Archive for category Decolonize

Oakland Responds to the Trayvon Martin murder trial verdict

by Zappa Montag

The acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida, while hardly surprising, has understandably provoked lot of outrage, protest, soul-searching, and may in fact turn out to be a catalyzing moment for a new round of heightened social activism, and upheaval. I certainly hope so. Oakland is a place that is an epicenter of forces of social liberation, and repression, and a mass of contradictions that reflect these confused and difficult times we live in. There are many angles from which to write about this place, and these times, but I like to keep it pretty personal most of the time, so in that spirit, here is a little slice of the personal and political as it manifested amidst the recent street protests in reaction to the verdict here in Oakland.

July 16, 2013

As the protest march last night headed around Lake Merritt, after the stand-off at the 580 (i think we should have gone up Macarthur along the freeway personally, but anyhow..), my friend and I left the march and headed back along the lake. After walking for a few minutes we hear a commotion behind us and turn to see a group of 4 young brothas running/jogging..as they get closer, I can hear them kind of laughing, and telling eachother ..”run n@#$a, run”…not sure what’s up, we keep walking as they pass us on the opposite side of the street heading towards Lakeshore… and then soon hear another commotion behind us, and we turn to see two folks, white male and female, running and yelling..”call the police…call 9-1-1″…”they took our stuff, ….thieves…..”….aaahh…scenario explained….now the weird or funny thing was that we had just come from the Trayvon Martin protest, and it kind of seemed like both the robbers, and the robbed were also at the march…the yells to call the cops, kind of confused and amused us, as 1) the cops were all down the street at the protest and they don’t show up much even when they aren’t tied up at demo..2) where we all had been giving them hell and telling the fuck off…and I was of no mind, and really never am, to call the police and have them hunt down, arrest, and possibly maim or kill some black kids over some dumb stuff..and it is ironic that it at least appeared that protesters were calling for the cops to help when their stuff got jacked…I had already heard of a similar incident that took place at yesterday’s protest…Protesters calling cops for help is not a good look…

BUT…Had they yelled “help, stop those guys, they took our stuff”, I probably would have gone after them..probably could have helped get their stuff back too..them yelling to “call the cops” confused and deactivated me.I generally don’t like bullyish, rudeboy type behavior, and have, and am willing to, confront some kids even if I understand the anger or resentment that leads to such behavior…I have worked in many schools where I had to de escalate rowdy youth behavior, without using or gun, and rarely ever having to hurt anyone…I actually believe that wise adults, who can read social cues, and have methods and knowledge, can and should be the peace keepers, instead of armed outsiders of low intelligence (cops)..

….and the main reason that I intervene when I see kids, especially black kids, act out, is not because I am just worried for the victim, but because adults need to let these kids know that we have higher expectations out of them.. I know they might actually, and sometimes do, listen to me, partially due to my blackness and maleness. And what I try to convey is that, attacking some white person because you have the numbers, or stealing some shit, and running off laughing about it, etc…is not acceptable, and expected, and it is nothing to be proud of, and it is not revolutionary…I can respect some righteous, and brave resistance, even if it is foolish, or ineffective…You want to be tough, go use that anger against the real enemy..

Lately I hear about muggings, and strong armed robberies happening all over Oakland..It seems like it is getting even more common…I feel lucky to have never been mugged, or been the target of a violent crime (except at the hands of the police), and despite my strong feeling regarding gentrification, and institutionalized racism, and despite the fact that part of me feels like folks get what’s coming when they move into an area that is essentially a battleground in the war of containment that is being waged against black people, I do not feel that petty crime, and individual acts of anti social retaliation against white people, or attacks against people who you perceive to vulnerable or weak is something that should be ignored or encouraged. Generally obnoxious, and somewhat cowardly, behavior that goes unchecked can lead to worse actions down the road imo..Nor do I think that getting the criminal justice system involved helps either..So my questions..Can we fight loutish behavior, gentrification, racism, the prison industrial complex, and teach righteous resistance and respectful behavior all at once?, or do we continue to compartmentalize all of the issues?

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The Gentrifying Monkey that ate Oakland

revolutionary stoplightby Zappa Montag

Ever since it popped up out of the blue on San Pablo Avenue a couple of years back, East Bay activists have been steady talkin about the Holdout. I originally wrote this piece after a passionate debate about the  subject amongst some local radical POC activists, because I wanted to bring in another perspective regarding the waning influence of black people in Oakland, and how this social trend colors my feelings about new “projects” and  ideas being brought in to “save” Oakland. I was initially turned off, and pretty annoyed by the Holdout after I went to a small meeting there  very early on in Occupy Oakland,.  I want to say that I have mostly gotten over the more negative feelings around the Holdout’s presence and function, but that I have felt the need to discuss  gentrification and my experiences and observations as to it’s effect on black Oaklanders.

*a qualifier:  Gentrification is a complex subject, and no single article or perspective can ever get to all of the angles and nuances of the issue.  Even since I wrote the first draft of this piece a couple of months ago, things have changed in regards to this specific issue, and my feelings regarding it..As  mentioned above, I wanted to express some things about gentrification in Oakland, and black folks, by using the Holdout as a case study so to speak.     I am not saying that I am the representative of all things black, or Oakland. I am mixed, I grew up mostly in Mendocino, and I have probably actually lived in Oakland for 12-15 years of my existence.  Nor is the Holdout a particularly egregious example of gentrification in Oakland, but it is representative when you look at the larger patterns and trends.

       The first time I moved to Oakland, in late 1969, I was a small baby. My teenaged, hippie parents, decided to leave NYC for California, and we hitchhiked our way West.  The Bay Area was a beacon for many social refugees, and  on my mom’s side, the black side, many  of my relatives had already relocated from the East Coast and the South, to Oakland.  At that time Oakland was an important West Coast black cultural center, and gathering place for blacks looking for a new and brighter day.   The  Black Panthers were a product of the aspirations of black Oakland.  There was a positive , hopeful, vibe in the air amongst  our folks, despite the many challenges we faced.  A  “black is beautiful” feeling that lingers, one that I can still feel,  but one that has been mostly displaced by a lot of negativity and despair.  I don’t think that my memory is just a product of youthful naiveté, but a true reflection of a period when the possibilities seemed pretty wide open, and black folks were generally feeling better about the future. I am thankful that I  got to spend the first three years of my life  in Oakland amongst my black family and community during that Black Power era.  When my mom and dad divorced I moved to Mendocino County with my dad, and that was, of course, a whole different scene (a cool one, but different)

         Although I moved back to the Bay Area in the 1980’s, I didn’t live in Oakland again until about 1990, around my 3rd year at UC Berkeley. After the closing of  the infamous student Co Op, Barrington Hall, a rag-tag group of us, some of whom had been squatting at Barrington, consisting of whites, blacks, arab,  lesbians, straights, various addicts, and so on, decided to move out of Berkeley. We found a large house in Oakland on the corner of 45th and Market  whose owner was willing to rent to us. Rent was cheap, as at that time 45th and Market was pretty deep hood. Grandmas cooked crack in the next door apartments, gun fights occasionally erupted outside, the corner store sold dusty meat and lots of Malt Liquor; the buses arrived when they pleased.

      As scruffy a crew as we were, the neighborhood was way rougher, and we became a little Island of pre hipsterism, surrounded by a culture of black hustler survivalism. I soon dropped out of school due to, among other reasons,  a lack of desire to wait for the bus to Berkeley, which came randomly and infrequently, and cost money that I often didn’t have. With no job, no cash, and no love, I was in a miserable state. The cockroaches began to take over the house. The lesbian couple turned abusive on each other. Outside our house felt like hostile territory. My nice, good-looking, rich , white female , housemate and friend , with funky dreadlocks, used to walk to MacArthur BART alone, and she told us that she got called every name in the book, and was often threatened by black folks …She was  not that bothered by it though..Part of the experience I guess.

      Because, of course, we didn’t have to be down in that hood.   We all had options, from family money, to educational opportunities.   Having had enough despair  for the time being, I took advantage of my privileges and enrolled in an Ecology Field Study class through Santa Cruz UC Extension, which found me studying nature in the Sierra Mountains for two months,  and  which got me re enrolled back in school at UC Berkeley.

         It would be a couple of years till the next time I lived in Oakland.  Again I found myself in North Oakland, which seems to be the epicenter of the ongoing waves of gentrification.  I moved to Aileen Street near 56th. Back then that was hood as well. Black teenagers hustled rocks to burnt out elders on the corners, and the meat was still dusty at the corner store.  Punk rockers, such as the original  folks at the Purple House, when Mo was still the owner, were the only visible white people on the streets. The old school blues club, Your Place too, on MLK, that is now Loony’s BBQ, was owned by a cool, older black couple, and they started have Punk night on Sundays nights.. That was a scene. Short lived, as was my stay foray into Oakland which was cut short when my house burnt down  (and I went to jail for a few days downtown.l..ong story..)  I also discovered an interesting thing  about gentrification as my house was burning down at 2 in the morning, and all the neighbors came outside, to watch…. which was that there were way more white people in the neighborhood than I realized, they just stayed inside all of the time.

    I moved back to Berkeley for a while but Oakland was becoming more like home , and upon graduation I found a 2 bedroom apartment on Webster at 38th, for 450 bucks. Living large! I began to settle into Oakland reality but rght around then, the last of my family members moved from Oakland, and ever since then I have been the only black family member here. Some folks moved to the projects in Alameda, the lower middle class folks moved to San Jose, my mom found a cottage in San Leandro.

            Fast forward a few years  and many moves later, and I had just become a father for the first time. Booted out of our , $600 2 bedroom, rent controlled spot in Berkeley, due to a new owner move in, my girlfriend and I, with the baby only months old, needed to find a spot  to reside, and our income was derived only from my “job” collecting signatures for ballot initiatives.  The only place we could find was on Telegraph at 25th, where Art Murmur later sprang from quite a few years later. We moved into the tall, weird shaped building, which also housed a gay bar called Cabel’s Reef on the ground floor. It was pretty much the only business around besides the gas stations, fast food, and street hustle.   On the weekends a lot of marginalized, gay ,black youngsters ,would come to hang out on the corner since they couldn’t get in the bar. Inevitably they would start some really over the top yelling and  screaming matches, that often led to physical  fights.  Then the cops would show up  eventually and clear everyone out, leaving us on the third floor with only the sounds of the bus (was it the 40 back then?) as it screeched down Telegraph all night long. It was a miserable spot, but had it not been for the massive mouse community that seemed poised to take over our entire apartment, we would have stayed, because it was hella cheap rent.

   Down but not out, somehow I managed to get a full-time  OUSD teaching gig at Westlake Middle School.  Thus we were able to find a 2 bedroom house for about $900  a month, on Linden St. in West Oakland across from the EBMUD station.  Now the baby could have some decent shelter. To get to work everyday I would drive past the park at San Pablo and Grand, near where the Holdout now is, and there would always be tons of street folks out kickin’ it, even at 8 in the morning. It was their spot. Given the roughness of the area, which included the infamous Mead Street murder corridor, street folks, and addicts, and hustlers owned that territory. The only time I ever used to even hang down there was when I would go to parties at some friend’s apartment which was near the St Vincent building. It was a spot called the Boogie Shack.. Mostly  it was a bunch of black stoners, like me,  and we would have jam sessions, talk a lot of stuff,  and smoke hella blunts… often. Otherwise, that area was rough even for our Oakland Black Bohemian subset, and generally that area of San Pablo avenue was avoided when possible..Did I ever see a white person who was not a subsisting as a hooker or an addict  on the streets down there? Hell no.!! White people were still not out on the streets anywhere within 30 blocks of that area.

         And you know what? ….As funky, and dangerous as those streets appeared to be, it was kind of cool that white people stayed far away. If society abandons a whole community and if all some folks have is a sidewalk and a park to kick it, let ’em have it. That area was for the street folks, and on some level everybody knew it.   Elsewhere nearby that slowly started to change though.  Especially further up towards where I now live , in what is known as the Temescal. White people, and white businesses began to pop up, occasionally at first, but the pace accelerated over time as we passed the turn of the century.  Eventually we began to see white folks walking in areas of North and West Oakland that they never were before. And not seeming scared!! …this didn’t really sit well with me or a lot of black folks I knew,. We liked having the streets as our territory,  as a brokedown black/Afro Palace where white folks were scared to roam.  Maybe deep down we knew that once the floodgates opened, it was going to be a river of whiteness in what was once a chocolate city.  Oakland is just to damn beautiful,. and too conveniently located, to avoid adulation from those who once shunned her.

        And sure enough, look now. The black population and with it black influence has steadily dropped, and the white population and influence has steadily increased. Whole areas are being converted to white friendly, and thus black unfriendly areas.  Of course this is not only an issue that concerns black people and white people, but the race and class tensions are most heightened in the context of that social dynamic.

        The great recession of recent years sped up the turnover process, and deepened the wealth inequality that racism has nurtured between blacks and whites.  So when occupy hit, town folks like me, and my home girl Alison were already not doing well financially at all. Given that rents were going up, we were both having trouble keeping a roof over our heads. I was a single dad now with two kids, and had been unemployed for most of two years. Alison had been dealing with the after effects of a bad accident and couldn’t work much. So when I heard about a meeting to discuss housing issues, I grabbed her to come with me. We were thinking that maybe we could help folks, and get some help ourselves.

         The meeting was at the Holdout, then in its infancy.  I knew nothing of this new space that has now become such a central location for radical activism in Oakland.  Of course I had been past the building a million times before and was a little shocked at the seeming audacity that folks had to plop down there.   Not sure what was up, I thought it was a fancy squat at first. While I am sure it wasn’t intentional, both of us felt uncomfortable, and felt like folks didn’t know what to make of us, a couple of black folks who had not come dressed as occupiers. When we had introductions, and the folks found out that we had both been in RAW, Roots Against War, a powerful  radical POC anti-war group from the early 90’s, they perked up a bit. The one other POC at the meeting, although younger, seemed to have known a lot about RAW, which was cool. Still, the meeting wasn’t feeling very welcoming, or pertinent. It was a lot of earnest, well-meaning white people who were experts in different areas of housing issues, mostly around foreclosure defense, and they talked with an air of authority. Meantime me and Alison were both thinking, “I can’t pay my rent, let alone dream of buying a house that would get foreclosed”.  I sensed a disconnect, and I think both of us then began to look around at the Holdout, which suddenly seemed like a giant playhouse for folks, and I think we both felt some intense class envy. We wanted our own playhouse!  In fact this was a playhouse that wouldn’t be a bad real house for many folks.

         It also felt like there was some guilty feelings, or something, on the part of the folks there that day, because they didn’t really explain who they were, or how they got there, and who owned the place.  So it felt like me and Alison being there was not comfortable for anyone because we didn’t fit the demographic, or expectations they had.   I think it may have really been more a situation of social awkwardness and cultural differences when I look back at it now.  At the time, however, it was a painful moment that spoke to some deep seeded wounds,  and we left there in a foul mood, and talked bad about white gentrifiers as we went apartment searching for her. (a search that during which our fears of displacement due to gentrification were only exacerbated by the people, places, and prices that we encountered)

            Over time I have gotten over most of that. I have been to some good events at the Holdout, such as the Radical Family mixer, and my daughter thinks it is the coolest place ever. I still feel like it is weird though, that the Holdout obviously fuels gentrification to some degree. I know folks work hard, and are doing stuff that they feel benefits the original community, and in some ways one can argue that it has made the area better. But I also am unsure if folks are aware of the steady displacement of black Oaklanders that I have witnessed and described. From the street folks, to the marginalized black gay kids, to the working poor, and the non-working poor, black folks are disappearing from Oakland, and for a long time I felt that the Holdout was symbolic of that trend.  Yes it is true that many black folks leave to seek something better for themselves and their families.  Gentrification and social shifts are not simple matters. Oakland is still a wonderful, and often heartbreaking place, and I am proud to be part of tha Town.  I, however, do mourn the ongoing loss of an Oakland that was a black sanctuary and an oasis of black power, and black positivity. It was a beautiful dream that will manifest somewhere again no doubt.

babyjm

(an early wave Oakland Hipster/Blipster family…me, mom, and dad)

by Zappa Montag

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Humans…Our goal, and mission, here in this current slice of reality, is Co-operation and Unity

This portion of the Community Collective Movement concept that is being worked out is a call to action, and a call to social revolt, and seeks to waste few words, and instead seeks extreme, but simple, clarity in laying out a framework for immediate action on our part. I had been wrestling with long, deep explanations of an ever-growing number of issues, and realized that I was violating one of my own guiding principles, which is to attempt to be accessible, and engaging to as many folks as possible when writing about mass movement strategy. So let me jump right in with a very quick explanation and justification for the need for action, and the nature of the events that we would like to set in motion.

I believe that Capitalism as it is practiced today, in most or all parts of the world, is a force for moral corruption and human illness of all types. We accept poverty and suffering of our fellow humans because, to help them would violate capitalist principles, and would promote socialism, and reward inter dependency. We who are “lucky” enough to have a place to sleep, and a job to go to, will literally step over ,and around ,destitute, ill, and suffering people who live on the streets, so that we may go about our business of generating wealth for the already insanely wealthy. Perhaps my background is part of why I find this situation so abhorrent. I am ethnically half American black, and half Hungarian Jewish. I come from two groups that have a long history of oppression, slavery, and social scorn that shape our worldview. As far as I am concerned blacks, and jews do have a special duty to stand up for all oppressed people, and to maintain vigilance against the forces of racism, bigotry, poverty, and fascism. From that perspective I see a society that violates the moral codes that I know to be correct, and one that maintains deeply embedded, and oppressive, hierarchical social orders, and allows, and even enforces, inequality and dependency on a rigged system. I see a society that exhibits elements of fascism and slavery conditions, and benefits only a few.

This is a call to act based on morality, and the belief in humanity and the possibility of a better world. We can not afford to accept the framework of legal/and illegal action as our guiding principle. Capitalism’s profit motive pollutes and undermines any real system to attain a just and fair society based on laws. Our legal system is rotten from profit based strategies and incentives. Justice is to precious, and essential to humanity, to be a “for-profit” endeavor. We need an approach based on morality, and one that is strategic in improving the material conditions and environment. Letting people die in the streets is not a moral approach……if it is illegal to help people, or if certain laws make helping folks not feasible, those laws need to be ignored. Our actions should be conducted in a moral, upfront, and thoughtful manner, but what we need to do won’t always be legal…I mean with the amount of new laws they keep passing, almost everything might be illegal soon..which is one reason why we should act now.

This is not a call to violent insurrection, or hastily organized protests, but a call to build, organize, a strategic and formidable force for human evolutionary change, and global social transformation. This means creating a holistic, and hopefully horizontal, framework, for meaningful activity to take place in a cohesive, and expanding nature.

It is my position that given the immoral nature of our capitalist system, and the obvious inability for it to make any meaningful self correction, and the urgent need for a morality based process to create sustainable justice, we are being subjected to social imprisonment under an unjust system. We are not being allowed to save ourselves from the system.

Capitalism was never written into the Constitution as the one and only economic system allowed in the US, yet we are forced to live under it’s destructive chaos. I believe that I can not be forced to be a capitalist, and I can not be forced to follow an immoral social code. I believe that we have a right to build our own economy, and I believe we have a right, and duty, to dismantle all incorrigible elements of the machinery of consumer capitalism…. and to investigate, question, and expose the people who make the key decisions, and accumulate the vast wealth that reaches a select few.

Many of the people I speak of keep their activities and dealings well hidden from public view or scrutiny, as they amass fortunes and power that allow them to make decisions that could have profound negative effects for many generations to come (if we even make it that far the way things are). Many of the things that these people do violate the basic codes of morality that most people would agree upon, yet their money and power shields them from punishment, or even negative publicity. Many of us have begun to wonder who these people are, and why they appear to have so little regard for the people or the planet. We have a right to know and discuss all aspects of these people’s beliefs, and actions. The capitalists have proven time and again to make reckless and destructive choices that cause major problems. And yet who benefits from the problems created? The very same capitalists who caused the problem, as they have created system in which only they know how to fix their major fuck ups: like nuclear meltdowns, major oil spills, chemical weapon proliferation etc… They are reckless and destructive. We need to be watching and opposing them at all times. but, We also need to create our own way of meeting people’s needs in a manner that is based on justice, and morality, and respect for all life. We need to do both at the same time..fight them, build ours..build ours, fight them..and we need strategy and massive participation.

This may appear to be a struggle over money, but the currency we really need to value and use is our own time. Even as we see the destructive banality of our way of life, we continue to support it with our time, and energy. We buy their crap, we absorb their plastic culture hours on end, we invest in institutions that we know are the enemy, we pay taxes to fund our own oppression and stupidity, and seldom do we truly look to create our own new world. We spend much more time complaining about this system, or dulling the pain of our existence through consumption and packaged experiences. We have much more time than we realize. Time that could be given to helping build a co-op movement, or fight against corporate power in a truly strategic, long-term struggle, rather than a symbolic, or reform driven display. Our time, and the skills we can share and learn when we use the time well, needs to be our building block towards self-sufficiency. We have a lot of people with time on their hands that are not being given anything meaningful to do. We have a lot of people who have a lot of love and positivity to spread if they can be given a chance to flourish..

This is not a “pie in the sky”, “let’s sing kumbaya around the fire” post..this is a call to action..We all know what’s coming, and what we need to do..Generally at least. What about specifics? We should begin to lay out some ideas over the next days that get into ways we could organize, quickly, efficiently, and effectively. I believe that the three basic principles that we should build from are the following. 1) We should think cooperatively in all ventures, be they efforts to fight the powers that be, or efforts to build the new world we see on our shared horizon. 2) We must have an unwavering eye on morality that shapes our way of doing things. As I stated earlier, Capitalism as it is practiced is immoral, and we must find a way that is moral and just. 3) We should acknowledge, and embrace differences and contradictions within our movement, and find ways to use these con traditions as a strength, not as a means to fuel division, and competition. Unity and Cooperation is what they fear, and what we should strive for…

??????????????????

I am going to begin to just throw some ideas out there in a less edited and structured manner just to put some things on the table for discussion or internal pondering at least.

intergalactic Cooperation as a reality game featuring the People VS. The Corporation..with the goal being the defeat of the corporate slime ball that oozes its toxic reality over all that is good

I don’t think it has to be as difficult, confrontational, or complicated as it sounds.

….what if we made a game out of it?…..but instead of a game with one winner and many losers, we make it a mutual game of global cooperation towards a goal of global liberation, basically phase one might be some kind of corporate detox , just use May 1 as a starting point.. we make it a global game of co-operation, and even appropriate their consumer culture and use our still underutilized advantages in certain aspects of social technology to make it a like global reality show…when our target corporations lose money, everybody in the game gains.

we could have reports from different regions and countries every day, reporting ways in which people were able to decrease corporate profits, and benefit co-operative ventures, feed people, increase peace and justice without use of violent coercion..etc..we celebrate victories across man-made national borders as our own, just as our corporate enemies seek to profit not just nationally, but globally..

from there we just aim to get more people involved each month or whatever the time frame we set is..stop using their calendars and their linear mindset..we set our own goals and just try to increase our growth/strength steadily..in many ways we mirror the corporate growth model, but in key ways we shift our mindset so as to avoid the traps and limitations that the model set for us..

for instance as I alluded to in my original post, even significant movement centered days like May Day can limit us because we don't look beyond the one day to take any type of action. To me this is a mirror of the corporate Hallmark card, holiday mindset, in which we celebrate cool concepts; things like sharing (Thanksgiving), or love (Valentine’s Day), or fertility (Easter) for one day a year, and then we wait another whole year before we focus on the cool concept again….May Day is a big day for economic justice, but fighting for economic justice one day a year is not enough…
There needs to be strategy and goals’

Another thing we can do play psychological mind games by using their tools of oppression against them to erode confidence in their economic model. Like we could mimic their capitalistic, predatory mindset and instead of going after the hugest evil corporations like Monsanto first, we could target weak links in the corporate chain and aim to cut their profits and put them out of business. This would way to build our confidence and effectiveness, and to show our power as we advance towards taking on the big drones in the corporate food chain. We could have celebrations when corporations we are targeting lose money, and stock market value, and hopefully go out of business..

time fora break but More soon..all ideas about cooperative economics, anti corporate strategy, or whatever is appreciated

by Zappa Montag

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Lost in an america devoid: everyday life in a rape-culture

powertothepeopletent005partners grad BB 030reimagine reality
by Zappa Montag

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.

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Seceding from capitalism: aka..the co co mo Zapfesto… a beginners guide to moving on.

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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!

BECAUSE

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.

maybe…?

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..

But…..

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)

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Revolutionary Stoplight

Revolutionary Stoplight

55th and market, Oakland CA

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The ongoing Occudrama in Oakland, (and my role in it)

The ongoing Occudrama in Oakland, (and my role in it).

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