Posts Tagged Occupy the Hood
Lately there been a lot of discussion about, violence and sexual assault against women, and the rape-culture, in many of the circles of people that I talk to regularly. Yesterday, with the verdict and aftermath in the Steubennsville case, and given some of the discussion that had taken place at a gathering I attended, these issues were prevalent in my thoughts when I witnessed an incident in downtown Oakland in the 16th and Broadway area.
I was walking on Broadway, when I heard a bunch of yelling down the street about two blocks away. I turned around to go check it out, and could see a group of young kids, black, consisting of two girls and two boys. They could have been friends, acquaintances, or even strangers, to each other. The two girls were taller than either of the boys, and were wearing tight shirts, and tight shorts. The boys were short and funny looking, imo, and may have been quite young. One of the boys was aggressively grabbing and pushing/shoving one of the girls, and she was the one yelling. She broke free and ran up the street, yelling “get the fuck away from me” etc.. A couple of white people hurried to their cars, the other adults around disappeared. …I am someone who will intervene in public wackiness from time to time, especially when it seems like I am the only one who will, or the one who has to initiate the intervention to get others to join. This was looking like one of those times. I felt like I may be about to need to handle it on my own, and assessed whether or not the kids were armed which I thought/hoped not. My adrenalin rushed up..I knew I could easily squish the boys, either or both, if needed.
At the same time though, as the girl was running, she was smiling, or so it appeared, and when he caught up to her, he at first put his arm around her as if he was her boyfriend, and she seemed ok with that, ….possibly. Slightly confused, I got as close as I could to them from across the street, and followed them up towards 14th. They saw me, and the boy seemed to chill out. Then when they crossed the street, he suddenly pushed the girl into one of those dark stairways by the café and the Plaza. I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could hear the girl yelling again. At this point I ran in that direction and started yelling. “you better get off her” , :” stop that shit now”…and then I told them I would call the cops…Which I really wouldn’t have done, because I would have gone over and physically intervened before doing that…but I also knew that threatening to call the cops is the easiest way to break up a situation. That seemed to get his attention, and the aggressiveness stopped, but as they walked away I wondered what would happen next, and if anything had really been averted.
I also observed my own rage, and my desire to exact punishment on the boy, possibly heightened by the fact that I have a teenage daughter who spends a lot of time in that area of town. I felt a little sickened by my thoughts of doing great harm to some little teenager. Isn’t that what these out of control, power tripping cops do? I also tripped off my instinct to threaten to call the police. Even if I wouldn’t have actually done it, I felt weird about using the threat of the state, when I know that the incarceration complex does nothing but exacerbate issues like rape and violence in the long run. In fact prison is a place where rape culture is fostered, and spread back throughout our society. And what would the cops have done, if they even showed up?
Regular folks gotta handle business sometimes ,(or maybe all the time), and I felt like I maybe should have done more , like followed them, or continued to yell and maybe scare the kid. I soon recognized ,with sadness, what all of us feel when we look at the state of things…that there wasn’t much I , alone, could do about the incident at hand, or the overall situation at this point. Bad shit is happening everywhere on the regular, and I ain’t no super hero.
The one thing that I felt like I might have accomplished was to demonstrate to the kids, and to the other adults who were around, that some folks would at least speak up if they saw something disturbing. I felt like the kids weren’t getting much of that in their lives. Not that this type of behavior is limited to poor kids, with little parental discipline ,in the hood. This violent, controlling, and plain psychotic behavior happens on all levels, and with even far more skewed power dynamics than what I witnessed. Of course I didn’t really know what the situation was there. As bad as we can imagine, sometimes reality is even worse, …but hopefully it’s better… Afterwards a black woman in a wheelchair came up to me, and asked me what was going on, …I said,”I’m not sure, but I don’t like it”. ,,To which she replied ..“Yeah me neither…if they gotta do that stuff, take it inside at least..” ….aargh!
Which led me some of my own less politically correct thoughts that I had during ,and after the incident. For one thing, I felt like the girls were dressed in manner that gave me concern, even though I definitely believe that clothing or lack thereof never gives a man any reason to rape or assault a woman. I still felt like they were dressed in a way that was possibly dangerous ,and even looked like they could have been emulating what a sex worker would wear. I wondered what would happen if an older guy, with a car, and money, and a more refined game, came up on these girls. Would they have resisted. That to me was possibly a more dangerous scenario than what I saw on the street. I felt bad for thinking like this, but real talk is real talk… In other times and places beautiful women,and men walked about naked, or nearly, and this was never an issue. I know that it is an issue of culture, or lack there of, but dang, the most vulnerable girls amongst us need protection more than the right to run wild in the streets of America. This is an exceptionally dangerous place. Especially for young, women of color.
I also have to say that part of me felt a little bad for the young, abusive boy, and even for the rapists in Steubbensville. People like them are lost with no clue, and little wisdom to draw from. I do feel like they are victims of this culture, and of people not being willing to say, or do anything real. Something must have gone profoundly wrong long before any of these kids could do much about it. Unfortunately,thousands or even millions of their clueless american male,drone clones wandering in our midst, spreading sorrow and suffering. I am thankful for the guidance ,and good breaks I received as a kid, and I acknowledge that I am not blameless, or free of sexism and abusive mentalities. This is part of the illness of America. We are all afflicted. So to me, even more outrageous, or telling, than the sympathy displayed to the boys in the media, is the unwillingness for any of the mainstream to acknowledge the sickness of a culture that reproduces this type of behavior consistently. They are the creators of the morals of this society. Own up!
The young men of this culture whose potential are wasted , or stunted, and who do dumb, hateful things that cause destruction, mostly are also victims imo (as we all are to some degree)…This is a sick, depraved place in many ways….however I am also not convinced that someone who does something as a heartless and methodical as what happens in Steubbensville has the ability to be rehabilitated. I just don’t know if you can slide that far and recover. At least not with the tools this society uses to heal our psychosis. At the same time, incarcerating a bunch of men after they have committed terrible acts does not stop the rape-culture, it merely makes false dichotomy of guilty and innocent. As long as you have not been found guilty in a court of law, then your actions are acceptable. which doesn’t teach us any kind of morality, and the courts are rife with good old boy plantation era bias. I think it is clear that traditional law enforcement strategies will not keep women and girls safe in this country. At least not ones with little social clout. This is about our culture, and morality, and the value of love and kindness in our reality. If we find ourselves lacking, then we need to change.
Anyhow, some thoughts on a subject that seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. Lot’s of folks have weighed in lately, and now we look for some solutions. millenniums in the makings maybe, but better late than never. I think there is something that can be done, but I am not sure what. Probably around groups of folks, especially men, going out and having real conversations in the community about these issues, and creating the possibility for a different standard of behavior.
Posted by Oakland Radicals in Anarchy, anti-Capitalist, APOC, Black History, civil disobedience, Collective, Communalism, Decolonize, intergallactic, Oakland, Occupy, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Wall Street, Racism, Radical, Revolution, Strategy, Survival Strategy, Uncategorized, unemployment, Welfare on February 24, 2013
by Zappa Montag
I have been thinking about collective survival for some time, and bouncing some ideas around in my head. Over the last few months I have tried to put these ideas into words, even as a simple facebook post, or blog entry. I started writing this 8 times, in 5 different ways, in 2 different mediums, but I experienced a writer’s block. Should I write from the beginning , the end, cryptically, pseudo cryptically, dogmatically, catmatically, cartoon copy, ? Should I bother writing anything at all?
The answer turned out to be yes, …of course write…writers write right? ., but maybe cut it into small sections …Maybe eventually to be published as a book, or a manifesto, or humanifesto?. Or my personal Zapfesto. about building the Co Co Mo (Collective Communal Movement) Intergalactic…a Pro collective, non-capitalist way of life, for future dwellers, starting now!
Maybe as an individual maybe I can’t write about collective/communalism, without input from, well, everybody. And who am I but one person hanging on to reality by a thread.. I think I got answers for society? ha! Maybe I should write that sci fi novel first..
But in the end, this is a modern saga, and I am living it..and it is not unlike many other peoples experiences in our troubled times, so
Co Co Mo or bust!
Basically I am a failure at capitalism. I suck at it for many reasons, and over time I have been reduced to being a pawn in the making money game called “life in america “, To the powers that be I am an inconsequential, low-level consumer, who has made bad economic choices , leaving me living paycheck to paycheck, and with few realistic prospects of regaining economic viability by most standards. Of course maybe that describes many of us? I think it may…
which brings me back to a few years ago when I started tripping off this collective survival stuff that I am trying to express,…
it was around 2008… Do you remember when….
Obama became president, and the Great Recession hit full stride? I was recently unemployed, after a long stint in public education. The economy tanked soon after I began searching for a new job. Finding work had never been hard for me before ,but I quickly realized that I was not in the desirable, easy hire realm, anymore. I was old and experienced, opinionated and unsettled. The few jobs that may have been available to me were uninspiring, paid less than unemployment, lacked benefits, and created child care issues for me as a single parent. I soon stopped looking for work.
Truth be told, I wasn’t that bummed about the lack of work thing after a while. With the extensions given to those of us on unemployment, I had a small but steady income, and time on my hands. I began to recall what a precious thing time is ,(even though it is more plentiful than air, we always seem short on time). Plus, there were lot’s of us jobless folks. Hey, if you are on facebook all day, you might not be employed, and facebook was poppin all day, every day. We bonded over our new found downward mobility. We got in hustle mode and made do. It became less of stigma to be broke as heck. It became ok to talk about how uncool, and porkulent, most rich people were. Us long term jobless were called the 99ers, after the cut off from unemployment benefits that we would face if we lasted jobless after 99 weeks. I figured I could do that easy, and so I decided to ride out the recession as an unemployed, black bohemian.
I would fill my time with music, and socializing, practicing creative pursuits, and getting healthy. What could be better? I sang, danced, and I met lots of artists and musicians types; I went out and drank and partied with my people who, like me, probably shouldn’t have been spending our small cash holdings on booze and parties. It sure was good to be home in my element again, back with my riff raff roots. I mentally gave up on getting a “good job”. Never had believed in that stuff anyway. Ya know? Make payments on time for twenty years so I can have enough money to fade away in cheeseball American style. Eh? The great Jim Morrison said it best in Roadhouse Blues, “the future is uncertain and the end is always near.” Planning ahead is for those who believe in America, and capitalism, and boredom over freedom.
At the same time however, my money issues, which included, times when I couldn’t find (literally) gas money for my car, and times with no car at all, incessant collection notices and calls , and other daily mental beatdowns from my nemesis, capitalism. The daily money stress, along with my fears of not being a real “provider” to my kids as broke as I was, led me down a path of intermittent isolation and depression. I was living the best and worst of all worlds….. Free, happy, depressed, worried…. When I was finally kicked off unemployment after the 99 week deadline, the negative vibe began to win. .. I was overwhelmed, and anxious, unable to carry about activities that I knew were imperative to my ability to provide for my family. As a single father, it was a hard time in many ways.
The upside, though, to being broke as flock, and jobless and with child dependents, was that I was now eligible for welfare, and thus health benefits for the first time in several years. Yep, I became a Welfare King!! Not where I envisioned myself at age 42 or so, but I got over it. I needed the monthly 500 dollars in cash, 350 in food stamps, the doctor’s visits, the mental health counseling, and the meds to treat my depression and anxiety. The irony was not lost on me that I was indeed now finally broke enough to get some help from the government. And being trained, and over educated in the ways of Babylon, I was able to jump through the bureaucratic hoops that were required of us indigents. Unlike many of the more long-term, or truly impoverished folks who should have gotten more aid and help than they often received.
The flip side was that if I made even a pitiful sum of money working, I would lose the benefits, and the cash aid. Either way, poverty was inevitable. I also now felt the Welfare stigma. One didn’t have to discuss this to know it existed and I rarely mentioned that I was a recipient to even close friends. Unemployment was bad enough, but welfare? As an able-bodied man, in a male dominated society that values so-called “self-sufficiency”, and rugged individualism, there is shame to be on welfare. And being black only added to that. Just as I am sure that there is shame for women, especially black women, who are the most stereotyped in regards to welfare. Believe me though; the aid is not sufficient to survive. If you don’t have several side hustles, or benefactors, you will starve on welfare. It really is a setup for poverty and legal entanglement, and it puts the bureaucratic state all up in your business.
The health benefits did help me though. (turns out health benefits are beneficial…even for poor folks) I got some decent doctoring, weekly mental health therapy, and meds which allowed me just enough of a temporary boost to face going out, dealing with reality, and finding a job, and starting over, at age 40 something. Of course I was now deeper in debt, my credit was, is, and always will be, totally shot, and with I had little hope of ever getting back on the economic good foot. In fact, if debtor’s prison ever came back, I began to think I was an excellent candidate. Escape across the border to Mexico as an economic refugee became a viable long term plan in my mind. Eventually, though, I was able to find a crappy paying, part time, education job which involved commuting long miles daily. Considering that there were times that I thought nobody would ever hire me again, it felt good to be making a check anyhow.
I still knew that as far as America, and the dream, I was economic road kill; my piddling job was no fix for that. The illusion of fairness was further swept away by the “Great Recession”. The rich got richer, and everybody else got poorer. After living through decades of open class warfare by the uber rich against the lower classes, many of us had started to vocally resist the twisted rhetoric of the elite, and began to lay blame for our massive social dysfunction at the feet of the super-rich. This to me was a long time coming. They belittle our aspirations for peace and unity, and they are callous to our suffering, and believe in their own superiority, despite the obvious fact that the system is rigged in their total favor.
Fueled by lack of options, and a desire for some minor retribution, I began to go back to my more vocal, anti-American, anti-capitalist political mindset, which I had cultivated when I was younger, but had toned down around the time my kids were born. I felt like I had little to lose by talking smack at this point, and there were many others feeling similarly bold.
Right around then the Occupy movement hit, giving international voice to the sentiments that many Americans were feeling. I joined up enthusiastically, but I realized that I was tripping off some ideas that were not being expressed that much in the occupy movement. The ideas that kept circulating through my thoughts had to do with creating a new “economy” ( although I have begun to despise the term “economy” which I associate with money based systems.. we don’t want a new economy, we want to live life, and fulfill our human potential, …but what to call that? Life?). The broad cross section of people who initially supported Occupy gave us a glimpse or a vision of a possible alternative, and escape from a very bleak future. Many “regular” people were pissed off at the big money, and had a renewed belief in each other instead, and seemed ready to behave in a new way, and to cease to be so compliant to the needs or edicts of the financial elites. Was there a chance that we could cooperate across societies many artificial divides for the common good? Or at least for our individual self interest and survival.? I began to wonder if we could set up an economic method that would cut our expenses by, say, 2/3 of the current cost of living. That would free up a lot of people power to devote towards building the next phase.
My thinking was/is that by copying methods that had been employed by groups such as immigrants groups in urban areas, hippies in country areas, and nomadic global, and of course Intergalactic, travelers, we could create a new way which eliminated much of the need for money, and thus pointless jobs and annoyances from Babylon’s endless enforcers of rules and regulations. Could we do it in such a way that could challenge the existing prevailing mentality, and possibly destabilize the evil forces at the helm? Why not? We could act collectively and pack people into houses, and generally live cheaply and collectivize our resources,. And then maybe begin to create a new inter communal society which would blur and eliminate national and civic borders, and strengthen human bonds of cooperation and unity. Hey why not?
We could create an alternative, semi nomadic society ,in which people spent time in the city, time in the country, and time traveling. Using urban houses as a base and hub, we would learn to do what many folks already do, which is to collectively cut expenses, and raise funds to create or sustain a network. This network would be border less and would include people who lived in the city in our base dwellings, with an emphasis on care and protection for children and the elderly. A second group would live in rural areas in larger groups, and with lowered expenses, ie camping, and off the grid, and they would either learn marketable skills, or create goods to sell in the city. This group would be hearty and flexible, with an emphasis on nature and gardening for the outdoorsy types who like a little “discomfort.” Finally we would have a group of people who were traveling at any given time, learning skills and culture, creating networks, enjoying the planet, and engaging in fair commerce and trade to sustain the network. The nice thing is that everyone would get a chance to live in all three realities at times, thus becoming a better-rounded, adventurous type of human society.
We already know that there are only so many ways to do the human reality thing. We can compete, or we can cooperate, we can stay in one place and accumulate stuff, or we can stay light and move about. We can try to play by the rules of a crooked and malignant game which hurts everything, or we can walk away and let the game play out without us. No matter what we choose to do, life will not be easy in these coming times. This is a crucial moment. We see the futility and folly of our current ways, and we see the impossibility of systemic self-correction anywhere near radical enough to alter the path of destruction we now face. Do we really have a choice but to build a new way? The capitalist economy has long stopped being efficient or sustainable in any way. We have built more stuff than we will ever need. We have created jobs, and in fact entire industries, that enrich a tiny few, sustain a handful of others, and endanger billions. We don’t need more pointless jobs, making more stuff that we don’t need. It is time to stop making stuff, and buying stuff. We see the effects of this lifestyle every day. We see how out of control the rabid machine of consumerism is across the planet. It will kill all of us humans if we don’t unplug it quick.
We can’t enact these types of changes as individuals, or even as small groups. There really has to be a critical mass of non-cooperation with Babylon laws, and the Wall Street gangsters and warmongers. A co-op here, a collective there, a hippie house in the hills, a punk rock squat in the hood, are not enough. Neither is individual acts of morality and decency, and most forms of charitable do gooderism. Many small acts of unheralded sanity do not sufficiently challenge the ever tightening grip of the power mongers on our human reality. Possibly a direct challenge to the social code, by large amounts of folks, pursuing actions of non-compliance with the financial criminality of the prison Industrial complex, will be effective. Peace on Earth may require an open defiant and steadfast refusal to be part of the silent march to human oblivion by many people all over the world. We are past the point of protesting to those who won’t listen, and we know that a military fight is hopelessly skewed in favor of the firepower of the capitalists and warmongers.
So what if we just declare a new way?…Secede from contradictory, and unsatisfying mindset of hyper-elitism, aka capitalism. We are too wise, and we love life too much, to be ruled by the most fearful, and unimaginative human elements any longer. Let’s be realistic. We are cool, they are not so cool. Our treasure: Collective Communal Coolness, makes money seem like a piece of paper with some bad art stamped on it. You seen one dollar bill, you seen em all. time to move on…
Where we moving on too? Well, the Exodus might involve publicly declaring our intent to be independent of current financial constructs, and to begin collectivizing our needs locally, building networks, and sharing big ideas. And also share cars, houses, land, ideas, work, food. Refuse to follow rules that hinder our ability to be safe, and to protect each other. Certain ideas that Libertarians types talk about make some sense in terms of government over regulation. The problem is that they are focused on the exact opposite of what we need. They want to protect the rights of individuals to do whatever they see fit, but it is actually the rights of the group that need protection. The laws are geared to prohibit collective survival unless corporate profit is maximized. For instance, if we wanted to replace fast food as a dietary staple in poor communities by providing an alternative, and we began to collect funds to buy in bulk, and used people homes to cook communal meals on a large-scale daily? We would be saving a lot of money, serving hungry folks, and creating community.. However, we can all be sure that several laws would prohibit us from doing this, and these laws would be aggressively enforced. They would throw health, and safety violations at us, make us get permits, pay for inspections, and bring us to a grinding halt. Nobody would get fed if they had their way. And still McDonald’s is allowed to kill citizens with impunity..
What if we had enough people who refused to comply with the rules ,..and we kept collecting communal food funds, and cooking and serving communal meals? What if we shared our cars and vehicles (and cool stereo systems ) communally, and started our own collective transportation network ….without getting the proper permits, and without paying the fees and taxes, simply because we have people who need rides, people with cars that need riders, and air that needs less cars on the road? What if we declared capital free zones, and refused to allow money transactions in designated areas? What if we gathered together for safety and camped out in our parks, and used our open spaces at night? What if we made music and art, and happy children, instead of plastic spoons, and horsecowslop burgers, and PTSD? and…..What if we just seceded from capitalism?
TO BE CONTINUED. (Part two will look at collective survival strategies: big and small)
55th and market, Oakland CA
This rant about Prop37 and the original War against Food for the Poor, started because I lost a really good thought when I suddenly I remembered another lost thought, which replaced the other good thought. I hope it comes back, but the remembered thought is good too and figured I better save it since I am losing thoughts so easy, and so here it is….
I worked as a substitute teacher and as a regular teacher in the Oakland Unified and West Contra Costa School District for many years, in some of the poorest hoods, and most neglected schools in the local Hood. My unscientific observation, having seen a lot of “food” consumed by our kids, is that kids in poor schools, from poor neighborhoods in the East Bay have crappy food options, and generally eat a mainly corner store diet, with some items that would make GMO food almost seem real and gourmet. And vegetables, real or otherwise? A rarity. A green leafy, fresh vegetable? Fuhgeddabout it… We are rightly outraged at the prop 37 results because we are unable to make an informed decision about what we eat because of our corporate corruptors. But in many local neighborhoods most of these kids don’t even have a choice about what they eat. Because of poverty, isolation, neglect and ongoing corporate criminal profiteering, there are few to zero alternatives (unless things have changed drastically in the last couple years)…
Young kids are not educated, and in some cases literate, enough to study labels to even know what they are ingesting and then make healthy choices. For many healthy choices don’t exist. We lovers of healthy food don’t need to be taught why GMO and devitalized foods in general are bad. Instincts alone, tell us that bad food leads to physical AND mental ailments. It is safe also to assume that kids are most harmed by toxic, fake food, and ill health follows many of those who grow up eating the manufactured swill that is pedaled in the hood as food. I bet the farm that much of the mayhem we see in the poor hoods is partially diet related. It turns out that poor kids need food too…Truth is, many of the fake food outfits should be boycotted out of business….I say this as a candy addict with less than great habits. And also as someone who, due to money and transportation limitations, sometimes buys some of the fake,” poor folks” food products that are sold even in stores in my semi yuppie neighborhood. You can taste the difference. Fake cheese and peanut butter with waxy texture and taste, just like the old-time government commodities that they used to give us in the 70′s. Fake food is doctored, and drugged to help sell units to us lab rats. What do they care what poor folks eat? There is always cake right?
But I grew up in a place where organic was the rule. I have had choices, and still have choices, even when I am poor, and my experiences tell me this is not the case for many of the poorest poor, and others trapped in certain areas. We all seem to agree quite strongly that we want to eat real food. The Prop 37 vote affirmed our belief that Real, Natural, food is a human right. Food for humans is pretty much our main gig here on planet Earth. So if the system can’t feed everyone quite well, then it is a bad system. IPods, but no food? C’mon son! Bad systems lead to sick, sad, stunted societies, with anti-health, garbage pile worshiping tendencies…Some may actually think that poor folks should eat merely as a way to earn more profits for what our corporate swindlers. You can bet they are surely old money, crooked and ignorant, They are probably in some cases, Jim Crow, Slavery era money groupings of immoral profiteers, who pretend that they are “feeding” people with their nutritional experiments. Do poor folks not need real food? Perhaps they should be happy to live on Cheetos and soda, and whatever new chemical hustle is inflicted on those who have no array of Organic grocers, nor the funds to purchase healthy products. I am stealing from my old African Holistic Health book, but poor black folks, and most probably other poor folks to some degree, have been victimized by chemical warfare, and generational poisoning to where it is almost like we aren’t allowed to be fully functional and in position to fulfill our greatest dreams. With good nutritional food, great health and clarity, and liveliness follow.
So I think that I can speak for many when I say… Let us all live healthy and free. Let us grow our own gardens, raise animals, plant fruit and berries plentifully. Let us take care of ourselves without legal roadblocks for corporate benefit. End this food war and withdraw the invading corporate armies with their arsenal of toxic products from the corner stores in the hood. Rebuild the idea of nightly, or daily village, markets, for the purpose of starting of a farmer’s market economy. Not a money market Ponzi scheme society for the enrichment of amoral carpetbagger profiteers. Bad food tastes..well yucky, and makes you dull, and money is not good eats either. Food is freedom. Food is life, Food is love. We all need love in this world. It is not just about GMO’s and labels for the middle class. The War on Food has been in motion since before Reagan and his Ketchup. And now we forced to vote on whether we can know what we are eating, a true insult to our sovereign human rights. “Umm…We humbly request that you corporate profiteers tell us if you are using extra poison in our food…Thanks”. And we lost! .WTF!!…So let’s think beyond prop 37 and fight for food for all. Real food, not the fraud food that is perpetrated by the plastic people. GMO is not the only or the first weapon they set loose on us. And please remember that in the hood, corporate “faux food” steals community health and wealth, kills poor kids slowly by denying needed nutritional fuel, and defers dreams forever.
Author, Zappa Montag