#OpHugItOut

Anybody who has been paying attention to Occupy Oakland knows that it has been bleeding support for a little while now.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re still doing priceless work and it is all completely necessary concerning the social dynamics of our community and country and world.  But it is my opinion that much of the work has taken a turn away from the concept of solidarity and has instead become too pre-occupied with egos, police fuckings, infighting/paranoia, and identity crises in many forms and functions.

We don’t need to continue down that road.  There are always options and opportunities to transform our world in more meaningful ways.  For this reason I would like to make another suggestion to Occupy Oakland:  Try to break the Guinness Book Of World Records for largest group hug.  We can call it #OpHugItOut

Our movement needs to be fun and provide more opportunities for people to build community in ways that are not too demanding nor intimidating.  I love all the  philosophical and technical discussions about society that happen in and around the occupy movement – they allow me to exercise my moral imagination and it keeps me inspired and committed.  But it’s certainly not for everybody.  A massive group hug is, however, by its definition FOR EVERYBODY.

We could pick a date this summer and have the whole town of Oakland converge on Lake Merritt.  We could have music everywhere and invite the food trucks.  Food Not Bombs can cater.  The current group hug record holders started the event with fireworks and church bells ringing in Alba Iulia, Transylvania.  They had ten thousand participants and their hug took up 2.1 miles of space.

I’m pretty sure Oakland can beat that.

Oh and here’s another update.  Apparently Peru broke it just this last February.  Records are made to be broken!  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xoqnwo_peru-breaks-guinness-world-record-for-largest-group-hug_news

Not only would it be very fun and all inclusive, but it would also be an opportunity for us all to have a time of healing.  We could organize restorative justice tents and reconciliation round tables.  We could do all sorts of great stuff to build trust amongst the occupiers and also reach out to the rest of Oakland.

So that’s my new favorite idea that I’d like to see become reality.  It will take a whole lot of buzz to make it happen.  I can only buzz so much, so if you like this one then you need to step it up a little bit yourself.

Sloth or Paralyzation?

Spring is in the air.  Many people have been talking about some exciting new developments concerning the occupy movement happening this spring.  It might just be talk, but I kind of get the feeling that most occupiers are more doers and less talkers.  So my fingers are crossed that cooler heads will prevail and the craziness, abuses of power, and occupy suppression will cease.  This includes the negative opinions toward non-violence that many Oakland occupiers hold.  Non-violence is our greatest strength because it has the numbers.  Those of you who want to fight are in the minority of the town.  Please police yourselves.

Regardless of what happens – and I get the feeling that something serious is around the corner – the winds of revolution have blown from Syria to China (here’s a recent story about more Tibetan monk self-immolations:  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/03/201231654630527945.html) and now they’re on the way to California.

Laziness abounds in our culture.  But the most profound form of laziness is our collective inaction concerning climate change.  I simply don’t understand how we as a human species can continue our lifestyles as polluters and consumers.  I rest assured that something will give soon.  The system will self-correct.  It always does, it’s just a question of when? and how severe?

Maybe I’m just impatient, but I wish that more people would have acted more dramatically and sooner.  And now I get the feeling that many of us that are taking the road of protest have acted too little too late.  But as the saying goes ” better late than never.”

So what is it that has hand-cuffed humanity?  Why haven’t we taken more significant steps to meaningfully address environmental destruction and climate change?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased that there is at least a little more momentum.  I just heard that the buffalo population in Montana is becoming larger due to the righteous work of Native people to protect the herd.  But that is such a small victory compared to deforestation, desertification, and any other ecological horror that you care to imagine.  I’d prefer not to.

Is it just plain old sloth?  Maybe.  It seems like it could be some combination of intellectual laziness, moral ignorance, and technological dependence.  Does civilization hold such an oppressive grip on our individual and collective psyches?  Can’t we collectively break free?  There are plenty of people that are already ready to be free, but freedom only works if we all participate.  So it is most certainly a leap of faith.  Faith is hard work and that is in direct contradiction to sloth.

Or maybe it’s paralyzation by fear.  Clearly, radical environmental activism is not a cultural norm.  So many activists are perceived as weird and abnormal.  Thankfully, many people in our culture find weird and abnormal behavior attractive and necessary.  And others simply see a bunch of unrefined tackiness…  But the one thing anybody can see about activists is that we are not afraid.  We act out of love with a hunger for truth and justice.  And we know that the true terrorism in this country is monopolized by the fascicts that hold power in our corporatocracy.

But that’s one of the things that scares me.  While I am a protestor myself, and will continue to protest until I see the kind of change the world needs – I’m also frightened by the recklessness and fearlessness of many other people in the movement.  I’m certain there are people out there that are ready to erupt.  My prayer is for cooler heads when it comes to violence.

However…

I’m quite willing to talk and write intentionally about a possible war against the machine.  I recognize and appreciate the hypocrisy of this statement since I’m using a machine to write and access the internet.  Technology is such an awesomely awful power that it needs some severe resistance.  Hypocrisy is everywhere in our culture and until people can hold one another to a higher standard it will continue to become a norm.  Our technological culture enables hypocrisy.

So why should we act swiftly to begin checking the strength of industrial, technological civilization?  Because it is unsustainable.  Because it is destroying the natural world.  Because it is creating a culture of laziness, isolation, despair and insanity.  That is enough reason for me.

C’mon people – do something.

 

 

EVERYTHING EXISTS

One of my music buddies recently shared the following link with me:

This video is on a marvelous little website called “everythingisterrible.com.”

I don’t mean to judge, but I do feel compelled to comment.

Yes.  Everything is terrible.  The economy sucks.  The political leaders are incompetent and hopelessly biased towards capitalism.   The environment is going to shit.  People are apathetic or oblivious to it.  The occupy movement was a bright shining light that has now fallen limp and lifeless.  Everything is terrible.  And according to such a language of absolutism, by that logic; nothing is terrible.

Such absolutism is rife within the occupy movement.  There are absolutists who are dedicated to a “diversity of tactics.”  And there are absolutists who are committed to nonviolence.  Once again I’m tempted to denounce the so-called tacticians of diversity.  In many senses this would reduce me to white supremacy – and I thought I rejected that path a long time ago.  But for me to embrace a diversity of tactics is quite contrary to my expectant hope of a moral evolution.

One thing I know to be true is that the tacticians of diversity would call my dependance on morality a bunch of simplistic drivel.  And that might be true.  But their own criticisms reduce themselves to critics rather than participators.

The only way for nonviolence to work is for it be participatory for all of humanity.  Tall enough order?  Are we going to need a bigger internet and global consciousness?  I recognize that there is much violence in nature.  And there is a comforting simplicity to that fact also.  However, humans talk and reason and build and problem solve.  All of these behaviors are fundamentally cooperative and seemingly unique to humanity.

And while I hope that we can all take the high road together (forgive the hierarchical metaphor), I recognize and respect the fact that people want to support a diversity of tactics.  History has set an impossibly difficult precedent of violent revolutions.  And I don’t begrudge anybody for expecting the near future to become violent in America.  Of course, if we look around we would all see the massive amount of violence in America already.  Violence from the 1% upon the 99%.  And humanity’s unimaginable destruction to the environment.  So, how can I begrudge anybody for wanting to fight back in self defense.  I can’t.

The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a book called Moral Man In An Immoral Society in 1932.  I found it to be a bunch of self-congratulatory non-sense.  But you might like it.

He discovered that his own morality changed significantly when his country was at war (in this case WW1).   Niebuhr embraced a sort of tribal nationalism and saw some sort of necessity in getting involved with the first world war.  He repeats the horrible cliche that national interest is always self-interest.  This is the same kind of colonialist thinking that gets echoed by foreign policy “experts.”  How long will it take people to learn that “thinking globally” leads to treating the world as a whole without borders.  So the only foreign policy plan that anybody really needs to advocate is the one that dissolves all state and national lines.  This wouldn’t have to be any sort of new world order, it would suffice for humanity to be one big self-governing organism devoid of any hierarchy, class, or governing body.  It would be anarchy in its purest sense, and I for one, believe that it could work if the media sold it right…

Everything exists. This sort of radical positivism that I get is probably nothing more than some existentialist slop.  But it also feels like anarchy at its finest.   Anarchism is a way of affirming life and community that remains intellectually and emotionally pure for me.

Some people think that anarchy is nothing more than a transition between governments.  This might be the case if that’s how you want to define it.  But I suspect that if we all had a little time to do some consciousness raising then we would probably be able to discern a successful way of making anarchy work.  Any good anarchist will tell you that there is actually quite a bit more organization that goes into practicing anarchy since it requires so much more responsibility and self-sufficiency.   Being a machine dependent slave to capitalism is a significantly more lazy lifestyle.

Some people have declared today the beginning of our American Spring.  I think that might be calling it a little premature, but hey time is relative.  Happy St. Paddy’s day.

Oh, by the way – did you know that St. Patrick was an oppressed slave who found solace in prayer?  Here are some words attributed to him:

May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Host of God guard us.
Against the snares of the evil ones.
Against temptations of the world

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Salvation, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and evermore. Amen.

Blocs

A few weeks ago Chris Hedges (I’ve almost always respected his work and writing) wrote a piece of “journalism” that declared that Oakland had a cancer amongst its occupiers.  Here is that article.  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_cancer_of_occupy_20120206/

My initial reaction to this article was to lose a great deal of respect for Chris Hedges. My first response was to call out the true cancer in our societies – that being the physical cancer that afflicts so many people I know both in and out of my family.  My second response was to put the “cancer” on capitalism and the greed that it has spread amongst our communities. I still stand by both of these – but lately I’ve been reconsidering my opinion on Hedges.

I was at a court house solidarity event the day that that article was written and the response of many of the Oakland occupiers was a similar disgust and aversion to so many of them being called “cancer” by Chris Hedges.  Mr. Hedges does not live in Oakland and doesn’t have the perspective, so who is he to judge?

Hedges has age and experience.  But there’s a new world being born and his perspective as an elder is increasingly suspect.

Here is my opinion on the matter as it stands right now:  Hedges’ article had an effect on the Oakland occupiers who use the black bloc tactic.  I think it has both radicalized them further, and perhaps even increased their dormant militant instincts.

I have never participated in a black bloc.  Though I have to admit how tempting it is sometimes.  There have been a few moments in my life where I’ve been able to go smashy-smashy on ruined, discarded furniture in order to turn it into firewood.  The smashing was satisfying, but it’s really no way to live.  Hulk smashes.  I don’t.

However, I do get the sense that those black bloc occupiers are up to something and it’s my prayer and urgent meditation that they behave themselves.  Anarchy is about self-policing and taking the high road of a moral evolution together.  We need to be re-purposing, not destroying property.

In case you didn’t already know, Black bloc is but one of a number of blocs here in Oakland.  The other two that I’ve participated with are the Sunshine Bloc, and the Ice Cream Bloc.

The Sunshine Bloc is dedicated to total, radical transparency.  Come rain and come shine, we are who we are, and I am who I am, and you do what you do.  It’s best to tell the truth every time.  What have you got to hide anyway?  Shame is best undressed, and everybody wants to tell their “dirty” little secrets for one reason or another.  I think it’s better to not be ashamed of every mistake – and it’s so important not to fear the next mistake.  But the only way to  not fear is to love.  What else matters?

The Ice Cream Bloc is a group of occupiers who get together, eat ice cream – then go shut down some banks.  It seems like a pure indulgence, but that’s kind of what Occupy is for a lot of people.  For instance, I was talking to an elderly hippy woman about how far we should really take all this “occupy stuff.”

She said, “Oh darling, you can’t stop it now – it’s organic and it’s going to grow and heal every single one of us.  Besides, I’ve been waiting all my life for something like this, and now that it’s happening – I’ve gotten greedy”

Her eyes lit up when she said the word “greedy.”  The irony was a little too priceless.

She may have been a crazy lady, but everyone’s a little crazy so who gives that much of a fuck?

So according to her logic: Occupy is more of a healing agent than a cancer. So it’s a good thing all round.  I happen to agree.  But I’ve also grown increasingly concerned that the violent revolutionaries are going to keep on escalating the amount and intensity of police interactions and many of their elders won’t be there to discourage them.  Except Chris Hedges.  And maybe Cornel West…

The question as I see it then is:  Do we, the vocal nonviolent individuals in Oakland escalate our own movement in order to make the violence stop?  To me the answer has always been an obvious yes, but it might require leaders to do so.  This would essentially be the end of the occupy movement by its original definitions.  I’m not sure if that is a good thing quite yet.

However, in a very real sense – Occupy is one giant “bloc” itself.  It is a block against capitalism, and all privilege, hierarchy and environmental destruction that has accompanied it.  It is a cultural log jam.  A veritable fustercluck.  And now the movement has seemingly stagnated and gotten bogged down with horizontal hostility and is blocked itself. That’s right, we’re witnessing a constipated movement.  I apologize for the shittyness but someone had to say it.

But what’s the laxative?  No one seems to know.  I think the Syrians have become a little too impatient and are trying to force it.  Aljazeera be with them.

Horizontal Hostility and Occupy Oakland

“Horizontal hostility” is a newish phrase that comes from the fervor of political correctness that liberals are so often up in arms about.  Horizontal hostility is essentially the act of an individual or group directing hostility to other individuals or groups that should theoretically share the majority of values.  I.e. when a vegan starts verbally abusing a vegetarian we can see horizontal hostility.  Other examples could be feminists of a certain quality that look down on other feminists for not being as radical.  The current Republican presidential campaign is also a pretty good example of horizontal hostility.

In case it’s not obvious already, horizontal hostility is completely at odds with the concept and value of solidarity.  To be sure, I believe that if we’re living in an equal society then that would mean that ALL hostility would be horizontal since there would be no hierarchy to make any sort of vertical hostility possible.  But that’s simply an ideal at this point.

The reality is that horizontal hostility has plagued the occupy movement from the start.  Many people understand the absolute necessity of not getting too obsessed with in-fighting and petty bickering.  Most people realize how much of a distraction it is.  But to  have a social movement succumb to horizontal hostility completely would be tragic.  I’m not sure if occupy Oakland is there yet, but the amount of hostility that I see happening on twitter is not encouraging.

I’m tempted not to write about this nor give it any validation what-so-ever.  But we’re all supposed to write what we know, and this is what I know right now.  I’ll leave the details as vague as possible in order to not throw more fuel on the fire.  Any further perspectives are heartily welcomed.

The story as I know it goes like this:  I met an individual at a bank protest around tax day last year.  I’ll just call this individual “X.”  X is also a blogger and seemed to be pretty involved in the Oakland protest scene already.  He actually interviewed me about the protest organizers – which I knew next to nothing about – I just wanted to protest banks – it didn’t matter to me in the least who was organizing.  So I wasn’t really able to tell X anything at that point.  Then when occupy started, I began seeing X all over the place again.  We would talk briefly as the crowds mingled, but never anything deep or meaningful.  I began following X on twitter and we had a few conversations that way.  And then we met for a beer after one of the general assemblies last month.  The conversation was intelligent and respectful.  However, there have been two different occasions when I’ve overheard him calling other people “an asshole.”  This is, of course, the most basic form of horizontal hostility:  name-calling.  Maybe the persons on the receiving end of this verbal abuse had done something to deserve it, I don’t know for sure.  But regardless of someone deserving something or not, I feel that name-calling is always the act of an insecure and desperate person.

And now, in the last week the hostility has escalated.  Apparently X has done more than just call some people an asshole, X has also been attempting to dominate one of the working groups within occupy Oakland.  And so this working group eventually had enough and began some sort of smear campaign against X.  They have “raised concerns” about X’s legitimacy in being involved.  Their accusations are sloppy and they have no meaningful proof so it seems all very speculative to me at this point.  But it also seems like the genie is out of the bottle in one way or another.

People would probably be naive if they assumed that occupy Oakland hasn’t been infiltrated by one or many government groups.  It’s true that a multitude of agenda’s have converged on the movement.  Many of these agendas are actually working towards the common good.  Some only want to work towards economic, and therefore political de-stabilization.  And then there are the feds which will do anything to stagnate the growth of the movement.  I think it is likely that anyone advocating violence is indeed an agent provocateur (or someone completely over the edge) – and it is these violent individuals that bring on the wrath of the state and simultaneously alienate the majority of other people from getting involved.  Either way, they are bad news.

It’s anyone’s guess as to which category X truly falls into.  This is why we need to uphold the value of transparency now more than ever.  It’s because of this that I attempted to intervene and mediate the conflict between X and the working group.  X doesn’t seem to want any intervention.  I guess this is simply because it would be such an attack on his status as a respected member of occupy Oakland.  X blocked me on twitter so my suspicions are further aroused by that by behavior.

Now, I’m a trusting fool and I make no bones about that.  But I’m also a player; which means that if you start heaping bullshit at me, I’m perfectly willing to heap some bullshit back on you.   But I would prefer to just live and let live – I guess it’s only a matter of time until I know what X is really up to.  The truth will set us free!

Nietzsche Sez

It comes as no surprise to people who have studied Friedrich Nietzsche that he had some of the most balanced perspectives of any philosopher preceding him.  His thinking was so far ahead of his time that he bears revisiting over and again.  So, I’d like to share this passage from Human, All -Too- Human with you in which Nietzsche outlines some of his thoughts on growth and deterioration.  Nietzsche ought to speak for himself, but I might do some unpacking of my own in future posts – the last paragraph is extremely topical for occupiers and state officials:  Enjoy

Ennoblement through degeneration:  History teaches us that the best-preserved tribe among a people is the one in which most men have a living communal sense as a consequence of sharing their customary and indisputable principles – in other words, in consequence of a common faith.  Here the good, robust mores thrive; here the subordination of the individual is learned and the character receives firmness, first as a gift and then is further cultivated.  The danger to these strong communities founded on homogeneous individuals who have character is growing stupidity, which is gradually increased by heredity, and which, in any case, follows all stability like a shadow.  It is the individuals who have fewer ties and are much more uncertain and morally weaker upon whom spiritual progress depends in such communities; they are the men who make new and manifold experiments.  Innumerable men of this sort perish because of their weakness without any very visible effect; but in general, especially if they have descendants, they loosen up and from time to time inflict a wound on the stable element of a community.  Precisely in this wounded and weakened spot the whole structure is inoculated, as it were, with something new;  but its over-all strength must be sufficient to accept this new element into its blood and assimilate it.  Those who degenerate are of the highest importance wherever progress is to take place;  every great progress must be preceded by partial weakening.  The strongest natures hold fast to the type, the weaker ones help to develop it further.

It is somewhat the same with the individual:  rarely is degeneration, a crippling, even a vice or any physical or moral damage, unaccompanied by some gain on the other side.  The sicker man in a warlike and restless tribe, for example, may have more occasion to be by himself and may thus become calmer and wiser; the one-eyed will have one stronger eye; the blind will see more deeply within, and in any case have a keener sense of hearing.  So the famous struggle for existence does not seem to me to be the only point of view from which to explain the progress or the strengthening of a human being or a race.  Rather, two things must come together:  first, the increase of stable power through close spiritual ties such as faith and communal feeling; then, the possibility of reaching higher goals through the appearance of degenerate types and, as a consequence, a partial weakening and wounding of the stable power:  it is precisely the weaker natures who, being more delicate and freer, make progress possible.

A people who crumble somewhere and become weak, but remain strong and healthy on the whole, are able to accept the infection of the new and absorb it to their advantage.  In the case of the individual the task of education is this:  to put him on his path so firmly and surely that, as a whole, he can never again be diverted.  Then, however, the educator must wound him, or utilize the wounds destiny inflicts upon him; and when pain and need have thus developed, something new and noble can then be inoculated in the wounded spots.  His whole nature will absorb this, and later, in its fruits, show the ennoblement.  

Concerning the state, Machiavelli says that “the form of government is of very little importance, although the half-educated think otherwise.  The great goal of statesmanship should be duration, which outweighs everything else because it is far more valuable than freedom.”  Only where the greatest duration is securely established and guaranteed is continual development and ennobling inoculation at all possible.  Of course, authority, the dangerous companion of all duration, will usually try to resist the process.

Anarchy

As the occupy movement continues to develop, it seems that the line between reform and revolution are becoming more sharply drawn.  The reformists are happy with capitalism as a system and would like to simply see the corruption fixed in politics.  Then there are the revolutionists that have no desire for capitalism and would prefer humanity to discover a more just, equitable and vibrant system for all to participate in.

I’m personally for a third option:  Moral Evolution in which we all make a collective step forward together and move from the love of power, to the power of love.

Which brings me to my support and enthusiasm for anarchism as a political philosophy and for its potential as the best social system we can possibly imagine.

I realize that anarchy is repellent to many people, but I also suspect that this is simply because there is a prevailing lack of understanding.  Our history has a number of instances where anarchists have committed acts of political violence and this is understandably off putting.  This ranges from McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz to the unabomber, Ted Kaczynski and a number of lesser knowns in between.

While there is, in my humble opinion, never justification for violence; the history of political violence in anarchism should not be an automatic deterrent for those curious about the positive aspects of anarchy.  This violence should be understood as a failure of “prefigurative politics.”

Any political system, whether anarchic, republic, or communistic has its ideals that it tries to foist on the whole of a society.  These ideals may come from the best of intentions, but when the rubber hits the road there are simply too many divergent perspectives for the ideals to truly take root.  The ideal is always prefigurative in the sense that it seeks to, a la Gandhi, “be the change” in the world.   But the divergent perspectives begin pushing back and the inevitability is violence.  Thus the prefigurative politics fail at providing a plausible ideal.

Anarchism is not unique to this failure of prefigurative politics though.  In fact every social system has had some sort of violence in its history and so to simply say that anarchy is violent is an unhelpful half truth.  In fact, anarchism as Immanuel Kant describes it should be completely devoid of violent force.

The occupy movement (particularly occupy Oakland) is currently in the prefigurative phase.  The premises that the movement is based on are distinctly anarchic:  Leaderless organization, direct democracy, direct action, justice, freedom, equality, transparency, and accountability.  These are all values that are at the root of anarchism.

I find anarchy to be most preferable because it allows us all the freedom to discern the best course for our own lives.  It also allows us the opportunity to develop some deep, meaningful trust in our communities.  We need not put trust in “leaders” – instead we should put trust in our own abilities to self-govern.

There is probably a fair amount of fear that people have about actually living in an anarchic society.  But I believe these fears to be unfounded.  A functioning anarchistic society would still have some rules developed through consensus. There would simply be no rulers.  Those rules would be enforced by the community at large.  In this sense it is like adding multitudes to the police force, since we would all be our own “self-police” and we would also need to be watching out for our neighbors.  For simplicity and efficiency’s sake, the only rule that is truly necessary is:  Do to others as you would have done to yourself.  Following this rule ensures total de-centralization with simultaneous total systemic regulation.

For those that still fear anarchy; I have to ask what they feel the direction of capitalism is?  Do you think that the 1%ers and Wall street folk have the average American citizen’s best interest at heart?  No, they are operating under their own world view which is anarchistic in its own right.  They have succeeded in legalizing bribery and corruption through the lobbying industry and they have legitimized the destruction of our natural world under the auspices of private gain.  How is this not already anarchy of a different sort?  In this sense, is anarchy simply a natural evolution of capitalism?  If so, what is there to fear aside from the irrational fear of the unknown?

Instead of fear, we can all chose to embrace anarchy under the power of love.

Oakland is already half way there.  The social justice advocates, radical activists and artists that pop up on every corner of Oakland have already succeeded in building a meaningful infrastructure of trust and mutual aid.  The Oakland police department has sown so much distrust in the community that it actually makes more sense for them to disband and allow the city to develop its own new and vibrant culture without a police presence.  I feel like it’s only a matter of time until the tipping point occurs and Oakland is able to shrug off the authoritarian government and be a free city.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that anarchy presupposes that we will devolve into barbarism.  Instead I prefer to believe that the prefigurative culture that occupy is establishing will provide the opportunity for the moral evolution to occur.  I think we can still have a happy marriage of anarchy and a functioning city system that provides all the services that it already provides if not more.  All it takes is for us to totally re-examine our values and determine where our true priorities should be.