Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Archive for May, 2010

Neruda on Memorials

May 31, 2010 By: Mel Category: Art, Conflict

Orozco MuralNothing I could say today that Neruda didn’t say better. (My crap English translation is below.)

Sangrienta fue toda tierra del hombre.
Tiempo, edificaciones, rutas, lluvia,
borran las constelaciones del crimen,
lo cierto es que un planeta tan pequeño
fue mil veces cubierto por la sangre,
guerra o venganza, asechanza o batalla,
cayeron hombres, fueron devorados,
luego el olvido fue limpiando
cada metro cuadrado: alguna vez
un vago monumento mentiroso,
a veces una cláusula de bronce,
luego conversaciones, nacimientos,
municipalidades, y el olvido.
Qué artes tenemos para el exterminio
y qué ciencia para extirpar recuerdos!
Está florido lo que fue sangriento.
Prepararse, muchachos,
Para otra vez matar, morir de nuevo,
Y cubrir con flores la sangre.

Bloodied was all of man’s earth
Time, buildings, roads, rain
erase the constellations of the crime,
what is certain is that a planet so small
was a thousand times covered in blood,
war or vengeance, trap or battle,
men fell, they were devoured,
later the oblivion cleaned
every square meter: sometimes
a vague deceitful monument,
sometimes a bronze clause
later conversations, births,
municipalities, and the forgetfulness.
What arts we have for extermination
and what science for eradicating memories!
It is covered with flowers what was bloody.
Prepare yourselves, boys,
To once again kill, to die again,
And cover with flowers the blood.

Trusting Your Government

May 28, 2010 By: Mel Category: Politics

So here is a fascinating chart from Pew. It shows trust in government by administration, starting with Kennedy and Johnson.

Trust in Government By Administration Chart
During the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, most democrats and republicans trusted the government. After Tricky Dick, trust in government plunged and never really came back. But whereas trust in government (or lack thereof) stays fairly consistent for democrats and independents, for republicans it shoots up when one of their own is in the Whitehouse.  I mean look at the difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  Holy crap.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around these figures.  Republicans – who are always talking about small government and keeping the government out of your business and how evil politicians are – have absurdly high trust in government when its one of “their own.”  If they see themselves reflected back, then they just figure, what?  They’re good people and we should just trust them?  Evidence be damned.  But if it’s the scary other, then all bets are off and it’s time to march out with guns?

Meanwhile democrats, who don’t trust government worth a damn, insist that every problem can only be solved with legislation and government enforcement.  How’s that for schizophrenic?  Why on earth would you time and again willingly give your power to people you don’t trust to use it wisely?  And how is it that I, as an anarchist mistrustful of power, am often treated like I’m out of my mind.  I’m just taking your own mistrust to its logical conclusion.

The survey also asked whether it was the members of congress or the political system that was broken.  Unfortunately, they asked it in such a way that, if you wanted to say it was the system, you had to say that congress people have good intentions.  What kind of choice is that.  I’ll take D. none of the above.

Chart Showing Public Views of Congress v. Systemic Problems

You can see the whole pew poll here

Things You Might Have Missed

May 26, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Hello all. Sorry I’m in and out of the internet tubes lately. In addition to work being busy, I’m juggling a bunch of projects. One of them is called Anarchy in the News. It’s a new website for news reports about anarchy or anarchists. You can check it out here.

You may remember that I posted a draft OpEd regarding the Santa Cruz May Day window breaking.  I didn’t get as much response as I had hoped.  So I started thinking about how we might be better at challenging the media. The site will track news reports and (I hope) inspire individuals to respond.  Also, I hope to coordinate some larger responses.  Let me know what you think.

On a related note, here is a post from a Greek anarchist about anarchist response (or lack thereof) to indiscriminate violence.

If you haven’t been following the case of the hikers who are languishing in Iranian prison, Common Dreams just put up a good post on the subject.

Lovely post about anarchism over on ladypoverty.

Don’t open this post at work, as there will be nakedness.  Try to pull your eyes away from the ass long enough to read Violet Blue’s words about the hypocrisy of the anti-sex, anti-gay, anti-human brigade.

That woman you just saw on Violet’s site.  Looks like some of our fellow females would not come to her aid if she were being abused – at least not unless she was wearing a knee length skirt and pearls.

A school employee was kind enough to supply students with dolls.  Awww.  Too bad they were fetus dolls.  WTF.  Somebody makes fetus dolls?  O.k.  I must confess that I almost bought the fetus cookie cutters at Crafty Bastards.  But I would not have given the cookies to kids.  Even I have limits.

Ever look at environmentalists and wonder why they all seem to be white men?  So did Racialicious.

I loved reading about Common Security Clubs.  A little more mutual aid in the world is a good thing.

And, finally, it appears that it isn’t only DC cops that are afraid of snowballs.  New York cops are too.  Unfortunately for cops in DC and NY, they don’t yet seem to be very camera aware.

Liberalism and Disempowerment

May 24, 2010 By: Mel Category: Politics, Seeking, Stratification

By now you have surely heard about Rand Paul’s interview with Rachel Maddow.  Paul slimed around for twenty minutes trying not to admit that he does not support the provisions in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that made it illegal for a private business to discriminate.

On Rachel’s next show, she had a segment on why Rand Paul’s views were so important to get out in the open.  You can watch it here.

Around minute 6, Rachel made the claim that the civil rights act “ended, for example, Woolworths lunch counter practice of only serving white people.”

Actually, no it didn’t.  Four college students – Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond –  took it upon themselves to take that lunch counter.  And a whole lot of other people sat at that counter day after day until Woolworths changed their policy.

You can watch a segment about the Woolworth protest here (excuse the hokey, travel channelish soundtrack).

It wasn’t government action that integrated Woolworth’s, it was direct action.

One of the most frustrating things about the liberal narrative is that it gives presidents, congress, and the supreme court credit for things that they have no business getting credit for.  Elites did not lead the way.  They did things kicking and screaming, if they did them at all, after massive mobilization by everyday people.

And the worst thing is not even that people like Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond don’t get credit for what they do.  The worst thing is that the liberal narrative makes it appear that our only option is to vote every four years and spend the rest of the time screaming at our television screens.

It makes you feel powerless.

But we aren’t any less powerful than Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond.  They didn’t wait for the government to ride in on a white horse and save the day.  They didn’t sit at home watching Tweedledee Democrat and Tweetledum Republican play political ping pong.  They made it happen.

Want jobs?  Take over a factory.  Neighborhood school an underfunded prison that isn’t teaching you shit?  Start your own damn school.  Pissed that banks are raking in millions while they foreclose on people’s houses?  Put your body between those houses and the sheriffs trying to evict those people.

And the next time someone tries to tell you that those benevolent politicians swooped in and saved black people, remind them who the real heroes are.

Things You Might Have Missed

May 21, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

The whole Rand Paul brouhaha has started some great convos on the internets, like at Alas! and Womanist Musings.

This New Yorker article is one of the most reasonable things I have read on Cuba in …well…ever.

Hilarity of the week goes to the 5,200 Mexicans who registered their cell phones under the name of President Felipe Calderón.

Colombian trade unionist Liliany Obando is still rotting in jail, but nothing to worry about with our Colombian trade agreement, right?

George Donnelly is also facing jail time for filming police harassment.  There’s a collection for his legal fees, if any of you has a few extra bucks.

What kind of f’d up world do we live in where people think it is o.k. to die over a tube of toothpaste?

Beautiful post on choptensils about men and violence.

And to leave you on a positive note for a change, some guy just gave his business to his employees.  Take that Ben and Jerry.

Putting “I” Back Into Your Vocabulary

May 14, 2010 By: Mel Category: Seeking

Considering the amount of people who seem to do nothing but talk about themselves on their blog, Facebook or Twitter accounts, you may think I’m crazy for suggesting that we don’t have enough “I” in our lives.

But hear me out.

How many times have you heard people bitch about the anonymous “they” that should have taken care of some problem.  Why haven’t “they” shoveled the sidewalk?  Why didn’t “they” help that poor person?  How are “they” going to protect me from the other “they.”

We’ve been trained to be that way, of course.  And our language is perfectly set up for avoidance of responsibility.  You don’t have to say “I broke it.”  You can say “it broke.”  No responsibility here.

During this winter’s snowmaggedon in DC, a local blogger complained about an incident with DC police.  There was a very drunk man walking in the road and falling down.  The blogger flagged down a cop.  The cop did nothing.  The blogger was upset that the cop wouldn’t even check to see if the guy was o.k.

Why didn’t the blogger just check to see if the guy was o.k.?  Great to be a concerned citizen, but why does concern only go so far as to try and get someone else to do something about it?

We’ve all gotten so accustomed to thinking that someone else will handle things that we aren’t using our common sense or common decency.  I understand the hesitancy.  Changing means taking on responsibility.  It means putting yourself at risk.  It means learning how to deal with difficult people.

But the alternative is handing your power over to people who may or may not ever try to use it to help and will often use it to hurt.  So how about a little less “they” and a little more “I” or , even better, “we?”

Things You Might Have Missed

May 12, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

There is a new project being kicked off to try and get anarchist texts to people in places where they are not so easily available.  Check out Books for Anarchists.

The session I attended at the NY anarchist book fair on women in prison is online.

Polycentric Order has an interesting article In Defense of Egalitarianism.

Also interesting is this article on the commons.

This will not likely come as a shock to you all, but a recent study indicates that people who claim to be “color blind” are (at best) much more tolerant of racism than people who don’t make such claims.  Also highly correlated with racism is a “tough on crime” stance.  Surprise!

And as long as we are on the subject of race and stereotyping, I thought this article on how Asian culture is presented was interesting.  Even better is this article on Racialicious called Black AND Asian (and Jewish?).

Dear school administrators.  Letting the kids solve their own problems is way cool.  Issuing electric shock backpacks to disabled students is not.

Women, it turns out that we must acquiesce to any person who hits on us on the street, or suffer the consequences.  Also, you should know that, if you are a 15 year old going in and out of consciousness and who will shortly die, the news will still refuse to use the word rape in describing the events leading up to your death.

I thought this world poll article was interesting, not so much because Israel is so reviled, but because the “the most favorable viewed countries are Germany (59%), Japan (53%), Britain (52%), Canada (51%), and France (49%).”  Really?  The colonial powers are the most favorably viewed?  Why not Costa Rica whose outgoing president just wrote this amazing letter to the president of Uruguay to try and convince him to disband the Uruguayan military?

What if the North Had Seceded?

May 10, 2010 By: Mel Category: Core, Politics

Here in the United States, the idea of secession is inextricably tied to slavery.  And there is damn good reason for that.  Despite what some putrid politicians may claim, the civil war was very much about slavery.  But the Confederacy didn’t invent the idea of secession.  They aren’t the only people in the world who have seceded or want to secede.  And the people who want to secede aren’t always the bad guys.

Those of us who are horrified by slavery (and I hope to hell that means you) have a tendency to see the Civil War in very simplistic terms.  The Southerners wanted to own people.  The Northerners wanted to stop them.  But I would like you to ask yourself this –  How badly did the Northerners wanted to stop them?

Northerners consistently compromised any principles they claimed to have in order to appease slave owners.  When slaves escaped to non-slave states in the North, Northern officials helped to capture those slaves and return them to their enslavers.  Not exactly the actions of the good guys.

What if the Northerners had really been passionate about the human rights of those slaves?  What if they had been so appalled by slavery that they refused to make compromises with the South any longer?  What if, rather than continue to compromise their principles, the North had seceded?

In this fictional world, the adamantly anti-slavery North would not have returned runaway slaves.  They would have given them asylum.  Perhaps the North would have helped freedom fighers like Nat Turner to procure weapons and overthrow the plantation owners.  Perhaps slaves would have gotten their 40 acres and a mule, rather than a post reconstruction sellout of Jim Crow and the KKK.

One thing is for certain, what we associate with the idea of secession would be much different. And then perhaps it would not be so difficult for us to speak about the principle underlying the idea of secession.  Secession is about self-determination.  Every anti-colonial and nationalist struggle in history has been about self-determination.  Democracy is about self-determination.  If you think that secession is only for neo-nazis, but have a “Free Tibet” bumper sticker on your car, I have news for you.  Tibet is trying to secede from China.  Tibet wants self-determination.

It’s asking a lot to separate the idea of self-determination from the context in which it was used.  We cannot ignore history for the sake of principle.  But nor can we ignore principle because of history.

Secession is back in the news lately.  And often it is on the lips of exactly the kind of white supremacists that you expect to talk about it. Undoubtedly, many of these people would not be talking secession if the president were not black.  But, as Chris Hedges laid out in his recent article, it isn’t just racists who are thinking about seceding.

Many people are disillusioned precisely because they thought electing Barack Obama was meaningful change.  He is an extraordinary person with an incredible life story.  He galvanized communities.  He inspired even the jaded.  We elected an African American community organizer.  From the perspective of the mainstream left, Barack Obama is quite likely the best we can do.  And the best we can do isn’t good enough to get out from under the rule of Goldman Sachs and the Military Industrial Complex.

I’m not writing this to argue for secession.  I don’t think a new state would be, ultimately, better than the old state.  And I’m sure as hell not trying to defend racist separatist movements.  I’m just trying to point out that it is completely possible to be a rational and decent person and believe that a government, our government, any government is beyond hope.  I’m just trying to say that it is not such a bad idea to imagine what real self-determination, out from under the power of Exxon and Halliburton, might look like.

Responding to Anarchy in the News

May 06, 2010 By: Mel Category: Anarchism

I keep an eye out for mentions of anarchy or anarchists in the news.  More often than not, when we are mentioned, it relates to some act of destruction that is being condemned.  Anarchist responses to these reports, if there are any responses at all, are usually confined to internal discussions on anarchist blogs.

I realize that many times we do not respond because we aren’t convinced it was really anarchists that are to blame.  When the newspapers blamed anarchists for turning a snowball fight into a political protest it was completely fabricated.   Other incidents were later discovered to be at the instigation of police provocateurs. I think that makes us hesitate.  I mean why defend ourselves when we didn’t do anything?

And then there is the issue of private property.  Many anarchists are against private property.  Even anarchists who see property destruction (the usual form of violence blamed on us) as counter-productive, hesitate to take a strong stance against it because of their basic feelings about property.  And they rightly point out with frustration that many of the individuals who get very upset about property destruction don’t get as outraged about mass incarceration or war or other state violence.

But regardless of whether or not we are blamed fairly, regardless of our individual feelings on property, regardless of any hypocrisy, I think we make a huge mistake when we don’t respond to these incidents.  We can’t just allow the police and media to represent us.  Those of us who disagree with the actions that we are blamed for should condemn them publicly.  We should also be shouting from the rooftops when we are wrongly accused.

Right now, almost all the news reports about anarchists are negative ones.  They are images that we have to overcome when we speak to people about our ideas.  But it might be possible to turn those incidents into opportunities.  If we could coordinate rapid responses – letters to the editor, ads in weeklies, clean up crews – we might be able to turn things around.  We might be able to educate the public on what we are really about.

There were at least two May day incidents in the U.S. that are being blamed on anarchists – one in Asheville and one in Santa Cruz.  Since I’ve lived in Santa Cruz, I’d like to tackle that one.  I think a good start would be a short letter, signed by as many of us as possible.  It could be something along the lines of:

An Open Letter to the People of Santa Cruz

This past Saturday night, several people went through downtown Santa Cruz vandalizing businesses.  We do not know who those people were or whether or not they call themselves anarchists.  What we do know is that we, as anarchists, strongly condemn their actions.

Anarchy is not about destruction or violence.  To the contrary, it is the belief that a world without rulers will be a more just and more peaceful world.  The signors to this letter have a wide range of views on how to bring about an anarchist future and what that future would look like, but none of us believe that smashing windows is going to help people understand our ideas.

I would try to get it in as a letter to the editor.  If that doesn’t work, I’m willing to fork over some cash to get an advertisement in the local weekly.

If you have thoughts, suggestions on wording, or want to sign on, please say so in the comments or send me an email (  Be sure to give me a way to contact you so that, if there are any changes to the text, I can run them by you.  I hope to have this wrapped up by the weekend, so please share this widely with people who might be interested.

Thanks. Mel