Thoughts of Freedom

I’m starting to realize that being happy and fighting for freedom or even being free are two very different things. The life of a soldier is not the glorified image presented through the propaganda machine. A revolutionary soldier falls into that category.
Pain, frustration, fight, deep thoughts, and compassion are my norms. There is a dream of freedom that I had. And I do my best to live it within a society that only celebrates surface level freedom but uses “societal norms”, religious doctrine, and capitalistic marketing to shun the things that you are “Free” to do and be, so even when you are free by law, society makes you pay dearly for certain abilities to just be yourself. Within those moments of freedom I on occasion find happiness. And it is overwhelming in its beauty.
– Sobreviviente
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Envisioned Future – One Step at a Time

“Transformation of the world implies a dialectic between the two actions: denouncing the process of dehumanization and announcing the dream of a new society.”

As we continue to strive past our current oppressive systems here in the USA and across the world there often becomes an urging for us to define what the alternative looks like.  Often when I denounce white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, and heteronormative patriarchy the response is often well if not this than what else?  It is often hard for a being to think outside of their current frame of reference.  It is true that no idea is original.  All of our creations are simply manipulations of existing ideas and/or the collaboration of existing ideas and none is in fact truly and wholly unique on it’s own.

This inclination of human progression is important in understanding that a fully envisioned future would be an exercise in futility.  As people we need to build on innovation to reach a more improved future.  That being said the progressive approach should not be used to justify stagnation in progression towards liberation for marginalized and oppressed people.  We must push the envelop of revolution in a constant and steady direction where we will often be walking in the dark with a flash light where we can only point the flash light no more than a step or two ahead of us.

This may be frightening for some but it is the reality of how human progress and innovation has constantly happened.  There has been many innovations by “mistake” and many innovations that in no way reflected the original vision of the innovators involved.  Alexander Graham Bell for example intended the technology that would eventually become the telephone to be a sound device for his deaf mother.  Who would have envisioned that the intended sound device for the deaf would evolve to a handheld cellular device with near immeasurable functionality over 100 years later.

We must continue to denounce the process of dehumanization that the systems of oppression facilitate.   This part is more clear in it’s practice.  We also must constant envision a future society and in that vision we must be amendable, adjustable, and comfortable with their being gaps that must be filled at a later time.  We must be conscious of the principles and culture that must be embodied by that future society and allow the fluidity of human invention to fill in those gaps as they stay true to the principles and culture.

Sorry, You Are Not Entitled to Your Opinion

It seems in our society we have an over abundance in belief that everyone is entitled to their opinion and they fall back on the freedom of speech (note I have already pointed out some of the fallacies in the freedom of speech here).  This basis of everyone being entitled to their opinion becomes incredibly problematic when we look at the huge influx of intentionally fake news stories, the lack of desire to truly educate one’s self politically, the lack of true political education within our education system, and the lack of existence of spaces for dialectical discourse to take place.

Opinions by definition is a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.  The free range of the exchange of ideas that are not necessarily based on fact or knowledge is a huge detriment to the growth of the collective consciousness of our society.  These things should not be encouraged and should not be allowed in any way shape or form.  I am not for freedom of speech in the liberal way that it has been applied in the USA.  Here in the USA certain ideas get propagated and protected even if they have no factual basis because of who says them and the access of those people.  For example the KKK has zero, count them, zero political prisoners from the research I have done.  On the other hand the Black Panthers have had more than I can keep count of, the Young Lords, the Macheteros, FALN, the Communist Party of the United States, American Indian Movement, all have a plethora of political prisoners and have a drastically lower history of violence as well as a justified rationale for rising up against a system of oppression while the KKK simply seeks to uphold it’s “opinion” that whiteness and hetero-normative patriarchy = supremacy and use that justification to protect the capitalistic interest of whiteness.

These structures need not be replicated if they can yield such ugly results.  True we do still need places where popular ideas can be challenged and fleshed out for their validity but they should be done through dialectical discourse.  dialectical discourse is described as discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned arguments.  As you can see this process will allow for truth to reveal itself only if the participants use reasoned and logic based arguments to defend their stance not the idea of “I don’t know but this is my opinion on it.” which is a rationale held way to often.

It is also clear that not many people have a firm backing in true dialectical dialogue, a firm backing in logic and how to identify logical fallacies, a firm backing in how to construct an argument, and honestly not many people have a desire to.  They rather sit on their computer shoot off a couple unverified and unjustified comments on Facebook based on their opinion and how they “feel” with no real verification. I have been guilty of such behavior myself and it sways others you may be influential on who may believe that you have done some research on this topic to guide your thought when in fact you have not.

With this we need to truly engage in popular education which provides the basis of these tools to people and we have to create the mechanisms that allow for responsible and dialectical speech  to occur.  Until then free speech will continue to be a detriment and a tool for misinformation and the rise of fascism and fascist like figures and regimes based on propaganda.

I challenge you all to no longer hold so true to “opinions” and instead research philosophy and how to construct logically arguments and identify logically fallacies (here is a good start), no longer hold your opinions that are not based in dialectical discourse so dear to your identity, and not be afraid to say “I don’t know” in given situations where you don’t in fact know and wait to gather necessary information from credible sources before you formulate an argument to present to others for dialectical critique.  Until you do all that you are NOT entitled to your opinion.

With Revolutionary Love,

 

Sobreviviente

The Pursuit of Happyness

In conversation with a friend she seemed to have the idea that she could just will herself out of her dissatisfaction with her life.  Will herself to happiness.  That happiness was just a choice that she could make every day if she was just strong enough to do so.

It seems with the rise of books/documentaries like the secret this is a common idea among people.

From what I have experienced you cannot simply just choose happiness or sadness.  Your choices have to be a change in the material conditions that facilitate your happiness and sadness.  You can’t continue to do the same exact things when you were sad or angry and think just telling yourself these things make you happy actually will.  Your emotions towards these things are valid and should signal in you a desire to change.  So changing your understanding of the world around you and changing your behavior will help garner incremental improvements.  But the real improvements will come when environment is changed. That is when you will truly begin to see a shift in your emotional state and well being.  A change in people, places, and things as the fellowships would call it.

These are the lessons I have learned through quitting a high paying job to chase my dream as a social change agent using dialectical materialism as my guide.

I hope this helps.

 

With Revolutionary Love,

Sobreviviente

Lessons and Reflections From Standing Rock

A week after the debacle that we are calling election day 2016 I was at the Jermaine McBean Art Show opening night with the family of Jermaine and my organizing family.  At the end of the event I was talking to Jasmen and Asa and they asked me if I would wanted to/could go to Standing Rock next week as a part of a delegation from South Florida.  I said I would try my best to do so. I am currently in a diversionary program so to do so I would need to get approval from the court.  After jumping through plenty of hoops I was able to get permission from the court to go to North Dakota just a day before we were set to leave.  

Asa sent out a great email with some fantastic information (listed just below this paragraph) that he received from the #NODAPL people but even with that I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had never spent extended time around indigenous folk so I was really excited about that.  I also was worried about the weather.  I had always said North Dakota was one state I would never want to travel to because of how cold it was and because …. I mean come on it’s North Dakota.  

Note: Special thanks to Paula, Tifanny, & Jasmen for doing the majority of the logistics in planning the trip. 

(Links sent by Asa – Standing Rock Allies Resource Packet, How To Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective, How to support Standing Rock and confront what it means to live on stolen land, Media Guidelines from Sacred Stone Camp)

The drive up was challenging as we were jammed pack with people and supplies.  As well as being ill prepared to deal with the eventual cold we would face.  We paced our way up to North Dakota and finally got there after about 42 hours.

The cold hit us like a ton of bricks while there and we did our best to stay warm.  Some of us requesting to sleep in the car and the emergency tent, wary of the possibility of shock due to the drastic weather change as well as to deal with ailments and illness caused by the trip.  

We also noticed the really terrible cell coverage and the erratic behavior of our phones. They would drop all the way from 50% battery to nothing in seconds and then minutes later come back to life without being charged back at 50% battery.  The cell coverage would go from 4 bars to nothing in moments.  No matter how many bars you had it was near impossible to get data to go through making checking social media impossible.  

We stayed on Sacred Stone camp and were oblivious to the existence of other camps.  We were a bit shocked by how many white people there were and how few indigenous folk and people of color.  After thinking through power and privilege and ability to just pick up and leave a job and responsibilities and have the resources to make it all the way to North Dakota we realized the racial dynamic shouldn’t be that surprising.

We began working all collectively on different projects throughout the camp until we were advised that there were in fact other camps that also had trainings and it was recommended that we attend the trainings and explore the camps before getting to entrenched in the work.  We really had the mentality of just wanting to give over all else but we decided to take this recommendation and go exploring for the rest of the day.  In our exploration we found out about the difference in racial dynamic and cultural dynamic of Sacred Stone Camp and Osceti Camp which we found to be the bigger of all the camps.  Osceti camp was much more diverse and had a lot more indigenous people there.  We also found the information for all the trainings.  

During these explorations we also noticed how incredibly communal things were.  You could go into any of the communal tents and take whatever you needed.  There was no request to barter or pay for anything.  If you needed clothes, medicine, tea, tents, blankets, food, water, etc. it was there for you to take.  There was also just a natural inclination to help.  As we walked past people working we would just ask if anyone needed help with anything as we saw them laboring away and they would tell us how we would help and we would work together and get to know each other as we did so.  Very unusual to the alienation of labor that usually happens in the capitalistic structures I have seen.  

That night we had to insulate our tent some more to deal with the cold and we also had to go pick up another comrade from the airport that night.  Her flight was set to arrive at Bismark airport at 10 PM and it was about an hour drive so we had to leave by 9 PM.  We used that time to insulate the tent some more and then all of us except the four of us who were staying in the emergency tent went on the drive to Bismark.  We also decided we would use that to make a supply run for the camp as a whole and for ourselves.  We were running through water very quickly and we also wanted to have small snacks available for quick meals and in between meals.  

As we were waiting for our comrades flight to arrive we began checking social media.  Since we were away from the campsite we were able to get service with ease.  As we were sitting eating dinner we came across a FB live feed from the camp that was showing water cannons being used in 19 degree temperature (not factoring wind chill) on the protectors that were involved in a direct action against the builders of the DAPL or Black Snake as the protectors took to calling it.  The video is being taken from a distance away on facebook hill which we later found out is the only place on camp that has any semblance of consistent reception because they do have WIFI devices and tech personnel there to help with facilitating the operations of the legal teams and others that would need internet access for the fluid function of the camp.  We continued to watch this grainy video from an hour away from camp and see flash grenades going off in the distance, hear the chaos of the night being broadcasted for millions across the world could watch via Facebook.  Our hearts sunk collectively.  We wanted to be there to help the people in the camp in whatever way we could.  We felt guilty for not being there even though we knew nothing of the possibility of an action that night before we left.  We wanted to go back immediately but we still had to wait for our comrade to arrive at the airport.  Finally when our comrade arrived we drove back to camp.  When we got back we were told that there were drives going back in forth to pick up people from the front lines and take them to medic tents throughout the different camps.  People had been pepper sprayed, tear gassed, had flash grenades thrown at them, shot with rubber bullets (some bullets were said to have had the rubber part taken off of them to increase the impact), as well as hit with the water cannons.  People were suffering from hyperthermia as well as countless other ailments.  We were concerned and scared about the thought of entering that intense battle brought on by Morton County Sheriff’s office but we knew we had to help in any way we could.  As we began to drive to the front with our van we were told we were not needed anymore.  They already had a 10 car caravan heading to the front lines and that would be enough to bring everyone back.  We turned the van around and headed back to camp and picked up a woman on the way back who was walking.  She said she was at the front lines but seemed to be making it seem as if it were a spectacle to be embraced and reiterated how much “fun” she had and even suggesting that the officers enjoyed it along with her.  We were a bit confused by this.  

The next morning we made it over to Osceti camp and heard more about the damage brought to the camp, and the people both physically and morally.  A young woman could have potentially lost her arm due to having a flash grenade thrown directly at her during the action the night before.  Hundreds of people were being treated for various ailments, the most common being hypothermia.  This reinforced our disconnection from the person in our car the night before.  This disconnection from the true conditions and intent of the camp would be a recurring theme.  

We attended the workshops which were led by a varied of racial background and all non-male identifying folk. They were very powerful and reiterated an idea that I would begin to hold very dear to my heart as my time in Standing Rock progressed.  The idea was “take what you need and give all that you can.”  This was very important as resources were so limited it is very important to only take those things that you absolutely need. If you are sick, see the medic, if you are cold, take some clothes, if you are hungry, then eat.  Overindulgence was strongly discourage and the constant evaluation on what you truly “need” was emphasized heavily.  On the other hand it was duly recognized that all you have is gifted you from the earth, from the land, and you owe that back to the land and all the things and people the land has also created.  So all that we had we shared with the people and the land.  That meant our possessions as well as our physical labor.  If we didn’t need it at that moment we gave it.  This was heavily rooted in spiritual practice.   Everything was heavily rooted in spirituality and prayer.  That was taught to us in the training and practiced throughout our time there.  Every morning there was prayer and before every action there was prayer.  Prayer for them was very much rooted in the chrishing of the land and all it provides for us and how much we need to protect and give back to the land.  I really valued that lesson greatly.  

The workshops were also incredibly indigenous people centered. There was always an ask for indigenous people to respond to a question or make a comment before it was then opened up to people of color and then white people.  This was an interesting practice I had never before seen and it was explained as a way to encourage others not to take up too much space and further colonize the land and opportunities of indigenous people.  

The direct action trainings and legal trainings were extremely thorough and valuable.  I really appreciated the time they took to put together these important and valuable trainings and now saw why we were told to explore and attend the trainings before working.  

Between and after the trainings we still found various ways to help by washing dishes, or helping cook, or helping build tents and things like that as we walked through camp sites.  

After our last training we went to the legal tent to fill out legal support forms.  Some of us had some legal issues that we had to be wary of as well as non-citizenship status that could be affected by an arrest at a direct action.  So we wanted to make sure to have the legal team be aware of that.  It amazed me how smooth they were running considering the thousands of people who come in and out of the camp on a regular basis.

At the legal tent we were also told about the cell reception issues we were having and how that is due to the planes flying overhead to survey our phones and jam our signal.  Some of us figured as much being that we have encountered similar technology used by Broward Sheriff’s Office at our actions but never to this level of consistency.  

The rest of the days on camp were a mix between working on camp doing construction type jobs, cleaning up, trash pick up, washing dishes, eating, staying warm (which was toughest when we slept), keeping from getting sick, and direct actions.  

The direct actions were intense.  The police officers from Morton County were extremely combative and underhanded.  They brought border control to one action to scare people that may have documentation issues from participating.  At another action they told the people they had 5 minutes to get to their cars before they began arresting people.  As people returned to their cars they were already towing them and they would snatch people up who had nowhere else to go.  We spoke to many people on the campsite about the holding cells as they waited.  The holdings were so full that people were being held in cages that they believed could be dog kennels.  Others were being transported 4 hours away to neighboring cities to use their holding.  

When we went to a county commission meeting with Veterans for Peace who acted on behalf of the camp to file a formal complaint about these behaviors of the sheriff department the county commission declared their committed support despite the urging by the veterans that these tactics are often discouraged as beyond drastic in war let alone to be used against USA citizens.

All this is being done to protect the building of a pipeline that isn’t properly permitted and has the potential to damage the land and water supply of the people trying to protect the earth and water.  The amount of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism in that idea is nauseating at the least.

Also the residents of the towns in North Dakota near the camp were full of anger towards the protectors.  In direct actions that happened in town we had racial slurs thrown towards us multiple times.  Stores would lock there doors near actions to keep protectors out.  There was provocation done by the citizens of the town speaking about how they don’t want us there and threats to act violently if we did not leave.

As we stayed in the camp though we were so inspired by the resilience of the people there.  The indigenous folk and their allies, for the most part, were so dedicated to the stopping of this pipeline and creating all the sustainable structures on camp to make that happen.  Making sure to honor the land and the original people of the land with each action. They were building actual structures to prepare for the winter cold which was only getting worst.  They were creating schools, mess halls, security buildings, etc.. The people there were constantly trying to solicit all the things they needed to preserve the safety, security, and stability of the camp so they could be in this fight for the long hall.  I was amazed by this.  So much more advanced than any organizing I have ever seen and heard of before including occupy.  

The camps though were not without their challenges.  Many white allies took this as a hippy retreat and escape from the capitalist world and didn’t see fit to contribute and live up to the “take what you need and give all that you can” ideals encouraged by the camp.  They took up a lot of space and offered constant critiques without contributing to growing those critiques and ideas into tangible solutions.  That is another valuable lesson delivered in the camp.  The importance of following through with suggestions and ideas instead of dumping them on other people.  I have experienced this constantly in movement work.  Where people will give me an idea that they have no desire or will to carry through and expect that I will do all the emotional and physical labor to deliver it to fruition.  I have also been a perpetrator of this practice myself.  A lot of these people had not gone to the training to learn these lessons shared with us by the indigenous leadership. They continued to perpetuate the ideas that were counter to the trainings and direction of the camp.  Many of these things happened at Sacred Stone camp and maybe because of the distance between this camp and Osceti camp that led to a bit of a disconnect between the mentality of the two camps.

There also were many complexities on camp between the indigenous folk and the various tribes on site who haven’t been together sharing the same space ever.  So finding common ground amongst colonized and displaced people I can imagine to be a challenge in itself.  

Even through these challenges the camp was such a magical place.  We left feeling drained, renewed and refreshed all in one.  The drive back was only 36 hours including a brief stop in sabal trail pipeline to leave supplies.  It felt like we brought some of that magic home with us as we began reentering our daily lives. The inspiration of the movement to create these tangible structures for the facilitation of resistance is something we seek to emulate locally while simultaneously uplifting the struggle all the way in standing rock.  I will never forget the 8 days plus spent traveling to and from standing rock and the time on camp.  I will always seek to take only what I need and give all I can in the basis of a spiritual connection to the land.  I will never be the same.

Continued… A week later

As I sit in a restaurant in Puerto Rico discussing the Mijente conference and the various learning experiences we have had it is brought to my attention that the army corp of engineers has denied the permit to the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The first thing that hits me is shock.  Why? Why would they deny the permit?  Why the sudden new found altruism when they were just recently seeking to remove the water protectors from the Army Corps of Engineers land in because they claimed they were concerned for their health during the cold winter but didn’t release a statement in concern for their health when they were hit by water cannons used by the Morton County Sheriff’s office in 19 degree temperature not more than a week earlier.  Were they genuine about their concern for the water protectors?  Is this denial of the permit a display of that.  I go on Facebook to see other posts speaking to Obama’s involvement in the pipeline being blocked.  I am frustrated by the exalting of the “heroes” named Obama and Army Corps of Engineers in some instances and thankful at the recognition of the political pressure applied by the Water Protectors at the detriment to their own livelihood and health as the key reason why the pipeline was stopped.  

The articles still make me question, is this real?  The Army Corp of Engineers have talks about rerouting the pipeline.  Then is the work really done?  I am still worried and concerned.  It doesn’t feel like it is time to celebrate but everyone is so overjoyed.  Calling it a much needed “victory for the people.”  I hope they are right.

The next day I get to the airport in San Juan named after an imperialist advocate and former governor of Puerto Rico.  While waiting for my flight I receive a text from Wendy, an amazing indigenous rights advocate that traveled with us to Standing Rock.  It reads

“yeah there is talk that DAPL will continue”

“Since it has to be built by January or most backers will pull out”

“And they will just take the fines”

“Yup”

I looked this up and learned that there are rumors that Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, will incur a $50,000 a day fine to continue building the pipeline.  The machine keeps moving, black snake keeps moving, and the people are left searching for more and new ways to stop the machine.  The people will continue to fight for victory.  One thing I learned at standing rock and will continue to spread to everyone I know is that the people will take what they need and give all they can.  This will not stop, we will not stop, we are who we have been waiting for.

Donald Trump, The White Working Class, and the Banality of Evil

I think it all these articles talking about the white working class’s alienation from the parties (especially democratic party) as the cause of the rise of trump despite his xenophobia, racist, patriarchal, misogynistic, Islamophobic views makes the error of how inherently these feelings exist in the white working class to uplift their lives. The division of people using identity politics makes the white working class feel better about their subordinated position because “at least we are white”. These tactics have been used ever since slavery to mobilize the white working class to uplift the white bourgeois structure. So while recognizing that the white working class does feel alienated from the parties and current political system (they ignore that people of color do too and still voted either Hillary or didn’t vote at all) they also inherently tolerate and often uplift the same disgusting views that Trump exemplifies.
 
The banality of evil is a very important thing to remember. Nazi soldiers weren’t any group of people that were distinctly evil. Many were just that, disenfranchised white people with families that fell into the propaganda of Hitler and Germany. In no way do I mean to compare these people to Nazi soldiers but I use this example just to show how the worst of evil can co-exist within very normal average people.  I believe that is a very scary thing for people and especially the media to come to terms with.  We like to know very clearly who our villains and heroes are.  To think that the factory worker down the street with 3 kids that volunteers at the local YMCA as a coach could also hold sentiments that uplift white supremacy and patriarchy in very ugly ways while loving his family, kids, and immediate community is disturbing.  Using phrases about people of color they know as “they are different” to excuse their over arching abusive views of different marginalized groups.  This has been a norm in the USA for a long time but we continue to be afraid to point out this elephant in the room as we provide our analysis of Trumps victory.  A recognition that White Supremacy and Manifest Destiny ideas still having such a strong underlying role in USA culture would force us to realize how far we still have to go.  The resistance to acknowledge what people of color have known for so long, that the civil right movement was far from the establishment of a color blind society in the USA is a difficult thing for many white US Americans to come to terms with.  They say the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one.  It is time to recognize white supremacy and patriarchal mentality for what it is and how it has contributed to the rise of Trump and truly begin to overthrow these systems of oppression or we will be in for a rough ride as a country.  

Why aren’t we really talking about it? Serously? Pati De

In 2013, former President Jimmy Carter publicly stated that, “America does not have a functioning democracy at this time.”

As I could have expected my first article about election boycotts rang true to the title.  It engaged little serious conversation or engagement.  Very few even read it. That could be a testament to the things that I actually outlined in the article, or my inability to capture readers attention on the topic.  At the risk of being the tree in the forest that falls and no one hears  I have decided to write the second part that will dive deeper into the history of election boycotts, their aim, why they have been viewed as “not working”, our current conditions, and what our tactics could be if we chose to engage in an election boycott.  Strap in, it will be an intellectually stimulating but honestly pretty safe and secure ride so you might not need to strap in at all on second thought.  

Election boycotts have had historical place in many countries Cuba, South Africa during Apartheid, Serbia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, and the Zapatistas in Mexico to name a few.  Each have been judged for their own levels of effectiveness which can be delved into deeper on an individual level.  I have provided link a link at the bottom of this document to a lot of different websites with links on each of these as well as notes that I highlighted that may be able to shed some light on each of them if you would like delve into the weeds.  For the sake of brevity I will summarize that the common threads of these boycotts:

  • The driver of the boycott was a view by the people that “the legal framework or the context of the election is such that a fair competition is impossible.” The means in which it is not fair competition can be any of the following:
    • Concern for ballot secrecy
    • Exclusionary politics
    • Frustration with a false choice (sound familiar?)
  • Election boycotts are viewed as drastic measures to take and are taken only when it is viewed that democracy no longer exists within the current structure.
  • The success of the boycott is judged by either the boycotts ability to put the party in power that the boycotters are advocating for, or to remove the current party from power.  
  • For all of these there is one singular party that is in power that has a very anti-democratic control of the political system.  
  • Most had one opposition political party that called for the boycott amongst their supporters.  
  • One distinguishing factor for those who are deemed more “successful” than others is the boycotts being accompanied by other measures that will hinder the government’s ability to actually govern which we can simply term as ungovernability of the people.  

With this high level synopsis of past election boycotts we can now begin to make some evaluations of the current conditions in the USA to determine how an election boycott could be feasible here.  

Some common threads in the current conditions in the USA is that there is a frustration with false choices.  Many believe that Hillary and Trump are just false choices juxtaposed against each other.  Some (patriarchal, racist, imperialist mostly) believe only Hillary is the false choice, some (patriarchal, racist, imperialist mostly) believe trump is the false choice.  Some believe they both are false choices further putting on display the charade of the US political system.  Either way you look at it the vast majority of the USA is reaching a boiling point with false choices.

In regards to exclusionary politics that is the absolute basis of the US “democratic” system.  The vote of the white aristocracy has always been prioritized within our voting system.  From white landowners only having the ability to vote at the onset, thus excluding the white poor and working class, women, black people, indigenous people, and any other group not in that very exclusive class.  These exclusionary politics have been reported in depth during this election cycle, especially during the primaries by Bernie supporters and the wikileak emails now supporting that collusion leading to Hillary’s primary victory.  Also there is the voter fraud/error incidences in Florida during the 2000 Bush election and also now, the lesser known case, with the medical marijuana amendment this year (click here for more on that).  There is also gerrymandering or redrawing of voting districts (click here for more on gerrymandering) and citizens united (click here for Bernie Sanders providing more info on citizens united) that have been highlighted much less but still very relevant to the exclusion of certain people from the voting process.  Gerrymandering allows for parties to limit the voices of dissension within voting districts that they control.  Citizens United allow unchecked influence of corporations on politics and as you allow for that uncapped interest of corporations they further facilitate the existence of false choices that guide voters towards the interest of the corporate choices in legislation and candidates.  Finally, there is the well cited use of electoral college which many voters and potential voters view as a muting of their vote as a candidate can in fact when the popular vote and still not be elected president as the  electoral college vote has final say.

It also may go without saying that the exclusion in politics have manifested very well in the exclusion of these same groups socially, economically, and in every other supporting societal structure.  The overtness of the practice has been progressively subdued but it is existence is still incredibly pervasive.  

Though ballot secrecy doesn’t seem to be a known concern for the typical US voter the other common elements for discontent with an election/political system to spur an election boycott are present.  

But what is at stake?  What can we lose here?  What are the risks?  What are the alternatives? And when have things reached the tipping point where this drastic tactic is necessary to use to move towards the democracy and just society we are seeking?  Before diving into these questions we should define what “success” would mean for an election boycott in the US.  

As stated previously success was typically defined as the removal of the incumbent party and/or put a particular party in power.  I think an election boycott in the USA would not work in that same way.  Common feelings of the people of the US are that both parties, Republican and Democrat are corrupt and create the conditions described above that would be conducive for an election boycott.  Based on 2014 data, 39% of voters identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans.  That is used to illustrate that most registered voters do not believe in either of the two parties and the group that should be targeted for an election boycott are the independent voters not a specific party. Now in 2012 the country’s population was nearly 313 million, of which about 241 million were at least 18, the legal voting age, according to the most recent data available from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Nearly 194 million Americans — or 80 percent of those eligible — were registered to vote.  In that election, about 67 percent of the country’s registered voters cast a ballot.  This shows that non-voters make up 47% of people within voting age in our country.  This makes me think conditions are prime to organize this block a people towards a certain goal or ends.

It is important to know that these two groups of both non-voters and independent voters are not groups that, to my knowledge, have been successfully organized to a certain end goal.  It is also incredibly important to note that these two groups are incredibly diverse with their own nuanced rationale as to why they choose to reject to two party system or the voting system entirely.  With that being said what are some of the issues that can ring universally true among this diverse group and will help the struggle for liberation of marginalized and oppressed people?

I think below is a good list of demands that we would want as a result of our election boycott:

  • Overturn Citizens United
  • Create a Free and Fair Elections Amendment
    • Amendment will set strong limitations on corporate involvement in government and repercussions for such involvement
    • Firm regulation of district redrawing to prevent from gerrymandering
    • Eliminate the Electoral College
    • Automatic voting registration for all 18 year olds within our country
    • Voting Day – People get off from work in order to vote
    • Lower the qualifications for alternative parties to be on ballots and be involved in debates
    • Informational access to local judges

Note – this should be a working list so input is very much appreciated

Now that we have what we want to achieve listed out I think the next step should be what exactly we will be giving up or sacrificing in order to achieve these ends by using an election boycott so we can then determine how we can organize around those challenges that we are taking on.  Listed below are the drawbacks/challenges of conducting an election boycott:

  • Incumbents and/or undesired candidates will win with little opposition
  • Our opposition would lose our access to a channel for information, to the media, influence over important public policy, etc by not having allies within political office.
  • Miss out on “moment” opportunity to use regular voting intervals to organize people beyond just voting.  
  • Forfeit access to GOTV and other election resources that can be a platform, media access, and financial that can be used for the greater movement as a whole.  
  • Some would have to forfeit jobs and/or refuse employment revolved around organizing people to vote (personal sacrifices).  

Note – this should be a working list so input is very much appreciated

These are all some very serious challenges to face.  Particularly the lack of access and formal influence over the political process for an election term.  That would be extremely difficult to navigate and goes to show why it is extremely paramount that an election boycott is not taken lightly.  It must be well planned and well thought out and the structures need to be in place to allow for the people to overcome these challenges to see the boycott through to the actual realization of the democracy we seek.

The question then becomes can we organize around these challenges.  As stated earlier election boycotts who were successful had strong organizing tactics that supported the election boycott to mitigate the power of the governmental structure they were boycotting. Recently there was an article published where Elaine Brown criticizes the BLM movement due to lack of actual organizing as she sees it.  She recognizes the mobilization happening but is very harsh in her critiques as to where that mobilizing energy is directed as well as the lack of the creation of structures in which people can create tangible systemic alternatives or survival programs to create the conditions for revolutionary change.  Now her critiques were done, in my opinion, a very damning and overbearingly parental tone without properly taking into consideration the time frames in which we are starting a movement as to when the BPP was founded where they had years of movement building preceding them that they benefited off of by Malcolm X and MLK.  That being said she does have merit to her points (See Elaine Brown article here and Shaun King response here). I think it will be essential for us moving forward either towards an election boycott or any strong revolutionary change to create alternative structures to limit the power of the institution that we have such harsh criticisms of.  

In this context.  What are the structures that we need to put in place to push us towards our end goal and in the meantime mitigate the difficult conditions we will encounter as a result of an election boycott.  Below are some of my suggestions.

  • Occupations of government offices
    • Prevent the normal operations of the elected officials
      • This will result in some very direct confrontation with militarized police forces and likely violent upheavals
  • Create alternative food structures
    • Places where we grow our own food in order to meet this basic need without engagement in capitalistic economy
    • This could be very important if due to our election boycott things like food stamps and free child breakfast and lunch in schools are revoked or removed.
  • Acquisition and maintenance of communal property spaces.
    • Create land and property in which people can live in communally without or with minimal financial contribution and instead contribute in other ways such as tending to the land, handy work around the property, cooking, cleaning, etc.  
  • Create alternative income streams
    • Development of cooperative business structures that are community owned and less dependent on the investment of one person and therefore the decision making of one person.  
      • Cooperatives will be essential in the areas of most need of the people:
        • Grocery stores
        • Clothing
        • Tools, hardware and other household supplies
        • Farms
        • Book stores
        • Construction companies
        • Day cares
    • Solidarity with other countries that would be willing to trade with us directly
      • This one seems difficult and complicated and would need some exploring
  • Constant engagement with the community
    • Canvassing
    • Town halls
      • Constantly be discussing the endgame and the next courses of action.
    • Educational events
    • Survival programs

Important Note: The size and scope of the needs of these programs are something it will be very difficult to assess up front but their existence and scale-ability are essential so that if they are needed at a high degree when the election boycott begins we will have them in place and people will have alternatives to resort to.  Also this is not an exhaustive list so please feel free to add to it or comment on any items here.

With these types of organizing structures in place I think we can, as a network of communities, have the power necessary to whether the storm of an election boycott and reach an end goal of the democratic structure needed to adequately use voting as a means to reflect the will of the people.  Only when we have the true democracy needed can we actually influence the political process enough to get our “one step at a time” change that many people are aiming for with their current “Get out to Vote” campaigns, third party voting campaigns, lesser of two evil voting campaigns, etc..  These are all adequate in theory but in practice, within a oligarchy system, they will not take us towards the end we seek.  The system continues to readjust itself in ways to compensate for the loss of certain oppressive mechanisms.  From slavery, to reconstruction and indentured servitude, to Jim Crow, to mass incarceration.  It is only a matter of time before the next iteration of this cancer that we call US democracy is birthed and if we don’t begin to build the structures and social conditions necessary to act now in a way to transform that system we will again be victims of its ebbs and flows.  

People often ask who will bleed for change and the reality here is we fail to recognize who bleeds every day for the status quo. We know this answer to that, we know who is bleeding and who has been bleeding.  They have bled far too long.  We have bled for far too long.  George Jackson once said the following:

In the 1970’s, the Oakland chapter of the Black Panther Party split with the more militant chapters around the country and began focusing on mayoral and city council campaigns.  Each campaign drained the resources of the Party and diluted the revolutionary ideological foundation that had once inspired young, working class Black Americans.
We must continue to push forward that ideology that names the system for what it is and doesn’t submit to its will but morphs it into what it should be and what it could be in order to deliver the promise of liberation that we romanticize to oppressed and marginalized people.  With an election boycott as one of those means partnered with the organizing tactics listed above I believe we can and will facilitate that transformation.

See below for notes and relevant weblinks:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HtempkgZTBZ9sg1SlHZXnO4SdxyY3CYeX4HAK1HL-EA/edit?usp=sharing

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EvtFLmMMKY0OZ2OPQN_R9vFT1GEGYLpekX0bbP9HZV8/edit?usp=sharing

The Power of Spectrums

The Power of Spectrums – The master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house

We have often fell into conversations of binary and duality.  Even amongs people who reject binaries in many other areas and see binaries themselves as an act of violence.  

One such binary that has been forced on us is violence vs. nonviolence.  We must choose as people how we will attain our liberation. We must choose which side we are on.  This stance would fully ignore the reality that we are full and complex beings who may act violently or nonviolently in various situations.  ALL OF US ARE AND HAVE BEEN VIOLENT.  That is an assertion that needs to be recognized.  We must resist the system’s need to box us in and force us to deny part of ourselves.  The compartmentalizing of our being is an act of violence.  Forcing us to deny parts of ourself is a tool of the master’s house to deny understanding us as the full and complex beings we are.  Only acknowledging our pain as marginalized people when it fits clearly in a box that they can digest.  

This same idea holds true in many other areas of our life.  Artist, lovers, friends, family, etc..  We should have a basis for healthy interactions with the people in our lives but that basis should not be so restrictive that it doesn’t allow freedom for that person to express themselves fully in ways that is not a detriment to your mental well being.  Now it is important not to use this caveat of detriment to someone’s mental well being as a crutch to guard against challenging conversations that may reveal to you truths or alternative perspectives you are not ready to hear.  Rather it is to establish rules of clear, healthy, fair communication and conflict necessary to growth and not condoning abusive and subjugating interactions.

Though it may be uncomfortable at times we must resist the desire to box people into well hold perceptual categories that prevent them from stepping into realms that may surprise us.  Marginalized rage and pain need not only be expressed in digestible forms for their oppressor. Marginalized people need not be relegated only to spaces when they are teaching of their oppressor.  The perspective of the marginalized people must not be tokenized but instead uplifted in places that it is typically not present.  We also must not compartmentalize people’s struggles.  A woman should not be forced to ignore her oppression as a woman in order to uplift and fight against race/culture/ethnic based oppression.  All the same a working class or poor person should not have to be on the fringes of the feminist struggle.  These ideas also work in reverse as well.  We need to acknowledge that people are complex beings constantly fighting to uplift our own personal voices and struggles that have been muted by systemic oppression in the many various ways it has and at the same time we are recognizing our privilege and undoing the ways in which we perpetuate the oppression of other people in other conditions that we never directly experienced.  We are oppressors and the oppressed at all times.  We cannot fit into the binaries and categories created to divide us and often use to perpetuate that divide through tokenism.  

To dismantle the master’s house we need to reject this categories and embrace our spectrum of complexities while recognizing the solidarity that exists between all of us in our struggle for liberation.

Am I Free to Speak?

I got into a conversation with a friend a while back about first amendment rights and specifically within that the freedom of speech.  We talked about how important and integral this is to our advancement as people.  Through this conversation I began to question the validity of this freedom of speech and expression.  It seems to me that freedom of speech and the ability to freely express yourself and speak is on a sliding scale based on various levels of privilege.  

Take for instance Trump.  He is allowed to say any number of patriarchy, xenophobic, neo-liberal, racist things that he wants.  Why?  Because all the things he says upholds the systems of oppression already in place within the current US socio-political-economic power structure.  

Now if a black working class woman were to run for president and have the same level of momentum in her campaign it would be impossible for her to push forward a radical black feminist inter-sectional socialist narrative.  She would be outcasted and ostracized immediately.  Her lack of privilege would automatically make it so that she would be required to take a moderate stance on just about everything.

A perfect example of this is Barack Obama.  He has to reassert as often as possible that he is not the president of Black America but America in general on numerous occasions.  His policies have done very little for the material conditions of the black community despite being uplifted by the black community and driving out the black vote in record numbers during his original election cycle.  Often his rhetoric has reflected blaming the black community for their own problems, citing lack of adequate parenting and mentorship, without truly addressing the systemic reasons why these broken families and communities are the way they are.  His need to take the middle road has been troubling.  It begs the question, is he really free to speak?  The most powerful black person in the US arguably and is he really free to speak?

The reason I start at the “top” is because I want to illustrate an important idea of access.  The freedom to speak also is undoubtedly tied to access.  What is the purpose in being able to speak freely about ideas if no one can actually hear these ideas and they are shut out from any forms of dialogue.  Freedom of speech becomes empty and hollow when only certain types of speech have the volume turned up when they are broadcast while the rest is only played through a filter of white noise.  When you have 6 major corporations that own 90% of all media that propagates the problem even further.  

Now an argument may be made that these ideas are appropriately marginalized because they represent a minority in our culture and thus the ideas that are being uplifted are those that fall in the spectrum of what most US citizens think and feel.  So freedom of speech allows you to speak but the popularity of the idea itself is what carries it into the mainstream or not.

I respond that is a double edge sword.  Ideas that now lay on the fringe must be allowed within mainstream discourse in order to allow for the challenge of traditionally held dogmas to prevent from perpetuating false narratives.  Also how could we really know if an idea can gain popularity if allowed, if there is no actual access to spreading the idea to those who may accept it.  Ideas themselves cannot change if they are not allowed to spread freely and with similar access to those they could possibly change.  

Also I think it is important to recognize the drastic repercussions faced by those who attempt to spread ideas that may counter the oppressive power structure currently in place.  Most notably MLK, Malcolm X, Oscar Lopez Rivera, and many of the Women and Men of the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and other third world or anti-imperialist movements.  Many of these people have been arrested, killed, beaten, and harassed by government agencies as well as denied employment for their ideological viewpoints that were not degrading of any person or group of people but instead a recognition of oppressive forces and the way they have beaten down people like themselves.  

Now these may be drastic but what about your average working class person who may not be so entrenched in this kind of alternative thinking.  Courts ruled that a person can be denied employment for wearing dreadlocks, a traditional hairstyle mostly worn by black people.  This freedom of expression thought to be covered by the first amendment is sacrificed in the name of white-euro ideas of professionalism and conformity.  Various typical white longer hairstyles worn by both white men and women have not been demonized to the degree as black natural hair has and is rarely cast into the realm of “unprofessional.”  

So again I reiterate that freedom of speech has to come with an important level of freedom to access the mechanisms in which speech is spread and dialogue is had at a level where the masses can be influenced by it.  If only a homogeneous group of people have the absolute access to the spread of their speech that automatically undermines the freedom in and of itself.  This could only happen if there is communal control and ownership of the means to produce mass media by the people themselves and not private corporations.  Until this point when it comes to the question “Am I Free to speak?”  the answer would be “not really.”

Trickle Down Crime

Trickle Down Crime: Debunking the myths that crime is inherent in blackness and browness

It has been a long standing myth that trickle down economics was a sound economic “theory” that would lead to the economic prosperity of the nation.  This “theory” manifests itself in policies designed to create more favorable conditions and monetary incentives for the wealthy in hopes that these “job creators” will, through their business “ingenuity”, naturally uplift the economic well being of those in more challenging socio-economic conditions.  I don’t think I need to spend any time disputing the validity of this laughable economic theory so I won’t.  Instead I would like to change economics to crime and assert that it is not money that will trickle down from the top to the bottom but it is actually crime that does so.  When those at the top commit crimes or create conditions where their exploitation of the poor, and working class have become normalized and in-effect non-criminal they will then create the conditions in which crime will be equally normalized in the most impoverished communities.  

I recently had a meeting with the State Attorney of Broward County and we discussed crime and punishment and how it is applied disproportionately to the black community.  After this riveting (draining and mind numbing at times) conversation I was pulled aside by one of the State Attorney’s employees before I left.  He brought up to me how we are able to have this conversation in this room but if he were to bring up these same topics to a homeowners association, for example, they would think it absurd to discuss the protection of criminals as victim rights should trump all.  I don’t think he realized he opened the door for a conversation he was ill equipped to have.  I responded that yes he is right homeowners would express their concern for their property and that in itself is a further indictment on the criminal (in)justice system.  The fact that the system is designed to protect the interest of property owners rather than humanity as a whole is evident in the juxtaposition made between a social justice/human rights group advocating for reforms and changes to the system in which we actually consider the humanity of “criminalized” communities (this is a drastic oversimplification of what we are seeking) and those property interest groups advocating for stricter punishments at the same time.  Also it is very important for us to keep in mind the conditions that create crime and all of them have their links to poverty and lack of access to resources necessary to empower yourself within the current community.  This is essential in the understanding of crime.  The communities with the lowest crime rates aren’t those with the most policing, most overzealous prosecutors, and longest sentences.  They are those with the greatest access to resources and income.  

Have you ever looked at someone and been able to tell that what you just said just really fucked up everything else they were about to say to you and really have no idea where to go from here?  Well that is the exact look he had on his face when I said this. Needless to say the conversation ended very shortly after that.

images

Reflecting on this conversation allowed me to revisit some ideas that I had mulled over previously about crime by these “wealthy landowners” who advocate for “tough on crime” legislation are actually what creates the crime they seek to end.  

Let’s start with a list of the unpunished crime of the wealthy, just in recent years:

  • Subprime mortgages leading to the collapse of 2008.  Unfairly targeted black and hispanic families.  Disproportionately impacts the wealth of black and brown communities.  Only one person arrested for these atrocities.   
  • HSBC admits to laundering $679.4 billion in drug money.  Agrees to pay $1.9 billion in fines to the US and receives immunity from all criminal charges.
    • Bank of America, JP Morgan, and Western Union have all been accused of similar practices.
  • Flint Water crisis. See below for descriptions.  So far 6 people have been charged. The water in Flint is still contaminated.  The residents of Flint still have not been given a means to leave the city or sustainable access to an alternative water supply.  
  • Donald Trump – various levels of sexual misconduct – 11 separate women.  Still our 2016 presidential candidate.  
  • Hillary Clinton – Allegation of electoral fraud against Bernie Sanders in the primaries.  Still our 2016 presidential candidate.
  • More than can be named in criminal (in)justice system.  Kalief Browder, Jermaine McBean, Rekia Boyd and countless others unjustly targeted and killed by the system.

Now these are just recent and obvious cases put together very quickly.  I am sure you all can come up with plenty more that I may have missed (I actually challenge you to do so, jump in those comments).  I list them to show not only the frequency, but their massive impact over hundreds of thousands to millions to billions of people.  Then compared to the amount of punishment received by those involved. Now going back to an earlier assertion people commit crime in situations of poverty and lack of access to resources needed to better their situation.  All these crimes are massive and overarching acts that both eliminate wealth and/or limit access to resources to change their conditions.  For example the two presidential candidates crimes (though one a bit more directly and obviously reprehensible) both dishearten marginalized people from the belief that the political process will yield any change which is a common thought spread amongst poor and working class people. If you vote you can change the system.  Yet when the people you are voting for have shown little regard for respecting people and their choices it makes it removes access to that mechanism to uplift you.  In Flint the access to water is denied which is essential for human survival.  Without access to that essential human need how can one worry about education, wealth attainment, etc..  

So now when you have these crimes at the top you create conditions for working class and poor folk that their work is now erased by irresponsible governance and corporate greed.  Yet these people still have their basic needs to be met.  Beyond having their needs being met there is a resentment created amongst working class and poor people that facilitates their disillusionment with the “American Dream” of work hard and keep your head down and you can make it out of the despair.  That coupled with the communities being flooded with alternative and illegal means in which to make money through selling drugs (facilitated by money laundering banks receiving no more than a monetary fine as well as, at the very least, some government blind eyes turned), prostitution, and theft.  The picture begins to become much more clear as to why crime exists in our society when the broader picture is taken into account.  

I want to make note that I have taken this picture only from 500 feet but if you go up to 5000 feet and start accounting for historic oppression between immigration practice of importing and deporting cheap labor, union busting, and denial or worker rights as well as they even more atrocious genocide, slavery, indentured servitude, Jim Crow and decades worth of mass incarceration termed as the New Jim Crow by the brilliant Michelle Alexander the picture will begin to take an even clearer form as to why crime exists the way it does.  

I think a very important note here is that though incarceration rates try to tell a drastically different story according to the bureau of justice statistics that violence and violent crime rates are very statistically similar when compared in similar economic and social conditions (click here for full report).  Marijuana use and distribution by race is roughly equal yet incarceration rates are drastically higher for black people (click here for brief article by washington post, click here for full report by ACLU).  The idea that criminality exist in certain type of people, particularly black and brown people has been nothing more than a marketing campaign pushed forward by political parties to demonize people of color and allow for the “tough on crime” legislations and campaign strategies to catapult political careers on the backs of people who have been victimized by that same political system time and again while simultaneously trying to convince us not to worry because eventually the money will trickle down if we keep working hard and paying our taxes.  

It is obvious to me that the money was never intended to trickle down, but they knew full and well that the crime would as they continued to create greater disparities in wealth and increasingly less access to resources for poor and working class people to improve their conditions.  So as the crime trickled down they just threw us in cages hoping we would continue to ask for their protection and safety from the conditions they created.  

Click this link to view resources that contributed to this article:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IRhWhnNBBvRDf39vDL_6Qc48_xXKEqtcPzFSlkBDsAE/edit?usp=sharing