In the Wild, We Are Free from Abuse

The winter of 2011 found me moderately depressed, barely leaving the house, a recent college graduate with no clue why my life felt so empty. Growing up Black and middle class, it was pounded into my psyche that that piece of paper was my meal-ticket to happiness, prosperity, and social acceptance. As a radical feminist, delving into the world of activism, I was left feeling less than satisfied, to say the least. So I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. I left Ohio, looking for something more, some deeper answer to the lacking I felt. I traveled to New Mexico, land of enchantment, home to where I understood for the first time that the soil contained a spirit unto itself, that this Earth was a living, breathing being. I worked on a biodynamic farm and was introduced to concepts like deep ecology and biocentrism. It was the first time I had lived off the land, being fed, comforted, soulfully nourished by beings that I had overlooked as a suburban kid raised on television screens and shopping malls. And then I met Earth First!

I traveled to Missoula to meet up with some friends. I had never read the EF! Journal and was unfamiliar with the organization, let alone the unspoken tensions between differing ideological stances within the movement, particularly regarding anti-oppression. As a person of color, my experience at my first EF! Rendezvous — EF!’s annual outdoor national gathering called a Rondy — wasn’t too unlike most of my experiences growing up in a predominantly white community. Folks were fond of politely dancing around political correctness, pretending the reality of the situation was not, something is making marginalized folks feel unwelcome. There were some interactions that left a bad taste in my mouth, the most frustrating being repeatedly mistaken for the only other Black female perceived person, amongst a sea of white faces. I called it out, apologies were expressed, I moved on.

I chose instead to focus on the seed planted that would grow into the tools I needed to strike at the very root of the problem. I became alive with the knowledge that I could take into my hands the struggle that I felt so strongly in my heart and mind. For so long, oppression felt like an insurmountable monster that I had no hope of conquering. It is one thing to find words to voice the oppression one feels, to process the hurt, to rage over the injustice. It is another thing entirely to use your hands, your tiring muscles, your strength of will to fight those injustices. It forces the leviathan into reality, the physical plane, where it can be challenged in a tangible way. Now, here I stood among forest-defending warriors and whether or not the revolution was in sight or not, the dramatic sense of power I felt in myself was undeniable. I was hooked. That summer I traveled all over the Northwest, attending various gatherings and action camps. I learned to climb trees, came to love sleeping outside, met plants who soulfully offered healing guidance that I had only digested in written form. I felt more in myself than I had my entire life.

At that time, I didn’t have the words to voice my experience, my awakening, my coming home. In her essay, “Touching the Earth” from the book Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery, cultural theorist bell hooks explores this concept. She states that there is a “modern tendency to see no correlation between the struggle for collective black self-recovery and ecological movements that seek to restore balance to the planet by changing our relationship to nature and to natural resources.” Her statement sums up my approach to the activism and social justice work that had dominated my life. I did not understand my own internalized oppression, my own struggle, my own health as being intricately connected to the oppression of this earth or to the non-human beings that inhabit it. I was blind to understanding that our states of physical, psychological, and emotional health are all connected to one another’s, or put simply, deep ecology. Further, I did not understand this, until I experienced it; The feeling of my hands in frozen soil, understanding that I held seeds of life that would nourish and feed myself and others. Sweat pouring off my body as I climbed higher, staring my fears in the face, and climbing past them. Dark nights spent in the forest being reassured that the wild is not a place to be afraid of, but to revere and cherish. hooks states that it is this disconnect between body and mind that has lead to the estrangement of black folks from nature, allowing white supremacy to inform us of our sense of selves instead. But I couldn’t understand this through words. I had to understand it through action, experience, practice. Similarly, we cannot simply talk about how to challenge oppression — we must take action. We can use words to identify problems, but that is as far as our minds can take us.

To say that I was privileged to attend my first Rondy would be an understatement. To be sure, from the Greyhound bus ticket that was bought for me by the folks at Morning Star Farm, to the education that gave me the ability to consciously understand radical environmental theory, to my middle class background that helped create social connections with friends attending the Rondy, all of these factors made it that much easier for me to attend the gathering and feel comfort in my presence and engagement. Not everyone has access to these privileges. Arguably, most folks don’t have access to them. In her essay, hooks urges us to “bridge gaps and restore broken connections,” and EF! seems primed to do so if it chooses to live up to challenge.

In the article “Thinking Long Term,” Marie Mason articulates the necessity, magnitude, and urgency of this challenge because not only is the planet dying, but so too are thousands of beings, human and otherwise, as a result of the current ecocide happening in urban centers, rural communities, and the ever vanishing wild places across the country. Within the intersecting boundaries of these various groups, we will find the next eco-warriors. The beings that stand testament to the environmental degradation that mar their bodies and minds, laying their spirits to waste at the expense of this white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal machine.

White supremacy is the system of beliefs that devalues all other races, and places whiteness as top dog. Raised in this sort of environment, folks that fall outside of the dominant identity category continually consume cultural cues and messages that devalue their identity, disfiguring their sense of self worth and love for themselves, society, and the planet. These traits mirror those of any being that falls prey to an abusive relationship. The difference being that in the relationship between individual and a globally pervasive hegemonic belief system, there is no out. This is critical. We, as revolutionary fighters on behalf of Mother Earth, must see the essential necessity of connection to the wild. For it is in this relationship, that we unlearn the man-made destruction that lives in our hands and hearts. Because in the wild, we are free from the man-made abuses that we enact upon one another. In the wilderness, reveling in the will of the land, we remember our own wills — free from abuse, free from oppression. We recall, nourish, and strengthen our authentic, wild free selves. This is our struggle, this is our fight: For access, preservation, and protection of the wild so that we can heal the wounds of abuses inflicted upon us and the earth.

When we examine the myriad effects of this oppressive system, from learned patterns of abuse to a general inability to formulate healthy relationships with other beings, we can see how the collective consciousness of folks that fall outside of the dominant paradigm, much like the Earth, is under attack. As a result, we can observe that most people now have destructive relationships with themselves, one another, and this planet. Let’s think about this same concept a different way. Instead of talking about marginalized folks, let’s substitute the Earth. We can understand the various ecosystems within it as the collective consciousness and instead of the ideology of white supremacy, we’ll substitute anthropocentrism. This is easy for most radical environmentalists to comprehend. We can easily see the same destructive cycle of abuse and understand the urgency in healing the trauma we have inflicted on this earth, and therefore with respect to the philosophy of deep ecology, we must appreciate with the same magnitude the grave necessity of healing the collective consciousness of marginalized individuals all over this planet. If that sounds like an unreasonable demand, then “no compromise” has no room for you.

In order to stop our current path of destruction, we need to fight to end further harm, but we also must heal the damage that has already been inflicted. This is of utmost importance, for it is from these spaces of unlearning, wild spaces, that we will create a different way, that we will remember the old ways. Audre Lorde said the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. Earth First! has used the master’s tools for far too long. We have been focusing on the end goal so much that we have forgotten the process. It is in this process that we learn to listen, learn to heal, learn to stop abusing one another. We must examine ourselves, our movement, and our beliefs in order to unhinge the abuse guised as “just the way things are,” manifested in oppressive patterns of language and behavior.

We are codependents in love with a capitalist white supremacist patriarchal addict that exploits, manipulates, and traumatizes us and the planet. A codependent is defined as someone whose identity is undeveloped or unknown due to the maintenance of a false sense of self, built from dependent attachments to external sources. Our sense of self must be recovered from this abusive partner. We must demand a change, live it, breathe it in, let it settle into our bones. We must remember ourselves, our wild feral selves, independent and free, courageously united for the sake of the saving this entire planet. As recovering codependents, it is our inherent responsibility as part of our own healing process to create safety for ourselves. As warriors and revolutionaries on behalf of Mother Earth, it is our fight to ensure this means safety for all, by any means necessary.

Further, making the concept of challenging oppression into a workshop topic is laughable, if not completely ridiculous. We are talking about living, breathing, pervasive systems that we’ve been raised up in, and that live within us, around us, informing and shaping our relationships with ourselves and each other. What does it look like to put this challenge into action? Well, Mason’s proposal seems like a step in the right direction. With the creation of spaces where we with the privilege of feeling, knowing, breathing in the power of a relationship with the land, share with those who are currently strangled under the weight of industrial capitalism, pervasive oppression, and the surmounting traumas unreleased and festering in our collective unconsciousness. We must humble ourselves to the fact that no compromise in the name of Mother Earth means no one left behind. We cannot ignore this monumental task set before us, for the sake of this earth, for the sake of one another, and for the sake of ourselves.

*** I’ve learned to think in a circle instead of a line. My spirit lost its way some time ago between television screens and mini mall super saver Saturdays. But in pine silhouetted black nights I read the moon with my heart and in return she whispered to me resuscitating secrets always had I known.

In between struggle and revolution there is a vital flowing energy. Composing the symphony of tides and flows spirals of life cycles of death. In it, we learn to dance without thinking, feel the rhythm with our hearts hear the notes with our souls. Shedding the skin of our human masks we lose ourselves in caves and waters.

Enamored with the darkness in love with the wild, we are bosomed in the long laborious ecstasy of everything and nothing.

In this we heal. In this we remember. In this we are free.

Codependency & (Anti-)Capitalism

Throughout my collective organizing experience, most of my closest friends and I have struggled to avoid martyrdom, resentment, and burnout. I have seen many students join my old food co-op with excitement and motivation only to withdraw several months later after working more shifts and washing more dishes than they had actually wanted to. In examining these tendencies towards self-sacrifice, I began to see them as facets of a larger system of codependent beliefs and behaviors that often manifests in radical communities. Moreover, I noticed that these codependent qualities are mutually constitutive with the dynamics of our Western capitalist society. This society is defined by a power structure that alienates children from their needs and feelings, depicts self-sacrifice as loyalty, shapes us into victims, perpetrators, and rescuers, and benefits from the whole process. When individuals work to recover from codependency, they learn to identify their needs, establish healthy boundaries, and resolve childhood traumas. Because my experience with recovery has had such a beneficial impact on my relationship to activism, I believe that the framework of codependency holds great potential not only for our understandings of Western capitalism but also for our approaches to radical struggle.

What is Codependency?

Mental health professionals originally created the term “codependency” to describe common tendencies among partners of alcoholics, but the term was later expanded to include a much broader range of individuals who exhibited similar qualities. Codependent kids often grow up in families where issues such as addictions, illnesses, or abuse are not addressed. These kids learn early to repress their emotions and disregard their needs in order to accommodate the family’s unspoken dysfunction at the cost of their own wellbeing. Much of their self-worth revolves around pleasing others and being needed as a way to derive a sense of control over their surroundings. For many, a negation of their needs and feelings creates a sense of shame and insecurity, which drives them to continue their patterns of validation-seeking and self-denial as they grow into adulthood.

In my experience, codependency is less of a category and more of a network of tendencies whose manifestation ranges wildly among people and transforms over time. Despite this, I have noticed two consistent themes of codependent behavior in my communities.

The first is a pervasive perfectionism, in which an individual’s self-approval is contingent on their performance in a particular arena. For those of us who are social perfectionists, this means people-pleasing in order to receive external validation. Relationships with controlling individuals offer this sort of approval in spades, creating a predictable matrix within which one can “earn” validation by doing the “right” things. I have noticed that even in activist communities which embrace honesty and non-hierarchy, folks often hesitate to assert their boundaries or express disagreement to others who are charismatic, controlling, or (seemingly) essential to the functioning of the collective.

At my former collective, I noticed this sort of behavior happening when one of the well-established core members took actions outside of our consensus system. At one point, they temporarily withdrew from the collective in a way that obviously sidestepped our traditional process, and after their final withdrawal, they refused to return their key to the store. Throughout these experiences, the other members and I remained strangely inactive. For many of us, this was our first experience at a workplace where boundaries were not set for us. We lacked the skills to assert our collective needs and communicate what we considered to be unacceptable. If more of us had been willing to speak up about our initial concerns, we may have been able to address this individual’s behavior in a way that prevented future boundary violations and ensured a culture of mutual respect within the collective.

The second theme of codependency is a violent unselfishness; one’s connection with their needs and feelings is sacrificed in order to address the needs and desires of others. This pattern is characterized by flexible personal boundaries, martyrdom, resentment, and expressed dissatisfaction that never materializes in action. Over time, individuals who consistently disregard their needs and emotions may lose touch with them altogether, and end up struggling to identify what it is they actually want and feel.

In my time living and participating in a radical land project, I felt obligated to assist with more projects, process more feelings, and eat more dumpstered bread than I was actually comfortable with. I heard this sentiment echoed by multiple volunteers, who expressed feelings of guilt around enjoying leisure time. In the end I burned out, became mired in resentment, and developed an intense sensitivity to gluten. Had I been able to set better boundaries for myself earlier on, I might have been able to participate in a way that was productive and sustainable in the long-term, or identify an unsustainable environment from the start.

Codependents often conceptualize interpersonal relationships through the framework of the drama triangle. Within this structure, an individual in a conflict will alternately inhabit “victim”, “perpetrator”, and “rescuer” personas, which distract from a complex and empathetic understanding of the situation. With its overly simplistic, archetypal roles, this structure provides individuals with a familiar framework for their feelings: indignation for the victim, defensiveness for the perpetrator, and salvation for the rescuer.

In their withdrawal, one of the members of the food co-op mentioned having “wounded bird syndrome”. They described their recurring experience of joining struggling collectives (victims of the “system”) and attempting to rescue them. When the collectives would fail to transform, this person would experience great disillusionment, shift from the “rescuer” to the “victim” role, and feel resentful and frustrated with the collective that, in their mind, was no longer a “victim” but a “perpetrator” of their distress. Had they and other members taken time to disabuse themselves of this paradigm, we could have understood our relationships to the collective in more complex, symbiotic terms, while avoiding burnout in the name of that collective’s salvation.

Ultimately, all three of these patterns serve to redirect individuals’ attention towards external sites of validation. Within codependency, the drama of everyday life keeps us from confronting our deeper anxieties and traumas.

Codependency and Society

Many of us are born into a society, which shames us for showing our bodies, our emotions, and our failures. Within mainstream monotheistic religion, we are reminded that because of our inherent sinfulness, we must suppress our natural impulses in order to earn paternalistic approval from an authoritarian god. In communities thoroughly infiltrated by the culture of competition, many of us feel that our value is always relative to those around us and never inherent to us. This sense of competitive insecurity divides us and lays the groundwork for the creation of a malleable, competitive capitalist workforce. Within the framework of codependency, mainstream society is an excellent example of a dysfunctional family which negates the needs and feelings of its members, shames them for their perceived imperfections, and drives them to compete indefinitely for externally-granted validation.

For most individuals in our society, these systems of external validation manifest in our families, in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our relationships to the legal system; these become our arenas for validation and salvation. When we fail to live up to the standards established for us, we are punished by the authorities as well as our own internalized judgments. These punishments victimize us, and since many of us never learn the skills required to define, identify, and satisfy our needs, we rescue ourselves through dissociation. Watching TV, shopping, eating, and drinking become our tools of emotional avoidance. In these patterns, there is an overarching connection to the self-sacrifice, search for validation, and disconnection from oneself that characterize codependence.

Meanwhile, the capitalist market perpetuates and profits from our distress. Advertisements in the media define images of perfection that erode at our sense of inherent self-worth and suggest consumerism as an appropriate solution to our inner defects. The message is clear: capitalism and its byproducts can rescue us from our ineptitude and victimhood. There is a safety in this message; it suggests that we do not have to look inward, to access our vulnerability or humanity, in order to find inner peace. There’s a product for that now.

The logic of the drama triangle dictates how people of color, working-class folks, women, queers, children, elderly, and disabled folks are characterized in mainstream media. Victims of disembodied circumstances and “bad luck,” these communities are framed as “in need of rescuing.” Within the project of “rescuing”, the locus of control is rarely placed in the hands of communities resisting oppression. The majority of professional philanthropists and non-profits descend on these communities with their own tactics, constraints, and agendas. In the process, they often reinscribe the victimhood of the communities that they allege to support by denying them the right to take direction of the aid projects. Similarly, in the realm of gender socialization, themes of martyrdom, self-invalidation, and approval-seeking are coded in the way that many women are instructed to relate to men. At the root of these instructions is the understanding that women are inherently flawed or incapable and need men for guidance.

Finally, the drama triangle plays a significant role in the formation of foreign policy among nation-states, or more precisely, its justification by the mainstream media. We are told that our government intervenes in countries on behalf of the victimized women, children, or ethnic minorities, who are sweet but frankly a little incompetent and need our bravery and machismo to vanquish their oppressors, who are made of pure, uncomplicated evil. This brand of philanthropy, like the domestic variety, recreates the conditions of the drama triangle through the implication that “victims” are incompetent, “perpetrators” are incorrigible, and “rescuers” are infallible. As such, it forecloses on complex understandings of social injustice that implicate imperialism, capitalism, neoliberalism, and any number of other dynamics that are associated with global colonialism.

Resolution and Transformation

The process of breaking out of codependent dynamics is two-fold. Codependents must address the fundamental, wounded parts of themselves with compassion and acceptance in order to heal any deep-seated shame. At the same time, we have to take action, setting and following through on concrete, loving personal boundaries. In this way, codependents can connect to their sense of self-worth and take pride in the actions they have taken.

I believe that it is essential for activists with codependent qualities to engage this process. For me, working to recover from codependency has radically transformed my activism. I figured out that feelings of guilt and inadequacy had been the primary motivators in my social justice work. I realized that I had internalized countless standards for what constituted a “real” radical that left little room for my strengths and my identity. Finally, I understood that I needed to prioritize self-care and communication in a way that transcended the lip service that I had given them before. I learned about what burns me out, what nourishes me, and what inspires me. Recovery from codependency has been a long and vulnerable process but I have already noticed that my collective organizing involvement has become much more sustainable.

In the arena of addressing larger social patterns, the experience of codependency recovery can help individuals frame their ideas of social justice with respect to the basic needs and boundaries of others. For example, I’ve noticed that when speaking to individuals who occupy oppressive roles, I have had greater success when taking great care to avoid the rhetoric of the drama triangle. In appealing to their vulnerability, their humanity, and their strength, I have communicated social justice ideas around consent, respecting indigenous spirituality, and complicating environmentalism in a way that does not put folks on the defensive. On a broader scale, I have noticed that when ally-ship organizations take the time to participate in communities that they are striving to support, familiarize themselves with their needs and feelings, and ask them for instructions on how to support their causes, the resulting activism is more respectful and effective than that of organizations that still see communities as victims in need of rescue.

Codependent dynamics permeate Western capitalist society and undermine many of our anti-capitalist communities. By gaining an awareness of the codependency framework, resolving childhood traumas, and learning to communicate our feelings, needs, and boundaries, we can transform our activism to build resilient movements that sustain, delight, and inspire us.

Stop That Train: Foil the Coal Export Plan

Coal. The sleek seductress and poison pill. Will humans leave her sleeping or destroy our life support system to fill our addiction?

The struggle to halt coal exploitation is happening on many fronts, and one important nexus is the battle in the Pacific Northwest to stop “The Coal Trains” — a variety of proposals to move unfathomable amounts of coal by train from Montana’s Powder River Basin to Pacific ports so it can be shipped to China. Every leg of this proposal is an unacceptable wound to Mother Earth: from the despicable strip mining in Montana; to the 18 or more daily mile-long trains trailing coal dust through communities in three or more states; to proposed construction of new ports, like one near Bellingham WA in a sensitive herring and salmon habitat; to a giant increase in large ships and the likelihood of an oil spill in the precious Puget Sound (home of the Orca whales) or other waterways; to the shipping of national natural resources all the way across the Pacific to be burned in dirty coal plants in China that put unacceptable levels of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere.

There is so much money to be made that numerous corporations are salivating to get coal trains moving. There at least 6 sites from Coos Bay, Oregon to Canada, including sites along the Columbia River, the Olympic Peninsula and Cherry Point near Bellingham that are under consideration for coal export terminals. The “developers” include the perennially evil Peabody Coal (that hauled away John Prine’s “Paradise”), SSA Marine (who called in the police that shot at Oakland port protesters) and Goldman Sachs. They want to capitalize on China’s interest in cheap coal and the desire of the coal industry to open new markets as natural gas fracking floods the US energy market with artificially cheap gas which is cutting domestic coal consumption. So much for “national energy self sufficiency” arguments.

Its up to regular people in target communities to oppose these devastating energy projects. Fortunately Bellingham, the site of the largest proposed port, is not an easy push over. The public hearings about the Environmental Impact Statements have been packed with articulate citizens pointing out the numerous health, environmental and economic threats of this project. Bellingham also collected double the required signatures to put a “coal transport ban and Community Bill of Rights” initiative on the ballot. It was later blocked by a court order and the local city council. Nonetheless, the campaign galvanized local resistance and underscored the public desire to empower local autonomous decision making over state or federal bureaucracies.

The Bellingham 12 are a group of activists facing legal charges for blocking train tracks to bring attention to the Coal Train as part of Occupy’s West Coast day of action on Dec. 12, 2011. “The Bellingham 12 are working hard to fight our charges in court on the basis of the necessity defense to prevent a greater evil”, explained Andy Ingram, one of the twelve activists. “It’s imperative that we as a community here in the Northwest and across the world try and create a culture where direct action and confrontation of wanton industrial development is socially acceptable and encouraged, so that we have the slightest chance of preserving the health and integrity of the planet as we’ve known it up until now.”

Larry Hildes is an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild in Bellingham who is representing the Bellingham 12. He has also represented front-line coal activists in Montana and Tennessee. “Coal is an evil any place where it’s produced, it has caused suffering… It is the mining, transportation and burning of coal that is the single easiest attackable major cause of climate change. It is one of the most pervasive examples of putting profit ahead of the earth, putting profit ahead of people. They come up with more and more destructive means to pull it out, and the whole process is just flat wrong. It is wonderful that people are standing up against it, putting their bodies on the line all over the world to say no to it. It makes me really, really hopeful, the fact that there are people fighting this in West Virginia, Montana and Wyoming, here in Washington and Oregon, Australia, in China — all of the places where coal is inflicting human and environmental destruction, people are fighting it and are fighting it hard.”

There has also been resistance from the Native Tribal communities, a strong political force in the Pacific Northwest. “We have to say ‘no’ to the coal terminal project,” said Cliff Cultee, Chairman of the Lummi Nation. “It is our Xw’ xalh Xechnging (sacred duty) to preserve and protect all of Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point).” Cherry Point is the location of a 3,500-year-old village site and is “full of sacred sites and burial grounds”. The proposed development is just north of the Lummi reservation and could gravely affect the fishing and gathering rights of numerous tribes. The call to stop the Coal Train was heard at a recent gathering in Seattle in support of “Idle No More” (a growing and exciting movement coming out of indigenous peoples in Canada).

“The fact that people have done civil disobedience on both sides of the border, both ends of the supply line is fabulous. There are people organizing to stop this everywhere. In every town along the route there are people in large numbers organizing. … Helena is mobilized, Bozeman is mobilized, Spokane, every place all along the rail route there is major opposition to this thing, it is enormously hopeful.” says Larry Hildes. “I’ve never seen an environmental movement like this, on this scale… this one is very large, and very broad and yet very radical. That’s fantastic. Which is what we need, that is how we are going to stop this.”

Audrey Goodfriend: 1920-2013

Audrey Goodfriend was an anarchist her entire life. Born to anarchist immigrants in New York, Audrey grew up speaking Yiddish at home and lived in the Sholem Aleichem House; a radical cooperative housing project in the Bronx. She was a girl when Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in Boston in 1927 and their letters were instrumental in shaping her anarchism, continuing to move her throughout her life.

As an adolescent and young adult, Audrey sent care packages to anarchist comrades fighting in Spain, read Living My Life against the express wishes of her parents who felt it was too sexually explicit, and traveled to Toronto with a friend to have tea with Emma Goldman. During World War II, she was part of the Why? Group, a publishing collective that printed an anti-war anarchist periodical at a time when many radicals were choosing to support the state in what they saw as a just war against fascism. Anti-zionist since before there ever was a state of Israel, Audrey and her comrades believed strongly that no state violence was ever justified.

In 1946, after the war, she went on a speaking tour with her partner David Koven and some friends from their circle to raise money for the anti-draft movement. They ended up in San Francisco and decided to stay. They knew Paul Goodman and Kenneth Rexroth and were part of a generation of anarchists who laid the groundwork for the cultural movements that defined San Francisco in the fifties and sixties. Audrey told me once that she was too busy raising children to pay much attention to the beat generation, but followed this by saying she had attended the event where Ginsberg read Howl for the first time. Raising her two daughters directed Audrey’s interests toward anarchist education and the Modern School movement, leading her to help found the Walden School in Berkeley in 1958.

She worked as a teacher at Walden until the early seventies and was the bookkeeper at her friend Moe Moskowitz’s Berkeley bookstore for many years after. In her fifties, she had hip surgery, separated from her partner David, and began swimming at the YMCA every day. At sixty, she started acting with Stagebridge, the country’s oldest senior theater company, and continued to perform with them for over twenty-five years. She was still taking an improv class there this fall and spoke about the power and importance it had for her.

I met Audrey seven and a half years ago when I began attending the Anarchist Study Group at the Long Haul in Berkeley. Thirty to seventy years older than the rest of us, she spoke her mind freely and did not allow others to put her on a pedestal. When many of her peers had lost touch with younger anarchists, Audrey was one of us: engaging with us every week and reading more obscure theory than she ever wanted to.

Audrey always said she did not celebrate holidays; they were too tied up with god and the state for her taste. She did, however, love to celebrate birthdays and New Year’s Day because they were about people and life and making it through another year. I biked over to Audrey’s house a few weeks ago. She showed me some of her books and we talked about her life a lot. She did not seem to romanticize or regret any of it; she spoke of her own death without fear and was able to laugh, listen and be present with me as I spoke about myself. A week and a half later she went to the theater, came home raving about it, went to sleep, and passed away. She never stopped being an active part of our lives until she stopped altogether.

And she never voted and she never married and she never believed in the authority of god or country; and she was happy and present, well loved and a joy to know.

Introduction to Issue #112

Introduction to Issue #112

Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

Speaking your truth can be a risk. Sometimes people get pissed at you, or you realize later that what you said wasn’t actually true, or maybe it became untrue with time. How do we build a movement when communication is laden with so much risk? In this issue of Slingshot we printed hella articles about communication. Communication with others, with ourselves, with our environment. Open and honest communication is the only way we can learn and grow. With growth comes pain, but if we never push past our familiar routines, what are we but ghosts of our former selves? Neurologists have recently pointed out what radicals knew all along: the brain starts dying when you don’t take risks.

Recently, some members of the collective have noticed that the world outside the Berkeley vortex seems to be undergoing a cultural shift. Towns that had no counter-culture five years ago are now buzzing with travelers, squatters, info shops, coops, and all sorts of great radical stuff. And there’s been this incredible self-determined Indigenous movement, called “Idle No More,” sprouting up in Canada and around the globe, with native people demanding autonomy over their environment and communities. As we hot-waxed their article to the page, the author of “Keeping Carbon in the Ground” (on pages 10-11) called us from a march in Toronto as helicopters were circling overhead. Folks are up to something! Smashing the state with one hand and creating sustainable communities with the other.

According to the biological definition, a “radical” is the part of a plant’s root structure that is new. A radical is fresh and green, shooting off into new spaces. A radical also must be more aware and sensitive than any other part of the plant’s root structure, so it can make careful decisions based on the availability of nutrients and water. As human radicals, we embody a beautiful, reckless growth. We push towards something new and better. We walk to the very edge of the paths blazed by those who came before and we continue to push forward in the dark, warm soil as the permaculture sprouts in our wake.

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, etc. to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editing.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot Collective but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collectives members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: Angie, Darin, enola d!, eggplant, Fern, Fred, Glenn, Gnat, Hayley, Heather, Jared, Jesse, Joey, Joey-2, Jonathon, Julia, Kermit, Lesley, Solomon, Stephski, Vanessa, Xander , and all the authors and artists who came together to make this paper.

Slingshot Technology Meeting

We’ve been putting off dealing with how the internet and other technological details relate to publishing our paper in a comprehensive way for years by putting band aids on top of band aids. On Saturday April 6 at 2 pm, we’re going to have an open discussion of what technology we want to apply and how to do it. If you know about tech stuff and want to help us explore and improve ways of spreading slingshotty-info digitally, join us at this meeting.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday March 24, 2013 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 113 by April 20, 2013 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 112, Circulation 20,000

Printed February 1, 2013

Slingshot Newspaper

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2013 Golden Wingnut Award: Accepting Nominations

Slingshot will award its ninth annual Award for Lifetime Achievement — the Golden Wingnut — at its 25th birthday party on Sunday, March 10 at 3124 Shattuck in Berkeley (8 pm). Slingshot created the Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize direct action radicals who have dedicated their lives to the struggle for alternatives to the current absurd system. Wingnut is the term some of us use to refer to folks who blend radicalism and a highly individual personal style — more than just another boring radical. Golden Wingnuts mix determination, inspiration and flair. The winner has their biography featured in our next issue, and will receive a wingnut trophy and super-hero outfit.

We’re looking for nominations. To be eligible, an individual has to be currently alive and must have at least 25 years of service to the movement. Please send your nominations by 5 p.m. on March 1 along with why a particular person should be awarded the Golden Wingnut for 2013 to

LPFM Alive Despite Legislation: Fuk the FCC

On November 30, 2012. the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced implementation of the bipartisan Local Community Radio Act of 2010. The legislation instructs the FCC to license more small, local Low Power FM (LPFM) stations. These stations broadcast on up to 100-watt transmitters, usually with a 3-4 mile signal range. The legislation replaces a 2000 ruling first recognizing LPFM. The 2000 legislation was hailed a groundbreaking victory for unlicensed radio, which had seized the airwaves and refused to be removed. However, the radio industry through inside deals from powerful lobbying arm the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) with the FCC and Congress quickly maneuvered to strategically undermine the process to eliminate even the smallest level of competition for the profiteers.

Over a twelve year period the net result is about 800 small, non-profit corporate LPFM stations nationally. Virtually none have been licensed in major urban areas, including none in the Bay area. The majority are rural stations owned by a well-funded national religious network, most others by schools and emergency responders. The result is a corporate jukebox of songs from the top ten record labels, AP wire service briefs, and government-funded propaganda from NPR.

The current LPFM legislation is again hailed as ground breaking by the media and radio activist organizations that worked hard for passage. It should provide a few more good quality, local stations. But will it help or actually hurt LPFM in the context of the overall goals of the original movement, which started out as “pirate radio”?

Within a week or two after the LPFM announcement, the FCC quietly announced another round of corporate media deregulation, the third attempt in the past decade. This legislation expands and includes radio in recently implemented cross-ownership rules to allow one corporation to own one newspaper, two TV stations, and up to 8 radio stations in any one market. The FCC’s complicity in expansion of corporate license approvals threatens to further limit the amount of dial space left for LPFM licenses.

In two weeks, media activist organizations delivered over 200,000 letters in opposition, minority media organizations protested, and 57 Congress people signed a letter in opposition, reminding the FCC of legal obligations it is ignoring. Yet, this year the FCC marches forward despite similar defeated attempts by organized public action in 2003 and 2007, with the only public support coming from industry profiteers.

Consolidation levels are already ridiculous. In 2003, 50 corporations owned 90% of the media. Now, six corporations own that 90%. People of color control 3.6% of TV stations and 8% of radio stations, and women less than 10% overall. 1996 legislation began the escalating consolidation, broadening radio ownership from about 35 stations nationally per company to about 35% or more in any geographic market. In 4 years, hated conglomerate Clear Channel grew from 35 to over 1200 stations nationally.

Estimates of the number of new LPFM stations that will be licensed are low, completely dependent on implementation. While virtually no LPFM stations were added over 12 years, countless thousands of big corporate applications were rubber-stamped, with estimates of up towards 10,000 of these applications on hold in the pipeline. Most aren’t even new, rather “repeater” or “translator” stations that either expand the signal range of an existing station or rebroadcast existing stations in different markets. An FCC brief last year suggested allowing 1 LPFM station for every 70 new licenses issued.

LPFM started towards the mid-90’s as a civil disobedience “pirate radio” movement. Stations such as Free Radio Berkeley and San Francisco Liberation Radio jumped onto open dial spaces with cheap equipment, as a broadcasting voice for the exploding homeless populations totally shut out of institutional media. At that time, homeless activists involved with Food Not Bombs and Homes Not Jails took over unused buildings, creating space for LPFM broadcasting, and communities for collective living.

The local power structure reacted by jailing activists and criminalizing homeless people while the FCC reacted similarly; criminalizing “illegal broadcasters” for operating without a license despite the fact that no low power licensing process existed. The criminalization included removing stations in armed multi-jurisdictional raids to seize “illegal transmitters.”

Broadcasters were sent civil fine notices in the tens of thousands of dollars, property owners threatened with both civil fines and property seizure for hosting “illegal” activities. The FCC to this day uses it’s limited public resources to spy, infiltrate, harass, threaten, and remove by force unlicensed stations as if an FBI investigating criminals on a most wanted list. This scares away broadcasters, results in frequent evictions, drives stations underground in need of internal security, and makes it really risky to hold public events and interact with the community.

Why didn’t this level of repression end, or even slow down the movement? Negative FCC publicity from armed raids and failed legal challenges dissuade higher profile challenges. How do people react to news reports that a volunteer DJ on air had multiple guns put to his/her head by multi-jurisdictional police forces that burst into the studio space under the direction of an FCC bureaucrat?

More to the point, unlicensed broadcasting isn’t and never was “illegal”. No legalities exist either way. Would the FCC win or lose a court challenge on grounds that it is mandated to provide for things like local, affordable access and diversity in membership and content? LPFM exists and is now legal, because of the brave, unyielding civil disobedience actions of these DJs and supporters.

Free Radio Berkeley pioneer Steven Dunifer recently raised the issue of the radio movement having been formed for much, much more than 800 little private corporate stations. Dunifer has produced for worldwide distribution basic radio starter kits that get a station broadcasting for less than $1,000. Many unlicensed stations broadcast good radio as non-hierarchical collectives on as little as several hundred dollars a month, mostly for cheap rent and utilities. Many are self-financed with small monthly DJ donations, used equipment, and occasional fundraising benefits.

Unlicensed radio and web broadcasting has and can continue to provide much more than songs and talk, namely direct action politics. The web-based independent media center movement started around the “Battle of Seattle”. Internet sites can broadcast audio live on location worldwide and archive shows for free download and rebroadcast at minimal cost. When an FM radio station is willing to link to that live site, it can simulcast live from the studio with a click of a bottom.

San Francisco Liberation Radio (SFLR) was broadcasting good quality radio to central San Francisco in 2003 when bombs started dropping in Iraq, before shutdown by armed FCC raid. At that time, licensed broadcasters were summarily fired for uttering even a word in opposition to this destructive war, resulting in nothing but corporate “cheerleading” and self-censorship.

The SF Bay Independent Media Center ( formed a web radio station called Enemy Combatant Radio (ECR). The day after the Iraq war was announced, it broadcast from the studio live call-in reports from the streets on a day the Financial District was completely shut down with anarchist-oriented tactics, costing Wall Street millions. SFLR broadcasted ECR live. Broadcasts from subsequent rally sites and break-away marches were streamed live with SFLR rebroadcast live in public parks. Internet hits were logged from indymedia sites worldwide. Event-specific street broadcasts have been held at major anti-war rallies and anti-globalization events, including live documentation of police-protester clashes in breakaway marches.

Occupy movements created live streams to document activities and for radio re-broadcast. Several years ago, Puerto Rican students and supporters seized public university campus’ over university fee hike/service cuts, with police/protester riots across cities. Part of a worldwide student movement, students set up an LPFM station on the seized campus. A student leader I interviewed while visiting the Bay Area said they’d gotten the idea from reading about Berkeley Liberation Radio.

The current licensing process is led by liberal/progressive organizations with very little advocacy for or involvement from the unlicensed community. Most pirate broadcasters I’ve heard from – including myself – want nothing to do with being a corporation, playing it safe, having a station manager, raising big money, or having anything to do with the FCC. In my opinion, radical, direct action stations have a better chance staying on the air without a license. If licensed and unwilling to self-censor, the first thing to fight will be industry-fueled FCC witch hunts that take back the license. Stations paying tens of thousands of dollars start-up costs are likely to play it safe with non-confrontational liberal politics, and push out socialist, anarchist and other leftist viewpoints.

Why did the 2000 LPFM legislation accomplish virtually nothing? The legislation was flawed in the first place, only allowing for non-profit corporations such as schools and churches. FCC and cheap industry tricks quickly destroyed the rest. Instead of granting licenses to existing unlicensed stations, the FCC implemented a retaliatory “lifetime ban” for anyone having participated in these “illegal activities”. Artificially limiting dial space, unrealistic application costs, hiding a court-mandated study, refusal to open new available spectrums, and not administering the process are some of the implementation blocks. NPR has bought up most small stations, driving the price of a license into the millions and leaving few small local stations left.

In my analysis, the new LPFM movement is needed more than ever just to replace the fast disappearing traditional “non-commercial” radio spectrum. Unlicensed radio activists can look to the roots of pirate radio and current independent media movements to re-invigorate a radical direct action movement for quality radio free of government control.

Hearts Without Borders

Yaressi Morin’s mother brought her here when she was 6 years old. She was a little girl already carrying a culture with her, but she was still young enough to fully embrace another. The United States became her home. When she was deported back to Mexico 14 years later, she crawled back across the desert, determined to return home. She died trying. She took her last breath in her cousin’s arms after suffocating in the heat.

This story glared upward at me while I waited for my food at Juan in a Million, a popular Mexican restaurant in east Austin. I became preoccupied with the Mexican newspaper recounting the tragedy and tried not to bleed my Gringa heart all over the table. It was late spring of 2012, and the idea of the DREAM Act had not yet been introduced.

Eventually, I looked up at my lover who had joined me for breakfast and asked him, “Why does this bullshit happen?”

“She didn’t have the papers.”

“But why won’t the government let her get the papers? She spent most of her fucking life here.” I felt indignant.

He shrugged. He came off as flippant, but I knew better. He himself is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, and probably didn’t feel like thinking about it. My stomach convulsed in guilt, thinking of all of the U.S. citizens like me enjoying Mexican food on that Saturday morning. The question of how many lives the government might be ruining in that second as countless Texans chewed on breakfast tacos stuck in my head like the knot of refried beans and tortilla that was about to be plastered to the roof of my mouth.

My “Don Juan” taco arrived. For a minute, I only stared down at it in shame. E’s eyes looked up from his huevos y la seccion de los deportes, curious.

I shake my head. “I’m sorry I’m acting weird. I have a lot on my mind.” My thoughts had simplified to only four words, actually, but they weighed heavily: this could be him.

As I ate, my mind flickered back to one of the times we visited Barton Springs. He joked that he couldn’t swim to deter me from dragging him into the frigid water. To an onlooker, he might have sounded convincing, yet I knew that he had pushed his way across a river to be here. He would jokingly call himself a wetback, and laugh when I cringed at the word. I later asked him if the river was much wider than the spot where we were swimming.

“Yes, and it was moving much faster.”

“Were you scared?”

“Yes.” It was another stupid question that I had to ask.

People stared as we lay out by the water. “We are a weird couple,” he had said once.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “I see them looking.” So many white people I know claim that racism is no longer an issue, but segregation is still the norm. If it wasn’t, why would a white woman and a Mexican guy be such a spectacle?

These racial and cultural tensions are not lessened by the supposedly progressive Obama administration, which is cracking down harder on immigrants than ever. Their goal, in connection with privately owned detention centers, is to deport 400,000 immigrants each year. In order to meet this quota, they have expanded what defines “aggravated felonies,” or the charges that immediately render someone deportable. These aggravated felonies now include what would be considered a misdemeanor for a United States citizen, such as minor shoplifting. In the words of my friend who works amongst lawmakers in Texas, “They are hanging onto otherwise law-abiding fifty year-old churchgoing moms and dads these days.”

This is precisely why I felt as though a giant bucket of ice water had been dumped over my head when E’s brother contacted me in December with the news that the cops had picked E up on a DWI. Six months went by since we’d eaten in that restaurant and we were no longer together. Furthermore, our attempts to stay friends had gone about as well as trying to eat healthfully at Mcdonald’s, so we were not on speaking terms. All of the old feelings I’d imprisoned in some inaccessible area of my psyche came rushing back with a vengeance, and I collapsed beneath the weight of them, realizing I was still in love with him. I wanted to do anything I could to help. Two days later, I took the first possible opportunity to visit him. As I waited, my thoughts raced incessantly:

What will he say? Would he refuse to see me? Why would I even still care if I had any self-respect? Stop beating yourself up. You’re here, if he’s acts like an asshole, just don’t come again.

After 30 minutes, a guard emerged. “Video visitation: Martin-ez.” I winced at the Anglo-cized enunciation. He listed more inmates’ last names, then barked, “The rest of you…hang tight.” Another quarter of an hour passed before the guard returned and shouted only E’s last name. I stood up.

“He’s working right now, so he can’t do the visitation.”

“Right.” I said, pretending I’d almost expected it. But I wanted to scream, “Are you fucking kidding me!?”

Then he added, “You should be able to visit him in another hour and a half, I think….I hope.” Being on a break from school and work afforded me the privilege to wait around for him. Others are not so lucky.

I could barely contain myself as the guard herded us to a hallway with telephones and windows. I walked to the third window on the left where E sat beaming at me in black and white stripes. But as soon as I sat down, we both began to cry. Awkward small talk ensued as we wiped the liquid from our faces to make way for new tears.

Not being one to sit long with sadness, he smiled at me and changed the subject, proclaiming, “I want a taco.” I laughed. “The food is bad here,” he went on. Then, he asked hopefully, “Did you bring my dad with you?”

“No, Patito, I’m so sorry. He can’t come see you; it’s too dangerous. Do you have any family or friends that are citizens? I can help them to come see you.” He shook his head, confirming to me that I was the only person close with him who could see him. I wondered about all of the immigrants who did not have a token U.S citizen in their lives to make the trip. “How lonely, how inhumane!” I shouted in my head.

I was able to visit him a few more times, and with each visit the window between us became more tragically erotic. We clawed at that glass partition like sex-starved animals in heat. We mixed our fingerprints with those of others in previous visitations who simply longed to hold someone’s hand.

Being the child of addicts and a student of social work, I felt compelled to “fix it,” and easily must have called 15 or more lawyers and various organizations during the next few days. At the end of that I only received one returned message- a lawyer referred to me by a social work professor interested in immigrants’ rights. This lawyer was kind enough to visit E pro bono after visiting another one of her clients at the same institution. She called me afterward, informing me that she could not help him.

Still, I asked her, “If we are in such a dire economic crisis, what is the incentive of keeping detainees indefinitely? We are spending to feed, sustain, and deport these individuals. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Cheap labor in suffering, small town economies,” she responded. The pieces suddenly fit together. The privatized companies were making money off of locking up flesh in buildings, so that those in the fragile economy on the outside could benefit. Only $60 a day per inmate would be more than balanced out by creating jobs at these centers for the townsfolk, who could in turn spend their newly earned money. The hotels nearby benefitted from the visitors. I wanted to vomit.

“Slavery never ended!” I ranted at my father on the phone later on. “They are separating families of color. They offer them $3 an hour to work while they make a profit off of them. We’re all just letting it happen.”

“It’s not right, but he shouldn’t have been driving around like that when he shouldn’t even be here in the first place.” My dad’s attempt at reasoning through the injustice failed to console me. Though I don’t condone drinking and driving, E’s mistake did not help me further understand this agreed upon illusion called “borders.” “Preservation of national security” was being used to justify racism, xenophobia, and institutionalized slavery, or at least legalized trafficking. All in the name of good ole Amurika, where folk like them “don’t belong here,” while others I knew received community service hours and a fine for being significantly more intoxicated when they were pulled over than E. The scales on the dollar bill were collapsing, an elephant and a mouse joining together as see-saw partners. Somehow, I don’t think this is the dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had in mind.

The last time I visited E in the county prison, he was excited. “I’m leaving soon!”

“To the detention center?”

“Yes, I think.”

I tensed. Neither his brother nor I had managed yet to find him a lawyer. I chose not to tell him about the articles I’d read recounting the infamously awful conditions of Texas detention centers and the reports of sexual assaults.

Instead, I asked, “Do you know the date they are sending you? Did they tell you where? You could be sent very far away, which will make it harder for me to come visit you.”

He frowned. “No. Soon, though.” I was not surprised that demystifying the process was not ICE’s top priority.

Soon after, they moved him and I traveled 4 hours round trip to visit. Rather than clawing at the windows, we chose instead this time to draw human genitalia and profanities with our oily fingerprints on the glass. When we said goodbye, I cried, not knowing if this would be the last time I would see him.

On the eve of the submission deadline for this article, E called me with the last of cash he’d likely borrowed. “I am so bored,” he lamented. “I want to get out of here. Can you come visit me soon?”

“I’m going to try, Patito,” I said. “Your brother said he will send money soon.”

“I’m going to try to come back after they deport me, but maybe they won’t if I use this lawyer my brother just found.” The lawyer had sounded like a scam artist when I called him to follow up, and I trusted him about as far as I could throw him.

“But it isn’t safe…” Yaressi’s story reappeared before my eyes.

“No. I’ll be fine. It will be okay.”

I could hear him smiling, and reminisced about the first time I had ever seen his smile at the restaurant where we met. He was a busser, and I was a hostess. We catered to the rich people and politicians just down the street from the Texas State Capital. For a second, I remembered the way the Congressmen would ignore us as I led them to the tables, and he would smile at me as he rushed in to pour their water.

Onward to Cascadia: Toward a Worker’s Ecotopia

Editor’s Note:

I grew up in the so-called “Pacific Northwest,” and I’ve heard a lot of forgettable myths about future anti-authoritarian ecotopic societies. But for some reason, Cascadia and its mythos sticks around.

I’ve witnessed the Cascadian Separatist Movement grow from hushed tavern conversations in Seattle, to drunken proclamations on sailboats in Bellingham Bay, to protestors waving Cascadian flags during massive labor marches in Portland, Oregon. Numerous workers’ cooperatives have sprouted up inspired by the Cascadian Dream of removing bosses and the state, the dream of creating a meaningful relationship with one’s workplace and bioregion. Perhaps the incredible growth of this movement has something to do with the Cascadian flag.

Unlike so many radical visions these days, Cascadia is not merely a project of negation. Cascadians allow themselves to indulge in the symbolic things that have been ascribed to modern imperialism: flags, anthems, mottos, and maps. Some criticize this. But I’ve come to wonder: As activists, are we merely fighting the flags and symbols of capitalist imperialism? Or are we actually attempting to confront the mechanisms of oppression beneath the flags? Humans have united around symbols since long before the first capitalist bought the abstracted labor of a worker, and symbols will remain long after the last growth-oriented workplace is dismantled. Perhaps the Cascadians are on to something: they have stolen the symbolic language that gives power and legitimacy to empires, and applied it to a network of workers’ coops engaged in environmental stewardship. But Cascadia isn’t just about putting good ideas in fun packaging.

There is something magic about the dream of Cascadia, something sentimental–it evokes a sort of longing for an ideal future of the past (the blueprint for Cascadia was, after all, largely inspired by the bestselling 1975 science-fiction novel Ecotopia). And I’ll admit that sometimes, while walking under a water-laden sky, I find my imagination spilling onto the canvas of grey clouds, my mind suddenly alight with visions of a free Cascadia, and a global network of Bioregional Cooperative Commonwealths.

I stole the text of this article from a zine that’s been circulating for about 20 years called “FREE CASCADIA! WE ARE CASCADIAN.” I’ve revised parts to better reflect the scope of conversations I’ve had in with people who dare to dream and call themselves Cascadians. As we develop our theories and perfect our practices, I hope folks will continue to revise this manuscript.

-Samara of the Slingshot Collective

By Alexander Baretich
Cascadia is a region that extends west from the Rockies, following the flow of water all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Why not call it “the Pacific Northwest”? Because that is a geopolitical description based on an Atlantic-centered map. The “Pacific Northwest” is a nameless object at the distant corner of Atlantic empires, an object of second thought to the power centers in Washington DC & Ottawa. We have a name: We are Cascadians! And we have a home: It is called Cascadia! By giving ourselves and our home a name, we begin the process of empowering ourselves and restoring the land as a place of home and sacredness, and not a place for “resource extraction” for empire or greed. In Chinook Jargon, the name of our bioregion is Chinook Illahee. We honor and use both names of our home.

Bioregionalism is the consciousness or awareness of the interconnectedness of the water-life cycle within a given region. The great water-life cycles are actually the generation and transfer of energy. So each bioregion is a living system of interconnected communities and churning energy. In Tao philosophy, the flow of energy in bodies and systems is ascribed to chi (Qi) or often translated into English as “life force.” The water-life (within the great water-life cycles) is like the chi of the biomass of the Earth. It is a flow of energy and living beings that are dependent on those life cycles, and it is crucial that we sustain, maintain, and preserve those cycles in conscious, healthy ways. Within each bioregion, there are many ecoregions with unique habits and microclimates, but those ecoregions are all connected by a shared water-life cycle. The actions in one part of a bioregion have consequences downriver and upwind. As bioregionalists awakened to the importance of these cycles and their regional interconnectivity, the work of stewardship becomes part of who we are. The bioregion permeates the very soul of the awakened inhabitant, the bioregionalist. Hence a bioregionalist is one who advocates for the expansion of consciousness and the protection of the water-life cycle.

Some envision a future Cascadia as a social democracy akin to some of the northern European countries like Finland or Denmark. Others envision a representational democracy that could be called a Republic of Cascadia. But many of us are tired of Western models of nation-states. We envision a Cascadia that is radically counter to the nation-state and counter to the control of transnational corporations that have inflicted so much direct & structural violence around the world. Our vision is anti-capitalist, decolonialist, and the end of exploitation of all kinds. This new model is one of horizontal structures, cooperative relations (mutual aid), and resilient communities. It is a decentralized network that branches out like a nervous system throughout the bioregion. This new approach is called a Bioregional Cooperative Commonwealth (BCC).

A Bioregional Cooperative Commonwealth is not a centralized socialist system, but it takes ideas from socialism and turns them inside out & upside down. Instead of an overarching centralized management bureau redistributing wealth, controlling the means of production & the commons, a BCC would be locally and horizontally managed. It is a network, with local nodes of autonomy working together in mutual aid. The model of the BCC is inspired by two historically successful movements: the Mondragón Cooperative Federation in Spain, and the Swadeshi Movement in India.

The Mondragon Cooperatives arose in the Basque Country of Northern Spain in the late 1950s as a mode of economic resistance to Franco’s fascist regime. Mondragon started with a polytechnic school and paraffin heater making cooperative, and eventually grew into to a complex network of cooperative workplaces. By the end of 2011, the Mondragon Cooperative Federation included 83,869 people working in 256 companies. These companies are all owned and democratically managed by the workers. They manage the means of production themselves, without intervention by bosses or the state, and coops support each other in mutual aid. This is perhaps the world’s best functioning model of anarcho-syndicalism, an economic model which facilitates the formation of a non-authoritarian society.

The Swadeshi Movement in India arose in the early 1900s as a strategy to dismantle the colonial rule of the British Empire. Following the principals of swadeshi (Sanskrit for “self-reliance” or “autonomy”), folks boycotted British products and revived domestic production. This was a Localization Movement that was carefully aimed at undermining imperialist power structures, and it was a key strategy of Mahatma Gandhi, who described Swadeshi as the soul of Swaraj (self-rule). Gandhi’s economic model is central as we restructure our workplaces to build a Bioregional Cooperative Commonwealth.

Gandhian economics diverge from both Smith (capitalism) and Marx (communism) because those models operate through a system of ownership. Gandhian economics promotes a social structure based on trusteeship. In ownership-based systems, one can legally use, misuse, abuse, and even destroy what is owned. (In capitalism, this is done by individuals. In communism, it is done by the state.) In a trusteeship-based system, the trustee cannot misuse or destroy property because there is no property; there are only resources that have been temporarily entrusted to individuals and groups. This reflects reality. We live temporary lives within a deeply interconnected biosphere. The lie of private property conceals this reality, and enables destructive ownership-based systems to direct people away from their own happiness in a destructive race for temporary gain.

As humans, we are entrusted with an incredible amount of power over our bioregion. Those who cannot speak for themselves–future generations of humans, as well as non-human people (called “animals” by those who exploit them), depend on us to make responsible choices. Our choices deeply affect all living things, particularly those within our bioregion.

Our home is of continuous cascading water, and as trustees of this water-life cycle, our highest incentive is stewardship, autonomy, and the process of building meaningful lives. The matter in our bodies is on loan to us, and will soon return to the biosphere.

The lone-standing Douglas-fir on the Cascadian flag symbolizes endurance, defiance, and resilience against the forces of imperialism.

The Nine Dieta of Cascadia:

For Ecology, Equality & Equity

With Respect, Reverence & Responsibility

In all Commons, Communities & Cooperatives

Oakland's STAY AWAY Squat

“I was trying to grow food in my yard. The ivy and blackberry from the neighboring abandoned apartment building were coming over under and through the fence and up through the ground, making it impossible to clear the ground for beds. The building hadn’t always been empty. Maybe since the start of the housing crisis, another Oakland foreclosure. As it turned out, Bank of America, (who also owns my house) was the new owner and they were proving to be poor property owners as well as neighbors. As property owner, they were refusing to refinance my house to lower my payment and make it affordable, preferring instead to disqualify me for the loan and push me to foreclosure. As neighbors, their lack of maintenance was spilling across property lines and creating a major nuisance and expense.

“Can you blame them? Bank of America has some of the highest foreclosure ratings in the nation, that amounts to a lot of properties. A land grab of such proportions provided unique challenges for land maintenance and management. Well, a land grab could go both ways. I realized I would not be able to grow food until the other yard was cleared. In fact, I wanted to grow food on the other yard as well. I took down the fence and started hacking. And thinking, ‘Why is this building empty when people need housing? Why shouldn’t we take what we need? Why am I working alone?’ It was a big job and led to big thoughts. I needed help. People needed housing. I went to Oscar Grant Plaza and announced the vacancy.”

~our neighbor

It was in Oscar Grant Plaza, site of the Occupy Oakland encampment in late November 2011 when a person told me about a foreclosed and abandoned apartment complex adjacent to her home. The next day I was cleaning out a unit, getting water, gas, and electric utilities turned on in my name, changing the locks, and beginning to move in. Less then a month later all the units in the complex were occupied. Because more than one of the new occupants had received a stay away order from Oscar Grant Plaza — meaning they had court orders against them and would be arrested for going near the plaza as a result of their political activity there — it didn’t take long before our home was being called the StayAway.

With the help of our neighbor, who resourced many green waste bins every week from other neighbors, we cleared the back yard of ivy and blackberries, terraced the little hill that remained and planted kale, collard, calendula, mint, sage, rosemary, fava, lettuce, tomato, carrot, potato, artichoke, sunflower, and even some ornamentals. We took it a step further. We started a few guerrilla gardens in abandoned, trash filled lots — changing them into community spaces intended to break our reliance on capitalism and replace it with solidarity and sustainability.

It would not be an exaggeration to say tens of thousands of meals were cooked in the kitchens of our occupied complex. We made connections with a Latin produce market in the nearby Fruitvale neighborhood, bike carting hundreds of pounds of edible but not sell-able produce home every week. Dumpsters in the slightly more affluent Diamond and Laurel neighborhoods provided huge amounts of food for those who would forage them. Food banks and food stamps filled the gaps. All this food would generally make its way to port and bank shutdowns, eviction defenses, Occupy Oakland BBQs, or to rallies and marches of all kinds.

It was a surprisingly long time, about 4 months, before any representative from the bank came knocking. When one finally showed up, he told us we were trespassing and would be arrested. I told him that we were not trespassing. He left and came back a little later that day with two Oakland police officers. The bank representative told the police I was trespassing. I informed them that I was a tenant and that I had no prior relationship with this so called ‘representative’ of the bank. One of the cops had arrested me in Oscar Grant Plaza a few months before, in the first raid. He repeatedly asked if our home was Occupy related, and other politically oriented questions. I continued to tell him those kinds of questions were irrelevant, and this issue was a civil matter that did not concern the police. They eventually left, telling the bank representative to file an unlawful detainer (legalese for eviction lawsuit).

About two months later each occupied unit was served with a “Notice to Quit”, which means leave or we will sue you. For an eviction in California you are allowed 90 days before the lawsuit comes. When it did, two units (the one where I live and another) filed a “response”, which says we contest the eviction and want to take it to trial. Meanwhile one unit didn’t file in time and received a default judgment, which means you didn’t answer so you lose the case by default. And soon after, that unit got a “10 day Notice to Vacate”, which means you have ten days before the sheriff comes to make sure you’re out, or arrest you if you refuse.

We organized an eviction defense. In general, we had a big sleepover, put up a bunch of banners, (STOP PAYING THE BANKS, WE WILL STAND WITH YOU, etc.), and did some light barricading (i.e. put a couch in the stairwell and extra locked the front gate). At 6am on eviction day there were over 40 people in the yard. We also put an info table out front with information on the foreclosure crisis, predatory lending, and other resources and groups doing work in housing justice (plus free coffee!). A locksmith and sheriffs passed by and loitered a bit but never confronted us in any way. It was a beautiful and empowering day. That unit was supposed to be evicted over three months ago, but people are up there now, laughing as I write this.

There was another, less positive, aspect to this action that bears mentioning. For a week after the eviction defense there were individuals, in addition to those who had signed up to take shifts at the info table and defending the space, who stayed. The upstairs unit changed from an organizing and living space to a 24-hour rager, with yelling and loud music at all hours. Many verbal and a few physical fights broke out. Requests for calm or quiet were outright ignored or were responded to with intimidation. It was so bad that it was hard to attribute it all to alcohol and nasty people. It was hard to not suspect state involvement, but who knows, only time will tell. In the end what happened was, while everyone was out at an OO BBQ (myself included), personal belongings were put outside and the unit was barricaded from the inside. It took a lot of courage to do that, and the one who did it has my eternal respect. I mention this because it could have been an ugly end to nearly a year of beautiful resistance. I think this could have been avoided had we used a vouching model for who we allow into the space, and by communicating clearer boundaries as to what is mutual aid and what is just hanging out.

It was nearly a year after I started living here when I found myself in front of a judge and jury, arguing for my right to stay. I had demanded the jury, which I felt would not only give us a better chance, but at least postpone the trial for a month and made the lawyers work overtime. They filed pretrial motions ‘in limine’ that barred my speech, evidence, behavior and attire along with everyone else in the court room. I will quote one of the more interesting motions in part:

“Such subjects and evidence that should be barred include, but are not limited to, the ‘banking crisis,’ the ‘foreclosure crisis,’ the ‘Occupy Movement,’ ‘Occupy Wall Street,’ ‘Occupy our homes,’ ‘predatory lending,’ or any other reference to the alleged unethical practice of banks and/or mortgage lenders.”

They supported all of these pretrial motions with a “statement of the facts”, in part:

“Defendant […] has apparently invited close to two dozen others who are similarly without right, title or interest to the Property. Defendant and his accomplices have not only refused to leave but they are apparently using the Property as something of a headquarters or rallying point for their protests against many groups, including financial institutions.” There is a hint of fear in that statement.

In the end, we lost. The scope of the trial was narrowed down to two questions for the jury to decide on. (1) Was the notice to quit served correctly? And, (2) Did defendant receive permission to occupy the property?

I may be able to appeal on technical grounds and, if I win, it could create more legal protections for squatters. I have been defending myself in court, pro per. Should I appeal it would only be with the participation of a radical pro bono lawyer. So email with any leads, to get involved, or to get our case # for your own research.

Most of us out there realize we will never own a home. Most will work their lives away to pay rent or bank loans till they die, a slave in a system whose debt they can never escape. Most will leave nothing to their children but debt and a dying planet. And that will never change by simply working with the state and the banks. If they have their way we will remain debt slaves forever. Our only hope lies in a community that organizes to defend their homes in a direct way; in a movement that defies the state and the banks; that refused to pay and refused to leave.

At the least, we can cause serious economic damage to the banks by fighting their foreclosures and evictions, thus taking back our power and forcing them to seriously rethink the way they encroach on us. But that is only an added bonus. Radical expropriation of land (squatting) is the rebirth of lands that are cared for and utilized, not owned and lorded over our heads to coerce us into slavery. Or as a friend of mine put it “i squat because i want to take an abandoned hole in the fabric of the universe and turn it into something autonomous and creative and
communal. And i squat because i appreciate the gift of life and don’t want to surrender my days to working for a boss and a landlord all the time. i squat because i like it….” We must stop paying and organize others to stop paying for this stolen land. It is something we can do now, not only to liberate ourselves, but to enact a different way of life that is a direct threat to this system of oppression.