Postcards through prison bars

Many people in radical circles spend a bit of their time doing prisoner support activities. This can range from joining a books-to-prisoners project that mails free books to inmates, to individually becoming penpals with a prisoner. Some people focus on political prisoners — prisoners held because of their involvement in radical actions or framed because of their beliefs. Other people see the entire prison-industrial complex as illegitimate, criticize the way that it targets marginalized communities, and/or believe that it is wrong to imprison people at all. Many people are in prison because of the war on drugs, or because economic inequality under capitalism impoverishes entire communities and pushes people to do illegal things to survive.

A key way we can support prisoners is by communicating with them. Prison is a deeply isolating environment. In an email-dominated world, writing an old-fashioned letter on paper can be surprisingly rewarding for you as well as a prisoner. There are many penpal networks that connect prisoners with those on the outside. If you’re in the bay area, Slingshot collective receives hundreds of letters from prisoners each year and is always looking for people to help us write back.

Here are some tips on writing letters to prisoners.

• When writing to prisoners, you have to put their prisoner number on the first line of the mailing address to get it through.

• Make sure to put a return address on your letter. If you are writing to a prisoner you don’t know, it may be best to use a PO box or other address that doesn’t disclose where you live.

• If you’re writing to a prisoner, keep in mind that the prison officials or other authorities may read your letter. Don’t discuss anything sensitive. If the prisoner is waiting for trial or sentencing (or on appeal), it may be better not to discuss the details of their case.

• Prisons prohibit mailing certain items like books, food, money, etc. Ask the prisoner for the rules.

• Don’t make promises you can’t keep like offering to find a lawyer to take their case, sending them money or expensive items, offering them housing on release, organizing a support campaign, etc.— being let down when you’re locked up can be especially devastating. Be clear about your intentions. If you’re not looking for a romantic relationship, it can be helpful to all involved to say so right off.

• While the state locking people up is shitty, it doesn’t follow that all prisoners are angels. They are people just like everyone else, and some of them are flawed or can be manipulative. Use reasonable caution and treat prisoners like you would another penpal.

• Be careful about accepting collect phone calls from jail — prison collect calls are usually absurdly expensive.

Taking mental health back into our hands 2019

Sometimes it can be hard to know if you’re crazy, or if it’s the world that’s crazy. Watching while our society destroys itself triggers despair and anxiety. Yet it is possible to summon the courage to stay engaged with the world, survive and fight back. When you’re suffering from depression and anxiety is often the hardest time to ask for help from others around you — and paradoxically when you need help the most. Feelings exist for reasons — if you repress them too hard, you can miss important lessons they may have for you. Here are some tips you can use when you’re in crisis which can also be helpful if you’re trying to care for someone having a breakdown.

• It can help to turn your focus from the crisis and onto what you find joyful until you can gather resources.

• Our brains are connected to our bodies so concentrating on physical health can help treat mental distress. Eating healthy food on a regular schedule and getting enough sleep are key. Exercise, dance, biking and physical movement can help. So can fresh air and having a stable, calming place to stay.

• It is okay to ask for help or to discuss disturbing mental states with others. It helps everyone when these feelings are out of the closet.

• When things are really painful or stressful, it can help to step back and disconnect from feelings that you’ll be destroyed unless you achieve a particular outcome like keeping a particular lover or avoiding changes. Change is inevitable and our greatest source of pain can be our attachment to keeping things static. A year or two from now, whatever is happening now will be a memory and the pain of wishing it was otherwise will be gone. Most changes, even when they are painful, open up other opportunities.

• Joining a mutual support group of peers listening to and helping peers as equals can be validating, while not necessarily endorsing your feelings. You can form one yourself or join an ongoing group.

• Find a counselor who supports your self-determination. Ask about confidentiality if someone else — such as your parents, boss, or governmental program — is paying for your therapy.

• Drugs and alcohol often make mental health problems worse.

• There is no shame in using psychiatric drugs such as those for depression or bipolar disorder if you know they work for you.

• Acupuncture, meditation, massage and other alternatives can help some people.

• Keep in mind that some current emotional crises may be caused by traumas from the past, which may need to be emotionally and consciously processed in order not to keep recurring.

• When you’re depressed, the most helpful thing to realize is that the depressed feeling will eventually pass and your life will begin to seem meaningful again later. Depression inhibits your ability to perceive and understand the world correctly. Your perceptions of isolation, loneliness, un-lovability, and hopelessness are not accurate when you are depressed. You have to get through the low point so you can correctly understand reality again on the other side. Avoid making any decisions or drastic moves such as hurting yourself when you are unable to correctly perceive reality.

• Many communities have 24 hour a day crisis hotlines or crisis centers. Call 800-SUICIDE or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386 if you’re thinking about killing yourself or 800 646-HOPE to reach a rape crisis line for survivors of sexual violence.

• Ecopsychology is realizing nature and wilderness are our greatest healers. Spend some time outside the city to get centered and get away from pollution which is in itself mind-altering.

• If you have a loved one in crisis, the most helpful thing is to make it clear that you care and be there to listen. They may not be able to call or ask for help — it can be very helpful to keep calling them every day or two to check-in, even if they don’t answer the phone or seem to want help. Sometimes it is okay to want to be alone so don’t be too pushy. Just make it clear that you care. It’s also import to get support and advice for yourself. Caring about someone who is in crisis is in itself a big challenge.

• Social change: Actually address the stressful factors in your environment. Revolution can heal.

• If someone is having delusional thinking or expressing violence related to mental issues, these suggestions may not be enough and it is okay to reach out for professional help.

Subversive Sex! 2019

Great sex can be a subversive, expansive, and radical mode of dismantling socializations and creating alternatives to mainstream drone culture. We must explore and voice our own desires and learn to hear and respond to those of our partners (even if that means accepting refusal gracefully). This means finding the words to express how we like to be touched, spoken to, tied up, and cuddled. Getting explicit permission, however vulnerable and scary it may seem, is a great turn-on. Being so direct about sex is outside of most norms, but it transforms sexual experiences. When we are sure that we agree with our partners about expectation and desire, there is no fear to distract us. What better than knowing your partner really likes what you are doing? What freedom in knowing you can ask for anything, and it will at least be considered respectfully?

It’s much less pressure to offer someone a choice (“Would you like to come home with me or would you rather hang out here?”) than a request (“Would you come home with me tonight?”). There is no way to have freeing sex without actively checking in with all partners about emotional and physical comfort and openness as you go. There is no implicit consent to touch someone’s genitals because you have kissed them, or to have intercourse because you’ve had oral sex. If your partner tenses up or cries or is unresponsive, it’s really important to stop, check in, and support what they need. Be honest about any risk factors you bring, such as sexually transmitted infections, whether you have unprotected sex with other people, and if you have allergies to specific safer sex supplies. Details make all the difference.

Knowing what one wants is not easy as we are taught very boring and limited sexualities in this culture. Part of what can make sex so revolutionary is discovering what it is we like and pushing ourselves (consensually of course) to and beyond our limits. Often, people’s boundaries are related to past experience, and creating a safer “right now” can help some people open up closed doors.

Noise in general during sex is a fabulous addition. Sound can reflect emotions, aid communication and act as a release for the sensations being experienced; crying, screaming, moaning, gasping are all marvelous additions to this sex symphony. If you have never spoken during sex feel free to start small. Most people hear compliments well, and appreciate encouraging suggestions and noises. However, it’s equally important to discover your boundaries (often situational) and speak them as well. Laughter is another great way to make noise during sex, it’s contagious and can relieve tension – so you don’t get caught up in the “performance”. Doing sex is goofy and kind of hilarious. Laughing neutralizes the loops that play in our heads and the self-imposed expectations based on mediated portrayals of sexuality.

Many of us get stuck in sex roles or sex acts. Switching up roles is exactly as it sounds; availing oneself the opportunity to receive when previously being the provider; taking turns sucking and being sucked, biting and being bitten, slapping and being slapped, holding and being held, fucking and being fucked. If you are often the initiator of your sexual experiences, experiment with patience and let someone else take the lead. There is so much to play with and destroy, pervert, re-name. When opening-up what we consider erogenous zones, more conversations about re-imagining bodies, gender, society may become possible. Anybody can get a blowjob anywhere on their body and the same goes for finger banging. This can mean less focus on genitals and orgasms and more focus on nerve endings and what turns them on and works also on an emotional level for someone.

Fuck being efficient, quick and cheap 2018

A key to figuring out how to resist capitalism, earth-destroying mega-technology and velveeta culture is learning how to re-define our values based on what it means to be fully human, awake and free. All of us who’ve grow up within this system internalize its values in subtle as well as more obvious ways. Perhaps without even realizing it we start to define what we like and don’t like, what we are willing to strive for and what we dismiss, what we see and what fades into the background based on a value system defined by an economic, technological and cultural environment structured by capitalism.

The capitalist economic system requires all participants to simplify their thinking and behavior to pursue narrow goals: the most efficient, quick, cheap method, technology or form of organization. It is important to understand that although these goals are easy to understand, they don’t really mean anything — they are means to an end, but the end itself (more stuff, more growth at the lowest cost) doesn’t really have any ultimate meaning. Capitalism has no internal way to determine whether anything — including, in particular, constant growth and cheapeness — is actually good. In fact, on an ecologically finite planet, limitless growth is not good. Capitalist growth is going to kill us if we can’t stop it soon. Just having more stuff does not make human beings happy or make their lives meaningful.

Because capitalism is designed around constant competition, the pressure to pursue its very narrow goals is almost irresistible for companies, communities, and individual people. If any element of the system rejects the pursuit of efficiency, others who are more efficient will out-compete the resister who will be forced out.

But human beings are not machines. We are not merely cogs in an economic machine. It makes no sense that psychologically, culturally and in our day-to-day decision making we should primarily pursue efficiency, the lowest costs, and other valueless means-to-an-ends forms of thinking.

The most fundamental aspect of being human is our ability to experience raw emotion, wonder, love, freedom, pleasure and sensation. These are experiences totally outside the awareness of economics, corporations or computers. When your face is stained with tears — of happiness or sadness, but in either case being-ness — those are the moments you know you’re alive.

Humans seek freedom, self-determination, adventure and challenges, whereas corporations, hierarchical authority structures and machines seek control, order, routine and the easiest, quickest and most boring solution to problems. Humans seek to express their humanity — we sing, write, draw, dance and rebel. Only living creatures can love, which is an irrational emotion that is also essential and even magic. It is the glue that makes society possible, makes our lives worth living, and can give us the strength and courage to organize, resist the capitalist destruction of the world, and survive. Yet love is totally invisible to capitalism — computers and corporations can’t love. These structures can’t comprehend solidarity that is based on love and that doesn’t depend on trading something for something else.

To create a new society, we have to figure out ways to resist the social structures and institutions that oppress people and are destroying the earth. We have to create alternatives that can meet people’s needs based on cooperation, sharing, free will, beauty, pleasure and ecological sustainability. Doing these things means re-organizing our priorities away from mainstream goals such as achieving success and getting material possessions.

To the extent the process of our struggle as well as our goals are based on human vs. system values, we can decrease burnout by increasing our sense of meaningfulness. We won’t be seeking one path in our politics while self-judging our lives based on internalized values from the system. The part of our mind structured by the system is filled with a lot of “shoulds” that upon closer inspection make no sense. It can be easy for our “reasonable” system-mind to doubt our human impulses for adventure, freedom and ill-advised love that can leave us dangling out on a limb.

Taking a different path or doing it yourself for your own reasons will be slower, more difficult and often very confusing and messy. Resisting the global machine means you’ll miss out on the treats it has to offer, and it may role over and crush you if you don’t step out of the way at the right moment. The funny thing is that a lot of times, enjoying easy treats makes you feel empty, while seeking complex, tough pleasures makes you feel alive and engaged. Taking the human and therefore sometimes irrational and inconvenient path seriously and following it with all your heart is what the world needs most right now. We’ve gone as far as we can with making things fast and cheap — now its time to build something meaningful and human.

The cage of convenience 2018

Many of us are surrounded by conveniences that appear to improve our lives by making them easier. But the system of convenience comes with deep costs.

Some of these costs are obvious. The instant gratification world has given rise to a system of technology and industrialization that centralizes decision-making power into the hands of a few corporate leaders who treat people as objects for marketing, management, and exploitation. The rest of us are reduced to consumers, citizens, and laborers – our daily lives spent servicing a system that is beyond our control or comprehension. Meanwhile, an unsustainable global supply chain of oil, corn, and computer chips feeds the machine, devastating the environment.

A less obvious cost of convenience is the way it isolates us and robs our lives of meaning. For most of the 200,000 years Homo sapiens have walked the Earth, we have spent our lives in small groups, with the people close to us providing our food, music, shelter, warmth, and sex. But now many of us don’t count on the people in our lives to meet our needs. Our food is instantly served to us by smiling strangers. Buttons control the sound that enters our ears. Machines and photographs stand in for sex partners. Fast food. Fast tunes. Fast orgasm. Fast isolation. Depersonalized convenience explains why people in the “wealthiest” nations suffer the most from loneliness and mental illness.

Convenience also robs us of the opportunity to solve problems. Advertisers would like us to believe that human beings dislike problems, that we want things to be as easy as possible. But we are nature’s most tenacious problem-solvers. When we don’t have any challenges — when convenience has robbed us of the opportunity to do things for ourselves — we go crazy with depression and anxiety. People need complexity. We are not computers. Capitalism seeks to conquer nature and solve all problems, but when it does, what is left for human beings?

Each time you choose to “conveniently” alter your state with a corporate-distributed object, you are building up the walls of your own prison and isolating yourself from others by becoming dependent on corporations to fit your needs. “It’s all about you,” the advertisers coo, enticing us to crawl into the corporate womb of instant gratification. As products become more reflexive, responding to our needs instantly, we become trapped in individualized cages of convenience. And the Cage of Convenience is precisely the thing that is killing the Earth and making our rulers more rich and powerful, while robbing our lives of meaning. Addressing the cage means smashing hierarchy and reclaiming our lives as dynamic, meaningful interactions with people we care about.

It won’t be easy. Sometimes when we cook for each other, the food gets burned or there’s a slug in the homegrown salad. And sometimes your housemates really can’t sing that well or the scarf your boyfriend knitted doesn’t quite wrap around all the way. Meeting each other’s needs doesn’t bring instant, easy satisfaction – which is precisely the point. People have their own wants, needs, and feelings that don’t always match ours. Sometimes your partner doesn’t want to have sex with you right now, but she’ll help you repair your bicycle. Maybe your housemate will cook dinner tonight, but not the lasagna you crave. It is in the moment when other people stop being convenient – when they say “no” to our needs – that they are no longer commodities but people, with wills of their own. And it is people (not commodities) that challenge us and create texture in our lives.

And sure, sex toys are nice when you’re in a pinch, but they can’t stand in for the thrill of flirtation, the sublimity of seduction, the taste of another person’s lips, the rippling warmth of erections, ear nibbles, and ankle licks. And no fast food unit can compare to a successful home meal, to a steaming omelet with eggs from your own hens and garlic-buttered chard with a glass of dandelion wine. And yeah, it’s nice to drop the needle on a good Pink Floyd record sometimes, but the sweet sounds of In the Clouds can’t compare to the thrill of rocking out on the accordion amongst electric guitars and theremins in the new freakfolk/punk band you and your neighbors have just invented.

Corporations want us to forget that we have the power to create these deeply meaningful interactions. Our rulers seek to convince us that we aren’t ready for the hard work of building amazing lives with the people around us. But hard work is exactly what we need to make our lives meaningful and save ourselves from the machine that is destroying the Earth’s life support systems. The CEOs and corporate advertisers will scratch their heads when they discover millions of abandoned cages, then they will throw off their suits and join us.

Gender is not binary 2018

This culture is wedded to binaries: good/evil, left/right, with us/against us, pick your favorite. And this society wants things to stay in whatever either/or box they get put into, we don’t like gray areas. Gender and sex is one place where ambiguity is particularly not tolerated; parents, doctors, and the State all want to know your sex and gender, preferably at birth. Further, having ambiguous gender or transitioning from one perceived gender to another can cause some people to react violently. Because gender is such a charged topic, transgendered people often don’t receive the respect they deserve. This is a short, incomplete introduction to transgender topics.

In this society, this is the usual scenario: a baby is born and one of the very first things done is sexing the child. Everyone wants to know—boy or girl?

Some folks don’t like this binary from the start; their genitals don’t seem to match either male or female completely. These folks are called intersexed. Unfortunately, because of the anxiety of doctors, parents, or society around sex/gender, panic ensues and intersexed individuals are more often than not subjected to surgeries they do not need and may not want, an which can be damaging to a pleasurable adult sexuality. Adults seems to have a hard time imagining infants ever being adults and having sex or getting pleasure from their genitals; so, it seems, genitals are for identifying infant sex only, not for the pleasure of the person who has them. How sad.

More often, we are born with genitals that look like either male or female and so we are assigned a gender at birth to match either “boy” or “girl.” This works for most—or so it seems. Males are happy being men in male bodies, females are happy being women in female bodies (excepting the malaise of late capitalism, of course). But what if this is not the case? For some, the sex they are assigned at birth does not match the gender they feel inside. They are girls in male bodies and boys in female bodies or somewhere in between, because not all trans folks see themselves as one or the other, but rather on a continuum of gender.

Though not all trans folks dismiss the binary sex/gender divide, they just see themselves on the wrong side of it. For the most part, transsexual is a term used by folks who have completed sex reassignment (or who want to). For FTM (female to male) transsexuals, this means taking testosterone and having top surgery (double mastectomy) and bottom surgery (hysterectomy, vaginectomy, and either metiodoplasty or phalloplasty). For MTF (male to female) transsexuals, there are hormones and vaginoplasty and labiaplasty. Not all transgendered folks are transsexuals, and not all want all the surgery, for various reasons. Sometimes they just don’t want surgery, or don’t have healthcare, or enough income to pay for hormones and/or surgery, because trans folks can suffer from discrimination in employment just for being trans/ Some trans guys, for example, just take T (testosterone), or just take T and have top surgery. Also, not all trans folks see themselves as either male or female, but as some combination of both. These folks sometimes use the term genderqueer, which reflects issues with or a rejection of the usual societal gender binary.

The main thing to remember about trans folk is that they are people just like everyone else. Having respect for what pronouns trans folk want to use is a good start. For instance, FTMs usually want to be called he or him. MTFs prefer to be referred to as she or her. And some trans folks use ze or hir, or make up pronouns to fit them. These can be hard to get used to, particularly when someone is transitioning, but trying yo use their preferred pronoun is only respectful. It is true that some trans folk don’t “pass,” but gender is not about what you see from the outside, but what the person feels inside. Transwomen and transmen struggle enough with their own body dysphoria and internalized transphobia that getting called out on their looks can be devastating. So if you see someone who might be trans, don’t ask them in front of a bunch of people; in fact, don’t ask at all. If they want you to know, if it is relevant to your relationship, they will let you know. This can also be an issue of safety for a trans person. Violence against trans folk is frequent and often deadly, so outing a trans person is never a good idea.

Another huge issue is bathrooms, and for trans folk using the “wrong” bathroom cab get them beat up or worse. Until gender neutral bathrooms are the norm, chances are that you will see an ambiguously gendered person use a bathroom now and again. DON’T PANIC! Adult usually know what bathrooms to use, and being trans does not alter this ability. Not panicking just might keep someone form getting beaten, and since a lot of violence against trans folk is perpetuated by police and other authority figures, altering them is not wise either. (Not that we anarchists would ever call cops anyway, right?)

Increasingly, trans identity is being seen as an individual matter; who we are is our business and not the prerogative of doctors or the larger society. No matter how comfortable we are in our bodies, trans or not, we are all affected by binary gender roles, though this is most blatant and violent with transgenders. Gay men, no matter how butch; femmy men, no matter how straight; butch women, straight and lesbians; nerdy guys, the list goes on of people oppressed by binary gender norms. Trans folk cross these gendered lines and forge a way beyond just this or that, man or woman, male or female. By listening to and celebrating trans folk, we too can unhinge ourselves from the yoke of conforming to roles we may not want.

Some books on transgender issues:

-Trans Liberation: Beyond pink or Blue—Leslie Feinberg

-Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us—Kate Bornstein

-Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism—Patrick Califia

-The Testosterone Files—Max Wolf Valerio

-Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender Conformity—Mattilda ed.

-Intersex Awareness Day: October 26th

-Transgender Day of Remembrance Day: November 20th.

Tips for dealing with the police 2018

These suggestions from the National Lawyers Guild “Know Your Rights” guide summarize the rules to which the police are theoretically subject. However be careful: the police, the courts, and the government can and do ignore these rules when they feel like it. Sometimes, police retaliate against people for exercising their rights. These tips may help you later on in court, and sometimes they won’t. But even though the state can’t be counted on to follow its own laws, it still may be helpful to know what these laws are so you can shame particular state agents or deal with particular situations. Always use your best judgment — if you aren’t doing anything wrong, there may be no reason to be excessively paranoid or escalate a potentially innocent and brief encounter with a police officer who is just saying “hi” into an ugly situation by acting suspicious and refusing to say “hi” back. The point is to avoid giving information.

Providing this information isn’t intended to scare you into inactivity or make you paranoid. Even in the current context, the vast majority of radical projects proceed with no interference from the police. The police hassle and arrest people because they hope that such repression will frighten the population into submission. We can take reasonable precautions while continuing the fight for liberation.


Never Talk to the Police

Anything you say to an FBI agent or cop may be used against you and other people — even if the questions seem routine or harmless. You don’t have to talk to FBI agents, police or investigators on the street, if you’ve been arrested, or if you’re in jail. (Exceptions: Your name, date of birth and address are known as “Booking questions” which are not included in your right to remain silent. Also, in some states you can get an additional minor charge for refusing to identify yourself after a police stop based on reasonable suspicion). Only a judge has the authority to order you to answer questions. Many activists have refused to answer questions, even when ordered by a judge or grand jury, and subsequently served jail time to avoid implicating others. It is common for the FBI to threaten to serve you with a grand jury subpoena unless you talk to them. Don’t be intimidated. This is frequently an empty threat, and if they are going to subpoena you, they will do so anyway. If you do receive a subpoena, call a lawyer right away.

Once you’ve been stopped or arrested, don’t try to engage cops in a dialogue or respond to accusations. If you are nervous about simply refusing to talk, you may find it easier to tell them to contact your lawyer. Once a lawyer is involved, the police sometimes back off. Even if you have already answered some questions, you can refuse to answer other questions until you have a lawyer. Don’t lie to the police or give a false name— lying to the police is a crime. However, the police are allowed to lie to you — don’t believe what they say. If you’ve been arrested, don’t talk about anything sensitive in police cars, jail cells or to other inmates — you are probably being recorded.

What To Do About Police Harassment On The Street

If the police stop you on the street, ask, “Am I free to go?” If yes, walk away. If not, you are being detained but this does not necessarily mean you will be arrested. Ask, “Can you explain why you are detaining me?” To stop you, cops must have specific reasons to suspect you of involvement in a specific crime. Police are entitled to pat you down during a detention. If the police try to further search you, your car, or your home, say repeatedly that you do not consent to the search, but do not physically resist.

What To Do If Police Visit Your Home

You do not have to let the FBI or police into your home or office unless they have a search warrant. If they have an arrest warrant you may limit entry if the person surrenders outside. In either case, ask to inspect the warrant. It must specifically describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized. You do not have to tell them anything other than your name and address. Tell the police that you can not consent to the search unless it is also inspected by a lawyer. If the officers ask you to give them documents, your computer, do not consent to them taking it. However physically trying to block them from searching or seizing items may escalate the situation. You have a right to observe what they do. You should take written notes of their names and what they do. Have friends act as witnesses.

What To Do If Police Stop You In Your Car

If you are driving a car, you must show police your license, registration and proof of insurance, but you do not have to consent to a search or answer questions. Keep your hands where the police can see them and refuse to consent (agree) to a search. Police may separate passengers and drivers from each other to question them, but no one has to answer any questions.

What To Do If You Are Arrested

Repeatedly tell the police “I am going to remain silent, I would like to see my lawyer.” If you suffer police abuse while detained or arrested, try to remember the officer’s badge number and/or name. You have the right to ask the officer to identify himself. Write down everything as soon as you can and try to find witnesses. If you are injured, see a doctor and take pictures of the injuries as soon as possible.

Searches at International Borders

Your property (including data on laptops) can be searched and seized at border crossings without a warrant. Do not take any data you would like to keep private across the border. If you have to travel with electronic data encrypt it before crossing and make an encrypted back up of any data before crossing in case your computer or phone is seized.

Police Hassles: What If You Are Not A Citizen?

In most cases, you have the right to a hearing with an immigration judge before you can be deported. If you voluntarily give up this right or take voluntary departure, you could be deported without a hearing and you may never be able to enter the US legally again or ever get legal immigration status. Do not talk to the ICE, even on the phone, or sign any papers before talking to an immigration lawyer. Unless you are seeking entry into the country, you do not have to reveal your immigration status to any government official. If you are arrested in the US, you have the right to call your consulate or have the police inform the consulate of your arrest. Your consul may help you find a lawyer. You also have the right to refuse help from your consulate.

Police Hassles: What If You Are Under 18 Years Old?

Don’t talk to the police — minors also have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to talk to cops or school officials. Public school students have the right to politically organize at school by passing out leaflets, holding meetings and publishing independent newspapers as long as these activities do not disrupt classes. You have the right to a hearing with your parents and an attorney present before you are suspended or expelled. Students can have their backpacks and lockers searched by school officials without a warrant. Do not consent to any search, but do not physically resist.

Common Sense Activist Security Measures

Don’t speculate on or circulate rumors about protest actions or potentially illegal acts. Assume you are under surveillance if you are organizing mass direct action, anything illegal, or even legal stuff. Resist police disruption tactics by checking out the authenticity of any potentially disturbing letter, rumor, phone call, or other form of communication before acting on it. Ask the supposed source if she or he is responsible. Deal openly and honestly with the differences in our movements (race, gender, class, age religion, sexual orientation, etc.) before the police can exploit them. Don’t try to expose a suspected agent or informer without solid proof. Purges based on mere suspicion only help the police create distrust and paranoia. It generally works better to criticize what a disruptive person says and does without speculating as to why.

People who brag about, recklessly propose, or ask for unnecessary information about underground groups or illegal activities may be undercover police but even if they are not, they are a severe danger to the movement. The police may send infiltrators/provocateurs posing as activists to entrap people on conspiracy charges of planning illegal acts. You can be guilty of conspiracy just for agreeing with one other person to commit a crime even if you never go through with it — all that is required is an agreement to do something illegal and a single “overt act” in furtherance of the agreement, which can be a legal act like going to a store. It is reasonable to be suspicious of people in the scene who pressure us, manipulate us, offer to give us money or weapons, or make us feel like we aren’t cool if we don’t feel comfortable with a particular tactic, no matter why they do these things. Responsible activists considering risky actions will want to respect other people’s boundaries and limits and won’t want to pressure you into doing things you’re not ready for. Doing so is coercive and disrespectful — hardly a good basis on which to build a new society or an effective action.

Keep in mind that activists who spend all their time worrying about security measures and police surveillance will end up totally isolated and ineffective because they won’t be able to welcome new folks who want to join the struggle. We have to be aware of the possibility of police surveillance while maintaining our commitment to acting openly and publicly. Smashing the system is going to require mass action as well as secretive covert actions by a tiny clique of your trusted friends.

More info contact the National Lawyers Guild: 415 285-5067 or 212 679-5100; read The War at Home by Brian Glick or Agents of Repression by Ward Churchill

Thinking critically 2018

What is Critical Thinking? Critical thinking is a practice that is useful for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of situations and arguments in order to determine their validity and usefulness for our lives. Critical thinking involves formal logic, argumentation, rhetoric, background knowledge and an attitude of life-long learning. Some of this can be taught while some has to be learned on one’s own.

If you have been an anarchist any length of time, no doubt you have had someone in your life try to tell you how stupid or unworkable anarchy is. They might say, “Everyone would kill everyone else if there were no government” or “Who will work at the sewage plant if no one has to work?” Critical Thinking is a tool for these and similar situations.

Formal logic can be quite technical and abstract but is just a tool for figuring out if (logical) conclusions can actually follow from the given premises or assumptions. If you take a course in formal logic you can learn all sorts of terms for valid and invalid forms of argumentation and some common fallacies. Here are some examples of common fallacies: “Appeal to Authority”, which means stating something is true because an ‘important’ person said it was. This should be an obvious error to anarchists. “Ad Hominem” means ‘argument directed to the man’, which means attacking the person making the argument rather than attacking their argument. Another is “False Dilemma” where a limited number of options is given, when there are really many options. One more is the “Straw Man” in which one attacks an argument, usually a weaker one, that is different from the actual argument given. There are a lot of these fallacies and being familiar with them can help us argue better. Formal logic has nothing to say about whether the premises are actually true (to the extent we find ‘truth’ a valid category) and as anarchists that is mostly what we are interested in. Formal logic is the most straightforward to learn but is mostly concerned with the form of argumentation, such as: all cats speak French, Bruce has a cat, therefore Bruce’s cat speaks French. The form of this is valid because the conclusion follows logically from the premises, but obviously the argument is false. Formal logic also gives us a vocabulary for a framework of assessment, such as valid vs. invalid, strong vs. weak and sound vs. unsound arguments, but most of all it can help us see consistency and contradiction in arguments.

Argumentation is broader than logic yet covers some of the same issues, though in a more philosophical manner. What does it mean to have good reasons to believe something? What are good arguments and what are bad arguments? What is an argument anyway? So, whereas logic is about the formal properties of an argument, argumentation is about the meanings of the premises and whether they make sense and/or are plausible, do they need more supporting evidence, or are they leaving out evidence that would make them invalid or untrue.

Rhetoric is making our arguments persuasive, it is about having a style of argumentation that makes others want to at least listen to what we have to say. But we must also resist the flashy persuasive rhetoric if it means trying to sell our ideas over trying to communicate.

Background knowledge is the hardest part of critical thinking because it really depends on you wanting to know about the subject at hand. If we try to argue on subjects we know nothing about we will just look stupid and if we are subjected to arguments from others on things we know nothing about we will be bamboozled beyond belief. But this doesn’t mean we have to know everything about everything. Knowing one or two subjects very well (i.e. Foucault and carpentry) and also knowing how we know things (epistemology) and what can be known or not known (what Mr. Smith had for lunch? or is there life after death?) will go a long way toward being confident and skeptical enough to wade into arguments or wade into a new subject now and again.

Having some background knowledge on many subjects comes with a commitment to life-long learning something we as anarchists ought to embrace. If our broadest project is the dismantling of this world it behooves us to be aware of theories of such a task, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what are new theories being born now.

So, when someone asks “Won’t we all kill each other without government?” we can look at their assumptions (premises) and challenge them. Does this person really think everyone’s deepest desire is to kill and the only thing stopping them is the state? Do they think police stop crimes before they happen (rather than just investigate afterward)? And so on. We can see that their conclusion is based on faulty premises and reasoning.

You can find used Logic textbooks at good bookstores which will emphasize formal, abstract logic. An anthology of critical essays will present argument in a more real world prose form and these can be found on many subjects, also at good bookstores.

Book list 2018

Book listenings


Bad Feminist – Roxanne Gay

Blessed Is The Flame – Serafinski

What Is Gender Nihilism? A Reader

Encounters With The Archdruid – John McPhee

How to Be A Defendant – Tilted Scales Collective

The Platform Sutra – Huei Neng

Red Thread Zen – Susan Murphy

Anarchist Speculations – John Moore

The Humanure Handbook – Joseph Jenkins

Coming Out Like A Porn Star ed. Jiz Lee

Zen Confidential – Shozan Jack Haubner

Specters of Revolt – Richard Gilman-Opalsky

Queering Anarchism – Daring, Rogue, Shannon, and Volcano

Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene – McKenzie Wark

The Mushroom at the End of the World – Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

On the Lower Frequencies: A Secret History of the City – Erick Lyle

Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm – Stephen Harrod Buhner

Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity – José Esteban Muñoz

Dispatches Against Displacement: Field Notes from San Francisco’s Housing Wars – James Tracy

nonfiction include if space:

Quiet Rumors – Dark Star Collective

Anarchism & Environmental Survival – Graham Purchase

October: the story of the Russian Revolution – China Miéville
Jack London, photographer – Reesman, Hodson & Adam
Dispatches from Lesbian America – ed. Berber, Capone, Smith
Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America’s Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture – Eric Holt-Giménez


Lilith’s Brood – Octavia Butler

Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone – James Baldwin

Innocence: or, Murder on Steep Street – Heda Margolius Kovály
Double Duce – Aaron Cometbus

Dr. Blood Money – Philip K. Dick

Chronicler of the Winds – Henning Mankell

Terrible Virtue – Ellen Feldman
A General Theory of Oblivion – José Eduardo Agualusa
Savage Theories – Pola Oloixarac
Amberlough – Lara Elena Donnelly
Mad Country – Samrat Upadhyay
Spoils – Brian Van Reet
The Mushroom Center Disaster – N. M. Bodecker

My Cat Yugoslavia – Pajtim Statovci
Change Agent – Daniel Suarez
The Sound and The Fury – William Faulkner

The Eternal Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

Makers – Cory Doctorow


Scam: Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Issue! – Ericka Lyle

Scream Queens – Various