So, what do I do?

So, what do I do?  One possible response to the question those who are freaking out right now keep asking.

As this new blog has taken shape, it’s been framed (or so I’ve hoped) as a means for me to be in conversation with the radical left, primarily in the US – though not exclusively – just simply because that is where my own life experience has been.  In this piece, I want to broaden out the first part of that much further in order to address a question I seem to be getting a lot right now: “What should I do?”  Mostly this is coming from folks in my life less connected in with the radical left but nonetheless individuals who generally care and are concerned in these times.

So this is for them and, if you are out there getting similar inquiries, maybe this could help.  Or give me feedback if you think there are significant things missing.  For those of you looking for the answer to this question, I have to tell you it isn’t easy (or I would’ve just answered you on the spot).  You might not like it because at it’s very core, it means that you must act and you must challenge yourself in ways you probably never have before. The answer isn’t easy – if you’re looking for an easy answer, you will find the world offers you little more, at best, than what is happening right now.

First.  Accept commitment.  The struggle is long, it requires ongoing, consistent work.  Including on ourselves.  Sure we all take breaks when need be from time-to-time but real change requires more than short-term reactionary thinking and action.  Start with yourself – what do you care about?  What do know how to do or what skill could you develop?  How can you push yourself to learn what you need to know to be a part of movement?  This is not a quick thing; it shouldn’t be.  We need to think bigger than that.

Second.  Stop just reacting.  People are upset right now – understandably – but if we just freak out and react to each upsetting thing, we’re never going to get anywhere and we’re going to continue to lose.

When all we do is react, we set up a few problematic things…  a) we aren’t developing a longer-term strategy to create the world we want to see.  b) we’re not building movement toward that world NOR towards taking down the current one (and thus, arguably, propping it up instead).  c) we’re not developing ourselves or our communities politically; instead we’re standing still or narrowing by keeping within the smaller grouping of folks already in the know, going through the motions with diminishing creativity.  d)  we get stuck in the politics of demand wherein we’re asking for things – from other people – to not be so bad instead of taking control of our own lives, communities.

Additionally, the reality is that they don’t care.  So, then again, we’re not building, we’re not creating, we’re not taking responsibility.  We’re just getting increasingly stuck in the quicksand of fascism and oligarchy masking itself as ‘democracy’.

Third.  Accept that old strategies and tactics (the Left has mostly been doing the same thing for about 60 years if not more) must be critiqued, re-thought, scrapped when necessary (pretty much entirely) and new ideas brought to the table.  Which means that if people are doing things that you somewhere have filed away as ‘wrong’ for some reason, rethink that.  In my experience, often times, people only like tactics that keep them in their comfort zone.  We live in the empire and it just went full fascist – long past time to leave the comfort zone.

Fourth.  Take time (like a good amount of time) to think about the world you would like to see.  Not just the world some liberal politician is selling.  Not even the world that seems likely or possible.  What is the world you would want to see if anything were possible?  Now pretend you’re not you.  What if you were an Indigenous environmental organizer in Honduras?  Or lived on the Niger Delta?  What if you were a young person in Palestine?  What if you were a doctor in Yemen?  What if you lived in Flint, MI?  What if you worked in a factory making phones in China?  What if you were from the Congo or the Maldives?  What if you were a polar bear?

If your whole life, you’ve lived in and benefited from the white-supremacist, capitalist, empire of the U.S., deconstructing that cannot just be a mental exercise, an HR seminar.  The institutionalized politics of that are never going to lead to liberation for all beings.

The world you imagine doesn’t need to match everyone else’s – it shouldn’t.  What you want is not right for everyone else on this planet – it’s not.  Nonetheless, your actions affect countless others.  We live in late-stage capitalism in the heart of the most powerful empire in human history.  Everything you buy and everyone you vote for contributes to that. That sounds daunting and it is (somewhat) inescapable.  BUT it is also real and if you can accept that reality, you can begin to break out of what you’re “supposed” to do and actually start creating a better world.

Fifth.  It’s up to us.  And it should be.  One of the most insidious effects of both capitalism and so-called representative democracy is that they divorce us from the reality that we have agency.  We need to stop asking others (who do not share our interests) to do the work for us.  We must.  I find this liberating.  I want to come together with others and have responsibility over my own – our own lives, our communities.

So, what does this all mean?  Tangibly?  As you are taking this all in, thinking, self-educating, strategizing, talking with others… start thinking about how you can come together with a group of folks.  Even if it’s just a few.  And think about what you can do – NOT what you can ask some politician to do – what you together can do.

If I were to imagine the world I want to see and the way I see us getting there, they line up.  They’re small groups of people making the world – a liberated world without the repression of the state or capital, where people have what they need and can find joy.

Where is your group in that?  How do you relate to others?  Movement, revolution, these are built on relationships; they are dependent on them.  What is important to you?  What can you build?  What can you tear down?  How can you rethink how to make change?  How can you be open to new ideas?

Because here’s the hard facts.  A new era of oligarchical fascism is here.  Our old tactics are not going to suffice.  This is a moment; it’s an opportunity to break wide open the cracks in the sidewalk, in the system.  WE have the opportunity to build something strong and powerful; autonomous and joyous.  But there is a lot to do.  The time for hand-wringing is over.  It’s time to get to work.  It will feel slow at first but we must build something solid if we are really going to shift things.

This is also an opportunity – and here’s what lies at the heart of my answer to this question so many of you have asked.  I don’t hope for a Democrat in the White House in four years.  The last 8 have been catastrophic.  I hope for something much more – that completely different world that I want to see – that is what we have to work towards.  A world of many worlds as the Zapatistas say.  A world that is not just good enough for those of us with privilege to feel comfortable.  A world where all are liberated and have control over their own lives and communities.

The answer is:  let go of the trappings that have held you in your political box and begin to come together with a real vision for something better.  Do that with others that you know and can share that vision with and figure out what little piece of that better world you are going to work on.  Then connect with other groups like that.  Maybe you want to create something; maybe you want to destroy something.  We need it all.  Look to those in your life who’ve thought about it and worked on it and ask hard questions and seek to learn more so as to move forward consciously and with clear purpose.

I will continue to try to post resources towards this and am open to sitting down with folks to talk more about it all.  If you are out there, reading this and you don’t know me – cool – hopefully this is somewhat useful. I’ll post more soon.  Here’s is one podcast I like that is worth a listen:

RebRattle 2017: Some Personal Responsibility

It’s the evening of the last day of 2016 and I’m feeling pretty low. I started this new writing project to discuss rebuilding the radical Left and in these last moments of the year, I feel both the need for that and the incredible weakness of the current Left so overwhelmingly.  There are a lot of reasons for this and I’m realizing that it’s the little pieces of things that affect me so much; maybe just because they serve as representations and reminders of the bigger picture at hand.

I’m really sad.  I’ve actually been crying.  Today, it’s about people eating animals. I know, I know, it’s not in fashion right now to feel this way. Just listen anyway. As someone who has been an active part of radical left organizing community and an advocate of animal liberation for over a decade and a half, I have to say that even I am curious why tonight of all nights, I was breaking down over the meat consumed around me this particular weekend.  It took some time (and the support of my wonderful girlfriend) to help me realize why this was having such an effect on me…

At this moment in time as not only fascism looms in the United States à la Trump but with that the culmination of the Right’s wet dream of climate change denial and a feverish, palpable hatred of the other – i.e. the Muslim, POC, woman, queer, immigrant, etc., what is needed more than ever in my lifetime (if not ever in the last I don’t know how many decades) is a strong radical Left movement. What is needed right now is the ability for people to come together and organize like they’ve never organized before and work harder and be better humans than ever. That is the only way we are going to find our way out of this.

Yet, after almost two decades as an organizer, I have never been so lacking in faith in the Left. We are an empty shell of anything we may have ever been whether 10 or 100 years ago. But what does this have to do with animals, you ask? It has to do with animals and it is also broader than that.  We have ceased to live as prefiguratively as we can.  We no longer think about where we buy things or if we buy things at all.  As I was coming up in the Left of 20 years ago, we always questioned our consumption.  Not because we felt that our consumer choices would save the world but because at our core, we did believe we needed to challenge ourselves to live outside of capitalism as much as possible.  We didn’t buy sweatshop clothing, we were vegan, we opted out whenever possible.  It wasn’t the answer for the world – that was the fight we were also engaged in – it was the answer for us, ourselves, to feel that we lived our politics as much as we could. Continue reading RebRattle 2017: Some Personal Responsibility

The Last Thanksgiving

November 24, 2016

The Last Thanksgiving, Part I

It’s a quiet and grey morning; snow on the ground though not much. Climate change what it is, despite it being late November, winter has barely just come to Minnesota. Most folks in this country – currently known as the United States – are celebrating the holiday Thanksgiving today. They’re cooking and drinking, watching football and, likely, trying to avoid arguing over the political situation following the election of Donald Trump.

I’m not with any of them; not those I am related to by blood nor friendship. I choose not to celebrate this day. To live in the United States – in my work life, family life, and even radical community – that makes me an outsider. Which is okay. Though each year that passes, I find myself more confused as to how we all continue to hold onto this holiday without much real resistance.

In an interview yesterday, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz said, “… this is very hard for people to give up. This is the nationalism… americanism is white supremacy and represents negative things. There is almost no way to reconcile it. It simply has to be deconstructed and faced up to and otherwise there will be no social change that is meaningful for anyone.” ( Continue reading The Last Thanksgiving

what i’ve been up to

it’s been four and a half months since i posted. apologies, i’ve been a bit busy. my last post immediately followed the murder of Philando Castile. in the days and weeks following, there was an upsurge of resistance across the twin cities and the country. this included highway shut-downs, an occupation at the governor’s mansion and more. these led to hundreds of arrests. among these arrests was that of Louis Hunter, cousin to Philando Castile, who faces more serious charges than any other arrestee – 2 felonies and up to 10 years in prison. in the last few months, i’ve been working on his support committee as well as in collaboration with other arrestees from around the cities to stand in solidarity with him. i encourage anyone reading to continue to follow this case and support Louis specifically and the struggle against police repression generally. more information can be found here:

i’ve been working on several new posts that will be up in the coming weeks. now, as much as ever, we need to be rebuilding the radical left.

in solidarity and struggle

Tear It Up, Tear It Down

“They’d tear this motherfucker up if they really loved you…”

Before Philando Castile died last night, the pain and anger at Alton Sterling’s death – at that point, still the most recent in the long, long, long list of police killings of African-Americans –  was palpable.  The words from roommates, friends, coworkers: there is no reform that can fix this.  The system must be completely overhauled, the police must be stripped of their power, their property.  The system of injustice in this country serves none but white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy.

Body cams, dash cams, even eyewitnesses and social media spreading brutal images – hard as we try, there is nothing that can tweak this system into something humane.  Calls for reform, calls for prosecution will go nowhere.  No one will be spared.  There will be a next time.  The crushing weight of despair sets in knowing that the system will neither hold accountable those responsible nor make sure this is the last time this happens.

So, what then?  Can we propose new tactics?  Can we rethink our strategy?  Can it be time to abandon the focus on reform that will not come?  Abandon the state-oriented solutions that will never ever actually end this genocide?  I hope so.  I hope that not only does this movement continue to build and grow but to take on a truly abolitionist stance and action.  The abolition of police and prisons must be what we seek regardless of the long road we will have to travel to get there. Continue reading Tear It Up, Tear It Down