Heed them.

December 25, 2011

What is to be done?

 "Come the fuck on." - Ron Paul

I participated in Occupy, and continue to champion it's cause, because in it I saw a frustration and a hope that I shared. Hope. It's a phrase that's been cheapened by our warmongering president; But I know real hope when I see it. Occupy itself, like all street protests, was a bit of theater. It exposed our growing paramilitary police state and what kind of free speech the U.S. feels threatened by.  It was quite telling. But it also served(and continues to serve) as a confluence of groups with similar interests- A kind of unofficial New New deal coalition. Organized labor from various sectors, Vietnam veterans, retired police, pilots, Iraq veterans, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, Direct Actioners, Peace activists, Anti-finance activists, Anti-corruptionists, the Wobblies, and Ron Paul supporters.

I was initially annoyed to see Ron Paul supporters. At the protest I went to they had plenty of big, official campaign shit, including a huge blue Ron Paul 2012 banner. On one hand, I knew that Ron Paul supporters are rabid, so I wasn't surprised. On the other hand, I didn't see how supporting a candidate in 2012 should be any part of Occupy. We were taking to the streets because that was the only way to get heard- not because we already knew who we were going to vote for in 2012. Ironically, it didn't occur to me until now, as I'm considering registering Republican and voting for Ron Paul in the primaries, that this is exactly how Grassroots activism works. Networking.

It's not an easy decision I've come to. I was(and still am, to a certain extent) suspicious of Ron Paul. He's a adopted Texas as his home state and made state's rights a big part of his platform- which to me reads as Confederate.(If anyone told you the civil war ended, they're lying) He's a self-identified Libertarian and believes in the free market and deregulation, which to me reads as Idiot. And he has come out against all Abortion. Understandably, these facts mean "check mate" to many liberals, in the Case against Ron Paul.

And this is the space my mind 'occupied' up until about a week ago. O-bomb-a's ramping up of everything bad about the Bush years is a disaster for this country, but there's no progressive challenge within the party, and Ron Paul's a confederate dinosaur who doesn't respect Women's rights. So what is to be done? Absolutely Nothing. Something kept repeating in my head then- "At least he's against war."

At least he's against war; and that's no small thing. Ron Paul(along with only Kucinich, who's not challenging Obama) is so consistently against war, watching him talk about it is like watching some draft-card burner in the World War One era. Honestly, it's quite a sight- and Foreign Policy is an area where this country needs someone with old-fashioned ideas like respect for National Sovereignty, Non-Interventionism, and Nationalism. Unless Globalism has been working out just great for you, and I don't think I'm alone here; I'm only interested in the conditions of this country.

And it's not just these low-calorie invasions and occupations and bombings of poor Arab countries that the U.S. has been doing. The DEA, the CIA and the FBI have also been participating in(on both sides, at times) a war that it's even more laughable and unwinnable than the "war on terrorism; " the War on Drugs. Again, watching Ron Paul speak against these things is like watching a man from the pre-prohibition era of Morphine tinctures in soda and Coca toothache treatments. It's yet another area where 19th century ideas and ideals are vastly superior to whatever the fuck we're doing now- when drugs used to be a matter between citizens, doctors and pharmacists. Again, this is a big deal- even though our culture has become more pro-cannabis, almost no elected official speaks out for ending the drug war in it's entirety.

Ron Paul being against abortion is barely excusable in my eyes. But one thing to keep in mind is simple pragmatism. Roe v. Wade won't be overturned until a series of conservative presidents appoint pro-life supreme court justices(and they're trying) over a series of decades. Paul, if elected, might be able to appoint one. But a nationwide ban on abortion is a long way off. Which scratches the surface of a larger point to be made- When electing a president, it's not important that you like them, or that they be right about each and every thing. You have to look at what they actually intend to do, and their priorities, which very few did in 2008.

Paul's views on environmental regulation are terrible, or I should say his view; get rid of them. More financial deregulation would bring about even more shanty-towns and tent-cities in this country. Paul has said Charity should be left up to the private sector(read, not done.) However, having worked as a physician, he has vowed not to touch Medicare or Social Security except as a last order of business; because he has seen how much people rely on those programs. A Paul presidency wouldn't do any favors for the poor, but at least he's hands-off. Even Obama has "entitlement reform" as a pressing issue.

Instead of nominating and electing the prettiest, least offensive candidate like hopesters did in 2008, and like GOPsters are threatening to do in the 2012 primaries(with Romney,) consider what the president is actually capable of, what he intends to do, and what are his first priorities. You're not electing a king; Ron Paul even mentions a time when when the president didn't have unchecked power- but maybe he's bullshitting.

In the end, for whatever else would come about, a 4-year Ron Paul presidency would mean, right away:

U.S. troops out of everywhere.
The end of the War on Drugs.
The end of the USA PATRIOT act.

Though I'm no globalist- imagine how amazing of a gesture that would be to the rest of the world. And that's why I'm doing the unthinkable, and registering Republican to vote for Ron Paul in the primaries and the election. It's not hope; but it is change.

December 18, 2011

Demilitarize Atheism

 Pictured Above: Armed Atheist, Christopher Hitchens, kicking it with some Kurds.

Born in 1987, my life occupies a unique period in American history. 9/11 happened when I was in 9th grade. The world of adults which I still feel hostile to insisted to me that 9/11 changed everything. I wasn't so sure that it would, but then they made sure that it would, whether I liked it or not. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 happened when I was in 11th grade. I attended a walk-out and protest march in Towson, Maryland. The demonstration was small and I was discouraged by that. (I wouldn't find out until much later on that the worldwide Iraq war protests were some of the largest protests in history) November 2004, when the Bush v. Kerry v. Nader elections took place, I was still 17 and couldn't vote. (That's the only way I can absolve the guilt I feel on behalf of my country) I was shocked when Bush was re-elected.

It was impossible to believe. While I still suspect there was voting fraud(even beyond the electoral college systems existence,) there was more evil at work. The depraved and contrived religious right voting block had been responsible for getting Bush "elected" in 2000, and they showed up in gobs to re-up in 2004, along with those nauseating "independent" voters who voted for Bush again on some ridiculous premise("He's not a flip-flopper!") The religious and the stupid were responsible for this.

This is when I started to interpret my Atheism as something socially important and even revolutionary. The extent of my intellectual position beforehand was "religious people are stupid and brainwashed." That's a fine position, if you're trying to get some blonde female christian classmate to stop telling you that you're going to hell, but not good for debating with religionists on equal terms. After getting out of high school I began to research Atheist talking points and well known Atheist intellectuals past and present. One rose above the rest, in my eyes; Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens' arguments and debates against religion and fundamentalism were just what I was looking for. It was music to my ears to hear someone of international acclaim debate modern religious figures using his own great knowledge of history and culture. (I always found the scientific arguments from the likes of Dawkins and others to be boring[however true]) Hitchens was a formidable world-class debater against the false claims of religion and it's protected place in society. One thing he never quite convinced me of was anything else that he believed. Namely, that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea.

I'm not the only one. When Atheists aren't psychopaths or soulless objectivists they tend to be humanists; or as the very least, pragmatists. Humanists; or at the very least, pragmatists- can't support crusades and wars. Even in the immediate wake of Hitchens' death,  he was recieving sharp criticism about his support for Iraq and other military conflicts past and present, and rightly so. Most criticism refers to his 'mixed legacy,' since he's such a legend as an Atheist but nuisance as a war-monger.

Atheism is an unusual tradition because there's no way to say that a fellow Atheist is wrong about anything. It's unlike Religion in that there're no texts or traditions to argue over. Hitchens' was a militant Atheist and a militant... militant. The more aggressive takedowns of Hitchens call him and opportunist and an imperialist. I'm not sure they're wrong. I think he saw Afghanistan and Iraq as crusades against Islam. To him it was, as he put it, fighting 'Fascism with an Islamic face.' To his credit, he wasn't picking on Islam disproportionately- he ran his own one man crusade against all religions.

And his militant, but not literally militant, crusade against all religions was the battle I thought was worth fighting, and I meakly tried to fight it myself, by debating young religious people on my friends' college campuses.  Atheism was also a cornerstone of The New Low News Show. In one of our episodes, we confronted the now defunct militant Atheist organization the Rational Response Squad, and came down on the right side of history.

But after a couple of years of fire and brimstone I started to switch gears. The battle against the religious didn't seem as relevant after Hitchens wrote his opus God is not great. It was good symbolic climax, and then I started to think about other things. The religious right voting block seemed to more or less get swallowed up in something else, and the new religion appeared to be hope and change; Obamaism. I was facing new enemies with different false claims and I started to argue for Progressive politics above all else. I was annoyed and angered over the personality cult surrounding Obama, and spoke out against it, but ultimately 'hope' defeated me.

Atheism didn't seem so revolutionary or important anymore. Obama, to his credit, even mentioned 'non-believers' in his inauguration speech.  Obama was a strange enemy- someone who was called a socialist, but was really a financial sector conservative, by international standards. I wasn't sure how I would fight this battle. I found my outlet, eventually, in the Occupy movement. 'What're you guys protesting? The international banking and finance oligarchy which continually exploits the working man and the deprived man all throughout the word? Yeah, I  I could get behind that.'

I was surprised, when I was at the protests, to see dark and light skinned muslims, wearing veils and the traditional garb. I saw Orthodox jews, too. Those were only the religious people I could visually identify. And this is the protest in New York City when 700 people including me were arrested on the Brooklyn bridge. I felt strongly about the Occupy movement and so did certain religious people. I didn't think much of it at the time until I got home and had time to ruminate on the fact.

I had always assumed Atheism to be something revolutionary and extremely important, because of it's implications, and because of the negative implications of religion. I had assumed that every Atheist was an Atheist in the manner I was- a humanitarian, or at least a pragmatist, who wanted to fight the forces of old and evil. It's best summed up in this quote from the wildly unpopular Atheist Madalyn Murray O'hair:

"An Atheist knows that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated."

But that's not the case. Many Atheists are spiteful brats. Many Atheists are greedy. Many Atheists are so 'skeptical' they can't even spare a smidgeon of hope to do something good and righteous. They know who they are. They stay at home, do their drug of choice and get on the internet, figuring that this is their only life, so they might as well enjoy it. I want to to tell them this is their only life, so they might as well use it.

And on the other hand Religious belief is not always a force for evil. The subtitle for Hitchens' God is Not Great is 'How Religion Poisons Everything.' It was only when I had some time away from my Atheistic fervor when I realized that was an imbecilic statement. Religion is make-pretend, obviously, but it doesn't poison everything. I used to revel in a Hitchens quote like "Faith is weakness." You know what? No it's not. Weakness is weakness, and it comes in infinite varieties.

More importantly, courage is courage, and wherever is comes from is righteous. Even if it's not technically factually correct; countless good people use religion as a source for courage or strength. At the risk of contradicting myself, I don't think religious people are bad, in fact; they always seem to appear as if out of thin air when social justice is being demanded. I know that the Atheists personal moral compass is superior to the religionists since the Atheist isn't seeking reward- but that doesn't always translate into doing better(or any) deeds.

I'm not that militant variety of Atheist anymore; I can't be. Martin Luther Kings religious convictions must have and had to play a role in his activism and political progressivism. Interestingly, there were black atheists who were just as committed to the cause(Namely: A Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin.) Essentially, I think denouncing political activism just because it comes from a religion, or assuming that  it would've happened anyway- is bad policy. It's better to realize that Religion is but one factor in a persons character and their predilections, and occasionally; a major one.

As Frederick Douglass said:

 "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong."

December 03, 2011

Occupy Zion



I normally avoid all discussion of the United States, Israel, and Palestine; and the history, conflicts, and issues therein; because the debate is always full of emotion on both sides that I have no emotional stake in. Now I do. This scoop from Max Blumenthal details how Israeli security forces trained United States policemen in their coordinated eviction of Occupy camps.

The United States gives aid, weaponry and preferential treatment to Israel on the premise that Israel is the only democracy in the middle east, and therefore the only middle eastern country that harbors and protects human rights. When Israel attacks Palestinians, or it’s own people, and is called out on its patent human rights abuses; it asserts that those human rights abuses are actually acts of self-defense.

And the logic goes, if you don't support Israel's right to self-defense, you don't support Israeli statehood.
By questioning Israel you are threatening it’s existence- making yourself an Anti-Zionist, and Anti-Zionism is Anti-Jew. Even if you, the supposed Anti-Zionist are yourself a Jew or Jewish-American, you are simply attacked as a “self-hating Jew.”

[Pro-tip: "self-hating" people are more likely to be correct, anyways, since they don't desire to exonerate themselves.)

Is there no way to be Anti-Israel in America without it being misconstrued as racism? I'm not Anti-Jew, since I don't consider “Jew” an important ethnic distinction(ooooh does that make me a Nazi, Anti-Zionist, or ordinary bigot? take your pick.) I'm not an Anti-Zionist, since I don't care one way or the other about Israel or it's right to exist, and I certainly don't care about a Biblical or Koranic mandate. I don't care about any country other than the United States. And the Israeli regime are bad people whose relationship with America, my country, is toxic and deleterious.

The same is true of the United States relationship with Saudi Arabia and other regressive regimes- the difference here is that Saudis aren’t coming onto our land and training our own police officers, on our dime. (although they are partly responsible for some other bullshit)

When a United States Marines Veteran is protesting financial crime and inequality after having fought for Wall Street's(definite) and Israel’s (supposed) best interests; is then critically injured by police officers who've been trained by Israeli security forces, with paramilitary 'less lethal' weaponry- I kind of take it personally.

I'm not and never was very interested in the supposed crimes of Israel against Palestinians or it's own people.  But now, Israel is guilty of conspiring to commit violent acts against American citizens. on United States Soil.

“Fucking Nazis. Nothing ever changes.”- Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski

November 28, 2011

Never Forget: 8/29

I'd like to talk about the day when I most hated my country. It's a day(in fact, several weeks) that's not very often remembered- unlike the yearly fear holiday 9/11. It's not commemorated with more than a paragraph in each 'liberal' news media paper every year because the only thing to commemorate is a massive failure of the government to help it's own people, and the disgusting, deeply enraging aftermath. I have always rated hurricane Katrina and the response to it as the most devastating and troubling thing that happened in the United States during my lifetime.

(You know how when something 'earth-shattering' happens in America, Americans say they remember 'exactly where they were' when it happened? Well I remember where I was for hurricane Katrina, down to minute detail, and I normally have a bad memory.)

When it happened, I wasn't an activist, nor even a very good contrarian. I had a general suspicion of my own country and government which I was told was patriotic by my 'liberal'(read: Democrat) parents. I was still living under my parents roof. I was the high-school graduating class of 2005. The summer after my graduation(which I did not attend[that was the kind of battle I thought was worth fighting]) I quit my part time job, and was just watching my parents television all the time. They handled it gently- they asked me what I wanted to do with my life, made suggestions, and asked me to help around the house. I never intended to be the 'guy who's still living with his parents' but I didn't want to go to college and didn't want to do anything else until I was sure it was the right thing to do.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, the news was pretty bland- lots of nerdy talk about the power of the hurricane. It was in the days after when I got really pissed off. I turned the television to the corporate media 24-hour news channels and was surprised to see their raw coverage. Whereas the Iraq war was condensed by news channels into the footage of townspeople dragging Saddam Husein's effigy around and the footage of Neo-Conservatives publicly claiming success- the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was shown in all it's shame.

The footage(from news helicopters, evidently unable or unwilling to help) was of people stranded on rooftops, calling directly above them to every aircraft for help. They called by writing pleas for help on their rooftops, jumping up and down to command attention, and by waving American flags. There was footage of human corpses floating around in the new rivers that surrounded every home after the levees broke. And there was footage of people sailing makeshift rafts or swimming to storefronts to take whatever resources they could to survive Until they were rescued. This was in the very apparent calm after the storm. That's a crucial thing to remember. The hurricane hit, left hell on earth, and then that hell on earth simply stagnated and grew more hellish. Clearly, news helicopters had no reserves about flying, so where in the fuck was the help?

I watched this, as much as I could, for several days.

I can't say some white-lie about how 'I didn't even notice' most of the people were black, because I definitely noticed. All of my illusions, some of them self-invented, about the 'progress' of the United States and an imaginary post-racial America were immediately shattered. Race relations were no longer Richard Pryor and Chris Rock jokes as I had once known them. Race relations were as toxic at the waters surrounding New Orleans. Race relations in America were murderous.

It was all the more evil now to see the United States engaging in neglect instead of abuse. Abuse shows a sort of perverse respect- a fear- an acknowledgement at least. Leaving poor blacks and poor whites to die on their roofs or swim in disease to scramble for food and resources while you have the entire command of the largest military on earth at your disposal? That's just sick.

A couple days in, my father came home after work, saw me watching the footage and said, "Want to steal a bus and rescue those people?"

He wasn't ridiculing me; he had clearly been troubled about all this himself, I could hear it in his voice. Regardless, we didn't do that, although we should have. My most recurrent thought while watching the immediate aftermath of Katrina was 'Is this really America?'

Believe it or not it the most grotesque part about hurricane Katrina, to me, was the handwringing  afterwards. After survivors were eventually rescued and given minor aid by the Coast Guard, promised trailers by FEMA and more-or-less forgotten about- the talking heads went on talking as if one of the worst tragedies in the continental United States hadn't just happened. People had the audacity to say 'residents could've left' and 'they didn't have to loot afterwards' in public.  The hate was all out in the open in America in those days. Conservatives made apologies for the Bush administration, claiming that Katrina was just too devastating to deal with effectively; or pointing to the firing of Michael Brown as proof that government works. Liberals used the failure of the government as a talking point against the Iraq war- saying that America got caught with it's 'pants down' while fighting in Iraq, and didn't have the resources to help those in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Liberals, like usual, got it half-right. The United States wasn't caught with it's pants down. The commander-and-chief or even several underlings could've taken all 'our troops'(how politicized has that become?) out of Iraq where they were bombing and shooting brown people in someone else's country and moved them to the U.S. to help black people in this country anytime they wanted. The nauseating truth is there was never a time when they wanted to.

And that, more than any other event, was my 'Kennedy assassination moment,' or what's been dubbed by moronic baby-boomers my '9/11 moment;' This. When Black People pleaded with the United States to help them, 6 years ago, and the United States wouldn't. 

November 21, 2011

America, the Divisible

Pictured Above: Never Forget.


 I've started doing an on-and-off thought experiment these past few months which is highly upsetting. I consider how I would feel about Americans and America if I were a native of another country. Well, what would you think of Americans?

It's not good, is it? I can't blame any other country for not liking America. This is a bad country. We are bad people. This country is still what American abolitionist, guerrilla fighter and player-hater John Brown called 

"this GUILTY  land!"

 I catch myself reading about lone-wolf American-born people turning against America and joining Al-Qaeda and my honest reaction is 'I get it.' I see these expatriate men and women, who can now be drone-missled by Obama for simply speaking 'heated rhetoric' against the United States, as sensible people. Declaring war on the United States is always understandable. In 1860 and in 2011. But I have to laugh. Because Islam is wrong even when it's right.

It's funny that politicians continue to make appeals to Americas sense of unity. Are they living in the same country I am? (Honestly, they're not) Americans hate each other, they always have, they always will- and they'll always have good reason to. They've taken arms against each other in guerilla fights over differing visions they have of America. They've assassinated each other for political gain or purpose. The Civil War never ended properly, since Southern reconstruction was dropped, and that is where we live today: The most imperfect union imaginable.

This is why I always chuckle when a Confederate or a wall street Democrat calls the Occupy movement 'Un-American' like they're channeling Joseph McCarthy. It's not funny because they're wrong; it's funny because they're right! I am delighted and grateful to have such an Un-American movement essentially resonating and succeeding on it's own terms in America.

The Occupy movement occupies public space indefinitely . They didn't let the Bonus Army do it forever, and they won't let the 99%er's do it forever- the powers that be won't allow shanty-towns to exist in America, because it makes an eyesore. Normally Americans are too proud and simultaneously ashamed to make their troubles and struggle known to other Americans. They suffer in silence and die quietly. Airing out your dirty laundry in public, and receiving another person's compassion, is extremely Un-American.

So is being rude. Though different groups of Americans have different tribal hatreds for one another(overlapping all over the place; It's almost impossible to find another American you can't hate for some reason), in public they put on the guise of working together and agreeing to disagree until they work towards compromise. The people's mic, a technique lifted from the general assembly in New York City(which echoes the quakers and and some native american traditions) to build consensus, has now ironically been turned into a weapon- and I won't call it anything less. Just watch this:

Mic-Checking Karl Rove

Shouting down an individual by chanting a prepared statementt? Not only is it rude, it's a bit emotionally violent, and so Un-American. It reminds one immediately of 'mob rule.' The founding fathers/rapists of this country hated the prospect of 'mob rule' because mob rule had a 100% chance of stopping slavery. (It also led to the Salem With Trials, but now we have camera phones and the internet if you haven't noticed, so everyone can blow a whistle instead of pick up a pitchfork.)

What's funny about the Above video, is Karl Rove's criticism of the Occupy movement is absolutely correct. No one gave them the right to Occupy America. They just fucking did it. It's American to wait your turn, to engage in gentle debate, to eat your peas, to pull yourself up by your bootstraps(or starve quietly,) to leave a park because of anti-camping laws. It's extremely Un-American to shout over and interrupt the voice of a war criminal to accuse him of being a war criminal without proper private-sector due-process, including writing a book and getting on a pundits show. It's Un-American because it's... Brave. And Unified.

Well-meaning small-D democrats will Gush about how the Occupy movement is so wonderfully patriotic and about how 'dissent is patriotic.' I don't see it that way. This is a war. There is a second America- an America that has been muzzled, co-opted, silenced, teargassed, and assassinated all last century for telling the truth and refusing to be dominated, and now it's all bubbling to the surface again.

I love the Occupy movement because I see it as unpatriotic. America is a bad, guilty land. I love my fellow countrymen who're opressed, but I don't love this country, and I want a new one.

November 16, 2011

5 Reasons Cracked.com Sucks



I can't say I hate 'America's Only Humor Site Since 1958' since I have read a lot of it, and laughed at the content, if not the tepid joke in it's header. Yet whenever I continue to read past whatever article someone posted a link to on facebook, I begin to cringe, for these reasons:

1. "5 reasons, 7 things, 6 bad-ass something-or-other..."

Titling every article with the promise that the article will be broken down into tiny, easy to understand pieces is condescending, because it assumes that the reader(me) is lazy. It's also lazy on the part of the writer, as he is only promising to make one point over and over again, like I'm doing now! Every article might as well be titled "[7] Paragraphs repeating [this point]"

2. "[7] Paragraphs repeating [this point] about the Zombie Apocalypse."

Will this boring folklore ever die? It's been done, it's dying, it's dead.(Get it, Huh? Cracked.com Gold!) Maybe it's just me,(all of my peers have assured me that it's just me,) but I think Zombies are a played-out subject and that the Z-apocalypse will never happen. I get the lure: it's much more difficult to admit to yourself that your life will be filled with boring alive people who are incapable of bringing about the apocalypse for the next EIGHTY FUCKING YEARS.

But have some faith in the destructive power of average humans!

3. Paternalist tone.

Scratch the surface, or read between the lines of any more political article, and you'll find a pudgy, cowardly boogeyman typing from a basement behind a mask like the phantom of the opera - A generation-X member.
These people, just like your annoying and ignorant older brother or sister, were never asked to fight in any wars, had an unlimited supply of LSD throughout middle and high school, and had decent white-collar jobs available to them but decided to become ravers or indie-rock musicians instead because their parents house wasn't being foreclosed on yet.
It was these same people, along with the baby-boomers, who turned an ironic, too-smart-to-raise-a-fuss blind eye to our country while it circled the drain and flushed everyone under 30 today along with it. And now they want to give us life-advice?
Fuck them.

4. Refusal/Aversion to profanity and the mythical 'obscenity'.

It's easy to notice the network-TV-safe 'yay titties!' beavis-and-buttheadist appreciation for sexual content on Cracked.com, and I guess they have to try to be work-safe, but c'mon: it's the INTERNET! Act like it! Elementary-school students everywhere are exploring the internet now and you better bet they'll pass up Cracked.com for hardcore Slave-rape stories(I guess it's not rape if it's a slave? I dunno... historical context... Thomas Jefferson, etc.).
Todays internet 'standards' are that you have to use all the 'seven dirty words' the late George Carlin used plus advocate an unpopular, illegal activity(like robbery or kidnapping) explicitly. Keep up, nigga.

5. Commenters

Hell is other commenters on the internet. Other people, IRL, are actually pretty decent by comparison. I can't completely blame Cracked.com for this one, because since internet immemorial shit-talking commenters have observed that shit-talking commenters use the anonymity of the internet to post shit-talking comments they wouldn't own up to in person. However, one glance at Cracked.com's comment section reflects on its readership- at least the readership that would be proud enough of having read to actually register to comment. Comments on better-written articles hosted by other sites are merely stupid.
Cracked.com comments can induce an out-of-body yet somehow still-nauseating experience.

Pass that shit!

October 21, 2011

The Last Struggle.

 Today was a trip. I've been involved in the #OccupyWallStreet movement and been following it very closely online; really, as if it's my only hope. I'm convinced it's not only my only hope, it's my countries only hope(and I wasn't even a patriot before;) it's the only hope- as explained by movement hero Chris Hedges.


I got to work at 6AM and clocked in. 2 young white people, one a man 1 year older than me, and the other a woman a few years older than me- have been hired in the last 2 months in my 'department' of the restaurant. Every morning while we work we listen passively to the 98rock morning show; a talk show, because there's no music station on terrestrial radio that's agreeable to all of us. The show had a guest in the studio, Paul Mooney, known recently for his appearance on Chappelle's show, hosting the 'Ask a Black dude' sketch. A guest on the phone was one of the unofficial spokespersons for the #OccupyWallStreet protest, Jesse LeGreca, whose first interview on behalf of the movement went viral.

As my friend Graham Andrews, #TheNihlist has said; not only is there some truth in humor- every joke is 100% true. The heaviness of the truth causes laughter- because laughter is the last release valve before insanity. That's why the maligned in society have made the best comedians in the last 100 years. All they have to do is tell the truth, and the audience, not being used to hearing it- has to laugh, or else. 

When the #OccupyWallStreet spokesperson was saying goodbye, Paul Mooney said, "I love it when white people get in the streeets."

Everyone laughed for the right reasons.

"What's the oldest white expression?" Paul Mooney asked.

Everyone stayed silent.

"Get off my Land!"

Everyone laughed.

"Get off my property! White people are obsessed with property... that's how you know that there's actually change in the air. White people can't stand to have their property questioned. Now that white people are getting thrown out of their houses, they're taking to the streets; and when white people take to the streets something has to happen."

He was, regrettably, completely on point. Not regrettably because white people shouldn't stand up for their property 'rights'(though if they hadn't in the past things would've gone a lot smoother,) but because the U.S. doesn't really digest when black people stand up for their rights. It's always seen as some primitive angry gut reaction to their own failures; rather than congruent to, and in harmony with, the big war.

Late in the interview, the young woman I work with asked, "What are the protests about?"

And the young man I work with said, "I don't know, some government shit. Goverment."

She said, "Oh. okay."

And he said, "Fucking hippies."

I don't talk about politics or religion at work, if I did; I'd have a much more colorful work history. So I ignored it in spite of my strong feelings.

I sailed through the rest of the day at work daydreaming and when I got home and checked facebook I saw a link on #OccupyTheHood(originally conceived as a way to get more people of color involved in #OccupyWallStreet) to a quote from David Banner calling for more Black Celebrities, including athletes and entertainers, to support #OccupyWallStreet.

The post predictably generated big back-and-forths about what it means to be Black, rich, and American; or any combination thereof. Those discussions are always interesting, always, but a link someone posted caught my trackball left-click:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixo0gtLIuLk

And it was one of those rare not-psychedelic induced epiphanies for me. I had been seeing things in black & white and I should've been seeing them in color. Here it is. Black American revolutionaries( now extinct, mostly murdered,) Communists(made illegal, still insist on existing,) and unionized workers(still exist, tho now the butt of many jokes[for expressing self-interest in the 'free' market]), existed as one and the same entity-and for good reason- not very long ago. And in the video, that entity(who is no longer allowed to exist) in American society speaks out about the exact same things #OccupyWallStreet protesters speak about now.

The connection between all those things is simple. It's innate. It's inborn. It's practically(and for some of us literally) inherited- we've only been brainwashed to believe it's contradictory. Those Communist Black Auto Workers saw the interests of White Americans better than White Americans saw it themselves. The Big War is the same as it's always been- It's the weak against the strong, the many against the few, the brave against the invisible, and the righteous against the crooks. It's the oldest struggle of humanity and it's embodied not only in that clip on youtube but in Zucotti park now. It's populism. It's what everyone knows is right. It's what every thinking person is concerned about.

It's The Class Struggle.

October 15, 2011

The New Segregation



 I haven't posted much this month, because I've been preoccupied, and I'm delighted to have been preoccupied. Before the Occupy movement, all I did was try to write something good every now and again, get drunk, and wait for the sweet release of death. I've already documented my experience with the movement here and there, and my experiences waiting for the sweet release of death, but I haven't before documented the connection.

Everyone knows that something is not right in the U.S. As best illustrated in a Chappelle's show sketch and a an article written by Matt Taibbi, there is great inequality in our society. It's not only economic inequality, but justice inequality, and social inequality. Sometimes, when I like America and what it stands for, I remember that the United States is expressly(by some accounts) committed to Equal opportunity. And yet I see 2 separate and highly unequal systems in play.

Segregation is no longer racial. It's financial.

The Poor and the frightened face insurmountable obstacles, endless ridicule and review, and then cruel and unusual penalties. The Rich deal with inheritance money, cover-ups and sweeping under the rug of their actions, and then minor fines.

Even they know they're getting away with it.

As an American patriot and nationalist, don't you have to admit this system is completely backwards? Those who're poor and vulnerable should receive the unlimited opportunity and the reasonable doubt by jury and the minor fines. Those who're rich and impenetrable should receive the public's suspicion and the public's doubt and serious jail time.

Many in the occupy movement are calling for a separation of money from the political process. I think there should be a separation of money from everything.We can make this country into whatever we want. I prefer an America in which the prey is assumed to be the victim and the predator assumed to be the perpetrator.

.

.

October 04, 2011

OUR BRIDGE!



I went to New York on the 'Chinatown bus.' This is the cheapest ride you can get to New York City from Baltimore and it picks you up at the Baltimore Travel Plaza, not far from where I live. Me and my girlfriend caught the bus at 6:20AM against all odds, and although we intended to sleep on the bus we were too excited to. We passed books and some food between us until we arrived in Manhattan at about 10:30.
We took the subway to Zuccotti  park, home base of the #OccupyWallStreet protests, looking up directions on our phones(How did people use the subway before internet-in-your-hands? Asking people?). When we arrived at the park it was still before noon.
One of the first things I noticed were some Vietnam Veterans holding signs and doing some preaching on the northwest corner of the park. They were against the current wars and war in general(as I'd expect them to be), and interestingly enough, I found then, and later in the march; they constituted a hugely visible portion of the movement.
I was immediately discouraged by a slim, plain-looking short-haired young woman wearing a shirt with 'free hugs' written on it, walking quickly in spirals around the park, loudly offering 'free hugs' to 'spread the love.' I have no idea what motivates such people to attempt to pacify a hive of discontent like Zucotti park. Love is not all you need. Everybody knows that.
On the northwest corner of the park, there was a huge lineup of retired signs from previous marches, lying on the ground for display. The signs I opposed were the 'compassion is our currency(free hugs)' ones, and the ones opposing the United States' support for Israel and/or support for Palestine. I found both elements to be most clearly distracting from the central focus of the protests. As I walked into the beating heart of the park, I realized a distinction needs to be made between what's going on at Zucotti park, and what #OccupyWallStreet is. Zucotti park has been dismissed by many passersby and daytime reporters as 'a few hunded hippies.' I wouldn't call anyone there a hippie(not that there would be anything wrong with that); I would instead call them homeless and discontent anarchists(is there any other kind?).
In the center of the park there's a 'kitchen' which is an outdoor pantry with an electric stovetop. I had brought some pantry items I was never going to eat, and they accepted everything except brownie-mix since they had no oven. I also had books to donate, but the 'library;' several cardboard boxes of books, was covered in plastic and tarps since it had been raining so much recently. Me and my girlfriend sat at a table and talked for a while. Every 15 minutes or so someone would come up to talk to us. It was mostly friendly chit-chat(unheard of in NYC as far as I know) with only a couple of beggars.
We left to go to a March in northwest Manhattan for another political cause, and got most of the way there, but then turned back when we figured we'd be late for the 3PM OccupyWallStreet Rally if we didn't leave then. We had lugged a bundle of 'the occupied wall street journal' newspapers we had gotten at the park, to distribute there, but ended up lugging it all the way back since we never went.
When we got back to Zucotti park there was a world of difference from before. There were at least a thousand people in the proper limits of the park. On the West edge of the park there was a drum circle with the welcome inclusion of horn-players and chanters and onlookers. We managed to give out our bundle of newspapers we had schlepped all over town to passersby around the square.
After losing the papers, we headed into the park again and found several interesting things. Funniest of all was a tiny table around which 4 people were sitting; covered by umbrellas despite the relative shade. On the table was nothing but tobacco of all sorts- mostly donated cigarettes, also rolling papers, pipe tobacco and loose cigarette tobacco. All 4 people were smoking and meticulously rolling cigarettes. There was a donation jar, and a field-expedient sign that just said 'cigarettes.' I laughed out loud.
There was a stand for the Socialist party, a bunch of roving Ron Paul supporters, tons of people with petitions to sign. It looked honest. It looked fertile. Across from the park to the north was a van with 8 NYPD officers. Across to the east and south were several food stands, many serving 'halal' food which appeals to both vegetarians and those who're trying to display solidarity or affection for the middle east and the Arab Spring. Within the park there were some thinly-veiled women, either American Muslims or Middle-easterners; it was no matter. Everyone was on the same page.
This is when we were introduced to the call-and-response technique of OccupyWallStreet to get around anti-megaphone laws(uh huh) in New York City.
Anyone can speak up at any time.
The person yells, "Mic Check!"
And those around him also yell, "Mic Check!"
Once the original speaker hears "Mic Check!" returning back to him from the crowd in the distance, he continues with what he has to say; 3-5 words at a time.
The words are repeated by those immediately around them, and in waves across the crowd. I was shocked both by how effective this was and how emotional it was to see a crowd echo an individual this way. I'm sure the 'mic check' has a stronger effect on a crowd than a megaphone would. It's clever, it's smart, and it's really harrowing.
The Mic Checks went over a half-sheet of paper we had been handed which was full of effective chants, advice for how to be prepared, which included; having the number for the national lawyers guild on you, having your friends' families' or friends contact information on you, and where the march intended to go.
I heard chants of '"MARCH! MARCH!" and the march was on.
First we chanted "ALL DAY, ALL WEEK, OCCUPY WALL STREET."
The drum circles were at different points in the crowd leading the chants since they had a monopoly on rhythm.
We chanted, "BANKS GOT BAILED OUT! WE GOT SOLD OUT!"
And, "WE, ARE, THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT!"
As we were chanting that, we noticed lots of people on 2-level-busses and in taxi-cabs and on the other side of the street either giving us a solidarity fist, a quizzical look, or recording us on their cell-phones.
Soon, some rhythmically gifted and socially conscious person, added "AND SO ARE YOU!"
"YOU!" fell in the chant at the same time as "We!," as in,

"WE, ARE THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT, [AND SO ARE
YOU], ARE..."

The chanting was hard on my throat. And it got my dissident juices flowing. Occasional bags of cough drops were being passed back through the crowd. I saw smiles and a lot of good humor, but I was pretty pissed about what we were chanting about at this point, and tried to yell loud enough to hear myself even above the crowd, which had to have been 3000 people or more. While we marched on the sidewalk it was cordoned off and bordered by police on scooters.
The march came to an intersection and there was a huge glut of marchers growing in it.
There was a young black woman standing on something above the crowd, pointing to my left yelling "This is the agreed upon march path."
She pointed to my right and yelled "If you want to go this way, well, it's up to you."
I immediately tried to see what the difference was and what was on the path-less-travelled. I peered over the crowd to my right and saw a few cops standing and facing the crowd, but only about 3 or 4. I couldn't see anyone marching beyond that, and the crowd was only standing there, not budging an inch; so I marched to my left.
After I had tread about 30 feet onto the 'agreed-upon' march path, I started hearing the chant
"TAKE THE BRIDGE! TAKE THE BRIDGE!" and saw people ahead of me climbing over the black wrought-iron fence in great numbers and decided to turn around and march on the right side.
I guessed that the march had overwhelmed the few police officers and wanted to do the more illegal thing. I didn't know that I was on the northbound traffic section of the Brooklyn Bridge until I looked to my right and saw one lane of traffic moving very slowly.
I heard chants of "WHOSE BRIDGE? OUR BRIDGE! WHOSE BRIDGE? OUR BRIDGE?" which played on the earlier chant 'WHOSE STREET? OUR STREET!'
I joined in the 'OUR BRIDGE!' section of the chant with delight and a bit of righteous anger. I had a huge body and head buzz going on which is indescribable until you yourself do something like this. It was my bridge. I took it from something big and nasty and wrong with the help of those around me; the small and beautiful and right. It was our bridge, and marchers around me acted with the same stone-faced jubilation(which is again unique to this kind of improvised direct action.) People continued to climb down from what I learned to be the pedestrian pathway to my left to join us. Soon, the right lane of traffic, which was crawling- was blocked by a group of 6 women. I rushed to join them on the right side to shut off traffic completely.
People were writing 'OCCUPY WALL STREET!' on the beams of the bridge in sidewalk chalk. People were putting up stickers for various causes and stencils of art. The chants continued and became more varied. To my left I could see the other marchers, now above us as the pedestrian pathway rose away from us, cheering us on.
The first sign that things were going sideways was when I saw an officer in uniform simply walk past me on the right, head down, with an orange net.
Seemingly unrelated, the march slowed down, I could see a gap in the road ahead, and someone yelled "CLOSE THE GAP!"
I ran to close the gap, guessing that this would prevent some NYPD strategy from being implemented. Then the march came to a stop. I peered over the crowd ahead of me and saw what appeared to be firetrucks at the end of the bridge. I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to turn around and avoid being arrested. She said yes. We made a half-hearted attempt toward the back of the march when we heard rumors that they were arresting people at the back of the crowd.
Just then, a man on the pedestrian pathway was leaning over the railing doing a 'mic check.'
The confused standstill crowd yelled "Mic Check!" back in gratitude.
With the crowd repeating he yelled, "THEY ARE...ARRESTING PEOPLE...AT THE FRONT...AND..."
A bit of panic broke out in the crowd and many on my side started doing 'mic check's.
Someone in the crowd yelled with the same method "ARE THEY...LETTING US OUT...IN THE BACK"
He said "MIC CHECK!" and went on to say "IT LOOKS THAT WAY."
Not many people scrambled for the back. If it had been completely open then I knew the crowd would have thinned, but it really didn't. I decided to face forward and try to figure out what exactly was going on up there. As I looked around I saw a few NYPD, holding an orange net, coming up the pedestrian path toward the man who was yelling out what he saw from his vantage point to us.
I yelled "MIC CHECK!"
I heard a few assorted "MIC CHECKS" and went on to say and have repeated "NYPD... IS COMING UP."
The man was looking at me so I just pointed. He leaned over the fence and saw the police. Panic and chants started as we felt like we were being squeezed together on the roadway. Plenty of information spilled in from the back that they were arresting people on both ends. Which wasn't very surprising.
Then a man in the crowd mic-checked "WE CAN ALL... CHANGE THE WORLD FOREVER...IF WE LOCK ARMS...AND SIT DOWN!"
Chants of "SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN!" erupted. I and about 5 men around me sat down. No one else, including my girlfriend, seemed interested in that. The crowd became more squeezed and we stood up. The man on the pedestrian walkway and about a dozen others were netted to the fence between us by police, which I thought was strange.
The crowd was becoming so squeezed that people were mic-checking that people were having trouble breathing, and starting chants to free up room like 'TAKE 2 STEPS!'.
Some of those chants were met with other chants like "WE CAN'T."
Efforts also continued to "SIT DOWN!"
Some mic-checked back "THERE'S NOT ENOUGH ROOM!"
I couldn't find the humor in it at the time.
I was holding my girlfriends hand to try to not be split apart and noticed another couple who were split apart. The man was right next to me and was staring intently at his girlfriend a few people to my left.  She was staring back. I thought that if I took off the backpack I was wearing and held it to my neck or above my head temporarily, that might free up enough room for him to make it past the front of me to his girlfriend. I did so, and felt relief for a moment. He wordlessly tried to do just that, and couldn't. We all just became squeezed to the same pressure immediately afterwards.
Eventually the pressure lessened and I guessed correctly why. Everyone was getting vanned, or bussed, as I saw later- on commandeered public buses. I saw then that there were about as many cops as protesters, and save a call from the mayor(ha ha!), we had no chance of not being arrested. People started throwing their bags and containers of cannabis over the side of the bridge. A couple people ditched mostly-drank pint bottles of liquor. My girlfriend took one swig of our Vodka housed in a water bottle, popped a xanax, and tossed it over. Then, of course, it started raining.  People started making sure everyone had the number for the national lawyers guild written on their arm or elsewhere, and began planning, how and where they'd meet up when they were released.
 I was surprised at how many people had umbrellas. We all started to huddle together to share 'UMBRELLA POWER' as one mic-check put it. As the end was nearing a sense of humor returned, along with reassuring mic-checks. One Mic Check said there was a protest against the arrests at the end of the bridge from marchers who evidently made it all the way across, and at 'one police plaza' on our behalf. Another said that Marines were 'coming to help us.'(which turned out to be quite over-stated)
A surprisingly serene moment came when someone decided to sing, and others decided to join in the singing of, the star spangled banner. Only about half the crowd knew the words at the beginning but everyone was singing loud and in harmony by the end. The police were smiling. Everyone cheered.
Land of the free. Home of the brave.
Maybe.
Eventually one of the policeman said "Ok, fellas, over here."
I walked obediently and into a line forming.
A young man walked up next to us and said facetiously "Is this the line for jail?"
We laughed and told him "Yeah."
He got in line. We all got patted down, had our hands zip-tied behind our backs, and were told to climb and did climb onto a public bus. The bus took off. There were about 9 cops in the aisle. I was sitting in the seat at the very front of the bus. The men around me were talking to the extremely short police officer next to us about the long hours and hardships of being a police officer. The #OCCUPYWALLSTREET movement has some nuance towards police. On one hand, police are very clearly the enemy of the movement. And on the other hand, police are just working people who are only paid to be the enemy of the movement. I'm guessing these good-faith efforts to gain the sympathy of the police by the men around me won't accomplish anything for the movement; but they may cut down on the amount of ass-whoopings and pepper-spraying that protesters get. Which is still good.
When we arrived, somewhere, after a long drive- we had to wait on the bus as a previous bus full of protesters was 'processed.' It may have been about an hour. I watched in awe as more-flexible men around me and in the back of the bus reached into their pockets and were texting or poking around on their cell-phones while still handcuffed. A man with about 6 facial piercings including huge spirals in his ears directly across from me was doing something on his phone, then decided to pull some earbuds out of the lower pocket of his denim jacket and put one in his ear. He then pulled out the mp3 player and selected whatever he wanted to listen to. All while handcuffed. I was amazed.
Technology doesn't pacify people; It's a myth, and the opposite might be the case.
About then, another man across from me had a curious expression; he was the same one who'd asked "Is this the line for jail?"
He seemed to be experiencing restless leg syndrome, his eyes were wide open, his mouth in a frown, everything else unremarkable.
When an policeman passed him he blurted out "When do we get to go?"
"What do you mean?"
"Go to the bathroom."
The policeman leered out the open bus door and moaned and sighed.
"It'll be a while, bud."
The man across from me just held his expression more intently.
The policeman said, "Don't piss your pants, now."
"I'm about this close from is not being a conscious decision."
"If you piss your pants I have to do a psych evaluation, you'll be in here all night, we gotta take you somewhere else. No fun for anyone."
The unpeeing man held the same expression and rocked back and forth.
Other men on the bus started to offer suggestions. Somehow the idea came that he could piss in a plastic bottle outside. Those on the bus began to look for plastic bottles. The policemen seemed a bit entertained; but annoyed. The plastic bottle was a way to get around public urination laws.
The idea also came forth for us all to piss our pants in solidarity. Questions arose. Who would hold the bottle? and who would hold the man's penis?
When the extremely short policeman who'd arrested me asked "Who's gonna be man enough to hold it?" 2 men on the bus spoke up to say "I'll do it" in complete and unwavering honesty.
I would've too. But I was totally silent. (as is my 'right')
Eventually one plastic bottle was produced by some handcuffed man. By that time, 2 of the police were already off of the bus and extra-judiciously trying to find a place for the man to urinate. The young man was standing in front of the white line on the bus waiting for his cue to go out and pee and even I felt relief when he finally was permitted to step off the bus.
About 2 minutes later, he returned and had little to say. All he said about how he felt was 'much better' and he looked like a changed man. Everyone greeted him with cheers.
Eventually, after waiting on the bus for what was probably 45 minutes,  me and 4 other men were escorted off the bus by our arresting officer, the extremely short one. We were led into a hallway which was between the outside and the station, and the men in front of me started to stand and face the wall. I figured maybe some of them had been arrested before and knew the procedure, and thought maybe we'd get our handcuffs off.
The policeman standing at the doorway to the station said, "No, no, you don't have to stand and face the wall. You can look wherever the fuck you want."
We laughed, turned around and began to look wherever the fuck we wanted. The extremely short policeman filled out our paperwork to process us, holding it against the adjacent wall.  He asked for our names, birth dates, addresses, and photo I.D.s. One of the guys in our group was a New Zealander who was visiting his brother and had a visa. He didn't have photo I.D. and his name was 'Amir' something. He looked like a nerdy white guy. The cops were upset that Amir had 'made their lives harder' by not carrying photo I.D.
He said, "I wasn't planning on being arrested. How can I make your lives easier, then?" in a familiar flight-of-the-concords accent.
Then we were led inside to holding cells. Half the cells were already occupied by those who'd occupied the Brooklyn bridge with us. They made jokes and some of them mock-voiced being the stock-character prison rapist 'bubba,' which might've spooked a frightened man until they giggled uproariously afterwards. Across from those cells, new policeman patted us down again more carefully, emptied our pockets on the counter in front of us, and told us(or me) what I could and couldn't keep.
I had $206 dollars on me. I always keep lots of cash on me on a trip- just in case I'm unavoidably detained. Both when I was first patted down and the second time, the NYPD counted my money, but put it all back in my pocket. I don't really understand why, but I wouldn't have been surprised if they pocketed it, so I'm glad they didn't. They had a large manilla envelope that they put my cellphone in. Then the policeman dealing with me uncuffed me and asked me to remove my shoelaces and patted me down again for 'strings' and double checked that I was wearing no belt. After that, he sealed the envelope and led me to the cell.
When I got in, I recognized a man in the cell as a man who had sat directly next to me on the bus. We hadn't spoke at all(he had looked angry) but he smiled at me now, and I said "Long time, no see."
I talked with him for a bit and learned he was an Italian on a work visa named Mario. He started talking about revolution pretty quickly and wasn't shy about calling the police 'pigs' and calling all of their actions 'a power trip.' Next, the good-humored New Zealander was led in, and next, the young American who had convinced the NYPD he had to leave the bus and urinate(this was a rumor circulating around until I left New York- evidently no one else on any busses got any leeway and some people pissed themselves).
Everyone pissed in a tiny single-piece ceramic toilet in the corner as soon as they got in to our cell. The water didn't run(we couldn't even find or imagine where the flush might've been) and it was obvious it had been in disrepair for at least decades.
We all started talking pretty seriously about why we were marching, how we felt about the state of the United States and the rest of the world, and exactly who our 'ememies' were. The New Zealander and I agreed that most of the developed world is living under Financial Feudalism, and not Capitalism. He had a very impressive political vocabulary of the history of Europe for the last 100 or so years, and I had the best grasp in the cell of United States history of the past 100 years. I went into detail talking about the civil rights movement and the Kent State Massacre and the black militant movements of the 1970's. The Italian seemed particularly interested.
I mentioned that "You guys[adressing the non-american-born men] should be proud to be here. This is the first time I've had any hope for my generation. Young Americans have nothing. The first time I really felt motivated that something could improve was when I heard about these protests."
The other American, a 19 year old New York native, agreed without exception. We talked about how our generation was being robbed by those trying to dismantle the social safety net, those pushing all of us to go to college and end up in debt, and the financial criminals- who were all baby boomers. The so-called generation X had been asleep through the Reagan era, and now it was time for young Americans to stand up for themselves.
I was feeling pretty motivated, and in a way, grateful to be in prison. It was nice to talk to people who knew what my grievances were and agreed with me for once.  Both the Italian and the American had actually been sleeping at the park for the past 5 or 6 days. The New Zealander had just been visiting every evening and going on marches. As could be expected, the Italian and the American fell asleep in the cell shortly after we settled in. Me and the New Zealander talked for a while longer, but I could feel myself falling asleep too. As our conversation tapered off, and I started nodding out, I realized that mass arrest is the dumbest reaction to a political movement that anyone could think of.
There's 2 things about being held in a cell, at least for the first time. First, there's anger. I can't imagine anyone would be locked up at a protest and change their minds or calm down, once they're in a cold dark cell, being looked in on like they're an animal. And second, there's camaraderie. Our cell didn't have enough room for all of us to lie down and sleep(It only had that much room for about 3 of us), and we figured when we first talked that we may be held overnight,  but there was no sentiment(even from me, a grade-B schizoid) that we wanted isolation from eachother. We were all friends immediately.
The rest of the stay in the cell, for about 8 hours, went exactly like that first one did. The humor actually improved. We talked politics early on. Later, when a couple of us were awake at the same time, we were making jokes. Occasionally jokes would be heard in other cells and we'd laugh. People did sarcastic 'MIC CHECKS' and chanted 'WHOSE JAIL? OUR JAIL!' which erupted in ingratiating laughter.
After about 2 hours, a policeman appeared at our cell and asked how many of us there were. He then gave us 4 bags with 2 sandwiches apiece. We were all hungry, so we started eating right away. 3 of us(including me) got 2 'peanut-butter sandwiches' which were made of extremely dry bread with what was probably one finger-full of peanut butter in the center of the bread. 1 of us got 2 government cheese sandwiches which came with packets of mayonnaise. Our entire cellblock started to talk about how jealous we were of those with cheese sandwiches.
People started making sarcastic requests, including 'a liter a' cola,' which is a quote from the movie Super Troopers. Me and the other American in our cell laughed. We had to explain what we were laughing about to the other men in our cell. Other guys further down in the cellblock started going through the dialogue of the entire scene, with tons of great one liners. We were all in almost ecstatic spirits right then, maybe because of the minor blood sugar boost; or maybe because of the general absurdity of everything up until then.
Later a policeman came by with water, and asked each cell if they needed to use the bathroom(some cells didn't even have non-functioning toilets.) The police were in a decent mood too. They joked amongst themselves and entertained detained-men's questions and attempts to explain the movement to them. 
It's a little much to say 'prison was fun,' but I'll tell you, there was a funny reassuring spirit in the air. After the initial bit of panic is over(Holy shit! I have no idea how long I'll be here! There's nothing to look at! There's nothing comfortable anywhere!) one realizes it's just a waiting game and does the best they can. You fall asleep for 15 or 20 minutes, in between you crack jokes, or talk about political revolution past and present. Hell, I've had much worse days at work, and even in 'leisure time' with friends it's not socially acceptable to just take a nap. I even entertained the notion in one of my 'dreams' of being a professional revolutionary. I'm sure I could just drop everything and stay at the park. Rack up a massive arrest record, look forward to those shitty sandwiches and try to further radicalize those in my cell.
I decided not to do that, obviously, but the experience of being jailed furthered my commitment to the cause 10-fold. I concluded with total conviction what I had already expected. Prisons can't reform anyone(though not to be too melodramatic, it was only 8 hours or so for me).
The good humor left our cell when the police started talking of our eventual release. We just sat up staring at something, turning our heads when any movement happened at the bars, hoping our name would be called. The humor remained in other cells, however, and helped keep me in good spirits. We were told there were 71 people being held, and they were being let out one by one. After about 5 people were released, my cell all started to fall asleep again. I awoke and heard that only 30 were left. I went back to sleep and awoke to only 10 left. I was among the last 5 to be called so I was glad I slept.
Walking out of the cell wasn't as disorienting as being in it. We stood in line at the desk in the lobby, and were served a summons for "obstructing vehicular traffic" and "obstructing roadway to pedestrians" one by one. Then we got the manilla envelope with our things and walked out. The fresh air outside smelled like cigarettes. Across the street from the precinct, the national lawyers guild was taking down everyone's name, phone number, and email address to keep in touch with them before their eventual court date(mine is December 16th). I talked to the young American man I was in the cell with(he had been asleep most of the time) and asked him if he was going back to the park. He said 'of course' with no inflection, doubt, or emotion. He asked if he could use my cellphone, which was close to dead, and I let him. He called an apparent girlfriend. I texted mine, and told her I was on my way to the park, then turned it off again.
He only had an undershirt on and was shivering in the rain and cold. We found the subway station and took an above ground train, from wherever we were in Brooklyn, back to the park. While we waited for the train we met 5 other people who had been recently released and were going back to the park. When we got on the subway car, we talked about revolution, the NYPD, and the future of the movement. We were all even more invigorated about it. There were only a couple of people in the car with us, paying us no mind; and I've never seen young people so committed and hopeful. Never. All 7 of us were on the same page, the same side, and none of us were making snide and spiteful 'we're all fucked' type statements. We were all going back to the park. To not do so- would be treasonous.
When we got off the train, we got out into the street and soon met up with other released protesters. We all cheered at each other, and joined up together to march back to the park. There were about a dozen of us.
We all chanted "ALL DAY! ALL WEEK! OCCUPY WALL STREET!" with even more fire than earlier in the daylight.
2 taxi cab drivers slowed down, honked in unison, and smiled at us. One of the recently released in front of me was holding a cut plastic set of handcuffs which now looked like devil's horns. A couple of other marchers had actually found signs on the ground on the path that we had originally marched and were holding them up. As we arrived back to the park, we were cheered on as we still chanted and were given a real heroes welcome. As I descended into the park to see if my girlfriend was there, she greeted me immediately, to my delight.
We went to the nearby 24 hour McDonald's to trade stories, use the bathroom, and get coffee. It was pretty full in the lobby but we managed to find seats. It was, by this time, raining steadily and pretty cold outside. We stayed inside for as long as it took to get bored, trading rumors with some other released marchers, and then headed back to the park. It was about 4:30AM by this point and our bus didn't leave until 7:20. Many more were sleeping in the park now, wearing blankets, tarps, and reflective material of some kind that I or someone else referred to as 'space blankets.' My girlfriend and I were offered one of these space blankets, but I turned it down since we didn't intend to sleep.
I tried to look for either my American or Italian cellmate. I was going to buy them food. But I couldn't find them.
It was pretty easy to stay awake after being released. The tiniest bit of food or coffee or fresh air can reinvigorate anyone. Which is I imagine how the real occupiers never lose their patience or resolve. An 'ABC eyewitness news' van arrived but only set up a tripod and filmed a view of the entire park. Eventually we called a cab and made it to our bus to leave.
I tried to sleep on the bus but kept waking up. I felt bad about leaving. After all, I'm not doing anything with my life that I'm that committed to; I'm just running out the clock in ways that don't seem so boring. The march and the arrest and the park weren't boring. It was for a cause I believe in. Even now I still weigh my options.
Of course, I've decided to maintain my life as a young American, for all it's worth; which is next to nothing. If nothing changes for the better in our country, my only prospects are to work until I die and leave nothing behind for anyone. It's good to know that if the shit really hits the fan, if I have even less to lose, I can go to that park and be taken in. Even if the residents have been evicted by then, I can always become a criminal Anarchist.
There are 2 things I learned from all of this. First, being a wage prisoner isn't much better than being an actual prisoner. Second, my generation needs to stand up for itself. It's time.

WHOSE BRIDGE?

September 25, 2011

Take Down The Wall

 Pictured Above: The NYPD Protecting and Serving.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the proposed Occupation of Wall Street, but I didn't. The original call, from Adbusters, was for 20,000 people to flood into lower Manhattan. Anonymous said they would be there, as did some other politically oriented internet groups.That seemed like an unlikely number of people; it also seemed unlikely that they would actually 'occupy' anything. I just didn't have a lot of faith in my countrymen. I figured there were be a few hundred dudes in Guy Fawkes masks holding internet meme signs who would dissapear by the time they had to be at work or in class.

A few thousand people did attend that first day(or as the mainstream media miscounted: 'a few hundred'), which is about what I expected, but I was surprised to find that the occupation was legitimate. Wall Street itself was of course completely guarded by NYPD- particularly the iconic brass statue of a fucking bull(only in America). However, a stead of a few hundred protesters were allowed to stay in privately-owned Zucotti park, and did for an entire week. Imagine my surprise and delight that the marches this Saturday, a week after the initial ones, were even larger than the first day!

The movement is explicitly non-violent. I was inititally suspicious of this. Non-violent protest can generate some awareness, but if you don't disrupt anything, it's just a display. I hadn't considered that any huge block of people in New York City is disruptive- especially if it intends to stay or a while. In addition, with the surveillance of little brother with his cell phone camera, abuses of power can generate sympathy to the cause. Like this video, of a group of women getting pepper-sprayed while they're already contained in an orange police net and not resisting, by a white-collared NYPD officer.

This is how civil disobedience and the waging of non-violence can really work in the digital age. Unarmed women getting pepper-sprayed is about as good for generating sympathy as police dogs and firehoses knocking down children.


 Of course, jaded Americans and possible paid sockpuppets on-the-internet will use the usual nauseating talking points, such as:

1. "These people are just young white hipsters, who are spending their parents trust-fund money."

How can a young white person dress to reflect that they're an educated, informed and socially conscious person acting in good faith? Not all white people have money; I know because I'm one of the majority who doesn't. And college-students are likely to be even more indebted than wage-slaves like me. It's also disingenuous to ignore both the people of color who are easily seen in the marches, and  the history of white radicalism in this country.

2. "What do these people want? There's no cohesive demand."

Just one look at a picture or video will show you what it's all about: Wealth inequality, and the ending of corporate and financial greed. There's many ways to skin that cat, but Hey look! They're actually talking about it. As one commenter, Michael Smith, put it best:

"WE CAN'T ARTICULATE WHAT'S HAPPENING TO US This needs to be understood as our strength, not a perceived weakness. This country's financial infrastructure and machinations have gradually become so abstract, so complex, so parsed into esoteric bits, that our bodies and souls are responding to the vague abyss of contemporary reality as best we possibly can... There's no clear class-divide, no bourgeois, no way to pinpoint and dissolve the POWER that's destroying us."

Well, I'd call the POWER that's destroying us Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate(F.I.R.E.); these guys are pretty close to hitting the nail on the head.

3. "Don't you people have jobs? Stop asking for a handout and pull yourself up by your bootstraps! [like I will try to do unsuccessfully for the rest of my life and then die in squalor.]"

 It's quite funny to generalize all the thousands of people who travelled to New York City and are hunkering down in a park every cold night, putting up websites and videos, rationing food and water for everyone, and holding meetings and marches every day as simply "lazy". If they could get a decent-paying job, and avoid poverty, they would.

4. I'm glad our boys in blue are doing the job they're doing to maintain order. We can't judge the police for their actions, because we're not them, [even though there're long recordings of them attacking unarmed people without provocation.]

Our culture worships police and the military(and any authority) which could be a good thing in the long run, since as many have noted, the interests of the NYPD aren't very far removed from the demands of the occupation. I've seen some input from New York National Guardsmen who say if they're called in to restore order, they'll side with the occupation. With that said, about 100 people have been arrested and not been seen since. Unarmed people have been assaulted. If you think this is fine, you have to at the same time admit that this is not the home of the brave, nor the land of the free.

So, I hereby pledge my full support for OccupyWallStreet, and I will join them next Saturday for the march. My only concern is that non-violence will turn into never-violence. Non-violence and civil disobedience has accomplished a lot, but not without the threat of violence behind it. It's great that Civil Rights in this country and India's independence were won through non-violent means, but if they had been won through violence, that would be just as great. For now it's best to increase the numbers by drawing attention to the cause; and nothing is better than non-violence for that.

September 08, 2011

Think Of The Children


'Think of the children' is a phrase used mostly in jest nowadays. It used to be used as a serious argument in the efforts to ban, restrict or censor things that were thought by some christians to corrupt people(whatever that means). These puritans tried to molest Pornography of course, and then network television, drugs,  cable television,  rock music,  rap music, the internet, and most recently- video games. When the most obvious populist challenge was made-

"Isn't it a matter of personal choice?"

'Think of the children' was the only populist defense necessary because children were thought to be more susceptible to being corrupted by the sexual, violent, or otherwise provocative content these things contain.
 You don't hear 'think of the children' much anymore for 2 elephantine reasons in the room-

First, the puritans efforts largely failed. There's an explicit content warning on compact disks(if you still use those), there's video game ratings(lol) and you can't say 5 out of 7 of George Carlin's 'dirty words you can't say on television' on network television, which only old people watch any longer. The war on drugs is their only campaign that still effects society, on every level, and every level of society knows that it's tyrannical and should be reformed.

Second, no children were ever corrupted. The last attempt to prove the opposite was in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre. Violent music was blamed, the internet was blamed, video games were blamed. It's been 12 years now and the most popularly accepted opinion is that the killers were motivated mostly by old fashioned (and typically encouraged) schoolyard bullying and hate- which there's only been a fairly recent backlash against.

Which begs a few questions; Since all of this violent and explicit media is more available now then it's ever been, and children have even more access to it, and they aren't becoming as a whole more dangerous, unhinged or promiscuous, Why do we shelter them? Why do we beat them? Why do we allow them to be ridiculed and bullied? Why do we control them? Why do we keep them in prisons for 6 hours a day? Why do we medicate them against their will?

Can't we do better?

 I know that children aren't just like adults. They are much more emotional, impulsive, and ignorant than (most) adults. They should be kept away from guns, hazardous materials and drugs until they're better informed. But as for access to information and protection from violence? They are people. And they should have rights and freedoms.

That's what I think of the children.

August 17, 2011

Peanut Butter & Jealousy



 There are plenty of great reasons to tax the hell out of the super-rich; their riches have never been as super, they're not doing anything with their riches except multiplying them, and they pay a lower tax-percentage than the working and non-working classes do. But the greatest reason to tax the super-rich is jealousy.

I suspect that either jealously is an under-appreciated motivator, I'm a particularly petty and angry person, or both. Every passionate pursuit in my life exists because I believe there's somebody who's worse at it than me. I never(ever) watch sports, and think 'I could've done better!,' which is also why I don't understand their appeal. But writing, rap music, news and commentary? I figured I could do a better job than the people I see who were successful at those things, and so, be at least as successful as they are.

I was wrong, but it doesn't matter anyway, because doing a good job doesn't make any difference. The United States has the greatest level of inequality compared to any other developed country and part of the reason it continues unfettered is simple mythology. It's mythology that I used to believe. And that is- trying really hard and doing your best will make you successful. Not even make you rich- just sustain your existence.

It's easy to loathe oneself when trying really hard and doing your best only leaves you struggling- but it's not why you're struggling- you're struggling because our current system is written that way. Competence, persistence, and inventiveness don't siphon wealth in the least. 

Which means, it won't surprise you to know, that The American Dream Is Nothing. I've believed in other things like Marxism and Anarchism before, just to explain that failure, or to fill the void. Yet they're all mythologies, which are used by desperate people to justify their own stagnant social and economic standing; as I've tried to do. The truth is simpler and sadder.

The rich happen to benefit from current economic policies. The super-rich make money from simply having money, and our system rewards that, allowing them to keep more of their money. This circumstance, the existence of inequality, and the possibility of upward mobility could be changed with the simple flick of a few wrists- as history has been changed before.

Or, this circumstance and the distribution of wealth could be changed by the swinging of a lot of arms or the firing of a lot of bullets or the civil disobedience of a lot of debt-serfs. It's going to change one way, or any of those others, and one thing is for certain; it doesn't need any justification or philosophy to back it up- just jealousy.

And there has never been a more just jealousy.

August 08, 2011

Arab Spring; American Fall

 Pictured Above: Greek Citizens Respond To A 'Balanced Budget'


The Arab Spring is connected with the European anti-austerity protests, and the current largest protests in Israel's history, and the current riots in Britain. How?

Youth and College Students are always counted primarily among the crowds, who're joined with other interested parties who are against the existing power structure, And who wouldn't be? The existing power structures in all the world(except maybe Bolivia and Iceland) are an old-boys network of exploitative Jingoist old scumbags. This is first and foremost a generational war.

Another standard feature of all the social uprisings are the complaints of lack of job availability, high housing costs, and recent reductions in social welfare. I could say these things are a result of globalization, and I'd be correct, but it's more astute to say they're a result of the globalists patent disregard for the welfare of the working class in developed nations. This is a working class uprising. Clear as day. You'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to connect these dots, and even Hellen Keller could see Socialism was a good thing.

And so we arrive in the present day and 'criminal opportunists' are rioting and looting in Britain. Yep, out of nowhere, a bunch of youths decided to cause mayhem.(It's not like a well known drug-dealer was shot dead by police, and it's not as if riots are a common reaction to injustice in order to make the state pay. And no, it's not as if there were previous student protests and very recent anti-austerity protests; but good try.) Portraying these rioters away as simple opportunists is pretty short-sighted.

I'm sure there were plenty of opportunists on the streets of Cairo who just wanted to see what was going on. I giggled at the old media when they'd ask protesters 'what do you want instead?' You can't expect every man on the street to have a brilliant revolutionary agenda. That's not how it's going to happen these days. Modern revolution is as spontaneous as a mass text message. It's messy. If protests fail, the more you can cost the state in reputation and property damage, the more you shake the forces of old and evil. The point is to discredit and topple the existing powers. If you hem and haw about what to put in their place before doing it then you're about as useful as the stinky anarchists down at the bookstore.

Some of the Greek protesters held up signs saying 'We Are Wisconsin,' recognizing that their battle against austerity was similar to Wisconsin's battle to keep collective bargaining rights. The unrest in Israel and Britain show that this is coming to our hemisphere. We have all the same grievances and all the same tools at our disposal. Some American protests are planned for fall.

And when the time comes, Let's be Cairo.

July 31, 2011

The Atheism That Isn't There

 Pictured above: We can only hope.

You can make any political argument you want to, but be sure your argument starts with:

"See that thing over there?"

And then you can go on to state your case.  You can pick anything. Something like poverty, industry, civil rights, or anything else- as long as it's a real thing. Religion is a special case, because all arguments from a religious perspective start with-

"You know that thing you can't see?"

No, I really don't, and not in a wishy-washy gnostic way. I mean if I haven't seen it, it's not there, particularly if it poses a direct influence on the politics of my country. You'll notice that the most regressive and anti-charitable political positions in this country are argued this way:

"God intended..."

The thing is, when they aren't speaking up, Atheists are just as invisible as the judeo-christian-islamic god. Atheists are the least trusted minority group in the United States- but they can just keep quiet and play along. It's not too dramatic to refer to these passive Atheists as in the closet, because when you think of it, Gays are the only similar minority; in that no one can identify them by sight and they can just choose to endure a life of disinherited sullen oppression.

Because of that I'm tempted to draw parallels between the gay rights movement and the recently vocal segment of non-religious people. The oft-cited(and probably wrong) 10% of the population figure is given for both. The big difference is that in cultures where Homosexuality is condoned, it never spreads to a majority of the population; no matter what your local clergymen or Michele Bachmann might say. On the other hand, in a religiously free and relatively prosperous society, Atheism spreads like hell-fire.

Some scientists have been studying how rapidly ideas can spread. It's in it's infancy, but preliminary findings suggest that once a 10% of a population hold an idea to be true, it spreads exponentially. Look at the younger generations of Americans. Some surveys report a 30% or higher rate of no-religion. Already.

I'm sure many will gift this demographic shift to blustering biologists asking atheists to self identify as 'brights'(never will I ever), alcoholic british-americans working through the 'jew-run' media, or our 'liberal colleges' and their influence. That's an error. The growing non-religious youth population is a testament to the power of coming out of the closet. I think militant atheism, while entertaining(and true), doesn't get as many converts as people at parties getting sauced-up and saying how they really feel about religion.

It's not a matter of confronting every mention of church or religion with "IM AN ATHIEST!1," it's simply a matter of telling the truth about what you think, if you're asked.

This non-believing demographic shift begs the question -where is the representation? There is currently one openly-gay member of congress; Barney Frank. And one openly-Atheist member of the house; Pete Stark.  Another parallel; but seeing that both of them came out after being elected, it's really just an accident of demographics.

 I wonder if there will be some iconic Atheist politicians on the horizon. One can only hope. Intuitively Atheists would make the best politicians- tons of freed-up time and freed-up head-space not spent on church gobbledygook, a direct focus on the here-and-now, and disbelief that a god will sort this all out at the end. I'm guessing that if any politicians can reverse the trend of our becoming a war-mongering toll-booth banana republic it'll be Atheist progressives.

Plus, when a fundamentalist like George W. Bush or Michele Bachmann says-

"God told me..."

...there would be an official voice that could speak up and say-

"No he didn't"

 ...besides the one in my own head. The elephant that's been in the room for way too long makes me think I should get involved with politics more directly each and every day. It's just a thought, but If I did it I'd do it the right way; Bullheaded, symbolic; producing tons of controversy. That's how real hope and change starts.

Maybe that's why many states, including Maryland, have laws against Atheists holding office.



Out of the closet and into the streets!