart and I started to believe in myself once again. There were roughly four million people that came out on that cold January morning to fight for Roe v. Wade’s existence. I was reminded that I am never and will never be alone in this journey to becoming an abortion provider. I am aware that this is an uphill battle, and I may lose some people along the way. There will be lonely times ahead in which I may feel overwhelmed with despair. But to have been surrounded by such a magnitude of support for abortion rights in a single day made me firmly believe fear and hate will ultimately succumb to our efforts for a better world and the rewards of being a provider will always overweigh the risks. Becoming a late term abortion provider is my very own attempt to live a life worth living. For those who have been conversing about abortion and supporting safe and accessible abortion, please keep it up. I am more appreciative of the support than you will ever realize — your support is my life line. For those who haven’t started yet, it’s never too late to initiate a dialogue and show your support. Now let’s continue to fight the good hard fight in order to live the lives that each one of us more than deserves.

Bibliography

Nash, Elizabeth, Rachel Benson Gold, Gwendolyn Rathbun, and Zohra Ansari-Thomas. “Laws Affecting Reproductive Health and Rights: 2015 State Policy Review.” Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher Institute, 17 May 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.