What would it take to end cultural appropriation?

By the world’s biggest asshole

Everyone is going to say I’m a horrible person for bringing this up, but I’ve been thinking a lot about cultural appropriation lately. Like, the concept of cultural appropriation is really freaking weird. Like, it means you have to look at yourself and everyone in the world as if we are all always pawns in power games, as if we never get to be just people, as if everything you say or do should always ever be evaluated in terms of its relation to theories about huge power structures over which we have no control as individuals. It’s a very cosmopolitan way of talking about things. Very neoliberal way. And sure, it’s not wrong, the idea of cultural appropriation, at least not wrong within it’s own logic, a logic which, it seems, views the social reality as if through a telescope from a planet far, far away.

Like the rule of “Thou shalt not culturally appropriate” has a sort of Prime Directive feel to it, and it isn’t hard to imagine Mr. Spock on Star Trek saying “Captain, wearing that traditional head fwap from the planet Beta Centauri Seven is in direct violation of the Secondary Directive which states—” To which Starbuck responds by saying, “Shut up, I’m on to something here…and if I don’t work this shit out it’s go to kill me.” And knowing Starbuck, she probably then punches Spock in the nose. What an asshole she is!

It’s awful to be torn between not wanting to further hurt groups of people who have had everything torn from them by this empire and yet feeling drawn to the beautiful music, art, and food that these groups somehow haven’t let the empire beat out of them.

Like, the empire took everything from these people. Fucking everything. Like, in the case of indigenous Americans, these are people who were driven off their ancestral land and subjected to mass genocide and shoved onto horrific reservation death camps where they had to get permission to leave and weren’t allow to practice their tribal religions until 1967. And for African Americans, these folks were fucking kidnapped from their homes and turned into commodities and were subjected to rape and torture and being treated like cattle and having their children sold in auctions. You want to read some really heartbreaking stuff? Read the newspaper announcements from just after the 13th Amendment was passed by all the Black folks desperately looking for children and parents that got sold away from them. And then there’s the continued level of terror people in these groups have been subjected to. It is just obscene. From everything to racist cops murdering brown and Black people for so much as looking at them funny, to the white riots and fucking lynch mobs that enacted a holocaust against Black people throughout the first half of the 20th century, to the way the California Indians were bounty-hunted and enslaved, and many native families around here had to use special blankets to transform themselves into rocks and hide in the hills that way for years at a time (please read Benjamin Madley’s American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873 if you haven’t already). And there is the fact that here in Berkeley, the Campanile, that giant tower over the university, and also the basement of the Anthropology Library are filled with the bones of over 10,000 murdered California Indians, some of whom were killed as late as the 1920s by lunatic white serial killers who fancied themselves “cowboys” and because of racism, society congratulated them for it.

These horrors are real and the trauma lingers amongst all these people who carry inside them unspeakable pain that grew from unspeakable acts. To just offhandedly grab the few things they have that are still theirs, even if it’s just a song or a headdress, and to treat it like it’s mine—that is an act of horrific ignorance.

And yet… I still get these urges to listen to rock and rock music, which, as one Slingshot member has pointed out, is all inspired by the music of African slaves so maybe we should all stop listening to it and only listen to music made by people who have the same genetic make up as us, and she suggested I listen to Albanian music, even though I’m ancestrally Danish, but oh well. And others in my extended community have claimed you shouldn’t eat corn or plantains if you’re white. I’m willing to give up corn, but to give up caramelized plantains covered in salt on a Saturday morning? Will that really help anyone? Will it really? Also, in Poland, people have worn dreadlocks for hundreds of years. Does that mean it is okay for my old housemate, whose grandparents were Polish to have dreadlocks? Everyone else thought so once she explained, which is really fucked up because Black people find that their natural hair is banned from many places of work in this country, especially government-run places, forcing them to use harsh chemical relaxers that can really damage your body. My old roommate’s “traditional polish deadlocks” weren’t her natural hair, she really had to work to get that knappy, greasy rats nest going, and for her to get to wear her hair like that and still have a job was a slap in the face to those whose natural hair does that sort of thing (but prettier) but who can’t wear that hair due to racism. I mean, a lot of these arguments I keep hearing from white people about how we shouldn’t do cultural appropriation sound creepily a lot like eugenics. Like a genetic ghettoization of culture. That is literally what we are doing by going this route.

But sometimes it goes beyond your genes. Once I had a white housemate ask to see my tribal nation ID because I was burning sage and I mumbled something about my Cherokee and Sioux ancestry. But apparently, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the genes because you have to be a federally-registered card-carrying tribe member to burn sage, at least according to some people who are eager to set up an impromptu cultural appropriation check-point any chance they can get. What’s messed up about this particular tactic is that it is disrespectful of that fact that hundreds of tribes in the US lack federal recognition, largely due to bureaucratic laziness, and this means they don’t get to be card-carrying federally recognized tribe members. This includes the brown people upon whose land the city of Los Angeles now stands, the Winnemem Wintu, and the Ohlone, upon whose land we make the Slingshot newspaper.

As I watch all of these heated screaming matches about cultural appropriation go down in radical community, I find myself bothered by a horrible, asshole-ish question:

Could it be that our frenzied obsession with cultural appropriation right now is actually a way to let white people off of the hook for the larger thing at stake here: reparations?

If white people were on an equal economic and interpersonal playing field with folks of color, cultural appropriation wouldn’t be a thing. Like, it’s fine to wear green and talk with a fake Irish accent on St. Patty’s day because the Irish Americans, collectively, are now fine. Of course, if you look back into the history of Irish-American immigrants, you’ll find this wild era of the racial discrimination that Irish people experienced in the early 20th century here, when they first came to this country to escape a capitalism-contrived famine. Like, American employers hung “No Irish need apply” signs in their windows, and there were racial slurs about the Irish, and horrible things that happened to Irish folks walking alone in the streets. It was only through the ability of Irish people to pass as white within a generation that, as a group, they were able to get ahead.

How can we overcome the propensity among “whites” to share their wealth and network only with other “whites”? Maybe we need to figure out how to get rid of whiteness as a category, and this is something that can only be done if we start listening, really listening to people of color. I’m not talking about listening to their music or mimicking what they do. I’m talking about really listening. To reach out as people, rather than grabbing capitalist commodities that have been labeled as “Black” or “native.” It is through really listening and being in community together that we can break down the arbitrary things of “whiteness” / “not whiteness” that keep us all in chains.

If you have lots of extra cash due to systemic oppression, how about using it to support amazing projects that literally lend power to communities of color? Like supporting African American ownership of cooperative farmland through projects like The Federation of Southern Cooperatives (federationsoutherncoop.com). Or if you live on Ohlone land, you may give “shuumi” or a financial offering to help make up for the fact the feds have failed to grant them land of their own (sogoreate-landtrust.com/shuumi-land-tax/). Or you can support the Winnemem Wintu’s project to restore their ancestral salmon (facebook.com/run4salmon). Or there’s like a million other ways you can financially support the people who have been systemically hurt by the structure of power that gave you your money.

If those with power can strategically help folks of color get on the same playing field as whites, we’ll have a type of equality in this land that we have never yet known. But until we are on equal footing, cultural appropriation will continue to be a thing. And instead of getting to playfully borrow things from these cultures, we will continue to find that, what to one person seems like just silly borrowing of a song or headdress, cuts another person to the bone.

Once we’re truly equal, and everyone, no matter what color their skin, has the same access to food, clean water, emotional care, civic determination, and quality education—once we achieve that, we won’t need the concept of cultural appropriation anymore.

Mother Martyr / Motherfucker

By Amanda Thomas

Earlier this year, I began my Artist’s Residency in Motherhood, and connecting with other mothers in residency at the same time has led to a lot of reflection on the role and status of mothers within creative and alternative circles. One thing I’ve noticed about the group is that most of the women in it are supported by a partner. They struggle enough to find time to create and to be recognized in a white cis male field and world (and a lot of them are making some really biting, powerful stuff about motherhood!), but being a single parent, I find that there is an added layer to the level of difficulty I face in pursuing my work. Single motherhood, despite being such a common, prevalent occurrence, is a topic that often goes unexplored both in the dominant cultural narrative and in creative and activist circles. We are a largely impoverished group of people, and our position should be examined more often in discussions of social justice and building community. I want to start off this article with a short list of statistics:

-There are nearly 12 million single parent families in the United States; 83% of those are headed by single mothers.

-In 2011, while only 8% of married couples with children lived in poverty (and only 24% of single father households), a full 43% of single mothers lived below the poverty line.

-The median adjusted income for a three person household headed by a mother is $26,000, as compared to $40,000 annually for single father households, and $70,000 for households headed by married parents.

-41% of single fathers have a cohabitating partner [who ostensibly is supportive with childcare, financial support, etc.], versus only 16% of single mothers.

-The national average of the annual cost of child care at a center averages over 40% of the median income of a single mother for an infant, and 32% for a school aged child.

-Two thirds of single mothers receive no child support.

As you can see, financially, the situation for a single mother in the United States is pretty bleak, if easily quantifiable. (Side note: these statistics are for full-time single parents, not people with joint custody arrangements.) I hate to reduce the problem to numbers based on a capitalist ideology, but the reality is that it is pretty hard to provide for a child without being entrenched in the capitalist system, and living in poverty with children is a huge struggle. The thing about statistics is they’re not just statistics; behind each number is a profusion of human lives, with so many people’s stories behind it. In this case, that includes mine.

I realized I was pregnant right after my 22nd birthday. A confused child myself, I made a decision that I was not ready to make, but had to make anyway. Despite all the promises, my son’s biological father left before my child was ever born, and was never meaningfully involved in his life. The paltry $53 a month in child support that I was awarded rarely gets paid. Last year, for instance, I received only $100.

Just before my son turned 2, I tentatively welcomed a new partner into my world. After about 4 ½ years of being hugely, deeply involved in our lives, he, too, walked away, deciding his dreams of being a wandering punk and starting a band in the city were more important than the child who told everyone this was his “real dad.” To this day, over a year after he began drifting out of our lives, my son still refers to him as his real dad, and struggles deeply with the abandonment and absence.

I am a passionate and creative person: an artist, a musician, an activist. I have so much potential and determination within me, but, as it is with most single parents, I have literally only a handful of hours a week to spend on anything outside of the endless deluge of work, school, meal preparation, housecleaning, laundry, appointments, bills, the kid’s homework, and just BEING THERE and being present with my child. It is not easy. It is beyond not easy. When I am exhausted and overwhelmed and depressed and sick, I still have to pull myself up at 6 am to get my kid ready for school. I still have to wake up at 3 am if he’s having a nightmare and be emotionally available for that. I still have to remain patient and be as much of a shining example of humanity as I can possibly muster.

It is literally impossible for one person to wear all of these hats and do as good of a job as they want to do at any of it. It is even more impossible to fulfill all those roles and have the opportunity to meaningfully pursue one’s interests and one’s own dreams. This is the reality: behind every father figure who has left to do something else, there is a mother bearing the burden and having to sacrifice or postpone a lot of her own dreams. The father figure’s chosen path in life is only possible at a mother’s expense.

It’s beyond time to shed the old idea of children being a “woman’s responsibility.” It is long past time for fathers (biological and otherwise) to know that they are expected to stay and put in real effort, and that a child is a lifetime commitment that one does not back out of. It’s time for them to know that they are equally responsible, and time for fathers to care for their children with the willingness, dedication and grace they deserve. This pattern of child-rearing being placed on the mother’s shoulders is, of course, also present in cis/hetero/two-parent nuclear families, but the single mother is the penultimate example. We are literally doing everything, inside of an often painful and isolating existence. It’s also time we remember that children are the future adults of the world, and it should be a cohesive, community effort to ensure they’re getting the guidance and support they need to create a future that’s worth living in.

If there are nearly 10 million single mothers in the United States, think of the massive potential, brilliance, inspiration, and creative force we are all missing out on because all these people with a valuable perspective are struggling, largely alone, to survive in this culture while carrying the next generation on their backs. We are depriving ourselves as a society by ensuring so many people are perpetually too overwhelmed to explore and contribute in the ways they wish they could.

It’s time to make sure we don’t lose that potential. If you are part of an artistic or activist group, do your best to facilitate parents, especially single parents. Can your event, meeting, group, or space accommodate children? If not, perhaps you could consider providing quality childcare so parents can still attend. A group that meets regularly could have members take turns being with the children. There are a lot of solutions and options that take just a little imagination, a bit of effort, and a sliver of compromise. Not only is childcare exorbitantly expensive, it’s also incredibly discouraging to be unable to join a group due to the inability to obtain childcare. It makes it hard to feel welcome when the support doesn’t exist for a person to be involved. Having this kind of support is often the difference between someone being able to be involved in activist group, or pursue their art form, and them being isolated. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done things like feel bad that I can’t go to a protest or art/music event due to not having childcare, or dragged my kid along to an art opening or a “community presentation” and been shamed for being the annoying parent with the loud, obnoxious kid. It feels terrible, and certainly doesn’t encourage me to get involved.

Do you personally know any single parents? Offer them direct help. Not just “If you need a babysitter sometime, let me know.” Develop a real relationship with your friends’ kids and make specific offers like, “I’m free on Saturday and can come over at 7 and spend time with (insert child’s name here) for the night. You should go out and do something if you’d like to. There’s going to be this event here at this time if you’re interested in that.” Visit them at home; sometimes it’s just too much work to drag kids around to places. When you visit, quietly do small things to make their lives easier: wipe the bathroom counter, wash a few dishes, read the child(ren) a book. The societal pressure to be unremittingly self-sufficient is compounded here with the cultural expectations of mothers that lead them to feel guilty about doing things for themselves, so don’t even leave them the burden of having to ask,. They probably won’t ask for help with childcare with anything other than a doctor’s appointment or some other obligation or necessity.

When my partner was thinking of leaving us, he had people advising him that he shouldn’t think twice or care because it wasn’t his biological kid – never mind the fact that my child told everyone he was his real father, never mind that he admired and looked up to and loved and needed him, deeply. My son’s biological father, also, continues on in his artistic circles with no repercussions for the abandonment of his child. People have even defended him to me, and say he’s a “good guy.” I’m tired of hearing it, and I’m tired of looking around and seeing so many of my friends who are mothers raising their children alone and unsupported.

Confront men who walk away; don’t let them slide, and definitely don’t defend or encourage them. If a mother leaves her children behind, the social stigma is crushing, as is the guilt. A patriarchal culture dictates that a mother who is not with her children has committed some unforgivable sin and essentially failed as a human being. A patriarchal culture is, at the same time, accepting of an absent father’s justifications for leaving as reasonable and valid, or excusing him for his supposed inability to meaningfully be there for his child(ren). To excuse an absent father is to be complicit in the overburdening of women. Let’s demand equal standards here. Let’s demand equal responsibility. This dynamic will never change if we don’t inisist upon better, and reinforce within our own circles that such behavior is unacceptable. Mothers will continue to carry the future of the world on their shoulders if we don’t start holding fathers accountable for their fair share.

*Please forgive the binary-reinforcing terms in this article. It was relatively impossible to find comparable statistics that didn’t reference “mothers” and “fathers” specifically. I also am speaking to the terms “mother” and “father” as social constructs that need some reexamination instead of as some sort of correct or true default. I am also placing myself under the umbrella of “mother;” even if I don’t entirely align with that word, it is a relevant representation of the dynamics I experience living in this culture. I also want to apologize for not including family structures other than the nuclear family and the single parent. I am not at all trying to invalidate multi-parent families – in fact, I think the more present, supportive parents a child has, the better off they will be.

*The statistics in this article come from the Pew Research Center and the US Census Bureau.

Addendum: This article stimulated an intensely heated debate in the collective. Some thought the article should run exactly as submitted while others felt strongly about asking the author for revisions (most articles get revised). As a compromise, we’re running the article as is and offer this additional note to sum up some of the controversy.

While most of us agree that more childcare (and support of other sorts) for parents (especially single parents!) would be a good thing, the Slingshot collective, and The Long Haul infoshop, don’t offer any childcare services. Both projects limp along on a barebones crew of committed volunteers, a not uncommon predicament for radical projects of all sorts. Calling on others to do something we don’t do ourselves is somewhat hypocritical. And while we all feel strongly about parents taking responsibility for the well being of the children they bring into the world, calling out a boyfriend who fails to do so is a complex and problematic assertion. Some of us critiqued the role of “the artist” as a problematic expression of individualism, an assertion that sent our discussion sideways off a f**king cliff! Whew!!

One thing we all agree on is that we don’t want to cast a shadow on the many parents locked up in the injustice system. We hope you find the article as stimulating as we did!

The anarchy-narcissists

By I Steve

We all know them, all tried to work with them. The one who insists on being the leader. The one who says everyone who criticizes her is a fed. The manipulative male “feminist.” His close cousin, the serial sexual perpetrator who thinks he’s the hero of the story.

They are the narcissists among us. And what is narcissism? “… an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement,” says Google.

Last issue of Slingshot, I wrote about the need for all of us to learn a little humility. This issue I’ll discuss a small number of people with a very large impact. This is not intended as a call for or against ostracizing or reeducating such people. Rather, an initial inquiry into a topic we too often ignore or don’t see, and ideas on designing our community projects with the assumption that narcissists are inevitable.


Narcissist, narcissism, narcissistic behavior, healthy narcissism, narcissistic personality, narcissistic personality disorder. Even among psychological researchers and mental health workers, the words vary in meaning. So to clear for this article:

narcissist (person/personality): Someone who exhibits the behavior above.

narcissistic behavior: The behavior. The distinction is emphasized because some approaches confront the behavior, however consistently or not, without focusing on individuals.

narcissistic personality: Someone who severely and consistently exhibits narcissistic behavior over a lifetime or many years; stronger language than just calling someone a narcissist. Used here as a term for the person as well as the trait.

narcissistic personality disorder: A psychiatric, i.e., quasi-medical term, for a narcissistic personality. While this may apply to any narcissistic personality, here it refers to a person who hopes to be a considerate member of the community with loving relationships but struggles with deeply rooted narcissistic behaviors.

healthy narcissism: A term for narcissistic behaviors at reasonable, functional levels. For clarity I prefer to simply use other terms for this, although the concept may come up. See egoism below.

In this article I use male pronouns for narcissists, because narcissitic personality is more common in men. But by no means exclusive to men; there’s sufficient little Hillarys among us.


Egoism is an anarchistic philosophy in which the point of life is to pursue one’s own interest. It’s considered to have started with Max Stirner and is popular with post-left anarchists. While I’m here neither to critique egoism nor to give it free advertising, I do want to distinguish it from narcissism (so post-leftists don’t write “In Praise of Narcissism in response). The two things are in some ways opposite, although on rare occasion a egoist can be a narcissist.

Leading psychoanalysts and new-age psychics1 agree that the root of narcissism is a sense of worthlessness, or a lack of a sense of self altogether. The narcissist personality creates a false grandiose cover self: attractive, heroic, charismatic, a very stable genius. Egoism, on the other hand, actually embraces a sort of radical self-acceptance. The egoist boldly embraces the true desires of their real self, and doesn’t give a shit what you think of their flatulence and acne.

The Impact

What makes the narcissist personality different from others who misbehave is the relentless refusal to change their actions and the rabbit hole of manipulation and games for any who try to work with them on it. For example, consider sexual abuse, one of the most destrutive behaviors in anarchist scenes and the frustrations people experience organizing around it:

“Accountability processes do a lot of good but sometimes they just teach men how to appear unabusive when nothing’s changed but the words coming out of their mouths. Survivors and friends are left wondering if said male is no longer a threat. Eventually the issue recedes from peoples’ minds because they don’t want to seem overly reactionary and don’t know what further steps to even take and the perpetrator is able to continue on in their life without much changing.”

From “Is the Anarchist Man Our Comrade” quoted in Accounting for Ourselves by Crimethinc. The pamphlet goes on to discuss the impact on the community of these stymied efforts: “This stuff depresses people and burns them out,” and “Accountability processes suck up disproportionate time and energy.” All this begs two too often ignored questions:

(1) Why is this happening in activist scenes devoted to the opposite? The stock answer is that “abuse happens in all communities,” but if our values don’t make a difference, what is the point of a feminist community? (2) Why would someone devoted to life-affirming values and a better world not only minimize or deny previous behavior, but actively pursue future behavior under duress?

The answer to both questions may be that radical movements attract narcissist personalities for narcissist reasons. Even if not more numerous than in the general population, their presence and effect is noticeable. To be admired, to be the leader, to lead and exploit naïve sheep. To some degree that’s many of us; a “healthy narcissism” drives us to be like Cesar Chavez or Emma Goldman. The narcissist personality joins to become Stalin or Pol Pot.

Post-authoritarian social movements have been damaged by our own success in a way. When Marxist activism was the norm, and entrenched leadership was considered more functional, narcissist aspired to be great leaders, hoping, like the great communists of the past, to use the scientific principles of socialism to remake the universe according to their own whims. When a narcissist failed in the heroic struggle to be the leader, he became the leader of a new alphabet-soup-group. A leader lucky enough to hit the bigtime was immune to accountability (SWP in Britain)2.

Since the Cold War ended and as anarchy increases in hipness, the narcissists come to our door.

What to do?

Much more has been written about narcissistic personalities in personal relationships than in communities. Do lessons apply? A lot of it is like “Ten Signs He’s a Narcissist” so you can avoid a relationship with that person. The advice is usually intended for someone who’s suffered already in such relationships.

This preemptive exclusion approach won’t work in communities and movements, for many reasons: the scale involved, people with narcissistic personality disorder can change. Some people on the narcissistic spectrum just need to plug into a community to get functional. Besides such people with too much healthy narcissism, many with other situations can be mistaken for narcissists: autistic people, people with complex PTSD, and ADHD.

And, or course, if anyone is ever punished, it must be because of their behavior and not some clever label we put on them. Nor should anyone’s bad behavior be ignored because of an amateur diagnosis.

The other notable aspect of narcissist relationships is the affinity for codependence with narcissists. This is applicable to radical movements. While part of the problem is that narcissists can rely on available forms of institutionalized privilege, the tenaciousness of narcissist personalities in our communities is empowered by a dainty everyone-is-special mentality.

Part of a culture of integrity is a balanced approach to compassion—which usually turns out to be the overall most compassionate approach to compassion. This includes neither attacking or defending anyone based on our own neuroses, the knee-jerk reactions we use to reassure ourselves of our own goodness. Our noble capacities for pity and tolerance can be balanced by the needs of those who don’t need pity and tolerance but do need safety and functionality.

Remembering that a narcissist personality lacks an affirming sense of self. Achieving a stable resiliency from narcissist disruption and devastation, a culture of integrity can focus on how our community can embrace the worth of the true selves of all, becoming a place of healing for people on the narcissist spectrum, regardless of why they came here in the first place.


1. James F. Masterson. The Search for the Real Self. The Free Press, 1988.

Teal Swan. “Narcissism.” Youtube.


2. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/09/socialist-workers-party-rape-kangaroo-court

Radical spaces – Islands of tenderness

Compiled by Jesse D. Palmer

Here are some new radical spaces as well as some corrections to the Radical Contact list published in the 2018 Organizer. Our existence, our resistance — it only really matters on the local level. It is inspiring that so many people nurture DIY community projects against all odds that serve as islands of cooperation, tenderness and humanity in this soulless capitalist world.

Slingshot has an on-line version of the contact list (slingshot.tao.ca/contacts), but because of a series of computer hassles, we have been unable to update it or fix errors for almost a year (!) We receive lots of emails pointing out errors in the on-line list — for instance the entire continent of Europe disappeared — but we can’t do anything and we’re sorry. We are trying to create a new on-line radical contact list at our new website slingshotcollective.org which we thought would be easy, but 6 months after buying a new domain name and server space, it still isn’t working and it just points to the old broken-down website. So anyway, let’s all play 1980s — get the 2018 organizer and look it up on paper!

Slingshot has received an increasing number of emails asking us to take particular spots off the contact list because they are not safe spaces to women, queers and/or people of color. We don’t want to include such spaces. But it isn’t simple for us to make decisions about de-listing a space based on a single email because there are legitimate internal splits within communities when some people reject a space while others do not. Case in point is 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, a punk club that faced a boycott a couple of years ago. At close range, it really seemed like there were various sides of the story and de-listing Gilman St. wouldn’t have been a good move. It is also important to recall that the FBI has used single-source allegations to engineer splits within radical groups such as the Black Panthers. There are security culture concerns with acting on information without checking it out carefully.

Because we are a tiny collective in Berkeley with few if any resources to check out any information we receive as an email, we’re still working out what to do when we receive tips like this. We did remove a few spaces from the 2018 Organizer after we contacted them. For the moment, we’re going to print reports here (see below) and if there are folks in the town mentioned who can give us more info, that would help us figure out what to do in August, 2018 when we publish the 2019 organizer.

Here’s the latest info as of mid-January:

Flora y Tierra – Long Beach, CA

A community space “prioritizing QTBIPOC” that “honors all of life, our fungal & plant ancestors, all the seen and unseen.” 811 E. 7th St, Long Beach CA 90813

On Pop of the World DIY Collective – Greensboro, NC

They host shows and have a recording studio. 1333 Grove St. Greensboro NC 27403 336-383-9332 onpopstudios.com

Otto’s Abode – Wanakena, NY

A community-based experimental art center with a zine store. 6 Hamele St. Wanakena, NY 13695 (mail: PO Box 1) 315-848-3008 ottosadobe.org.

Comic Girl Coffee – Charlotte, NC

An all-vegan, queer-worker-owned coop cafe and comic shop. 1224 Commercial Ave. Charlotte, NC 28205 704-456-9276 comicgirlcoffee.com

Hasta Muerte coffee – Oakland, CA

A people of color collectively run, worker-owned coffee shop with a bookstore. 2703 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland, CA 94601 510 689 2922 hastamuertecoffee.com

South City Art Supply – St. Louis, MO

An independent art supply store and bookshop with politics and theory books that hosts workshops and an art gallery. 1926 Cherokee St. St. Louis, MO 63118 314-884-8345.

General Store Co-op – La Jolla, CA

A student-run coop that hosts events and has a hangout/studying space for students. University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, 0323 F Student Center, La Jolla, CA 92037 858-450-3080.

Rincon Zapatista – Mexico City, MX

A shop supporting the Zapatistas by selling goods and publications that hosts events. Calle Zapotecas no. 7, Obreros, Mexico City. Near Isabel la Católica y Doctores Metro stop. Tel. 57614236.

Autonome Wohnfabrik – Salzburg, Austria

A radical house project. Poschingerstrasze 10, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

Planning a visit to South Dakota?

Drea emailed and suggested adding these spaces to the radical contact list. They are mostly businesses so “maybe”.

• Breadroot Natural Foods Co-op – 100 East Blvd N, Rapid City, SD 57701 605-348-3331 breadroot.com.

• Ernie November’s (record store) 1319 W. Main St, Rapid City, SD 57701 605-341-0768

• Black Hills Vinyl (record store) 622 Saint Joseph St, Rapid City, SD 57701 605-791-4040 blackhillsvinyl.com.

Planning a visit to Mexico?

Pez emailed these suggestions:

• In Mexico City visit Tianguis Cultural El Chopo flea market, which has happened every Saturday for 30 years and has a well established anarchist/antifascist area at the north end where they sell vegan sandwiches, literature, zines, patches, etc.

• You can visit Cafeteria Beneficio de Abajo at Av de los Insurgentes Sur 228, Roma Norte, Mexico City.

• Check out TierrAdentro, Real de Guadalupe 24, San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas.

Stores that now stock the 2018 Organizer & seem interesting

• Green Noise Records 720 N. Killingsworth St. Portland, OR 97217 503-208-3751

• Urge Palette Art Supply 3635 9th St. Riverside, CA 92501 951-782-0414

Changes to the 2018 Organizer

• Boxcar Books in Bloomington, Indiana closed. They existed for 16 years and posted a thoughtful closing statement on their website that is worth a look. (See the very end of this post for the full text.)

• The Rad-ish Collective in Boulder, CO moved. The new address is: 465 S 39th St. Boulder, CO 80305.

• 1919 in Fort Worth, TX had to close, but they are working on re-opening at the same location. Contact them before you drop in.

• We got a report that Backspace in Fayetteville, AR is not a safe place for women, POC and queer people and should not be listed in the organizer. As noted above, Slingshot is trying to figure out how to handle such reports and requests. Send us info.

• La Furia de Las Calles in Mexcio no longer exists.

• Centro de Informacion Anarquista CEDIA in Mexico no longer exists.

• We got an email indicating that all the spaces we have listed in Taiwan are “normal places, not radical … similar to any capital-hungry business.” See above – it is hard for Slingshot to verify this information. The emailer suggested the Neng-sheng-xing Factory in Tainan, which appears to be an eco/rad hostel that has an art gallery, hosts events and provides free space for NGOs. The address is in Chinese but there are directions at ffffactory.blogspot.tw or search NSXFactory on fuckin-facebook (vomit). Even NSXFActory might be about to move, according to the email we got.


Boxcar books
The climate and landscape in Bloomington has been changing rapidly. This is clear on any drive or walk around town, particularly around Kirkwood, the Square, and in the areas off the B-line trail. Massive luxury condo developments, the bank and future hotel on Kirkwood across from the Monroe County Public Library, the Hyatt Place hotel, and further projects off Kirkwood and elsewhere are constructed with a particular population in mind. It is not for those of us struggling to find ever-elusive affordable housing near our jobs or schools, and it’s surely not the numerous community members who are left homeless without a year-round shelter: temporary shelter or places of gathering set up by people experiencing homelessness are regularly attacked and evicted by police, often to make room for developments like the “Artisan Row” houses on the B-Line off Dodds, Echo Park development South of Country Club Rd, and the forthcoming Switchyard Park. We saw this more recently with the clearing of People’s Park’s homeless population by the police, which coincided with both increased surveillance downtown and the construction of new micro-apartments on the site of the Bloomington Bagel building overlooking People’s Park.
Boxcar Books and Community Center has stood throughout all of this. It’s no secret that brick and mortar bookstores have struggled, and folded, in an increasingly digitized age. We’ve watched independent bookstores and infoshops around the country, including Bloomington’s own Howard’s, close in recent years. Rising rent and a Kirkwood increasingly geared toward techies and wealthy students and their families did not bode well for an independent, radical, volunteer-run collective bookstore.
Boxcar has existed as a bookstore in Bloomington for 16 years — occupying our current location on 6th St. for 9 years — but our role as a community center was often backgrounded. In the last couple years we have focused on promoting ourselves as a place to gather, and often simply exist, in an increasingly policed and surveilled downtown. As the wider community has struggled with homelessness, addiction, and hyper-policing of the poor, so has Boxcar Books. In addition to serving as a hub for marginalized and underrepresented literature and radical thought, we, to our knowledge, continue to have the only open-access bathroom in the area. We offer free coffee, wifi, device charging, a place to engage with ideas and meet, and a warm space to rest or hang out for anyone, regardless of their background, housing situation, or financial standing.
At times, this led to a struggle to establish healthy boundaries as we worked to offer space for all people, including those experiencing homelessness, addiction, and mental illness. While our dwindling collective struggled every month to raise enough money to pay our exorbitant rent and bills and combat the structural decay of the building, we also struggled with the reality of what creating open space actually entails. As the downtown area was transformed, Boxcar became a locus of the city’s refusal to deal with those social problems highlighted by development. We struggled to be able to continue to offer space for those people who most desperately needed it, while still having a store that felt accessible and enjoyable for customers and groups holding events. It was a learning process, and we did not always succeed. Even with this constant crisis over the last two years, we felt that it was incredibly important to continue to offer what little we could: an open community space to all. We understand that poverty, housing insecurity, and, to a large extent, addiction are the manifestations of those issues highlighted by the books and zines we carry. Oppression and gentrification are more than ideas – they live and breathe, they transform towns and they quash independent thought.
While we ultimately learned how to balance the needs of the bookstore with those of the community center, the strain put on our volunteers during the heightened cleansing of Kirkwood was immense and many left. The extreme pressure we felt from our landlord, the police, and, most fiercely, our neighbors to make our space off-limits to people without homes, combined with our own emotional ability to handle constant crises, made it hard for us to focus on what we love about running a radical collective bookstore.
When Boxcar started in 2002, we paid $350 in rent for a storefront at 3rd and Washington. We were able to expand our collection and even start renting the storefront next door during those years. Then, in 2008, the building was demolished to make way for the new downtown bus station, and we were forced to find a new location to house both Boxcar and Pages to Prisoners. We found a new space closer to IU campus, and our total rent for Boxcar and Pages to Prisoners nearly quadrupled overnight. Since then it has steadily gone up, and we are now paying 725% more rent than we paid 15 years ago. We now pay more rent than Bluestockings infoshop in Manhattan, NY. Our sales, and bookstore sales in general, could not and cannot compete with that staggering increase. We’ve definitely had some good times, but for many years we have been burning through savings to keep the space going. We got to the point a year or two ago where we could no longer afford to buy new books. Our only new titles were from donations. Even as we sold titles from our shelves, we could not afford to restock the books we were selling because every dollar earned was being spent to pay for rent, utilities, and supplies to keep the place open, leading to a situation where our sections have been shriveling over time. This then fed the problem because having less new and interesting titles, and a constantly shrinking collection, made the store less exciting to browse and led to even slower sales.
Prior to our renovation of the space in 2016, which followed a protracted hunt for a new location, we knew that staying afloat at our current location would be a struggle, but with downtown rapidly changing and prices increasing, our rental options were very limited. We came close to renting a new exciting space, but at the last moment it was sold to an “anonymous investor.” Out of options and not able to move, we decided to continue our lease with an increase in rent. It’s not news that bookstores have been feeling the heat to stay relevant in an ever digitized world. We have been told countless of times by shoppers that, while it was easier and cheaper to get books off of Amazon, they come to Boxcar to support us and our mission. That’s a wonderful thing and we wholeheartedly thank those people, but we also see which way the wind has been blowing.
Unfortunately, our declining sales, constantly rising rent and bills, and a neighborhood that no longer has space for places like Boxcar has finally caught up to us. To say that we have tried everything we could to remain open would be an understatement. From hosting numerous public fundraising events, online fundraising campaigns, special store sales, and adjustment of store hours to looking for new buildings and new partnerships, we have all but exhausted our ability to dream and feel inspired by the project we have committed years to. Boxcar and Pages to Prisoners volunteers have spent their own money buying supplies, sometimes even covering bills, in an attempt to buy us more time. After well over a year of operating at complete scarcity, we feel we are in a financial place that can’t be recovered from in the long term without a $20-30k investment in new books, new computers and software, and funds to pay off and leave our unaffordable rental space. We also simply lack the volunteer power to make good on these dreams. It is easy to get folks excited about helping out with a new venture; it’s much harder to get those people to stick around for years to do the hard work that has to be done to keep a project open, particularly when that work is all volunteer.
It is remarkable that the people that started Boxcar in 2001 were able to pass the reins off to new volunteers after only a few years. So many different groups of volunteers have come and gone and somehow the project has persisted. While we feel a definite sadness and weight at being the last group of volunteers, we also hope folks will take their sadness at the ending of this particular Bloomington place and not simply say “Oh well, Bloomington is changing,” but fight for a different kind of change – change for the better.
We understand, in a world that is forcing people to become ever more isolated, that nothing can quite take away from the charm of meeting people face to face in a physical space. We have valued being able to offer a place where people could exchange ideas freely and gather to discuss the storm that is the current political climate. Our most valued memories will be witnessing the awe young folks have in discovering zines and radical literature for the first time, being able to host outdoor and indoor movie screenings, readings, and political meetings, and, most importantly, being a place that strived to be a voice for prisoners. We understand the necessity of spaces like this to exist and hope another will again in Bloomington. Thank you to everyone who has supported us financially, materially, emotionally – you may not know it, but often your support came at a time when we couldn’t have continued without it. Our future projects may look different, but we’re not going anywhere. Whether under the moniker of Boxcar or not, we’ll be fighting for change and finding new places to meet. We hope to find you there.

Slingshot issue #125: Introduction

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

When people started making Slingshot 30 years ago, mainstream media was at the early stages of a 24 hour news cycle. A miracle where events around the world could be reported every hour (along with 58 minutes of filler and advertising). The world was entering an era where people could be more “connected” and informed. The collective was started to publicize direct actions and protests happening within a mile of us, almost in real time, with articles promoting a protest planned for the next day, and reporting about the arrests and beatings that had happened earlier in the afternoon.

Since then, news and information is accessible on a moment to moment basis yet somehow there’s a new form of paralysis. Either people are glued to the screen or they are allergic to the manipulation of bad news and thus stay away from anything political. In both cases, it appears there are less protests, less projects of open resistance and yet everyone is complaining about the way things are.

Our collective fell into a practice of printing with an awkward cycle of every 3 months or so. Most people can’t grasp our rhythm and many feel we are out of touch. If one looked at the news we cover, it would seem we are neglecting pressing issues. 200,000 Salvadorans are threatened with deportation, all U.S. waters are open to oil and gas drilling, and we are writing about microaggressions — really!? Each issue the collective often pauses to reflect on the missing content — it is in our hearts and the hearts of people we care about.

Two curious things come out of this so-called neglect. One, people who are hooked-up to the constant news cycle often struggle to process the events they are viewing and thus can’t engage — they’re just hypnotized by the spectacle. The other thing is illustrated by backyard overgrowth. It may look like a fire hazard, unsightly, needing a manicure, but things of beauty grow in areas not messed up by human intervention.

In between making issues we often do other things not related to running a radical publication. The life that isn’t keeping up an industrial news complex informs how we approach producing a paper. If we spent every day writing the newspaper, we’d have no lived experience to write about.

If you haven’t noticed, we publish content that points for people to act. This issue fails to address significant topics (#MeToo, Immigration), but at least we are not frozen and are getting a spark going to start a fire. Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, etc. to make this paper. If you send an article, please be open to editing.

We’re a collective but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this issue: Carli, eggplant, Elke, Dov, Gerald, Hannah, Hayley, Jesse, Joey, Isabel, Laundro-Matt, Lew, Reverend Egg King, Romi, Talia, Tho and all the authors and artists!

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on March 4, 2018 at 7 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 127 by April 14, 2018 at 3 pm.

Volume 1, Number 126, Circulation 22,000

Printed January 26, 2018

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94705

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

510-540-0751 slingshotcollective@protonmail.com

slingshotcollective.org • twitter @slingshotnews



Slingshot free stuff

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage. Send $4 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. slingshotcollective.org


Circulation information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income, or anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. Say how many copies and how long you’ll be at your address. In the Bay Area pick up copies at Long Haul and Bound Together books, SF.

Thinking about post capitalist housing

By Kyle Chastain

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, conversing, and reading about housing under capitalism, what post-capitalist housing might look like, collective housing in capitalism with its potentials and short-comings, and some tactics we might consider in trying to form post-capitalist housing (and solutions to the so-called “housing crisis”). This submission is a reflection of these.

In terms of collective housing and potential for relating to unhoused folks, I recently found a collective house near where I live in Everson, Washington, which brings forth an interesting model for fluid-ish housing and the accommodation of new people to an area. After going to open mics hosted by the house, and to one of their house meetings, I realized that the house was functioning as a transitional space for some people. There are three floors in the house – two of which have community space (non-private living quarters) where people may stay for 5 nights a month free, and the rest of the month at $8.00 a day (to contribute to the cost of the space in utilities, house essentials, etc.). At the house meeting that I attended there were at least four people who were there living in community space, new to the area, and looking for housing. While probably not everyone would be comfortable dealing with the fluid nature of a space like this (having new people in and out of community spaces as they transition into longer-term housing) I think that those who can hold down very important spaces with a lot of potential. They are important in that they not only provide relatively inexpensive places to stay for people new to town – but also in that they are social spaces. They host events like the open mic for entertainment and gathering and provide an actual physical location to go to begin building new relationships in a new place. And collective spaces that have meetings to decide together show radical direct democracy in practice and have the potential to introduce new people to these politics in action (which could inspire more action like this i.e. propaganda of the deed)! Furthermore we move around a lot! Some of us for adventure, some of us to find new social relations, some of us are getting away from something unhealthy; there are so many reasons. If we want to live in a world in which this is easier to do whenever we feel compelled to do so we will have to make it so! Let’s make more social centers like this!

Another alternative to capitalist housing that we might continue to mobilize in the future is squatting1 (there was a lot of mobilization around this during Occupy and earlier movements i.e. Organizing For Occupation, Homes Not Jails, Operation Move-In in the 70’s, etc.). Squatting is a term used in various ways with lots of connotations. Here, I use it to mean: squatting because housing is fucking expensive, squatting out of necessity, squatting to collectively resist and create alternatives to the real estate market that turns homes into commodities, squatting because there are empty houses and people who need them so let’s fucking use them. I just recently finished a book by Hannah Dobbz called, “Nine Tenths of the Law: Property and Resistance in the United States” (I highly recommend it)2 which goes through the ins and outs of squatting in the so-called U.S.

I want to bring up a couple of points that Dobbz makes in this book that are important. One is that squatting could become an effective way of coping with so-called housing crisis. Now, I say so-called because Dobbz makes a compelling point that, in the U.S. as a whole, the housing crisis does not stem from a shortage of habitable housing. She cites statistics that show that even if we were to house all houseless people in the U.S. into their own homes that there would still be an enormous amount of housing empty. Rather, housing is seen as as a commodity (a thing to be bought and sold ideally at a profit) and that is what renders housing scarce. We have an artificial crisis. Another is that public support for squatting has fluctuated through time and by region in the U.S. While this is not important if one’s goal in squatting is to secure housing for as long as you can without getting caught, popular opinion is very important if we’re interested in gaining momentum around squatting as an effective means of dealing with “the housing crisis” (a.k.a. peeps trying to make mad profits off of our shelter) and having serious collective support if and when the police come to evict us. We need to “normalize” squatting.

This could also be dangerous. I think we’d have to watch out for profiteers who might take advantage of public support for squatting to gentrify; I think we’d also need to keep in mind a potential for racist outcomes (particularly in this moment of heightened xenophobia). That is, given the histories and continued institutional racism in the U.S. I think we would need to keep an eye to make sure that we mobilize public support around people of color and LGBTQ folks squatting in particular (this could open up a whole conversation around community self-defense). Maybe some consciousness raising tactics (conversations, reading, demonstrations, etc.) around squatting might be a good place to start?

Lastly, in theorizing post-capitalist housing, and really “ownership”, Dobbz suggests stewardship as a concept of ownership rooted primarily in the use and care of a space as a viable replacement for ownership based on title. In the U.S. the “ownership” of a space is based on legal title. Thus a person may have legal title to a space, regardless of whether they use or care for the space in anyway, and often can leverage legal title (though mostly this means force which is not always legal) to remove people from a place where they have the title even when the folks in the place have been stewards to it (Lower Eastside Squats, actions of settlers in colonizing the U.S., Zuccotti Park during Occupy).

If we could collectively shift to an understanding of ownership based on care, rather than on title, perhaps we could lessen the effects of careless landowning (derelict properties, gentrification, redevelopment with no concern for social equity or ecology, etc.). A non-profit called Land Action in Oakland is beginning some of this work. Land Action has engaged in multiple forms of struggle to create a new form of ownership including: squatting and going to court to gain ownership of property through adverse possession3 and fundraising to buy public lands for urban farming/land stewardship space. I think that this multi-pronged approach to creating decommodified space is very important. Sadly not everyone is down with squatting as a way to acquire lands and housing and this approach currently rubs a lot of folks the wrong way. See their website @ www.landaction.org. There is a video from CNN in which a reporter calls Steve DeCaprio’s actions and attempts at adverse possession “morally yucky.” However another guest on the show, a legislator, backs Steve up about his claims that this kind of caretaking squatting is good for the community and local ecology. According to their website Land Action has also fundraised to create urban farms in Oakland. Their goal is to create 100+ “microfarms” within the next five years which will take these lands out of the speculative land/housing market for good. Land Action is using direct action to counter gentrification which in turn is also raising awareness around squatting, land stewardship, and alternatives to capitalist housing.

In conclusion, perhaps based on the model utilized by groups like Land Action, we should attempt a multi-pronged approach to blow up capitalist housing for good. I think that squatting will remain an essential tactic – both for survival in the now, and for making moves to take care of spaces, and cultivate the kinds of communities we want to live in. I also think that taking a fundraising approach will be good for consciousness raising about both capitalist housing and what that really is, who benefits, etc., and the alternatives that we can use to create housing that benefits more of us in enriching social and ecologically mindful ways.

Editor’s note: We are overjoyed to announce that Alameda County recently dropped squatting-related charges against 4 Land Action organizers after a 2 year legal battle!



3. Adverse possession is a legal principle through which squatters may be able to legally “own” properties after certain amounts of time, or after making improvements to the property or paying the property taxes. Rules around adverse possession vary across the so-called U.S.

Geopolitics and the Search for home

By Aster

Geopolitical strife has been on the rise on the Puget Sound landscape. Seattle’s unfixable housing crisis displaces low-income folk and people of color farther away from their homes; the cohorts of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft swoop in with placeless high-rises. Completely dispossessed residents face the street, tents, and the Seattle Police Department’s sweeps and seizures. In Tacoma, Puyallup Tribe members and environmental affinity groups demonstrate against the looming natural disaster of Puget Sound Energy’s liquid natural gas plant. In Olympia, a blockade stood for two weeks on the city’s rail to defy the transport of fracking proppants through the city’s port.

Before my involvement in the geopolitical, I acquainted myself with groups who organized themselves around identity or political ideology; the more time I spent with these groups, the more I became alienated from my place in my own anti-capitalist struggle. Folks seemed set on liberating POCness instead of dissembling race as a tool used to dehumanize and oppress; some groups liberate womanhood, queerness, and transness instead of deleting the reified abstractions of gender and sexuality altogether. Dem-socialists, commies, and anarchists corral folks under a flag, as if a religion, fighting for socialism, communism, anarchism, the Left, fighting as if ideology were an end and not merely one of many means towards a better world.

As someone who identifies as second-gen Southeast Asian, queer, of financial privilege, as an anarchist, I don’t see my identity as important – it’s not real. It hardly tells anyone who I am or what my unique relationship to capitalism is. Maybe it’s my privilege talking, maybe I’m pretentious, maybe I’m just jaded.

Yet I’ve found a certain arousing magic to the geopolitical struggles up here in the Sound. When I first entered the Olympia blockade back in November, I was taken aback by the constructed sense of place – fairy lights and tea candles, a well-stocked kitchen, a blaze-it space, reading material, and sleeping spaces (its facade was a precarious mishmash of tarps and political slogans, but that’s besides the point). The blockade attracted local punks, college kids, homeless folk; a travelling kid from the East Coast found his way into the blockade. Gradually the blockade’s overarching politics (however so individually defined) ebbed, uncovering the fun of everyday occupation life. A tiny kid and I jumped around into the sunset; a bunch of us roasted marshmallows on the barrel fire; a group discussion on blockade needs yielded “laundry, dish soap, sleeping bags” and “musical instruments and an end to capitalism.” The anxiety of an always-tonight raid by Olympia and state police loomed, but the blockade never stopped being fun.

Tangible direct action is one secret to the magic. Occupations, even if only ephemeral, seize back tangible spaces and lands appropriated by capitalist forces, in this case the Port of Olympia, and return it to the sovereignty of the land’s most important stakeholders: us and the people and lands we value.

But why such a fixation upon land?

Capitalism finds its power in the geopolitical. Capitalism needs land bases, property lines drawn and enforced by law and police – it needs entire mountainsides of pines to destroy for the timber market, it needs a chemical-pumping factory to process its raw materials, it needs a warehouse from which to trade. Capitalism destroys even the common lands, eroding ecosystems and health worldwide with pesticides, industrial reagents, and sulfurous oxides. States need borders to manage the flux of bodies, so that security industries can profit off detention centers and border militarization, so that “illegal” immigrants work lower wages to earn their employer’s fingers-crossed promise of no-tell, so that the brown undesirables stay out of the country… the list doesn’t end.

But just like capitalism, we and our radical movements find strength in the geopolitical, in the construction and fostering of defiantly autonomous spaces. We need spaces to grow our food, spaces to live and relax, spaces to congregate. Yet as much as capitalism leads one to believe, land is not just a resource to be fashioned into structures: land forms the base of the resilient relationships and friendships implicated in the word “community”. Here too is the magic of occupations. In less noteworthy circumstances, the first blip of a relationship begins with conversations about the weather, traffic, and other local geographical particularities. As a kid, my few friendships blossomed because we shared not only neighborhoods, classrooms, and parks, but because we shared them over time. Now 20 and anxiety-ridden, it still comes relatively easily to converse with folk in the space of a blockade or occupation; it yet comes easy when we’re partaking in the same occupation, the same community potluck, the same garden. It’s no surprise that the etymology of the word “comrade” (according to Wiktionary) is the Latinate camarata, meaning room or chamber mate.

The autonomous spaces we build take many different forms, but what matters is that they are the unique invention of us and our friends. In a time when capitalism homogenizes places and localities into placeless industries like ports, fast food franchises, prisons, and eerily similar “modern” microstudio complexes, we will find strength in the construction of the place, a hyperlocal, highly personal, convergence of people and land. For those who prefer the pastoral, I imagine picturesque, rural, self-sustaining communes built on gently sloping mountainsides blanketed with deciduous broadleafs. In urban areas, I imagine democratic co-ops and group houses, obscure congregation spaces for anarchists and other radicals; even Left Bank Books in Downtown Seattle serves as an infoshop for the radical scene here. Graffiti reclaims spaces for art and performance; both leftists and rightists poster, sticker, and tag public spaces to symbolize reclamation. Your favorite bank-under-the-bridge to blaze up at is just as autonomous as the Olympia blockade.

Radicals must prioritize holding these spaces dear, especially in places like Seattle where rising rent and gentrification threaten to dehouse entire movements. In sharing these spaces and their experiences, relationships among people and land, and eventually movements, gather momentum and build resiliency.

While taking back land from the capitalistic forces that strip history, place, and context, even for the ephemeral occupation, is satisfying as hell, the geopolitical remains the personal, the local – the search for one’s land is just as crucial as its defense. Finding one’s home, a place not only autonomous for everyone but for oneself, is always a journey. Even to understand what makes one’s home a home is a journey, one that I undertake day-to-day.

I used to think that home lay in the things of a place, its trees, its animals, maybe a favorite lake, but when I visit my rural Central Florida hometown, I am reminded this is far from the case. In terms of environment my hometown ranks as top in the country; the region is home to beautiful, largely endangered Florida scrub ecosystem. The palmettos resound like shaken poster-paper upon the scurry of a gopher tortoise; bald-cypresses buttress a swampy cathedral; in autumn pine cones release their samaras and they come twirling golden to Earth… yet while an extraordinarily comfy region, I cannot participate in a dialogue with a tree. I am only a passive observer to an art here.

Then I thought home lay in the people of the place, and while closer to my truth, it wasn’t quite there. When I visited Chicago last summer, every night I was reconnecting with an old friend or attending an obscure DIY show whose address was buried deep in Facebook friends-of-friends-of-friends; my favorite was a city folk punk show, kids strumming guitars and playing cellos, chanting about self-deprecation and big tobacco and “getting out of this city.” Chicago’s DIY scene was a geographical particularity like the Florida scrub, a stochastic occurrence of individuals, buildings, and time. Yet I was a passive observer to the DIY scene as I was to the Florida scrub; I reified “the scene” into an object of entertainment, a Chicago-specific amenity. I chatted a conversation easy enough with folks there, but it’s not like I was collaborating or performing with any individual there.

In the same summer I visited Detroit and realized that the true home was an ecology, a web of relationships with people and things. My first day in Detroit I relied on Slingshot’s Radical Contact List to find the radical scene – with it I found the institutions of the Trumbullplex, Back Alley Bikes, and the Universe Intentional Organization, attended a few shows and parties, and that was that. But I also happened to stumble upon a block of run-down burnt-out colorfully painted houses one afternoon; a sign proclaimed the block the Fireweed Universe-City, a squatting community. I lost my manners and wandered into a house asking if I could chill the night – the folks I talked to were so nice I stayed around for three weeks!

Much like protest-occupations, squatting’s lifestyle geopolitical re-appropriation was enticing, but like the Olympia blockade, the politics faded as I started to form relationships with the area and the people. I took a very mutual affinity with two of the neighborhood kids, biking them around the area and carrying them on my shoulders into their home when they fell asleep on the ride back. Days I read or worked in gardens and urban farms around Detroit, nights I blazed, snacked, and chatted around bonfires. While not a perfect ideal – drama abounded and Midwest winters were brutal – it was very much a resilient ecological web that, if I stayed longer, I could probably call home myself.

Spinning your own ecological web is what makes a space your place. Fostering a relationship with the land and with its people makes a place so much more dearer to defend – you can lose things, you can lose people you hardly know, but when you’ve formed an art and a friendship, fuck, what do you do if you do lose it? Find your own land, root and enter the ecology and seize it back from an exploitative, homogenizing capitalism and all its devices however you know how, squats, occupations, co-ops, communes, communities. We find strength in the geopolitical, because the geopolitical is the personal.

Saying no to capitalism

By Carli

Legitimate consent cannot be given without real freedom of choice. If a no is not available, then a yes is not valid. In any moment when someone asks me if I consent to something, there are countless factors that can prevent me from accessing no. Socialization. Expectation. Obligation. Coercion. Power. Fear. He was driving me home, I couldn’t say no. I had said yes already, how could I take it back? And the way she looked at me when she asked—I heard myself say yes before I even considered the question.

All of our interactions are wrapped up in powerful social forces influenced by our identities. Living consensually in relation to one another is an active practice of cultivating our own awareness of power dynamics and social cues, asking questions with an openness to hearing no, and checking in often with ourselves and others. Was I projecting my own assumptions and desires onto her? Did they seem nervous when they said yes? Did I ignore the hesitation in his voice because yes was what I wanted to hear? How can I help make no more accessible in the way I ask?

This dynamic process of relating is complex and nuanced in exactly the way that “the system” is not. Under capitalism, your consent is assumed—in fact, your consent is required. You must consent to giving over control of your time to an employer if you want your paycheck. How could you say no when the alternative is no money, no food, no housing? And what if you don’t even get the opportunity to say yes?

Everything about us—where we are born, who we are born to, how we look, how we speak, how we identify—affects whether or not we will be able to access the basic goods that we all need to survive. We cannot say no to the color of our skin or the feelings we have for people of our same gender, nor should we have to. Instead of succumbing to this pressure to deny the identities that disempower us under capitalism, how can we deny the power of the system itself? How can we live in ways that say no to capitalism while still existing within a capitalist society?

If you do have power under capitalism, ask yourself “how can I use it to give?” Share the resources that your privilege grants you: tutor someone for free; make a hot meal for houseless folks in your area; open a cooperative for people who are getting pushed out of the city because you can afford to pay higher rent. Share your intangible resources too by listening to and amplifying the voices and perspectives of people who are not given the social power that you are.

If you do not have power under this system, how can you undermine the legitimacy and power of the system itself? Capitalism relies on all of our silence for its power, so speak out. Show the world the power that you do have. Expose the injustice inherent in this system. Seek out and spread just alternatives. Live them now. And then maybe even write about it for your local anarchist newspaper.

The time for incremental change is over

Peter Kalmus, thank you very much for offering the Slingshot Collective this interview to ask you further questions about your book “Being the Change- Live well and Spark a Climate Revolution” and other questions that are on our minds about Climate Change.

You are a climate scientist studying the rapidly changing Earth. You are living with your partner and two kids on the edges of one of the most populated cities in the United States. As a city dweller you’re fortunate to live in a house with a garden – just a rough picture…so people get an idea on which levels they can relate to your life-style and changes you are making.

We are aware that you’re here and in your book speaking on your own behalf!

Can you shortly summarize why you wrote this book and what is your most important message that you want people to hear?

There are two key messages here. The first is that climate breakdown is an urgent emergency, and requires all of us to do everything we can. The time for incremental change is over. We need to see this in a clear moral light: burning fossil fuel causes dire harm, the harmful effects will be essentially permanent on all human timescales, and therefore we need to do all we can, individually and collectively, to stop burning it. Just as assault is socially unacceptable, burning fossil fuel must become socially unacceptable. In the book I’m pretty polite about this, but somehow since submitting the

manuscript, and with every new climate-related disaster, I find myself reaching for stronger language.

The second key message is that moving my daily life away from fossil fuel, step by step, resulted in a more satisfying life. This is actually also what inspired me to write the book. When I started the book, the mainstream thinking was, essentially, that fossil fuel means happiness, and that giving up fossil fuel, even in small ways, would be an impossible sacrifice. I’ve found nearly the opposite to be true: fossil fuel means speed and stress and noise and not enough time in the day, whereas life without fossil fuel means more connection, more gratitude, more community, more time for reflection, and more meaning in my life.

I’m envisioning a kind of hybrid world, where, for example, we still have high-tech hospitals powered by clean energy, but where basically everyone gardens, orchards and feels deep gratitude for food, where neighbors share that bounty with each other, and where long distance travel, without fossil fuel, is seen as a major life-changing adventure. A world where we don’t look for satisfaction in mindless consumption and plastic convenience, but where we instead experience a deeper, slower, more connected kind of satisfaction. Less TV and Facebook, more sitting on the porch with guitars, home-brewed beer, and good friends.

You say in your book that the (scientific) evidence is solid enough that we’re causing climate change. We shouldn’t wait until the last questions are answered to admit that we have to change. As a climate scientist what do you think is your future role? What role should or can science (in general) play in the future?

Wow, great question, I’ve never been asked that. Although I do think we know more than enough to act, we’re not acting. I think there’s still a major role for climate scientists to clarify how, precisely, a warmer world is contributing to the intense heat waves, fires, storms, and floods we’re now experiencing. The public is slowly waking up with each new disaster, but there’s this misinformation machine funded by the fossil fuel corporate interests, and to counteract it scientists need to keep pumping out the attribution science. In addition, there’s still a lot we don’t know about future impacts. For example, how exactly will climate change impact our food system? How will it impact disease? Did you know that climate change has already significantly reduced the protein content of our food? There will be many more surprises like that, since climate change is affecting absolutely every moving part of the Earth system. So we need the science to keep delving into that, understanding it, both to motivate us to change and to help us cushion the blow.

Your second question here is also really interesting. I think science is absolutely wonderful. To me, there’s a deep reverence and beauty that comes with science, whether it’s astrophysics or Earth science.

I still remember what it felt like, as a graduate student, to begin understanding the mysteries of quantum mechanics and general relativity. To be able to look at an equation, and to see what it’s saying about how the universe works, it’s just so incredibly beautiful. So I think science is a wonderful practice, and also kind of the antidote to a lot of the suffering humanity has experienced, things like inquisitions, burning witches at the stake, the dark demon-haunted conspiracy theories and superstitions that somehow otherwise seem to be humanity’s default mode.

But what’s missing is wisdom. We need science and wisdom. Science by itself is harmless, but science leads to technology, and technology without wisdom has turned out to be incredibly dangerous. Our lack of wisdom has allowed our technology to get the better of us, and now we have an increasingly

unstable nuclear-armed world and global warming, for example.

I was surprised to read in your book that aviation only counts for 2% of total emissions globally (while flying and driving is the biggest slice in our personal emission total). The industry makes up a third of global emissions. How can we affectively target the fossil fuel impact of these industries? (of course being aware that ‘the industry’ means for a lot of people ‘my work’)

Globally speaking, aviation isn’t a huge source of global warming, although it’s growing faster than perhaps any other source. This is because poor people simply can’t afford to fly. But for many rich people, flying will be their biggest source of personal emissions. In the US, on average, driving is the biggest source of individual emissions. But for most academics, flying is the biggest individual source.

I see two key wedges for breaking our addiction to both flying and driving. The first is simply to put a price on carbon emissions. We can’t keep using our atmosphere as a free dump for greenhouse gases, we must start charging for the dubious “privilege” of destroying our livable climate for the next 10,000 years. As this price increases each year, very soon fossil fuel will become far more expensive than alternatives like renewable energy. Electric cars will completely replace gas and diesel cars. Electric trains will replace planes, because only the extremely rich will be able to afford plane tickets. Local organic food will replace fossil-fuel intensive food flown or shipped in from thousands of miles away. People will begin to eat a more plant-based diet because it will be much cheaper (and anyway, it’s much healthier).

Interestingly, if we distributed 100% of the revenue from the carbon price equally to the people, it wouldn’t even hurt the economy, and it wouldn’t hurt poor people — it would actually help them a bit.

This is called carbon fee and dividend, and I think it’s a no brainer. It’s not a silver bullet, and there are other things we need to do, but it should absolutely be a key part of a comprehensive climate action plan. And I think it’s something both conservatives and liberals should be able to get behind. It’s essentially a market-based approach and doesn’t hurt the economy, so conservatives should like it; and it’s incredibly effective at reducing emissions and doesn’t hurt the poor so liberals should like it!

The second wedge is cultural shift. For example, I’m trying to gather a group of climate scientists and other academics who have either stopped flying, like myself, or who have reduced their flying. You can see their anecdotes at noflyclimatesci.org. There are a few other like-minded groups who are calling for academic institutions to support more teleconferencing and to support those of us who have decided that we just can’t get on airplanes anymore, because we see the climate destruction it causes too clearly.

If we have already passed the key ‘tipping point’, is there any use in reducing our individual carbon footprints and advocating for larger scale emission reduction efforts? What effects can emission reduction still have?

There is no key tipping point. The less we work to stop it, the worse climate change will be. It’s that simple. So yes, we need to do everything we can, on all scales: individual, local, and national.

Eventually, national actions will weave together into global action. In my opinion this is most likely to happen through a network of national carbon pricing. As a few nations put a price on carbon and create border adjustments for trade, other nations then have a strong incentive to adopt their own carbon prices.

I think it’s really important to understand why individual emissions reductions are helpful. It’s not because these individual changes keep CO2 out of the atmosphere. They do, but that’s not why they’re important. They’re important because they shift the culture. Individual change is a way to vote for large-scale collective change. When we change ourselves, we can demand broader change without hypocrisy. Even more importantly, by changing ourselves we show what’s possible. We’re normalizing a life with less fossil fuel, and our friends and neighbors, especially if we find creative, welcoming ways to speak out about it. And we’re opting into systems that work with less fossil fuel, and opting out of systems that use more. In this way, even as individuals, we can stop pushing the system further toward the cliff, and instead start turning it away from the cliff.

Furthermore, by doing this we can gradually build more resilient communities, communities less dependent on gasoline, fuel, electricity, and food shipped in from far away for survival.

How to read climate statistics – I was told climate scientists make conservative predictions. How to read between the lines or translate conservative predictions to reality? Which sources of information can we trust and how can I estimate my own carbon footprint?

I trust peer reviewed papers from scientists with good reputations and without obvious biases. The most important papers come with articles geared toward non-scientists, sometimes from the journals themselves and sometimes from major newspapers. Another great source of information is the website SkepticalScience.com. My book also has a good summary of climate science and impacts, with lots of references.

There are many carbon calculators, but I personally much preferred doing my own basic research on how my daily actions mapped to carbon emissions. Somehow I found this more satisfying and actionable. I describe the process in my book, and give a simple set of conversions for seven categories: flying, driving, food, natural gas, electricity, stuff, and waste. So basically, once you estimate how many gallons of gas you burn in a year, how much you fly, how much you buy, and gather your utility bills, you can then estimate your footprint. A magazine I write for also made a simple web-based calculator using my numbers:


Is deurbanization, living communally and practicing small scale organic agriculture a legit approach?

I think it’s part of a solution, but not the whole solution. No matter who we are or what our living situation, each of us can get a little more connected to where our food comes from. This massive disconnection from our food is very recent, it happened in the post-WWII era. I think it causes us to eat without gratitude, which makes us less happy. We’re embodied beings, and food is more important than our modern society thinks. So much of our dis-ease comes from our broken relationship with food.

We noticed a sort of mourning and torpor talking about climate change actions, especially in relation to world events and politics. Maybe you want to say something about that?

I think it’s extremely important to allow ourselves to open up to grief over what’s happening to the Earth right now. What’s happening is surreal and terrible — and it was avoidable. Geologic changes are occurring on timescales of decades, species are dying, and our children are inheriting an impoverished and dangerous world from us. When I fully felt what was happening, I experienced an actual grief, just like when a loved one dies. But this grief comes from a deep love for all the Earth, and by allowing myself to feel it I was then able to act with more energy and direction than ever before. Feel the grief, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work! I can think of nothing more meaningful to do.

What is the picture you paint for your children of their future when they are 20, 40, 60? What are you equipping them with? What do you tell them about what they’re seeing here right now and how to relate to it?

That’s an interesting question. I’m starting to gently nudge them toward speaking out more and beginning to fight for their future. I don’t lecture them. Instead I simply answer whatever questions they ask me as best I can. I can tell they’re concerned, and I want to make sure they don’t descend into despair. It’s an interesting balance, giving them a normal childhood with this existential threat hanging over their heads, that they can sense even if they don’t see all the details the way I do. I’m definitely equipping them to know something about how to grow food! And how to get things done “by hand”. I hope I’m equipping them to have a healthy sense of what it means to be part of a resilient community, too. But maybe the most of all, it’s a question of installing values. What does it mean to live well? Is it fast food and video games, is it having a lot of stuff? Or is it something deeper, perhaps simpler?

There are two more topics i would love to address: Our mindset as you describe it, the changing of it and ‘opting out’ …

Climate change is the result of our lack of imagination. There are many other ways we can imagine living, as humans, on this Earth. Many other cultures have, and do, exist on the Earth besides the huge monolithic culture of industrial capitalism. This “monoculture” is extremely good at wiping out other cultures — it has a mindset of conquest and growth — but it’s very bad at listening to others and caring about the future. We can see this collective monoculture reflect in the people we know, and even, if we look carefully, in ourselves.It’s important to be both gentle and firm with ourselves. Gentle, because it’s very hard to see beyond the infrastructure and stories that surround us every day, to imagine living without fossil fuels. Gentle, because it actually takes courage to begin standing up and resisting the dominant monoculture. But firm, because this single culture really is killing the biosphere, which we depend on for life. One of the things our culture tells us — a part of our mindset — is that we’re separate from nature, that we can solve any problem with technology. But if we examine our lives with honesty, we can see this isn’t true. Ultimately, we are creatures in the biosphere, like other animals, and we depend on it just as much. So we need to be very firm and say, it’s not OK to live this way. How can we change? And to answer that question, we each need to ask: how can I change? Cultural shift doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

The other topic is: How you think we can act in or how to be a (post fossil fuel) community member and the challenge with inclusiveness (race, privilege, and environmental equality)?

I don’t think the “climate movement” is going to succeed until it figures out how not to be so overwhelmingly white. We need all hands on deck if we’re going to figure out how to respond to such a huge challenge as global warming, a complete shift of economy, policy, and mindset. I think this shift is underway, the shift to a colorful climate movement.

At the same time, we need to make sure that the movement remembers to put physics front and center.

CO2 molecules don’t care if we’re getting along or not. Also, we need to find a way out of this tragic partisan deadlock. There’s no good reason that climate change should be partisan. Conservatives need the biosphere just as much as liberals.

That said, it’s striking how the conquest mindset that led to global warming and the sixth mass extinction is exactly the same mindset that led to the truly horrific genocide of indigenous people and the truly horrific practice of slavery. We desperately need to fix that mindset! It’s not healthy, to say the least. And we have lots to learn from those same indigenous cultures, those that remain, which treated the other-than-human world with infinitely more respect and gratitude than our culture does.

It’s important to remember that it’s not humanity that’s causing the problem here, it’s a single human culture. We’re capable of living in a much better way; there’s no law of physics that says we can’t get along with the biosphere and with each other.

I would like to stop here with this picture…

Peter, thank you very much for your time and well informed thoughts. Your book goes very much deeper in all of these questions. You published it in the end of 2017 with the publisher collective ‘new society PUBLISHERS’, on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, processed chlorine-free and with low- VOC vegetable-based inks. Any of your profits from book sells you will donate to ‘Citizen’s Climate Lobby’ and possibly other organizations. We wish you all the best.