Remember By Doing

Who’s the hipster?

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on March 27, 2010

No one wants to a hipster.  But what is a hipster?  I only hear about them, and I have never seen one self identify themselves.  It is what I define myself as not when I am in a situation where I feel uncomfortable about the number of folks like me around, because folks like me (white, artsy, young, bikers, college, coffee) are usually in spaces that were poor, people of color places not so long ago and are now partying in.  It’s a label for a phenomenon that gives people some distance from the politics around it.

Hipsters and gentrification have an important intersection.  Hipsters (the blanket term describing mostly liberal white kids who reject some aspects of mainstream culture) are the hand of the gentrification zombie that is pushing itself through the door of the Bay Area.  I live in North Oakland, a neighborhood that’s seen a lot of change recently.  Once kids like me start moving into the neighborhood, it is invariable that they will attract a bunch more, and the developers come soon after.  Before becoming politicized, gentrification seemed to me to be an organic, unstoppable aspect of urban living.  In Oakland, however, the clarity and intentional nature of gentrification – aka removing poor/people of color – is being combined with a “Gang” Injunction which has been filed in North Oakland.  The gang injunction, which is filed by the City Attorney John Russo against a list of individuals they have deemed to be in a gang and therefore greatly limits their activities in a certain area, is the policing arm of a political move to “clean up ” Oakland – get out the poor black and brown folks and youth who are vulnerable to policing to make way for developers. 

In attending Oakland Police Department’s strategic plan meetings, it’s clear that the OPD is trying to use policing as a tactic of economic development/gentrification.  This “gang” injunction, filed against up to 70 community members, makes non-illegal activities suddenly illegal (having a tattoo, hanging out with friends or family, being out past 10 pm), and takes away the rights of those filed to public defense.  It is happening behind closed doors to the effect that folks in North Oakland have no idea what’s going on (it was already voted down by the City Council back in February).  There are community members pushing back.  Today we did outreach and I was able to meet one of the men listed on the injunction. A friendly 30 year old, this young man laid out some details of the police harassment he and his family and friends experience.  His father has lived in his house in North Oakland for over fifty years and has had his house shot at by nearby shootings and ripped up by rude police, and also spoke of the strength of his neighborhood.  No stranger to violence in Oakland, he is full of disbelief that gangs exist in North Oakland, and full of anger that his son is being targeted.  His friends spoke about the lack of activities for young folks and the recent shut-downs of schools, rec leagues, and other activities that keep young people busy and out of the way of cops.  The man listed on the injunction spoke of how his tattoos had been photographed and the ways that the cops had named him as a gang member: his NY Yankees hat.

I wear an Oakland A’s hat occasionally, have a tattoo, I’ve smoked pot, and have been pulled over by the cops maybe once or twice.  In my whole life.  I live 3 blocks from these guys, engage in similar activities, and yet live in a dual reality.  That is privilege.  If I didn’t have the political tools I’ve found in conversations, organizers, organizations, and books, I would be able to stay in a vague state of disapproval and anxiety, kept isolated from the people down the block facing harassment and displacement.  I would be a hipster without any reason or way to be properly pissed and be living in my life (I mean, ah! ah! ah!).  I would be able to see that the Austin guy who flew his plane into the IRS didn’t cause racial profiling of white balding country band players because of white privilege, but that story wouldn’t lock into my own reality as a white party kid living in a neighborhood slated for development.  I could get mad at the Teaparty terrorists harassing politicians in Washington DC and analyze that it’s privilege that’s keeping them and other people like them safe from police and military terrorism, but I wouldn’t be able to see how that privilege is an act of daily poison right on my own street.  My own privilege of being kept away from the police – while I behave – kept me away from associating with the black folks I keep being told are dangerous to me and this system that privileges me.  It keeps me away from my neighbors and from a version of what’s going down that gives me some places to dig in and stand up.

Well fuck that.  Today has made clear that they are if they take you at night they are coming for me in the morning and it is time to rise up together. So yeah, I’m a hipster, I guess. I am up to my neck in different kinds of privilege.  I’m a frickin’ artist.  I have chickens.  But no one can afford to be vague anymore.  Being awake takes work, pain and discomfort (and honestly, I’m not used to being uncomfortable) but being asleep will give you nightmares.  There is nothing unstoppable and once the surface is disturbed there’s some ugly shit lying under the rocks.

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Everything is messed up. SO?!

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on February 11, 2010

Anarchy/Prison industrial complex abolition are like the end of a string that you start pulling to unravel the entire systemic monster.  You start on one string (policing) and realize that its connected to food security and self-determination, and to war.  Once you start trying to live in a way that is less-oppressive and more environmentally sustainable, you realize how far you have to go to in changing your life around.  This is coming from a white, upper-middle class background – of having access to economic stability, foods of my choice, and comfortable ideologies (colorblindness, my personal potential to change the world) – and being introduced to radical thought and organizations.

I think that a general feeling of “everything is fucked up” exists in my friend group but until there is a string to grab on to, it’s just a wallowing ground instead of a seed bomb.  There is no visible “movement” to grab on to, no sexy revolution to start going to meetings for.  Instead, there is a wealth of information about the depth of contradictions and suffering in our daily lives, and in Oakland, a whole host of organizations kicking ass that take some restructuring of comfortable ideologies to be able to hang with.

However, the oppression that the privileges of “security” and wealth afford are biting us in the butt more and more, and the need to fight back is becoming more and more obvious to everyone (even the misguided conservative activists).  Our nation’s terrorism (violence against civilians) in one country means a ulceric fear and inflated budget that takes away services like education, roads, public transportation – which only means more criminalization, poverty, H1N1, global warming, death of biodiversity, etc.  The solutions that the state and corporations come up with (ie gang injunctions, black history month) don’t support communities or selves and pull resources away from real change.  

I see that as I work at a small eco-friendly company, who is forced to bow to big corporations, and struggles to connect the eco-friendly dots (recycling?  driving to work? small things).  The struggle exists because business and living sustainably don’t mix. Capitalism can’t help.  Capitalism can help bandage the gaping wounds (ie offsets, green products) it has inflicted on the earth and our selves, but it can’t fix them.  There is some uneasy balance between our bodies – the need for fresh food that is created by and adapted to our local surroundings, the need to not shit where we drink – and the weight of our brains.  Between self-determination and teabaggers, being nice to conservative Evangelical Christians at a dinner party and trying to make sense of this crazy world.

Anarchy has recently been defined to me (by Crimethinc).  “Being an anarchist doesn’t mean believing anarchy, let alone anarchism, can fix everything – it just means acknowledging it’s up to us to work things out, that no one and nothing else can do this for us: admitting that, like it or not, our lives are in our hands – and each others’.”  Food for thought.  How to make the space you take up about your own self-preservation/determination and those around you.  It means biting some things back to the quick and being uncomfortable and alienating some people and living full of love (but not the kind you see on TV).

Great idea, stupidhead

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on February 1, 2010

Well, here’s something that’s a no-brainer if you are into global poverty, militarization, and imperialism.

And another, slightly different issue, same things at stake.

And “3 Reasons Why Racial Profiling Won’t End Terrorism”

Lastly, an article on Postracialism and a video about White Supremacists.  AAAAAH

Haiti being militarized

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on January 19, 2010

A couple articles about the Haiti situation including

a Katrina style creation of “black deviance” from intense suffering here and here.

and what the U.S. military is up to here and in concrete numbers, here.

Robbing Haiti Again

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on January 16, 2010

The earthquake in Haiti has made public the depth of resilience and despair in that country. Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian immigrant author, has said “It seems like the abyss of a very long and painful history of natural and political disasters.”

The need is so immense.  And I’m wondering about the international aid that is rushing to the scene.  When need is immense, it seems like that one-sided relationship of charity/victim becomes so stark, and then once the need isn’t as immense, those “philanthropic”/”givers” can return to life as normal and forget about the causes of that need, and the direct connections of under/over-privilege.  Naomi Klein calls it “disaster capitalism:”  “crises are often used now as the pretext for pushing through policies that you cannot push through under times of stability. Countries in periods of extreme crisis are desperate for any kind of aid, any kind of money, and are not in a position to negotiate fairly the terms of that exchange.”.

I was recently asked how the prison-industrial complex affects my life, and while I don’t have any relatives/friends (friends of friends, yes) in prison, I went to middle and high school in Marin County, the opulent, beautiful, and wealthy home of San Quentin Prison.  I therefore have a visual reminder of how my over-privilege (excellent public schools funded by the tax dollars/other dollars of rich white folks, great housing, college education, organic foods, freedom from pollution, health care, etc) is connected to the imprisoned under-privilege (poor schooling, lack of opportunities for employment, lack of health care, etc) of the prisoners inside.  My community had money to invest in the things that make people healthy, cared for, and have ownership over their fates.  This money comes from profits/investments/a capitalist system that has to pay low wages and cut costs in order to make a profit and has a poor/working class structured in to it.  And those are disproportionately the folks who end up in prison.

Globally, we see this in Haiti, a nation of slaves that rebelled and took  their nation back from France, but were forced to pay for it ($21 billion in today’s currency).  They started out robbed, and continued to be forced to be reliant on the debt entrapment schemes of the rich through CAFTA and other “aid” schemes that Pierre Labossiere outlines here.  ” People fight for their freedom, the former enslaved people, enslaved Africans – they break the chains of slavery. Their land has been robbed of their natural resources. Yet we are the ones who still owe the people who made us work from can’t see in the morning to can’t see at night.”

So what do we do now, in the face of this intense suffering?  While an earthquake is a deathly, random event that no one can be blamed for, the lack of healthcare, support, and relief available can be, as can our reactions.  Michelle Chen on Racewire: “This is the untenable choice Haiti may be faced with now: death or subjugation to a foreign power hostile to democracy on the island. Outside of the country, the Haitian community and their supporters do have choices. As the floodgates open to geopolitical opportunism, activists can step up their vigilance to ensure that politicians’ supposedly good intentions aren’t exploited to further dispossess the Global South.”   Obama is appointing George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, two poverty-mongers, to be the political face of the money-raising efforts, which shows that this relief effort will be business as usual.  If you’re going to give, give to someone who understands the historical context and isn’t there to take: HERF, Doctors without Borders, Partners in Health.  Naomi Klein also thinks we should do this:

One. Allow all Haitians in the US to work. The number one source of money for poor people in Haiti is the money sent from family and workers in the US back home. Haitians will continue to help themselves if given a chance. Haitians in the US will continue to help when the world community moves on to other problems.

Two. Do not allow US military in Haiti to point their guns at Haitians. Hungry Haitians are not the enemy. Decisions have already been made which will militarize the humanitarian relief – but do not allow the victims to be cast as criminals. Do not demonize the people.

Three. Give Haiti grants as help, not loans. Haiti does not need any more debt. Make sure that the relief given helps Haiti rebuild its public sector so the country can provide its own citizens with basic public services.

Four. Prioritize humanitarian aid to help women, children and the elderly. They are always moved to the back of the line. If they are moved to the back of the line, start at the back.

Five. President Obama can enact Temporary Protected Status for Haitians with the stroke of a pen. Do it. The US has already done it for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sudan and Somalia. President Obama should do it on Martin Luther King Day.

Six. Respect Human Rights from Day One. The UN has enacted Guiding Principles for Internally Displaced People. Make them required reading for every official and non-governmental person and organization. Non governmental organizations like charities and international aid groups are extremely powerful in Haiti – they too must respect the human dignity and human rights of all people.

Seven. Apologize to the Haitian people everywhere for Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh.

Eight. Release all Haitians in US jails who are not accused of any crimes. Thirty thousand people are facing deportations. No one will be deported to Haiti for years to come. Release them on Martin Luther King day.

Nine. Require that all the non-governmental organizations which raise money in the US be transparent about what they raise, where the money goes, and insist that they be legally accountable to the people of Haiti.

Ten. Treat all Haitians as we ourselves would want to be treated.

Links today

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on January 3, 2010

If I watched TV, I would watch this.

Amazing artists.  And another one.

Scarcity, Sweden, and the PIC

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on December 29, 2009

Capitalism has the effect of making us believe that the things in this world are incredibly scarce – food, drink, pleasure, etc.  If it wasn’t scarce, it wouldn’t be profitable. Consumers/citizens have to fight each other to get what we need, and are taught that they need useless things.  Therefore those that don’t have don’t deserve to have because they haven’t worked hard enough to wrestle it from someone else (read a more theoretical/historical explanation here).  Now we’ve operated on this premise so long that maybe there isn’t enough in the “commons” to go around, but who knows.

This has the effect of making consumers/citizens afraid and individualized, which means we find it harder to organize to fight against a system that makes few rich and the rest scramble.  Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s analysis in Golden Gulag: Prison, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California shows that our system creates “crisis”, which means that it is always having to adapt to changing circumstances, and surplus.  Surplus, which Ruth Gilmore specifically designates as state capacity surplus, labor surplus, land surplus, and capital surplus, are natural byproducts of a capitalist system.  Since “implicit in capital’s imperative to accumulate is an equal necessity to disaccumulate”, there will always be some accumulation sitting around before it can get disaccumulated.  This simple explanation exposes the complex relationship between crisis and surplus that has created the prision industrial complex (PIC).  Specifically, in California’s PIC:

  • the unravelling of the “safety net” (welfare, education, housing, etc) stopped caring for the surplus workforce that always exists in a capitalist system, and therefore created more poor/unemployed bodies
  • land surplus was created as the small farming communities collapsed in the Central Valley and irrigated land decreased 
  • capital surplus was created as the military/manufacturing industrial complexes moved and voters were convinced that all debt was bad (even when it meant the provision of popular services, 
  • and state capacity surplus as the Keynesian state withered but the agencies remained.  

All this created a need for disaccumulation.  Capital was invested in prisons to lock up poor bodies, specifically brown bodies, marketed as a solution to America’s many problems.  America’s historical system of structural racism explains the obscene numbers of people of color in prisons and which R Gilmore defines as such: “Racism is the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death”.  This has meant crazy numbers: California’s prisons increased by nearly 500% between 1982 and 2000, even though the crime rate peaked in 1980 and since has gone down, and this madness:  “Since 1984, California has completed 23 new major prisons, at a cost of $280-350 million dollars a piece.”  Beyond numbers, it has meant that the surveillance, policing, and criminalization of mostly brown bodies ruptures community organizing for rights and services that would decrease a prison population and increase a healthy, educated, and employed population, and a continued intervention into immigrant lives.  A narrative of criminalization keeps a population dehumanized and therefore expendable.  It keeps communities and consumers/citizens from solving problems using non-violent or self-determined means.  For more about abolishing the PIC, check out Critical Resistance for some truly inspiring work.

This is all hitting home as I visit Sweden, where half of my family lives.  Even though Sweden is represented as a socialist den of ice gods, in reality Sweden is slowly stepping into some neoliberal capitalist shoes designed in America (though probably made in a sweatshop).  They’re privatizing left and right, Nazism is on the rise (soon to be elected into the government), immigrants are dehumanized (kept out of citizenship for years while they live in limbo, racism on the street, segregated, etc), and people consume like mad/borrow more and more, and believe quick fixes will save the environment/world.  This is a place where the state takes care of (some) people, watches out for its self interest in a relatively egalitarian and humane way (keeping eyes tight shut to effects its consumerism, EU trade policies, etc have on other parts of the world).  I see more and more that the State (“Insofar as [it] must both help capital be profitable, and keep the formal inequality of capitalism acceptable to the polity”  – Gilmore, Golden Gulag) is not equipped to deal with the huge problems of global capitalism: the inhumane conditions of the poor, resistance, terrorsm, drugs, global warming, consumerism, fear.  In the US, the state power is immense yet not involved much in the daily stresses and needs of our lives (ie giving us services we need) so community organizations grow and fight.  In Sweden, that response is dulled by the complacency of being taken care of by the state.  Sweden needs more community-based organizing to introduce people to each other, get them invested in global liberation, and help them divest from scarcity and invest in a way of living that goes beyond a plastic bag philosophy and toward the seed: grows, feeds, makes more seeds, dies, coexists, grows again.

Sidenote on scarcity capitalism:  It also means that something like Obama, which represented abundance – an unstoppable force for change, an easy equity, an impossible dream – so bewitching, and makes the fall all the more hurtful.

Linksypie

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on November 30, 2009

Check out this shenanigan by the Yes Men.

Look who’s making an appearance.

Some quality TV.

And a kind of weird article about why Euros are whiteish.

And lastly an article from Racewire about Britain’s white child refugees.

In the outdoors

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on November 30, 2009

I just spent this weekend backpacking for a night.  It was wonderful.  I really love being outside.

Since it is just about Thanksgiving time, and I had recently been to Thangstaken, a show that “explore[s] the complex history of Thanksgiving and to acknowledge[s] the legacy of US colonialism and genocide against Native Americans,” my understanding of my time outdoors has been shifting.  Part of white upper-middle class culture is spending compartmentalized/segmented time outdoors in S/state-owned parks, gallivanting about with gear.  I grew up with this and see those times outside as little sanity-saving shots because the urban life (traffic, pollution, noise, etc), is so noxious.

There are a few layers that I want to unpack:

1. the privilege of being able to escape urban poisons

2.  the idea of national parks as a compartmentalized way of saving what wilderness is deemed valuable

3.  the history of genocide/colonialism in the US that played out through the designation of national parks on Native American’s sacred sites, and the path that brings it to today to continue to destroy sacred sites.

Let’s start with one.  Traditionally, white upper-middle class folks have been able to be more voluntarily mobile.  Class privilege and white privilege intersect, as misdemeanors (being on the trail at night) are excused by rangers with guns and tasers.  We were able to slip past law enforcement because we had the right gear/apparel, the right faces/skin color/genders, and the right words.  And, of course, we don’t often have to live in the most poisonous/dangerous/policed parts of urban areas.

The idea of national parks designating what is valuable and then in effect segmenting what ecosystems are up for destruction is reflective of a general misunderstanding of both natural systems and humans place within it.  Not only does it chop up something that needs to be continuous, because its layers are interconnected, but it excludes us from the systems and places Americans (specifically) in a position of being removed from their food production, water collection, energy generation, etc, an example of which is how people in California’s Central Valley, where most of our food is grown, are starving.  Parks are capitalism’s bandaids for our ecosystems in an extractive system.

Lastly, the designation of parks is today being used to help American Indians preserve sacred sites, but has in the past been used to police American Indians off of their sacred sites (ie the Badlands).  The desecration of sacred sites continues today in Vallejo, the construction of Walmart, Emeryville’s Bay Street Mall, and more.  As these parks are policed and segmented, and are only open as long as there is funding, these sites aren’t protected.

Being outdoors has taught me about how ecosystems work and my own connection to it.  This time is incredibly valuable and I’m sad I don’t see more people from every class/race/gender/sexuality/etc sector of America out there enjoying it and figuring out how to make the parks part of a more just, sustainable world.

Follow-up links to Richmond post

Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on November 3, 2009

A Racewire article that hits it on the head, and one that raises interesting points but misses the main one.