Goverment is the disaster – a case for mutual aid in the Mississippi Delta

Less than half a mile away, at the New Orleans Convention Center, Sadique Jabbar’s first meal Friday was a bag of Cheetos someone gave her around 11 a.m.

“You know the only reason we’ve been fed?” Jabbar said. “Some men out of prison have been breaking into buildings, getting food for us and bringing it back here.”

–San Francisco Chronicle, 9/3/2005

New Orleans has always had a reputation as a cruel, dangerous place, from a large underclass sensationalized by the stereotypes of white Southerners, a mystique of voodoo and heartbreak, and a tradition of callous plantation aristocracy that somehow infected wealthy tourists from all over.

But I also found a silver lining of heart among the people. Loitering with no money at all ten years ago, a man of about forty panhandled me saying he needed food. I said I had no cash and didn’t know when I would eat next. “Then come with me!” he said. I followed him for seven blocks as he hussled people for change and got kicked out of every business we entered (they knew him). Eventually he had two bucks, bought a chili cheese dog and split it with me.

After the deluge, every day I would walk past the newspaper racks in Oakland and the word “Anarchy!” would cry out from at least one of the daily papers. Unfortunately, what they were referring to was hysterical coverage claiming that while the police in New Orleans were too busy amid the disaster and the military had, um, not arrived yet, all the remaining people had turned on each other in an outbreak of murder, rape and robbery. Which is of course exactly what people like to tell Anarchists will happen if the government were “turned off” (and what racists say will happen if African-Americans are allowed to run their own affairs).

Of course anarchists respond by saying humans are biologically social, and can coordinate and cooperate with each other. “Mutual aid” means that an economy can be based on the practice of people identifying the interests of a whole community as their own. But the imposition of a world run from the top down deprives us of the opportunity to live that way, as the way we relate to each other is dictated by hierarchies and abstract market theories.

And in the end it was the anarchists who get to say “I told you so.” After a few days, even the corporate press told stories of people helping each other survive. Not only did the alternative web media carry these stories, but also many astonishing reports of law enforcement and other government people actually preventing and obstructing spontaneous acts of mutual aid, and deterring people from even helping themselves.

Snapshots of Genocide

Two paramedics in town for a convention, stranded in the wake of hurricane Katrina gave their account of self-organization and abandonment in the disaster zone, after venturing out after a couple days holed up in a French Quarter hotel.

. . .The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen’s gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters. . .

We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the “imminent” arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute they arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military. . .

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans… 1

Even the Red Cross was blocked from entering the disaster area. From the Red Cross website (in the first few days):

The state Homeland Security Department had requested — and continues to request — that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city. 2

Another survivor described his experience:

A lot of those young men lost their minds because the helicopters would fly over us and they wouldn’t stop. We’d do SOS on the flashlights, we’d do everything. And it came to a point. It really did come to a point where these young men were really so frustrated that they did start shooting. They weren’t trying to hit the helicopters. Maybe they weren’t seeing. Maybe if they heard this gunfire they will stop then. But that didn’t help us. Nothing like that helped us. . .

Finally, I got to Canal Street with all of my people that I had saved from back there. There was a whole group of us. I — I don’t want them arresting nobody else — I broke the window in an RTA bus. I never learned how to drive a bus in my life. I got in that bus. I loaded all those people in wheelchairs and then everything else into that bus and (sobbing) and we drove (crying) and we drove. 3

Scientific Analysis

There’s more; go to Indymedia New Orleans for stories and links to everything. But speaking of shooting, did some people attack other people because, as the liberal media says, poor, marginalized, underprivileged people do that because of their frustration and resentment towards society, or because humans always burst into sociopathic extremism when not guarded by the government, or because some people go insane when living in black water filled with sewage and bodies for days with no food or water in the heat?

Perhaps in order to have insight and objective knowledge about these questions, we should perform a simple scientific experiment, providing a control group for the New Orleans public policy research just carried out by the federal government. First, we’ll need twenty five thousand wealthy white people, FEMA officials, Haliburton management, Republican party hacks, and so forth. Then we flood their houses with six feet of black water. Then we herd them into a stadium and leave them to themselves with no food or water, and overflowing toilets, while armed people keep them in. Then we watch what happens with those cameras used to televise sports events. Perhaps we could get a grant for this from the mega-billion dollar corporate relief budget.

“Be Prepared!”

Even if mutual aid, cooperation and ingenuity naturally arise in a disaster, many people will revert to the way society trained them. The solution is to be ready for community to fill the void where government fails.

In Berkeley/Oakland, prepare for the big one; and anywhere, be ready for martial law or fascist coup, biological/chemical/nuclear attack, another hurricane (they’re only getting bigger and more frequent), a tsunami, or even a meteor. Not only by stockpiling canned food, drinking water and batteries, but also by talking to your neighbors, including the ‘normal’ ones, about what to do when the bottom drops.

How will medical emergencies be handled? The East Bay hospitals are ON the Hayward Fault. What to do about cops and robbers- keep them out of the hood or deal with them on our terms? Does anyone have a satellite phone?

Whatever your semantics, I hope you’ll still find this misquote something In Slingshot 1989 inspiring, “Chaos Is not Anarchy, but it is the raw material from which Anarchy can be forged.”

1. from ‘Get Off The Fucking Freeway: The Sinking State Loots its Own Survivors’ by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky

2.,1096,0_682_4524,00.html #4524

3. from transcript of video interview with Neville posted at Baton Rouge

Struggle For Hawaiian Autonomy

Families forced from their homes…live military ordnance left to explode near schools and homes, maiming or killing the occasional civilian…huge Stryker vehicles rolling relentlessly over a fragile landscape as the United States imposes an alien, imperialist government that brings oppression, genocide and ecological destruction to the local population and environment…

Iraq? A’ole! No! These are current conditions in the so-called “state” of Hawai’i. Visitors to Hawai’i, and those who settle there from the mainland, often remain blissfully unaware of the true history of this place. Or if they begin to hear a bit about it, consider the American occupation as a “done deal” and go about their business.

The worst public health statistics in the region…the lowest education level…the highest incarceration rate…the most poverty…the most children in foster care…the most people without homes…families and communities torn apart by drugs imported by organized crime…

Typical inhabitants of any American inner city? Nope! They are the original inhabitants of “America’s Vacation Paradise:” they are the “kanaka maoli,” the Native Hawai’ians.

A small country with a vibrant spiritual culture forcibly overthrown by a superpower bent on conquest for military and economic reasons…the people forced to assimilate foreign ways contrary to their basic values, denied access to their culture, history and even their language…a diaspora of exiles…a struggle for de-occupation and the re-establishment of their government and sovereign status…

Tibet in 1959? Guess again. It’s the Kingdom of Hawai’i, which was a modern constitutional monarchy and declared neutral nation engaged in treaty relationships with over fifty other countries — violently seized in 1893; illegally annexed by the United States through a domestic resolution; forced into “statehood” in 1959 in violation of United Nations rules… Given an “apology” for all this by the Clinton administration in 1993…

A Bit of History

On January 17, 1893, Queen Lili`uokalani was forced from her throne by American businessmen and business-minded missionary sons, with the help of John L. Stevens, the American Minister to the Hawai’ian Kingdom, and the American navy. The overthrow was violent, unjustified, insulting, and in complete violation of international law. U.S. President Benjamin Harrison apparently gave unofficial encouragement to the conspirators in 1892 and after the overthrow he presented their annexation petition to the U.S. Senate. But incoming President Grover Cleveland was appalled. He withdrew the petition before the Senate could act, called for an investigation, and issued a powerful statement to reinstate the queen and the rightful government. But the treasonous provisional government refused to comply. President Cleveland was also opposed by powerful interests within the United States who were loathe to part with their juicy prize.

In 1897, approximately 21,000 Hawai’ians — more than half the adult Hawai’ian population — signed and presented a petition protesting annexation to the United States. Congress ignored them. Despite the petition evidence to the contrary, it was far more lucrative for Congress to accept the assurances of missionary lobbyists who claimed the Hawai’ians were eager for annexation.

This “Ku’e Petition” of resistance to annexation — 556 pages long, and possibly one of the most significant documents of protest in American, as well as Hawai’ian, history — was buried deeply in the U.S. National Archives until it was found by Noenoe Silva in 1998, over a hundred years later. The discovery of the petition, and the exhibition of this document by the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, had an enormous impact on the kanaka maoli, who searched the pages eagerly for the names of their grandparents and great-grandparents. As Silva puts it, “The petition, inscribed with the names of everyone’s kupuna (ancestors), gave people permission from their ancestors to participate in the quest for national sovereignty. More important, it affirmed for them that their kupuna had not stood by idly, apathetically, while their nation was taken from them.”

No, the kupuna of today’s kanaka maoli had hardly stood by apathetically. But as the “provisional government” (formed by the traitors and foreign businessmen who had deposed their queen) outlawed kanaka maoli gatherings, the Hawai’ians were forced to create subtle yet profound forms of protest. “Kaona,” a tradition of multiple and secret meanings in Hawai’ian chants and poetry, became a necessary component of many underground activities.

The story of the planting of the Queen’s garden at Uluhaimalama, on Oct. 11, 1894 is a perfect example.

The Queen wanted to convey to her people that she was still strong and thinking only of them. Her nobles wanted to declare their continued allegiance. Queen Lili’uokalani declared that one of her gardens (near Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu) would be planted to provide flowers for funerals and other occasions. Kanaka maoli wore ribbons on their hats and clothing that morning, decorated with the word “Uluhaimalama,” and there was an expectant air of celebration in the town. The ceremony was organized to look like a typical garden party, consisting mostly of beautifully dressed, high status and ali’i (noble) Hawai’ian women and a few of the ali’i men.

Police looked on, but as they didn’t “see” anything out of the ordinary, they suffered the event to proceed. In the garden, chants were offered with each planting, each chant affirming the strong feelings of the people there. It was a profoundly complex occasion — interwoven with invocations to spiritual powers and kupuna both dead and alive, with sacred plants affirming their connection to the ‘aina (land) and their dedication to their beloved queen and country. It was an act of symbolic resistance when revolt was difficult. In short, it was an affirmation of what one might call “Hawai’ian-ness” at the deepest levels.

Eventually, as the true history of Hawai’i and its culture was repressed under U.S. rule, the planting at Uluhaimalama was forgotten, and the rooted power of its symbolism remained underground. But in 1994 the garden was the site of a commemorative re-enactment of the planting and designation as a historic place, and now various dedicated individuals and families tend the garden once more and people are again inspired by its story.

The story of Uluhaimalama was first told to me by Clarence Kukauakahi Ching, who grew up in the neighborhood of the garden, and who was one of the key people to gain recognition for this historic place. My account is based on his material and on the filmed re-enactment of the garden protest in his independent film, “The ‘Aina Remains.”

In order to understand Hawai’ian sovereignty and kanaka maoli issues at all, it is necessary to imagine and empathize with a depth of connection to both land and ancestors, and respect for elders, that is inconceivable to those of us who have been shaped by the superficial, mainland, western consumer culture and values of the United States and other industrialized nations. Still, you must try to imagine this connection and understand the force of it. This is at the heart of the people and the culture, and it shapes resistance activities.

Now, not every Native Hawai’ian or part-Hawai’ian is a sovereignty activist working toward restoration of the kingdom. Many have adjusted to colonization and consider themselves Americans. At most, they may be supporters of the dangerous Akaka bill, thinking it will preserve Hawai’ian “entitlements” through a federal recognition process that will turn them into the equivalent of American Indians.

But there are many others who recognize the bill for what it is–a way to finalize the land grab of the Kingdom and take title of contested kanaka maoli lands once and for all–and who are vigorously opposed to the bill. They do not consider th
emselves “American” and continue to insist upon being recognized as subjects of the Kingdom. As one man put it to me, when I asked him about his livelihood, “I work for the Queen.” In other words, he has devoted the rest of his life to the restoration of his country. He is not alone.

It is easy for people from the mainland to consider the American occupation as a “done deal” and go about their business, which usually involves accumulating more real estate at inflated prices (but with questionable title). This inflates taxes on their properties, which then affect adjoining properties and communities, and which are then impossible for the old families, the kanaka maoli, to pay. Thus, one result is the high rate of homelessness among kanaka maoli families. Then the families who are homeless camp, for example, on a beach. They are then driven even from this refuge, from land which has been home to them for generations.

And so, with the bulldozers of development turning up and demolishing the beloved bones of the ancestors (literally), and with the many, many other types of devastating atrocities visited upon the kanaka maoli and pushing them to the wall, we now see what we mainland types recognize as a “protest:” people in large groups with signs, people shouting, people engaged in non-violent resistance, people arrested… Or rather, we would see this, if the mainland media ever gave coverage to the situation in Hawai’i. But we don’t.

This last August, the San Francisco Chronicle surprisingly published an op ed piece by two Kamehameha Schools graduates protesting the recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling against the school’s admission policies. (For background, please see This issue alone is too complex to cover in this article.) And the Chronicle also published a brief article about the protest march which was to take place in San Francisco. But it was too much to expect a follow-up article or photo the next day — there were no published images of thousands of people wearing red “Ku I Ka Pono” (Justice for Hawai’ians) t shirts, amassed in United Nations Plaza. It was a beautiful sight, but apparently too powerful for the Chronicle’s Pacific Rim readers. It apparently conflicted too strongly with the accepted image of the Hawai’ian people.

The image of “happy Hawai’ians” offering orchid lei and filled with boundless aloha, welcoming all visitors to their beautiful islands, are a staple of the tourist industry and of the political machinery behind the occupation of the islands. This image fuels the cruise ships, whose fuels in turn destroy the fragile coral reefs. This image allows the creation of herbicide-laden golf course turf to be cultivated on sacred lands. This image allows us to feel good about introducing invasive plant and animal species, which destroy native organisms. Within just a few short years, the Hawai’ian islands have become the GMO research capital of the world–without the consent or desire of any of the kanaka maoli whose small farms are jeopardized by this new development.

Real life “Happy Hawai’ians” join the military to get an education, and are sent at whim to other lands to obliterate other colonized peoples. Real life “Happy Hawai’ians” fill the prisons after succumbing to crime in despair, and are often shipped far away from their families. But we still demand endless “aloha” from the colonized, and we depend upon their silence as we, representatives of an occupying foreign power, destroy their beloved ‘aina and culture in a hundred, thousand thoughtless ways.

This is a cruel joke to play on a people who really do believe in the transformational, everyday power of love and the goodness of humanity. Their culture is imbued with this principle, but it is part of an even more vital principle: “pono:” what is good, right, just, balanced, appropriate. Our ignorance of their plight and our insistence on perpetual “aloha” — without the corresponding value of “pono” — is an ironic psychic, political, and physical atrocity inflicted on some of the most hospitable people on Earth.

So, as the mainstream, mainland media will not show us the Hawai’ian struggle, those of us who are concerned about such things must go looking for it. The “truth” here is complex and often fragmented. Unity among independence activists is elusive, at this point. But a very short internet list could include, for starters:,,, and especially Scott Crawford’s excellent blog: Many excellent books are also available, such as Noenoe Silva’s Aloha Betrayed. Please email me at for a booklist and other resources. Put “Hawai’ian Independence” in the subject line.

I hope this article has served as an introduction to a powerful, but under-acknowledged struggle and that it will prompt the readers of this publication to learn more and to support na kanaka maoli in their quest for independence. Mahalo.

Portions of this article were from an article I co-wrote in 2004, “America’s Tibet,” with activists Clarence Kukauakahi Ching and David Ingham. It was published in Hawai’i Island Journal in April that year. The entire article may be found in the archives of

Outlawing Community at People's Park Free box or Pandora's box

“Put down those weapons!” the University of California (UC) police officer commanded. But the small crowd gathering in People’s Park in Berkeley September 17 weren’t carrying guns or knives or clubs — we were using a posthole digger to rebuild the free clothing exchange box that has stood in the park for over 30 years.

Why would the University of California deploy armed police to stop volunteers from rebuilding a free clothing box in a park? The freebox is a perfect form of non-structured recycling and economic mutual aid: folks with extra clothes drop them off at the box, happy to have their closet cleaned out, while folks needing some new clothes dig through to find something both fashionable and in their size. Most of us in Berkeley have used the box for both purposes for years. Eggplant tried to explain the tense yet festive standoff with police to a confused passerby: “you know when you were a teenager and your parents did irrational things to control you . . . ?”

People’s Park in Berkeley has been contested ground since it was constructed on UC land without university permission in 1969 — leading to rioting, one death and a National Guard occupation of Berkeley when the police tried to seize and destroy the park. (See sidebar – History of People’s Park, page 9,) The university has always claimed to legally own the land on which the park sits, but the people of Berkeley have always rejected university claims as covered in blood and thus void. We know that People’s Park, like all the world’s resources, belongs to everyone, and it makes no difference one way or another who holds title to the land. Over the years, Berkeley people have practiced “user development” of the park, i.e. park users have constructed and maintained the park, the university and their land title be damned.

Periodically, as if testing the water, the university has tried to prohibit user development — tearing up gardens, destroying previous freeboxes and bathrooms constructed by park users and building sports courts on the park against the will of park users. And over the last 36 years, all university efforts to behave as if they own the park have been met with stiff resistance and refusal — on numerous occasions bursting into rioting and general civil disorder. Ultimately, the university has always had to back down and allow park users control. Despite all the millions of dollars and thousands of police hours spent by the university to retake the land, wipe out the park and assert their control, the park remains . . . a park.

The Freebox was one of the first things built in the park. It embodies a fundamental part of the vision of those who dug up the first piece of concrete and planted the first tree: the principle of free economic exchange, or sharing. If the “free speech” stage is the heart of People’s Park, the freebox is its blood.

In April, the 2005 wood version of the freebox mysteriously burned down. Some previous free boxes had also burned — others had been removed by the university. Rumors circulated that pro-university fraternity boys had burned it as a prank or maybe as a classist act of violence against the homeless, who some people believe are “attracted” to the South campus area by the freebox and the numerous free food servings at People’s Park. Food Not Bombs serves food in the park Monday – Friday at 3 p.m.

Park users started dreaming of constructing a steel and cob freebox that would not be vulnerable to vandalism and arson. When a prominent park activist mentioned the plan to replace the freebox with an improved version to a university official, she was surprised to be told that the university didn’t want any freebox to be rebuilt at all. She was told that the freebox was a problem — it was hard to keep clean and sometimes fights developed over donated clothes. Underlying these excuses lurked a familiar theme — the university has been uncomfortable with having a freebox in the park for years because the university believes that the freebox “attracts” poor and homeless people to the park.

So flyers went out inviting folks to the park to rebuild the freebox. When people arrived, police were already on hand. When a few people started preparing the site for construction, the police threatened “anyone who vandalizes the park will be arrested.” Vandalism, indeed! For a few moments, people sat down in a circle around the freebox site to discuss what to do. A few people were determined to rebuild the freebox even if it meant their arrest, so work re-started.

The police charged over, snarling, demanding that construction stop. “If your vandalism goes over a certain amount of money, you will be committing a more serious offense” they threatened. But perhaps because there was a football game that day sucking up police resources — or more likely because university officials didn’t want arrests to escalate conflict over the park that could ultimately end in rioting and looting — the police just took video pictures as construction continued.

The essence of the park has always been reclaiming property, power and control from private hands and sharing these things amongst everyone. Rebuilding the freebox was the most exciting event in Berkeley all summer — to finally step out of our roles as passive victims and consumers and build something ourselves for ourselves — not asking permission, but taking direct action to meet human needs.

By the end of the weekend, folks had installed four steel posts and a foundation. But sometime Wednesday — with no volunteers or witnesses around — university workers destroyed everything that had been built. We had hoped the university might let our work stay, even though all the police around over the weekend made that look unlikely.

As we put Slingshot together over the weekend of September 24/25, people are back in People’s Park rebuilding the freebox again — this time with twice as many people. The university can’t wear us out with their police and bulldozers — they’ll only bring more people into the park and escalate the level of resistance. If they destroy a rebuilt freebox ten times, we’ll rebuild eleven times. The city of Berkeley is filled with retail stores and consumerism — we’ve maintained the freebox as a place for meeting human needs without profit for 30 years and survived many previous attempts to smash it. We’ll win this struggle, too.

The university is testing the waters in People’s Park — trying to see if people have the stomach to defend user development. They are playing with fire. We call on people throughout the Bay Area and the United States to come to Berkeley and join the creative, fierce struggle for the land. There won’t be calm in Berkeley until the university backs down.

The Life & Times of People's Park

At the start of 1969, the site that is now People’s Park between Dwight and Haste Street half a block above Telegraph Avenue was a dirt parking lot. The university had bought the property using the power of eminent domain for new dorms in the mid-60s but then after demolishing the wood frame houses that had been on the lot (which had, coincidentally, formed a home base for many radicals which the University of California (UC) Regents wanted out of Berkeley) the university never built the dorms. In the spring of 1969, after the land had sat empty for some time and become an eyesore, community members decided to build a park on the lot.

Building the park mobilized and energized many of the street people, activists and regular Berkeley citizens who participated. They were doing something for themselves, not for profit or bosses. Hundreds of people worked hard putting down sod, building a children’s playground and planting trees. From the beginning the ideal was “user development” — the people building a park for themselves without university approval, professional planners or alienated workers. Seizing the land from the university for legitimate public use was and is the spirit of the park.

After the initial construction on April 20, negotiations with the university over control of the park continued for three weeks. For a while it looked like a settlement could be reached but suddenly the university stopped negotiating and in the early morning on May 15 the university moved police into the park and started to build a fence around it. A rally protesting the fence was quickly organized on Sproul Plaza on the UC campus. In the middle of the rally, after a student leader said “lets go down and take the park,” police turned off the sound system. 6,000 people spontaneously began to march down Telegraph Ave. toward the park. They were met by 250 police with rifles and flack-jackets. Someone opened a fire hydrant. When the police moved into the crowd to shut off the hydrant, some rocks were thrown and the police retaliated by firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.

An afternoon of chaos and violence followed. Sheriff’s deputies walked through the streets of Berkeley firing into crowds and at individuals with shotguns. At first they used birdshot but when that ran out, they switched to double-0 buckshot. 128 people were admitted to hospitals that day, mostly with gunshot wounds. James Rector, a spectator on a roof on Telegraph Ave., was shot and died of his wounds a few days later. Another man was blinded.

The day after the shootings, 3,000 National Guard troops were sent by then Governor Reagan to occupy Berkeley. A curfew was imposed and a ban on public assembly was put into force. Mass demonstrations continued and were met with teargas and violence by the police. 15 days after the park was fenced, 30,000 people marched peacefully to the park, and active rebellion against the fence subsided. The fence stayed up.

During the summer of 1969 on Bastille day protesters marched from Ho Chi Minh (Willard) park to People’s Park. Organizers had baked wire clippers into loaves of bread and lo and behold — the fence was down. Police attacked and a riot ensued.

The fence was rebuilt and didn’t finally come down until 1972. In Early May, President Nixon announced the mining of North Vietnamese ports. The same night as his announcement, a hastily-called candlelight march in Ho Chi-Minh Park, starting with only 200-300 people, grew into thousands as they marched through Berkeley. During the night, people tore down the fence around People’s Park with their bare hands, a police car was burned and skirmishs with police lasted into the wee hours.

In 1980, the university put asphalt over the free parking lot at People’s Park to turn it into a Fee parking lot. Students and others occupied the ground and began to rip up the pavement. After a week of confrontations between students and police, the university let the issue drop and the pavement was used to build the garden at the west end of the park.

During the late 1980s the university employed a subtle strategy to again try to retake People’s Park. Community efforts to make improvements in the park, such as installing bathrooms, were met with police and bulldozers, while police, through constant harassment elsewhere, forced drug dealers to do their business in the park. These tactics continue today.

In 1990 and 1991, the City of Berkeley negotiated a deal with the university to “save the park” by “cleaning it up.” The university agreed not to construct dorms on the land if sports facilities were constructed and the character of the park was changed. By this time, the park was being used to provide services to the growing number of homeless in the Southside area including free meals and a free box for clothes. The park continued to serve as a meeting place for activists and as a forum for political events and free concerts. It became clear that “cleaning up the park” meant eliminating freaks and the homeless.

On July 28, 1991, the university again put up a fence at the Park so that it could construct a volleyball court there, part of the “cleanup” plan. During protests that followed, police fired wooden and rubber bullets at fleeing demonstrators every night for 3 nights in a row. Hundreds of police occupied Berkeley. All the while, construction continued on the volleyball courts, which were eventually completed. The Courts stood, despite constant protests and vandalism, from 1991 to 1997, when they were finally removed by the university due to complete non-use.

SlingShot Box

We’re Back! Summer seems to have sneaked by this year, maybe because it never actually got hot here in the Bay. We do have the Organizer to show for it!! and are feeling somewhat reenergized for our fall issues.

Slingshot newspaper has been around since 1988 and has been printed consistently since. We operate as an independent collective to enact the kind of organizing absent from the mainstream.

This collective is somewhat unique in that not only is it open, but after each issue we dissolve — our work having been achieved. Then, the agreed upon first meeting for the next issue comes around and marks the temporary re-birth of the collective to carry the paper to its next print date. This allows us to avoid stasis, although every new issue meeting could use new faces!

This issue’s article deadline was the same day the freebox was being re-installed at People’s Park in Berkeley — against police orders. It turned into somewhat of a standoff, so we moved our article review meeting to the park and proceeded to read the plethora of pages of articles in the sun as the cops video taped us. A bizarre scenario.

Many of us have been feeling fucked up, overwhelmed and easily frustrated recently, and we’re not sure why. We believe that we’re in a period of transition, summer is giving way to fall after all. Fall tends to be when we move from the extroversion of summer to a more inward, reflective time of year. This fall has brought an eerie sense that things may shift dramatically at any moment. Indeed, change is already underway — while you’re in the middle of a shift however, you can’t always see the changes until later.

So, on that note, Slingshot is always looking to promote growth, change, and dialogue out in this big world and we are always on the lookout for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors and independent thinkers to help us make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editorial changes. Note: because of the large volume of submissions we receive, we may not contact you back if we don’t use your submission.

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

Thanks to the people who worked on this: Artnoose, Cara, Crystal, Drizzle, Eggplant, Gregg, Jammers, Kathryn, Maneli, MisTakE, Molly and PB.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting October 30 at 5 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below).

Article Deadline and Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 89 by November 26, 2005 at 3 p.m. We expect the next issue out in mid December.

Volume 1, Number 88, Circulation 13,000

Printed September 30, 2005

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751 •

Replacement Organizers

If you lost your 2005 Slingshot oranizer in a Hurricane or other disaster, we’ll send you a replacement one free. Email or mail us what color you want and your address. If you can afford it, you can send us $1.29 for postage.


Dear Slingshot:

Got the summer issue! Loved it! However, there are a few critical flaws in PB Floyd’s article “FBI hungry for victims” (issue #87) and her advice for “non-terrorists” as follows: a) “Never talk to the police” is good advice but you should also never sign anything either, particularly an “advice of rights” form; 2) a judge does not have the authority to order you to answer questions because you can take the 5th Amendment, although s/he could grant you immunity and then order you to testify, you could still refuse and be jailed for contempt for an indeterminate period of time; and 3) if the pigs knock and claim they have a warrant, you can “demand to see the warrant,” just be sure you don’t open the door to look at it ’cause I guarantee the pigs will walk in warrant or not. All serious rookie misstatements that will cost you when dealin’ with the man.

PB should also note that John Lewis’ comments concerning ELF, ALF and SHAC “attacks” ring hollow as the FBI’s primary concern has always been to protect property. After all, property is the number one concern of capital, and crimes against property are the worst crimes of all in capitalist eyes!

Peace out, war in, –R. Gould

Mound Correction Facility, Detroit, MI

Hi, in the last issue of the slingshot (issue #87 — I think it was the July issue) an article was published titled “FBI hungry for victims.” I don’t remember who wrote it but I’m sure you can figure it out. In that article it talks about the FBI visiting my house and the article includes a graphic of my FBI file which includes my full name and address. I don’t remember if my address was also included in the article because I only read it briefly. and in fact I probably wouldn’t have thought about it ever again if I hadn’t’ started getting letters from people in jail who got my address out of the Slingshot. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind getting letters from prisoners and to be honest I don’t really care that much that my address was in the paper as you can find it easily anywhere like the phone book or the same place you probably found a graphic of my file. However I would like to make two things clear

1: I am not the only person who lives at that address and who was harassed by the FBI and so I’m not the only person who is put at risk if that information gets used inappropriately

2: regardless of my personal preference it is really disrespectful and inconsiderate to publish someone’s full name and address in a widely distributed newspaper (or any news paper even if any average john can get it as easily as you did) without at least asking me, which wouldn’t be that hard considering you had my address just like lots of other people now do. Or you could do what other people find popular which is to look my name up in the phone book and call at ridiculous hours of the day.

Point being we get a lot of calls and shit already that me and my roommates have to deal with and it would be nice if a radical anarchist newspaper as concerned with security culture or whatever as y’all are would at least give me the heads up before you released my private information to another bunch of weirdoes. (I don’t mean to imply that the people that have written form prison were weirdoes or that people in prison are weirdoes but I’m sure that are some that read your paper.)

So I don’t mean to attack your purpose or mission but just a heads up on etiquette.

thanks, Sarah Bardwell

Editor’s Note: Ouch! Point well taken and thanks for letting us know. We’ll try to be more careful in the future.

Reflections on the Abolition of Work

The following was supposed to be delivered at Gilman Street in Berkeley in March 2005, but I was unable to get there

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first publication, in San Francisco, of The Abolition of Work. What a long wild ride it’s been! It’s been republished many times, usually without my knowledge, but always with my consent. It’s been translated into a dozen languages.

I suspect part of its success is that it was inadvertently well-timed. It appeared at a time when working hours were getting longer, work was being intensified, AND unemployment was high. If you needed proof that our society is fundamentally irrational, there it is.

This is not the occasion for a formal, systematic, well-organized lecture like I delivered last year at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Instead I’ll draw on for my informal, unsystematic, disorganized and much briefer remarks tonight.

Although the notion of “the abolition of work” cannot be reduced to a sound-bite, the basic idea is to distinguish two dichotomies that are often confused. Work is effort compelled for the purpose of producing a product. Play is free activity engaged in because it is enjoyable, regardless of the outputs or consequences, if any. Play doesn’t have to be productive and it usually isn’t. Work doesn’t have to be an activity satisfying in itself and it usually isn’t. But play can be productive. If some of our activities could be so arranged that the production of use-values was at the same time the “consumption” of gratifying (creative, artistic, sensuous, game-like, or whatever) activity that is what I mean by the abolition of work.

You have likely come across the comment by the English economist John Maynard Keynes that “in the long run, we will all be dead.” And he was as good as his word. But in 1931, amidst the Great Depression, he ventured to forecast the future of work in the long run. He believed that ever greater capital investment and techno-progress would all but abolish work within a hundred years. There will be an age of “leisure and abundance.” The only problem would be finding enough work to satisfy the inherent human craving for work from which you all suffer, no doubt.

Well, we are 74% of the way to almost work-free abundance. There has been, if anything, even more capital investment and technological innovation than Keynes expected. Keynes thought that in a century we would be working 3 hours a day, so if we are on schedule, we should now be working a 4 hour day. But the only people now (or until recently) working 4 hours a day are anarchist hunter-gatherers like the San who are entirely spared the laborsaving benefits of capital investment and high technology.

One lesson I take from this is that experts should always be viewed with suspicion, and experts on work should be presumed to be wrong unless proven to be right. As Ivan Illich put it, “Economists know about as much about work as alchemists do about gold.”

I have some more examples.

In The Abolition of Work, I wrote that every year 14,000 to 25,000 workers die while working. I can’t remember where I got that. But when I went to update the estimate last year, I found estimates ranging from 1,000 to 90,000. The US Department of Labor estimate for job-related deaths in the years 1993 to 1996 was over 10, 000 annually.

What these vastly disparate estimates do tell us is that nobody is bothering to compile these statistics accurately, because they don’t care. The government can tell us with fair accuracy how many tons of soybeans were produced last year. But it can’t tell us, apparently nobody can tell us, how many people died in order to produce and market soybeans, automobiles, cell phones or anything else.

Government and business have reasons to want to know production statistics. But government and business, I suggest, have reasons why they would rather not know, or at least that they would rather the public didn’t know, the death-toll from work. People might wonder if work is worth the cost in deaths, injuries and illnesses.

Another point, which I made 20 years ago, is that the death toll FROM work must be higher than the death toll AT work. I’ve read that many coroners don’t recognize homicides or car crash deaths as work-related, although we’ve all read news stories about workers who kill their bosses, their fellow workers and/or themselves. And surely any death while commuting is a death because of work.

Here’s a truly shameless fraud. Since about 1948, the hours of work have increased. But in the same period, productivity has more than doubled. Lord Keynes of course predicted exactly the opposite. From 1969 to 1989, the average annual working hours of fulltime workers rose by 158 hours, which is an astonishing one month a year of extra work. The 1999 annual report on the American workforce by the US Department of Labor is very smug about the coexistence of low unemployment and low inflation. But it was nervous about claims that Americans are overworked. For instance, the claims made in a book by Julia Schor, The Overworked American. I often cite this book myself. The Department of Labor blandly asserted that hours of work have been in general stable since 1960.

This conclusion is based on 3 glaring methodological flaws.

#1: The data on working hours are based on reports from employers, not workers. Employers have many reasons to understate working hours. For example, to conceal illegal overtime. I also suspect that many businesses, especially small businesses, don’t report in at all, and the ones that don’t are probably the ones with the longest working hours, the sweatshops.

Although it would involve more trouble and expense, there’s no reason why the government, which has the identity of workers through social security, can’t survey a sample of them and compare their self-reports to employers’ reports. That would probably show that the employer statistics are worthless.

#2: If a worker has more than one job – get this – only the hours worked on the main job are counted! The most overworked workers of all are the ones with two or more jobs, obviously. They are also the worst paid and the ones without benefits, because if two employers of part-time workers will usually extend no fringe benefits, whereas one employer of full-time workers, if desirous of a longterm labor force, may extend some benefits. And there’s been a vast increase in workers like this. It’s one of the major developments since I first wrote on this topic. But these overworkers aren’t counted properly.

#3: If you thought that those were crass deceptions, I’ve saved the worst for last. One of the major trends in work is longer hours for fulltime workers. Another is a spectacular increase in part-time work, mainly among people who can’t find fulltime work. These are completely different categories of workers, as diametrically opposite as “too much” and “not enough.” So what does the government do? It adds together the workers doing too much work with the workers not doing enough work, splits the difference, and announces that workers are working, on average, the usual hours, and in some cases even less! Statistical sociology does not get much better than this ñ for the bosses and the state.

In concluding, I’d like to draw your attention to an aspect of The Abolition of Work which nobody seems to have noticed. It is not an explicitly anarchist essay. In fact, I mentioned anarchism only once, and not favorably. I wrote that “all of the old ideologies are conservative because they believe in work. Some of them, like Marxism and most brands of anarchism, believe in work all the more fiercely because they believe in so little else.”

When I mentioned authors whom I considered relevant, I did include anarchists such as Kropotkin, Paul Goodman, and even Murray Bookchin. But I didn’t identify them as anarchists. I was pretty mad at anarchists in 1985. Chris Carlsson and h
is fellow Marxist thugs at Processed World had just run me out of town. Most local anarchists, except for Lawrence Jarach, played footsy with Processed World or else looked the other way. Some of them are still doing it. It was years before I would again identify myself as an anarchist.

And yet, The Abolition of Work is an anarchist essay. Most anarchists now understand that the state didn’t come out of nowhere. The state is connected to particular forms of society. So is anarchy. Most anarchists understand that you can’t abolish the state without abolishing capitalism. That’s true, but I took the argument further. I say that you can’t abolish the state without abolishing work.

I wasn’t the first anarchist to identify the abolition of work as an anarchist issue. John Zerzan’s writings in the 1970s about the revolt against work influenced me. And they at least imply the abolition of work, although John wasn’t calling himself an anarchist then. What I think I did do was define work as a basic anarchist issue. I forced even the workerist, pro-work anarchists like anarcho-syndicalists and Platformists to defend work instead of just taking it for granted. They ridicule the idea of zerowork instead of trying to refute it, so, the idea goes unrefuted. Naturally, that means more people will agree with it. The number of intellectually serious critiques I’ve received in the last 20 years is shockingly small. And I don’t think any of them came from an anarchist.

I like to think that, after my essay, anarchist thought is not quite the same and never will be quite the same. Anyway, my anti-copyrighted essay is my gift to all of you.

Slingshot Editorial notes

Cut paragraph beginning, “When I mentioned”

Main point, I think, is a little vague. A statement about the concept of work -what is work and what it is not may be relevant to prospective reader of the A of W, someone who has heard of the essay but not yet read it, or intrigued by this article, etc.

True! Unemployment rates continue to rise. There seems to be less paying jobs /paying hours. Service industry continues to grow but even so cannot keep up with demand for jobs as other industries cut workforce.

Employers are required to report work-related injuries, as are doctors. Injured workers must report injuries in order to receive benefits.

When I see non-specific statistical data, makes me doubt accuracy of other statistical statements in article

I’m not sure that work is mostly bad because of work-related deaths, which is the focus of half the article. I didn’t like the sectarian section — a bit scattered.

Remember that written as speech, possibly edit – OK to print

Reply to Comments

1. Cut “When I mentioned . . . “ this was a triumphal return to me (even if I had to have a bodyguard at the Bookfair). But I see that even 20 years after I was run out of Dodge City, some Bay Area anarchists are still afraid of Processed World. So go ahead and get it.

2. Main point a little vague: it was written for an audience I assumed already knew the main point. It wasn’t vague at all, because the main point wasn’t there at all. However, I’ve now written for you the shortest version yet of the zerowork thesis.

3. “Employers are required to report,” etc. So what? Of course, they all report in, right? As anarchists, we know that everyone obeys the law, right? Who decides in the first instance what injuries are work-related? The employer, whose interest it is to report as few such injuries as possible. There are no OSHA cops stationed even in large factories. And how many employers do, or even could, report that some of their employees have committed suicide or died in car crashes while commuting? “Injured workers must report . . . “ Injured workers are not required to report their problems to anybody. Dead workers, of course, are unable to do so. To receive “benefits”? Maybe this person refers to workers compensation. Most injured workers don’t even bother, the payoff is minimal (you might get $200 for the loss of a left ring finger, etc.) the paperwork is considerable, and the bureaucracy is hostile. Some workers aren’t covered, like farm laborers, who have very high rates of occupational injury (and do you think illegal aliens report ANYTHING to the government?). I suggest you lay off on this point which probably can’t be addressed adequately in the pages of a publication of your size. Or somebody can write a rebuttal.

4. I have no idea what “non-specific statistical data” means. My new figures are referenced. I admitted that my 20 year old figures aren’t. Who now cares? I used the most current stuff I could find. This is not an academic article, I can write those too, and I have, but my impression was that they’re not suitable to your publication. Footnotes have their place but not in speeches.

5. I never said that work is mostly bad because of work-related deaths (or injuries) ñ that would be to turn me into a leftist, which, as I believe is well known, I’m not. This is an UPDATE. If you want to publish the whole argument, reprint “The Abolition of Work.” I was reporting on some relevant things I’ve learned SINCE I wrote about work in 1985 and 1994. And there is no “sectarian section.”

Aside from the foregoing, I made a number of minor improvements in the text, which I now return to you.

Jeff Luers' Wake Up Call

Back in ‘98 when a friend and I started the Fall Creek Treesit, we sat alone in that forest; no ground-support, no other treesits – just us. We watched from our perch high in the canopy as Grandmother and Grandfather trees were felled to build the road. I remember spilling the coffee I was brewing on our little stove as I watched. My friend, the most mean and cynical man I’ve ever known, said the first and only kind words I’ve ever heard escape his lips:

“Some will fall so that others may be saved.”

The tears streamed down my face in silent protest of what I was witnessing. Below, the loggers jeered and laughed. I donned my climbing gear and my knife. I was going to the ground, and, one way or another, this was gonna end.

My friend stopped me. I don’t even remember what he said. But I remember sitting there in spilled coffee, tears in my eyes. It is the most powerless and helpless I’ve ever felt.

I think back to that time now because I am feeling very similar. I’m sitting trapped in a cell watching the world go to shit and I can’t do a damn thing about it.

A couple of articles caught my eye the other day. One was about fish farming and the necessity of domesticating the ocean. The author, a scientist, went on to say that we have accepted the domestication of the land, now we must accept the domestication of the ocean; the days of wildness are over. The other article was about global warming. It said it was too late – not enough had been done, not enough would be done; all we can do is prepare for the consequences.

A friend sent me photos of the recent protests in Scotland. The army helicopters flying over, dropping off troops, protecting the rich – the elite – the only humans that matter. I was amazed (but not surprised) that people are still shocked by this. (I guess they don’t remember US soldiers with M-60s at last years’ G8.)

Back in the states the Patriot Act has been renewed. Bush just took away all the wilderness designations environmental reformists fought so hard to get. US courts have ruled it is legal for developers to demolish homes to build malls. And our prisons are filling with radical activists and would-be revolutionaries.

What can I do? My words cannot galvanize the masses. I can’t make people fight back. I am lost. I could write a guerrilla manifesto on how to fight a successful revolution in the US, opening myself up to more consequences, maybe even more time. But would anyone act? Would anyone organize? Would any non-militants offer aid; offer to help put society back together? Would anyone open themselves up to the risk? Would you?

I think that I can answer all those questions: No. Inaction is the price of privilege. Hypocrisy is the cost of comfort. It is impossible to inspire by inciting feelings of guilt. I know this, but, it is also impossible to inspire when I believe it is a lost cause.

Even when I take into consideration the many brave cells out there fighting, and I know why they fight; in the depths of my spirit I know and I understand. I still believe we have lost. Those are the three words no one wants to hear. The words I am loathe to write. But maybe hearing them will slap you back to reality. This isn’t a game. It sure as hell ain’t a fucking fairytale with a guaranteed happy ending.

The resistance is up to you. You can organize – really organize bringing people together. You can teach – not just your friends, but strangers. You can propagate the resistance with graffiti, stencils and flyers. You can create alternatives by squatting, guerrilla gardening, creating and using alternative energies. You can become a militant – a smart one who learns how to cause the most damage and get away.

But what you can’t do it sit on your ass and flap your gums about how messed up things are. Because if you know how bad it is and you do nothing, you are the reason we lost. And you insult and betray everyone who has fought back. You spit in the face of those who have given their lives or lost their freedom demanding something better.

If our international movement cannot mount an offensive that is more than just a spectacle, then we deserve our fate. And I deserve 22 years for being foolish enough to believe we had a chance.

There are many who will continue to fight against all odds. Because for us, it is personal. If nothing else, we will go down fighting. That’s a lot to ask of someone – asking them to fight a losing battle. But, I’m asking it of you. If we are going down, let’s go down swinging. Let’s make it the toughest, hardest fought battle this system has ever faced. And if we lose, at least we will have made them earn it; at least we won’t have just handed them the world. At least we will have made a stand.

There is no shame in losing a fight – if you fight. That’s the only thing I expect of any =/human being – when they are pushed against a wall, they fight back. I expect that of you.

*Jeffrey Free Luers* *#13797671 OSP 2605 State Street Salem, OR 97310*

A Moment of Opportunity

Sometimes a series of accidents, seemingly unrelated events and mistakes by rulers come together to open up critical moments for radical change. Looking at the confluence of events over the past three months swirling around Iraq, global warming, rising gas prices, Hurricane Katrina and Bush’s general fumbling, we may be moving into such a period — if we can seize the moment.

Radicals need to shake ourselves out of the political paralysis we’ve been caught in since the beginning of the Iraq war and figure out what new alternatives, projects and modes of living are opening up because of the political and cultural shifts that are underway all around us. Right now there are rich opportunities to criticize the status quo but even more importantly to build parallel economic, social and political projects.

In the best case scenario, these projects will allow us to withhold our contribution — in terms of money, labor and time — to the mainstream consumer/industrial machine, and instead redistribute this energy locally. When we spend our days contributing to the system, we strengthen the hand of the rulers and become more dependent on and tied to their institutions. When we create our own counter-institutions for our own needs and those around us, the rulers are weakened.

Building for ourselves isn’t about taking on a new burden — a new clutter to our personal schedules — or about performing an act of charity. The key is transforming our day-to-day lives now — living life now consistent with ideals of cooperative local control and environmental sustainability — rather than hoping that we can live differently some day in the future.

Stopping the Iraq War and rejecting the US Empire

Something about the Iraq war shifted this summer. Cindy Sheehan’s protest over the tragic death of her son — the kind of thing America usually has an easy time ignoring — touched a nerve. People began wondering if a war costing so much blood and so much treasure was worth it in the face of consistently grim news. Iraq teeters on the brink of civil war with no US strategy other than “stay the course” — but for what?

Radicals have already been pushing back in modest ways such as by organizing protests at recruitment centers around the US or by dogging military recruiters at high school and college campuses. Right now there are huge opportunities to expand these initiatives and shift the tone of mainstream US debate about foreign military intervention.

One of the biggest threats to the struggle for liberation around the world is the always looming threat of US military invasion and occupation should local political movements threaten fundamental US corporate interests. For example, across Latin America, the political tide has been turning over the last few years against neoliberalism and colonization by multinational corporations — witness the recent general strike in Bolivia and events in Venezuela.

The last time so many people rejected capitalist inequality in Latin America, these movements were crushed by CIA sponsored coups or guerrilla campaigns from the 1950s to the 1980s. US activists working within the belly of the beast have a special role to prevent that sort of response this time by undermining public acceptance of US military intervention in “the US backyard.” When Pat Robertson recently suggested that someone should assassinate Hugo Chavez, the Bush administration had to backtrack.

Just a few months ago, it seemed like Bush wanted to lay the groundwork for a war on Syria or Iran — made possible by the permanent US military bases currently being constructed in Iraq. Now, Bush is on the defensive as more and more people call for an immediate pullout of US troops whether the Iraqi regime has “stabilized” or not.

Radicals need to take every opportunity we can to undermine US military legitimacy, frustrate recruitment efforts, and make connections with people in Iraq and around the world who have been exposed to US military brutality.

Beyond all the particulars, the floundering war effort fits in with a general loss of public confidence in business as usual and the status of the US as an invincible Superpower. Despite all the military’s fancy weapons, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the US is losing the war in Iraq — or at least that it can’t win.

Hurricane Katrina

Even more than the particulars of Bush’s mishandling of the Hurricane or the racism and classism it exposed, the legacy of the hurricane has been to further shake public confidence. Many have been linking the failures in Iraq to the failures in New Orleans: how is it that hundreds of billions of dollars can be spent in Iraq while the levees in New Orleans were allowed to crumble and poor people were left with no options?

The hurricane has made it is unusually obvious that while the government functions to take care of corporations — Halliburton has been getting Iraq-style no bid contracts to rebuild New Orleans — regular people are on their own. This sets up perfect conditions for radical self-organization. The elites are weakened and people are looking for alternatives that are human focused, locally controlled and economically just.

Global warming

The recent series of hurricanes have also underlined the key environmental dilemma of the fossil fueled industrial machine — global warming. There is now massive scientific evidence that global warming is underway and that it is being caused by human activity — mostly burning fossil fuels and modern agriculture. The recent hurricanes have demonstrated that global warming will increasingly have real world effects — not just to people in the third world, but to people in the USA who are disproportionately causing the problem.

Hurricanes are expected to increase in intensity as global water temperature — which fuels hurricane activity — rises. This is already underway. A Georgia Tech study found the number of hurricanes that reached categories 4 and 5, with winds of at least 131 miles per hour, have gone from comprising 20 percent of hurricanes in the 1970s to 35 percent today with only a half-degree centigrade rise in tropical surface water temperatures.

Simultaneously, the temporary disruptions to US gasoline supplies caused by the hurricane– and the spike in prices that have gone with these disruptions — have showed how fragile modern reality is and how vulnerable folks are to far away forces which are totally beyond their control.

All this creates exciting opportunities to promote alternatives to the fossil fueled, centrally organized, environmentally irresponsible world order. As fuel prices increase, people are re-exploring alternative fuels like wind and solar. Folks are even prying themselves out of their cars and getting on public transit or their bike. Radicals can make the links between environmental alternatives and new forms of social organization that empower individuals and local communities.

Participation in the fossil fuel system is perhaps the most centralizing, non-democratic, non-local aspect of most people’s daily lives — to say nothing of the environmental consequences. Every dollar spent on fuel strengthens the most powerful elites and flows out of the local community into a complex global system. Stepping even modestly away from fossil fuel participation is particularly difficult because our society is so thoroughly intertwined with these systems.

Thus, radical projects in this moment of opportunity are likely to emphasize a move away from fossil fuel dependence because such a move simultaneously addresses local control, power concentration and environmental sustainability while having the potential to dramatically change how we go about our daily lives.

During unstable political moments that open up new opportunities, it can be hard to seize the initiative and articulate alternative visions because these unstabl
e moments create stresses and confusion within radical communities, as they do within the entirety of society. These moments of instability often are exploited by demagogues and authoritarians. If we stay focused on localism, participation and empowerment, we’ll be able to weather the storm.

A Nipple's A Nipple's A Nipple's a Nipple

On June 12, 2005 Lorien Bourne of Bowling Green, Ohio carried out an act of civil disobedience. Her act took place on Bowling Green’s Slippery Elm Trail. Unlike more publicized acts, like sitting a tree slated for demolition, Lorien’s act was not so predictable and etched into the public’s mind.

Lorien’s removal of her shirt served as the act’s focal point. As Lorien explained, in a recent interview: “I did an act of civil disobedience; challenging the double standards, protesting the selective enforcement of the laws, the societal sexualization of women and the control of women’s bodies by men.” And indeed her act was neither arbitrary nor unprovoked. Rather, the presence of unclothed men on the Slippery Elm Trail inspired her action.

A park ranger confronted Lorien after nearly half an hour of her walking on the trail without a shirt; not unlike the aforementioned male citizens. The park ranger curiously accused Lorien of perverting the park as he stated that she would “bring all the wrong elements to the park.” After this verbal exchange, the park ranger warned Lorien and declared that he would conduct an investigation.

On June 14, 2005, the park ranger contacted Lorien and, saying it was “such a nice day for a drive”, he arranged to meet her and speak in person. Upon his arrival at Lorien’s home, he gave her three citations, two minor misdemeanors of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct, one fourth-degree misdemeanor for public indecency. With these Lorien immediately began facing the possibility of up to $300 or more costs in fines, court costs, and several weeks in jail. According to Lorien, the park ranger’s interaction with her was condescending and patronizing. Her embellished paraphrasing of the park ranger sums it up well, as such: “You poor feeble-minded little girl, the definition of indecent exposure is too long and difficult for you to understand…and I can waste no more of my valuable time with you.”

Lorien requested a public defender for her case. The public defender, a woman, instructed Lorien to plead no contest in order to have two charges immediately dropped. Based on what the public defender said Lorien would have to pay a fine for public indecency and do a year of probation. The other possibility, according to the defender, was to plead not guilty and go to trial. Going to trial would mean losing, according to the defender, paying the highest fine, and going to jail. Lorien decided to do some research.

With the help of a friend, Lorien found the Bowling Green Ordinance that requires everyone, except males under the age of twelve, to wear a shirt. She likewise found a definition of indecent exposure as being “the deliberate exposure of the private parts of the anatomy.” So Lorien asked her defender what “private parts” entailed. The defender admitted that such parts typically refer to genitalia.

A week or so later, the prosecution dropped the disorderly conduct and public indecency charges. The indecent exposure charge still stood however. Lorien, in her defense, was quick to describe the men who had inspired her act of civil disobedience. The prosecution, was not as sensitive to selective law enforcement.

Lorien wanted to fight the charges, seeing the situation as discriminatory and a clear violation of her Fourteenth Amendment rights, “equal protection under the law.” The prosecution proceeded to offer a $50 fine plus court costs, without jail and without parole. Lorien took the offer, pled no contest, and paid $110 in total. As she explained: “It broke my heart to take the offer. I didn’t want to do it, I cried.”

Lorien has subsequently filed a complaint against the park ranger and asked that signs be placed in the city’s parks stating that everyone must wear a shirt. Officials have denied her request.

Readers are welcome to contact Lorien at: